Writing in the New York Times today, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) attempts to distance himself from natural selection theory without looking like a complete dullard. He fails, predictably, largely through setting up false or misleading dichtomies:
The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.
Either you believe God created Man or you don't; how is that complementary? Either you believe in a separation of body and spirit or you don't. There really is no middle ground, and Brownback has planted himself squarely on the God side.
If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
The problem is, at some point if you go back through your ancestry far enough, you run into something that isn't the same species. Natural selection is natural selection; "microevolution" isn't some alternative view of it, it's a red herring.
There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.
I don't know whether this is a lie, or merely ignorance, but there really is only one theory of natural selection. "Punctuated equilibrium" isn't really any different from "classical Darwinism" when you dig into it far enough, unless by "punctuated equilibrium" you mean "punctuated by a supernatural being who shall remain nameless but who gave the Jews a bunch of rules on clay tablets a while back."
I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation—and indeed life today—is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
First, let's dispense with the fallacious arguments to authority ("many scientists...") and to the people ("many...people of faith"). I learned to distinguish these arguments from actual logic in high school, and presumably so did many scientists and people of faith.
Second, questioning the presuppositions isn't on its face anti-science or anti-reason, but coming to the conclusion that there's a purpose behind the theory is. The "philosophical presuppositions" of natural selection theory can be stated very simply: selection happens. Maybe that's oversimplification, but not by much. The simple fact is, natural selection theory explains life in all its forms without resorting to a supernatural being interfering with it. It's not that we reject the possibility; it's that we don't find any evidence to support conscious design.
Biologists will have their debates about man's origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table.
Absolutely, and we encourage it. All you have to bring to the table is a testable hypothesis and evidence to back it up.
Hello...? We're waiting. Testable hypothesis...? Evidence...? Hmmm....
For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed.
Sam, I agree: so quit trying to seek a monopoly on the question.
I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man's essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.
Ah, here we go. If this were 1640, he'd be outraged that the Earth goes around the Sun. Read that sentence over to fully grasp the presuppositions within it. In order to have an "essential dignity" or "a unique and intended place," something would have to confer dignity and place upon us. We can do it ourselves, and many of us do; but that doesn't mean a supernatural entity does.