creationist debates

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Tue Sep 30 08:17:32 CDT 1997


>           everlasting life.  Evolution undermined all this and the
>           ancient foundation of the social order - and what have we
>           got?  Better medicine is not enough.  Clever arguments that
>           science has led to material gains leave the spirit empty -
>           I think some scientists are so fundamentally worried about
>           the emptiness out there underscored by their daily endeavors
>           that they express their fear as contempt for the solace of
>           religion.

Sorry to disagree, but EVOLUTION has undermined nothing.  It is those who
demand that science be consistent with their perceived (or received)
religious wisdom who have done the undermining.  If one believes that
one's religious beliefs can be used to explain everything, then one must
be willing to give up science.  On the other hand, if one recognizes that
religion and science deal with different aspects of the world, then one
can reconcile these two "philosphies."

As I see it, and as Tom Lammers has indicated, it is those who insist on
the literal truth of their religious texts who have created the problem.
If we interpret the King James version, or some other version, as literal
truth, then we have to be willing to admit to gross inconsistencies (the
Bible can be read as equating bats with birds, something no competent
biologist should ever be willing to accept).

One of my ways of dealing with creationist arguments is to point out
their inconsistencies (as Lammers and others have noted).  For example,
Henry Morris or Duane Gish (I forget which at this moment) has written
that evolution is responsible for, among other things, atheism,
communism, homosexuality, and a host of other so-called evils or
perversions (this is not my view, I am indicating what they have said).
A simple response to this is to point out that these so-called evils all
existed prior to the development of evolutionary theory.  Besides, Marx
and other leading communists rejected Darwinian explanations because they
were not compatible with their political views.

If you get involved with creationists, as I often do (here at a Catholic
college there are always students who come from a fundamentalist
background), one tactic is to clarify the scientific meaning of what a
theory is - do not rely on standard dictionary definitions - and what
hypotheses are.  Ask them to comment on such theories as general and
special relativity, the gas laws, etc.  Point out that EVOLUTION, as a
theory, has the same standing as these others.  If they wish to reject
one scientific theory, then they must be willing to consider rejecting
other scientific theories as well.

One last point - no one on this list should take things personally and no
one should engage in personal attacks (I do not do the former, but I have
been the recipient of the latter).  Nothing that has appeared in this
thread has in any way been intended as a slight to anyone.

Richard Jensen
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN

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