I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Battle of the books

Here’s a fun little allegory to commemorate the sad 150th anniversary of the publishing of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

One brisk November afternoon, two gentlemen stood opposite one another at an intersection. Each had a book in his hands; and each was determined in his direction of travel...

“Good day there, sir. Beautiful afternoon isn’t it?” Christian began.

“Indeed, indeed.” Mr. Wiseman responded. “I see you have a book there. Are you off to the gala to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its publishing, as I am?”

“Sorry, Mr....?”

“Wiseman. Worldly Wiseman.”

“Greetings. My name is Christian. No sir, I’m going to no gala; rather, a wedding banquet. And as for my little book, we celebrate its publication every Sunday.”

“You don’t mean to say that you still carry a Bible do you?!?” Mr. Wiseman retorted incredulously.

“Indeed! Real history and timeless truth—The Omnibus.” Christian happily shot back. “What’s the book you have there?”

“Why, it’s Darwin’s Origin of the Species, the object of today’s festive gathering. I’d invite you to join me, Mr. Christian. Perhaps the speakers could cure your superstition.” Making his point, Wiseman continued, “As one of them has said, ‘Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.’”

“Satisfied you say?” Christian inquired. “To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet (Prov 27:7).”

“Typical pious-sounding response there, Mr. Christian.” Wiseman chuckled. “You fundamentalists always act threatened when Darwin’s theory’s mentioned—it’s like a phobia!”

“You confuse our fear of the irrational with irrational fear.”

“Whatever could you possibly mean, Christian?!?”

“Well, you believe that book gives you a reason for scorning this book.” Christian contended earnestly.

“One doesn’t have to believe the silly myths in the Bible, such as creation, to appreciate the moral teachings of Jesus!”

“But Jesus’ moral teachings are grounded in a literal understanding of Genesis as real time-space history (Matt 19:4—6), so also the forth commandment (Ex 20:8—11). You’re being arbitrary; you’re not living up to your name, Mr. Wiseman.”

Perceiving that the conversation was moving in a direction that made him uncomfortable, Mr. Wiseman took advantage of a passing vehicle to gather his thoughts and redirect their attention back to his book. With new determination, Mr. Wiseman asked, “Mr. Christian, seriously now, you’re not insinuating that you don’t believe evolution are you?!? Because, it’s been proven that...”

“Forgive my interruption, Mr. Wiseman. Please, one thing at a time. ‘Do I believe in evolution?’ That is your initial question, correct?”

“That’s right.”

“I must first ask you a question: Whatever do you mean by ‘evolution’?”

“Good sir, I mean ‘change over time.’ That’s incontrovertible.” Wiseman insisted.

“To be sure, change from Poodle to Pit Bull is one thing; however, change from particles to people is entirely another. The distinction I’m asking for is between so-called microevolution and meta-evolution. I believe you’re guilty of equivocating the two.”

“Such distinctions are unnecessary in theory.” Proclaimed Wiseman.

“Good. Let’s assume the truth of your theory for discussion’s sake and see where it leads.” Putting his hand to the plow, Christian sought to break-up the fallow ground. “If all you mean is microevolution—that changes occur within a given genus—then you have no evidence to contradict my book, since God decreed the law of biogenesis some ten times in the first chapter. No one questions microevolution. But if instead you mean to interpret the world in terms of meta-evolution—only time and chance acting on matter—then your theory cannot be true.”

“Re...Really?” Wiseman stammered. “I’d like to hear your argument for that!”

“Let me ask you another question, Mr. Wiseman. If you stood there shaking a bottle of soda and I stood on this side of the road shaking a bottle of soda, then we finally popped the tops, would you think it reasonable to ask which of our bottle’s fizz was true?”

“Absurdity, you simpleton!” Shouted Wiseman.

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Christian, “but if Darwin’s book is true, then each of our brains is just a random collection of atoms, which sometimes experience electrochemical reactions—like the sodas—that we feel are thoughts and reasons. So why do you believe that your fizzing is truer than mine? Fizz can’t be true or false; fizz just is. I fizz creationism and you fizz evolutionism. So, as you said, our debate would be absurd—if, that is, your book is true. Hence, Mr. Wiseman, you began this discussion believing that Darwin’s book gave you a ‘reason’ to object to my book; but if Darwin’s book is true, then you have no reason at all, just fizz.”

“Accordingly, you believe that only if your book is true that we can have reason?” Wiseman asked.

“You’ve followed the argument well, friend. Therefore, even the possibility of reason would make sense if only what you argue against were true.”

“I still object, you know.”

“Sadly, I thought you might.” Christian said with condolence. “But, before you believed you had an intellectual reason for rejecting it. That’s sort of fizzled, if you will. If you were to change your view of origins, you’d have to change your view of God, and if that, then your view of yourself too. Therefore, impetus for scorning the Bible is moral in nature, and the Bible even explains that!”

With sincerity Christian asked, “Mr. Wiseman, would you consider stepping over to my side of the road and ponder these problems over the pages of my book and a cup of coffee?”

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