theistic evolution

Wayne Rossiter: Theistic evolution empties theism of meaning

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From Waynesburg University (Pennsylvania) biology prof Wayne Rossiter, author of In the Shadow of Oz, From If Apes Could Fly: Review of Darwinism and Natural Theology, Chapter 2 (R.J. Berry):

R.J. Berry (former professor of Genetics at the University of London) offers the second chapter in the volume. It begins with a short, but informative biography of Darwin’s life and the events leading up to the Origin.

Like Monty Python’s knight on the bridge, Berry continues to hack away at the body of Christian theology while maintaining that we’re all the better for it. The next limb to go is a classic one. Nearly all theistic evolutionists abandon the concept of the Fall of man, in favor of a “falling up” view that sees us evolving towards perfection, not devolving away from it. Berry is no different. Quoting Peter Bowler, he offers, “If evolutionism [is] true—even in its progressionist and teleological form—there could be no Fall and hence no need for salvation in the original sense of the term.” This is more damning than most know. If we (as Karl Giberson has argued) are designed evil through the process of selfish evolution, then our very nature was created evil. Are we culpable? And, assuming that the “falling up” is simply our increasing awareness of how evil we are, rectification is in our hands, not the work of the cross. Jesus isn’t necessary. Berry puts it more plainly; “No Adam, no Fall; no Fall, no Atonement; no Atonement, no Saviour.”

So how does Berry salvage the most fundamental piece of Christian theology? By abandoning the need to reference, or find agreement with, science. While he can find no evidence of the Creator’s hand in our evolutionary unfolding, nor any indication of a spiritual aspect of our being, it’s not possible to give all of these up and call the remaining theology “Christianity.” So, Berry (et al.) uses science to systematically dismantle every other claim from the Christian tradition, entirely vacating God’s direct activity from all parts of the creation. . . only to slip the central Christian dogma back in, well below the radar of scientific detection. He writes, “This is where the science-faith dialogue comes against the ‘grand narrative’ of traditional Christianity. Science can give an account of human evolution without invoking God, but this does not mean that there is no God.” Hmm. I suppose Berry’s right. And, science cannot disprove the existence of a flying spaghetti monster, or Zeus, or Zoroaster. Quick, go tell the others! Here, the very thing in question is assumed in the absence of any evidence. In other words, such a claim falls entirely into the meat grinder of the Invisible Gardener fallacy.
More.

Is a theistic evolutionist someone who, having to choose between theism and evolution, would unhesitatingly choose the second?

See also: Wayne Rossiter: No “I” in “me” and no sense in Sam Harris

2 Replies to “Wayne Rossiter: Theistic evolution empties theism of meaning

  1. 1
    Autodidaktos says:

    I’m a classical theist and I have no problem with Darwinian evolution, insofar as one does not extrapolate from the science underlying the theory to make metaphysical claims such as the non-existence of God or the soul or free will. I’m also open to ID. And yes, I’m a Christian.

    That said, holding that man’s body may have evolved through Darwinian processes does not entail holding that his intellect is also a product of said process, for it can be shown through philosophical proofs that the human intellect is immaterial. Further, holding that naturalistic processes have shaped man’s body does not preclude miracles. I believe that a historical Adam (and Eve) existed, and that God supernaturally created them. Just as the fact that dead people in the natural order do not come back to life does not entail that the resurrection of Christ did not occur.

    That said, I find this passage troubling:

    “So how does Berry salvage the most fundamental piece of Christian theology? By abandoning the need to reference, or find agreement with, science. While he can find no evidence of the Creator’s hand in our evolutionary unfolding, nor any indication of a spiritual aspect of our being, it’s not possible to give all of these up and call the remaining theology “Christianity.” So, Berry (et al.) uses science to systematically dismantle every other claim from the Christian tradition, entirely vacating God’s direct activity from all parts of the creation. . . only to slip the central Christian dogma back in, well below the radar of scientific detection.”

    Why should it be the case that theology needs to be supported by the empirical sciences? God is not a scientific hypothesis, but a metaphysical thesis. And God’s existence is easily proven by the classical cosmological arguments (such as the arguments from motion, efficient causality, contingency). If God is the cause of all being and of all becoming, can we use science to say that *this* is where God acted? We cannot, for God’s act of sustaining the universe in existence and motion is everywhere. And miracles by their very nature cannot be proven by science. Science is such a poor tool if one seeks certainty. Why should we look to it to corroborate the truth of the Christian faith, when philosophy already does that job? Why should the empirical sciences be the radar which detects God? And how can science, which is simply about seeking the best explanation for something, even if it concludes that the universe is designed, conclude that the explanans is metaphysically ultimate, simple and infinite? It cannot, and therefore looking for God in science is a category error, not because God’s action cannot be known, but because science is poor tool to get to know of the existence and nature of God.

  2. 2
    jdk says:

    A good post, and in agreement with some of the things I’ve said, especially this:

    If God is the cause of all being and of all becoming, can we use science to say that *this* is where God acted? We cannot, for God’s act of sustaining the universe in existence and motion is everywhere.

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