Depressing to try to build bridges in Dallas context

I really wish I could get out of here. I didn’t realize how entrenched in culture war against the universities the white evangelical megachurches were until I surveyed them for five years and saw the fingerprints of the Discovery Institute everywhere.

I sometimes ask God to be delivered. These people don’t seem interested in building bridges of communication with nonbelieving professors and nonbelieving students of science.

Considering what happened with the Polanyi Center at Baylor, there is little bridge building with ECs as well.

If you find talking about evolution hard in church, I hope you don’t live in Dallas. I have never seen it this bad because nowhere else in Dixie I have lived had the millions of dollars to get Discovery’s attention.

The Institute for Creation Research adds to the local conflagration. But I do not sense from them a desire to overthrow so many facets of American life as Discovery aspires to.

ICR has never left its central commitment to evangelism as the reason for its existence.

The shadow of Discovery looms over Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist as well.

Virtually every megachurch I have seen that is dominated by white evangelicals has either strongly married itself to ICR or Discovery.

If antievolutionist culture causes your head to split open when you go to church as a fan of mainstream science, I suppose what God wants is for relationships to be rebuilt away from the spotlight of the megachurches and the institutes.

So I am focusing on small and invisible churches close to colleges and trying to strike up conversations about Dover and the Polanyi incident there.

For the purpose of discernment as to how the hostility toward the science professor can be dealt with.

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Have you tried any contacts at DBU? I got the impression from a friend I know who works there that people are less adamant about things like inerrancy there.

Did you see this post? It’s worth it to keep talking, even though some won’t listen.

I just saw a wonderful aunt who really thinks that medicine is a crock, doesn’t vaccinate, drinks raw milk, and treats with chiropractic–but she smiled and gave me a great big hug anyway.

Getting to know someone for their own sake is never a waste; even if it has nothing to do with the Great Commission, there are so many folks out there hurting, that you’re doing God’s work that way by befriending them, too.


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Kinda shocking to me that you would lump together people who are skeptical that evolution is adequate with flat earthers.

Are you an “evolution did it all by natural processes alone” person? Or do you, like me, think evolution needed help?

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Hmm… In addition to flat earthers the article mentioned anti-vax proponents and climate change deniers. I don’t think these are all the same although I think they exhibit some similar traits. One could also see homeopathy and UFO-ology proponents display similar characteristics too. Josh’s comments mentioned the ICR who are young-earthers and special creationists. So yeah, I can certainly see some connection with the groups mentioned in the article. Similarly for a number a those under the DI umbrella.

But I don’t interpret this comparison as ‘lumping’ creationists with flat earthers so much as noting shared characteristics among certain types of science ‘skepticism’ or denial.

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Thanks for the thoughts, @Argon. I appreciate the pull toward more fairness with more detail.

I’ll add some detail also. I think that folks in churches require a different approach. For example, if I think someone is YEC, I talk about the Bible, not the science. Until they are open to interpretations other than 6000-10000 years, they will never listen to anything I say about science.

And then, Elaine Ecklund has pointed out that Christians in general are bugged when scientists don’t leave room for God. I find devout people are much more comfortable when I acknowledge the boundaries first. So for example, my evolutionary creationist friends argue that miracles are not a scientific question. I have found easy reception both inside and outside the church to the idea that evolution needed help.

So the approach matters, and my opinion is that the OP’s situation would probably not be helped by the approach in the linked article. My question to @jbabraham88 is more to consider how to help him be honest about his opinions and still connect.


"In the Beginning was the Word… "

Oppose scripture with scripture.

Those who reject the logos of science oppose the Logos of Christianity!

Why do we need to assume that God’s natural process needs help? Is God not capable of creating a natural process that will carry out His will of creation? This is the issue I tend to have with ID. The process is accepted until you get to some arbitrary point, and then they say the process needs help then. Why?

I understand the reasoning for YEC (though I disagree with it) better than I do the reasoning for the ID view that the earth is old and common descent happened, but macroevolution needed help. God created all the natural laws and processes, and he maintains those laws and processes, so I view “natural” as still being done by God. I don’t see a biblical reason to reject macroevolution if you’re accepting common descent. So this completely puzzles me.


Hi @Boscopup. These are great questions, there are several here, and thanks for bringing them up.

This appears to me to be a theological question. If God did intervene in the history of life, would that trouble you? Certainly Christians testify that he intervenes in our lives today (hopefully you have found the same). I could counter, “Why do we need to assume that God does not intervene, since he does so today?” Do Christians need to believe that the only miracles God ever did are the ones in the Bible? So I think from a theological perspective, either answer is tenable.

It’s certainly true that for some, it may be an assumption but for me it’s not. For dealing with life’s history, the approach you and I prefer is evidence based: what does the data imply? So I look there to assess assumptions.

Any “tipping point” is, from the data, impossible to pin down, so I can see how it may appear arbitrary. But while we all agree that extrapolation works up to a point, for many of us macroevolution appears to be a bridge too far. Capabilities are seen which work on a small scale (micro), and then are assumed to scale up (macro). So there’s the assumption on the other side which looks to me like philosophical naturalism. I see no reason for it, and, more importantly, I don’t think the data supports it. So I’m skeptical.

Yeah, I agree. It’s not a Biblical consideration for me either, but a question of the shape of the data.

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I do believe God intervenes in our lives today, though not via miraculous spiritual gifts as seen in the NT (I think those have ceased). God intervenes for a purpose. Why would God need to intervene in evolution every time a new species is needed?

Can you give an example of such a macro change? I have a hard time seeing where the line is drawn between micro and macro. I see macro as just looking at a snapshot between an early form and a form many micro changes later.

I appreciate the thoughtful response! Very helpful in giving me some insight into the ID view. :slight_smile:

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We’re on the same page there.

I certainly don’t think the data suggests “every time.” The Galapagos finches seem to me to show the capabilities of microevolution, and its limits.

But if God needed to add information to do something new, obviously he can. The key word is “if” and so as you point out we need examples of possibly when and where.

Probably the best example for me is the Cambrian Explosion. Too many new body plans in too short a time. Each body plan is made up of complex systems of complex systems, all deeply interdependent. The interdependency is important here: like blood cells made in bone marrow, the red ones need to be denucleated, then they all need to get into the circulatory system, and so you need a circulatory system, blood filters, and a heart, etc. And that’s just a tiny, tiny fraction of an interdependent body plan.

It’s impossible in a post like this to summarize all the information, but that’s a good place to look.

Do materialists have their explanations for this that only require microevolution? Of course they do, and they find some correlations that are interesting. But the leap to me looks huge so I remain a skeptic.


Are you a science professor? You used that phrase in last paragraph so I wondered.

Isn’t the Discovery Institute essentially Intelligent Design? I suppose seeing a “Designer” in things is more of a positive than a short creation week followed by a day off work?

I attend a church with people who are committed YEC, but I know a couple who are not in that category. You just learn what to talk about and who you can talk to about it. Value others for their commitment to following Christ and serving and loving others… YECs do that too!!


Hi Marty,

Always good to have conversations with you. I hope all is going well for you and yours.

With this statement you seem to be conflating acceptance of evolution with support for the atheistic philosophy known as materialism. In other words, if I accept the 21st century version of evolutionary theory as espoused by scientists, you would seem to classify me as a philosophical materialist.

Why are you equating the scientific theory with the philosophy of materialism? Is that a stance that you feel strongly committed to, or are you willing to reconsider?


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That’s a great point, Chris, and great to connect with you again.

Looking back at it, I was using “materialism” as a shorthand for the assertion or belief there has been no divine intervention in the history of life, so really only applying that to the idea that the natural processes alone produced all the complexity we see. As you probably know, I am of the opinion that the natural processes alone are an inadequate explanation for the complexity of life.

But you make an excellent point by your question, that there are devout Christians who believe Evolutionary processes were adequate on their own. While materialism would be compatible at that point, you are correct that it is certainly not the same!

Does that clarify my perspective? How would you express your view?


Would you agree that evolution that is sustained by God would be an adequate explanation?

Hi Bill. My first response would be to point out that all of creation is sustained by God, but I’m not really sure what that means in a practical sense. In the context of evolution, what does that mean for you? Do you think God intervened above and beyond the natural processes?

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I believe God intervened in every part of the process. I also believe we will never be able to prove He did or didn’t. So I take the Bible’s word that He did.


Hi Marty,

Here’s a concise summary of my view

Scientific methods are fully capable of answering scientific questions. But not all questions are scientific.

Methodological naturalism can adequately provide deterministic answers to certain scientific questions. For example, when will sunrise occur on October 17, 2019 in Marty’s back yard? Newtonian mechanics are completely sufficient to answer this question. I don’t need to make references to God’s providence or miracles.

Methodological naturalism can adequately provide probabilistic answers to other scientific questions. For example, what will be the low and high temperatures in Marty’s neighborhood on October 17, 2019? I could use statistical methods to calculate the normal distribution of high/low temperatures over the past 100 years at that location, then provide a confidence level for temperature ranges (i.e., a 64% chance the high temperature will be between 61o F. and 69o F.; a 95% chance the high temperature will be between 57o F. and 73o F.; etc.) Again, this probabilistic analysis requires no reference to providence or miracles.

We can even extend predictions backward in time. When was the supernova that created the Crab Nebula? In 1928, Hubble looked at the data about its rate of expansion and determined that the supernova had flared in the mid-11th century. And it just so happens that Arab and Chinese astronomers left records of a supernova at that location in 1054. Given these observations, astronomers are 100% certain that the supernova observed in 1054 and the Crab Nebula today are the same object observed at different times, in spite of the changes that have occurred in its structure, size, and apparent magnitude. And once again, astronomers do not need to refer to divine intervention as an explanatory mechanism.

Biologists, like astronomers, can look backwards in time to make predictions. Just as Hubble looked at the expansion rate of the Crab Nebula, biologists can use observations about existing processes (mutation rates, genomic sequences, measures of selection pressure, speciation) to build reliable nested hierarchies of life across the kingdoms. Just as today’s astronomers were able to anchor their prediction using the records left by Chinese and Arab astronomers, today’s biologists anchor their backwards predictions using the fossil record. Also like astronomers, they do not need to refer to divine intervention when they make predictions.

There are some important differences, of course. The processes of life are far messier and stochastic than the processes described by general relativity, so the biology predictions are in some ways more like predicting the weather than like predicting sunrise.

A final note about the sufficiency of the scientific method: both in physics and in biology, many questions remain unanswered. A physicist cannot tell you anything but informed speculations about the 93% of the universe that is dark matter and dark energy. A biologist cannot tell you anything but informed speculations about how the first cellular life came to exist. These limitations need not lead us to conclude that dark matter and dark energy are explained by angels and demons–although that is one possibility. These limitations need not lead us to conclude that the first cellular life was a pure miracle that could not in any way be described by methodological naturalism–although that, too, is a possibility. I see no value in speculating what scientists and/or theologians will discover about those questions in the coming decades. What will be discovered is what will be discovered.

I’m seven paragraphs in, but I’m just getting started! Please hang with me a bit longer.

There are other questions that science cannot answer: What are the purposes of sunrises and weather changes and the evolution of life? How does God interact with these processes? Science can say nothing, but good theology can give us at least partial answers. The features and processes of the universe give us a place where we humans, who are created in God’s image, can discover His creativity and goodness and even interact with Him. And there is no process, whether it be gravity, quantum mechanics, or evolution, which is not somehow sustained in every moment by God’s providence. Science is sufficient to give reliable answers to scientific questions, but it cannot tell us for what or for Whom we are made, and how all of creation hangs together.

Does that make sense?



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