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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 11 months ago


“The beginning is the end,” Dr. Fletcher intoned dramatically. “Or, more specifically, it is your end.”


Professor Driscoll looked at his colleague suspiciously. Dr. Fletcher was not known to get drunk, and his pronunciation was clear, but the content of his announcement left room for doubt. No one else in the cafeteria seemed to notice.


“Look at that!” Dr. Fletcher continued, slamming a piece of paper down next to Professor Driscoll. It was an announcement for a lecture and discussion on origins and science, and one of the sponsoring professors was Driscoll himself.


“I’ve seen it,” Professor Driscoll said.


“And yet you promote such rubbish?”


“I doubt you even know what sort of rubbish it is.”


“It’s more of that Creation Science nonsense.”


“Technically, no. It’s about Intelligent Design, which is similar but far less flamboyant.”


“It’s about denying an obvious fact. That’s the trouble with you Christians: you just can’t face facts.”


“I can face facts,” Professor Driscoll remarked affably. “It’s just that I keep being confronted with assertions. They aren’t the same thing.”


“But you aren’t even a scientist! You have no right to comment on such matters.”


“Your background is quantum physics, as I recall, so how you are better qualified to make pronouncements about human origins than I am remains to be seen. In any case, much of what we will hear at the lecture will have to do with logic, and I do know a bit about that, even though it is not properly in my field.”


“It isn’t in your field at all,” Dr. Fletcher muttered. “Middle Eastern Studies, that’s your field. And of course by that you mean Biblical Studies, though you would never have received tenure here if it hadn’t been for your knowledge of Arabic. But my field is far more relevant. Quantum physics is the basis for my proof of evolution—and my disproof of your Bible. I can demonstrate even to you that we evolved, that your precious God had nothing to do with our origins.”


“That’s practically impossible on the face of it.”


“Why? I thought most of you were so proud of having a religion rooted in history and fact. What if history contradicts your religion, though?”


“I can’t help thinking that you do not truly understand the issues involved. I suppose that’s our fault, really: most Christians who discuss origins are more sensational and dogmatic than thoughtful. What I find incredible is your assertion that proving evolution would disprove Christianity. It would do no such thing.”


“Of course it would! Your Bible says that we were created out of dirt—that everything was made in six days. That can be disproved.”


“Technically, the primary claim is that God created everything. The precise details of his method for creating it all may be questioned. So you would have to prove not just that we evolved, but that God had no hand in it—and that would be very tricky indeed.”


“I thought you denied evolution.”


“I claim that the most straightforward reading of the references to creation is incompatible with even theistic evolution. But it could theoretically be another area where our understanding is inaccurate.”


“Theistic evolution is even more repulsive than Creation Science,” Dr. Fletcher said. “It tries to hide the ignorant errors of your so-called holy book by pretending that they are just figurative ways of telling spiritual truths, and that they have little factual content. I’d die of shame if I had to espouse a religion with so many holes in it.”


“In a way, I would too. You see, I could almost be called a disillusioned theistic evolutionist.”




“The idea of evolution seems quite attractive as a spiritual metaphor. One could look at the whole of salvation history as being a kind of evolution, as our understanding of God and our access to him gradually improved. And various Christian thinkers have likened the rise of Homo redemptus from Homo peccator to an evolutionary step, though once someone is conceived, he belongs to a given species and can’t change. A Neandertal could not become a Cro-Magnon, and even if he could, he would not find himself backsliding and regressing to his former Neandertal status. Yet we Christians find ourselves acting like non-Christians all the time. So I guess that the evolutionary metaphor doesn’t really fit as well as we might at first suppose.”


Just then a crash announced that a student had lost his battle with gravity. Professor Driscoll glanced over at the debacle briefly. The young man had been playing with his tray earlier, so it wasn’t altogether unexpected. Then the professor noticed Dr. Fletcher staring at the spectacle as well. “The pinnacle of evolution, Doctor?”


“The crowning creation of your God, Professor.”


“Touché. Of course, this comes as no surprise to me. Christians believe in the Fall.” Dr. Fletcher merely scowled, and the professor continued, “Anyway, the surprising thing is that if God did create us through evolutionary means, he did not mention the fact. For Darwin did not truly invent the idea of evolution; he merely made it scientifically palatable. The Epicureans were evolutionists well before the time of Christ, and several religions had quasi-evolutionary features in their creation myths. So why did God go to so much trouble to avoid acknowledging something that wouldn’t have aroused anyone’s hostility? Why concoct an implausible tale when the truth would have served every bit as well?”


“Because our ignorant forebears did not know the truth.”


“But God would know the truth—if he existed. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? You aren’t so much defending the bastion of science and reason against the assaults of irrational creationism; you are defending yourself against the existence of God. You mentioned that Christianity places great stock in historicity, but what if you discovered that the whole world did in fact spring into existence suddenly, especially if it happened just several thousand years ago, not several billion years ago? Would you automatically accept the idea that God created the place? Or wouldn’t you come up with an alternative every bit as desperate as theistic evolution? You might say that it was all some extreme fluke—a once-in-eternity miracle of your impersonal god of quantum physics. Because for you the selling point of evolution is that you think it gives you an excuse to pretend that God does not exist, just as for me the selling point of disproving evolution—at least human evolution or evolution on this planet—is that it practically assures us that some godlike being does exist.”


“Do you really think that I object to all this nonsense just so I can ignore your God?”


“That’s the way it seems. I’m willing to be proved wrong.”


“We’ll see about that. What if I can prove evolution—although you say it wouldn’t outright disprove Christianity or discredit the Bible, it would be rather awkward, wouldn’t it? You seem to think that theistic evolution is not a reasonable interpretation of scripture, so wouldn’t proving evolution argue against your religion?”


“It would introduce some difficulties, but I still don’t see how your work with quantum physics can contribute to resolving the matter either way.”


“Then let’s make a wager—if your good Christian soul can make a wager. This is Friday afternoon, and I don’t have any classes after five. If you’re free tonight, drop by my place, and I’ll try to prove evolution. If I succeed, then you bow out of sponsoring that foolishness tomorrow night and tell the campus that you admit that we evolved.”


“And if you fail?”


“Then I will admit my failure to everyone at your lecture tomorrow, and you will have a new convert.”


“Salvation is the result of a divine revelation to the spirit, not a purely intellectual realization. And anyway, do you actually think that you can settle the matter decisively in little more than twenty-four hours? That’s not much time for such an undertaking.”


Dr. Fletcher laughed. “My dear professor, time is not a problem. In fact, I would strongly advise you to bring along a book or two to read. You see, I have all the time in existence—and maybe even a little more than that.”

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