On Origins: A Book Review

I became aware of this book on the Biologos blog and website. Although I had not encountered either author from my numerous readings, I decided to give it a chance.

OriginsBookOrigins: A Christian Perspective on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design by Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma is a good introduction into the science-religion interface for a study group. The authors provide questions to stimulate thinking and discussion, while also providing point-counterpoint in the form of ranging and diverse perspectives about various topics – which will promote more thinking and discussion.

A website tailored to the topic and this book provides a collection of over forty articles for elaboration. Each chapter end with a good set of questions for “Reflection and Discussion” while listing additional resources.

Three things haunted me in this book. First, I was leery of the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the title. My apprehension caused me to be cautious from the start. Second, an early statement of humans evolving from apes ruffled my feathers, but the authors addressed it later. Third, the survival of the fittest reference continues to bother me because I believe it to be inaccurate.

The authors targeted this text to help Christians navigate the seemingly “dangerous waters” of origins. As I have stated on this blog, the “danger” is due to a lack of or poor quality of education regarding evolution by schools and the avoidance of the topic by numerous Christian denominations.

Nonetheless, the text follows a logical sequence as it examines God, science, Genesis, the universe, evolution, Intelligent Design, origin issues, and Adam and Eve. Although each of these topics can be book of their own, Origins sets the stage for future readers to seek additional information.

In the end, this is a good resource for anyone early in their study of the interface between science and religion. I say early because it provides good introductory information serving as the foundation diving deeper into the subject and it stimulates thinking.

FYI

On a Chasm

Bill Nye (The Science Guy) is not only a media personality – he is also an advocate of good science education. Interestingly, Bill Nye will be coming to the Cincinnati area for an event at the Creation Museum. The president of the organization that runs the museum (Answers in Genesis) invited Bill to debate him about evolution. No – I don’t plan to attend the event.

Because the interchange between science and religion continues to stimulate my neurological pathways, I’ve been thinking about the opposite ends of the spectrum – the places where one end has nothing to do with the other. Consider these quotes.

From Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis

Certainly, we should celebrate when a person understands the gospel and is saved. But we should also pray for those fellow believers who have not only left biblical authority behind when it comes to origins, but who also have influence and are using it to spread evolution and millions of years in the church. I believe such people are leading many away from the Christian faith, including this current generation of young people—something they will have to answer to God for one day. Yes, God will judge—and He will have the last word!

From Sam Harris, cofounder and CEO of Project Reason

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

Although neither Ken Ham nor Sam Harris speaks for the majority of humanity, these two individuals are important spokespersons for many. Interestingly, both are so set in their opposition to others who believe differently.

Let’s move on to Dr. Francis Collins, a highly respected scientist who happens to be the Director of National Institute of Health, and the former director of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins stated the following:

I would not want to look forward to a culture where science lost and religious faith became the dominating force for truth. I would not want to live in a culture where faith lost and science, with all of its reductionism and its materialism became the sole source of truth. I think we need both kinds of truth. I think we need both kinds of worldviews to the extent that scientists can help with that realization of a dual ways of finding answers to the appropriate kinds of questions that each worldview can ask, then I think that would be a good thing.

Lord Acton (1834-1902) stated, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Does this apply to any to Ken Ham, Sam Harris, or Francis Collins?

Flashbacks: On the Science-Religion Interchange

I became interested in the interchange between science and religion during my time as A Frank Angle. Here are a few of my favorite posts on the topic. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On a Senseless Situation

Daubert vTwo Rules
In Daubert v. Merrill Dow (1993), the US Supreme court established a standard on whether an expert’s testimony is based on valid science and methodology,

  • Whether the theory or technique in question can be or has been tested
  • Whether it has been subject to peer review and publication
  • It’s known or potential error rate
  • The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation
  • Whether it has attract widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community

In Lemon v. Kuntzman (1971), the US Supreme Court established the following (known as the Lemon Test) about legislation regarding religion;

  • The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose
  • The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion
  • The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion

The Situation
Springboro, Ohio is about an hour north of downtown Cincinnati, thus actually a southern suburb of Dayton. The Springboro Board of Education recently decided to throw itself into the evolution-in-science-class debate.

The Complete Ignoral
The Springboro Board proclaims the findings of the Discovery Institute, a leading center of Intelligent Design (ID). In so doing, the Board either ignores or embraces what the Discovery Institute says of itself.

Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West. ….. Our Center for Science and Culture works to defend free inquiry. It also seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that the Discovery Institute (assumingly staffed by scientifically trained personnel) does not meet the criteria of science experts established in the Daubert Standard.

In so doing, the Springboro Board, as a governing organization, ignores the Lemon Test established by the high court.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the results of Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005) where Dover (PA) Board of Education adopted a science curriculum placing Intelligent Design (ID) alongside evolution in biology classes. In the court challenge, Judge Jones, a conservative Bush appointee and Christian, stated

Although Defendants attempt to persuade this Court that each Board member voted for the biology curriculum change did so for the secular purposed of improving science education and to exercise critical thinking skills, their contentions are simply irreconcilable with the record evidence. …. Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and merely secondary to the religious objective. … To briefly reiterate, we first note that since ID is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of the ID Policy is the advancement of religion. …. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Epperson v. Arkansas (1968) where the US Supreme Court stated,

The law’s effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read. Plainly, the law is contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1981) served as a challenge to the state’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act that mandated teaching creation science along evolution. In the ruling, District Judge Overton defined both science and creation science, as well as providing numerous reasons by is simply not science.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) were the US Supreme Court states that Creation Science embraces religious teaching. In addition, the purpose of the Louisiana law of requiring teaching both views (or none) was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores its potential high cost of legal fees, which exceeded over $1 million for the Dover Board.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores the fact that science has boundaries confined to explain the natural world – and fudging data for conforming to a pre-conceived theology box is not science – but rather a component of religion.

In so doing, the Springboro Board ignores that this religious stance is contrary to doctrine from Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant denominations, countless Christian scholars, and Jewish scholars – let alone against the belief system of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others within their community.

In so doing, the Springboro Board has received support from the Creation Museum run by Answers in Genesis – another organization that does not meet the Daubert standards, yet proclaims using science to state that humans and dinosaurs roamed together on our less-than-10,000-year-old Earth – let alone claiming a 5,000 years old T-Rex skeleton.

Suggestions
To the Springboro Board and its supporters, I say this: You can disagree with well-established case-law, but that does not make the law wrong. You can disagree with science, but that does not make science wrong.

To Springboro residents opposing the Board’s action, learn and become proactive – which includes following the Dover voter’s lead that voted the school board members out of office.

To the Springboro churches opposing the Board, good for you – but you are partially responsible for the Board’s action. After all, odds are you perpetuated the problem by ignoring the topic for many years.

On Requested References

Given my interest in the interchange between science and religion, Debra @ Breathelighter asked me to post a few books for those wanting to know more. Besides, her request made me feel good, plus I know she enjoys when I post about this topic.

In order to provide a range of sources, I organized the books into thematic groups. Some of the books I reviewed here, so I also linked them as Past post.

FYI: I found many of these books through local libraries and inter-library loan systems.

The organizations list provide bountiful resources, including essays.

Historical
Saving Darwin (Karl Giberson)
The Evolution-Creation Struggle (Michael Ruse) Past post

Theologically Centered
Can You Believe in God and Evolution (Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett)
Responses to 101 Questions about God and Evolution (John Haught)
God after Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (John Haught)
Questions of Truth: Fifty-One Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief  (John Polkinghorne)

Science Centered
Finding Darwin’s God (Ken Miller)

Biblical
The Lost World of Genesis One (John Walton) Past post

Personal
The Language of God (Francis Collins) Past post 

General
Origins (Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma) (Review TBA)
When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (Ian Barbour) Past post

Essays
By any of the above authors; plus, Denis Alexander, Peter Enns, George Murphy, Ron Numbers

Organizations (listed alphabetically)
American Scientific Affiliation
BioLogos Foundation
Center for Process Studies
Center for Theological Inquiry
Center for Theology and Natural Sciences
John Templeton Foundation
The Clergy Project
The European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion
The International Society for Science and Religion
Vatican Observatory

On Oracles of Science

Oracle – A person giving wise or authoritative opinions (Merriam-Webster)

Many would consider scientists Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Steven Weinberg, and Edward O. Wilson are oracles. After all, they are respected voices in their field and many look upon as eloquent public intellectuals.

Besides being accomplished scientists, each is a successful writer. The group has achieved countless awards, including a Nobel Prize and two Pulitzer Prizes. Each of them have shaped the public’s perception of science and its relationship with other fields. Yes, these six people are oracles of science.

OraclesKarl Giberson and Mariano Artigas wrote Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion to examine each of these luminaries and their views regarding the interchange between science and religion. The group’s belief system ranges from atheist to agnostic to humanist. Some respect religion while others are openly antagonistic. Meanwhile, the authors (both physicists) are Christians – with Artigas also being a Roman Catholic priest.

Each oracle has his own chapter, thus readers can engage the oracles in any order. Not only does each chapter focus on the oracle’s own words, the authors respectfully engage with the oracle with their own ideas and reactions.

Whereas the opening chapter sets the stage for what is to come, the final chapter examines similarities and differences while offering conclusions.

Regardless of one’s religious preference – Protestant or Catholic; evangelical or fundamentalist; evolutionist or creationist; religious, atheist, agnostic, deist, humanist, materialist, or naturalist – this is a good book for those who enjoy thinking.

Because of the nature of the topic, the stature of each oracle, and the counterpoints by the authors, I can guarantee that readers will disagree something. The question is can one agree or disagree with the same integrity and respect that the authors demonstrate? After all, that is one thing missing in many conversations about this topic.

On the Blind Side

Regular readers know my interest regarding the theology-science interchange. One of the reasons I write about it is that there are some people out there who are truly interested in learning that they don’t have to make a choice, thus they want to know how these two fields can influence us in today’s world.

I know I don’t expect all Christians to agree with me, and realize that viewpoints from non-Christians will vary. However, a slice of Christianity unquestionably does NOT speak for me.

I am a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and enjoy reading its periodical – The Lutheran. The recent issue had a short article about evolution. The article was purposefully board, but the online comments were a must-read for me because I continue to proclaim that organizations like the ELCA and its member churches do a lousy job at educating their flock.

Comments as these below were the minority viewpoint, but they drive Christian, agnostic, and atheistic evolutionists up a wall, misrepresent the majority of Christians, drive the wedge between evolutionary Christians and non-believing evolutionists, prey on the unknowing, demonstrate a need for education, and reinforce my notion that this issue is a conflict between religions – not between religion and science.

Comments as these also demonstrate this important point: Disagreeing with science does not make science wrong.

Darwinian evolution never happened.

Science is showing that life rapidly evolved by design indicating a creator God.

More and more fossil finds, DNA evidence, Intelligent Design studies, the Institute for Creation Research RATE research, etc. are challenging Darwinism, the old earth and the local Noah’s flood.

Shouldn’t there be massive amounts of fossil evidence of dinosaur evolution and everything else that has evolved since the destruction? Horse and whale evolution stories have been discredited by recent fossil finds.

Evolution has not been observed scientifically.

Bacteria resistance to antibiotics is not “evolution.”

There is no experimental evidence for evolution.

Darwinism is the religion of the secular humanist atheist.

Evolution is not a fact. It is not even a scientific theory, but our education system treats evolution as fact.

Unlike true science, the claims of Darwinian evolution cannot be tested or replicated.

Evolution is an idea that leads to bad consequences.

Evolution pre-supposes the absence or non-existence of a Creator, thus leading to false conclusions.

Evolution explains with the origins of life.

There is no consensus on the subject of evolution. There remains a mystery about how life was established.

Neither Creationism nor Darwinism seems to be supported by natural evidence.

Evolutionism is a stumbling block for biblical belief because it not only conflicts with the book of Genesis it conflicts with the Bible.

Even geologists do not actually find evidence for evolution in the fossil records.

Darwin could not define “species” and even today, there is no consensus on a definition.

Darwin had little proof in the fossil record to support his claim.

No one has evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, so to offer only the deception of evolutionary thought clinging to the belief that life formed by chance random processes continues to be difficult to accept.

Darwin did not have the benefit of DNA. (AFA: This one cracks me up because Darwin was 100+ years before the discovery of DNA. I’ve seen the same rationale used regarding Darwin and Gregor Mendel/genetics, who was also after Darwin. )

The (DNA) evidence is moving in the wrong direction for confirming evolution.

Earth is young.

Overwhelming evidence, much of it recent, from geology, anthropology, DNA studies, computer simulations of weather, etc. confirm the event of Noah’s flood covering the whole planet actually happened.

Creation WAS perfect. Creation WAS all that it was to be. WE, US, HUMANS, ADAM sinned and destroyed creation. Now it is decay, dying, dark, and sad.