Posts filed under ‘creationism’

saving darwin

fishPicked up this book at the library, Saving Darwin, How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, by Karl Giberson, after searching the card catalog on the words, “christian” and “evolution.” I ended up very impressed with it.

I’ll admit I find studying Christianity fascinating, enjoying learning about it in ways I wasn’t able to before, ways which would have been too unorthodox to consider. And I am past feeling a need to prove or disprove anything, it is great just to learn.

So authors like Giberson interest me in the way they work their faith around issues like evolution without falling prey to the false dichotomy that says one has to believe in a 6,000 year old earth in order to be a Christian. While my church did not make young earth creationism a statement of faith, in practice it was encouraged and is what the majority believed. The power of peer pressure and social influence can easily become the tyranny of the majority, and I always felt out of place believing in an old earth and evolution.

Giberson’s book focuses a lot on the history of fundamentalism and how creationism came to be incorporated in that particular and peculiar variety of beliefs. Which I like, because I am a history nut, and because I really, really don’t like fundamentalism. This book covers the ground between the extremes of theistic creationism and atheistic evolutionary theory. Evolution and belief in God do not need to be mutually exclusive, and there is a lot of room to work the middle ground. And the book does not hold back from criticism directed towards both those views.

It turns out that evangelicalism and fundamentalism were not always inexorably linked to creationism as they can seem to be today. According to the author the idea was asserted later by others (in particular 7th Day Adventists) and was eventually grafted into fundamentalist dogma.

Giberson discusses an early famous (infamous?) series of essays titled The Fundamentals:

What was remarkable about these discussions of evolution, however, was the almost total absence of the six-day creationist viewpoint. Leading “fundamentalist” thinkers spoke approvingly of progressive creationism, historical linkages between species, and an ancient earth.

Clearly, even leaders concerned with defining and protecting the fundamentals of Christianity shared no consensus on what Christians should think about evolution.

Critiques of this middle ground abound. Jerry Coyne, author of the book, Why Evolution is True, offers a review of the book (warning, it’s long). In reviewing this book and another on the same topic by Ken Miller, Coyne states:

“Both of their books are worth reading… yet in the end they fail to achieve their longed-for union between faith and evolution. And they fail for the same reason that people always fail: a true harmony between science and religion requires either doing away with most people’s religion and replacing it with a watered-down deism, or polluting science with unnecessary, untestable, and unreasonable spiritual claims.”

I can see where Coyne is coming from and why he draws those conclusions. I think his work on presenting the evidence for evolution is important, and I think Giberson’s book in helping Christians view that evidence is important as well. But presenting evidence for evolution wrapped in an atheistic package is not going to be palatable for young earth creationists, and I don’t think it is necessary. I guess Coyne doesn’t feel a dichotomy between science and religion is a false one any more than Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis does. But I am grateful for those seeking common ground in the middle. Even where I don’t agree with them I feel they are trying to reconcile people to more reasonable beliefs one way or another.

For further reading, Giberson’s own brief response to Coyne’s analyses can be read here. Mystery Seeker provides a thoughtful analysis of Coyne’s perspective. And Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine interviewed Giberson, the videos can be viewed viewed here. Giberson described his interaction with Michael Shermer very positively. I find Michael Shermer to be a fantastic interviewer. Here he conducts an amazing interview at the Creation Museum.

And no, I haven’t read all those articles in their entirety or watched the videos!

October 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm 17 comments

the devil in dover


“I don’t live in such a world. I look at my father and wonder how many other Americans are like him. Why are we so divided?

In Dover, those on the side of the truth weren’t the ones marching under a banner of biblical fundamentalism and traditional values. “You can’t lie for Jesus,” I remind my father. No, the ones on the side of truth were the eleven parents who stood up to their local school board and said teaching their children about religion was their right, and not the job of the educational system.

But my father has closed his eyes to such a worldview. Rather, he wraps himself in his religion, retreating into a cacoon of denial. To him, the only thing that matters is whether I believe, whether I am saved.”

This book has a lot going for it. Lauri Lebo is a reporter from York, Pennsylvania, near the town of Dover where the trial concerning teaching Intelligent Design in public schools took place. The book details the content of the trial well and in riviting fashion. I am reminded of how important these issues are, how important it is to take civil liberties seriously, and how admirable it is when individuals take a stand when push comes to shove. The book is very well written, but has a couple of particular strengths.

The story is very much about the author’s personal experience through the trial, autobiographical as well as documentary. Lebo worked through the issues deeply herself, and built real relationships with the people involved, both the plaintiffs and defendants. Lebo’s relationship with her father, a fundamentalist Christian, is central to the story in the way it was strained as she attempted to talk with him about the trial, as the above paragraphs show.

As a journalist, Lebo also writes about the challenges of the profession, walking the line between “fair and balanced” reporting, and reporting that deals honestly with the events. I highly recommend this book; to learn about the issues involved, but even more so to learn about the way personal relationships are strained by politics and beliefs, and the ways one person worked through them.

To read a real review (which prompted me to read the book), check out the Spanish Inquistor’s review HERE. But don’t check it out if you would not like to see the blasphemous and topless logo on his site.

“I thought about calling my father. I’d fought with him almost every day of the trial. I’d wanted him to condemn, as a Christian, what seemed obvious to me to be deception. But he refused. I’d grow angry and hang up on him. The next day, I’d pick up the phone and try again. How do I explain to my faither why this was so moving? How do I tell him we shouldn’t be afraid of this? How can I describe what I witnessed?

I wanted him to know the parents’ stories: Cyndi Sneath, who testified that she might not have a fancy education, but her eight-year-old son, Griffin, dreams of being an astronaut; of Bryan and Christy Rehm, who teach Bible school and sing in their church choir, but who are called atheists by their neghbors; and of Fred Callahan, a gentle, reserved man dismissed as intolerant. “What am I supposed to tolerate? he asked. “The small encroachment of my first Amendment rights? Well, I’m not going to.”

I wanted my father to understand Steve Harvey, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys and a dutiful Catholic who says we can only try to believe in God. On the morning of that last day of trial, he nervously paced around the block, smoking cigarettes and praying “our Fathers.”

Surely if my father were here, I thought, I could convince him. But not wanted to risk a fight, I ddint’ reach for the phone. I thought there would be plenty of time to make my father understand.

Now, sitting in the Chinese restaurant, my father watching me from across the table, I realize that he never will.”

September 26, 2009 at 5:26 pm

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