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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Interface of Science & Religion

I attended a lecture Tuesday evening at the University of Southern Indiana by Kenneth Miller, from Brown University.

Miller, a cellular biologist, devout Christian and equally devout Evolutionist, wrote "Finding Darwin's God" and three Biology Text Books widely used in
American Public Schools today.

His lecture was on Darwin, God & Design...America's Continuing Problem with Evolution.

Miller is picking up where Theodosius Dobzhansky left off. Dobzhansky was a Russian immigrant to the United States who in the 60's helped to further the discovery of mutation of genes as the catalyst for natural selection in evolution.

Dobzhansky was also a devout member of the Eastern Orthodox Church who said, "I am a Creationist and an Evolutionist. Evolution is how God chooses to Create."

In his lecture Miller stressed that, "Science doesn't trump religion and religion doesn't trump science. Evolution is the interface of science and religion." He also said, "You are a descendant of primates whether you acknowledge it our not."

Miller became involved in two of the country's most vivid Federal trials, Georgia in 2004 and Pennsylvania in 2005, where the leaders of the Creationist movement tried to replace the teaching of Evolution in public schools as scientific fact with their argument for Intelligent Design. In these trials the Judge, a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, when presented with the arguments from both sides declared that, "Intelligent design is a religious doctrine disguised as science and therefore can not be taught in public schools."

School Board elections during 2006 in Ohio and Kansas also sought unsuccessfully to replace rational thought with intelligent design. During the elections they would present their candidate as: "If you believe in God, Creation and True Science vote for our candidate...if you believe in Evolution, Abortion and Sin vote for theirs."

Now, I'm no doubt a sinner, but I also believe in Evolution as Creation, Go
d and True my case Evolution. In marketing terms they had a very weak "positioning statement".

Miller presents that Creationist use two main weapons to battle Evolution.  First is intentional distortion of scientific fact.  This is made evident in stressing that the earth is only six thousand years old, or in the above election position of equating Evolution with Abortion and Sin.  Second is the fear of Evolution itself. This fear is based on the premise that if we are a species because of gene mutation, a mistake, there would be no need for morality, no purpose, no meaning to our lives. In effect if we weren't created from the beginning as we are, in God's image, there is no need for religion. How shallow a faith that is!  I believe that all life evolves and that all life reflects the essence of God.

Evolution is an essential component in the Creation of the Universe and all life. As Miller says, "How awesome is that! To think that God is so big as to set in motion the evolutionary process of that never ends. The true design of life is in the evolutionary process."

Miller wrapped up his lecture by presenting that science accepts that the origin of nature must have another source. To non-believers this would be the discovery of what set this into motion. To believers that source is God. He quoted C.S. Lewis who said, "God likes matter. He invented it!"

Miller concluded with how long this argument as been around.  St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Doctors of the early Church, in 411 AD wrote in his book, "On the Literal Meaning of Genesis", 
excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge.

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

Christianity teaches that lying is a sin.  It is more than ironic that the lie of intelligent design is supported by those who profess the Christian faith.  Darwin's God is the same God as their God...unlimited as life continues to evolve.

Sir Hook the Evolutionary Creationist of Warrick


  1. Excellent post, Sir Hook.

    And so the great debate continues while creative energy continues to explode, cosmic dust fills the creative vacuum, and creation and destruction shapes the evolving rhythms and patterns of the universe.

    Or, it doesn't. Just a beautiful mystery.

    Sir Bowie "ground control to Major Tom" of Greenbriar

  2. explosions, cosmic dust, ripples, connections

    what do we really "know" or believe?

    I believe I'll go get another cup of coffee and think about it all some more

    Lady Suzanne of Greenbriar

  3. When we start with a conclusion, the best we do is search for evidence to support that conclusion while discarding evidence that contradicts it (observational selection / cherry picking).

    Hard core Creationists do not even search for evidence to support themselves, often their focus is to search for evidence against evolution. Intelligent design is worse than even creationsim, because creationism is at least upfront about its claims regarding who created the universe and how, i.e. creationism offers a "model" (albeit without evidence) however unscientific.

    I am constantly amazed by creationist claims such as evolution contradicts the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

    Let's think about it for a second: the National Academy of Sciences, the world's most elite scientific organization which requires some significant contribution to science (perhaps even a nobel prize) as a criteria for membership, unequivocally supports evolution.

    Just think how delusional we need to be in order to claim that either (1) the members of the NAS do not understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics as well as we do, or that (2) understanding the 2nd of thermodynamics as well as they do, they allowed evolution to get away with such a trivial flaw for over 150 years.

    Or take for example the argument that "survival of the fittest" is a tautology. Think how delusional we need to be in order to claim that the bedrock of biological sciences suffers from such a trivial logical fallacy.

    How does a creationist who is so cynical about the scientific process turn on an electric light switch or take his kid to a doctor? I don't even know where to begin about claims like evolution will "make us all atheists" (and hence should not be believed).

    Even if it's true, I say... SO WHAT? If finding out the truth about life turns us all into atheists, SO BE IT.

    Darwin didn't set out on any agenda to turn anybody into anything. He wanted to find out how nature works. Like any other genuine scientist, he simply set out to seek the objective truth. He didn't start with a conclusion, his observations led him to his conclusions. There was no agenda, except to find out a little bit about how nature worked.

    Sir Dayvd ( going round in circles....of life ) of oxenford