Thursday, August 05, 2004

Evolution from Creation to New Creation

Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett, Evolution from Creation to New Creation
Claiming the reasonable middle is risky in any debate. It upsets hardliners on either side, who deride it as sitting on a pointy picket fence--foolish, if not impossible. It's particularly risky to straddle the gap between dogmatic "creationists" and "evolutionists," whose idea of constructive dialogue is all woe-crying and warmongering, a church picnic with Sackloth Races and a Grenade Toss.

Ted Peters (a Lutheran theologian) and Martinez Hewlett (a Catholic molecular biologist) bring some needed balance and hope to the discussion, attempting to join together not only science and religion, but the warring factions on the theistic side of the contest. Their book presents a brief history of the development of evolutionary theory, and synopses of various points of view (covering, in separate chapters, the genesis and evolution of Scientific Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution). Rather than just describe, however, they criticize each perspective, and offer up their own interpretation.

Peters and Hewlett should be commended for separating methodological naturalism--which is beyond repute--from its philosophical cousin, ontological materialism.
Is Darwinism merely an ideology that parades as science? No. Genuine science is present and available. Darwinian evolutionary biology qualifies as solid science because it generates proressive research--that is, hypotheses based upon its assumptions lead eventually to new knowledge about the natural world... Darwinism is explanatorily adequate (p. 21).
They also refute Scientific Creationism and Intelligent Design in short order.

It's not all dahlias, though. Peters and Hewlett underplay the deception and distortion that form the foundation of Scientific Creationism, calling the dispute a "conflict between science and science," when a more apt description would be a "conflict between science and pseudoscience."

They also underplay the theistic claims of Intelligent Design proponents (notably Johnson, Behe and Dembski). They quote Dembski saying
First off, intelligent design is not a form of anti-evolutionism. Intelligent design does not claim that living things came together suddenly in their present form through the efforts of a supernatural creator. Intelligent design is not and never will be a doctrine of creationism (p. 103).
They also claim that "William Dembski and Michael Behe rely increasingly on change over time, both requiring episodic or punctuated transcendental influence on evolutionary advance" (p. 104). If ID isn't "creationism," what of that "transcendental influence?" And what of Dembski's other published comments? Or the fact that one of his books is even titled Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology?

They also write, "[Dembski] does not reject the fossil record or the molecular evidence, as Johnson does" (pp. 111-112). Contrast that with Dembski's Five Questions Evolutionists Would Rather Dodge [pdf] in which he parrots standard creationist arguments. (The use of the word "evolutionists" is itself a red flag, as even Peters and Hewlett point out.)

These criticisms aside, Peters and Hewlett have done the near-impossible, creating an insightful book in an already overpopulated field.


Post a Comment

<< Home