Monday, November 28, 2016



Elizabeth Johnson's book, Ask the Beasts was mentioned at the end of the previous post.  On pages 7 to 9 she discusses science (evolutionary theory) and religion (theology) interactions.  She notes four ways of interacting described by Ian Barbour in his 1990 Gifford Lectures.

The first type of interaction was conflict.  As evidenced by fundamentalists insisting literal interpretation of Genesis proves evolutionary theory is simply wrong, and atheists countering with the argument of science that evolutionary theory is backed by the creation of life and its variations by the chance processes of evolution and natural selection which proves God does not exist.  Neither side admits to the flaws in their arguments so the creation/evolution/debate keeps resurfacing.

The second type of interaction, independence, is more a lack of interaction due to lack of overlap in their areas of operation.  This may be a practical solution and not a admission or right or wrong in the position of those outside their main area of interest.

The third type, dialogue, attempts to resolve the differences in positions by gaining new insights into religious teachings and their meanings.

The fourth type, integration, carries dialogue a little farther and might achieve recognition of God as the source of the laws governing the physical world,

Johnson proposes practical cooperation as "a fifth model of interaction that I would add to Barbour's chart, . . . . . .for the preservation of the natural world."  There certainly are both religious and scientific grounds for cooperating on common ethical standards for preserving the natural world.


Conflict is inevitable when you take a strong stand in the creation/evolution debate that frequently arises when advocates of special creation contend with mainstream science over the teaching of evolution as the origin of species (especially humans), by means of natural selection, in science classes of public schools.

The flawed arguments of those most vocal adherents of special creation are very convincing to those whose training in science is is limited.  Many may become internally conflicted or experience cognitive dissonance trying to resolve the question.  Both arguments seem persuasive.  So who is right.


When I taught about evolution I tried to present the scientific facts about the operation of evolution and the evidence that exists.  Mindful of the distress experienced by those indoctrinated in literal interpretation of Genesis, I pointed out that an all-powerful, infinite creator, could create the fossils and species of living organisms in seven days or any desired timescale,  I did not think that belief was necessary,  I don't remember if I told them I believed God created the world and all the natural processes science has discovered.  I probably told them that others believe it started with the "Big Bang."  It would seem that scientists would recognize God as the cause for that moment of creation.

I don't think anyone has had a valid revelation about all the details of how God created and sustains the world.  The operation of natural laws created by God are sufficient to explain the evolution of the world by means of natural selection.  But natural selection has random events that make the history of the species on the earth very complicated.  Sometimes we see selection leading to gigantism, sometimes to great size reduction.  Side branches of the tree of life lead to many groups showing great diversity, often radiating into scavengers, herbivores, predators, and parasites.  Certainly, God is the creator of all those things, whether by one astounding act of creation, or with continual input into the process.  My saying so does not make it so, although I would opt for the one astounding act of creation.  I know God sometimes accepts special requests and clearly did numerous miraculous things from the time of Abraham to the present, with the special highlight of events over thirty some years beginning about 2016 years ago.

Many have made their choice, so conflict will continue for them.

Joseph G. Engemann     Kalamazoo, Michigan    November 28, 2016

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