Four items appear below:
1 The Bible, Science and Evolution K Straughen 97
2 Letter Anon 98
3 Reply to Anon K Straughen 99
4 To Straughen Anon 101


The Bible, Science & Evolution


Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 97, 2004 July)

Introduction
 

"The Greatest deception of all today is not communism or atheism but the false, pagan doctrine of evolution! Evolution is an attempt to explain the creation without the Creator. It DENIES the true God and his very nature and office! It is the very basis of most of this world's "education"! But the wisdom of this world is – FOOLISHNESS with God (1 Cor. 1:20)." (R. C. Meredith: The Ten Commandments, page 19.)
 
It is probably fair to say that the above quote typifies your average fundamentalist's attitude towards evolution. However, is this attitude justifiable? Is evolution a pagan doctrine? Does it deny the existence of God? Is it mere foolishness? I shall now address these questions.
 
 

Ancient & Modern Theories

When the author of the above quote refers to evolution as a "pagan doctrine", he is probably confusing the modern theory with the naturalistic cosmology of the Epicurean philosophers of ancient Greece, whose ideas are eloquently expounded by the Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus (98?-55 BC) in his De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). This poem, which attempts to account for the world in terms of natural processes, is arranged as follows:
 

Book 1. All things are made up of eternal atoms, which move through infinite space.
Book 11. The entire world of material substances is produced through the joining together of these atoms.
Book 111. The mind and the spirit are also an arrangement of atoms, in this case exceedingly more subtle. At death the individual soul is dispersed as its imperishable atoms fly apart.
Book IV. Sensation, perception, and thought are all produced by the images which are emitted by external surfaces.
Book V. The world, as we know it, was created by a fortuitous concourse of atoms.
Book VI. All natural phenomena can be explained according to this atomic theory.
(W. R. Benet et al: The Reader's Encyclopedia, Page 605.)
 
The ideas of the ancient natural philosophers were, in some instances, remarkably close to the truth. However, their concepts are a far cry from the modern theory of evolution, for we must keep in mind that:
 
Their creation-stories could be little more than reasoned fables, or rational myths. Until some solid evidence was found to indicate what had in fact happened in the remote past, men could do no more than ask how nature might have developed, and so sketch the outlines of possible cosmologies.
(S. Toulmin & J. Goodfield: The Discovery of Time, page 49)
 
The modern theory of evolution began to take shape when the English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin (1809 - 82) developed his theory of natural selection as an explanatory mechanism for biological change. This theory was expounded in The Origin of Species (pub. 1859), and since then the theory has been modified and clarified by the progress of science:
 
The theory of evolution has been modified and sharpened since Darwin's time through knowledge of the mechanism of inheritance, of genes, and of mutations... It was not until 1930, indeed, that the English statistician and geneticist Ronald Aylmer Fisher succeeded in showing that Mendelian genetics provides the necessary mechanism for evolution by natural selection. Only then did evolutionary theory gain its modern guise.

(I. Asimov: Asimov's New Guide to Science, page 712.)
 

The modern theory of evolution is based on a wealth of verifiable facts that support the idea of a natural origin for the universe, life and mankind. Its connections with the pagan concepts of antiquity, which are basically rationalized myths, are tenuous at best.

Finally, does evolution deny the existence of God? The answer is that evolution, like all the other branches of science, is theologically neutral in this regard – it neither affirms nor denies the existence of God. The purpose of science is to seek to understand the processes of nature and, as one might expect, nature is natural and therefore no references to God are made.
 
 

Wisdom & Foolishness

Is evolution foolishness, as the fundamentalists would have us believe? The answer is a resounding no. The theory of evolution provides us with a unified view of nature and of our place in the cosmos. Moreover, this theory, unlike that of the creationists, is affirmed by the testimony of nature upon which it is founded.

If the wisdom of the world (specifically science) is foolishness, then it is a very successful and useful form of foolishness. Epileptics are no longer subjected to primitive rituals in order to drive out nonexistent demons, medicine makes use of effective drugs rather than magic, and the forces of nature are harnessed for the benefit of mankind. By contrast the fundamentalists offer the following:

Since God created all things, nothing can be truly understood apart from Him... When men seek to give an atheistic or agnostic interpretation to any fact, it is because they are at war with God and are bent on denying Him... Again, Evolution is a theory which is radically hostile to biblical religion. The Bible clearly asserts that God created heaven and earth, the whole universe, in six days. If this statement be allegorized or interpreted away, no meaning stands in Scripture. (R. J. Rushdoony: 7he Mythology of Science, pages 4849).
 
The above quote clearly shows that creationism is a religious belief rather than a scientific theory, and a foolish belief at that. For if we are not to give an "atheistic or agnostic interpretation to any fact," then we must attribute supernatural causes to all aspects of the natural world, and this would result in a regression to an unenlightened age. For example:
 
The Church's attitude to illness [based on such passages of Scripture as Matt. 17:15-18, Mark 9:17-25 & Luke 9:38-42] which was summed up by St. Augustine in the fifth century in these words: "All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons, chiefly do they torment the flesh baptized, yea even the guiltless newborn infant." The infant mortality at that time was terribly high but it is curious that a man so intelligent as St. Augustine should have attributed this to the partiality of demons for young children and not to the neglect and ignorance of man.
(K. Walker: The Story of Medicine, page 66.)
 
Civilization has been advanced by the rejection of supernatural explanations, and this fact alone is, in my opinion, sufficient to demonstrate the untenable nature of seeking supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.

Indeed, fundamentalists have failed to take into account the fact that Scripture was written in a pre-scientific age by men whose conception of the natural world was hindered by the inaccurate knowledge of their age. For example:

And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery [venomous] serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers. 21:8-9)
 
As can be seen, the image of the serpent acts as a talisman, and is based on a principle of magic – that like not only causes like, but can also propitiate it. Fortunately, we now know that antivenin is the only effective cure for snakebite, and that magic images – bronze serpents or otherwise - could not effect a cure. Other examples of magical thinking that can be found in the Bible are as follows:
 
Israelite religion included sacrifices and other ceremonies with a magical tinge. One of them was the ritual on the Day of Atonement each year, when the sins of the people were expelled from the community by being loaded onto the head of a goat, which was driven into the wilderness. There were authorized methods of divination, through indicators like dreams; the Urim and Thummim, which seem to have been lots inscribed with symbols.
(R. Cavendish: A History of Magic, page 55.)
 
From these examples, it is clear that the Bible reflects the primitive beliefs of the age in which it was written, and therefore can't be used as a textbook on science. Indeed, most Christians are wise enough to reject the fundamentalist's position with regard to evolution and literalism, and it is probably fair to say that the following quote typifies their attitude:
 
If any one is in search of accurate information regarding the age of this earth, or its relation to the sun, moon, and stars, or regarding the order in which plants and animals appeared upon it, he is referred to recent textbooks in astronomy, geology, and paleontology. No one for a moment dreams of referring a serious student of these subjects to the Bible as a source of information. It is not the object of the writers of Scripture to impart physical instruction or to enlarge the bounds of scientific knowledge. (M. Dods: The Book of Genesis, page 1.)
 

Conclusion

The fundamentalist assertion that evolution is a false pagan doctrine is unfounded. The only thing that the modern theory of evolution has in common with these ancient Greek ideas is that it attempts to understand the world in terms of natural explanations. The fundamentalists appear to be confusing science with theology, and make the mistake of believing that the Bible is a textbook on the former subject. Science makes no reference to God because it does not deal with the realm of the supernatural. However, when religion makes assertions about some aspect of the natural world (such as the age of the universe), then science is in a position to investigate these claims and determine whether they are true or false.

If we compare the wisdom of science with the "wisdom" of the fundamentalists, and use nature as the touchstone of truth, we find that the cosmos affirms the theory of evolution on the one hand and shatters the fundamentalist's creation dogma on the other. The fundamentalist's "wisdom" appears to consist of denying, for emotional rather than logical reasons, anything that conflicts with their preconceived notions of reality.
 
 

Bibliography

Asimov, 1. Asimov's New Guide to Science, Penguin Books, London, 1987.
Benet, W. R. et al The Reader's Encyclopedia, A. & C. Black, Ltd., London, 1965.
Cavendish, R. A History of Magic, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1977.
Dods, M. The Book of Genesis, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1891.
Hastings, J. (Ed.) Dictionary of the Bible, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1914.
Meredith, R. C. The Ten Commandments, Ambascal Press Pty Ltd., North Sydney, 1968.
Rushdoony, R. J. The Mythology of Science, The Craig Press, New Jersey, 1968.
Seligmann, K. A History of Magic and the Occult, Gramercy Books, New York, 1997.
Toulmin, S. & Goodfield, J. The Discovery of Time, Hutchinson & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., London, 1967.
Walker, K. The Story of Medicine, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1959.
Encyclopedia International, Grolier Inc., New York, 1972.
Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version).




 

INITIALLY FAIR, THEN UNFAIR

Anonymous

(Investigator 98, 2004 September)


After some fair comment about the scientific creationists (#97 pp 17-22) Mr Straughen unfairly criticized the Bible.

He quoted from St Augustine that, "All the diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons…"

We discussed that idea in #64 pp 18-19 and #66 pp 31 & 35 where I showed that the Bible allows for at least four causes of sickness. For Straughen to quote a simplification and not point out the fuller facts is mischievous.

He also says, "Civilization has been advanced by the rejection of supernatural explanations…"

The opposite is also true since modern civilization has often been advanced by people applying Bible ethics and founding charitable institutions.

Ideologies that rejected Bible principles –  e.g. racism, Nazism and Communism – often caused great destruction and made civilization regress. Furthermore, many scientific disciplines were initiated by Christians who believed in the supernatural. (See #13 p. 4)

Straughen also discussed fiery serpents, which I'll write about separately.

Anonymous
 




Reply to Anon On Fairness

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 99, 2004 November)


In #98 page 6, Anonymous argues that I have unfairly criticized the Bible, and that my comments relating to the symptoms of epilepsy being mistaken for demonic possession were mischievous.

If he has been offended by my conclusions then I apologize. It was never my intention to be either unfair or mischievous; rather, my conclusions are based on the research I have conducted.

As I am currently finalizing an article on demonic possession I will limit my comments to the following general observation. There are a variety of medical conditions that have been mistaken for possession; whether such a thing is possible depends on the existence of demons and their ability to 'infect' human beings. Personally, I see no evidence for the existence of such things. Obviously Anonymous and I have different views relating to this issue.

I will, however, make further comments concerning my assertion that the rejection of supernatural explanations has advanced civilization scientifically (I think I made this clear in my previous essay). I was not referring to the ethical dimension of human culture.

Furthermore, I never intended to imply, that no believer has ever contributed to the sum of human knowledge. However, it is important to remember that the religious paradigm is of a different order to that of science:
 

Issue  Religion  Science
Subject matter God & humanity Phenomena
of Nature
Information source  Religious leaders, Scripture Observation,
experiment
Object of study Purpose & plan Mechanisms
Language Everyday speech Mathematics
Method Literary interpretations Measurement
& analysis
Results Ethical imperatives Explanations
Validation Personal experience  Replication,
testing
Limitations Mechanisms unexplained  Provisional
Community Church Scientific establishment
(Based to a degree on table 1.3, page 65 in Casti, J.L.
Paradigms Lost, Sphere Books Ltd., London, 1989.)


As a further example of how the rejection of supernatural explanations has advanced our understanding of Nature, I offer the following:

The belief that every cornet is a ball of fire flung from the right hand of an angry God to warn the grovelling dwellers of earth was received into the early Church, transmitted through the Middle Ages to the Reformation period and in its transmission was made all the more precious by supposed textual proofs from Scripture [Acts 2:19, for example]

(Page 174-175 in White, A.D: A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. Vol. I, Dover Publications, New York, 1960.)
   

Of course we now know that comets are mostly frozen gases and ice mixed with a smaller amount of meteoric material, and that they come from a region surrounding our solar system known as the Oort-Opik Cloud and not the hand of God.

Although some scientists may hold religious beliefs, these beliefs must be separated from the process of science itself, which seeks to understand the natural world.

Concerning Biblical ethics – many of the positive values found in Scripture are not unique; rather they are part of those universal values that arise from the fact we are social beings and need to live in stable and harmonious societies. For example, here are some of the major traditional Winnebago Indian ethical teachings:
 

1. It is always good to be good.
2. What does life consist of but to love.
3. Of what value is it to kill.
4. You ought to be of some help to your fellow man.
5. Do not abuse your wife; women are sacred.
6. If you cast off your dress for many people, they will be benefited by your deed.
7. For the good you do everyone will love you.
8. Never do any wrong to children.
9. It is not good to gamble...
10. As you travel along life's road, never harm anyone or cause anyone to feel sad. On the contrary, if at any time you can make a person feel happy do so.
(Page 212 in Conrad, J. The Many World of Man, Macmillan, London, 1967.)
 
From what I can see, these ethics are just as good as, if not better than that the Ten Commandments.





 
 
TO STRAUGHEN ON FAIRNESS #99

Anon

(Investigator 101, 2005 March)


1.    Mr Straughen (#99) seemingly misunderstood why I (in #98) called one of his comments (in #97) "mischievous". The point I called mischievous misrepresented the Bible and was answered in a previous debate. To repeat a mistake, whether in one's own words or by quoting someone, is mischievous because it misinforms and wastes time.

2.    Straughen's description of the religious and scientific paradigms seems OK to me. I've consistently used science to assess whatever claims in religion are testable. Often Bible statements seemed wrong because science had not caught up. That is, when subsequent science corrected previous science the Bible turned out correct.

3.    The idea that every comet is flung by "an angry God" is not biblical. From the Bible I recognized, 15 years before most scientists, the danger of worldwide fire posed to Earth by asteroids and comets. (#38; #62) The fact that science was 1900 years behind the Bible in this may yet spell civilization's doom.

4.    Straughen correctly argues that not all of the Bible's positive values are unique. The Bible itself says that people who do not have God's law yet "do…what the law requires" (Romans 2:14-16) may be "excused" at God's judgment. Clearly, non-Christians do get some values and ethical judgments right.
 

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