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Metaphysical debates damage both groups

Feb. 27, 2001

In 1895, following decades of research, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Ever since, a large portion of the Christian community has been up in arms.

The debate over evolution has sparked animosity between the Christian right and the scientific elite. This debate was once again revisited 18 months ago when the Kansas Board of Education voted to tone down their standards for teaching evolution.

This month, the Kansas decision was reversed in a 7-3 vote, which now brings back references to the big-bang theory and the age of the earth.

But as Christians, should we fear evolution or embrace it?

I believe it is not evolution to be feared, but instead two metaphysical philosophies that threaten both Christian theology and science done properly.

One vastly opposes any form of evolution, while the other expands the significance of evolution beyond its appropriate parameters.

In 1961, a hydrologist and a theologian, disturbed by the increasing popularity of evolution, wrote a book called The Genesis Flood. The book explained, from a biblical point of view, the history of the earth to coincide with a young earth. Although the book was full of poor science and virtually no true research, it gained quick popularity in the conservative Christian mainstream.

That book led to the birth of what is now known as 'creation science.' Among the major tenets of creation science are the belief in a young earth; catastrophism as opposed to uniformitarianism; sudden creation of the universe; energy and life from nothing; and separate ancestry for men and apes.

This theory is a major threat to contemporary science simply because of its lack of science. Modern evidence of plate tectonics, absolute dating of rocks and of transitional species defeats this theory at the root. Also, to invoke the Bible into biological studies is not only poor science, but also poor theology, and thus misuses the Bible.

This leads me to my second point.

If non-Christians think that accepting creation science is an essential Christian belief, many will reject Christianity altogether, not giving it a second thought because of its anti-science stance.

Along with creation science, there is another threat, this one predominantly supported by the academic elite, known as metaphysical naturalism. Philosopher Arthur Danto defined metaphysical naturalism as 'a species of philosophical monism according to which whatever exists or happens is natural ... [thus, there cannot] exist any entities or events which lie, in principle, beyond the scope of scientific explanation.'

According to this view any of the miracles performed by Jesus could never have happened, because they would have been supernatural. Thus, if these claims were not true, then Jesus would be a liar, making his claims as the Savior also untrue.

Unfortunately, the majority of mainstream scientists not only accept this definition but go on to teach it as fact.

According to a 1998 survey of members of the National Academy of Scientists, only 7 percent expressed belief in a personal, transcendent god, while 73 percent subscribed to no belief at all.

Many have even used metaphysical naturalism as a tool to promote atheism, including such prominent scientists as Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson.

Dawkins wrote The Blind Watchmaker in an attempt to show how the evidence for evolution proves that the universe has no purpose in mind. Even Kenneth Miller, a Christian biology professor at Brown University, wrote an entire book praising metaphysical naturalism, and showing that this belief coincides with God's plan for the universe. He argued that God established the initial conditions and then allowed all that is in existence to happen on its own. The species Homo sapiens, being the first conscious animal, just so happened to appear, allowing God to be partially understood and properly worshipped. God was not the designer, but the spectator.

In light of this, it's time to let evolutionary biology do the work for itself, without adding these unnecessary metaphysical philosophies which taint and distort the true purpose of science.

As Christian intellectuals, we have an obligation not only to defend our beliefs, but also to do so with common sense, hard thinking and good will. Christians who argue for these two views damage the credibility of the Church's work in the world by either distorting what is already known or by eliminating God's creative and sustaining relationship to the world.