Sunday, October 23, 2005

 

Faith and Evolution

Mr. Pat Hayes addressed St Paul's Adult Sunday School class on the subject of intelligent design (i.d.) and teaching evolution in school.

He presented part of a Powerpoint he wrote for the class, titled, "Faith and Science, are They Compatible? The Battle Over Science Education in Kansas."

Mr. Hayes started the presentation with the following quotation: "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist."-- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991

He talked about the need for dialog and mutual respect. The attitude displayed by Pat Robertson, calling Methodists the Antichrist, does not appear to represent all of the opposition. Mr. Hayes said many kind things, praising the motives and sincerity of John Calvert and proponents of i.d.

But not all of the i.d. folks are as tolerant.

"In short, the reason that Darwinism and theism are fundamentally incompatible is not that God could not have used evolution by natural selection to do his creating. Darwinian evolution might seem unpublished to some, or too cruel and wasteful a method for a benevolent Creator to choose, but it is always possible that God might do something that confounds our expectations. No, the contradiction between Darwinism and theism goes much deeper. To know that Darwinism is true (as a general explanation for the history of life), one has to know that no alternative to natural evolution is possible. To know that is to assume that God does not exist, or at least that God does not or cannot create. To infer that mutation and selection did the creating because nothing else was available, and then to bring God back into the picture as the omnipotent being who chose to create by mutation and selection, is to indulge in self-contradiction."
-- Phillip Johnson

According to Mr. Hayes, Phillip Johnson, a retired UC Berkeley law professor, helped father the i.d. movement.

"At some point in time, if you compare evolution and the Bible, you have to decide which one you believe. That's the bottom line." -- Independence, Kansas Sept. 24 -- Steve Abrams
Reported by Scott Rothschild in the Lawrence Journal-World

Steve Abrams, a veterinarian from Arkansas City, represents district 10 on the Kansas State Board of Education.

The divisive effects of the battles over teaching evolution are not without victims. As most people know, the issue has ended up in court in Dover, PA. Bryan Rehm, a high school physics teacher and one of the parents suing the school district, says living in Dover has gotten harder.

"They don't know me," he says. "They don't know that I'm the co-director of the children's choir at church ... or that, you know, my wife and I run Vacation Bible School. Yet they have no problem going around calling me an atheist because my particular religious viewpoint doesn't agree with that of the School Board."

Mr. Hayes discussed the difference between faith and science. He defined faith as: "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

Science, on the other hand, is: "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena."

He then explained his feeling that science and faith deal with fundamentally different parts of the human experience. He quoted Steven Jay Gould: "No supposed 'conflict' between science and religion should exist because each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority - and these magisteria do not overlap (nor do they encompass all inquiry). But the two magisteria bump right up against each other, interdigitating in wondrously complex ways along their joint border."

He then showed us the United Methodist Church Official Statement on Science and Technology:

"We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God's natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world, although we preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues...…

In acknowledging the important roles of science and technology, however, we also believe that theological understandings of human experience are crucial to a full understanding of the place of humanity in the universe. Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities .…

The UMC does not have an official statement on any theories of evolution."

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - copyright
2004 by The United Methodist Publishing House.

(Several members of the congregation expressed gratitude after class for helping them to understand our own church's position.)

Mr. Hayes said, although he is a skeptic, he did not find anything in the UMC position that he could not agree with. At this point, Mr. Hayes invited questions from the floor. The class became more of a discussion than a one sided presentation. He answered questions with scholarly thoroughness and patience.

One of the arguments of i.d. draws an analogy between machine-like parts of cells and human manufactured artifacts. Proponents of i.d. argue that something like a paper clip could never evolve by chance, as it serves one unique function. Mr. Hayes clipped it to his shirt, showing how a mechanical part can serve more than one function.

Mr. Hayes then showed us a slide illustrating the flow of money from state and federal PACS into the campaigns of conservative state school board candidates. He said the use of PACS to get around state and federal limits on the size of single donations to campaigns is very likely legal. However, looking at the chart, it was obvious the campaigns were funded by one or two wealthy sources.

He then showed us a slide of all 10 Kansas education districts. The names of each representative:

District 1 - Janet Waugh
District 2 - Sue Gamble
District 3 - John W. Bacon
District 4 - Bill Wagnon
District 5 - Connie Morris
District 6 - Kathy Martin
District 7 - Kenneth Willard
District 8 - Carol Rupe
District 9 - Iris Van Meter
District 10 - Steve Abrams

I asked about Sue Gamble, who represents most of the members of the Sunday School class. He said she is a moderate. She voted in the minority when it came to changing the state education standards.

Unfortunately, time allowed us to see a little less than half of Mr. Hayes presentation. We gave Mr. Hayes a warm St. Paul's thank you.

A small crowd gathered around him afterwards, eager to continue the dialog. One gentleman asked for a copy of the Powerpoint presentation. Mr. Hayes said yes, and the man whipped out his thumb drive. (Thanks Doc, for sending me a copy.)

I recommend his website, RedStateRabble for anyone interested in following developments at this intersection of faith, politics and science.

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