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Bruderhof Communities
An international Christian movement of communal settlements dedicated to nonviolence, simplicity, and service, with communtiies in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, England, Germany, and Australia.

In Praise of Black Sheep Reasons to Love Your Difficult Child, by Johann Christoph Arnold
If anything, parents of difficult children ought to be envied, because it is they, more than any others, who are forced to learn the most wonderful secret of true parenthood: the meaning of unconditional love.

In Praise of Fatherhood, by Johann Christoph Arnold
Life in today’s world is life in a war zone, and too many fathers are unwilling to be called up—to be soldiers, twenty-four hours a day, on their own home front.

Will the Virginia Tech Tragedy Change Us?, by Johann Christoph Arnold
Senseless violence and death won’t be overcome by sitting, numbly glued to the TV, watching as the story is played and replayed over and over again.

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Teaching Science: A Balanced Perspective on the Evolution vs. Creation Debate

The debate between evolutionism and creationism that rages in our schools has little to do with real science. It’s about who we really are: the image of God or clever animals destined for annihilation?


The root of the word "science" is "to know," and its original meaning is simply the possession of knowledge as opposed to ignorance or misunderstanding. God gave us our brains and the ability to discover, to observe, and to learn. For us who believe, what we learn gives us reason for praise; it fills us with wonder at the omnipotence of the Creator and the beauty of everything he has made—from the sky at morning to the buds of spring.

In the same way that we can see the hand of God in the world around us, we can recognize it in the branches of science that analyze it: biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Far from weakening our faith, these can strengthen our awe at the power of God manifested in creation and strengthen our love for him.

God gave us our brains and the ability to discover, to observe, and to learn.
Unfortunately, much of what is taught today in the name of science is characterized by a complete disregard for God. Naturalism—the belief that the physical or material world is all that existsis treated as a basic fact, and anything that questions its assumptions is quickly dismissed as religious superstition. William Provine, a biology professor at Cornell, writes:

Modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with mechanistic principles. There is no purposive principle whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable...

Second, modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws, no absolute guiding principles for human society.

Third...the individual human becomes an ethical person by means of two primary mechanisms: heredity and environmental influences. That is all there is.

Fourth, we must conclude that when we die, we die and that is the end of us...

Finally, free will as it is traditionally conceived...simply does not exist.

The essential conflict is not so much how human beings came about, but what they are in relation to the rest of life.
In general, any discussion of science will sooner or later bump on one of the many basic disagreements between such attitudes and the attitude of faith held by most believers. Nowhere, however, are the lines as sharply drawn as in the debate over the origin of life. I myself wholeheartedly believe with the apostle John that "in the beginning was the Word" and that "through him everything was made." At the same time, I cannot agree with the self-righteous scorn heaped on all aspects of evolutionary theory by many fundamentalists, especially the many so-called creationists who insist on interpreting the seven days described in Genesis as literal twenty-four-hour days.

What route can an educator (or parent) who is leery of both viewpoints take? To begin with, let me say that I see no purpose in giving equal space to every theory and hoping that one's children will find their own way. Why hinder their childlike faith by confusing them with materialistic theories that deny the existence of the Spirit? Even though the story of Genesis may prove nothing (as Hebrews 11:3 says, "By faith alone we perceive that the whole universe was fashioned by the Word of God, so that the visible came forth from the invisible"), anyone who is honest with himself must agree that there are no scientific proofs for contrary explanations either.

Whether "creationism" or "evolutionism" carries the day need not detract from our faith in the Creator of all things.
Conflicting theories abound, and opinions are set against opinions. New "proofs" are given recognition in the headlines one week but disappear the next as others emerge. In one journal we read about the discovery of yet another previously missing link; in another we find that new advances in molecular biology place evolutionary theory under greater attack than ever before. In the end, we are still left with more questions than answers, with more wonder than actual knowledge. Even the greatest scientists of this century recognized that. Einstein himself is said to have commented that anyone who is "not lost in rapturous awe of the power and glory of the Mind behind the universe is as good as a burnt-out candle."

Admittedly, the Bible leaves the inquiring mind with more than a few questions. In Genesis we read that God created the world and everything in it in six days, and that on the seventh day he rested. We read, too, that he created man on the sixth day, and made him of clay. Then in 2 Peter 3:8 we read that "for God one day is like a thousand years." Whether the sixth day was twenty-four hours or one thousand years, or whether the piece of clay had for a time the form and stance of an ape, is not at all important.

For the believer, the decisive issue is the fact that at a certain moment, God breathed his breath—the breath of lifeinto man, and in this way made him in his image. At that inconceivably great moment, man became a living creature endowed with an eternal soul.

The decisive issue is the fact that at a certain moment, God breathed his breath—the breath of life—into man, and in this way made him in his image.
Whether "creationism" or "evolutionism" carries the day need not detract from our faith in the Creator of all things. In the end, the essential conflict is not so much how human beings came about, but what they are in relation to the rest of life. Even if it were proved that we humans evolved from apelike creatures, I would still believe we are set apart; that we are not just one species among the many that inhabit our earth, but exist on a higher plane. As human beings, we possess consciences to know right from wrong; hearts that can feel love and compassion, and minds able to acquire and develop abstract knowledge. Because of this, we are responsible for our thoughts and actions and must answer to God for the choices we make.

Whatever we teach our children about the creation of the world and the origin of man (or about any other topic of science, for that matter), let us remind them—and ourselvesthat at root, the controversy lies in the eternal conflict between God and human pride. Perhaps that is the most vital recognition we can pass on to them. Naturally, we ourselves must recognize this first. Eberhard Arnold writes, "[As an educator] you must learn wonder. In the knowledge of your own smallness, marvel at the greatness of the divine mystery that lies hidden in all things and behind all things...Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder."

Darwin and Huxley promoted evolution and scientific humanism as necessary counterbalances to the "error" of faith, and Nietzsche spoke of an Übermensch ("superman") who existed in God's place. We believe, on the other hand, that redemption will never come about through an evolutionary process or through our own human efforts, but through God's kingdom, which breaks in at his time and in his way, whenever men and women seek its spirit. Ultimately, that recognition is the basis of our thirst for knowledge and the goal of all our longings. For us, it is truth in its simplest and most powerful form. 

October 3, 2005

JOHANN CHRISTOPH ARNOLD is senior pastor of the Bruderhof–an international communal movement dedicated to a life of simplicity, service, sharing, and nonviolence.

Reprinted with permission from Bruderhof.com. Copyright © 2005, Bruderhof Communities. All rights reserved.

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11.21.05   metameta says:
While the moderator is getting around to allowing my reply through, let me add that you are correct that science can't validly question it's first principles. But again, it's the illusion that modern science completely describes the world that is the base of the problem. Science wouldn't question its first principles if it understood that those first principles were outside its authority and that science doesn't comprehend all of nature, let alone all of reality.The dispute with Gilson has to do with later consequences of metaphysical reasoning and their relationship to the sensible world, not the first principles.From a tactical point of view, it's difficult to get people to listen to "impractical" ideas like causality when modern technological conveniences are constantly reaffirming the power of modern science. It's much easier to get people to admit that they are part of something larger than themselves, something outside their desires, when that something is sensible, like the natural world, than when it is an invisible principle.Certainly principles like causality come prior philosophically--in an absolute sense--to any reasoning, most notably reasoning about nature, but concrete human belief in such principles goes hand-in-hand with observing them at work in the world.The reality of European civilization is based on modern science, which in turn is based on faith in principles like causality. This faith didn't spring full-grown from the head of a philosopher (such as Aristotle, otherwise the Greeks would have started science as a self-sustaining enterprise), but from the Incarnation of God in sensible form.

11.18.05   metameta says:
Garbonzo,Thanks for your reply. You are correct in criticizing the usurpation of metaphysics by modern science. I'm certainly not claiming that we should base our philosophy on the half-educated statements of physics who would annoint themselves philosophers. What I am criticizing is near-mystical detachment of metaphysics from realistic philsophy (i.e., properly grounded in the senses). This is precisely where Gilson runs aground.Gilson is one of those Catholic philosophers of the last century who abandoned the natural world for the "safety" of metaphysics (I've written about the broader context of this "strategic withdrawal" here: How to Lose the Culture War). This is exactly the opposite approach of Gilson's erstwhile mentors, Aristotle and Aquinas.The basis of the realistic philosophy of these intellectual titans is that all knowledge begins with the senses, and that even knowledge that goes beyond the senses must ultimately originate from the senses. For this reason, man most naturally understands the invisible world and even himself “by means of likenesses taken from sensible things” (citation below). A confused picture of nature will necessarily baffle all our other thinking, including philosophy.Recall that Aristotle's Metaphysics follows the Physics (physics in the classical not modern sense). There is a deep meaning here. When metaphysics is divorced from nature, it becomes fideism.On the question of natural philosophy, Maritain at least made an attempt, though the success of his results is incomplete. I take this understanding from Fr. Ashley and Ralph McInerny. Both work with Anthony Rizzi's Institute for Advanced Physics, of which I am a member.MJP.S. My latest post on Darwinism: Creation, Atheism, and Darwinism.CITATIONAquinas, Commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius, trans. Armand Maurer (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1986), (VI, 3) 85; cf. ST I 84, 7 ad 3; ScG II.3.6.

10.28.05   garbonzo says:
metameta, It seems to me that you are on the right track. But you frame the "critical philosophical problem" as the question "what are darwinism's implications for our conception of nature". I believe the problem is more basic than this, and it revolves around the attempts of the last five centuries to replace "metaphysical" thinking with so-called "scientific". I offer Etienne Gilson's wisdom from his "Unity of Philosophical Experience": 'Theology, logic, physics, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, are fully competent to solve their own problems by their own methods; on the other hand . . . as metaphysics aims at transcending all particular knowledge, no particular science is competent either to solve metaphysical problems, or to judge their metaphysical solutions.'The eminent philosophers of the last four centuries have made repeated attempts to supplant metaphysics with some scientific, mathematical, or other "method", while the fideists you mention have tried to supplant the sciences - whether history or biology - with theology. All these attempts fail, and devolve into "isms".One example I remember from my university days was when quantum physicists deny the principle of causality... and one of my physics professors (a Catholic) thought that might leave us with room for human free will! Few physicists seem to grasp that physics is based on metaphysical principles, including causality, and that it is not within the purview of a science to question its first principles.Gar

10.23.05   metameta says:
My latest post on how Darwinism is culturally irrelevant might interest you:Intelligence Transcends ScienceMJ

10.22.05   metameta says:
While Arnold's article does an able job handling the theological controversy, it sadly leaves unaddressed the critical philosophical problem: what are Darwinism's actual implications for our conception of nature? The question of nature is critical to our human self-understanding and to the grounding of the natural moral law, which is the necessary basis for human laws. It is precisely this question that and the failure of Christians to answer it adequately that allows moderns to believe that natural institutions like marriage, the family are purely conventional--arbitrary creations of human desire.Speaking to the theology without handling the philosophy effectively exacerbates the fideism that dominates modern Christian thought, and that increasingly infects Catholic theology, especially here in the basically Protestant United States.For more on this topic, I highly recommend Fr. Benedict Ashley's excellent Theologies of the Body: Humanist and Christian (the title pre-dates the similarly titled collection of John Paul II's addresses). The first third of the book explores the history of the two "theologies" of our corporality. Another very good (albeit dense) examination of the issue is David L. Schindler's "The Problem of Mechanism".In response to drewproxy:Death is a problem if you read Genesis very simplistically. But look a little deeper. An existence to which death is foreign must be ruled by natural (physical) laws much different from those we know here and now, so it seems unlikely that time followed the same linear progression either (with its inexorable increase of entropy--i.e., death). From a moral point of view also, it would seem that the pre-lapsarian world's time doesn't connect simply to our own. If we all fell in our First Parents, then we existed in them in some sense; this co-existence would not be possible if they existed simply "before" us.MJ

10.18.05   drewproxy says:
There is one problem with evolution and Genesis that this author did not mention. He seems to imply that the theory of evolution is compatible with the creation account but it is not. If we really did evolve by a process of natural selection, then death would have existed before man and before original sin. Death was a result of original sin, it did not exist prior to the Fall.

10.10.05   Luciano Miceli says:
One of the signs I look for in the truth of something is how it's enemies react especially if they rageagainst it. As long as they had to deal with the fundamentalist view of creation their ego inflated butsecretly they wanted them around so they make all faithful christians look like ignoramus. Now they, like spoiled children, they rage and hurl insults because they deep down know that the intelligent design theory has got them cornered. It also seems to me that this also fits with the workings of Divine Providence because first God asks us to live by faith then He brings us into the light or as St. Augustin so succintly said "I beleive therefore I understand" in our case we were able to look inside the cell and what a marvel we see it's irreducible complexity. Thanks be to God! Luciano

10.05.05   Godspy says:
The debate between evolutionism and creationism that rages on in our schools has little to do with real science. It’s about who we really are: the image of God or clever animals destined for annihilation?

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