Monday, February 7, 2011

Science of Theistic Evolution

Dr. Francis S. Collins makes an interesting statement near the beginning of Chapter 8 in his popular book The Language of God. “Taken at face value,” says Collins, “the term ‘creationist’ would seem to imply the general perspective of one who argues for the existence of a God who was directly involved in the creation of the universe. In that broad sense, many deists and nearly all theists, including me, would need to count themselves as creationists.” But the remainder of Chapter 8 is a polemic against creationism--young earth creationism. YEC believes, according to Collins, that “all species were created by individual acts of divine creation, and that Adam and Eve were historical figures created by God from dust in the Garden of Eden, and not descended from other creatures.” Indeed, this is also the general position of old earth creationism.

But there is no polemic against old earth creationism in Collins’ book. Most OECs also believe in individual acts of divine creation and in Adam and Eve as historical figures created by God. But Collins believes neither in individual acts of creation since life appeared on earth, nor in Adam and Eve as historical figures. Creationism of the young earth variety is easy to discredit scientifically based on plentiful and overwhelming scientific evidence for a universe of enormous age. Old earth creationism is not so easy to discredit. Dr. Collins clothes theistic evolution with the mantle of science, as if to affirm the validity of the evolutionary paradigm just by assigning it that linguistic mantle.

Some strong and convincing science affirms important tenets of old earth creationism. Conversely, there is considerable science which raises questions about the evolutionary paradigm. Yes, there is some science which may suggest an evolutionary scenario. But the supoporting science must be better understood. Dr. Collins and his BioLogos successors energetically clothe themselves in the mantle of science, claiming “Evolution, as a mechanism, can and must be true.” This is a classic example of “begging the question” (assuming an answer to the very point that is in dispute). Then they proclaim evolution is good science. Such claims muddy the waters of understanding on a very complex issue. The issue is not which viewpoint can most effectively claim the imprimatur of science. Rather, the issue is, “What really happened with respect to the origin of life, appearances of major diverse categories of plants and animals, and the appearance of man? Is the explicit claim of the Bible correct when it states God created the diverse life forms, including man?

Science is underpinned by consensus of the practitioners of science and by statements from philosophers of science. Consensus and philosophy are powerful forces. Both forces are generally beyond the understanding of most laymen who gather their information from sound bytes and productions of popular media produced by stakeholders in the discussion. The public is confused by claims that certain positions represent “good science.” At best, some such claims are inaccurate. At worst, the claims are manipulative. The question should not be, “Does science support this view?” Rather, the question should be, “What is true?