Two Final Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion (4)

Two Final Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion (4) November 25, 2011

Evidence for and against evolution is open to all and can be assessed by anyone.

The sciences are technical and complex, and so require years of training to grasp.

Since evolutionary theory is the product of scientific investigation, it follows that those best suited to evaluate the scientific data and arguments are those at the very least trained in the relevant sciences—or better those who are practicing scientists and therefore are keeping up with developments.

A loose analogy can be drawn with biblical studies. To be sure, the Bible is not remotely as technical a field as the sciences. There is a true sense in which most anyone has access to the Bible and can understand it, which is definitely not true of the sciences.

Still, the academic study of the Bible—which is a necessary requirement in the Adam discussion—requires certain skills that take years of training to acquire.

Simply gaining some facility with Hebrew and Greek takes years, not to mention a grasp of the diverse cultural, literary, and historical contexts of Scripture. Many debates about biblical interpretation (Adam being just one of them) involve us right away in some involved and complex areas that very serious scholars invest a lot of time (whole careers) and energy trying to understand.

Again, I am not saying that the Bible is closed to all but experts. I am saying that there are areas of biblical study that require a level of expertise.

Biblical scholars can normally tell whether or not someone has dealt with biblical languages and the cultural backgrounds to the Bible. And, I will say candidly, we can sometimes get frustrated with those who “don’t know what they don’t know.”

As much as biblical studies requires some training and expertise, it is much more the case in the sciences. The years of training and experience required of those who work in fields that touch on evolution rules out of bounds the views of those who lack such training.

This is certainly the case with those who have no scientific training whatsoever beyond basic high school and college courses. I fall into that category. I remember being handed the periodical table of the elements in seventh grade and told to memorize it. I told the teacher if he thought this was so important he should memorize it himself and leave me out of it.

My science career ended before it began. It didn’t help that I had to take calculus twice before getting a C or that I conducted puppet shows with the lab animals in sophomore year biology.

My point is that serious scientific questions require serious scientific training—which only a fraction of the earth’s population can claim to have.

My point is that most of us do not have a place at the table where the assessment of evidence is the topic of discussion. The list of non-participants includes the following:

  • biblical scholars,
  • pastors,
  • the self-taught,
  • science hobbyists,
  • church historians,
  • theologians,
  • philosophers,
  • politicians,
  • celebrities,
  • seminary administrators,
  • musicians,
  • neighbors,
  • mathematicians,
  • physicist,
  • engineers,
  • best friends,
  • parents,
  • grandparents,
  • that cool website.

You get the idea.

Some have earned the right to take a seat near the table but not at it. High school or college biology teachers, for example, even if they are not practicing research scientists, are people I am going to have to listen to, especially if they are keeping up with the literature. But they are not going to be able to speak with as much conviction as those who are on top of their fields.

I also include here philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science (“science” modifies all three). These scholars look at the philosophical, historical, and sociological conditions within which scientific work takes place. They give us the big picture of what is happening behind the scenes intellectually and culturally.

Science is not a “neutral” endeavor, and these fields are invaluable of putting science into a broader intellectual context. I am all for it.

But here is the problem I have seen. Practitioners of these disciplines overstep their boundaries when they pass judgment on evolution on the basis of the big-picture context these disciplines provide.

I am going to guess that those who make such claims are likely not trained well enough to understand the boundaries of their disciplines, but that is another topic.

Even though it is very helpful to understand what may (or may not) be happening behind the scenes of scientific research, evolution cannot be judged from 30,000 feet. You still have to deal with the scientific data in detail.

I think I stand on very solid ground when I say that the three disciples I mentioned and technical scientific practitioners need to be in conversation with each other, not one standing in judgment over the other.

Anyway, short story: you have to know what you are talking about if you want to debunk evolution. The problem is that, most trained, practicing, scientists have concluded that evolution is true.

If you want to argue with them, you have to argue better science that stands the test of peer review, not better ideology.

Believing in evolution means giving up your evangelical identity.

Many arguments I have heard against evolution come down to this: my evangelical ecclesiastical group has never accepted it, and so, to remain in this group, I must reject it too.

It is never stated quite this bluntly, but that is the bottom line.

But everything depends here on what you mean by evangelical. In recent decades, the term has become a moving target. Just Google “evangelical identity” or “evangelical controversy” and you will see what I mean.

What is up in the air is whether evangelicalism is a stable, unchanging movement, or whether built into evangelicalism is an openness to change.

More importantly, it all depends on whether holding on to evangelical identity should be our primary concern,


whether as God’s creatures we should pursue truth wherever it leads—even if it disrupts familiar paradigms.

We all need to make that choice.


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  • Dan

    Just to clarify, this wouldn’t preclude somebody who is a layman in science from still taking a position on the issues based on what they have learned? (i.e. I personally have no science expertise beyond undergraduate biology and popular reading, but choose to “trust” those experts who affirm that evolution occurs).

    • peteenns

      Certainly, Dan. We can all take positions, but laymen/women aren’t in a position to argue about the data based on distilled information and pass judgment.

  • eric kunkel

    I disagree a bit. Take Steve Jobs. He could not program. He could build a chip. He could synthesize.

    Head at the seat of your table is the philosophers of science, who know the deliverances and limits of the sciences (there is not ONE). And include Theology. And actually, I think we will need technology now. Big technology. There can be no renaissance person long-legged enough to stand astride these colossal gaps.

    Many great gene splicers may be the worst ones to know where their productive genonomic work and patents fit in whole realm of knowledge. Experimental physicists working on the Big Bang may only really be experts on certain particles (up quarks.)

    The late “Physics is Phun” Goodyear, whom you and I knew, might be better at actually communicating , even in a learned society, what that physicist’s results meant to the big picture, the more unified theories ….

    Put it back in your field. You could have a person that knew every ancient near eastern language, the penmanship of every period, the kind of vellum and stitches.

    They could take any king’s stella from the great museums and tell you who it was by orthography. [ever been to the British Museum and seen these things!]

    The could sing the Gilgamesh epic pretty well with various intonations from its history. The could be Mr. computer lexicon of the Bible or Ms. of the Scrolls.

    They could read the Rosetta stone, even filling in the gaps. Switching from the hieroglyphs, to the Greek to Coptic (I think its coptic, right), with aplomb.

    They could experts on ostractra. The could have a rabbinic education and have memorized both Talmuds. Their Latin could be flawlessly inflected. Their Attic vast and better than their Koine. The could point out the local, somewhat crude North African rustic allusions in Augustine’s Roman writing.

    They could compare scholasticism in Europe, in The Rambam’s Sephardic Spain and the Muslim co-occuring Muslim counterparts. And lets say they knew the mystical trends across the monotheisic faiths. Judah HaLevi and the Sufi parallels, comparing them with rise of similar trends in Christian monasticism.

    There is a great deal of work to do to integrate our results.

    We may really need the biggest supercomputer arrays to help.

  • eric kunkel

    Meant Jobs could not build a chip. Typo in first lines …… (W0z built chips)


  • Mike Vendsel

    I might dispute the use of the word “loving” in that last graphic.

    • peteenns

      It’s a nice thing to say 🙂

  • Don Johnson

    Part of it is whom do you trust? EVERYONE has a limit to their personal knowledge and at the limit you trust someone else (or many someone elses) to go beyond and give you a summary or decide NOT to trust someone else.

    I think one problem is that some have decided that they have access to a “generic truth oracle” in “everything that it says”, that is, there is a trump card in them pocket where nothing will convince them differently. This is the antithesis of the scientific method. But besides that, they have invented all kinds of ways to understand the texts so they can be “true” even when not, except for the Creation stories. That is where the CSBI drew the line by mentioning these stories explicitly, so this is one reason why EC get scare quotes about being “evangelical”.

  • Russell Roberts

    Good article Dr. Enns. You’ve hit upon an interesting point. If being ‘evangelical’ means that one must turn a blind eye to evidence that opposes ones own paradigm, count me out. Those people who are brave enough to stand up for truth (YOU being a prime example) live with the paradox that we have become outcasts among ‘Christians’. Truly, we have ‘gone outside the gate with him…’ and have borne the shame that Jesus experienced.

    Modern fundamental Christianity seems to be nothing more than a recapitulation of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

  • Dan Reid

    Shocked that you included seminary administrators; pleased that you did not list editors!

    • RJS

      Editors must fall in one or another of Pete’s categories, neighbors, philosophers, the self-taught, … celebrities.

      • peteenns

        Ha, good one, RJS. Love ya, Dan 🙂

  • “Evidence for and against evolution is open to all and can be assessed by anyone.”

    I’m wondering where you got the idea there’s evidence against evolution. Do you also think there’s evidence against our planet’s orbit around our sun?

    “Believing in evolution means giving up your evangelical identity.”

    I’m also wondering where you got the idea that evolution is a belief. Biologists don’t believe in evolution. They accept the evidence for it.

    Accepting the established truth of “evolution means giving up your evangelical identity.”

    Yeah. That’s correct. So what? Evangelical is just another word for stupid. Who needs it?

    • peteenns

      Uhhhhh. OK.

  • eric kunkel

    Peter, as I have said before. You should not rail against the Philosophers like this is Mars Hill or the Ἄρειος Πάγος or wherever.

    I was taking about Panneberg’s big yelllow book. (Theology and the Philosphy of Science) And what I mean is philosophers of science, those trained in epistemology, etc.

    (Even though I have known some philosophers that do hide idols in their closets to Unknown Gods or they worship their Editors …. those editors.

    But really I think this integration is bigger than the genome project or a Mars landing, hence the big computers, “Who can know it”

    (cross posted from your concurrent FB discussion, like juggling chainsaws on a brisk morning)

    I was talking about theologians like Pannenberg before. And I mean real philosophers of science (since your questions go back to Plato, and since even intestamental Jewish writings were Hellenized and a million other reasons) AND Therefore, I

    Think we are going to need the big computers. more petaFLOPS than a spaceshot, or the genome or CERN or the Pentagon. And some cross-disciplinary guides, if not philosophers of science? Who? If not now when 😉

    • peteenns

      We can name the computer HAL. 🙂

  • barlow

    “The problem is that, most trained, practicing, scientists have concluded that evolution is true.”

    I read the story of the Ph.D. biologist on the Biologos site and he had almost no exposure to the details of evolutionary biology until doing some reading during his career. Just how many people are competent to engage the details of evolutionary biology? I’d be surprised if there are more than a few dozen. Limit it to human evolution and you’ve probably reduced that number further. Most of us with Ph.D.’s are frankly ignorant of most of the details even of our own fields beyond the narrow areas where we did some dissertation work.

    What I do know is that there is an inescapable ditch between science and history. The only way to cross that ditch is to have some kind of philosophical or methodological framework for introducing confidence in an assumption of continuity. Only continuity moves from “accumulation of patina” to “this statue is actually old.” And continuity can’t be argued for rationally. This is the basic thrust of Hume’s argument.

    Now, I admit this makes those of us who reject human evolution look like the equivalent of conspiracy theorists, the great bugbear of my field where conspiracy historiography is not respected. And I’m sorry that’s the case, but sometimes looking like a nut is unavoidable. The Apostle Paul said X was important and he argued for it on the basis of Y. I don’t see how we can accept X and reject the apostolic case for X, that is, Y. You’re willing to look like a nut to believe discontinuous things in the first century A.D., but not things in the time we want to assign to the miracles of Genesis. Your “miracle filter” is as ad hoc as anything you find in your critics.

    Engagement with the details seems important to the questions you’ve been talking about if the details will help us cross that ditch. Follow the scientific details as far as they will take you and you will never, ever penetrate the historical question. Your arbitrariness in labeling miracles and expecting the uniformity of nature here and not there should trouble you.

    • peteenns

      You are certainly welcome to your opinion, but I disagree with you in virtually every sentence of your post.

  • Norman


    I’ve been making the same points for years but I also think that science tends to bring faster corrections to aberrant ideas than does biblical theology. The democratization and self-correction of competing ideas will tend to play out in the long run but with religion there are more deeply embedded presuppositions brought to the table, thus making it more difficult to move the pile.

    I personally have had to change my thinking on several issues over the years and expect that will continue as I continue to investigate. The biggest detriment I see with religious investigations is that there are so many factors to recognize that can, if ignored, completely undermine ones investigation. Part of the problem even with modern progressive scholarship is that too many fail to verify some of their pet “orthodox” inclinations and they continue to let those “orthodox” ideas influence them when they need to be set aside in order to evaluate with unbiased clarity.

    A glaring example of modern biblical scholarship IMO is its ineffectiveness concern eschatology. There is currently a tendency to continue with orthodox positions that have been formulated and passed down without really performing a comprehensive due diligence upon the implications and conclusions. Eschatology (messianic coming and changing covenant structure) is the primary focus from Genesis to Revelation. Holding on to the same literalistic readings of the last Days of the Old Covenant becomes a de facto baseline that skews ones related investigations in everything biblical. IMO, until realistic understanding of Eschatological language is dealt with and faced accurately like we are attempting with Genesis then biblical scholarship will make slow progress unraveling and retelling the biblical story in its entirety accurately.

    The Revelation author obviously took Genesis from a symbolical point of view and thus to continue investigating Genesis as non-literal but then not question fully and examine deeply Revelations non-literal implication makes one wonder how well trained and open, some biblical scholars really are. Modern day Scientist would have other scientist all over them if they did not pursue obvious contradictions that have serious implications for their conclusions. However this is where good science and good biblical scholarship often differ; modern biblical scholars think they are moving into the purity of unbiased research in their investigations. However they simply do not often recognize that they still bring a lot more religious dogma under the guise of “orthodoxy” that simply limits their objectivity. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen in science but it’s much less prevalent. A good biblical scholar to perform their work well must start fresh as if they are encountering the bible for the first time without outside influence. Good Scientist always question everything, and so should good biblical scholars.

    Pete’s premises are correct but the uneducated and less discerning are not the only ones affected by biblical presuppositions brought to the table. Just ask Pete to talk about his differences with the highly respected biblical scholar G. K. Beale over their differences concerning Pet’s book “Inspiration and Incarnation”


  • RJS

    Nice post Pete, although physicists know everything. Surely you didn’t mean to include them on your list … I expect you meant physicians, right?

    (On a serious note physician should be on the list. Most medical doctors have very little deep understanding of science, including evolutionary biology.)

    • peteenns

      good point

  • Paul Brassey

    Pete, I agree with three of the sentences above from Norman that you say you disagree with:

    “Just how many people are competent to engage the details of evolutionary biology? I’d be surprised if there are more than a few dozen. Limit it to human evolution and you’ve probably reduced that number further.”

    In contrast, you made this statement:

    “The problem is that, most trained, practicing, scientists have concluded that evolution is true.”

    This is really rather careless and doesn’t say what I think you mean, which is that those scientists who have earned degrees in evolutionary science have concluded that evolution is true. I think Norman’s point pertains here, in that it doesn’t matter whether an astronomer or a geologist has concluded that evolution is true. They wouldn’t have a seat at the table. (I’m assuming here that the meaning of “evolution” in your post refers to the emergence and development of biological life on planet earth, which is also not clear from your post.)

    So the only people qualified to decide whether “evolution is true” are those people who intuitively decided, based on a layman’s knowledge of science, or at most, a bachelor’s level general scientific knowledge, that evolution was true enough to motivate them to devote their lives to studying it. Now human beings being what we are, it’s more than unlikely that a person who has devoted significant time, effort, and treasure into obtaining the necessary academic credentials to acquire a tenured teaching post in the “evolution is true” chair at ABC University is going during the course of his or her studies to decide that “evolution is not true.” After all, everything he/she is assigned to study will be from inside the “evolution is true camp.” Every project he/she undertakes will contain within it a confirmation bias.

    Recall your own training and your recent experience at yet another SBL meeting. There are no Bible scholars, are there? There are feminist Bible scholars, social-science Bible scholars, evangelical Bible scholars, historical minimalist Bible scholars, historical maximalist Bible scholars, etc, etc. I would challenge you to name for me the feminist (or any other category) Bible scholar who produced a book stating “based on my objective study of the Bible I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong: feminism (or any other hermeneutical principle) is not useful for the study of this literary corpus.”

    Just so with scientists. We have liberal economists and conservative economists. We have pro-anthropogenic-global-warming climate scientists and “skeptical” climate scientists. Scientists are not immune to prejudice by virtue of their being scientists, any more than are Biblical scholars. For ideologically committed scientists, nothing is easier to ignore than the scientific method.

    • Paul Brassey

      Sorry, the first quote was from Barlow, not Norman.

      • peteenns

        Paul, I mean that those trained in the relevant sciences have concluded that evolution describes human origins. I agree that scientists are not immune to bias, but bias does not explain the broad, overwhelming consensus. There is no conspiracy.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    Saint Augustine couldn’t do it. But can you explain what kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate in the story? After thousands of years it’s time to think, read, and give the real explanation based only on the facts in the story. No guesses, opinions, or beliefs. We’ve already had way too many of these. Treat the whole thing as a challenge. You can do it! Or can you? But first, do a quick Internet search: First Scandal.

    • peteenns

      I’ll pass, Robert.

  • I generally agree with your point in this post. I do have some qualms about the fact that in order to receive the necessary expertise in a field, one must also receive the indoctrination that goes along with it.

    For example, I spent about nine years in the nuclear power field. On the one hand, that makes me more qualified to discuss the safety of nuclear power plants then an environmentalist without any such training. On the other hand, how can I expect myself to be objective? The same is true when you have a board of professionals review the conduct of professionals, rather than for instance a lay jury. Yeah, generally the professionals have the knowledge, but sure you have to be concerned about bias.

    Again, just the broad idea that species evolved over time through natural selection, yeah, I don’t think that is something that should cause us to have pause over bias. However, I wonder if more subtle evaluations could fall to that concern.

    • peteenns

      I am sure you are right, JimII. I do not mean to suggest that “science” is wholly “objective.” None of us is free of some intellectual context within which we make judgments (hence, my positive comments about things like history of science, etc.). My beef is with those with no or little training who make pronouncements by saying “scientists are just as biased as anyone so what they say is up for grabs.” I know that is a rather simplistic way of putting it, but I think you get my meaning.

  • Norman

    There is a prevailing cynicism among not only the unlearned but also the learned when it comes to science. There really is no logical reason why the cynical should refute evolution because notwithstanding Pete’s presumption of the need for education it doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to grasp the common sense appraisal of the reality of evolution in regards to humans. Basic everyday common sense and evaluation of the evidence is not a deeply held phenomenon that only occurs within the most educated. Simple analysis of the fossil record tells us that there are without question many variations of human evolutionary species and even young innocent children can grasp the implications unless they have been overtly conditioned to be skeptical for some reason. Most modern people have been trained to think logically and can evaluate evidence fairly reasonably given the environment to do so. However if the prevailing environment says the King has no clothes then just as the geocentric debate 500 years ago proved; common sense and rationality do not always carry the day.

    Martin Luther: “There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must . . . invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.”

    It takes special emotive dysfunctional social currents to disrupt people’s logical thinking and our misguided religious groping are often the number 1 impairment to plain straight thinking more commonly called “common sense” historically.

    Without the input of biblical concepts about what people believe is a physical creation account of the historical earth 6000 years ago I dare say that modern people would not be having these concocted debates that only an indoctrinated people could be promulgating. This is even more tragic when one begins a serious study of the biblical literature that people derive these concepts from and learn that not even the ancient people considered it literalistic and talking about the physical creation of the world. Instead those like the OT and NT authors read Genesis as telling a creation account that concerned itself with the dynamics of how to worship God in Truth and freedom.

    Look at this ancient interpretation of Genesis by the first century Barnabas epistle. He obviously is reading Genesis as an analogical story embedded with messianic overtones within. Notice how he takes the Genesis narrative and fosters it as prophetic toward what he calls the “last days” of the OT covenant. He points out that a second creation account is taking place during the first century just as occurred in Genesis with Adam. This reinforces John Walton’s observation that the creation story is a “functional” account and not a physical account. This second “creation” comes about in the establishment of the faithful in Christ and Grace instead of the faithful concerned about the Law. Creation in the biblical sense is about fashioning God’s people in a manner that brings them into right standing with God.

    Barn 6: 11 Since then he made us new by the remission of sins HE MADE US ANOTHER TYPE, that we should have the soul of children, AS THOUGH HE WERE CREATING US AFRESH. 12 For it is CONCERNING US that the scripture says that he SAYS TO THE SON, “LET US MAKE MAN AFTER OUR IMAGE and likeness, and let them rule the beasts of the earth, and the birds of heaven, and the fishes of the sea.” And the Lord said, when he saw our fair creation, “Increase and multiply and fill the earth”; THESE THINGS WERE SPOKEN TO THE SON. 13 Again I will show you HOW HE SPEAKS TO US. IN THE LAST DAYS HE MADE A SECOND CREATION; and the Lord says, “See, I MAKE THE LAST THINGS AS THE FIRST.” To this then the Prophet referred when he proclaimed, “Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, and rule over it.” 14 See then, WE HAVE BEEN CREATED AFRESH, as he says again in another Prophet, “See,” saith the Lord, “I will take out from them” (that is those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw) “the hearts of stone and I will put in hearts of flesh.” Because he himself was going to be manifest in the flesh and to dwell among us.

    Notice how Paul uses the first creation of Adam and his fall into futility in regard to creation language in which they are being redeemed from that futility and burden of Law imposed by those Jews who rejected Christ. Creation language was a figurative literary expression utilized from Genesis onward to describe events that would bring upon the stage of the faithful a new Kingdom of expression not inhibited by legalism that bound Adam and the Jews. The Genesis creation account is entirely about the origins of Adam and thus Israel’s gross failure to walk with God in a manner that is free of the human bondage of works. So many people want to attribute this language to a physical dimension when the reality of the story is ultimately about life through the “spirit” and not through our own mortal strength. That is the simple story line of the entirety of the bible and it is not concerned at all with how the physical world came to be (except acknowledging that God was responsible) but instead it is about how the religious and faithful world came about and was to be rectified properly with God.

    Rom 8:18-22 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (19) For THE CREATION WAITS WITH EAGER LONGING FOR THE REVEALING OF THE SONS OF GOD. (20) For THE CREATION WAS SUBJECTED TO FUTILITY (think Adam), not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope (21) that THE CREATION ITSELF WILL BE SET FREE from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that THE WHOLE CREATION HAS BEEN GROANING together in the pains of childbirth until now.

    Knowing the true message of the scriptures frees us from exhibiting the cultish attributes of imputed cynicism toward the God given attribute of intellectual curiosity and its subsequent investigations. And no; Science is not immune from dogma as well but the competing forces within science typically do not allow presuppositional dogmatism to last but as a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 😉


  • eric kunkel

    Well, I think it is not just the history of science, but that we also need to be cognizant of the philosophy of science, in the here and now.

    And like with the BioLogos project, I again repeat for something like that to succeed with its largest goals, that there are innumerable variables: that is why I brought up weather forecasting; and alluding to using supercomputers to come up with models that integrate Biblical Studies, Theology and the other sciences.

    Like I said, how else can we get from Akkadian to Zoology with something beyond a surface discussion. Just having technocrats who know everything about smaller and smaller areas of expertise will do little to help us get to an unified theory of Origins. ek

    • peteenns

      Sort of a unified field theory of all knowledge. At least some PhD’s looking for a dissertation topic have something to do 🙂

  • eric kunkel

    Prof. Enns:

    Maybe I misunderstand, but it seems that you, sir, make truth claims about origins. And thou art also trying to integrate the Genesis narrative (and cognate materials) and the deliverances of science …..

    (All these terms dully defined)

    Prof. Kunkel

    • peteenns

      Sure am, Eric. But that is a more modest project than A-Z and needing HAL to put it all together 🙂

  • Katherine Harms

    I contend that very few people can dispute the actual facts and theories evaluated by people at the top of any discipline. However, I also contend that there are some things almost any person is qualified to judge.
    Everyone who has studied even the most rudimentary science has learned the scientific method, which requires a hypothesis to explain some phenomena, testing to determine if the hypothesis works, and then analysis of test results and duplication to demonstrate that the outcomes are repeatable. We can all be observant of obvious attempts to stroke the data, or twist the outcomes or force the conclusions. Logic and transparency are things any normal individual has the right and responsibility to look for in any attempt to sell an idea.
    You are right that most of us cannot evaluate the more complicated science involved in the world of evolution or cosmology, but we can all look for honesty and integrity. That is the foundation upon which the very talented earn our trust.

    • peteenns

      In principle I think you are right, Katherine, but in practice I think each of these steps might be more involved than meets the eye. For example, what might appear to someone with a rudimentary exposure to science as a failure to be honest or a failure in the scientific method might actually not be the case upon closer, more patient, examination. I would suggest that those best trained are in the best position to call others in their field on failing to do a good job, which, of course, regularly happens in scientific journals.

  • Stephen Enjaian

    Dr. Enns,

    It’s true that bias does not fully explain the broad consensus on evolution, though it does explain a lot of it. A fuller explanation is that materialistic evolutionism, “the creation story of atheists,” operates as the normal stance of science as currently defined.

    We know that two out of three college biology teachers call themselves atheists or agnostics, as do ninety-five percent of the biologists in the National Academy of Sciences. Of the leading scientists involved in evolution, about ninety percent deny the existence of God and any purpose in evolution. Richard Dawkins’ statement that Darwin made it intellectually respectable to be an atheist helps to explain what is behind many scientists’ support of evolutionism.

    Neither should we ignore what most scientists understand: serious questioning of evolutionism, whether science-based or not, is not welcomed. In spite of the resistance there is a growing skepticism. Not long ago eight hundred scientists, some from MIT and Princeton, signed a statement expressing their doubt that the Darwinian mechanism is capable of explaining the complexity of life. So we must not give undue weight to the consensus.

    I am not suggesting that we ignore all scientists who say evolution is right. But given that the large majority of them are materialists, I am asking why evangelicals should grant them such a high level of influence in how we should understand the Bible.

    • RJS


      Because I am a Christian and a scientist these are questions I’ve been confronted with and thought about quite a lot.

      Bias explains almost none (I’d actually make it none) of the broad consensus on evolution among those who actually study evolution. The vast majority of them couldn’t give a rip about the existence or nonexistence of a “materialist creation story.” The consensus on evolution exists because evolutionary biology explains the data and provides a framework that makes sense out of the entire body of knowledge. Our detailed understanding of the process is undergoing continual refinement as new aspects of biology are discovered – but nothing has come to light that calls the general framework into question. Evolutionary biology is accepted because it works – it has broad explanatory power and predictive power.

      In the rest of your comment you bring up a number of seemingly reasonable doubt-raisers that come up repeatedly in this discussion, but I think they are more like irrelevant red herrings in the discussion.

      Richard Dawkins’s statement that Darwin made it intellectually respectable to be an atheist is part of his polemic that influences almost no-one. We aren’t Christians because there is no other explanation for the material world – at least I am not. I am a Christian because I am convinced of the reality of God and his work in relationship with his creation – specifically his creatures. How he created the world is purely secondary to this conviction. I don’t think we will convince anyone of Christianity by convincing them that it is the only way to explain the existence of life.

      Atheism and agnosticism among biologists – and other academics of all stripes – not to mention large segments of the rest of western society – should concern us deeply. But it doesn’t undermine or call into question the truth of evolution. There is a reason why the majority of Christians in the sciences and the overwhelming majority in biological sciences accept the basic principles of evolutionary biology. The reason isn’t bias, it is evidence, the evidence and the logic of the reasoning is that strong.

      Because of the controversy over evolution, especially over teaching evolution in schools, there is, unfortunately, a push back by some biologists to want to avoid giving any ammunition to the anti-evolution public. This has led them to make some dogmatic over-statements at times. Dawkins is particularly guilty of this – as evidenced by his disagreement with Craig Venter when Venter pointed to aspects of evolution we don’t completely understand and places where some revision may be necessary. But this defensive overreaction doesn’t undercut the general robust understanding of evolutionary biology.

      The Discovery Institute statement on evolution (I assume this is what you are thinking of when you reference 800 signatories) is an interesting document. I know several of the signatories personally. The vast majority have no real knowledge of evolutionary biology (they are not biologists, or even in areas of science that interact deeply with biology). A large number belong to organizations with explicit young earth commitments and hold this position for theological, not scientific grounds (I know two who signed for this reason). Many, including a few I know personally, don’t argue with the evidence for evolution but are uncomfortable with the default position of materialism, especially when it comes to the question of the origin of life. Bottom line – a list of signatories is meaningless unless we know why they signed and what they find questionable.

      I don’t think we should give scientists a high level of influence in how we understand the bible … I do think we should rest comfortably in the knowledge that God created the world, that anything we discover about the world – including evolutionary biology – is unveiling details of his creation (this alone is where scientists should have influence). It may just require us to rethink how we understand the OT creation account as rooted in its time and culture. But this isn’t a bad thing and isn’t giving science undue influence.

      • peteenns

        Couldn’t have said it better myself, RJS.

      • Stephen Enjaian


        Thank you for taking the time for a careful reply. I’m giving it careful thought, but in the meantime I have a preliminary response. While realizing that some scientists accept evolution sincerely believing that the evidence is in favor of it, I will offer some reasons why I do not accept the consensus on evolution as being based on scientific evidence.

        1) The overwhelming consensus of scientists on atheism is directly related to the consensus on evolution. Atheistic evolutionists have concluded that atheism is the only logically consistent alternative to creationism. If they are wrong, then how do you account for the fact that atheism is nearly universal among biologists?

        2) If theistic evolutionists had a coherent and theologically consistent view of science and Scripture, then I would accept theistic evolution. But after decades of attempts, the only change I have seen in theistic evolution is that it continues to concede ground Scripturally while becoming less coherent. One example is the failure to reconcile the Biblical teaching of the providential intervention of God in His creation with the contention that God “created” by setting up an undirected process. This situation is not helped by the fact that some theistic evolutionists claim that God could not foresee or control the results of this process, even that human life would result. This kind of thinking also muddles the question of how and when man’s creation in the image of God was accomplished and what “image of God” even means in theistic evolution.
        3) Atheistic evolutionists, who exercise near complete control of science institutions, have not and will not concede that scientific challenges to evolutionism are even possible. How can any meaningful scientific critique of evolutionism’s broad claims take place under those conditions?

        4) Most scientists have been trained, quite literally, from pre-kindergarten to post-doctoral fellowships, under the assumption that evolution is beyond scientific challenge. There is not a single government funded school or other institution in this country where students are taught to examine scientific critiques of evolution along with arguments in favor. How can such a system produce a majority of scientists who are really following the evidence where it leads?

        I remain in this dialogue and look forward to future discussions.

      • RJS


        The reasons for atheism or agnosticism among intellectuals of all disciplines are worth some serious thought and consideration. As the majority of biologists, other scientists, and other scholars were raised in largely the same manner as most of the rest of the country, it is not because they were uniquely trained from kindergarten up in atheism or agnosticism. You should read the book by Elaine Ecklund if you want to get an overview of the way scientists think and interact over these kinds of issues.

        I think one reason that many walk away from faith is because they feel that it doesn’t hold up to the light of day. I also think this is a shame because it results primarily from a failure of our churches at any level to present the depth of Christianity separate from as much cultural baggage as possible (not that it is possible to ever separate these completely, whether discussing science or Christian faith).

        The development of a coherent and theologically consistent view of science and Scripture within the context of what we are learning about the world is essential – and you are right that it does not really exist at the present. The providential interaction of God in his creation isn’t one that I have trouble with because I think that those few who say that God started the process and then simply stepped away are wrong. This isn’t consistent with scripture from Genesis to Revelation, where we see God in relationship with his creation and acting in that relationship. I don’t see an inconsistency between a robust creation of a world able to develop and grow and a God who interacts. I see more of a problem with the idea that God needs to intervene in minute details than with a creation where balls roll down hills without God’s direct manipulation and where atoms and molecules can react or interact with ultraviolet light without God’s direct manipulation (this it the fundamental chemistry/physics that drives evolution).

        As to the rest of the points – challenges to our understanding of evolution are constantly being put forward and investigated. It is certainly true that unsubstantiated broad claims of “insufficiency” are not taken very seriously, but this is largely because they lead to no fruitful form of investigation.

        • Stephen Enjaian

          I am interested in reading Ecklund’s book. Please understand though, that my concern is not only the type of training that scientists receive, but how it predisposes them to handle and communicate evidence. It is pretty well known that evidence (or lack thereof) is often suppressed when it is embarrassing to evolutionary claims. Rodney Stark gives examples in chapter two of “The Glory of God.” For example, students are still routinely taught that the fossil record is full of transitional forms proving macro-evolution. But Stephen Gould, Niles Eldredge, Steven Stanley and others have admitted that the incidence of true transitional forms ranges between rare and none and that paleontologists have known this since Thomas Huxley took up Darwin’s cause. Stanley says that doubts raised by the problem have been “suppressed.”

          More distressing to me is that theistic evolutionists seem to be perpetuating similar questionable claims. Francis Collins has said that junk DNA proves that evolution is “unquestionably correct.” But we now know that “junk” DNA serves important purposes. (I also have trouble understanding how Dr. Collins can maintain that God closely supervised the creation of humans while also invoking a random process resulting in junk DNA). My main point here is that repeated over-claiming makes it very difficult to trust evolutionists’ handling of the evidence.

          I am glad to know that you disagree with the deistic view of God’s intervention in creation. I am surprised that you say it is held by few, since my impression was that it is very common. More than specific doctrinal points, I had in mind the larger concern of the ease with which theistic evolutionists try to resolve evolutionism and the Bible in a way that contradicts Scripture. Not to pick on Dr. Collins, but he maintains that the world looks exactly like the product of an undirected process. Only through faith, he says, can we understand the seeming lack of design as “deceiving.” This deceit would appear to give an excuse to the unbelieving pagan who suppresses the truth about God and His eternal power, in contradiction to Romans 1:20.

          I won’t labor the point further. You and Dr. Enns are challenging my thinking and that’s always good.

          You have the last word, if you wish.

  • eric kunkel

    It is a good thing to have the 800 scientists. Darwin had his own monkey minds suffix to his own theory. If his theory were produced by a hominid via time, chance, etc., then even tho’ it may be true, he said he worried it was irrational to believe it. Adding random genetic drift or whatever epicycles we have since does little to dispel Darwin’s Doubt.

    Whenever I hear someone call evolution a fact, in the brute fact sense, it either makes me:
    1. Very happy Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey.
    2. Or it gives me a good laugh. Every one needs that these dark, short, wintery days ….

    I don’t disagree with Darwin above, but I do with the point : (by Norm)

    “…….. I also think that science tends to bring faster corrections to aberrant ideas than does biblical theology. ”

    I think it is very interesting the tenacity people employ to cling to their ideas.

    There are lots of experiments, especially in social psychology that show richly how we live in this world of distorted perceptions of ourselves and misattribute concerning the beliefs of others.

    Not really a nihilist about it. I think we have faculties to know. But I will stop before I start sounding like Immanuel Kant.

    Just one more thing. BTW, since I am a psychologist, this is a rare fit of lucidity: I may actually know what I am talking about ….

    Isn’t it thought-provoking (in this most thought provoking time, not to sound too much like Heidegger) how some people cling to ideas as they age, becoming more strident and others become more tolerant or tentative? Or, to say it as an empiricist might: they draw error bars around their conclusions. Well, we actually do know and it does have to do with temperament, but more with environment, at least in most belief domains.

    As to Peter’s books they could defy all the laws of nature 😉


    • Norman

      Eric ,

      You quoted me and stated… “I don’t disagree with Darwin above, but I do with the point : (by Norm)
      “…….. I also think that science tends to bring faster corrections to aberrant ideas than does biblical theology. ”

      My point is that contextually it is more difficult to root out historically developed bad theology than it is to overturn bad science. (look at the historical landscape of divergent theology out there) There are much more complex issues involved in Religious entanglements and once they become embedded they can last for centuries because they become “Tradition”. In science there is a self-checking mechanism that can’t get away with ignoring facts and realities without being called on it. I’m surprised that something so easily observable and obvious would be questioned. Perhaps you have some built in skepticism toward science which may be skewing your worldview or am I misunderstanding you?


  • Although my grandfather was a big wig biochemist, my feelings towards the periodic table were similar to yours, Dr. Enns. I didn’t create puppet shows with the lab animals; I simply majored in theatre. But in all seriousness, this post is vital. I can’t really join in at the level of discourse as the others for fear of putting my foot in my mouth. However, I think your take home point is loud and clear. We must be open to new paradigms and receptive to the fact that they just may reflect the wonder and mystery of God.

    When the cacophony of erudition finally quiets, I always find myself returning to art which seems to stand in the gap between science and religion. It serves as the bridge between the physical and mystical domains even if we can’t translate its truths into a mathematical equation.

  • eric kunkel

    Lisa Porter, it seems to me is talking about where life is lived, experientially: the only way it can be. Which in various forms is as good as it gets.

    Norm, I do not think all domains of science self-correct. Einstein and many who follow him, can not integrate some of the “strange” features of subatomic particles.

    Contemporaneously, not far from Pete’s locale, Machen and Van Til left Princeton. Meanwhile, Kurt Gödel and Al Einstein would take their daily walks there, because many of the big questions in Relativity and Quantum Theory had not been solved. Many of their experiments were “solved” as thought experiments. And there are still being solved 80 years later.

    And especially on the meta-theoretical level, they are not solved today. Theology and is very unlike repeatable, test tube science. But it is great deal more like Cosmology, in my view.

    “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
    Though with patience He stands waiting, …..

    We wait for Pete’s book. For all the answers, for the “corrections”, we may have some time to wait.


    • Norman


      The most useful and practical science that bears upon the evolution debate is not as exotic as the examples that you bring up. That examination (sciences pertaining to evolution) is much more straightforward and lends itself to continual updating and adjustments because the principal’s work nicely within the scientific methods already firmly established. My context is the evolution discussion and does not extend so much into those lesser developed concepts you may be interested in.

      Theology is much easier and discernible in my estimation and is not as difficult as some let on. The key is to bring all the tools to the trade instead of leaving some of them out of the tool box. Because of certain decisions that have been made by earlier groups of Christians we have shelved theological avenues that would enlighten the investigation if they had not been made off-limits for various reasons.

      As an example; a huge problem with the investigation of the origin of first century Christianity is the restrictions the church has made about the literature we were “allowed to examine”. Basically we cut out 300 to 400 years of second Temple literature that had extremely relevant influence upon Christ, the Apostles and messianic Judaism in particular from which Christianity sprung. We have a gap that has been off limits except within academia where it gets lost and hidden from the general public. Instead we have been given a hybrid Jewish Pharisaical and Greek rendition of theology instead of our original base we sprung from. Trying to discern the purity of the NT first century culture and climate without referencing that literature is akin to a study of 20th century American culture without referencing our 19th Century narratives that provide the context of what formed us as a people.

      Yes, I’m anxiously awaiting Pete’s book as well and have my copy prepaid and reserved. 😉


  • eric kunkel


    You say I have bias or skepticism against hard science.

    António Moniz got the Nobel prize for lobotomy. I think science took more than 25 years to correct on that one.

    Again, Darwin and I shared some doubts, supra.

    Whether is it lobotomy or Vioxx, or whatever: I am not sure time is the key variable here anyway. I keep going back to the philosophy of science or the sciences as the linchpin to integrating disciplines.

    And I am not a skeptic. I am a Realist. So I think we can know. But some will be thru a glass darkly. ek

  • Norman


    You’re example of it “only” taking 25 years for self-correction of the science concerning lobotomies confirms my point. Historical religious tradition is still embracing after 2000 years a 6000 year old planet earth as derived from scripture. I’m still encountering a few flat earthers and geocentric hold outs as well for just a few examples.

    I personally appreciate Darwin yet believe he simply didn’t have a robust enough understanding of scriptures to work through what he was discovering.

  • eric kunkel

    Aha, “psychoanalyzing” Darwin. I just quoted him on his own doubt, which he rested on the fact that his own theory, if true might be irrational to believe, since it was itself the product of time and chance, etc.

    Vis a vis theology, Enns himself on this site has seemed to say the Reformed Confessions of the 17th century and the Chicago Statement of the 70’s were both history bound, if I have that right.

    I am not sure how much naturalistic origins has changed her major tenets since 78. I am not expert here, but I guess what constitutes a major postulate would be the point of argument.

    (I could argue, however that a lot of the signers of Chicago reformulated their views AFTER signing and a great deal of dialog has happened because they staked their claims, e.g., Packer and Dillard)

    But my major interest is still epistemic and meta-theoretical and less with the details. How do we know, how do we test and apply the retro-scientific method?

    It is like you asking about what Darwin knew: How do we know that? I would not be so bold, I just alluded his own famous, published Doubt due to his attribution of his work to “Monkey Minds.” ek

  • Joseph

    Dr. Enns,

    The general point that expertise is a prerequisite for qualified judgments is, at this level of generality, uncontroversial. What is much more controversial and, to my view dubious, is what you are claiming and implying in your post, as for example here: “The years of training and experience required of those who work in fields that touch on evolution rules out of bounds [for a seat at the table, presumably] the views of those who lack such training.” I’ll offer only three of a large set of reasons for why I think what you are saying is at best misleading.

    First, expertise in a scientific context does not (and this is, I think, hard for academic laypersons to grasp) mean being an “expert” on say, biology. No; someone with a PhD in biology has a set of courses, probably actually relatively few in comparison to say, humanistic areas (just check what every bio major does, then what are the required core courses every bio-PhD will have taken, which are hardly any, as science PhD usually begin research projects quickly upon entering doctoral programs). These courses will have been have taken anywhere from 5-55 years ago, depending on how far away they are from their doctoral research.

    What they are really an expert in is some narrow specialty within a subfield in which they have been doing lab-work for a number of years, ideally culminating in a research project that they can write up as a publishable report. A visual analogy is that biology is New York City and a PhD in biology knows, not how to get everywhere in NYC (never mind what everything is), but probably who to ask for directions. Their research is a tiny edge of a block; its quality, and it alone, is what qualifies them as a scientific expert and their scientific expertise, as a consequence, extends as far as the edge of that block and no farther. No responsible biologist would claim that because they are an expert on their block that they are experts in NYC, although some opportunistic scientists ride to popularity through similar pretensions.

    Very importantly, second, nothing whatsoever about understanding that edge of the block in terms of NYC, much less the significance of NYC in comparison to other fields of science, or human questions of meaning and history, goes into constituting reputable scientific expertise.

    The sciences are not in the business, nor could they be, of accrediting people to understand the human meaning of their work. That task is an intrinsically non-scientific task, and one which scientists are actually often very ill-equipped to undertake given the nature and demands of their training and its effects upon their mental life; good scientific training is necessarily very focused, not remotely “book-based” in a way comparable to humanistic study, and is inseparable from the practical skills through which one actually does research. Humanists, for good or ill, primarily read books and write about them. Scientists primarily do things like accelerate particles and study what happens, or devise ingenious lab experiments to tests a hypothesis about some feature of blod-clotting in order to improve responses to strokes (as does a friend of mine). Such work is rigorous and valuable, but radically different, in a way reading Shakespeare is not, from the domain of everyday life and meaning. Thus, for what should be obvious reasons, expertise in some specialized area of evolutionary biology does not give one a kind of insight into human life that one could plausibly derive from studying Hamlet or Plato. One’s work may have some relevant kind of broader human significance, but one’s own expertise has nothing to do with knowing what that is, or how to explain it and relate to other, relevant fields which deal with a broader, but more directly humanly meaningful question, like philosophy, history, literature, or theology.

    Third, and this is the last thing I’ll mention, practically every “scientific” aspect of the debates about creation and evolution involve a kind of competence in judgment which is intrinsically not something scientists are, qua scientists, trained for. We rightly are interested in hearing scientists who have bothered reading books about religion and science talk about science and religion because their background expertise grants them credibility, but it does not, importantly, grant them expertise, comparable to their scientific expertise, on the question of say, the putative historicity of Adam or Eve. Pretensions otherwise are just that, and should be vigorously noted as such for the sake of truth and the reduction of unnecessary confusion (of which there is already plenty)

    That question –of Adam and Eve— intrinsically involves philosophical (and theological, though I’m focusing only on the former) presuppositions that scientists and anthropologists tend to ignore or not understand. An important example of this is the fact that there is no scientific definition of what constitutes human nature (nor could there be without, crucially, assuming philosophical naturalism), and thus by implication no scientific account of when animals having that nature originate. What you can have, at best, assuming a certain quality and quantity of data, is an answer to this question, which I break down to highlight its key commitments:

    (1) that I think human natures is (at least partially) constituted by properties x, y, and z (say, to take some, for naturalists, very vexing properties: consciousness, language, and culture), and given
    2) that x, y, and z leave an empirical trace
    3) that can be rigorously scrutinized and
    4) then fit into an existing theoretical framework
    5) accredited by the scientific community,
    when did the bearers of these properties enter history, as best as we can guess?

    The answer to this question could be properly called scientific, but it would by no means constitute a scientific account of human origins. It would be a modestly scientific answer to a question many of whose key presuppositions involve intrinsically non-scientific commitments.

    Now, ignoring for a moment whether those five presuppositions are individually or collectively valid, and ignoring that they are only a sample, not a complete list, of the set of the presuppositions necessary to meaningfully talk about a “science” of “human origins,” –ignoring all this, just consider, then, the answer that a person, field, or community could give to the question. Every such answer would also rely on prior commitments, like 1-5, which scientists rarely articulate and are in no way trained to think about as part of their scientific research (this is no defect of course; not unless scientists are pretending, qua scientists, that they have expertise on such issues).

    People like me, with professional training in philosophy, are, in theory (I emphasize that) much better qualified to articulate the theoretical and practical presuppositions of such a question because our discipline involves, among other things, attempting to clarify and articulate with clarity the nature and significance of concepts.

    But in fact there are no experts in this task; necessarily not, not in the sense of professionally accredited people whose expertise, as defined by the profession, is constituted by their competence to do the kind of work with history, theology, philosophy, and relevant scientific data involved in a question about the historical Adam and Eve.

    In sum, then, I think your judgments about who can sit at the table for this discussion are (1) too general by far and (2) insufficiently attentive to the kind of complexities I have adduced. They also unfortunately reinforce what I would call the “club model” of expertise, in which expertise functions as a club with which to bludgeon unwary amateurs or by which to guard access to “the table” of “serious discussion” through the imminent threat (implicit or explicit) of such bludgeoning.

    • peteenns

      I appreciate your thoughts, many of which I agree with, but you are not addressing the point of my post. In fact, you are needlessly complicating the more narrow focus on my post. If the topic at hand were “the nature of humanity” or “what makes us human” or a something similar, of course this is not settled by a group of scientific experts but requires a broad array of thinkers (and I have made many public comments to that end). But, the matter of whether humans were created de novo or evolved is not something that can be adjudicated apart from scientific expertise. I also think you may be caricaturing the nature of the sciences with your NYC analogy–and at any rate, one could say the same of philosophers.

      • Norman

        Pete said … “and at any rate, one could say the same of philosophers.”


        I too agree with some of Joseph’s points but Pete summarized the miss effectively. However I do tend to think the “club mentality” can be a problem, but again it’s a double edge sword and cuts both directions ultimately. You do simply need to be aware that in these discussions there needs to be some basic levels of knowledge to begin sitting at the table.

  • eric kunkel


    At this table, I doubt the sainted experts are going to all agree.

    In fact, I bet you are going to get some vociferous disputes. On BioLogos, I know there were Intelligent Design folks, right? And even among avowed naturalists there are great debates between biologists, physicists and other hard scientists. So it is also in Religion, with Jewish scholars and Christians of the highest caliber disagreeing.

    Even more fundamentally, theologians who are systematizers often disagree with Biblical historians, archaeologists or even experts in text: Big picture textual giants disagree with orthographic experts, etc. You know what mean.

    That is why we still need philosophers of science and even those behated Hermeneuticians. Origins is a big tent of hard and soft sciences.

    I have been certified an expert witness in various jurisdictions. I have sometimes brought an extra brain to testify, not because it makes me smarter, I wish. (They come apart and only cost about 500 bucks.) But while in the dock, one may have to back hard scientific claims and demonstrate them to the trier of fact.

    So I say, for example – Murder, and its posited neurological substrates, like Origins sits at the nexus of hard and soft sciences. So I think we need these guys, most behated or not.

    Eric Kunkel

    • peteenns

      Of course the experts won’t all agree! That’s why they need to come to the table.

  • eric kunkel

    Maybe I am missing something, but in your original piece, you seem to allow only biologists or experts in genetics or paleontology; I can only surmise by exclusion.

    Two things. You do admit you are looking for a view of Origins, which is broader than this. In brief, it seems like you equivocate about persons such as yourself getting a chair at the table. (I think you are already welcome, seated and know your forks.)

    Second, you lump and equate mathematicians and physicists in with neighbors as to authority. “Who is thy neighbor?” (I think somewhere on your pages here I poked you about Gödel and Einstein living, strolling and cogitating quite near your own neighborhood.)

    Don’t we need Physicists to tell us something about the setting events for Creation (or Creations, what would the optative mood here be …) and Mathematicians to talk statistics?


    • peteenns

      I am only talking about the issue of whether human beings were created de novo by a special act of God or whether they evolved.

  • eric kunkel

    Right. And you need mathematics in your models. Are you really making no truth claims about the other days in Genesis and the astronomical and living creations that precede humankind? You say you are “only talking about whether human beings were created by a special act of God or whether they evolved.”

    So it seems you would leave the god-particle physicists home. And cosmologists and geologists. Because, you avow to make no truth claims about fiat creation on any of the other 5 days.

    ?Are you really only making naked claims about Adam –


    • peteenns

      Eric, I don’t believe the 6th day of Gen 1 and the Adam story are talking about the same thing.

  • eric kunkel

    Right. OK.

    But your are writing about the parameters of discussions of Evolution and Evangelicals above, not just the Adam narrative, as I read it.


    • peteenns

      I am talking about human evolution, that’s all. Of course, other issues are part of the larger picture, but I am limiting myself to the “Adam or evolution” discussion.

  • eric kunkel

    I guess it would be logical to do that with the text only. But once one brings in Evolution, she comes with her terms. And do not some of these include at least the evolution of animals and habitat, not just Adam, for example?

    No matter your view of Adam.

    Correct me, please. Are you defining and disallowing anything but anthropocentric evolution a priori?


    • peteenns

      I am assuming the evolutionary paradigm generally but focusing my comments solely on Adam, which is the pressure point and that aspect which intersects with biblical (also ANE and Second Temple) studies.

  • eric kunkel


    Well no doubt you have emphasized the importance of the Adam story. But presuppositionalism vis a vis Evolution writ large, when it itself is a moving target may serve the purpose of of dissecting out the Adam story.

    So if you bar the front door from the astrophysicists, mathematical physicists, cosmologists and geologists for a while, so you can work — that is one thing.

    But come in the back door they will.

    Eric Kunkel

    • peteenns

      I’m not quite sure what you are saying here, but you may be misunderstanding me, Eric. I am not barring the door from anyone. I simply isolating one issue–where did humans come from–and engaging biblical texts that speak to that issue vis-a-vis biological evolution, which I take as a given.

  • eric kunkel


    In sum, there are various permutations of Evolutionary theory, biological and cosmological, to name a few and each would have something to say about Origins.

    This is why I took umbrage to your excluding mathematicians, physicists and the like, lumping them in with neighbors as sources of authority on Origins, or even the Adam narrative(s) and traditions.

    For example, some of the Lessing ditches that keeps religious scholars and others from talking to (not past each other) regarding evolution and human kind are things like time, probability and the like. And your whole point of Part 4 above was to delimit the discussion, at least as I read it, the was list of the non-participants.

    If only a geology expert can tell you about certain strata, why don’t they make your list above? Maybe only an neuroscience guy or gal can tell you about cranial capacity (and the noetic ability to perceive snakes in gardens.) Maybe I misunderstood you, but in part you seemed to be narrowing the discussion and the discussants in PART IV here. Yes? No?

    You old neighbor,


    • peteenns

      There are definitely permutations upon permutations of evolutionary theory that would involve many disciplines. But I am restricting my comments only to human evolution. I don’t think that physicists, astrophysicists, philosophers, mathematicians, etc. can speak to scientific reasons (data) why human biological evolution is the nearly universally accepted paradigm. To take math, I heard commonly the argument that evolution is false because the “number’s don’t add up.” Those kinds of assertions only have meaning if an alternate hypothesis for the genome or the fossil record can be given.

      • Norman

        It appears that statistical numbers don’t add up because math presently deals with a “dead” world without the possibility of organic life ever kick starting. Without an answer to how that kick start begin and works, then an accurate statistical mathematical model cannot be constructed as it has no established basis in observed reality. Math at the moment cannot even take into account the idea of evolutionary convergence that has been well documented and observed.

        So if you start with a “dead” materialistic world composed of the bare elements as your world of measurement then comparing that to a living dynamic world is comparing “apples” to “oranges”.

        The universe as we presently understand its dynamics cannot be measured with our present level of sophistication. We may know more in the future: if we factor in biological factors at work in a physical world of enormous dynamic diversity. Genetics and its statistical models give us our best insight at the moment.

        The actuality is that there is no alternative hypothesis to examine.

        • peteenns

          Very interesting, Norm. I wasn’t aware of this.

          • Norman

            Pete, work is being done but there is much to learn about building the right models.

            Here is a sample article regarding the subject.


            A Statistical Chemistry Approach to the Origin of Life

            Daniel Segré and Doron Lancet, Department of Molecular Genetics and the
            Genome Center, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel

            We revisit some theoretical models dealing with the chemical emergence of life-like
            properties in prebiotic systems. Special emphasis is given to models involving random assemblies of mutually catalytic organic molecules, as opposed to scenarios in which
            individual molecular species are endowed with the capacity of self-replication. We highlight
            here the challenge of tracing the very first steps of biogenesis, when self-replication,
            mutation, selection and evolution may have been hardly recognizable. The models we
            discuss share the assumption that a large repertoire of relatively simple organic compounds
            could spontaneously form prebiotically, and the notion that a statistical approach,
            independent of detailed molecular properties, can uncover some general principles underlying
            biogenic processes.

            Future Prospects

            We have described here some models for the behavior of random collections of mutually catalytic chemicals. These Replicative-Homeostatic Early Assemblies (RHEA) models, based on the statistics of large molecular repertoires, may be regarded as capable of filling the gap between the hypothetical primordial soup and the relatively advanced prebiotic stages, at which information-carrying biopolymers began to appear.

            It seems that time is ripe for an enhanced quantitative exploration of such concepts, including the modern tools of molecular recognition and molecular dynamics. A two-fold development may be envisaged:

            1. Theoretical models aided by computer simulations should allow one to perform increasingly realistic in silico experiments for testing the possible consequences of different hypothetical prebiotic evolution scenarios, and for determining their typical time and probability scales. This should be facilitated by advances in ultrafast parallel computers.

            2. Experimental tests of the capacity of assemblies of mutually catalytic species to self-replicate and undergo selection and evolution could complement the theoretical simulations and help in improving them. For this, the mainstream studies of self-replication of individual molecular types24, 26, 27, 28, 66, 76 should be merged with random chemistry experiments with heterogeneous molecular assemblies.
            The statistical chemistry approach may open the way to new avenues of studying the origin of life. The profound knowledge of simple free-living organisms and their metabolic pathways, as brought about by the world Genome Project, could serve to guide extensions of the simplest RHEA models. These future models could incorporate an increasing complexity, including the emergence of biopolymers and perhaps even a primitive genetic code, thereby leading to a better understanding of how life originated.

  • Eric Kunkel


    Norman seems to concur with something I said, that supercomputers are needed to model early prebiotic scenarios (In silico). Inside the paper above it cites the journal about this field:

    Besides that Latinism, my favorite in the paper is “Nuclei Acida
    non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitate.” 😉

    But I think his comments also support the multidisciplinary approach and INCLUDING not excluding mathematicians and some of the other Adamic experts declared excommunicate, in your list at the top.

    Norman’s paper in his post is several years old. Pete, since you and were once lab partners, as you said, I can only but pose the question for the team and wonder where this In silico modeling has gone since: And what is the state of art when it comes to the biochemical evolution of Adam?


    • Steve Condrey

      Eric raises some important issues. While physicists, geologists, etc. may not have the direct knowledge to assess the evidence for biological evolution, they have historically provided the supporting data for the debate.

      Biologists can no more speak to the age of the observable universe, or the age of geological strata, than astronomers can speak to the human genome. And yet these two points provided confirmation that the universe (and by extension the Earth) did exist long enough for evolution to occur as the biologists theorized. Radiological dating is directly a product of research in physics that happened to be useful in archaeology (and later paeleontology).

      Even computer science is getting into the act. The human genome could not have been mapped without modern computer science. By extension, comparisons with the genomes of other organisms have revealed deep linkages between all living creatures and have allowed us to extrapolate where in the evolutionary chain any two species may have diverged.

      Maybe the physical sciences and mathematics don’t have a starring role in the debate, but they definitely deserve *amicus curae* status in support of biological evolution.