I would object to being called a ‘theistic evolutionist’ mostly because it would be a label that suggests that I know enough about science to have an opinion. I do not.
I object to being called a Creationist too, because although I believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth, and although I used to be happy to defend Creationism, I have been turned off of it for three reasons:
- Creationists trade on being the godly defenders of the Truth in the face of a global conspiracy to indoctrinate the world with bogus evolutionary science. When it became obvious to me that there was a massive lack of integrity in much of the Creationist camp, it seemed to me to fatally discredit their position.
- When mixing with unbelievers, even those of friendly disposition towards Christians, I noted the damage that creationism does to the perception of Christianity, not because Creationists don’t accept evolution, but because they don’t engage in commendable tactics.
- Studies in Genesis led me to believe that the science question was besides the point.
Now I don’t have a problem with Creationists. Some of my best friends are Creationists. If your conscience leads you to hold that science and scripture are best understood as preaching that the world is less than 10,000 years old, so be it. However, as people called to deal truthfully and to represent the gospel with integrity, the way in which you represent your beliefs matters far more than what you’ve decided to believe.
I’m aware that any disagreement with Creationism on my part will be viewed as an assault, but I feel that it is a necessary risk. Allow me to catalogue some of the failures in Creationist integrity that I have come across merely in the last few months:
Hovindism at the IHEU conference
I was graciously invited to speak at a secular humanists’ conference recently in order to represent a Christian viewpoint. I was surprised to find that 3 of the 8 speakers on the itinerary were Christians. I was even more surprised when the first of us got up to speak, and proceeded to present the ‘hard questions’ posed by Kent Hovind’s cosmology. Although I understand nothing about cosmology, it was abundantly clear that when a scientist from the 1980s is quoted as expressing puzzlement at this or that fact, it doesn’t mean a) that there is no possible solution to his conundrum, and b) that there isn’t already a solution to his conundrum, seeing as cosmology from the ’80s might as well be the 1680s. All of the citations seemed to be from the 80s or 90s, and there was even one from the 1960s. Many of the ‘problems’ that Hovind had raised were drawn from school textbooks, which is fine if you’re trying to highlight problems with school teaching, but not with cosmology itself.
Kirk Cameron goes bananas
I appreciate that Kirk Cameron set aside his star potential in order to use his talents in service of the faith. I can appreciate the good intent behind the sacharine save-your-marriage self-help drama Fireproof. However, The Way of the Master has a section ‘disproving’ evolution by observing the humble banana. It is allegedly proof of a designer because of its ergonomic shape, pull-tab opening device, colour-coded ripeness meter, and biodegradable wrapper. I thought that this was meant to be parody, but it is not. (Objectors have subsequently pointed out, among numerous other problems with the argument [the existence of prickly-pears, for example], that the modern banana is so well suited for human use because of human intervention in its breeding and genetic makeup. Wild bananas are far less palatable, apparently).
Cameron also recently planned to disrupt Darwin Day by releasing a ‘corrected’ Origin of Species. You can read one response here: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/a-creationist-edition-of-the-origin/
Both of these actions caused much frivolity among outsiders to the faith, but not in a good way.
Creation.com on theistic evolutionists
Creation.com (http://creation.com/did-the-creator-use-evolution) shows a startling lack of scholarly integrity by publishing a ‘refutation’ of theistic evolution in which not a single theistic evolutionist is quoted, nor is one of their arguments or counter-arguments mentioned. The author cites two of the most quoted passages in the Bible (Romans 5 and 1Corinthians 15) as knock-down arguments, but without pausing to ask what his dissenting Christian brothers say about them. It’s almost as if he imagines that they would not have noticed the mention of Adam in the most-read parts of the New Testament.
He also engages in refutation from the assumption that the literalist reading of Genesis is the correct one. However, seeing as literalist reading of Genesis is what produces Creationism, to assume this as a starting point immediately condemns his opponents’ position without discussing it.
The Student vs Professor typescene
Christian apologists seem to enjoy putting their words into an imagined confrontation between a student and professor. I have come across these on more than one occasion [you can read Kent Hovind’s odious and idiotic one, supposedly intended as a gospel tract, here: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0055/0055_01.asp%5D. The more recent one doing the rounds purports to be a real conversation. I quote it in full, well, because I can. Skip it if you get bored:
An excellent conversation between a Professor and a brilliant student… Read it :)
I really admire this student who can fight back professor’s philosophy with his own knowledge. The conversation is below, please enjoy it.
An Atheist Professor of Philosophy was speaking to his Class on the problem Science has with GOD, the ALMIGHTY. He asked one of his new Christian students to stand and…
Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor : So, you believe in GOD?
Student : Absolutely, sir.
Professor : Is GOD good?
Student : Sure.
Professor : Is GOD ALL – POWERFUL?
Student : Yes.
Professor : My Brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?
(Student was silent)
Professor : You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD Good?
Student : Yes.
Professor : Is Satan good?
Student : No.
Professor : Where does Satan come from?
Student : From…GOD…
Professor : That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this World?
Student : Yes.
Professor : Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And GOD did make everything. Correct?
Student : Yes.
Professor : So who created evil?
(Student did not answer)
Professor : Is there Sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the World, don’t they?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor : So, who created them?
(Student had no answer)
Professor : Science says you have 5 Senses you use to Identify and Observe the World around you. Tell me, son…have you ever seen GOD?
Student : No, sir.
Professor : Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?
Student : No, sir.
Professor : Have you ever Felt your GOD, Tasted your GOD, Smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any Sensory Perception of GOD for that matter?
Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor : Yet you still believe in HIM?
Student : Yes.
Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student : Nothing. I only have my Faith.
Professor : Yes, Faith. And that is the problem Science has.
Student : Professor, is there such a thing as Heat?
Professor : Yes.
Student : And is there such a thing as Cold?
Professor : Yes.
Student : No, sir. There isn’t…
(The Lecture Theatre became very quiet with this turn of events)
Student : Sir, you can have Lots of Heat, even More Heat, Superheat, Mega Heat, White Heat, a Little Heat or No Heat. But we don’t have anything called Cold. We can hit 458 Degrees below Zero which is No Heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as Cold. Cold is only a Word we use to describe the Absence of Heat. We cannot Measure Cold. Heat is Energy. Cold is Not the Opposite of Heat, sir, just the Absence of it.
(There was pin-drop silence in the Lecture Theatre)
Student : What about Darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as Darkness?
Professor : Yes. What is Night if there isn’t Darkness?
Student : You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the Absence of Something. You can have Low Light, Normal Light, Bright Light, Flashing Light… But if you have No Light constantly, you have nothing and its called Darkness, isn’t it? In reality, Darkness isn’t. If it is, you would be able to make Darkness Darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor : So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student : Sir, my point is, your Philosophical Premise is flawed.
Professor : Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student : Sir, you are working on the Premise of Duality. You argue there is Life and then there is Death, a Good GOD and a Bad GOD. You are viewing the Concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a Thought. It uses Electricity and Magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view Death as the Opposite of Life is to be ignorant of the fact that Death cannot exist as a Substantive Thing. Death is Not the Opposite of Life: just the Absence of it Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your Students that they evolved from a Monkey?
Professor : If you are referring to the Natural Evolutionary Process, yes, of course, I do.
Student : Have you ever observed Evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going)
Student : Since no one has ever observed the Process of Evolution at work and Cannot even prove that this Process is an On-Going Endeavor, Are you not teaching your Opinion, sir? Are you not a Scientist but a Preacher?
(The Class was in uproar)
Student : Is there anyone in the Class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The Class broke out into laughter)
Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it?… No one appears to have done so. So, according to the Established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have No Brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?
(The Room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable)
Professor : I guess you’ll have to take them on Faith, son.
Student : That is it sir…Exactly! The Link between Man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that Keeps Things Alive and Moving
So… Have FAITH!
Knowing the little that I do, it is abundantly clear that no professor would be befuddled by the student’s apparent failure to answer anything substantial by his ‘absence of light’ argument, and he would certainly not concede to the tired and incorrect argument that evolution is presently unobserved as a whole and therefore merely opinion. The argument that the existence of the professor’s brain is a faith position and not an empirical one is plain stupidity.
So what does a fictional discussion like this do? It ‘encourages’ Christian faith on the basis of illogical and incorrect arguments, and it annoys non-Christians by erecting an inept straw man to defend their position (and inventing the class of students to inflict ridicule upon their side of the debate). Why do we discredit the gospel with this sort of thing?
Dr Bernhard Ficker
Our local newspapers have been hosting a debate in the letters page between a Creationist called Dr Bernhard Ficker, who identifies himself as a physicist, and various evolutionists. His contributions so far have included
- an appeal to the authority of farmers as better witnesses than biologists that creatures left to the ravages of time can only degenerate and not progress;
- only 12% of South Africans accept evolution; it is unlikely that so many should be confused;
- Darwin is responsible for Hitler and Stalin;
- secularists have no fixed moral standards; and
- (according to evolutionists) various misunderstandings of how evolution works, including that micro- and macro-evolution are separate processes; he accepts micro-evolution, but he says that macro-evolution can’t happen, because it just can’t (‘how can a microbe evolve into a fish?’ is about as far as his argument goes).
Now, in all these cases, it’s not important who is correct. I’m quite pleased when Creationist scientists raise good questions about evolution. If it’s done humbly and well, it might do some good. What I cannot bear is the frequency with which Christians persist in making arguments that are illogical, or ignorant of the actual facts of the discussion, or debunked decades ago. Nearly everything that I’ve pointed out above has nothing to do with the content of Creationist belief. It is all to do with Creationist arguments that comprehensively fail to make use of integrity, or to take anything said by their opponents seriously.
If we consider Christian apologetics to be an important tool for sharing the faith, then why do we disqualify ourselves by insulting our listeners with poor research, logical fallacies (such as straw-men opponents), and the unwillingness to admit fault or even to abandon arguments that are clearly wrong?
Christians should lead the way in humility and integrity. The preaching of the cross may appear as foolishness to the Gentiles, but this is not to say that we should actively pursue foolishness in other spheres.