Soapy Sam

One of the celebrated incidents of the science v religion myth is the debate of Thomas Huxley with Samuel Wilberforce at Oxford in 1860. It’s presented as the clash of enlightened science with biblical obsurantism. There was no contemporary record of the debate, though, and even the famous quip of Huxley about preferring to be descended from an ape than a bishop is likely to be, at best, exaggerated. But we do have access to Wilberforce’s review of Origin of Species in the Quarterly Review, which is quite an illuminating counterbalance to the myth. It shows, once more, how much one can learn by not taking received wisdom as fact.

It should be remembered in the first place that, although Samuel Wilberforce was a “society bishop”, he took a 1st in maths and a 2nd in classics from Oxford, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was no scientific ignoramus. Ecclesiastically he was a High Churchman. Regarding origins he was a supporter of the Gap Theory, as were many educated Christians since the development of geology more than half a century before.

His review is a serious one, employing lengthy quotes, and voicing unmitigated praise for the quality of Darwin’s scientific observations. For instance, he recounts at great length Darwin’s passage about slave-making ants. He accurately outlines the tenets of Darwin’s theory, and first focuses on natural selection. Quoting Darwin’s experiment showing the great depradation of wild plants in a patch of ground he studies, Wilberforce writes:

Now all this is excellent. The facts are all gathered from a true observation of nature, and from a patiently obtained comprehension of their undoubted and unquestionable relative significance. That such a struggle for life then actually exists, and that it tends continually to lead the strong to exterminate the weak, we readily admit; and in this law we see a merciful provision against the deterioration, in a world apt to deteriorate, of the works of the Creator’s hands. Thus it is that the bloody strifes of the males of all wild animals tend to maintain the vigour and full development of their race; because, through this machinery of appetite and passion, the most vigorous individuals become the progenitors of the next generation of the tribe. And this law, which thus maintains through the struggle of individuals the high type of the family, tends continually, through a similar struggle of species, to lead the stronger species to supplant the weaker.

He happily includes the vegetable realm in this principle of natural selection, concluding:

Thus far, then, the action of such a law as this is clear and indisputable.

But before accepting it as a cause of evolution, he points out that one has to demonstrate, not just assert, that the favourable variations on which it operates (a) do tend to continue to rise higher above the species’ existing “perfection” rather than reverting to a mean, and (b) that it is actually possible for such changes to accumulate indefinitely to transform species:

Failing the establishment of either of these last two propositions, Mr. Darwin’s whole theory falls to pieces.

The objections he then brings to the theory are not unfamiliar, even 153 years later. In summary:

(a) Darwin presents no evidence to counteract the universal observation that selective breeding has never gradually produced a new species, but that variations tend to revert to type even many generations later.
(b) Hybrid sterility also militates against such evidence being found.
(c) Artificial variations also tend to revert once selection ceases.
(d) Artifical breeding produces exaggerations suited to man’s requirements, never improvements for the organism – why should nature do better than man’s concerted efforts?
(e) There is an absence of gradualism in the fossil record, even in continuous deposits.
(f) There is an absence of the “swarms of living creatures” predicted by the theory in Precambrian strata.
(g) Darwin has an unfortunate tendency to argue that lack of proof against his theory is evidence for it, for example :”We must own that we are far too ignorant to argue that no transition of any kind is possible.”
(h) Related to that is his use of what we would now call “Just So Stories”. Writes Wilberforce: “What new words are these for a loyal disciple of the true Baconian philosophy ?—’ I can conceive ‘—’ It is not incredible ‘ —’ I do not doubt ‘—’ It is conceivable.'”
(i) Darwin’s is too ready to expand or contract the time available arbitrarily to suit his theory, and to attribute to time what lacks sufficient cause.
(j) He repetitively claims that “special creation” could not explain phenomena, without actually demonstrating that to be the case

Wilberforce than draws our attention to the fact that every objection he has made has been scientific. He disavows those who would argue against science on grounds of Scripture:

We have no sympathy with those who object to any facts or alleged facts in nature, or to any inference logically deduced from them, because they believe them to contradict what it appears to them is taught by Revelation. We think that all such objections savour of a timidity which is really inconsistent with a firm and well-instructed faith:—

‘Let us for a moment,’ profoundly remarks Professor Sedgwick, ‘suppose that there are some religious difficulties in the conclusions of geology. How, then, are we to solve them? Not by making a world after a pattern of our own—not by shifting and shuffling the solid strata of the earth, and then dealing them out in such a way as to play the game of an ignorant or dishonest hypothesis—not by shutting our eyes to facts, or denying the evidence of our senses—but by patient investigation, carried on in the sincere love of truth, and by learning to reject every consequence not warranted by physical evidence’ [Wilberforce’s note: ‘A Discourse on the Studies of the University, p. 149].

He who is as sure as he is of his own existence that the God of Truth is at once the God of Nature and the God of Revelation, cannot believe it to be possible that His voice in either, rightly understood, can differ, or deceive His creatures. To oppose facts in the natural world because they seem to oppose Revelation, or to humour them so as to compel them to speak its voice, is, he knows, but another form of the ever-ready feebleminded dishonesty of lying for God, and trying by fraud or falsehood to do the work of the God of truth. It is with another and a nobler spirit that the true believer walks amongst the works of nature. The words graven on the everlasting rocks are the words of God, and they are graven by His hand. No more can they contradict His Word written in His book, than could the words of the old covenant graven by His hand on the stony tables contradict the writings of His hand in the volume of the new dispensation. There may be to man difficulty in reconciling all the utterances of the two voices. But what of that? He has learned already that here he knows only in part, and that the day of reconciling all apparent contradictions between what must agree is nigh at hand. He rests his mind in perfect quietness on this assurance, and rejoices in the gift of light without a misgiving as to what it may discover…

This passage is interesting in pre-empting the New Atheists in making the accusation of “lying for God”. It doesn’t pre-empt, but contradict, some of the more modern breed of theistic evolutionists, by insisting that true science and true Scripture interpretation will agree, rather than attributing to the Bible the errors of ancient science and a kenotic incarnational view of composition. But it does call for a healthy spirit of agnosticism when “God’s two books” cannot easily be reconciled.

Wilberforce nevertheless permits himself a little theological needling of Darwin:

Mr. Darwin writes as a Christian, and we doubt not that he is one. We do not for a moment believe him to be one of those who retain in some corner of their hearts a secret unbelief which they dare not vent; and we therefore pray him to consider well the grounds on which we brand his speculations with the charge of such a tendency.

He illustrates this by recourse to Darwin’s inclusion of mankind in the theory, and why that is theologically and metaphysically suspect. This might seem rather like dirty tricks – tainting a scientific theory by innuendo about its author’s religious commitments. But we now know that Wilberforce’s suspicions were absolutely well founded. Darwin was, indeed, a closet agnostic, but dared not admit it in public, and his theory from the start was contaminated by his metaphysical commitments, which have tainted evolutionary science down to our own time by denying any space for God’s activity within it.

All in all, it’s hard to conclude that Wilberforce’s critical review of the Origin of Species was anything other than scientifically and philosophically justified at the time. Darwin took it seriously enough to incorporate some of its critiques in his second edition, to greater or lesser effect. Soapy Sam seems to have had his finger on the pulse after all.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
This entry was posted in Creation, Politics and sociology, Science, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Soapy Sam

  1. seenoevo says:

    “But we now know that Wilberforce’s suspicions were absolutely well founded. Darwin was, indeed, a closet agnostic, but dared not admit it in public, and his theory from the start was contaminated by his metaphysical commitments, which have tainted evolutionary science down to our own time by denying any space for God’s activity within it.”

    I wonder if the proposition of the old age of the universe (i.e. 13.7 billion years) was likewise contaminated by the metaphysics of the proposers. The Big Bang Theory is what gives us the 13.7 billion years. The Big Bang’s key early proposers were
    – Albert Einstein, who, religiously speaking, was at most a deist.
    – Edwin Hubble, who Wikipedia says “was raised as a Christian, he later became an agnostic.”
    – Georges Lemaître, considered to be the father of the BB theory, and who was a Catholic priest. His wikipedia biography runs to over 1400 words, but few if any address his holiness or spirituality. Only about 70 words touch on his religiosity or involvement with religion: “By 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that Lemaître’s theory provided a scientific validation for Creationism and Catholicism. However, Lemaître RESENTED the Pope’s proclamation.[16][17] When Lemaître and Daniel O’Connell, the Pope’s science advisor, tried to persuade the Pope NOT TO MENTION CREATIONISM PUBLICLY ANYMORE, the Pope agreed. He convinced the Pope to stop making proclamations about cosmology.[18] While a devoted Roman Catholic, he was against mixing science with religion.[19]

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Seenoevo

      The brief answer is that we should be aware of the worldview bias of any scientist and allow for it. In Darwin’s case, the metaphysics has been wrongly allowed to be considered part of the science – ie there is nothing Darwin or his successors found that actually shows the process to be independent of God. The validity or otherwise of the theory itself is a purely scientific matter – though the subtle need of a skeptical Victorian society for some process that appeared not to need God was certainly one reason evolution was propounded at that time and place.

      Yet, considering the age of the earth, the first main evidence came from geology, and at least two of the earliest names, Buckland and Sedgwick, were devout biblical Christians. The Big Bang theory is theologically ambivalent: it may support an old cosmos, but it also supports creation ex nihilo, which was why so many unbelieving scientists resisted it.

      My own position was, for many years, equivocal – I considered that despite the cavills the totality of scientific evidence pointed to an old earth. I wasn’t worried by the Bible chronology per se, which bears various interpreations (eg Gap Theory) but by the deeper theological issues such as our recent discussion on death before the fall, and one not often raised: why man should be needed to rule the earth if things ran smoothly for billions of years beforehand.

      My resolution has come from deeper examination of the biblical and theological issues (such as closer examinations of key passages like Romans 8 – another blog on that coming soon since you raised it). Much of that is about overcoming cultural presuppositions, such as the impact on contemporary Christianity of Creationism, which as I’m finding is by no means the traditional position of the Church, even of the Catholic church. It wasn’t even the default conservative position when I became a Christian in Brfitain in 1965.

      Creation Science is as subject to worldview bias as any other science – and more so than many because it is fundamentally committed to supporting particular interpretations of Scripture. That doesn’t mean it can’t do good work (and be insufficiently credited for it) – Todd Wood, for example, is a true scientist and an irenical guy: an example of good attitude, in my book.

  2. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    You wrote “In Darwin’s case, the metaphysics has been wrongly allowed to be considered part of the science – ie there is nothing Darwin or his successors found that actually shows the process to be independent of God. The validity OR OTHERWISE of the theory itself is a purely scientific matter”

    Do you believe the validity of evolution, as a purely scientific matter, is inconclusive (i.e. that evolution can’t be said to be a scientific fact)?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Anybody who tries to sell scientific theory as “fact” is pulling a fast one. Just as anyone who tries to sell a theological conclusion as “fact” is. In science, the facts are “out there in nature” and theories try to put the best explanation on them. In theology the facts are “in there in Scripture”, and theologians equally try to make best sense of them, but fallibly.

      In the post I was talking about Darwin’s theory, which was A theory of evolution, but it was superceded by Neodarwinian theory in the last century, and that’s now being threatened/supplemented by new data at a frantic rate.

      Both theories, in my view, are a mixture of truth, error and underdetermination… which is probably true of all theories in science. Darwinism is unusual in the amount of metaphysical assumption woven into the theory, and the dogmatic entrenchment that makes serious modification on scientific grounds appear something of an uphill struggle.

  3. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    Based on what you said about scientific theories, then, evolution is not a scientific fact, neither is the Big Bang Theory, the billions of years age of the universe provided by the BBT, and the 4 billion year age of the earth provided by geology and radiology with their assumptions of uniformitarianism.

    Some might say that these are the most popular, even the “best”, theories on the respective subjects. But something can be popular and even best, and still not be good and true.

    You seem to apply a similar level of uncertainty to theology. You seem to say there are no theologically conclusive and infallible facts.

    Would you consider the theology inconclusive and fallible (i.e. not true) on, for instance, the truth of
    – Jesus Christ being a divine being who assumed a human nature?
    – The Trinity, one God in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)?
    – Eternal reward or punishment awaiting each of us in heaven or hell?

    How would you revise, or at least interpret, the following verses?

    John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
    Did Jesus mean ‘teach you things which may or may not be true, you’ll never know for sure’?

    John 16:13 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
    Did Jesus mean ‘guide you into all theories, some or all or none of which may be true’?

    2 Tim1:14 “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.”
    Meaning ‘guard the theories, for you never know which may be true’?

    2 Peter 1:12 “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” Meaning ‘established in the latest theory, which may be better than the previous theory’?

    1 John 5:13 “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
    Should John have said ‘that you can know you’re with the latest consensus on what it takes to gain eternal life’?

    • GD GD says:

      Christ stated He was the truth and the way of life. This does not mean that you, I or Jon are the truth itself. Since saints have stated things that have after been shown to be in error, should we now denounce them as inadequate? For example, John of Damascus talks at length on how the foru elements of the world were created in the first day of creation. I wonder what you would say to him – since this was the latest consensus in his day.

      Thw Holy Spirit would lead us to the truth by showing us that we should seek it and work for it.

  4. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Seenoevo

    You’re laying into the wrong target here. It would be better if you got to know the positions of your opponents before you fire your favourite weapons.

    Remember you’ve spent a couple of days criticising the theology of Aquinas and Bede, who are not only theologians of the word, but saints and doctors of the Catholic Church. Either you or they are wrong, which demonstrates that theology is a human undertaking of fallible people. That does not mean there is no truth (as in science) or that some truths are more dependable than others (as in science), but it does mean that a little humility is a good thing.

  5. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    You bring up Aquinas and Bede again. I’m just trying to figure out how either or both ever came to the opinion that Genesis 1:30 is talking about maybe just “some” animals. I’ve looked at 20 different translations, and each one talks about “all” or “every” animal. [No, I haven’t looked – and probably won’t – into the Glossa Ordinaria. I’ll bypass the scribbles in the margins and concentrate on what actually “went to print” (i.e. became the orthodox texts and teachings.)]

    Secondly, why would you care what the doctors of the Catholic Church say? I’m pretty certain each of those doctors held to certain opinions (e.g. Christ’s establishment of the Papacy, the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, transubstantiation of the bread and wine) you wouldn’t abide by. Don’t you take what you’ve referred to as “liberties” with the doctors’ unanimous positions? Don’t you cite them only when they support what you want to say?

  6. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    “Why would you care what the doctors of the Catholic Church say?”

    For exactly the same reason the Church at the time did – they were biblical theologians wrestling to interpret Scripture, and not only that, but they were the first to do so. So I treat them as I treat any theologians – with cautious respect, weighing their conclusions. That’s why I’ve read pretty well all the Ante-Nicene Fathers and much of later writers.

    I rate catholicity and orthodoxy highly (distinguished from Catholicity and Orthodoxy), and consider myself as much a bona fide inheritor of pre-Reformation Christianity as of pre-Incarnational Yahwism.

    It sounds as if you would prefer to let the Curia do the reading and pronounce infallibly, and in that I certainly differ, since not only theologians, but Councils and Popes have erred. GD’s post above reiterates my point to you on that.

    But as it happens, much of what the Popes say is well-considered (far more than what some of his lay-members say), such as this of Pope Benedict in 2007:

    Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called “creationism” and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.

  7. James says:

    Seenoevo:

    If I may offer a word of constructive criticism, it seems to me that the tone in several of your posts here is unnecessarily scrappy. If you disagree with Jon over what the Christian tradition says about a general “fall of nature” (as opposed to the fall of man) you can do that without putting any “edge” into your writing — simply offer numerous quotations from relevant primary sources — writings of the Fathers, official documents of the Church, etc. — which indicate that such a general fall occurred. So far, I have seen you criticize Jon’s documents, but I haven’t seen what historical documents your own view is based upon.

    Jon is trying to defend his position in light of the historical Christian tradition, making use of documents that Catholics regard as authoritative and/or wise as well as Protestant sources. I praise him for that; the theistic evolutionists, especially at BioLogos, seem utterly contemptuous of Christian tradition (even Protestant tradition!), willing to abandon it or rewrite it at the drop of a hat, as soon as “consensus science” barks its marching orders. I think you should be more appreciative of what he is trying to do.

    I do find it odd that you, as a Catholic, should dismiss Jon’s approach of appealing to traditional authorities — a very Catholic thing to do! — and focus on your own understanding of Genesis 1:30, as if Christian doctrine is settled by private scriptural interpretation — a very Protestant thing to do! Do you not see the irony here? Wouldn’t a more traditional Catholic approach be to look at Genesis 1:30 in the light of the history of Catholic interpretation of that verse? Which traditional Catholic commentaries on Genesis 1:30 have you consulted? What works of traditional Catholic scholarship on the fall of nature, predation, animal death, etc., have you consulted? I think the discussion would be more profitable if it were focused on textual evidence.

  8. seenoevo says:

    GD,

    You wrote:
    “Since saints have stated things that have after been shown to be in error, should we now denounce them as inadequate? For example, John of Damascus talks at length on how the foru elements of the world were created in the first day of creation. I wonder what you would say to him – since this was the latest consensus in his day.”

    I would say to John of Damascus, even today, “I’m on board. Obviously the four elements of earth, water, air and fire were created. What else have you got?”

    • GD GD says:

      Seenoevo,

      That is not what John of Damascus said, nor is it the point of this discussion – John of Damascus clearly states that Gen 1:3 MEANS that God created fire first (in keeping with their view of the properties pf the element fire) – he than goes on to discuss how the Genesis account included the other three elements, what that would mean to John and his contempories; this is a clear example where saints and other Christians were happy to harmonise their understanding of the Christian faith with the current (consesus if you like) understanding of nature. You need to be consistent in how you do this.

  9. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You wrote that my words are “unnecessarily scrappy” and have an “edge”. I appreciate your constructive criticism. Did you ever work at BioLogos as a moderator?

    You write further that “I haven’t seen what historical documents your own (seenoevo’s) view is based upon… Which traditional Catholic commentaries on Genesis 1:30 have you consulted? What works of traditional Catholic scholarship on the fall of nature, predation, animal death, etc., have you consulted?”

    Why don’t you ask the same of Jon? Jon keeps saying that the patristic fathers/early Church did not go for the Fall of nature. He keeps saying he’s done extensive research and references this document and that, but he hasn’t backed it up – other than one unbelievable (to me) quote from Augustine about what Bede said about Genesis 1:30.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say I’m a patristics scholar, and have consulted every source you can think of, but have found no substantial evidence of what he’s proposing. I can’t produce anything, because there’s nothing to produce.

    Lastly, you say “I do find it odd that you, as a Catholic, should dismiss Jon’s approach of …”

    Isn’t that a bit presumptuous? Where did I ever say I was Catholic?

    P.S.
    And no, I’m not answering any request for what denomination/congregation/etc. I might be in or out of. As I’ve said regarding any curiosity about my profession/job/education/hobbies, I’d just prefer others to consider my words, and not my resume.

    • James says:

      Seenoevo:

      I’ve read almost all of Jon’s columns for the past year or so on this site, and almost all of his comments on BioLogos, and he has discussed the views of a number of Patristic and later writers on many occasions, citing passages to show that the view that animal death, predation, etc. were caused by the Fall was not standard Christian doctrine for most of the history of Christianity. I haven’t asked him here for more passages because he has already given them in other contexts. Also, I have some independent expertise in theology, and I’m unaware of any clear passages from pre-modern Christian authors or documents which clearly affirm that there was no animal death or predation before the Fall. However, you are at liberty to provide such passages. If you do not do so, I will assume that you cannot think of any at the moment.

      I’m fully aware that Genesis 1:30 *can be understood* to deny predation in the original creation; however, Jon’s point is that very few documents exist which show that it *was understood* in that way. And for one who, like yourself, repeatedly insists on the need for, not just Scripture, but authoritative Church interpretation of Scripture, the way that Genesis 1:30 *was understood* by the Church is every bit as important as how it *can be understood*. Your lack of interest in Jon’s claim, and your focus on “sola scriptura” in this context, is thus puzzling.

      I don’t want to clutter up Jon’s excellent website with old quarrels coming from another website, but you did (whether under your current screen name, or one of your earlier ones — the style and contents are dead giveaways, all protests to the contrary) identify yourself as a Catholic, and even engaged in debate based on Catholic documents. If you deny this, I simply will go silent on the subject, as I believe that Jon wants this site to concentrate on issues of substance and not personal matters. So I offer this paragraph for clarification only, to explain why I have treated your remarks as coming from a personal Catholic stance. (Though I add that I by no means regard them as accurately representing the historical teaching of the Catholic Church, which on a number of questions, ranging from the historicity of Genesis through to the allowability of evolution, has held views quite different from some of the ones you appear to be advocating.)

      Regarding animal predation in the Bible, I think that the unforced sense of many passages in Job is that it was part of the original creation, not a consequence of the Fall. And I think that Genesis 1:30 should not be “prooftexted” in isolation but should be read in light of the overall teaching of the Bible. One good thing about the Catholic (and catholic) tradition is that it tends to discourage proof-texting of a certain Protestant kind, and to encourage reading the Bible for a broader and more coherent picture.

  10. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    You wrote : “But as it happens, much of what the Popes say is well-considered (far more than what some of his lay-members say), such as this of Pope Benedict in 2007 …”

    And some NOT-very-well-considered words by Pope Benedict, I’d say.
    PBXVI: “on the one hand, there are so many scientific PROOFS in favour of evolution…”

    Scientific proofs? That would be news to me, and to everyone in the evo community.

    But then he appears to waver by saying “which APPEARS to be a reality”.
    Huh? If you got real proof, it’s provable every which way. There ain’t no “appears” about it.

    Pretty disappointing. PBXVI is smarter than that. Maybe he was duped on the science. The Vatican does have a Pontifical Academy of Science. Unfortunately, this Academy is comprised partially, if not entirely, of evolution-believing “evangelicals” (e.g. Francis Collins) and atheists/agnostics (e.g. Stephen Hawking). The Church has always contained wolves. And if the “experts” continually “howl” evolution, well, what is an ignorant (scientifically) and/or cowardly Curia to do. Answer: Join in the lupine lunacy… or keep your mouth shut. Remember Galileo! Oh, shudder!

    If I were a secular humanist, I would have no problem whatsoever with evolution, IF it made sense observationally and scientifically. But it doesn’t. And the more our observations and science advance, the more ridiculous it appears. And it should so appear even to a secular humanist.

    If I were a Bible-believing, scientifically-ignorant Christian, I would have no problem whatsoever with evolution, IF the Bible indicated evo was God’s creative vehicle. But it doesn’t.

    • James says:

      The Bible may not indicate, but doesn’t *rule out*, the possibility that evolution was God’s creative vehicle — a point which the Catholic Church has acknowledged for some time now. It is acceptable (not required, but acceptable) for Catholics to believe that God created through an evolutionary process (with some caveats regarding the creation of human beings and the intelligently planned or guided nature of the process). You are therefore free as a Catholic not to avail yourself of the liberty given to you by JP II and Benedict XVI to accept evolution; but there is no reason for you to wage a war against Catholics who do accept it (within the caveats). But you seem determined to show, not only that (in your view) the scientific evidence for evolution is poor, but that evolution is a view which should not be held by Catholics (and more generally by Christians), being against both Biblical and traditional teaching. You have not shown that either the Bible or the tradition forbids accepting “evolution” and therefore your apparent animus against evolution is theologically inexplicable.

      If you limited your critique to *neo-Darwinian* evolution, I could understand the basis of your concern. But you broad-brush when you denounce “evolution” generally.

      You seem to fail to see that Jon is arguing for evolution in the context of a historically orthodox and Biblical Christian theology. “Evolution” is not a non-negotiable truth for Jon; he insists that any formulation of evolution must harmonize with fundamental Christian doctrine. BioLogos, on the other hand, rewrites Christianity (and even the Bible) to harmonize with a particular, chance-driven understanding of evolution. For Jon, Christian theology is the horse and evolutionary biology is the cart; for BioLogos, neo-Darwinism is the horse and Christian theology is the cart. I praise Jon for getting his priorities straight.

      You seem to be attacking anyone who supports any form of evolution, in a non-discriminating way which often makes other traditional Christians your target. As I read your posts, I get the impression that you are shooting your potential allies in the foot, when you should be raising the gun to a level position and aiming across the battlefield at the atheists and BioLogos TEs. It is not unChristian or unBiblical to accept evolution. It is unChristian and unBiblical to believe that evolution is a random affair and that God did not fully intend its outcomes.

  11. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You say you are “unaware of any clear passages from pre-modern Christian authors or documents which clearly affirm that there was no animal death or predation before the Fall.”

    Me too. I think there’s probably NO END to the number of things these writers do NOT affirm. But there IS a limit to the number of things they DO affirm.

    You, or Jon, are at liberty to provide the passages which affirm the Fathers’ negation of the Fall’s effect on animals. I haven’t been able to find any such passages. But this shouldn’t be difficult for you and Jon. These should be memorable, even ground-breaking, words that you could probably recite by rote.

    Finally, you write:
    “I don’t want to CLUTTER UP Jon’s excellent website with old quarrels coming from another website, but you did (whether under your current screen name, or one of your earlier ones — the style and contents are dead giveaways, all protests to the contrary) identify yourself as a Catholic, and even engaged in debate based on Catholic documents. If you deny this, I simply will go silent on the subject, as I believe that Jon wants this site to CONCENTRATE ON ISSUES OF SUBSTANCE AND NOT PERSONAL MATTERS.”

    How about you follow your own words?

    • James says:

      I disagree. You are the one with the positive thesis to maintain. You believe that it is Catholic (and catholic) teaching that there was no animal death or predation before the Fall. You believe this either on the basis of hearsay or because you have read Catholic/catholic sources which maintain this view. I am asking you to produce those sources, to show that your view is grounded in tradition, or else to concede that you are going on hearsay.

      My own current view, based on Jon’s columns and reading of my own in both primary and secondary sources, is that in pre-modern times the view that animal death and predation were a result of the Fall (rather than built into the original creation) was a minority view, and that it only became a prominent view among Christians in modern times. But this is not a rigid or dogmatic conclusion for me, and I will change my view the moment that you produce sufficient pre-modern texts. You can’t get fairer than that.

      At the end you fall back into the scrappy tone, but I will overlook that and keep the focus on the issue. I look forward to your presentation of texts, whenever you find the time to gather and reproduce them for me. I will keep an open mind until then.

  12. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You wrote:
    “But you [seenoevo] seem determined to show, not only that (in your view) the scientific evidence for evolution is poor, but that evolution is a view which should not be held by Catholics (and more generally by Christians), being against both Biblical and traditional teaching. You have not shown that either the Bible or the tradition forbids accepting “evolution” and therefore your apparent animus against evolution is theologically inexplicable.”

    Evolution is true or it is not. I can see no benefit, only potential harm, in believing in something that is not true.

    You are correct in saying that I think “the scientific evidence for evolution is poor”. (Although I might have dropped the ending “r”.)

    • James says:

      But don’t forget that “evolution” might be true, whereas particular explanations of evolution, e.g., neo-Darwinism, might be false. I find that you don’t tend to distinguish between the process and its causes.

      I add that I get a strong sense from your posts that you do not want evolution to be true, because it clashes with your interpretation of the Bible, and therefore, if evolution were true, either the Bible would be false or you would have to modify your interpretation of it in a major way which you would not find religiously congenial. Is that a fair summary of your attitude? If not, what is?

  13. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You wrote to me:
    “I disagree. You are the one with the positive thesis to maintain. You believe that it is Catholic (and catholic) teaching that there was no animal death or predation before the Fall. You believe this either on the basis of hearsay or because you have read Catholic/catholic sources which maintain this view. I am asking you to produce those sources, to show that your view is grounded in tradition, or else to concede that you are going on hearsay.”

    I disagree with your disagreement.

    Again, you’re making this too difficult. You can settle this matter, and do so in your favor, if YOU cite the authoritative teachings over the first thousand years (i.e. prior to the Reformation and the East-West Schism) which state that
    1) animal life was NOT affected by the Fall, or
    2) animals lived and died prior to the Fall exactly as they did after the Fall.

    This is YOUR positive thesis to maintain, not mine. I’ve already said I have found no substantial evidence of authoritative teaching on 1) & 2) above. I can’t produce anything, because I haven’t found anything TO produce.

    But “authoritative” might be a poor choice of words on my part. “Authority” might be persona no grata here. Like other words which have become dirty in these modern times (e.g. “activism”, “ideology”, “dogma”).

    Maybe we should just stick with majority views and polls. You claimed that your extensive research showed that the idea of animal death due to the Fall was “a minority view”. I could likewise say that my own research of both primary and secondary sources shows that the idea that abortion and homosexual activity are inherently evil (i.e. ALWAYS wrong) is a “minority view” among self-described Catholics today.

    • James says:

      Seenoevo:

      Let me make sure that I understand you.

      You *seem* to be saying that you do not know of any traditional texts (Fathers, Creeds, decisions of Church councils, Papal decretals, Confessions, etc.) which offer an opinion *either way* regarding animal life and death before the Fall. Is that a correct summary of your state of knowledge on this subject?

      If so, why would you make a point of challenging Jon, who has read a good number of the historical sources on the subject, and has cited some of them in the current discussion, and others of them in earlier blogs? Why would you argue about a subject on which you have done no research when someone else is sharing his research with you?

      Or, if the above is not a correct summary, which primary sources *have* you read? Or if you have not read any primary sources, which secondary sources *have* you read? And based on those primary and/or secondary sources, what conclusion have you come to regarding animal death, predation, etc. before the Fall? And which texts were the most persuasive in leading you to that conclusion, and why?

      In sum, I’m trying to find out (a) what your view is, if you have one; and (b) what your reasons are for holding your view, if you have any. I think these are reasonable initial questions, to prevent the discussion from turning into a quarrel between we even find out what we are quarreling about.

  14. seenoevo says:

    James,

    “But don’t forget that “evolution” might be true, whereas particular explanations of evolution, e.g., neo-Darwinism, might be false. I find that you don’t tend to distinguish between the process and its causes.”

    I think can and do distinguish between process and causes. But I think that if a process (or processes) is unproven, unobserved, disagreed upon, in conflict with observable scientific discoveries (e.g. biological systems assuring stasis), then, causes become moot. Why worry about the past “cause” of something that never existed?

    But that would mean we’d have less to write about, and less opportunity to show how smart we are. How about a couple thousand words on the causes of unicorns?

    Now, please allow me to play back some of your other words, with some MODIFICATIONS:
    ‘I get a strong sense from your posts that you DO want evolution to be true, because it COMPORTS with your interpretation of the Bible, and therefore, if evolution were true, either the Bible would be false FOR FUNDAMENTALISTS’ PURPOSES AND you would NOT have to modify your FREEEDOM IN interpretation of it in a major way which you would not find religiously OR MORALLY congenial. Is that a fair summary of your attitude? If not, what is?’

    • James says:

      Seenoevo:

      We agree on the distinction between processes and causes. I also agree with you about the example of unicorns. We disagree over the strength of the evidence for evolution.

      I agree with you that the “fact” of evolution is not the slam-dunk that its proponents make it out to be, but neither is the evidence for evolution so weak and insubstantial as you make it out to be. Even Todd Wood, a creationist who shares your view of Genesis and rejects evolution — but also a trained biologist who has carefully studied the arguments for evolution — thinks that the evidence for evolution is strong and that scientists, in the absence of any firm conviction (such as Wood’s) of the literal truth of Genesis, are quite rational in inferring evolution from the fossil record, the genomic comparisons, etc. You can go to his web site and look up his arguments. To be sure, Todd Wood is unusual among American creationists, but there are plenty of other devout Christians, such as Mike Behe on the ID side and Francis Collins on the TE side, who know their life sciences and think the evidence for evolution is strong. You are of course free to disagree, but then if you expect your disagreement to have any weight with readers, you will need to show familiarity with the life sciences that is on par with such people as Wood, Behe, and Collins.

      I personally regard the evidence for evolution as not compelling, but strongly suggestive. Thus, I’m in between your position and that of the people you oppose. I accept evolution, not as a dogma, but as a working hypothesis.

      As to your final paragraph, where you avoid answering my question by responding with a question of your own — I will show myself a more co-operative dialogue partner by answering your rhetorical question, even as you dodge mine:

      I’m absolutely indifferent regarding the truth of evolution. If a Cambrian rabbit were found tomorrow, it would make no difference to my religious or ethical convictions. Nothing is at stake for me in the truth or falsehood of evolution per se. On the other hand, if the standard molecules-to-man account of origins (universes arise by accident, life arose by accident, man evolved by accident) is true, something big is at stake for me — Christianity, God, meaning and purpose in the universe. So I reserve my religious wrath for chance-worshipping theories such as neo-Darwinism (which is think is also weak on scientific grounds, by the way) rather than for evolution per se.

      My exegesis of Genesis would not change one iota if I thought evolution were false. I still would not read Genesis 1 as a historical account of six literal days of creation that happened about 6,000 years ago. I would still regard it as a literary creation designed to express a revealed religious truth, i.e., the dependence of the existence of the universe upon the power of God, the dependence of the orderliness of the universe upon the mind of God, the dependence of the life-friendliness of the universe upon the beneficence of God. My understanding of the meaning of Genesis is not driven by any perception of what “consensus science” demands, but by my grasp of the Hebrew language, of the styles of Biblical literature, of the historical context of the writings, and of ancient literature and religious literature in general.

      So if I have any extrinsic religious motivation, it’s against neo-Darwinism, not evolution; whereas you seem to me to have an extrinsic religious motivation against evolution itself; i.e., you appear to believe that the Bible slams the door shut against evolution. Is that your view, or not?

      I’d appreciate it if you would answer the question without another dodge. I don’t like conversations in which people have to maneuver to yank admissions out of each other; I prefer good-faith conversations in which people simply state what they think, and give their reasons. If you are going to make me pry your views out of you through long, convoluted conversations, begrudging me clarity at every step of the way, then you are not different from several of the TEs and unbelievers-faking-belief over at BioLogos, who do the same thing (particularly when asked to specify what God actually does in evolution), and I don’t want to invest time in that sort of interaction. I promise to be polite to you and fair to you if you will be straight with me. Otherwise, let’s move on.

  15. seenoevo says:

    James,

    If you’re trying to insult my intelligence, you’re doing a pretty good job.

    Fortunately for me, I’m not concerned with what you think of my intelligence.

    But really, “I’m trying to find out (a) what your view is”? and “Jon, who has read a good number of the historical sources on the subject, and has cited some of them in the current discussion, and others of them in earlier blogs”?

    Here’s my heretofore apparently completely and repeatedly obscured view – and I hope you’re sitting down because you may faint from surprise:
    I think God created everything about 6,000 years ago.

    This view is based on my reason, my belief in Biblical truth, and my recognition that no science to date (e.g. biological, paleontological, geological, astronomical) has made anything close to a “beyond any reasonable doubt” case that my belief is wrong.

    As for Jon and all his supposed historical sources (primary AND secondary), and performances on earlier blogs, I will ask YET AGAIN:
    Please, please provide HERE two or three quotes from authoritative teaching (what you above called the “traditional texts” sounds pretty good) which say
    1) Animal life was NOT affected by the Fall, or
    2) Animals lived and died prior to the Fall exactly as they did after the Fall.

    Again, please provide the quotes HERE. I don’t want a bunch of hyperlinks, and I don’t want a laundry list of books to buy or borrow.

    I don’t understand what’s so difficult. You and Jon have all the ammo already. Or so you say. Fire away!

    I won’t be holding my breath. As I wrote to Jon on an earlier blog, he’s like a lawyer telling the jury “Decide in my favor. I have much evidence supporting my position but it’s too voluminous to present now. You can see it for yourselves later after the trial’s over. Trust me.”

    • James says:

      I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. I’m asking you what you believe about animal suffering and predation before the Fall, and on what grounds you believe it.

      Above you have stated your view on the age of the earth. That still doesn’t answer the question about animal predation and the Fall. Your timespan still allows at least a few generations during which there could have been predation, since the exact date of the Fall after creation is not specified in the Bible. So you still need to state your position, if you have one, on whether animal predation ever existed.

      As far as I can tell, you think that it didn’t, on the basis of Genesis 1:30. But elsewhere you have sternly lectured people on the need for Catholic authority for teachings, and Catholic authority does not appear to insist on your reading of Genesis 1:30. So if you expect your reading of Genesis 1:30 to bind other Christians, you need to show them that Catholic (or at least catholic) teaching endorses that reading. You have not done this, and you don’t appear to have any intention of doing so. You have not indicated even any interest in going to a library to find out what Catholic teaching is on the subject.

      It would clarify your position if you would say: “I am not Roman Catholic, and my position on animal predation and the Fall is based on my personal reading of the Bible” or “I am Roman Catholic, and I believe that the Church has always taught that animal predation was a result of the Fall, and here are some documents where you can find this teaching.” Then I would know exactly where you are coming from, and how to respond to you. But at the moment I don’t know where you are coming from theologically, and that makes it difficult to converse. I need to know what you count as “evidence” for a Christian belief. Is Scripture alone valid evidence? Or does Scripture have to be filtered through orthodoxy, as decreed by the authority of the Church? And if the latter, which Church in the world today currently possesses that authority?

      Understand that I am not anti-Catholic and that if you openly admit to a Catholic dogmatic position, I will respect that and conduct my argument within Catholic premises. But as long as you continue to throw out asides about the need for authoritative interpretation, while at other times sounding like a sola scriptura individualistic Protestant, you make it impossible for me to respond coherently.

  16. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You say that scientists “in the absence of any firm conviction (such as Wood’s) of the literal truth of Genesis, are quite rational in inferring evolution from the fossil record, the genomic comparisons, etc”

    Similarly, I think I’m quite rational in “inferring” that, as you put it, “the Bible slams the door shut against evolution.”

    This opinion of mine is based on my simple reading of Genesis and on the traditional understanding of Genesis (i.e. a tradition which does NOT include any authoritative teaching saying that ANY creatures were UNaffected by the Fall.)

    No “dodge” ball here. I THINK THE BIBLE SLAMS THE DOOR SHUT AGAINST EVOLUTION. Am I clear enough for you now?

    Now, you may duck.
    For you say your (and perhaps other scholars) understanding of Genesis is supplemented with “grasp of the Hebrew language, of the styles of Biblical literature, of the historical context of the writings, and of ancient literature and religious literature in general.” Very impressive. Yet none this additional, advanced knowledge has been able to answer my simple questions from my simple reading of Genesis – the questions that neither Eddie nor anyone else ever came close to answering on BioLogos.

    I haven’t been able to find that particular BL blog, but the questions, as I recall, were:
    IF these are NOT historical and literal truths, then what are the THEOLOGICAL truths conveyed in Genesis by:

    1) Repeated focus on time, and how astronomy is to be used to measure this time:
    – six days, with each day defined (e.g. ‘there was evening and there was morning, a third day”)
    – “And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years”

    2) Provision of plants, not flesh, for food for ALL animals and man (Gen 1:30)

    3) Repeated emphasis on creation of separate “kinds” of beings, with no hint of one “kind” deriving from another “kind”.

    4) Adam being formed from dust, and Eve being formed from Adam; neither coming from an animal or from the rib of an animal.

    No one answered. Just dodges.

    I mentioned Eddie above. You remind me very much of Eddie, James. Eddie had what might be called a fixation on formal education, peer-reviewed research, curriculum vitaes, and advanced degrees. He appeared to dismiss any who didn’t sport such gloss. He even used “autodidact” as a term of disparagement.

    One question I never got to ask Eddie before I was banned is

    “Who granted the doctoral diplomas to the very first PhDs?”

    • James says:

      Seenoevo:

      Thanks for your clear answer regarding the Bible and evolution.

      Now, before we proceed further, I need to know your view on the relationship between authority and Scriptural interpretation. To be as clear as possible, do you believe, as many Protestants do, that Scriptural interpretation belongs to ultimately to the private individual, or do you believe that Scriptural interpretation belongs ultimately to the authority of the Church? And if you believe the latter, which religious body existing in the world today is the authoritative Church?

  17. seenoevo says:

    James,

    I’ve already said, more than once, that I’m keeping personal labels (e.g. denomination or non-denomination) out of these “discussions” or whatever you want to call them. I thought you finally agreed to the same. Yet you continue, just like Eddie, to bring up denominational labels and my presumed Catholicism. Sorry, you lose.

    In clarifying for you what I think, how about I use one your recommended responses, with some MODIFICATION:

    “I believe that the Church has NEVER taught that animal predation was NOT THE result of the Fall, and I KNOW OF NO CHURCH DOCUMENTS where you can find this teaching CONTRADICTED.”

    I know of no such documents, and I think it’s because there are none. This shouldn’t be surprising. I don’t think the Church ever spent much time and energy on animals vis-à-vis the Fall. As I’ve stated elsewhere, the entire central purpose of creation was man, and for man’s communion with God. Likewise, the Church’s entire central purpose is man, and man’s communion with God. The Church’s teaching and documents follow suit.

    You graciously offer to condescend to my level, put on whatever denominational hat you think I’m wearing, so that you can play along, to understand me. Not to be swayed, let alone be convinced, by me. Just to understand where I’m coming from. For the game for you is always dialogue, never decision. Well, in the end, everyone has to decide, Eddie. I mean, James. You don’t have forever. Maybe not even tomorrow.

    How any truly thinking person could abide by sola scriptura and dismiss authority and authoritative teaching boggles my mind. It violates my sense of reason and logic and history.

    But over time, I’ve been less shocked by this. I’ve found that while the Devil often works in subtle and hidden ways (shades of gray, if you will), he quite often promotes his lies in blatant ways (black and white, in-your-face, if you will). Just look at abortion, for example. Or what’s been going on since 2009 in the media and the White House.

    • James says:

      Regarding your out-of-left-field remark concerning dialogue vs. decision, I’m quite capable of “decision,” but anyone who goes straight to the “decision” stage without first having properly conducted the “dialogue” stage is going to make bad decisions, more often than not. That’s why America is in such a mess right now — all the opinion leaders, left and right, have jumped to the stage of “decision” before any of them have shown the intellectual and emotional maturity required to engage in “dialogue.”

      So which “authority and authoritative teaching” do you accept over your own readings of Scripture? I can’t proceed until I know that.

  18. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Seenoevo

    I’m happy to answer your four questions, though I think you’ll not like the answers because you’re committed to a post-enlightenment material literalism in reading a three or four thousand year old account.

    (1) The focus on days is because Genesis 1 has the hallmarks of a temple inauguration account, and temples in antiquity were often consecrated over a 7 day period. It’s also, in common with ALL ancient near east creation stories a functional account, not a material account, of how God organised (bara) the cosmos as a temple for his worship by men. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t literally have done that over a literal 7-day period, but the days also represent the three “levels” of the temple, the three sets of “functionaries” within them, and the final day in which God finished his work and began to dwell with men in the temple. In much traditional Jewish thought, that final day never ended, and in fact the 6 days were often seen as 1000 year stages in the world’s history.

    (2) The emphasis is on separate food sources for man (seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, ie agriculture) and every green plant for animals (ie wild plants). There was non-competitive provision for both, and plants formed the basis of what we now call the food chain.

    (3) The “kinds” are not said to be specific plants or animals. Those mentioned are “seed-bearing plants,” “trees that bear seed,” “great creatures of the sea,” “every living thing with which the water teems,” “winged birds,” “livestock,” “creatures that moved along the ground” and “wild animals.” These are pretty non-specific kinds, and the message is nothing to do with species stability, but fecundity. They’re all procreating like mad in God’s abundant world. Nobody would have dreamed of interpreting it to mean that cats don’t produce dogs, because it describes the abundance that everyone sees every day. It simply doesn’t speak to the evolutionary question. It doesn’t even include all the categories of life on earth – why should it: it’s not a science text?

    (4) Adam’s origin from the earth (like the vegetation of 1.11 and the animals of 1.24) parallels other ANE accounts, eg clay. Man is of the earth, though his spirit is of heaven. If God literally created him from earth, that’s fine, but such an interpretation bypasses the Hebrew sense of metaphor in a modernistic way: cf fpor example Job 10.9.

    Now you may say you don’t agree with those explanations, which is your privilege. But the world is full of people’s opinions. You’ve hinted that only “authorised” doctrine can be accepted, though you’ve shown no particular willingness to submit to anyone’s actualk authority but your own opinion, which I believe to be ill-informed. That’s the way it goes, sometimes.

  19. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You seem to like questions far more than answers, and dialogue far more than decision.

    So, I’ll start off with a question:

    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but, just how stupid are you, or just how stupid do you think I am?

    I pose this question because you now ask: “To be as clear as possible, do you believe, as many Protestants do, that Scriptural interpretation belongs to ultimately to the private individual, or do you believe that Scriptural interpretation belongs ultimately to the authority of the Church?”

    And you asked this AFTER I clearly stated “How any truly thinking person could abide by sola scriptura and dismiss authority and authoritative teaching boggles my mind. It violates my sense of reason and logic and history.”

    Then you ask: “which religious body existing in the world today is the authoritative Church?”

    Not going to answer that, since you don’t like answers much. But here are some questions:

    1) Who in the New Testament first mentions “church”, and in fact establishes it as his?
    2) Did this person say this church would prevail against the powers of death?
    3) Which church today has prevailed for each of the 2,000 years since this establishment?
    4) To whom did the church-establisher give the keys to the kingdom, and the power to bind and loose on earth and in heaven?
    5) Did this extraordinary power or authority end with the death of the recipient? Like in the way preaching and baptizing ended with the death of the hearers in Mark 16:15-16?
    6) Was Paul lying when he said “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”?
    7) If Paul was not lying, was he at least being coy, making us guess as to which church (if there were others) actually had the truth? Like a shell game? Or even trickier, Paul knew that only one church would have the truth, but have it only for a while (time to be determined by us), and then the truth would move elsewhere, under another shell, but which shell? (Isn’t this clearly fun?)

    Considering the above points, how do you think a truly thinking, reasonable, and knowledgeable person would answer the question: “which religious body existing in the world today is the authoritative Church?”

    • James says:

      I’m sorry, Seenoevo, but I don’t intend to read long lists of rhetorical questions from you and try to discern your position from those. Rhetorical questions aren’t answers. I asked you in good faith what theological position you are coming from. If you won’t answer, I’m not interested in pursuing this conversation.

      I add that I find your persistently combative and sometimes sniping tone to be very off-putting, and I have little doubt that it was this tone, rather than any of your theological views, which caused you to be banned three time by BioLogos, under three different names. A word of advice: if you are engaging people on the internet in the hopes of winning them over to your point of view, your bedside manner is all wrong. No one is going to be fully open-minded, on the level of ideas, to a person whose manners are abrasive and who appears to personally dislike everyone he converses with. (Have you noticed how unsuccessful “melanogaster” is at winning converts on BioLogos?) I hope that you can some day get over whatever anger drives your theology and learn to reflect on theological manners in the calm and considerate manner we see in a number of posters here and on BioLogos — posters such as Jon, penman, Merv, Ted Davis, and Sy. I say this not merely because this is the only way you can ever hope to be influential, but because a theology constructed out of anger cannot be a satisfying one and cannot lead one to inner religious peace.

  20. seenoevo says:

    Jon,

    Regarding your four responses:

    1) When did the idea and use of the 7 days originate? How long after Adam and Eve was the first temple built and inaugurated? In about what year of world history did “much traditional Jewish thought” first believe “that final day never ended, and in fact the 6 days were often seen as 1000 year stages in the world’s history”?

    (2) The emphasis is on separate food sources for man and animals, each eating different types of plants? So then, man didn’t eat animals and animals didn’t eat animals (and tigers didn’t eat man)? Do you think this “emphasis” in any way supports a pre-Fall red-in-tooth-and-claw?

    (3) “These are pretty non-specific kinds, and the message is nothing to do with species stability, but fecundity.” Amazing. Will your soon-to-be-published work have the quotes from the Church and the Fathers which affirms your proposal of propagation?

    (4) Even if Genesis were an ANE copycat, it would have to differentiate itself, otherwise, what’s the point? Christians believe it differentiates itself with God’s truth, and not with pagan myth. Given that Genesis (and the Bible generally) isn’t meant to be a science text book but IS God’s truth, then….. If monkey-to-man evolution is true, why wouldn’t Genesis read that Adam was formed from one of the animals, after the animal was put into a deep sleep?

    “But the world is full of people’s opinions.”

    And the world is full of people who think that all opinions are created equal, so let’s share and dialogue! Except these same people later reveal that some opinions are “more-equal” than others. The opinions they don’t like are “less-equal”, and come from those they label as “ill-informed.”

    “That’s the way it goes, sometimes.”

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Seenoevo

      I agree with James that you’re really not a good conversation partner, because you assume from the start that you already know all the answers and that everybody else is trying to trick you.

      “Amazing,” you write, with an audible snort. My point was not amazing, but blatantly obvious if you begin to engage with the text seriously as God’s word. By the way, the piece to be published is about the relatively recent changes to the historical doctrine of a good creation, so has no reason to talk about propagation … though in the absence of a theory of evolution, there was no reason for the Fathers to think in any other terms than abundance.

      So I’ll reply to that point, in a new post, not for your benefit, as you’ll ignore it, but because other readers may well find it useful.

      • seenoevo says:

        Jon,

        If you made the new post “Fecundity in Genesis 1 – Amazing” just for me, I’m flattered. See my comment there.

  21. seenoevo says:

    James,

    You write to me: “I asked you in good faith what theological position you are coming from. If you won’t answer, I’m not interested in pursuing this conversation. ”

    Amazing.

    Amazing because earlier I stated, often repeatedly, my positions both on theology AND on evolution. To repeat once again:

    – I think God created everything about 6,000 years ago.
    – I THINK THE BIBLE SLAMS THE DOOR SHUT AGAINST EVOLUTION, and provided the Genesis passages backing this position.
    – I think science to date (e.g. biological, paleontological, geological, astronomical) has not made anything close to a “beyond any reasonable doubt” case that evolution is true.
    – I think Church tradition and teaching has NEVER said that animals were UNaffected by the Fall or that they lived for eons prior to Adam & Eve. And no one here has shown otherwise.
    – I think that no truly thinking, reasonable, and knowledgeable person could abide by sola scriptura and dismiss authority and authoritative teaching.
    – I think that if one is curious as to where this authority might reside, he can “answer” what you call my rhetorical questions (7 groups above). The “answer” should be obvious to any truly thinking, reasonable, knowledgeable AND HONEST person.

    But you have no idea where I’m coming from, and so you are at a loss on how to continue our conversation.

    Unbelievable.

    One thing I DO believe about what you said is that you’re not interested in pursuing this conversation.

    Regarding my “bedside manner”, perhaps you could understand a mere mortal’s tone darkening (e.g. becoming sarcastic, more severe) when his repeated attempts to explain and clarify and answer and convince are repeatedly met with derision and dismissal and “playing dumb”. I certainly can understand that. And I’m just a mere mortal.

    Here’s a hypothetical “bedside manner” situation for you, James:

    Suppose you were a highly respected, highly educated, highly erudite teacher and leader in theology and religion, and also very polite and civil. Occasionally, you converse and debate with less educated folks. In one such case, the interaction includes repeated questions, explanations, clarifications from the common fellow. You find the interaction very disturbing and unsatisfactory. After being rebuffed by you repeatedly, the common fellow resorts to admonitions. Finally, there in public (i.e. not anonymously, not pseudonym to pseudonym on the internet), with lots of people hanging on every word spoken by the two of you, the common fellow calls you to your face: “Viper, hypocrite, white-washed tomb”.

    What would you say about the common fellow’s “bedside manner”?

    Would you continue the conversation with him?

    I didn’t think so.

    Good night, Eddie.

  22. Seenoevo,

    As a bystander on this thread I have followed your discussion with James.
    I am also familiar with your past contributions on Biologos.

    In my view James’ gentle rebuke is entirely justified.

    When I was an angry young man (I’m 62 now), my godly mother reminded me that it was insufficient to speak the truth. It was necessary to speak the truth in love (or else risk becoming a clanging cymbal). Her timely reminder was both lovingly spoken and appropriate, and it has remained with me.

    You would do well to humble yourself and set about examining your conduct rather than defending it.

    • James says:

      Thank you, Peter, for your constructive comment here. I am glad that you understand my motivation. Sadly, however, as the subsequent reply shows, seenoevo has chosen to ignore the advice in your final sentence.

  23. seenoevo says:

    Wise words, Peter.

    As St. Paul said:
    “Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Gal 5: 26 – 6:1

    And as they say, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    But there’s a time and a place for everything. Sometimes, if the flies get particularly and unremittingly bothersome, you might rightly choose a fly swatter instead.

    Just 13 verses earlier Paul writes
    “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!”

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