Tag Archives: origins

Marilynne Robinson on ‘The Accidental’ as a Basis For Interpretation

In her book Absence of Mind, in the essay “The Strange History of Altruism,” Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson reviews some of the popular books about science. In the excerpt that follows, she makes an interesting observation about the consequences of two outlooks. I’m guessing most of my readers will agree with her point of view, but even those who won’t agree could see something valuable in her take:

“The comparison that is salient here is between the accidental and the intentional in terms of their consequences for the interpretation of anything. In the course of my reading, I have come to the conclusion that the random, the accidental, have a strong attraction for many writers because they simplify by delimiting. Why is there something rather than nothing? Accident. Accident narrows the range of appropriate strategies of interpretation, while intention very much broadens it. Accident closes on itself, while intention implies that, in and beyond any particular fact or circumstance, there is vastly more to be understood. Intention is implicitly communicative, because an actor is described in any intentional act. Why is the human brain the most complex object known to exist in the universe? Because the elaborations of the mammalian brain that promoted the survival of the organism overshot the mark in our case. Or because it is intrinsic to our role in the universe as thinkers and perceivers, participants in a singular capacity for wonder as well as for comprehension.”

Food for thought.

Meanwhile, Robinson has written an interesting analysis of Donald Trump for the Guardian.

Related:

Marilynne Robinson on ‘the felt life of the mind’ and beauty and strangeness

Marilynne Robinson’s Calvinism is an alternative to The Gospel Coalition’s Calvinism

 

A good post on science and faith: science and faith need not be adversaries

Here is an excellent post about science and faith — better than my own post today about evolution, creationism, and Intelligent Design.

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‘Intelligent Design’ proponents accept aspects of evolution that creationists do not

Even though Intelligent Design’s moment in the public spotlight seems to have passed, what follows is a clarification of the I.D. position from the Winter 2008 edition of Salvo, a magazine that mostly retreads old-school Christian apologetics.

It’s not that I buy into so-called I.D. I have been persuaded of an evolutionary view through the work of Dr. Francis C. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, and oddly enough, a convinced Christian who came to faith through reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Everyone, of any point of view, should read Collins’ book The Language of God.

But for basic clarity and fairness, the I.D. position needs to be understood on its own terms, not as thinly veiled creationism.

Here are three points that Salvo made, worth understanding if you care about understanding the debate:

What I.D. is Not

“I.D. Is Creationism:” You’ve no doubt heard this one numerous times. In reality, this is flat-out false. The average creationist believes in a young earth, biblical literalism, and the complete absence of evidence for evolutionary processes. The I.D. proponent, on the other hand, rejects — or at the very least suspends speculation on — all three of these convictions, maintaining only that there are reasons to conclude that life was designed; how it was designed or by whom both lie beyond the I.D. theorist’s field of inquiry.

“The Opponents of I.D. Are Evolutionists:” Wrong again. It is primarily the scientific naturalist — or Darwinist — with whom I.D. advocates take issue. The difference? Scientific naturalism is a philosophical position that assumes an entirely materialistic origin to the universe — a faith claim for which Darwinists have no proof whatsoever — while evolutionary theory is a multifaceted set of assertions that attempts to account for the present diversity of life here on Earth, some specific aspects of which most I.D. scientists accept as fact.

“I.D. Is a ‘God of the Gaps’ Theory:” The contention here is that I.D. merely offers holes in evolutionary theory as evidence for God. Once again, this is a gross mischaracterization. The science of I.D. is not simply to study gaps in evolution but to study products of design — to examine biological phenomena to see whether they exhibit the characteristics of design beyond a shadow of a doubt. I.D. scientists only appeal to an intelligent designer because that is where their research points. It is absolutely not a default position.

That second-to-last sentence sounds disengenuous. I imagine there are not many in the I.D. movement who had no inkling of a designer prior to their research. That being said, researchers and scientists frequently begin with assumptions.

The bigger point, I think, is that there is a big difference between young-earth creationists and Intelligent-Design proponents.

I bet if the I.D. proponents had made their approach through philosophy and the history of ideas, rather than science, and allowed their work to gain credibility on the university level and then trickle down, in its own way, to secondary education, they might have gotten further.

After all, as the folks at Salvo said, “Scientific naturalism is a philosophical position….”

And even Collins believes God kicked it all off; the award-winning physicist Paul Davies describes something like God behind the beginning of the universe; John Polkinghorne is an acclaimed physicist who happens to be an Anglican priest, too.

Read The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

-Colin Foote Burch

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‘The Language of God’ still selling

This coming Sunday, Dr. Francis S. Collins’ The Language of God (Free Press) will appear at No. 21 on the New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller list. It was released in 2006. Safe to say people are still reading it.

Thanks be to God.

This is a needed book in our time.  Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, explains his Christian faith as well as the reasonableness of evolutionary science. The Language of God is one of those books that can stand in the gap of our culture war.

The New York Times, however, has failed to give it more than a brief, if encouraging, review (viewing the review online requires a paid membership; if you’re signed up, click here).