Editorial, Sunday, Aug. 29, 1999

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials


Editorial, Sunday, Aug. 29, 1999

HED:Unnecessary conflict

Continuing outcries about the Kansas Board of Education’s decision to make the teaching of the theory of evolution an option in local school districts extends an old and unnecessary controversy.

Evolution is a scientific theory about the universe’s origins and the development of all living things, including humans. It always has run headlong into a literal reading and belief in the Genesis account (in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures) of Creation by a supernatural God. That account measures creation in days rather than billions of years and with majestic language ascribes to God’s power the forming of all things.

Many people believe modern science

(which largely embraces the theory of evolutionary development) is incompatible with belief in a Creator and Creation.

Many scientists disagree, vigorously embracing faith even as they exercise their God-given intellects to the advancement of humankind through scientific inquiry and, in the context of faith, to the glory of God.

Among the most eminent in the scientific community who believe in a created universe is Peter Hodgson. He is a lecturer in nuclear physics and senior research fellow in nuclear science at the University of Oxford in England. He is known internationally for his work in atomic theory and applied science. He is equally widely respected as a committed Christian a devout Roman Catholic who has served on several papal commissions on the relationship of science and religion.

In “Christianity and Science,” a series of studies published by the Oxford University Press, Hodgson defends both scientific inquiry and faith.

He notes that modern science evolved from the discovery, mostly by people of faith, that what had been accepted as scientific and theological fact by churchmen as profoundly intelligent as St. Thomas Aquinas was based on ancient principles clearly wrong.

“It is easy to see what was likely to happen,” he writes, “when a scientist came along who showed that Aristotelian science was incorrect, and proposed instead a new view of the world. Of course, we know very well that since the new scientific view is closer to the truth than the old, it provides a better framework for the expression of God’s truth. … As the development of science began at a time of great religious conflict, the issues became confused and there was some church opposition to Science. This did lasting harm, and we still feel the effects today.”

The central point is recognizing the limits of literalism while continuing to believe in the limitlessness of God.

Hodgson writes:

” … Confusions could have been avoided if it had been clearly recognized that there are certain types of knowledge about the world that can be gained by the methods of science, and that they cannot be known from the Bible or any other religious source. On the other hand, there are certain truths about the world, including those on which science is based, that cannot be obtained from science and are known from revelation. The most significant truths are those concerning the destiny of man and the purpose of human life on earth. It is essential to see these two systems of knowledge as complementary, each enriching the other.”

In that context, Hodgson concludes, is the task and struggle of intellect and faithful conscience for every generation as people seek to know both God and the evolving, created order of life.

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