Monthly Archives: June 2015
It’s widely believed that Social Darwinism was a temporary evil that died out with racial eugenics after the Holocaust woke the world up. But there is one Social Darwinist whose ideas have managed not only to survive that setback, but to conquer the world. I refer, of course, to Alfred Kinsey, who would have rejoiced to see America’s official redefinition of marriage this week, as a fitting culmination of his life and work.
One of the things that’s been interesting about following the discussion on Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ is the polarizing effect on Christians elicited by the very issue of climate change. That’s quite apart from a certain to-be-anticipated “No Popery” stance in some of the internet comments (including some from self-labelled Catholics). Opposition by some Christians to claims of global warming is not news, but is still an interesting cultural phenomenon, especially since (as a “religious position”) it’s largely confined to North Americam believers. Some of the objections, in my view, are related to the doctrine of creation, as particularly understood in America, so are worthy of discussion here.
As a non-Catholic I heard about Pope Francis’s new encyclical only through the jaded words of the mind-controlling secular press: “Pope accepts global warming.” Not living in North America, where climate change skepticism seems to be part of the Faith for many Evangelicals (though still a minority of them, according to surveys), my first thought was a fairly indifferent “Good.”
I find myself reading an old (1956) book by psychologist A. M. Meerloo, The Rape of the Mind – the Psychology of Thought Control. His study of the techniques of individual mind control under Naziism and, particularly, Communist brain-washing – which he more correctly calls “menticide” – arose from his first-hand experience as a Dutch resistance worker and later examiner of both Nazis and Communists.
It often seems to me that in the discussions over how evolution impacts theology, the theological adjustments felt necessary by many are often apparently snatched out of the air with little thought over how they change very basic Christian truths about, say, the nature of God himself. And that’s just when the theologians are writing. Start reading the comments of ὀι πολλοι and it’s like being in a rowing boat in the vicinity of Cape Horn. Somehow, it brings to mind an image from art history.
Our friend pngarrison has once again shown his ability to nose out articles relevant to the science-faith issue, only this time it was for the benefit of BioLogos poster Roger Sawtelle rather than mine. I assume his link to this article by epigeneticist Michael Skinner was to speak to Roger’s perennial concern over the role of the environment and its ecology in evolution.
I finished my piece about the BioLogos discussion of the need to reform the doctrine of original sin with a “slippery slope” comment: In the Bible, sin is an offence against our own inherent nature formed in the image of Christ (the true Image of God), and against God’s good order for the cosmos, both of which are restored in the redemption of Christ. In evolutionary scenarios, sin is an ontological feature of our nature, and nature itself is disordered from the start. Few aspects of Christian doctrine emerge unscathed in the long run.
In the discussion I had with John T Mullen on BioLogos, he criticised my skepticism about evolutionary psychology as a truth-finding discipline, including the following argument to which I did not reply then, but which seems worth examination in its own right: [T]hough we cannot pronounce on the specific claims made by either side, we can (if we have a broad-based education) identify when a consensus exists within a given scientific community, and we are rationally obligated to accept the conclusions of the consensus. Outsiders must not judge another discipline’s consensus.
John T Mullen posting at BioLogos took issue with my claim that natural selection has not, in fact, built sin into human nature, so that evolution is not the fundamental problem for the orthodox Christian doctrine of sin it’s often claimed to be. He replied: Evolutionary biology presents us with a view of humanity that includes strong inherited behavioral tendencies toward self-exaltation at the expense of others. Natural selection can provide a satisfying explanation for this. The fact that we also seem to have inherited behavioral tendencies toward “altruistic” (i.e., co-operative, sacrificial-but-group-enhancing) behavior is very interesting, but beside the point. We all feel the pressure to advance our own causes … Continue reading
A skeptic on one of the recent BioLogos threads about the origin of sin made a valid observation. One of the common motivations for re-formulating the theology of sin and evil is not so much that genetics suggests there was no single original couple, but that evolutionary theory places evil in the world, in the form of “natural evil”, before there were any people to corrupt creation through sin.