The Bible or science?

February 7, 2009

ky-southern-baptist-seminary-louisville

The Baptist Standard has an interesting and sad article on Kurt Wise — one of the very, very, very few “scientists” who have received top-notch advanced education in the natural sciences yet have rejected the evolution paradigm of any sort. So, what moment was decisive in Kurt’s decision? Here it is:

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Wise, a Harvard graduate who studied under paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, gave up his dream of teaching at a major university because he could not reconcile claims of science with his faith.

At one point, Wise took out a newly purchased Bible and a pair of scissors. Beginning at Gen. 1:1, he cut out every verse that would have to be removed in order for him to believe in evolution.

Months later, he cut out his final verse and one of the last verses in the Bible, Rev. 22:19, which read, “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Wise describes what happened next: “With the cover of the Bible taken off, I attempted to physically lift the Bible from the bed between two fingers. Yet, try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two. I had to make a decision between evolution and Scripture. Either the Scripture was true and evolution was wrong, or evolution was true and I must toss out the Bible.”

Dawkins called Wise’s story “pathetic and contemptible.”

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Dawkins is right. Well, maybe “contemptible” is a bit strong, but “pathetic” is right. I truly cannot imagine a more lame account of someone struggling with reconciling their faith with science. Dawkins puts it well: “All he had to do was toss out the Bible or interpret it symbolically or allegorically as the theologians do. Instead, he did the fundamentalist thing and tossed out science, evidence and reason….” Interestingly, Wise has long noted that the science indeed does support evolution and that Creationism has yet to yield a sufficient counter-thesis. In the meantime, he has to reject the intelligibilities of the world as it presents itself to us.

Sad. So sad.

And to top it off, Southern Seminary, the flagship SBC seminary and one-time serious theological academy, hired Wise a few years ago to head their Center for Theology and “Science” (okay, there are no quotation marks). We’ve come a long way since people like David Mueller (Barth scholar) or even E. Y. Mullins (greatest Southern Baptist theologian ever) taught at Southern.

edgar-young-mullins

E. Y. Mullins, ora pro nobis

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10 Responses to “The Bible or science?”

  1. Is Wise any different from the rest of us?

    I took one class from Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard, and got a chance to explore his attitudes towards Evangelicals. The class was team-taught by the philosopher Robert Nozick and lawyer Alan Dershowitz. I was intrigued to discover that Dershowitz actively valued the input of Evangelicals while Gould was openly hostile. (Nozick didn’t take any overt positions.)

    I write that to say this–Gould made no secret of the fact that his daring approach to evolutionary biology was driven by his Marxist precommitments. Marx taught revolution, not evolution, and Gould applied that to his science.

    If Gould was telling the same story as Wise, he might have said, “I took ‘Das Kapital’ and a pair of scissors and started cutting out every section that I would have to give up if evolution were true…”

    Gould was applauded for his “courageous” reshaping of Darwinism. He was welcomed into the halls of higher learning for it. Wise was, too, in his own way. One wound up at Harvard, the other at Southern Baptist Seminary, but both made the same kind of choice for the same kind of reason and reaped the same kind of reward.

    Thomas Kuhn describes the reason for all this in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

  2. Thanks Scott for the insight on Gould. However, I doubt Gould was driven to accept evolution only because of its coherence with his materialist Marxism. The science itself is the compelling ground. The Marxism forms a part of the larger matrix (or, yes, paradigm) of materialism in which evolutionary theory also nicely coheres. The question is whether contemporary science can also cohere with Christian dogma, not in the sense of “supporting” per se, but rather “allowing,” for lack of a better word. Unless we are to advocate a radical split in our epistemology at the material level (e.g., “biblical” faith disallows modern genetics, but does allow algebra), we have to say that there is a coherence.

    We are not all stuck in our relative paradigms, as if the self were the testing ground for objective reality. There is a real world out there.

  3. Iohannes said

    I’m not very informed on the subject, but I think Scott was referring to Gould’s idea of punctuated equilibrium (not just evolution in general) as influenced in its formulation by Marxism.

  4. Arni said

    I’m not very informed either, but doesn’t the idea of punctuated equilibrium have some evidence behind it, unlike creationism? There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by a non-scientific idea to put forward a scientific idea, as long as your idea is actually scientific. Am I wrong?

  5. My point about Gould was that he BROKE with the received neo-Darwinian wisdom because it conflicted with another ideological commitment. The evidence for punctuated equlibrium (let’s be candid–the evidence AGAINST orthodox neo-Darwinians gradualism) was there on the table for everyone to see all along.

    Based on my personal conversations with Gould, plus things he has said in print, the reason Gould was bold enough to challenge the scientific orthodoxy was not solely that the evidence made him do it. Thomas Kuhn provides an elegant description of the sociology of science that perfectly fits what happened in Gould’s case in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

    The point I was making with respect to Wise was simply this–it might be an error to praise Gould for his courage in questioning neo-Darwinianism but to blame Wise for his “pathetic” betrayal of science if the two men were both pursuing a deeper faithfulness to an extra-scientific ideology.

  6. Thanks for the clarification, Scott. Very interesting. I’m familiar with Kuhn, but not Gould, so I’ll have to bow out.

  7. john said

    what are the real proofs about God ?

  8. what are the real proofs about God?

    The new creation.

  9. Chair Foot said

    Gould was not anti-religion. He didn’t think that they needed to be in conflict because they are, in his words, “Non-Overlapping Magisteria.” They address completely different approaches to inquiry, do not overlap, and do not encompass all inquiry.
    I always interpreted Gould’s NOMA to be similar to Wittgenstein’s “forms of life” and “language games” concepts.

    Perhaps Gould’s dislike of evangelicals stems from most evangelicals wanting the Bible to be a scientific document taught alongside Origin of Species, which violated NOMA.. Gould didn’t view creationism as a religious concept. He said it was a specifically American political concept.
    Gould proclaimed to be an agnostic.

    [I know this discussion is from five years ago, but I just read it, so it's new to me, LOL. My apologies]

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