Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Sen. Brownback on Evolution

Generally, it's a bad idea when people start talking beyond their area of competence, so I was surprised to be quite favorably impressed by a piece in the NY Times (H.T. Pro Ecclesia) by Senator Brownback detailing his views on evolution.

It seems that at one of the Republican debates a reporter asked if any candidates who did not "believe in evolution" would raise their hands. Brownback was one of three two did so, and attempts to explain his reasoning for this more clearly in his letter:
The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God....

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
From some of his comments (such as pointing to the debate concerning punctuated equilibrium vs. "classical Darwinism") I think Sen. Brownback may be as well informed on some of the issues as one could be. However, he seems to show a good understanding of what he does and does not know, and does not attempt to impose an order on those scientific issues which he is not familiar with. Rather, he focuses on the philosophical/theological point which is truly important to him. (Would that Cardinal Shonborn could bring himself to do the same when he writes on the topic.)


Anonymous said...

And of course there is the problem of what it means to "believe in evolution" as if it were a secular profession of faith. I believe in the cuteness of puppies, the splendour of dancing daughters, the truths of my faith and the ultimate goodness of my country and am not willing to entertain seriously arguments and assertions that these things are not good and true.

Evolution is a scientific theory that has a good deal of explanatory power that I find interesting in most places and questionable in some formulations (especially when evolutionary biologists start getting the bug to write on history, psychology, philosophy and spirituality), but it is simply wrong to ask me to "believe in it." I presume that if a better formulation for the origin of species were presented and proven with thorough testing we could and should quickly and safely consign Darwinian evolution to the history of science and not trouble ourselves with it. Right now, it seems to me that evolution is a useful theory that sheds a good deal of light intellectually, and that is about it.

Forgive me for stepping on your turf Darwin, cause I'm sure you've heard these ponts formulated more effectively by people who care about them more, but I thought I might as well chime in with my unevolved thoughts on the subject.

Darwin said...

A good point.

My father used to put it: "I believe in God, my wife's love, and the beauty of music. I think that evolution represents the most correct understanding of biological history on our planet. They're not the same thing."

I'm impressed with a politician who both refuses to go along with a "please raise hands" approach to thinking (compounded by a bad use of terminology) and then goes on to clarify his stance so well and modestly.