Intelligent Design

Sam Brownback on Evolution:

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What I Think About Evolution

Published: May 31, 2007

IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.

5 Replies to “Sam Brownback on Evolution:

  1. 1
    Conspirator says:

    I’ve noticed that John Derbyshire of the National Review is on it already, and has posted a response at the NR’s “The Corner.”

  2. 2
    Apollos says:

    This is really indicative of the debate today. The question posed during the debate, “do you believe in evolution?” is almost akin to asking “have you quit beating your wife yet?”

    The simple answer is yes, while either answer, yes or no, is bound to be more complicated than is suggested by the question itself. Both questions are intended as a trap.

    The term “evolution” has more than one connotation, as senator Brownback has had to elucidate. The subtle tactic of associating advanced avenues of science, such as genetics, with “evolution,” has been successful. To reject evolution is to reject science itself, or so we are asked to believe.

    Unfortunately it is science itself that may suffer from the effects. When materialist dogma is revealed for what it is, which I’m confident will take place, the reputation of science as an institution may itself suffer a credibility problem, being unable to conveniently be distanced from the materialist agenda [to set up scientific reason as in opposition to faith.]

    As to debate questions: I wonder, what if we were to ask the democrat candidates, “do you believe in the God of the Bible?”

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    It is good to see that Sam Brownback has a good grasp of the situation. It is a sure sign that ID style thought is pemeating mainstream culture.
    I would like to point out that there is more wqork to do as illustrated by this comment of his:

    There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species.

    Evolutionary biology does not even explain this when we realize that evolution presupposes a “random mutation” to account for the minor adaptation. I believe the ID concept of “front loading” explains the adaptability to varying climates and selection pressures a lot better than the RM/NS scenario does. In fact the concept of “Front Loading” explains all lines of adaptation I have examined, including the fact that reproductive isolation of sub-species appears to be the result of the loss of genetic information.
    The popularizing of this one point should be the final blow to evolution.

  4. 4
    LeeBowman says:

    Everybody’s commenting on Brownback’s comments this morning! At first, I was annoyed that the evolution question was asked with the stipulation of a ‘yes or no’ answer. But posing it nationally has brought the subject higher in a national debate scenario. As a result, more of the common folks who have an ‘institutionally instilled belief’ in evolution will now be exposed the logical arguments in refutation of Darwinian theology.

    Joshua Rosenau, a grad student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology comments on his blog, and which I couldn’t resist taking issue with one of his commenters’ bald conflation of micro- and macro-evolution in an abbreviated analogous form.

    Until now, much of what you’ve heard from the public was “Evolution is confirmed science. Case closed.” I heartily recommend we take this opportunity to interject our foundational arguments for ID into the blog parlance, ‘letters to the editor’, ‘man on the street’, whatever. Let’s take this as an opportunity to circumscribe dogma with reason. Remember, we only have 617 days till the next Darwin Day Celebration.

  5. 5
    johnnyb says:

    “To reject evolution is to reject science itself, or so we are asked to believe.”

    What is amazing about this is how many critics of evolution, even in recent years, have been crucial to building biological science.

    George Price was a private critic of macroevolutionary theory, despite the fact that he had made many inroads in equations governing natural selection.

    John Sanford was co-inventor of the Gene Gun, which essentially enabled the industry of transgenic crops (which is funny, because evolutionists often imply this sort of technology and evolution go hand-in-hand).

    Genetics itself started life as an anti-evolutionary argument:

    Gärtner, by the results of theses transformation experiments, was led to oppose the opinion of those naturalists who dispute the stability of plant species and believe in a continuous evolution of vegetation. He perceives in the complete transformation of one species into another an indubitable proof that species are fixed with limits beyond which they cannot change.

    Medicine was also revolutionized when Damadian invented the MRI.

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