Theistic evolution?

This term gets used a lot – but what does it mean?

In a recent discussion a local supporter (I think) of theistic evolution put it this way: Both “theistic evolutionists” and “atheistic evolutionists” accepts Darwinian evolution as true. Nevertheless – he describes these as two alternatives “theories.” But he admits: “the empirical evidence . . .Β  will not provide reasons for one position over another. The two positions have to be decided then on other grounds.”

I think this person, and probably most other people who use the “theistic evolution,” label are confused. They are not talking about scientific theories. They are talking about their own religious beliefs. These “other grounds” are religion.

All these people are saying is: “I accept evolutionary science but I am still a theist.”

But why do that? There is only one reality and scientific theories are tested against that reality, not against religious books or opinions of religious leaders. So why attach one’s religious beliefs to your acceptance of scientific knowledge?

The fact is that only (some) theists feel the need to declare their religious beliefs in this way. We never hear people saying they accept “atheistic evolution,” do we? So it must be something to do with the religious community these theists inhabit.

I think this must arise out of the hostility towards evolutionary science, and sometimes science in general, common in many theistic circles. Certainly, in New Zealand the 20% of the population who reject evolutionary science are mostly Christian – and they comprise about 40% of the local Christian community.


Apparently someone who declares their acceptance of evolutionary science can sometimes be confronted with a very hostile reaction. They are probably considered “sinful” by many fundamentalists. I have heard of cases where such people are shouted down. Even where some families express concern about the children learning about science at school!

So perhaps it’s understandable that in this bullying atmosphere many Christians feel the need to add the “theist” adjective to evolutionary. But why give in to such bullying? In the long run bullies are only defeated by standing up to them.

When one gives in and resorts to calling oneself a “theistic evolutionist” isn’t it being cowardly?


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66 responses to “Theistic evolution?

  1. Hm, interesting.

    If I may ask a couple of questions to try and understand what you are saying.

    1. Are you saying that being a christian and believing in evolution (where god plays no part – just to be clear) is consistent?

    2. Are you saying that churches should have no problem with people who claim to hold both belief in God and evolution?


  2. scrubone,
    I think Ken and Heraclides would prefer a world where people were either hyperskeptical anti-theists, or young-earth fundamentalists. Anything else is ‘cowardly’


  3. Scrubone – to answer your questions:

    1: One’s religious/philosophical beliefs are usually compartmentalised. One can go to church on Sunday, maybe even to a fundamentalist sect advocating young earth creationism, and during the week carry out research involving the real age of the earth.

    However, in my research career my colleagues had religious beliefs covering the spectrum from atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc. I was not aware of this conflicting with their research. Or of any of them rejecting evolutionary science.

    So, of course, YES – one can believe in Christianity and accept evolutionary science. There are plenty of well know and vocal examples of such scientists.

    2: What churches do is up to them. Obviously some have a dogma which excludes well accepted scientific knowledge and can be very harsh on members who don’t go along with that. Most probably gladly accept modern scientific knowledge, including evolutionary science. Certainly the major churches do.

    Polling data suggests that about 60% of NZ Christians accept evolutionary science.

    Of course, when one gets down to finer philosophical details one can find differences. They just don’t usually get in the way of people carrying out research or living together.

    Just a comment though: I don’t think scientists use the word “belief” for something as well established as evolutionary science. We don’t believe in gravity, relativity, etc. We are more likely to say we “accept” – as we always leave the option open of upgrading our knowledge as more information comes in.


  4. Ropata – you misrepresent me. I was simply pointing out that giving in to bullies is “cowardly.”

    I said nothing about my own preferences for the world – that seems to be a figment of your imagination. Perhaps you should check with me in future before attempting to describe my attitudes.


  5. @ Ropata – that does come across as a bit of a cheap shot. About the only conclusion I think we can draw about the ‘world-preferences’ of both Ken & Heraclides is the hope that those living in it possess a healthy dose of skepticism – ie that they are independent, critical thinkers who don’t take much if anything at face value.


  6. So if I get your meaning, you think it’s ok for people to accept religious and scientific truths that are logically in conflict?

    That’s an interesting statement. I always took you for a “my science and religious positions are consistent” sort of guy.


  7. I don’t see your point, Scrubone.

    What is a religious truth? What is a scientific truth? Are you trying to provoke?

    There is only one reality, and therefore only one absolutely true description of reality. Science works towards that – but any any time scientific knowledge is just a reflection of reality. I have discussed scientific epistemology before in more detail. We don’t usually talk about “scientific truth” – but obviously the scientific ethos is to aspire towards honesty and discovery of the “truth.”

    “Religious truth?” Seems to me that religious ideas are not derived from reality, but are attempts to impose preconceived wishes and desires on reality. So how can one talk about “religious truth” – except in a dogmatic propagandist way. (A bit like Maoist truth, isn’t it?).

    However, the fact remains that while we are an intelligent species we are not a rational one – more a rationalising one. People often hold contradictory ideas and rationalise this away.

    However, – your assessment of me? I am not judgmental so I don’t make judgments like I “think it’s ok to accept”. But I can still see that people do accept things. I certainly never bullied any of my scientific colleagues because there religious beliefs were different to mine – far from it.

    Yes – I do think “my science and religious positions are consistent’. And I would add – changing, developing, evolving all the time – as all genuine knowledge does.

    But I also acknowledge that most people will say that about themselves. However I am prepared to enter into discussion to justify that position in my case.

    I don’t know if that answers your points (because I am not sure what they are).


  8. Ken,
    Sorry ’bout that. That’s just the impression I have gained from similar discussions in various forums. I enjoy stirring the pot a wee bit, and I thought you were doing the same thing πŸ™‚

    BTW It’s not cowardly to try and minimize friction with your fellow believers by using a “theistic evolution” tag. It’s a fairly rare phrase that invites curiosity. I’ve had some good civilized chats with my friends about it. But you’re correct that some of the less educated/more zealous folk at church need to calm down and not be afraid of science.

    I think bible colleges are increasingly accepting of evolution — I know that at least 1 lecturer at Laidlaw College (formerly Bible college of NZ) is supportive. But outfits like ICR and AIG still get too much air time.


  9. I can appreciate why people may feel the need to add the adjective. But it might help if they didn’t and treated scientific knowledge uniformly. After all they don’t talk about “theistic gravity.”

    It’s strange to me to hear that “at least 1 lecturer” is supportive etc. it really does confirm that this evolution vs creationism/ID controversy is only a controversy within the religious community. There is just nothing like that in the scientific community.

    I know there is a local (Hamilton) Bible college where creationism, anti-evolutionism, seems to be strongly pushed (at least that’s my impression from talking with students).


  10. Ken,

    I’m out of time to read that article and thread right through, but a quick skim of the top bit suggests Matt wants to move it from Darwin’s work shows that a “designer” isn’t needed, to “that Darwinian evolution occurs by chance does not entail that it shows the world [life] was not designed”. (It’s false comparison to compared evolution and the develop of the earth itself.) To be polite, even correctly phrased (see my correction), this is completely misses the point! Scientists are not doing this “us vs. them” thing he sets up, they are trying to explain what is observed. The explanation doesn’t need a G-d; he seems to accept that, which is at least one positive step for a change. But he then tries to extend this to “disproving that it was not designed”, this has never been an aim to start with.

    He might be more pragmatic and present particular accounts of “design” and show how they could fit the evidence. Not doing this is ducking the issue to my mind. If you presented, “design” according to the biblical creation myths, for example, it’d fail. He could then try alternative “creation” stories, other religions perhaps, etc.

    one might argue that evolution was in some sense guided by G-d

    As a practical matter you couldn’t: for this to be true evolution wouldn’t be “by chance” and the non-chance component (i.e. G-d directed part) would show up in statistics of genomes, etc. On this note, perhaps Matt might care to explain how this contradiction in terms could come about!

    Matt’s “unpublished” references are not cited fully and as such meaningless. They could be saying absolutely anything and we’d be none the wiser! The links on the references point only point to themselves, as it were, not to the source.

    In particular, I’m curious if the unpublished work that he leans on is unpublished because they failed peer review. (Assuming these references he cites are peer-reviewed in the first place.)

    He also cites a reference “6”, which isn’t listed in the references.


    Taking up pre-emptive “attacks” are we??! πŸ™‚ Tsk, tsk.

    I am certainly a skeptic, most scientists are. There isn’t really such a thing as being ‘hyperskeptical’; once you’re skeptical, you’re skeptical πŸ™‚

    As for the anti-theist bit, generally no, certainly not a priori as you imply. If the people in question aren’t inflicting their theism on others in an undesirable way or using it to commit crimes, I can’t really object to them.

    But towards anti-theism, sometimes, depending on what claims are made and the use those claims are put to.

    The difference is that the former is about people, not claims. I try address the claims, not the people, unless the people are doing something unjust or criminal to others, in which case I think it’s fair to focus on them too. Either way, I’d need to understand what is being said or done first, I don’t dismiss people pre-emptively “just” because they are a theist.

    A way to see this more clearly is to compare this with how I view those who write with anti-vaccine views, etc., but that’s getting off topic. Basically: the same reasoning applies.


  11. Excuse all my typos. Far too short on time, etc., etc.


  12. Ken,
    I totally understand the point about the ‘theistic’ tag. I’d say that the term is primarily (and perhaps even only) useful when religious beliefs are in or relevant to the discussion. Because evolution (wrongly in my view) is sometimes linked with atheism, (no doubt due to the unfortunately anti-evolutionary slant of too many christians) it can be useful in some contexts to use the phrase to signify (for clarity in that context) that one is not an atheist.

    But yes, as you say, the label is not necessary otherwise. Indeed, one doesn’t feel the need to speak of “theistic geometry” or “atheistic mathematics” or “hindu geology” or “agnostic cosmology”, etc.


  13. Dale,

    The adjective would make sense if, and as far as I can see only if, there were genuinely two different theories. It doesn’t make sense if there are two different sets of people talking about the same theory.

    Nor does “religious beliefs are relevant to the discussion” demand the adjective. Only when there are genuinely different theories.

    The idea that evolution is associated with atheism is mostly propounded by theists πŸ˜‰

    I can’t see any reason that the theory of evolution itself needs to be treated differently as geometry, etc. The same logic (as I’ve just described in my first paragraph) applies to all of these, including evolution.

    I’d quibble that there are actually different notion of cosmology in some religions, notably the eastern religions, e.g. there is hindu cosmology! This actually nicely makes my point: the key is that there must be a different theory, it’s not the people themselves or the religion per se that matters.


  14. My point is that the way the phrase is often used is to refer to the person, rather than the biology per se. In fact, the term “theistic evolutionist is a perfect example of the usage.


  15. After all they don’t talk about β€œtheistic gravity.”

    Ken, you simply must keep up with the times.


  16. Dale,

    You did not refer to evolutionists!! You referred to evolution, a subject. Why are you trying to shift this??? It’s crazy.

    Sure, it applies to theistic evolutionist, but IS NOT what you wrote earlier, to which I replied. All your comparative examples are subject matters, not people.

    It makes no sense at all to refer to “theistic evolution” and say that it is about who is talking about evolution. It would make sense if it were talking about a different kind of evolution derived from theistic “principles” or what-have-you.

    Cedric, seen that before. It’s a goodie, eh?


  17. C’mon Heraclides, what Dale said is perfectly reasonable in that when a Christian says they are a theistic evolutionist they are letting other know about two things; that they believe in evolution but that they also believe in God. This makes a bit of sense especially given that religion and evolution have had many more collisions than, say, chemistry and religion.

    This is not saying that it’s desirable that there should even be such a term as ‘theistic evolutionist’ (as Dale agrees), just that those who believe in God and in the process of evolution by natural selection have to contend with a lot of extra baggage from their fellow believers.

    I don’t envy them quite frankly.


  18. I basically agree with Dale – although it is unfortunate that people feel the need to add the adjective. I think that just testifies to the fact that there is some pretty bad dogmatic bullying going on and this drives people to use the adjective.

    Although even then it is not necessarily a protection. Look at the way Bill Dembski reacted to Ken Miller’s latest book –“Only a Theory.” He specifically labeled Miller and others “Theistic evolutionist”s and went on to attack them. “Let the blood-letting begin” – he declared. To these people “theistic evolution” seems to be more dangerous than “atheism.” So use of the term is not necessarily a protection.

    Interestingly – I don’t think Miller really calls himself a “theistic evolutionist”. His line is more that he accepts evolutionary science, works in it, teaches it, politically and legally defends it. Oh, and by the way, he is a Catholic – if the issue of religion comes up.

    He doesn’t usually mix the two areas – although in his lectures (and in reaction to questions) he may talk a little about his religion at the end of the talk.

    So I can understand why people feel the need to use the term – but it is still an attempt to “keep the peace” and it is cowardly because it does nothing to solve the problem of bullying – and probably only encourages it. If more people stood up for integrity the bullying would decline.

    Mind you – I take Damian’s point. It’s easy for me to appear principled – I don’t have to put up with that sort of bullying in my normal community. It can’t be easy.


  19. Damien,

    My reply assumed he was referring to “theistic evolution” because he doesn’t explicitly say what he meant by “the phrase” but Ken’s previous post that he is (appears to be) replying to refers to “theistic evolution”β€”the subject not the peopleβ€”by implication (e.g. But it might help if they didn’t and treated scientific knowledge uniformly. After all they don’t talk about β€œtheistic gravity.”) and it is the phrase in the title of Ken’s article.

    With all respect to Dale, while I may have misread his intended meaning, it is equally true that he does not make his meaning explicit, but leaves to to the context.

    When I have time (!), I make a point of going through my posts replacing implicit references with explicit ones, e.g. replacing “it” for what “it” actually refers to. As a worked example, refers to “theistic evolution” above originally was that. Likewise, if I am referring to the original article, not intervening posts, I try to remember to explicitly say this.

    Usually, like most people, I pick it up and disambiguate others’ writing, if possible, but sometimesβ€”as in this case for meβ€”there isn’t enough in the post to “trigger” a search for alternative meanings that the writer isn’t conveying clearly.

    BTW, I wrote that it’s fine for referring to people myself: “Sure, it applies to theistic evolutionist”.

    I don’t envy them either, but in some respects it’s a mess of their own religion’s making as it were. (Please take this in jest: you could even argue there is an irony in this, in that the problem may be that their religion doesn’t make explicit their meaning, etc.)


  20. I wondered if I was being a bit harsh using the word “cowardly.” But thinking about it – perhaps not.

    After all – the motivation for using the adjective is is to make clear that one is “not an atheist.” That is – a direct result of the dehumanising demonisation of atheism. What the hell should it matter?? I am an atheist is it isn’t evil. Why should people like me be characterised that way?

    I think back to the McCarthyist days when people were pressured by his committee to put their friends in trouble. Many cowards did. Others stood up to it, and some went to prison or had to flee the country as a result.

    I personally experienced hostility on the liberal left in NZ because I did not call myself a Maoist in the 6os – in fact spoke out against Maoism.

    I think the position of the pro-science Christian is very similar. It’s not as extreme as say an anti-Maoist living in Maoist China in the 60s, or an anti-Stalinist living in Stalinist Russia in the 30s.

    Bloody hell – they are not going to be fed to the lions. And personally I think one can feel individual pleasure and claim the moral high ground by refusing to give into bullying in this way.


  21. Ken,
    It is manifestly not “cowardly” for a christian to refer to themselves as a theistic evolutionist in a context/conversation where that would helpfully communicate one’s scientific and religious views.

    And I flatly reject your notion that merely stating that one is not an atheist in any way whatsoever is “dehumanising” or “demonising”.

    I’m personally not claiming any kind of severe persecution at all, so no need to tell me I’m not lion-food.


  22. From my previous post leaves to to the should read leaves it to the.


  23. Sorry you have taken that personally, Dale. I wasn’t, at all, attributing experience of personal persecution to you. Nor suggesting you were lion-food.

    However, we all know that this bullying does occur and I am comparing it to the McCarthyist and Maoist bullying – some of which I personally experienced.

    But there is a problem, also, with attitudes towards atheism/atheists. Similar to the old attitudes towards “communists.” However, this is changing – and probably will change even more as things like the census demonstrate that many people are unashamedly atheist. That’s why I think these planned bus ads are useful – not to proselytise but just to help people realise that atheists are human too. And everywhere.


  24. Quite simply, I think the language of “bullying” and “persecution” and “cowardly” is simply way too extreme.


  25. Actually, I am used to being called an “extremist”. It’s the sort of bullying the McCarthyists went in for.

    As I said – your experience is obviously different. But I imagine that many Christians were cowed by Dembski use of phrases like “Let the blood-letting begin.” And, no that is not unique to creationists – as I have indicated in the case of McCarthyists, Maoists and Stalinists. Its a common purpose of dogmatism – to bully people into submission.


  26. You just seem to be going to great lengths (i.e. drawing parallels to “McCarthyists, Maoists and Stalinists”, etc.) to argue that “theistic evolutionists” are being bullied – I don’t hear them complaining?


  27. It’s not surprising that the “bullied” find it difficult to complain. I have seen this again and again within dogmatic communities.

    However, I take the fact that some people need to always qualify their acceptance of scientific knowledge, as well supported as evolutionary science, by appending the “theistic” qualifier as evidence that they feel under some sort of pressure.

    Otherwise – why do it? I certainly never feel the need for such religious or philosophical qualifiers with scientific knowledge


  28. It’s not ‘pressure’, Ken. It’s just communication. Using terms that communicate.
    In this case, communicating one’s scientific and religious beliefs.


  29. As I said – your experience may be different to others.

    But, again, I have never felt the need to communicate my religious beliefs when I have been communicating my science. In the communities I have frequented that would have been considered rather strange.

    But perhaps there is a need to communicate ones acceptance of science when one is in a religious community. Perhaps the qualifier here is not “theist” but “evolution.”


  30. But, again, I have never felt the need to communicate my religious beliefs when I have been communicating my science.

    Of course not. But we were talking about the use fo the term in conversations where it was appropriate to share both your scientific views and your religious/irreligious views, weren’t we?


  31. The term Theistic Evolution deliberately puts the “theism” ahead of evolution. As a perspective of science, it shares much with Intelligent Design, but I am put off by the antics of characters like Dembski, and his narrative of an academic conspiracy against ID. His tactics are of a piece with the propaganda from ICR and AIG.

    What I like about the term “Theistic Evolution” is its explicit acknowledgement of a Creator. Also its humble/honest stance of following science. I would be stoked if the IDers found something concrete but still waiting…

    When “the question” comes up, and evolution is my answer, confusion and dismay usually ensue. It is seen as a step towards apostasy, or compromise with ‘the world’, or disrespecting the Bible. But my better educated friends are usually more open minded, less discomfited by different thinking. Freedom of thought and opinion is of critical importance for a healthy church, but there is an equally vital need to share a common faith in God. A church is not a lecture theatre…


  32. Dale,

    I think there has to be more than “communication” alone in using these terms. Scientists, with or without religious beliefs, religious people who accept evolution and atheists don’t feel a need to use either “evolutionists” or to prefix it with “theistic” (or atheistic). From that, it would seem it’s not that someone is religious that defines the need to use the term, but rather they belong to particular religious groups.

    It seems intuitive to me that the need to use the term “evolutionist” or add the prefix/adjective lies with the internal politics of the particular religious groups that use these terms, seeing that no-one else really uses the term.


  33. ropata,

    Given that, as you say, there is no concrete support for “theistic evolution”, surely the humble/honest thing would be to give it no credit until there is.

    Also, wouldn’t it be more honest to call it creationism? It’s hardly evolution in the sense of what ‘evolution’ means, evolving over time.

    A church is not a lecture theatre…

    Erm, isn’t a sermon a lecture…? πŸ˜‰


  34. Heraclides, you’ve managed to grasp the wrong end of the stick again. No, no, and again no.


  35. ropata,
    I’m becoming more and more convinced that Heraclides actually likes disagreement so much that he creates it at times? πŸ™‚


  36. The first follows directly from not giving credibility to things unless they deserve it. With no support at all (as you said), it can’t really deserve much or any credibility… If you want to say “no” to this, then I think you’d best explain (to yourself!) why you want to give credibility to something with no backing.

    Regards the second, ID is just a renaming of creationism to avoid legal issues. If you want to say “no” to this, you’d better verify for yourself where “ID” really comes from and why it arose. Creationism isn’t “evolution” in the proper sense of what evolution means; if anything it’s the opposite of it. (Theistic “evolution” invariably reduces to creationism of one form or other, even you’d admit that.)

    The third was a question, not a statement, and really just a friendly poke; you seemed to have missed the point of it. I’d be very surprised if most didn’t agree that sermons are lectures. My dictionary does for example πŸ˜‰


  37. Dale,

    I am under the impression you only ever write to me to abuse me, not address anything I write. As I’ve told you before I reply to want is written. I not “invent” disagreement as you say, I respond to statements that strike me as incorrect; there is quite a difference.

    I would respectfully ask that you stop the personal attacks. My previous post to you resulted from the sheer ambiguity of what you wrote, you should take your part of responsibility for that.


  38. ‘what’ for ‘want’, sorry.


  39. What I like about the term β€œTheistic Evolution” is its explicit acknowledgement of a Creator. Also its humble/honest stance of following science.

    Ropata, these two sentences contradict each other.
    How can you honestly claim to follow science and yet claim there is a god?

    If you want to claim something yet you can offer no evidence then…that’s not science.

    I can understand you wanting to use the term “theistic evolutionist” to avoid internal conflict and conflict with family and other church members but…trying to sit on two seats at once must be a bit uncomfortable.

    It would be more honest to say that you accept science up to a point but…you draw an arbitrary line in the sand if it creeps up on your religious sensibilities.

    Prayer is a good example.
    How does prayer fit into your scientific world?
    Or is it a topic that for you is somehow “over the line” and therefore must not be critically examined?

    I’m not baiting you. Don’t percieve this as an attack. Your beliefs are your own.
    Science, however, belongs to everybody.

    As a perspective of science, it shares much with Intelligent Design…

    ID is not science.
    It’s a pseudo-science. It’s an outrageous fraud designed to fleece the faithful.
    They claim to have a scientific theory.
    They don’t.
    It’s a lie. Over twenty years of lies.
    They claim to do scientific research.
    They don’t.
    It’s a lie. They’ve done stuff all.
    Nobody has ever dirtied a single test-tube in an ID experiment.
    Never ever.

    Intelligent Design is not.


  40. Cedric/Heraclides,
    I refuse to bow to your attempts to impose some kind of atheist orthodoxy. Just because I respect science doesn’t mean I follow every pronouncement of scientists especially when they embark on forays into theology.


  41. I refuse to bow…

    Nobody is asking you to bow.
    Or get downon your knees or solicit a donation from you. That’s a priest thing.

    If you bow to a scientist, he or she will think you’re acting wierd.

    …to impose some kind of atheist orthodoxy.

    Huh???? What the heck is an “atheist orthodoxy”? That makes no sense.

    Just because I respect science doesn’t mean I follow every pronouncement of scientists…

    No. Science is not done by “orthodoxy” or “pronouncements” from on high.
    Those are the silly games that priests play.

    In the reality-based community, evidence trumps idle fantasy. Investigation not revelation.

    You make a claim that “something” exists.
    (In your case, it happens to be a god of some type. Fine. Whatever.)
    Yet you don’t have any evidence that this “something” exists.

    Doesn’t matter what the “something” is.
    If you go around making baseless claims then you’re not being scientific.

    Intelligent Design is a load of crap for this very reason.
    They have nothing.
    They claim to be all sciency but they never do any work.
    ID is a fraud.


  42. @ ropata: What I like about the term β€œTheistic Evolution” is its explicit acknowledgement of a Creator. Also its humble/honest stance of following science. I would be stoked if the IDers found something concrete but still waiting…
    I’m afraid you’ll be waiting a very long time with nothing to show from it πŸ™‚ The Disco Institute does no real scientific research – the one recent paper I’m aware of, which purported to show that antibiotic resistance does not add to the fitness of bacteria possessing it, is so full of glaring errors that a bright year 10 class can pull it apart. (These kids tend to make up the majority of entrants in many science fairs & they really know how science is done :-))


  43. PS I should have said, not only could a bright year 10 class pull that paper apart – they do: it’s one that I use with such groups in critical thinking exercises πŸ™‚


  44. Dale – “we were talking about the use fo the term in conversations where it was appropriate to share both your scientific views and your religious/irreligious views,

    Yes I understand that. However, I never find the need to say I accept “atheistic evolution” – far from it because it creates undesirable connotations (That’s why the creationists use those terms).
    Should add that “theistic evolution” also creates undesirable connotations, too – as would “Buddhist evolution” or “agnostic evolution.”

    I am quite capable, and happy, to say I accept evolutionary science (and any another credible science). And in an unconnected sentence to say I am an atheist. I just don’t see the point of connecting the two.


  45. Ropata – “When β€œthe question” comes up, and evolution is my answer, confusion and dismay usually ensue. It is seen as a step towards apostasy, or compromise with β€˜the world’, or disrespecting the Bible. But my better educated friends are usually more open minded, less discomfited by different thinking.”

    I think this really illustrates what I am saying. And it’s probably true that your “better educated friends” actually accept scientific understanding -as well as being open minded.

    I think we have to encourage that sort of attitude. More exposure of your other group of friends to scientific understanding, scientists and people with different religious/philosophical beliefs can only help.

    While you church may not be a lecture theatre it could actually welcome people with scientific beliefs and positions in to discuss such matters. After all, the creationist mission actively lectures in churches throughout the country. Why can’t the scientific die be put – or at least the congregation be exposed to it?


  46. ropata,

    I’m not imposing anything on you, just pointing out how they play out. (Religious organisations do ask you to bow to their “orthodoxy”, though, as they like conformity.)

    None of my remarks really had much to do with theology. The first isn’t theological, the second if anything is history, and the latter was just common-sense.


    I can imagine your year 10’s ripping into that! πŸ™‚ It’s a right can of worms, eh?


  47. Cedric, Alison
    Thanks yes I am aware of the shortcomings of ID at present. If the ID movement stopped messing round in politics and focused on research it might have some credibility. I hope they do so.

    Yup I’ve considered doing something like that. But it would mean a lot of homework! I have other things on my plate…


  48. Dale, yes I’ve noticed, Heraclides seems to enjoy fishing for bites, and nitpicking over semantics, it’s getting tedious.


  49. Dale, yes I’ve noticed, Heraclides seems to enjoy fishing for bites, and nitpicking over semantics, it’s getting tedious.

    I see you’re resorting to comments of no substance too. Guess you aren’t able to address my points. Sad, that πŸ˜‰

    I’m hardly nitpicking, given your claims have such large and obvious flaws. (Seriously.) Pity you haven’t the balls to check them out yourself. Ever wonder why your church tells you not to?


  50. FYI folks, I think Dale has been unfairly impugned in this forum. He has made a great effort to be reasonable.. he even organised a conference on evolution at his church. The response from some sectors of the Christian community have been sadly predictable, but I liked this response to all the negativity. If certain people here think that is cowardice, fundamentalism, or closed-mindedness, then you really need to get out more.


  51. Heraclides,
    You’re still doing it. Now you’ve added an insult and a made-up claim about my church. I have no desire to engage at that level, sorry.


  52. If the ID movement stopped messing round in politics and focused on research it might have some credibility. I hope they do so.

    They have failed to do any science for over twenty years.
    Think about it.
    The ID scam is over twenty years old.
    Twenty years!!!

    In that time, they have made a lot of money and got more than their fifteen minutes of fame.
    Overall, one could argue that they have had a very successful dog and pony show.

    There’s no reason for them to change as long as gullible Christians are prepared to extend to them an endless line of political and financial credit.
    The handwaving and money collecting will stop only when Christians collectively say “Enough.”

    As long as the suckers are willing to be fleeced, there will always be shearers.

    …he even organised a conference on evolution at his church.

    That’s great. It would be nice if more religious institutions did the same thing.
    I don’t have a problem with that.
    I don’t have a problem with Dale.

    It’s the whole claiming-that-there-is-a-god-thing-or-something and not providing evidence to back it up that I take issue with.
    Just that.
    If a Muslim came over here and started making baseless claims about their god using the same hackneyed arguments, then they’d be asked to provide evidence too.
    There’s no discrimination here.
    Either you have evidence or you don’t.
    Christian, Muslim, Wiccan…it’s all the same.

    Either provide evidence or get in the sack with all the others.


  53. You’re still doing it. Now you’ve added an insult and a made-up claim about my church. I have no desire to engage at that level, sorry.

    No, I didn’t and I’m not “still doing it” either. You’re borrowing a game I’ve seen before: make out that every little thing that could just possibly be interpreted as “personal attack” is, to justify “crying off” from responding to the points made.

    I did challenge you to try check things out, because all we seem to get from you is excuses not to. Seems a legitimate thing to do. You haven’t replied to any of the points I’ve made with anything of substance for some time, so it’s not surprisingly for me to consider that you don’t have a answer to my points. Seems fair enough to think that.

    See my earlier comment ( and you’ll see where I’m coming from regards churches discouraging members from checking out views other than what they promote. I don’t know how your church works, but there is nothing personal in it nor “made up” in the matter you are implying. In varying ways all churches do this. It’s common to all religions, that members “mustn’t” criticise the tenants of the faith. Different churches will differ how they tackle this, but one way or other they will discourage looking at alternative views (i.e. checking out things).

    You should remember that you have been quite liberal in dishing out crap to me (and others) of late, so if you don’t like my reply, I’d suggest you don’t dish it out πŸ˜‰

    In summary, best not to jump to your guns too quickly like that πŸ™‚


  54. Heraclides,
    Your “points” have tended to veer off topic into attacks on my ability to think independently, attacks on the character of church in general, attacks on the nature of God, attacks on ID (which I am not even trying to defend), complaining in excruciating detail about trivial quotes,and failing to actually stick to the topic.

    That sort of crap is not worth wasting time on.


  55. ropata,

    You try make them out to be attacks. I am now having to repeatedly tell you I not attacking: I am challenging you to examine things. If you aren’t up to that and want instead to try to make out what I write as attacks, when they are not, in my eyes that is a feeble copout, especially in the light of the way you (and Dale) have replied to me of late. But that’s just how I see it.

    Either you genuinely do not understand the difference between personal attacks (which I’m far from doing) to challenges, or you’re just trying to wriggle around (in a dishonest way) to avoid facing it. Reading you accusing my remark about ID as an “attack” convinces me that you’re just babbling an excuse. Let’s look at it.

    All I did was point out what ID is, without any real comment about what I thought of it. Go on, re-read it. Here’s the only remark I have made about ID in this thread (and you can verify that too): Regards the second, ID is just a renaming of creationism to avoid legal issues. Now tell me how that’s an “attack”. What I did do was to challenge you to check what ID really represents: you’d better verify for yourself where β€œID” really comes from and why it arose.

    Cedric’s comments about ID do attack it (at points), e.g. ID is a fraud. So… I’m curious as to why you accuse me of attacking ID when I didn’t, but not Cedric who did… Perhaps because I points I amde are clear enough that you can’t avoid them and can only twist my words to “defend” yourself?

    My posts are “on topic” in that they are direct replies to what you have said. Effectively they are your topics, the ones you set! (E.g. you brought up ID, not me.)

    As I see it you aren’t up to checking things out and will do whatever you can to “justify” not doing it, including wishfully making out that others are “attacking” you. It’s a shame that you think that way, as you’ll never know what is right until you do check things.


  56. As someone who claims the title of Theistic Evolutionist, may I offer a few thoughts?

    I haven’t read through the whole thread because of time constraints, so I apologise if anything I say has already been covered.

    Allow me to state first that I believe Darwin had it right – evolution by natural selection – this is why I call myself an evolutionist. I am also a Christian.

    Because of some of what I do in my work life, this belief of mine gets put in front of a large Christian audience from time to time. As Ken has noted, a large percentage of the Christian audience does not agree with evolution – that percentage would be even larger when looking at the people I talk to.

    With the people I talk to each week atheism and evolution are synonymous – no matter what you think about that, it’s simply how things are and as a ‘communicator’ it’s something I must take into account when engaging in communication.

    If I want people to engage my thoughts, I have to present them in a way that will enable them to hear those thoughts.

    Very early on, when expressing my agreement with evolutionary thought I noticed a trend. Every time it came up, the first question was often along the lines of “Do you believe in God?” This was often stated in various ways and with various degrees of emotion attached. I would first have to deal with that question before moving on to more serious matters. for many, to hear someone believes in evolution and God creates a certain amount of cognitive dissonance because of what they have previously been taught – that dissonance needs to be dealt with sensitively if there is to be any hope of moving the conversation forward.

    I decided very quickly that in order to cut through the initial confusions, a qualifier needed to be added when speaking to this particular audience -thus calling myself a theistic evolutionist did away with the need to answer the first question and move straight on to the inevitable ones that would follow. It is essentially saying “I believe in God and I am an evolutionist”.

    It is an act of cowardice induced by bullying? By no means. I have had some serious threats because of some of my beliefs, none have compelled me to change my stance or approach to anything – in fact, if anything, they make me firmer in my ideas. Dembski’s call to blood-letting simply firmed my stance and at the time I wrote against his idiotic vitriol. In fact, his position probably made me more warm to the use of the term “theistic evolutionist”.

    I don’t use the term because of any cowardly approach on my part, or because of any bullying, it’s because I’m dealing with people who have their perspective on the matter clouded and in order to initially cut through some of that cloud, the term is very useful. I am a communicator and I employ whatever means necessary to communicate what I want as effectively as I feel I can in any given situation – the title “theistic evolutionist” sometimes enables me to do so with a certain audience. Would I feel the need to use the term with people who were not coming to the table with the same baggage? Not at all.


  57. Well said Frank.

    I wonder if there was an equivalent for a while when the church was adjusting to heliocentrism? Theistic Heliocentrists.


  58. Thanks mate.

    Heck, that term might need to be employed now when talking to a few people, judging by some stuff out there… like this:

    I think evolution is especially tricky because it deals with ideas about how things came to be and when people have been told that the only way things could have come to be as they are is through a literal 6 day event 6000 years ago by the voice of God, to present another idea is to reject God.

    Something like heliocentrism and even something like gravity don’t call God into question in the same way from what I can see, though heliocentrism may clearly threaten some people’s understanding of the Bible.

    I’ve never really looked into how Christianity walked the journey of thought around heliocentrism… it might offer some thoughts around progressing understandings around evolution. I might have to do some digging.


  59. Hey Frank, that link is quite something. These people have power and money, and the results are rather scary. This is a big chunk of the US voting population, after all.

    Still, at least they don’t have the power to burn you at the stake these days.


  60. I’m still trying to work out if it’s a parody or for real… I’m pretty sure it’s for real.


  61. It must be a parody, surely!

    But, in a sense, there is a bit of a differentiation out there. There is opposition to the Copernican principle – the non-uniqueness of our position in the universe. Hence the privileged planet.

    The DI people (Gonzales and Jay) particularly push this and come out against normal scientific cosmology as a result. They have been pushing a book and video into schools – even here.

    In future I imagine that the study of consciousness may lead to a similar public differentiation. Although not being taught in schools there may not be so much public activity. Again the DI has been getting active on this question.


  62. It’s a hoax;

    (ah the joys of firefox’s custom search engines drop-down menu)


  63. Thanks for that NickS.

    That’s some relief πŸ˜€


  64. Not a problem, and when in doubt, go with Poe’s Law πŸ˜›


  65. HAHA! That works very well πŸ˜€

    I love the idea that Fred Phelps may be a deep cover liberal…


  66. A hoax! Thank god for that……..


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