Ordinary Time 26 – Monday
Had a chat with Bui last Monday night after BS (which I’m not at tonight as I write this courtesy of getting home after 7pm from work; darn minutes I had to finish and send off to colleagues across the country). And in particular about his last question for the evangelism questions based thing that EMP MYF MNBS is going through again (sorry for not getting something to you regarding an “explanation of the Trinity” Bui, last week at work has been nuts and that includes taking stuff home to read, digest and make notes on for work… on the weekend).
On another note, because I was at home tonight I got to catch the premier episode of Top Gear Australia. Lame jokes aside, it was a decent first episode that hopefully will increase in quality from this fairly high start. Production quality of it was good. But by gosh, the studio audience in the TGA building was almost as dead as a rock. C’mon people, you can laugh instead of simply smiling and trying not to make a sound lest the microphones pick up your laughter.
Anyhoo… Bui mentioned that he was basing it primarily off Lee Strobel’s The Case For A Creator. It’s been a while since I read it first in early 2006. So I dusted off my copy from the recesses of my bookshelf. And I realized why at first I was sucked in before I did some critical thinking of my own.
There are some decent arguments Strobel’s book. Don’t get me wrong on that. Particularly regarding the Cambrian explosion which Darwin himself did mention was an objection against his theory of natural selection and evolution (just because no evidence to support an argument exists currently does not mean that no evidence exists at all). But there are some downers. In that for all its talk about being “objective”, at the end of every chapter, I see the references to further resources and I immediately notice that the majority of references and citations are from Christian book publishers (plenty of references to houses that include Intervarsity Press, Eerdmans and Ignatius Press [which is a mighty fine Roman Catholic publishing house I must add]). Not to mention that the majority (if not all) his interviewees were within the “Intelligent Design” (ID) movement and no-one who is against ID was really interviewed (apart from some citations from such luminaries of militant atheism such as Richard Dawkins, whose The God Delusion is a mighty fine read – he writes so much more entertainingly than Alister McGrath who, while a brilliant author, writes in a way that would not be enjoyable to a majority in the mass market- and Stephen Jay Gould).
Why didn’t you, Mr Strobel, find the time to interview Michael Shermer (a former fundamentalist Christian and now head of the Skeptics Society) for his views on ID and the case for a Creator? Why in the book is the teleological argument the primary one without much other discussion of viewpoints that are opposed to it? That is what one would find in an objective book which seeks to examine all sides. Shermer’s Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design is a good book to read that gives a perspective from the “other side of the fence”.
Now, while I do find myself in the Christian camp, I can’t say that I entirely fall within the boundaries of the ID movement. Yes, I subscribe to the Nicene-Constantinople Creed which firmly begins “I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” (Common Worship, p139). I do not deny God’s place in creation (and yes, He is the ultimate cause to use teleological terminology). But neither do I deny the place of evolution in the world we live in. I think I’ve said it before on here and I’ll say it again, I’m a theistic evolutionist (which can also be termed as an evolutionary creationist) and does imply that on one level I do believe in an intelligent designer at the top of the totem pole.
Part of the reason why I am a theistic evolutionist can be described from the point when I first came across the via negativa or Apophatic theology. Particularly the thought that God is not limited in doing anything. In ID (and by extension, fundamentalist creationism), there is at a logical level a sense of wanting to explain how God created things and as such ID/creationism is the only way to go. But in doing so, we ourselves end up limiting how God creatively acts when he has no limit on how He creatively acts. In creation ex nihilo, there is a fundamental mystery that ID nor evolution can entirely answer if one works backwards from their fundamental premises. It is entirely possible that “natural selection” may in and of itself be one method that God chooses to utilize and that our attempts to pigeonhole him in another box are fruitless. There is an element of the Catholic viewpoint in here which is open to this being the case.
A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. (emphasis mine)
– Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, plenary sessions held in Rome 2000-2002, published July 2004
It’s partly like a view on whether human free will falls within God’s providential predestination (those from EMP MYF, I said the three nasty words! =P). The current pope, Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words a fair while ago while he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:
We cannot say: creation or evolution, inasmuch as these two things respond to two different realities. The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God, which we just heard, does not in fact explain how human persons come to be but rather what they are. It explains their inmost origin and casts light on the project that they are. And, vice versa, the theory of evolution seeks to understand and describe biological developments. But in so doing it cannot explain where the ‘project’ of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature. To that extent we are faced here with two complementary — rather than mutually exclusive — realities. [emphasis mine]
– Cardinal Ratzinger In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall [Eerdmans, 1986, 1995], page 50, T&T Clark edition
This is the middle ground that I hold on to and it is one that does not succumb to a mindless biblical literalism. It is ground on a topic that is not one that is necessary to salvation but which some have essentially made into a dogma that is required for salvation (lest ye be excommunicated). And if one is going to read up on evolution and come up with a view of one’s own, Strobel’s book, while a good introduction to the ID debate, must be read concurrently with other works that give the opposing view.
On a books note, I am looking for copies of works by Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J. (in particular his The Phenomenon of Man and Christianity and Evolution). Something else to read and digest after Paul Davies’ The Mind of God, Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue, Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces, Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos and Archbishop Michael Ramsay’s The Christian Priest Today.
After all that, I’m even more tired than when I began the post and need sleep. Another long day at work beckons to me… =(
+ Pax Christi,