Just a couple quotables I’ve read recently by James Chastek at Just Thomism:
…the best arguments for naturalism are that we should get out of the armchair, stop using abstract language and start giving quantitative, statistical, and experimental arguments… But the arguments are all made from the armchair, using abstract terms, without quantitative, statistical, or experimental arguments. (from here)
How do we understand the sort of design that evolution supposedly does away with? Presumably, evolution means we can stop looking for some magical elf-and-Santa-workshop where God busily assembles new species. Great. Call off the search. If evolution were to fail, what then? Would it leave the sort of hole that could be filled by the the magical mystery species shop? No. We would just look for another natural explanation, whatever it was. If evolution were to fail, it would not leave a God-shaped hole, and so it follows that it is not filling one now, nor has it ever done so. (from here)
The word ‘teleology’ (from Greek τελος ‘telos’ – meaning ‘goal’, ‘end’, ‘purpose’ or ‘that toward which things tend’) is not a street-level term. However, the concept of a purpose, goal, function or ‘end’ to things most certainly is. It’s a common as anything. Teleology is blindingly relevant.
What Genesis 1-3 is not: a play-by-play, atom-by-atom historical and scientific account of creation. The author/community which produced the text clearly had other things in mind than producing such a thing.*
This is widely accepted by people who should know: scholars in fields relevant to Genesis 1-3 (biblical scholars, ancient near east religion scholars, hebrew linguists, experts on ancient semetic poetry, etc. – see relevant examples in the Denver Seminary Old Testament bibliograpy – updated annually). Yael Klangwisan spoke on Genesis recently at a TANSA event at Laidlaw college, and a very informative PDF of her slideshow can be found here.
Unfortunately there are two kinds of people I know of that both tend to insist that Genesis 1-3 is intended as a ‘factual’ report of the exact, literal events of creation. These two types of people are (who would have thunk it!?) young-earth Creationists (YEC’s)… and many (not all) atheists.
YEC’s are convinced that science supports their literal interpretation (see pretty much anything on this site)…
…and some atheists are convinced that this literal-and-only-literal-gosh-darnit interpretation has been replaced by science (see the opening statement of Richard Dawkins from his 2007 debate with John Lennox – and I’ll put a transcription of it as the first comment below).**
Meanwhile, there are those who are willing to listen to what Genesis is really trying to get across, and who refuse to use science to prove their religious or anti-religious views.
*Many/most/all? of the characters in the Bible, for example, would have been aware of the poetic and metaphorical nature of Genesis 1-3, though would naturally have had little/no reason to question whether or not it took 6 days for God to create the world, etc. A prime example of just how much the literal-ness of this text does not matter in Jewish thought is the story of when Ray Vander Laan asked the world-class Jewish scholar, Jacob Neusner how long the days of creation were; to which the reply after a long pause was “I’ve never thought about that.”
** No… wait… Dawkins doesn’t only say that the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is replaced by science, he says that religious explanations in general are replaced by science… Wow.
TANSA (Theology and the Natural Sciences Aotearoa) presents:
The Theological Meaning of Evolution
Conference to celebrate and interact with Darwin.
Thursday June 25th at 7pm to Saturday June 27th at 6pm
Key Note Speaker: Dr. Christopher Southgate, author of The Groaning of Creation University of Exeter Local Speakers: Assoc. Prof. Ruth Barton (Auckland), Assoc. Prof. John Stenhouse (Otago), Assoc. Prof. Peter Lineham (Massey), Dr. John Owens (Good Shepherd), Dr. Grant Gillett (Otago), Prof. Neil Broom (Auckland), Dr. Stephen Downs (Flinders), Rev.Hugh Bowron (Holy Trinity) and theologians from Laidlaw Carey.
Contact Nicola @ nicolahc (at) laidlaw (dot) ac (dot) nz for details
Please click here for poster, and registration form.
Whether or not one agrees with Gould’s famous dictum that Religion and Science are Non-Overlapping Magisteria, it occurs to me that unless a given Religion says absolutely nothing at all about the things which Science also investigates, then at least they will be related.
A far better question, of course, is how they might be related.