Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Evolution Conversation, Part 1: Introduction

The next series of articles I will be posting will be the results of a conversation I initiated and moderated while two friends of mine had a conversation about Evolution. I call it a conversation for a reason, and as I have written before, I think that is a very important practice that needs to happen in order to challenge our thinking, stretch our minds, and weed out our faulty notions. A conversation has give and take, humility, respect, and does not include certain elements that are so prevalent in the constant bickering that goes on in the blogosphere, particularly the Christian blogosphere, things like name-calling, and worse, offering "trump card arguments" like, "the Bible says it, and that is all the truth I need!" Whether or not that is true, we as Christians have the burden to be able to back up our claims with well reasoned dialogue and reasons that can hold up under scrutiny.

This state of affairs seems particularly true when matters of science are brought to the forefront. Christians seem to be hesitant to talk about scientific matters. So, in order to fight against this stereotype, in this first conversation (of many?) I moderated this conversation about Evolution. Evolution is quite a hot topic in the world today and in the continuing dialogue between the growing team of outspoken atheists and Christians. Before I tell you about the people in the conversation, let me share with you the rules that we layed out before the conversation started.

1. I am calling this a conversation for a reason, because a debate tends to sound angry and hostile.I what there to b give and take, respect, and grace given to each other. Obviously there should be no name calling or personal attacks.

They followed this one fine. There were some condescending tones, but they were certainly towards arguments and ideas rather than people.

2. Please try and respond in a timely manner (within 48 hours).

3. Please be sure to click "reply all" to keep me in the loop.

4. Try to keep all references to outside info contained in the conversation as much as possible. For example, if you reference a site/book and link to it, summarize your point so we are not left having to read a 15 page article with no commentary from the poster.


This one too was followed for the most part. Mark did link to videos and pictures that took some time to view, but it was never a burden. It flowed well with the conversation.

With that I will tell you a bit about how I know each of the participants. Chip has been a friend of mine for several years. He and I attended the same church and we have had many conversations about a myriad of issues regarding faith, science, math etc. He is very wise a a good thinker. He also loves Jesus and does all he can to live for him. Here is the bio he wrote for himself at the beginning of the conversation.

My name is Chip Burkitt. I am over 50, which I think is accurate enough for our purposes, and I've been married 23 years. I have six children all of whom are highly intelligent, remarkably good-looking, and impressively talented. I agree with Nick that Christians are usually abysmally ignorant of science, and too willing to discredit science that does not agree with a literal interpretation of the Bible despite overwhelming evidence. But I have to say that the nonChristians I have known are equally ignorant and prejudiced, and, lest I sound too elitist, I confess that I have sometimes said stupid things, too.

I also agree with Nick that science has limits. In particular, it is very good at answering "how" questions and very poor at answering "why" questions. I am not a scientist myself, nor do I have a background in science. My background is in English literature (especially 18th century British) and desktop computing. Nevertheless, I believe I can understand any rational explanations commonly offered in defense of most scientific theories. I have read and understood Einstein's Relativity and most of Hawking's Brief History of Time.


Mark, who refers to himself as Cineaste, I have never known face to face, but I have read and dialogued with him for some time in the blogosphere, most often at www.timellsworth.com, where you can always find him stirring the pot and making people angry by his arguments. I immediately took a liking to his disciplined thinking and how he did not put up with bad logic and bad answers by Christians. He is an aggressive debater, but he seems to be always good humored. Here is how Mark introduces himself.

Name: Mark
Age: 36
Occupation: Consultant
Status: Single, in a relationship
Residence: Chicago, IL
Favorite Film: Ikiru directed by, Akira Kurosawa
School: Virginia Military Institute
Religion: None, though agnostic in regard to Spinoza's God

Guiding Philosophy: Existentialism - A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

Countries visited: Canada, Mexico, Philippines, Japan, New Zealand, England, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and many other European countries. I'd like to visit Greece next.

My conversation style: I reference videos, articles, cartoons to help make my points.


With Chip and Mark now introduced, I want to make a few comments about what this is and what this is not. First of all, this is a chance for us all to stretch our minds and challenge what we think. Jesus said that we should love the Lord our God with all our minds. Christians seldom do that. I also believe the old cliche that "all truth is God's truth." Our goal in this conversation is that we are looking for truth, and I think if we take that attitude, we will all be better off.

Secondly, this is not an attempt to convert Mark to Christianity or Chip to Darwinism (or anything else). Conversations are for learning and growing, not to "take another prisoner into our camp." You will see that the conversation does not yield much practical good. They did not solve the abiogenesis problem, for example. But they do make us think.

Lastly, this is not a time to get angry. I would ask you to lay down your right to get angry or offended. In these contexts, getting angry does not help. It only middies the waters.

Also, as a practical note, I have left Chip and Mark's comments in tact as much as possible. On the occasions where editing is needed, I have done my best to get their original point across. Both Chip and Mark will be following along with us, so if I get what they say wrong, you can be sure that they will correct me :)

I will close part one with the questioned that I offered them at the start, to guide their thinking. Think of how you would respond to this.

What are the facts about Evolution and what are the holes, does/can God fit into Evolution and, if so how, and does Creation make more sense?

In part 2, we will hear there opening statements and get into the conversation.

1 comment:

Nato said...

I really look forward to these postings.....