Shuck and Jive

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Post 8: The Latest from Bob!

Cosmology and Evolution


Nice response. I’ll come back to it later. I want to talk about cosmology and evolution because I suspect we might agree, at least on the science.

First, let’s admit we aren’t evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, astronomers, geologists or physicists of any kind. Maybe you have more training in these areas than I do but our primary work is not in these areas. So comments that either of us make in these areas of those of amateurs.

But we have opinions whether we have expertise or not.

First, the Bible isn’t a science text. It wasn’t meant to be. It was meant to talk about God’s relationship with humans and to reflect on what the writers thought God wanted from humans. As Jack Rogers said when I was his student, God spoke to people and always speaks to people in language they could understand. God wasn’t interested in telling people from the 10th century BC to the 1st century AD that their cosmology was wrong. So we shouldn’t expect the Biblical writers to step outside their cultural milieu and talk about modern science. As I do Biblical work, this is one of my assumptions.

Also, having done some light reading in the history of science and the philosophy of science I don’t make any assumptions that say we have things all figured out. After all, who thought in 1900 that electricity could flow through imprinted silicon chips and allow us to use computers? Or that Newtonian physics would have some strange changes by Albert Einstein?

And scientists are human. Many get emotionally attached to their favorite theories and have difficulty letting them go. Most of a generation of physicists rejected Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

So having said that let me make my amateur observations. I rather like the Big Bang theory and have read some stuff on it for the general public. Frankly I think the idea that time didn’t exist until the bang happened is really cool. But I’m no expert and I sure don’t know the math that goes along with the theory so in a sense I have no right to say whether it appropriately describes what we know about the beginnings of the universe at this particular time in history. I can say that the cosmology of the Bible will never be a future model for scientific opinions about the origins of the universe or to describe the place of the earth in the universe.

Concerning evolution I have some concerns. They don’t grow out of my view of or use of the Bible. My concerns grow out of anomalies that affect the theory and the way science changes theories on the basis of new evidence. I believe it was Stephen Gould who first proposed the theory that evolution does not happen gradually but rather through long periods of stasis and then relatively short periods of great change. If anyone has proposed why these short periods happen, I have not yet read about it.

So my basic position is:

  1. The Biblical writers did not intend to tell us about the origins of the universe but rather to make claims about God as over against the gods of the surrounding cultures and about the relationship between God and humans.
  2. Scientific theories are always temporary and will change, either by evolution of the theory (as has happened so far with the theory of evolution) or replacement of the theory by a new theory that better explains the data (as with Einstein’s theory did with Newtonian physics in relation to movement of objects in the solar system).

I suspect that we can agree about this. How it affects theology is another question. But enough for how.


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