On a Spiritual Spectrum

In the previous post (On a Beach Walk: No. 12), I presented a continuum. No matter the topic, a continuum tries to categorize in order to show relationships. Positions are difficult because overlap exists between adjacent groups and each group can be subdivided into more specific smaller groups.

The continuum below is an attempt to show relationship around the topic of science and theology regarding evolution. It’s not perfect, but it illustrates different positions people hold, so it also stimulates thinking and serves as a point of discussion.

Defining each group is another important aspect. Although each definition below is far from complete, they provide a sense for each group’s position. On the other hand, representing all positions would be difficult.

Strong atheist: Lack the belief in any god and are fervently against religion.

Passive atheist: Lack the belief in any god, but are less antagonistic to religion – possibly tolerant.

Agnostic: A broad group including (but not limited to)

  • Those who don’t believe in any god because we cannot prove a deity’s existence or non-existence.
  • Those who simply don’t know about any god or don’t care to know.

Spiritual naturalist: A broad group including (but not limited to) two broad groups: religious naturalists and humanists – neither believing in a god or gods.

  • Religious naturalists see the meaning of life through the beauty and complexity of the natural world.
  • Humanists embrace reason and logic in order to emphasize a moral and ethical code for doing good in human society.

Spiritual non-theist: Religions that are spiritual, but without believing in a god or gods; such as Buddhists, Hindus, and others

Deist: God who is not linked to any religion is the creator, but does not intervene and is not personal because God has left the world. There are different types of Deists.

Theistic evolutionist: God is the creator. Scripture and nature in a collective relationship. A range of theistic evolutionist exist.

Progressive Creationists: God is the creator and the earth is very old. Two groups include

  • God created many species from which others evolved through mutation and selection
  • Intelligent Design: God creatively intervenes over time when necessary.

Young-Earth creationist: God is the creator, Earth is young, and a literal Genesis in today’s language explains creation.

On a Letter

Long-time readers know about my interest in the religion and science interchange. To newcomers, seeing the Categories > Religion and Science in the sidebar reinforces my point.

Recently, I was purging files from my classroom days. Some of the things I rediscovered were interesting enough to save for possible incorporation into posts – so here is one.

Context: Students had just informally (and individually) answered questions about common misconceptions in science. Next, they discussed answers in a small group, thus free to change any answers. I concluded the activity by leading short discussion of each answer. Two of the 33 questions were about evolution, but this post focuses only on one of them.

Lesson Goal: Misconceptions exist and they come from a variety of sources.

A question: (True/False) Humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

Answer: False – Research indicates 60 million years separated dinosaurs and humans.

Later that day, this note (below) appeared on my classroom desk.

September 9, 1994

Today you made the statement that there is scientific evidence that dinosaurs and men did not live at the same time. There is none. On the contrary, there is only evidence against it. There is not even any evidence that Earth was around 20 million years ago.

Your argument might be that scientists have dated the footprints of animals in mud, which has turned to stone at billions of year ago. It is virtually impossible to do so unless you compare the footprints to that of a species and have the guess of the time of this species. But there is nothing to date. There is the absence of rock.

As for evolution itself, it cannot stand the question of life in the equation X times Y equals Z. We are trying to find X. Y is filled in with how we interpret physical evidence found. Z is filled with God, so for X, I get from the Bible.

You (Atheists) have decided that you don’t want to follow the Bible, so you fill in Z with your own philosophy. Your X is based on your Y. Your Y is based on your X. Since your equation never equals out, your Y is dynamic.

Unless you repent your sins and become a Christian, you will find out on the Judgement Day that I and right and you are wrong. When God asks you why he should let you into heaven, what will you say? I know what I will say.