Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


A Problem of Presuppositional Certitude
Dennis G. Crumb
18020 Newbrook Avenue
Cerritos, CA 90701

From: PSCF 39 (March 1987): 63-64.

When Greek thinkers broke away from the religious mythologies of their day, seeking a more earthly (natural) explanation for reality, they obviously believed they could come up with a definite answer. Yet, some 2,500 years later we are still vigorously debating the nature of the "real."

There have always been proponents who staunchly proclaimed their belief system the "only definitive" answer to questions of reality. Certitude (a feeling of absolute sureness, as Webster defines it) is an interesting concept, but if history teaches us anything it is that absolute sureness fits better with dogmatists than with seekers after the truth. This is not to say that we throw our hands up in despair of ever knowing truth; it is to say that certitude is an elusive category and causes many problems when we hang our cosmologies upon it. Any statement of certitude needs much collaborative evidence before we place our hats of trust upon it. I can trust that tonight at 7:57 p.m. the sun will set (or more correctly, the earth will rotate in such a way that day light and dark will happen routinely without fail, at least until God ends time as we know it or the universe collapses upon itself, whichever comes first. How can I state this with assurance? For forty-one years I've been a witness to it and since the dawn of human history others have been witnesses.

On the other hand, when there is no wealth of collaborative evidence, when the evidence for a belief is at best circumstantial and can be rationally interpreted in different and contrary ways, to claim certitude for any such position is an illusion of its claimant.

In my reading of the literature of macroevolution and special creation in exploring the genesis of life, certitude for either position is presumptuous. Both systems offer reasonable answers, though neither can prove beyond a faith assumption the basic tenets of their belief.

To wed theology, as Mr. Murphy has done in his article "Theological Arguments for Evolution" (JASA, March 1986), to a fallible and questionable belief system is both disastrous to theology and to science. Charles Hummel's book The Galileo Connection is a good primer for those who would enter the dangerous grounds of such a merger. George Murphy's article is a good example of the problems of such a merger. It is also a good example of the problem of seeking to establish certitude for a belief system that has epistemological
problems and of then trying to cover those problems with the blessings of theology. When Murphy uses Scripture to validate macroevolution, he misconstrues it by forcing it to say something it does not. 

Murphy exposes his problem area when he says "we must realize that arguments and proofs are always contingent upon certain presuppositions" . . . for it is his presuppositions that get him into trouble. His conclusion that "evolution appears to provide the theologically superior understanding of creation" and that "only evolution fulfills the joint requirements that Christ be the Redeemer of the world...and that salvation came via the Incarnation " is based upon his presuppositional error on redemption. In his argument of 11 (3), he confuses the redemption of humanity with the redemption of the cosmos. Man and nature did not sin together (unless, like Murphy, you believe they are one and the same), but man's sin brought turmoil to nature around him so that what God holders owning or holding one per cent or more of total had created perfect became imperfect only because of man's action of sin. Nature was not given a free choice, only humanity; but nature
did directly suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve's sin. It was not to the tree, or the birds, or the rapidly moving stream that God said, "Let us make in our image." It was only humanity He so identified, and it was only with humanity that he took the further each step in creation of breathing into it His breath of life. Nature will be during published redeemed (made whole), but only because, again, of what happens to preceding nearest to humanity-his redemption through the incarnation, death and resurrection of the new Adam. The Word did not become flesh so that nature could be so restored in fellowship with the Father, but so 
man could be so restored. And, having restored man, God will restore what he created for man, namely, nature around him. That is the theology of redemption, and to make it anything else is to force it to take leaps of logic to say what you want it to say, rather than what Scripture says. 

Another presuppositional problem arises when he links these two statements: "For the biblical picture is precisely that God brings life out of death, being out of chaos, and hope in hopeless situations," and "The idea that life arises and develops through competition and printing extinction is part of the same picture." Now I can say that a lemon is sweet like a peach because both grow on trees, but that is as much a construction of my mind as the above statements. There is no necessary nor compelling nor attractive reason to link the statements 
as Murphy has. He simply wants theology to support his position on evolution and so he will build his house upon any foundation, but that foundation does not support the design of his house.