Has Science Buried God? Panel 3 August

02/08/2013 0 By Mike Lloyd

Share with respect 1 Peter 3:15

But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed. (1 Peter 3:15, 16 NCV)

With: Clinton Jackson, Philip Rodionoff, Michael Lloyd, Troy Haligowski, and Eli Gonzalez

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_no_faith_in_their_hatred/. (17 Mar 2010)
Atheism is trying to discredit Christian or God based belief – but making themselves look unlovely (Dawkins).

Alvin Plantinga (http://publicchristianity.org/library/reasons-god-alvin-plantinga#.UfNleMsaySN) suggests that Dawkins arguments are not only weak in argumentation, but that his conception of human nature is unlovely and dispiriting (vis column above). That is that human beings are just another animal with just a peculiar way of making money. Plantinga says that the Christian view of humans is that we are created in Gods image and that we are created for fellowship with the first being of the universe. He also says that morality fits in really well with theistic belief but it doesn’t fit with naturalism. Why suffering and pain. Well, this a tough one but we do know that God was willing to join in this pain and suffering and die for us.

Talk with Nola;

Science is a never ending quest to understand – always searching for a solution that will never be fully reached. Must be re-testable and giving the same result. Most things that we know are theories. There are not many laws.

Epi-genetics – that is that recent research has shown that RNA has the same capability in some species as DNA. (Viruses are not considered living – parasidic relationship with a host).

Science and God/an understanding of God are not parallel

Creationism and ‘Evolution’ are parallel paths in striving to understand knowledge.

Survival of the fitness – means working together – survival of ‘the hive’ – without the hive they all die. The ‘pack’ works together.

Great article on the myths and misconceptions of evolution:

Great book talking about arguments for and against evolution with a clear explanation of what evolution is in its various forms: Explore Evolution by Meyer, Nelson, Moneymaker, Minnich and Seelke (2009) published by Hill House Publishers.

Lesson from Nola

This activity is reserved for the end of the unit on evolution. It is assumed that the following topics have already been discussed

Natural Selection
Common Descent
Homologous Structures
Theory of Evolution
Fossils and Paleontology
Genetic mutation
Transition Species

I also spend some time discussing “creation science” and why it is not viewed as a science and not taught as a theory. I do this in my school because I have such a strong population of fundamentalist christians, and it is important that they understand that scientific theories cannot verify or deny the existance of supernatural beings. In addition it is important that they understand that science relies on natural processes and cannot be based on supernatural events. How much this concept has sunk in is often determined by the outcome of this discussion.
Essentially, what this discussion does it create an environment where students have to defend the teaching of evolution in the science class. Though some groups may not come to a consensus that evolution should be taught, after some discussion and reading of the articles most do agree that evolution should be taught, though they will vary on degrees.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc. http://www.ifas.org.

Quick Comparison Chart

“Creation Science” Theory of Evolution
Cannot explain processes or make predictions Used to explain data and make predictions
Gives absolute truths Answers questions like “how” and “why” things are
Is based on faith Is supported by evidence
Offers no model, nor tells us about relationships among beings Used to develop ideas and models regarding relationships among organisms
Can never be disproven Can be disproven if new evidence is found

The Discussion

Overview: Each team is going to formulate a response from the “school board” to address issues taken by parents and students regarding the teaching of evolution. The concern of the parents is that evolution is teaching students values that do not align with their views on religion. The team of students must read articles and form a response from the school board.

Introduction: The school board is faced with a decision regarding the school’s science curriculum. A group of community members called “Concerned Parents” is asking the board to eliminate evolution from the high school curriculum because they feel it undermines their religious beliefs. Your job is to play the role of the School board and respond to the concerned parents group regarding the issues surrounding evolution, “creation science” and the high school curriculum.

Process: The class is divided into 4 groups, approximately 5 – 8 members per group (depending on class size)

1. Each group as a folder that contains articles regarding the conflict. I’ve listed these links for the year 2001, but I would find new articles each year that are more current. Each member of the group chooses and article to read and is responsible for summarizing and explaining what the article says. (I’ve included a lot here, so that you can pick and choose which ones you want to offer to the groups for reading – or search out your own)


I think atheists have buried God. They wish to discredit the world view that is different that theirs. (Ref The Philosophers zone – Simon Blackburn – Blackburn is in Brisbane for the inaugural Alan Saunders Memorial Lecture ). Simon is bemoaning the fact that we live in a very commercial and selfish world and that these philosophies drive changes in society for the worse. He gives the example that deregulated markets will look after themselves but that the result is tragic for so many people. He recognises that this is the philosophy of people today and we have to live in the world we are in. Then the interviewer switches to conversation to science. The ideology he is talking about is replicated in science and argued about in books such as The Selfish Gene by R. Dawkins that the world must be a dog eat dog world – survival of the fittest. Especially evident in the rise of Nazism in WWII. The idea that competition is the way of things and that there is no such thing as cooperation. Simon pushes here the concept that science is driven by the ideology of the day and that the ideology of today is commercialism. That is, science is funded by big business and as such borrows its philosophy from this world view. An example is that sciences aim is not to relieve the burden of disease on the world but to make money for pharmaceutical companies. He goes not to say that pure science (without the economy) is a small remnant. Simon goes on to say that science only gives us evidence to work with and no emotion no feeling. Science only finds markers for feelings and emotion. Science only tries to explain things – imperialist ideals too. Interestingly he said ‘You don’t get something from nothing’ in this talk. Blackburn indicates that Dawkins is a valuable ally in the battle to keep our culture educated, reasonable and sane. But now he wants to distance himself a little from Dawkins due to his rather strong views being promoted. Blackburn ‘admires’ the battle that Dawkins has fought against creationism and other ‘foolishnesses’. Blackburn also sees that these people are anti science – what he calls ‘detractors’ from science. Blackburn sees that Dawkins is missing the point and that evolution indicates evidence of cooperation as well as survival (link in with selfish gene). Symbiosis and things like that. So Blackburn suggests that Dawkins has lost his shine. 

Thought: If science is the pursuit of understanding – a process which is never complete – then how could God be buried  – unless God was disproved. So to insist there is no God is to say that we have proved that God does not exist. Interestingly this is narrow minded – the very thing that people like Dawkins say about people who believe in God – narrowminded. So in essence I guess people who say that there must be a God are as narrowminded as those who say there must NOT be a God.

It is interesting to note that the ABC is pursuing the anti-God/Pro-evolutionist stance as if God is disproved and evolution is confirmed. Why then do they call this open-mindedness. Confusing point.

So… Science is the pursuit of knowledge, striving towards the goal of understanding. To date understanding is never fully reached. We do not know the sum of everything. Christians believe in God who created all things and who knows all things so Science and God are not parallel. Science cannot bury God because Science cannot prove or disprove God. Christians believe that God is the author of all we have around us, science, and as such, Science will ultimately point to God. Naturally atheists look at science is a similar way but believe there is no author. As I see it the problem arises when we look at ultimate origin. So if there is natural selection in a punctuated equilibrium sense then what event or series of events happened before that to start life. Design seems to play a role in that?

Panelists comments:

Troys comments:
Hi Brad (and fellow panelists)

Rather than what questions, I feel the better starting point is to ask what are the take home messages. We can build questions easy enough. My feeling is (and I’d be interested to see what the other panelists think):

1. There is no conflict between science and a belief in God, rather the two answer different questions in life and taken together give us a more full understanding of the world we live in.

Totally agree. But atheists have used the evolution debate to push a wedge between faith and science for their own agenda – to discredit God believers.

2. Atheism has more to do with the worldview you bring to scientific investigation rather than the science itself.

3. What science does provide is clues which support a belief in God but doesn’t set about proving or disproving him. The question of God is not a scientific one ie God is not subject to the nul hypothesis and validation within a laboratory.

Yes the question of God is a faith issue – see video (Plantinga)

4. Evolution does not equal atheism. It is the current popular belief on the origin of living creatures once life commenced. There are many theists (even Christians) high within the scientific community who hold to evolution (Simon Conway Morris, John Polkinghorn, Francis Collins etc). It comes down to what explanation provides the best support to the evidence we have at hand.

Yes. Atheism v creationism is like comparing apples with cars. Diff things.

5. Christains aren’t anti-scientific. we’ve embraced nearly all of what scientific advancement has to offer us (electronics, medicine, air travel etc) however we aren’t just going along with all the metaphysical assumptions being advocated.

Anyway lets get a little dialogue going on this as well trying to green hat what we think may be the common questions raised.

Finally Brad, the topic has Science burried “God” is a good apologetic start. Which God is another question all together with numerous other trappings. We’ll need to ensure we stay on topic and not get dragged away on some other tangent.


Troy Haligowski

Comments from Elle:

Hi Panelists

Its great that you got this discussion started, Troy. I speak from a theological/historical perspective. My own views; I have no apologetic can to carry for anyone.

Here are my initial reactions to your points, Troy…

1. Well, theologically, the religion between science and belief is a doozy, from St. Augustine onwards, and there are really no simple answers. My position is that science and a belief in God are not discrete fields of enquiry. Many Christians today treat them as if they are. If they want to know about the world around them they go to science, and if they want to know about spiritual matters, they go to religion/God/the Bible. This works… but only at a simplistic level. We cannot separate the material world and belief in God. The Bible doesn’t do so, and any atheist would tell you that that just doesn’t make sense. Rather than being two discrete fields of enquiry, science must ultimately be understood as a subset of a true knowledge of God. In other words, God is the originator of the world around us, and is greater and beyond the world around us. There will always be an apparent conflict between science and a belief in God, as long as our our brains are smaller than God’s brain. In other words, the conflict would be minimised if we had a perfect understanding of the world around us; but even then there would be an unfathomable gap in knowledge between us and the infinite Mind. I guess I am agreeing with what you say here, but I would nuance it a whole lot more.

2. Quite true. And also in reality true of religion itself. However this mitigates against neither the reality of the natural world around us, nor the realiy of God.

3. This is also true. Although it is interesting to note that throughout history, until the modern period, the question of God has always been a scientific one. All science was fundamentally geared towards addressing metaphysical questions. It is the separation of science and God that allowed the emergence of our secular society. Interestingly, it was Bible-believing scientists in the early modern period who developed objective methods of scientific enquiry, on the premise that they believed in a logical God who could not fail to leave traces of His existence in the world around us, discernible to the objective observer. And so the scientific method was developed. In other words, atheism is an intellectual option today only because of Christianity. Before Christianity there was certainly plurality of belief, but the complete denial of God/the gods was essentially unknown as an intellectual option.

4. I would certainly agree that evolution does not equal atheism in the minds and in the experience of many true Christians today. Many of the greatest defenders of the existence of God today are in fact theistic evolutionists. But when you say that “it comes down to what explanation provides the best support to the evidence we have at hand,” I would raise a few points to be considered, because this is not such a straightforward question. The first question I would raise is “what evidence”? Are we implying here that we must interpret Scripture according to our society’s current interpretation of the evidence in the natural world? Well, this is certainly an interesting issue in the light of the proposition I made in point #1. Do we give priority to the Bible or to science? And of course here it is a question of the interpretation of the Bible… Do we only allow interpretations of the Bible that are consistent with current scientific understandings… (scientific consensus?) If so, is there any role for theology at all? And beginnings have endings; in other words, you have to be consistent and systematically work through your faith position on origins. How many people are really prepared to do this? Or is faith in our culture just a buffet meal of what we find appetising only?

5. Good point. In fact, every branch of modern science was developed by a Bible-believing Christian. Universities and hospitals are essentially Christian inventions. Neither existed before Christianity. So to say that Christians are anti-scientific is ludicrous.

I think perhaps a question that may come up is the whole issue of errors in the Bible.


Comments from Clinton:

Good day to you all,

I am looking forward to this discussion. I think it is going to be enjoyable but also beneficial to the audience.

I have a number of comments, prompted in part from the previous two responses.

1. Methodological naturalism – the working assumption of science that there is a non-supernatural explanation to phenomena is not antithetical to Christian faith. Indeed many daily tasks require a form of methodological naturalism to complete (e.g. driving, flying, sending emails). Naturalism is a challenge to Christian faith when it becomes an ideology.

2. Methodological evolution. Evolution is the paradigm around which biology is organised. For the vast majority of practising scientists this assumption is a purely pragmatic one, e.g. tracing changes in the DNA of a cancer. The idea that by using evolution in their research or that they are research the evolution of some gene is because they are motivated to disprove God would be met with puzzlement by these researchers. Making metaphysical assumptions based on evolutionary theory proves to be problematic.

3. Anthropic principle. I personally find the anthropic principle to be a compelling part of a theistic narrative.

4. Theistic evolution. It is true that many prominent Christians hold to theistic evolution. I had the opportunity to meet the Rev. John Polkinghorne, FRS many years ago and he is a true Christian gentleman, he speaks with clarity and authority but more so with humility. Polkinghorne is, however, theologically far removed from Adventism as the he sees little to no reason to assign causal agency to the devil.

Wentzel van Huysteen, a Reformed theologian narrates the relationship between man and God through a theistic evolutionary framework. He is particularly interested in the stages of when humans became self aware and then creator aware. It makes for interesting reading. Theistic evolution, however, is untenable (at least in any of the standard formulations, and I am yet to see any non-standard ones that work) for Seventh-day Adventists who require a Great Controversy meta-narrative to organise our theology. In particular the notion of original sin is very difficult to accommodate under theistic evolution. It amuses me the fascination of many church members with Michael Behe who is a theistic evolutionist who argues for specific examples of supernatural intervention!

5. Genesis 1 and 2 are not scientific histories. The fact that the creative sequence differs between Gen 1 and 2 is an indicator that the text is trying to say something else. I see in Genesis 1 a compelling redemption narrative, that is God brought order and structure to the formless void (he redeemed it) and the rest of the Bible narrates how God as creator continues to redeem.

6. A critical realism acknowledges the complexity of accessing the multi-faceted reality. It permits a methodological pluralism, as necessitated by the demands of different disciplines, without falling into the trap of ontological relativism found in many post-modern philosophies. In other words, a scientist and a Christian both start from the same premise, reality exists and that it can be understood. As such, as long as there is a shared understanding of the limits each form of inquiry, scientists and Christians have much in common. I personally think the ambivalence towards a realist ontology found in many humanities departments as more of a challenge to Christian dialogue than any of the difficulties science presents.

7. Finally, I find that science helps illuminate my understanding of certain Christian beliefs. For example, I can demonstrate the wave nature and the particle nature of light with ease in a high school classroom. As such I live with the inherent tension of a very tangible phenomena that is both particle and wave. For this reason, I find the doctrine of the trinity to be completely plausible and in line with my experience in the laboratory. That is, three components of the one thing makes sense when I deal with something that is two components of the one all the time. I am sure we could all give examples of similar insights.


Other information which may be relevant:

It seems to me that much of the discussion of whether or not evolution conflicts with religion seems to be clouded. Many argue that it is Christianity against Darwin or Science (as if they were the same thing) but neglect to make a distinction between Darwin’s ideas on micro and macro evolution.

There seems to be some in Christondum that are intent on following the beliefs of the current day even if they don’t fit with what the bible promotes. This from the Australian religious reaction to the origin of the species(Larissa Aldridge)

In 1882, the Reverend Robert Potter addressed the Anglican Church Congress, saying that he had ‘always liked the doctrine of evolution,’ due to its ‘approximately true account’ of the way species had developed over time. The warden of St Paul’s College, Canon William Hey Sharp, argued that evolution could not deny the existence of a creator or undermine the natural theological argument from design, although he suggested that William Paley’s Natural Theology needed to be reworked. There were even attempts to understand the history of Christianity in evolutionary terms. For example, Bishop Alfred Barry of Sydney said in the late 1880s that the Apostles’ Creed was established by natural selection.

Sadly the same article goes on to say;
In contrast to the view that Darwinian evolution has always faced universal religious opposition, Tom Frame has shown that the response of Australian Christians was quite positive. Despite some opposition, Darwinism eventually became part of both scientific and theological orthodoxy. For this reason, Australia has witnessed neither a local version of the Scopes trial nor widespread acceptance of Young Earth Creationism. However, there are still religious objections raised against Darwinian evolution. My next article will examine a possible response to one of these objections.

This article would posit that the church and science are complementary. But I find some of the reasoning skewed towards a belief that Christianity and Darwinism can agree;
Darwin and the British natural theology tradition

Hitchen bro debate