Dialogue: is it always worthwhile?

In the recent past, I have participated in dialogues, discussions, and debates with various proponents of evolution (theistic and otherwise). After many words and much time spent, I came to a realization. While dialogue can certainly be useful, there are times when you find yourself going around in circles. On one of those occasions, I wrote the following to explain why I felt the discussion had reached a natural endpoint:

We seem to be going around in circles, to some degree. We both have a decent understanding of the Scripture and the science being discussed.

I believe that the Genesis account is meant to be read as a literal history of what actually happened and that there are repercussions on many fundamental Christian doctrines when one takes a more allegorical approach. I also believe that the science, especially the evolutionary science, is open to interpretation and debate.

You believe that the evolutionary science is solid and that there are repercussions to the rest of science when one interprets the science differently. You also believe, from what you’ve stated, that the Scripture is open to interpretation and debate.

These are fundamentally opposite positions. From what I’ve read, your position is that YEC is bad science and bad theology, in that it does not accurately represent the truth of nature, and it is damaging to the faith and witness of the Church. I believe that theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism is bad science and bad theology, in that it relies on fundamentally flawed presuppositions to interpret the scientific evidence, and it does damage to the faith by undermining or redefining many important doctrines.

I’m not sure we can say that we are the same where it counts. Not that I question your faith, because I don’t. I hate to keep using the same word, but there is a fundamental difference in our hermeneutic approaches to Scripture and that leads to many, many differences. There is a very real danger that the hermeneutical approach favored by theistic evolutionists, like those at BioLogos, will lead to an eventual denial of the resurrection. Not that everyone who holds to theistic evolution will eventually deny the resurrection, but the same approach that reinterprets Genesis in light of what “science knows” is regularly used to reinterpret the resurrection.

So, I’m not sure where we go from here. I don’t mind discussing with you, but we do seem to be saying the same things over and over again.

While this is based on one particular conversation that I had, it is generally applicable to most dialogues between creationists and evolutionists. In my opinion, arguing over the evidences, one way or the other, is often wasted breath. I don’t believe that I can change their minds, although I pray that the Lord will, and I know that they will not change my mind, although I bet they are praying for me too. So, while I do believe that there is a time and place for evidence and dialogues, I also believe that there is a time for silence.

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:31 ESV)

7 thoughts on “Dialogue: is it always worthwhile?

  1. Rebecca Miller says:

    Not only does scripture deny the evolution of species from a common ancestor, but so does the science. No one has ever observed one species evolve into another. You must suppress the obvious truth to believe it. God is before and over all things so we start with His word.

    • Natural Historian says:

      Hi Rebecca, please forgive my nitpick here but this is one of these things that I find Christians saying all the time that needs to be clarified because you are probably using the term very differently than most people do. I think you mean that evolution of what you would call “kinds” from a common ancestor. I teach a graduate class on systematics and we spend 3 to 4 weeks just talking about the definition of a species but in the end for scientists it also involves either populations that maintain their genetic integrity and/or maintain some breeding boundaries though not necessarily perfectly as long as the gene pools remain distinct. The understanding of what a species is has been debated since Aristotle and having just read some of his work it is obvious that for him a species is at least a group of similar identified individuals and practically speaking this ends up being very close to the modern day equivalent of saying something like coyotes are a species and wolves are a species and he would put them in the same “genus.” If you meant had in mind these types of definitions then you would be absolutely wrong that species have never been observed to evolve. But, as I said, I expect that you mean something like a large “kind” group like canines. You are saying that groups of species have never come from other groups of species. Like canines have not been observed evolving from felines. I suppose you could say that has never been observed in real time. Just be careful to define terms and say that you believe that hundreds of thousands of species have evolved from common ancestors based on the definitions that are universally accepted among all scientists about what species are otherwise people like my colleagues will believe you think that coyotes, dogs and wolves were specially created and that all 300,000 species of flowering plants were created as they are today. As an aside, I am guessing this is what you meant because Ken Ham and others seem to be very comfortable with all 30+ “species” of canines all evolving form a single pair of ancestors. This would be considered by any evolution textbook to be evolution of species (and this would also be called macroevolution to any evolutionist). Therefore Christians should be careful to be clear what they mean when they say that evolution can’t happen since to most evolutionist (I know many and work with many) it seems bizzarre to deny that evolution happens when they see YEC accepting evolution of species all the time. You should say that you don’t believe that new fundamental kinds are evolving to make your position clear. Maybe you could say that Scripture says nothing about speciation but perhaps is says something about “kinding” :=)
      Regards, Joel

      • Rachel Miller says:

        I’m pretty sure that Rebecca means that birds didn’t evolve from dinosaurs, that amphibians didn’t evolve from fish, and that humans didn’t evolve from apes. And the whole of the animal kingdom didn’t evolve from a single cell organism that emerged from the cosmic soup.

  2. Natural Historian says:

    Hi Rachel, I was pretty sure that is what she meant as well. I’m just making clear that the word species has a definite meaning and that this is a case where the meaning of species carries tons of baggage and should be avoided if one wan’t to make their point clear. I’m really not trying to be difficult I just want everyone to be clear what the terms mean and I think that many people are not aware of some important aspects of the terms they are using. Species, as everyone that I know (YEC or OEC) have definitely come from other species. Goats and sheep have a common ancestor according to AIG and so it would completely appropriate to say that hundreds of species of goats and sheep have evolved from a common ancestor. Since the boundaries of kinds are notoriously difficult to define just like the boundaries of species it is hard to say what has and hasn’t evolved but I would certainly understand that Rebecca would understand that birds don’t come from dinosaurs since they are fairly clearly different biblical kinds. The rejection of evolution is rejection of what I suppose could called deep divergence evolution rather than shallow branch evolution. Just trying to bring some deeper understanding to something that few people understand very well.

  3. Rebecca Miller says:

    What I meant is everything we see that is living coming from the first living organism. And yes kinds, but as Darwin explains the origin of all species. Evolutionists and textbooks often give variation within a species as evidence of evolution. For example, the picture of the horses of ascending sizes. We see horses and dogs of various sizes as there is still variation within a species. My point was that there is no observable, testable evidence that one “kind” and evolve from another. Experiments like the fruit fly experiment have proven that mutations are not a mechanism of evolution but prove to be a mechanism for deterioration of the “kind”. There is also the problem of information that is insurmountable. Information comes from minds and not non-living matter. There is no natural explanation for the information in DNA. There is no provable, observable source of the information in the natural world other than from minds. Of course you can’t even talk about evolution without first explain where all the stuff comes from including that first living cell. So to actually believe that all of what is living on this planet comes from a single celled organism without any observable evidence is to stretch the imagination and suppress the obvious truth.

  4. Justin says:

    The issue with evidences and proofs is, as you point out, that all evidences and proofs are looked at through our presuppositions- and everyone has presuppositions.

    Those, IMO, should be the focus point of the discussion.

    Dr. Greg Bahnsen discussed this approach quite exhaustively, and was very good at expounding and practicing it.

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