Letter to the Editor

...and Origins Definitions


From: PSCF 46 (June 1994): 146-147.

John L. Wiester in the September 1993 issue of Perspectives does us a service in drawing attention to the present-day situation in debates around the word evolution.

On a discussion between Gingerich and Phillip Johnson at the 1992 ASA Annual Meeting on "a point on which there was unanimous agreement," Wiester says: "The issue is not evolution versus creation. The issue is design versus accident." Of these two statements I have no quarrel with the first, but the second is highly suspect.

Why should chance (accident) not be a feature of God's world? Even humans on occasion construct machines that have chance built into their operation, and yet their overall purpose is achieved. Evangelical and other contemporary writers such as Donald MacKay, Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne all accept chance as a feature of the creation. Are these people all wrong? If they are in fact right in their point of view that the world shows both chance and necessity, then clearly it is wrong to think that chance points to atheism and law to theism. Furthermore, if these writers are right, then it is Monod and Dawkins and others like them who are wrong. The issue is not design versus accident.

Looking back over history, Christians have often defended the indefensible. Cardinal Bellarmine was wrong in quoting scripture to show that the earth could not move, whilst Galileo was right. Last century, in contrast to A. R. Wallace, both T. H. Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce were wrong in thinking that the mechanism of natural selection was opposed to Christian faith, which faith on the most fundamental level says that whatever way the world is, it finds not only its origin but also its very existence and sustenance in the God of biblical theism.

Gingerich's solution, as quoted by Wiester, is said to be the classic ASA policy that evolution should be taught as science, unaccompanied by a philosophy that is a naturalistic ideology (that is, I suppose, atheistic materialism or scientific naturalism.) The classic ASA policy is, I submit, correct.

Wiester says the classic ASA policy has failed and wants to change it. He does this because, as he says, the present scientific power structure seems not to admit the classic ASA solution as permissible. Wiester produces a respectable set of exemplars of the present power structure, quoting Futuyma, Volpe at the first Science as a Way of Knowing Symposium, Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, the Royal Society of London, the biologists of AAAS as in project 2061, and Padian and other contributors to the 1990 Californian Science Framework. Nevertheless, however many voices advocate error, error does not thereby become truth.

What can we do with such people as Futuyma and the others, except confront them with sweet reason? At the least they should be able to see that the theist position is not unreasonable. And Christians have to acknowledge that atheism also has a right to exist even though it can not be deduced from Darwinism or neo-Darwinism.

Lawrence Lyons
2172 Moggill Road, 
KENMORE 4069, Australia