Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I found it!

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had been looking for a statement about the theory of evolution being, "merely," a scientific theory, and, therefore, unworthy of the kind of fear and venom and opposition heaped upon it by so many Christians.

I believe I finally found the original I was looking for. It has nothing to do with biological evolution. It is about the Big Bang.

This is from Glover's book, Beyond the Firmament:
The Big Bang is a serious attempt to explain the obvious astrophysical data from some kind of coherent story that allows the laws of nature to operate continuously over the entire course of cosmic history.

Trouble begins when the Big Bang is intentionally portrayed as an atheistic alternative to creation. This is about as silly as claiming that medicine is an atheistic alternative to healing. Christians don't make these kinds of silly statements about other scientific theories. Take germ theory for example. If a doctor were to rely on unexplainable supernatural phenomena to heal an infection, he would be considered a "witch doctor" and immediately have his medical license revoked. So just like serious doctors who seek to explain sickness and disease in terms of natural cause and effect, serious cosmologists seek to explain the astrophysical data without supernatural interference.

If we truly believe that God is sovereign over His creation, then Christians should not fear these naturalistic explanations. God is just as present through the continuous operation of the laws of nature as He is with miracles. And if the story of cosmic history does include any miracles, then the discernible patterns of providence that we call physics might even reveal some obvious discontinuities that defy a cause-and-effect explanation. But even then, honest science demands that we continue the search for a material explanation until one is found.

So when Christians accuse cosmologists of intentionally leaving God out of the picture, it does not encourage constructive dialogue between science and religion. We can avoid this by simply adjusting our theological expectations before asking science to describe the formational history of the cosmos. Quite simply, if you ask a scientific question, you should expect to get a scientific answer.

[When] Christians feel compelled to dispute the Big Bang on religious grounds as a godless version of creation, . . . [it] makes about as much sense as rejecting meteorology as a godless view of the weather. The Big Bang is just an idea that tries to explain what scientists observe in nature with a useful physical model that relates observed effects with material causes--as far back as physics can reasonably reach.

If anybody thinks they have a better way to explain the changing structure and properties of the cosmos over time, then they are free to challenge the Big Bang theory on scientific grounds. In fact, there have been a few opposing theories that have made their way into the professional journals. But attacking the science of the Big Bang on religious grounds is extremely counterproductive.

--pp. 120-121

Glover concludes the chapter in which he makes this particular statement with the following questions and observations:
So what . . . is the point of the Big Bang? Is . . . it just another way to attack Christianity and the authority of the Bible, or to keep God out of the public schools?

For the longest time, that's pretty much what I thought. Judging by the rhetoric of most creationist literature, I'd say I wasn't the only one.

Of course, any scientific theory can be hijacked by atheistic presuppositions for the sole purpose of arguing against God and creation. This is a common tactic used by the enemies of Religion. But is that really the point of the Big Bang theory? . . . Is it possible that the Big Bang is really nothing more than a tentative natural cause-and-effect explanation of what scientists observe in nature? It seems to me like a pretty coherent way to explain things like cosmic redshift and the CMBR [Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation--JAH] in terms of the known patterns of material behavior that we call the laws of nature. And isn't explaining the discernible patterns of natural behavior the point of any scientific discipline, from medicine to meteorology?

Whether we agree with it or not, there are many very intelligent people who consider the Big Bang theory one of the crowning achievements of modern science. It represents decades of hard work, a little good fortune, and an unparalleled cooperation between the world's leading [physicists in various subspecialties]. The reason it has such a broad appeal to the scientific community is not because it makes no reference to God, but because it considers all of the observational and experimental data and attempts to provide a coherent natural explanation that assumes the known laws of physcs have been operating continuously since the beginning of time.. . .

One thing that Christians need to understand is that these are firmly held beliefs based on what appears to be overwhelming physical evidence. The Big Bang is not just something that atheists can conveniently substitute for special creation to avoid the existence of God any more than gravity is something they can exchange for providence to avoid God's sovereignty. . . .

[A]ttacking the Big Bang theory as a "silly creation myth invented by people who hate God" does not address the real problem. These tactics assume that naturalistic theories are . . . themselves the root of the problem. I submit to you that they are not. Christians don't take this approach to other areas of science. Do our naturalistic theories of biological development from a single fertilized cell to a fully grown adult undermine our belief that God made us? Do our naturalistic theories of planetary motion or the water cycle undermine our belief in common grace? Do our naturalistic theories of germs and antibiotics undermine the need to ask God for healing?

--pp. 128-129

Answer, obviously: No. And unstated conclusion: "So let's lay off charging the Big Bang with producing such noxious results."
I would like to suggest that you re-read these last two sections and replace every occurrence of the word physics with biology, and every occurrence of the Big Bang with the Theory of Evolution , and every occurrence of the cosmos with the various plants and animals we find in the world today.

I think you will find the "argument" works just as well.

And so I stand by my comment from a couple of days ago: Let us view neither the Theory of Evolution nor the Big Bang as threats. Indeed, they really offer no threat either to the Bible, to the sovereign God of the Bible, or to Christianity.
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