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Ranger

I went to a Baptist liberal arts college for my undergraduate that taught evolution in both biology and geology classes about fifteen years ago. I wonder if this is more common than those in the culture wars assume it is.

I like your perspective, but think the problem with your suggestion on the history of scientific perspectives is that such a "history of ideas" class would fall under the humanities and they are (unfortunately) struggling enough in the modern academy. Whereas biology is a core requirement, it would be hard to justify the history of science class as such.

If instead it were integrated into the actual course curriculums of the natural sciences, I wonder how well (and effectively) it would be taught by the science profs.

phil_style

what the? There are college biology courses that don't teach Evolution?

JohnFH

I think you're right, Ranger. It wonder if there is some resource online that actually describes the situation on the ground in all of its complexity.

From my point of view, the problem starts earlier. It starts in churches in which sermons put the listeners before an aut-aut. Either you are a Christian and a YECer, or you are going to hell.

The older members of the congregation may say, "bring it on!," but there will be younger members, science-passionate high schoolers and even junior high schoolers, who begin to lose their faith when forced to choose. Including PKs.

I am speaking about actual cases.

David Congdon

If there are Christian colleges that don't teach evolution in their biology courses, then that's pure anti-intellectualism -- the kind which dishonors Christ and makes Christianity a mockery in the modern world.

The suggestion in this post that such schools should also teach why some evolutionists have drawn unjustifiable conclusions and why anti-evolutionists have some justifiable points is completely nonsensical. Those are not scientific topics. Science classes need to teach science, and science alone. Don't even acknowledge the ravings of people like Dawkins when they start talking about God. But also don't acknowledge the ravings of anti-intellectual fundamentalists. Neither is science, and therefore neither belongs in a science classroom.

Joshua Stewart

John- Good post. I understand your actual cases. Much like many evangelicals (at least those I am familiar with)I also understood there were only two options. I believe Christian colleges should teach evolution. I am sure doing this would raise great controversy in certain realms.

David- I could not agree with you assessment anymore. Thanks for your straight forward thoughts.

JohnFH

David,

I don't think your advice is practical. Professors, including science professors, are not able to neatly separate "science" from "non-science" as you put it.

For example, if your advice were taken, E. O. Wilson's books on sociobiology would have no place in a science curriculum. Nor those of Konrad Lorenz in an ethology course. These authors, not just Dawkins, engage in a seamless discourse in which "science" and "non-science" are jumbled together.

I stand by my earlier suggestion.

I don't care whether History of Science is thought of as a humanities contribution to Letters and Science, or a science contribution. Regardless, it should be a required part of a well-rounded education. Without fail, if taught correctly, it will allow students to meta-critique their science profs insofar as they teach meta-science along with science.

Gary Simmons

I had originally wanted to be an arachnologist. I switched to religious studies after reading Creationist literature, then I went to college. I'm not a YECer anymore, but the switch in career was the best mistake I ever made.

JohnFH

A toast to the best mistakes of our lives.

I wanted to be an entomologist as a kid. I had a bug and butterfly collection that would have made Teddy Roosevelt proud.

Good taxonomic prep for linguistics and things like that.

Ranger

I don't think preachers speak about evolution nearly as much as Rachel and others in the culture wars portray the situation. Of course, her situational context growing up was radically different from the norm in Christian culture.

I think the probably is the media coverage given to anti-evolutionists just as it overcovers those who are anti-religious. Dawkins and Falwell were cut from the same mold...as are most sensationalists that the media loves.

I grew up Southern Baptist in Texas and it doesn't get much more conservative. I can't think of a single time that my pastor ever mentioned the subject, and if he did I'm sure he would have mentioned that he was unqualified to speak on the topic but was just commenting on something he had read elsewhere. I suspect that's the norm, even among conservative evangelicals, such as myself.

The problem is that if you step foot in a Christian bookstore, there are all types of books/videos, etc. by the Ken Hams and Bill Dembskis of the discussion. If you turn on Christian radio you hear "Creation Updates." If you turn on the news you see Stephen Meyer and PZ Myers. And the blogosphere has only spawned more of this overexposure of the fringes.

Ranger

Wow, that opening line of the second paragraph is incoherent. It was supposed to be "I think the problem is that the media is give to overcovering anti-evolutionists just as it overcovers the anti-religious."

Mitchell Powell

Dr. Hobbins,

As a college freshman PK, I thank you for your insistence that faith and thinking not be set up as a stark choice. As someone still in the process of working out what exactly I think about human origins, it has been a great consolation to know that there a great number of positions on the issues and not just a single don't-think-or-you'll-leave-God choice.

dave b

you have a gift of posting things that touch the nerve of fundamental issues (exposing how basic worldview perspectives polarize us--as the comments here reveal)!

perhaps I can throw this into the mix--apparently an MP here in Britain has spoken out against teaching creationism (whatever he means by that) in schools, regardless of whether they are public or private. It seems his argument is that schools which teach creationism undermine "democratic values," and as such should be challenged and if necessary closed down! I suppose there are fundamentalists on both sides.

I'm not sure if the interview is online but for a synopsis see: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11255

dave b

found the transcript:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8514945.stm

admittedly it's unclear in the interview if he is actually saying that creationism undermines democratic values, but he's clear that creationism should not be taught at schools, private or public.

JohnFH

Mitch,

I would say: go ahead and be fearless in your thinking. Hold God in extreme honor, but not your (provisional) conceptualization of every detail of how God gets his job done. I think that's the true meaning of "trust in God, and lean not on your understanding."

JohnFH

Dave,

In theory, I like the position of Hilllary Clinton, who said in high school, besides teaching evolution in biology, the teachers should "teach the controversy." But I wonder how that works out in practice. I'm not convinced very many bio teachers could do that in an evenhanded way.

Hebrew Scholar

Evolution is not a science, so it should not be taught in a science class. Evolution has none of the hallmarks of science: no body of proven experiments, no double-blind clinical experiments, no control experiments, no way to prove it one way or the other. Christian colleges should teach evolution, but teach it in such a way that students can tell you all about it, but not believe a word of it. The Hebrew Bible says that in six days God created the heaven and the earth. That is fact. Whether it is science depends on whether science looks for facts or theories.

JohnFH

Hebrew Scholar,

You have an idiosyncratic definition of what science is. All of the hard sciences, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, geology, climatology, and so on, seek to understand the processes that gave structure and content to all that currently is from the astronomical, physical, chemical, biochemical, biological, geological, and climatological points of view.

With respect to this kind of investigations, no double-blind or control experiments are possible in the very nature of things. All that can be done is a work of controlled extrapolation and interpolation based on the evidence at hand.

Confronted with a body of interlocking scientific research of enormous depth and breadth carried out on the basis of the same principles which have allowed men to land on the moon and medicine to understand the human genome, it is ludicrous to suggest instead that, since the Hebrew Bible says that in six days God created the heavens and the earth, that settles it.

You might at least allow for the possibility that the purpose of Gen 1:1-2:4a was not scientific in the modern sense of that word.

Tom Tupps

John FH: You have well stated the issue with modern explanations of origins that are based on scientific findings. As you say, "All that can be done is a work of controlled extrapolation and interpolation based on the evidence at hand."

This means "working backwards" from the data. Doing so involves explanation of the data that assumes that the data also explains origins. Thus the latter becomes the basic assumption on which evolution, the big bang theory, and other theories of origins are based.

On the other hand the Bible says in Hebrews 11:3, "By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen" (NLT, 1996). The first part of this statement is a well-attested teaching throughout the Old Testament, especially in Psalms. The second part is the author's conclusion.

If this is true, then scientific findings cannot tell us anything about the origins of the universe. Speculation is all that can take place.
Instead, we must rely on revelation from God to explain origins. That is what the Bible purports.

The problem is not with the scientific data, of course. The problem is with the basic assumptions by which the data is interpreted regarding origins.

Scientific Creationism begins with the creation by God as stated in Genesis and then interprets the data with that understanding.


JohnFH

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your comment.

As you might not know, I am a Hebraist with training in the languages and civilizations of the ancient Near East.

Here's the deal. The exegesis that undergirds the brand of creationism you promote is based on faulty premises.

The narratives in Genesis 1-11 were written to counter narratives and assumptions that were taken for granted in Mesopotamian civilization. The extra-biblical accounts, *and* the biblical accounts which counter them, are examples of protological narrative.

Each account presents foundational truths in narrative form; each account is internally consistent; the truth value of one account is not thrown into question because detail therein cannot be harmonized with detail in another account.

That is why God - I speak as a believer - saw fit to let the differences in the order of creation as presented in Gen 1:1-2:4a and 2:4b-20 stand in Scripture. It makes no more sense to try to reconcile those differences and create a single narrative out of the two than it would to take all of the parables of Jesus and create a single narrative out of them.

The problem with creationism of your style "is with the basic assumptions by which the data [the biblical texts] is interpreted regarding origins."

Creationism of your style is problematic. Relative to the data that science deals with, the specific interpolations and extrapolations your model requires are not suggested by the data, but by harmonistic exegesis of a kind the biblical text does not support.

On the other hand, anti-evolutionism is a salutary teaching from many points of view.

Scientism, whenever it coincides with an appeal to the authority of "the experts," deserves to be thrown a counter-punch. Anti-evolutionism has done that successfully on occasion.

The consensus of the experts is the antithesis of science by definition, since science rightly so-called is about free and independent inquiry, the testing of hypotheses, running models against data sets, etc.

Anti-evolutionists have also noted that the conclusions a number of prominent evolutionists have drawn from the science are self-serving to their social and economic class and profoundly misanthropic. I mistrust anyone who fails to get this. Anti-evolutionists however often formulate their objections in language that is difficult for non-believers to grasp.

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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