Archive for October, 2012

Darwinism, Christianity and the West

Posted in Culture, Faith, First Things, General Discussion, Science with tags , , , , on October 23, 2012 by McKinley Pitts

Regarding the Gallup poll that indicated that 46% of all Americans are supposedly Creationists.

On balance, coming as I do from a scientific background, extensive survey experience, and more than just a grasp of Christian Theology, I’d point out that the survey questions forced you to pick from a very limited number of theological positions. Either you believe in theistic evolution, non-theistic evolution, or a strict creationist 10,000 year window. You probably could pick, “I don’t know.” Problem here is most Christians would be forced to pick the Creationist view just so they could get their vote in. There was no discussion of Spinozan notions of a mechanistic creator God or of one that could have used something other than the 10,000 year window to make things happen.

That said, most westerners are completely unaware that the scientific method only tells the how of something, never the why. The ‘How’ is useful but it tells us nothing about the ‘Why’. That ‘Why’, rather, falls to philosophy, art, theology, and literature, those old worthless humanities. Further, most in the west seemingly lack the knowledge that western culture with its peculiar foundation of faith rooted in Judeo-Christian notions of a reasonable Creator creating a reasonable universe that can be understood by reason was in fact the crucible of true science. It did not arise with such fury anywhere else and with fury gave rise to notions that man was not necessarily at the mercy of a capricious God or His creation but that man possessed, well, free moral agency and existed in a real covenantal relationship with God and His Creation. A lot should be inserted here (like all of Western Civilization from ancient Greece to the Renaissance) but in the interest of brevity: thus, the appearance of the Enlightenment and the emergence of Modernism. Man suddenly had choices and could understand a little about the universe around him, seeing pathways to an amazing future where such things like disease could be conquered. Without the west and without Christianity, there would be no modern world. We’d still be horrified by eclipses, sacrificing our children to Moloch (Wait a second!?), and wondering how the hell plants worked.

While I am neither a fundamentalist nor a evangelical, keep in mind that the evangelical left (you probably don’t even know they exist) are firmly in Obama’s camp. It is fatuous to assume that any Christian group is monolithically left or right but the most monolithic is probably what we call the mainline denominations in the US: Episcopal, Presbyterian Church US, Methodists, etc. Shrinking, yet they have huge numbers that start slobbering whenever they hear the beautiful name of Obama. Further, to assume that somehow the educational system was dumbed down by these more fundamentalist or evangelical groups is patently untrue. Public education along with “higher” ed at all levels was abandoned to the secular left wholesale. Compare the kids coming out of secular public and higher-ed schools with those coming out of religious private primary, secondary, and university and the difference is plain. The latter student easily outperform their public-secular counterparts almost without fail. Who’s really dumbed down what?

That said, and given my brain having steeped in the scientific method, I still have no qualms about holding to a somewhat Creationist position. God did indeed create the universe and everything in it? Can anyone prove it scientifically? Well, using the pure scientific method the answer’s, “No.” That method excludes the metaphysical a priori. Can I approach something like certainty (and where but in the West has anyone ever even become concerned with a quest for certainty?) using science, art, philosophy, literature, and…, yes, theology? Well, absolutely.

But what type of creationism do I hold, clearly being one of those mouth-breathing, stump-toothed yokels from down hyar in Mule-Shit Tennessee? Could there be room in the universe of possibilities a creationist that holds to a view that is consistent with what we do know about the universe? (By the way, Darwinism is not “settled” science. There’s no such thing as “settled” science. Cf. the Hegelian Dialectic. All scientific questions remain open and as early as the 1970’s Science magazine was calling for a re-thinking of Darwinism precisely because it lacked robustness in explaining the vast underlying complexities of a particular variety of giant solitary wasp known as the cicada killer.) But it is precisely the new inquisitors and secular “theologians” in academia that are now forcing anyone that doesn’t hold to the party line into the dock. Why do they so vigorously hate anyone that disagrees with their limited points of view?  A: Because they lose power at every turn. Very human.

But I hold to a notions of a Creator God that produced what we see around us and produced it in such a fashion that evolution or something like it could be that mechanism, at the least short-term species variation. It’s just that old high-Church Anglicans like me are not concerned with “proving” God exists. We know he exists. And we know that others can’t be made to gain faith unless they receive it as a gift of God anyway. We also know science is subservient to faith in the Thomistic sense and in the Newtonian sense (credo ut intelligam–“I believe in order to know”) where faith informs our lives, and our science, with the notion, again, that a reasonable Creator created a reasonable universe that can be understood by reason. Thus the birth of free inquiry, the modern, a weltanschauung, a worldview, that when taken in its entirety can help us to understand, know, and learn to love with our crooked little hearts both our God and our crooked fellow man. Why else would we pursue antibiotics?

All of this is off the top of my head and done without the usual intellectual rigor. All I am saying is that science and Christianity are not at odds except in the minds of less informed fundies and the worst of the hide-bound academic secularists. It’s not a left or right thing (well, maybe a little) or a Republican or Democrat thing. They all hold a plethora of beliefs. But as for me, penguins are so sensitive and I love everybody.