Monday, October 24, 2005

Guest Blogger: Rev. Charles W. Holsinger (Ret.)

"Evolution led me to believe more firmly in God"

So what about evolution? So what about the idea or theory or secular conspiracy that suggests I really came from a friendly chimpanzee-UP the evolutionary ladder? Is that a direct contradiction to another thought or theory or possible conspiracy, that I came from the mouth of God himself-or herself? Consider!

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a retired Presbyterian minister who for a short time was once a Biology teacher. As a very young teenager, long before I took the institutional church seriously, I had already read Darwin's Origin of Species. It was the miracle and wonder of the natural world in Darwin's evolutionary ideas, that mysteriouus beauty and majesty "behind" me, that led me gently but surely into the ministry of faith where I have tried to be a priest, a prophet, a preacher, and a pastor. It all begain with that noble idea that as a human creature I belonged to the wider world of all Creation. The more I understood that world, the more mystery I uncovered, the more wonder I found revealed, the more I grew in faith and belief.

It may be too simple a statement for some, but I am convinced that the concept of evolution led me to believe more firmly in God. Call it a theory or call it what you wish, dismiss it out of hand and suggest that "Intelligent Design" is sufficient and you will short-circuit the search, the curiosity, the probing, the revelation that lies awaiting us in all its wonder and glory. That search, probing and revelation is necessary for all scientific research and that same sort of searching and probing has led me personally to believe in God the Creator. The most important part of the Genesis story, however, is in the first three words: "In the beginning, God......." But the Creation didn't stop there; it continues to evolve, for evolution science attempts to answer the question: How. My religion attempts to wrestle with: Who and Why. None of those questions have final and complete answers and the search continues. But they are not dealing with the same arena of thought and understanding.

In short, whether you are Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, or Atheist, believe in whatever deity you choose or whatever dream you have-but keep it where it belongs-out of a Pennsylvania Biology school classroom and in the home, synagogue, church, mosque, or any discussion of philosophy elsewhere. In the Biology classroom-and out of it as well-with evolution by your side, analyze the present and search for the future and let evolutionary science stir your senses in examining the person you are and the neighbors you have, animal, vegetable and mineral. If you don't know as much as you can about where you came from-in terms of the real world we live in-you will never know who you are or where you're going.

Reverend Charles Holsinger lives in York County. A former biology teacher, Rev. Holsinger's ministry has included leading forums and discussion groups on faith and science.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call it a theory or call it what you wish, dismiss it out of hand and suggest that "Intelligent Design" is sufficient and you will short-circuit the search, the curiosity, the probing, the revelation that lies awaiting us in all its wonder and glory.

I agree with your thoughts. It points out that the chasm separating us and the fundamentalists is pretty straightforward, but probably also insurmountable: they have all the answers

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Matt George said...

As emotionally satisfying as such a message is for some, I'm sure, it really has no intellectual substance to it. There's no rational connection between recognizing how the complexity of life can arise from simple, non-personified rules and belief in a deity of any kind.

Irrationality and "thinking with the heart" are what we're fighting against, here. Accepting the substitution of emotion for reason when the message is in our favor is hypocritical and corrupt.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous g. small said...

matt george: There's no rational connection between recognizing how the complexity of life can arise from simple, non-personified rules and belief in a deity of any kind.

Irrationality and "thinking with the heart" are what we're fighting against, here.


I agree that there's no rational connection. I disagree that the fight is against thinking with the heart.

What we're fighting against is a dishonest agenda: supernaturalism posing as science. There's nothing wrong with holding a position of faith where life is a mystery. It's when it becomes an active attack on critical thinking that it becomes corrosive.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Tired of Idiots said...

It's when it becomes an active attack on critical thinking that it becomes corrosive.

I couldn't agree more. Growing up, I was surrounded by people with faith who had no problem accepting evolution as part of a divine plan. No issues arose with reconciling faith with science.

It's the loud voice of the fundamentalists who believe anything that isn't mentioned explicitly in the bible must be wrong that are pushing this. It's sad that so many people are so weak-willed that they're willing to shut off their reasoning centers and follow what they're told blindly.

There truly is no arguing with someone who uses the logic "The bible is fact. Therefore, anything in the bible is true. If anything contradicts the bible, it must be false."

Infallible logic for them, and utterly incomprehensible to the rest of us.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous GayBoy said...

At Saturday's lecture at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, ACLU expert witness Dr. Eugenie Scott made an interesting point. When talking about the good things that have come out of Intelligent Design debate, she said that ID reminds scientists that they must reach out to people of faith. She stressed that while science seeks natural and testable explanations, that faith and religion play a large part of many people's lives. Many people are able to reconcile their faith with science, and that people in both the scienfitic communities and the faith communities need to engage in dialogue. (she probably said it better than I do).

In any case, I think the Guest Blogger advances this notion.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous John P said...

The good Reverend may be very sincere in his sentiments, but his acceptance of evolution as evidence of the existence of God is really a slightly reworked Argument from Design, which says "Oh, look at the pretty planet. It's so complex, there must be a God." Evolution reaffirms his faith, but in the process, he implicitly rejects critical thinking, which is what science relies upon for its very existence. Its a very big leap in logic from “the wonders of nature are profound in their beauty” to “the sheer profundity of nature is proof of God”

Sure, the world is full of mystery. But don't stop trying to reveal those mysteries by relying on God as an explanation. You just stymie science in the process, and in the end become more ignorant of the world around us.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous g. small said...

john p: Its a very big leap in logic from “the wonders of nature are profound in their beauty” to “the sheer profundity of nature is proof of God”

Indeed. But the Reverend wasn't claiming it as proof. He was claiming it as a non-conflicting affirmation of what he already believed. As he said, his belief is reserved for matters of Who and Why, not How. Nothing wrong with that, and not a short-circuiting of critical thinking.

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Matt George said...

"As he said, his belief is reserved for matters of Who and Why, not How."

Why is the sky blue? Why does the Moon orbit the Earth?

Why are small, isolated island populations so much richer in species than mainland populations?

Science has no problems coping with Who and Why questions - and this whole debate is primarily about the last one.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous g. small said...

Matt George: Why is the sky blue? Why does the Moon orbit the Earth?

Why are small, isolated island populations so much richer in species than mainland populations?


While you used the word "why", these are all How questions in the context of the Reverend's comments.

For instance, science can tell us how the sky filters and reflects light so that it aggregates to the "blue" frequency range before it hits our eyes, and how certain rods and cones in our eyes are therefore stimulated more than others, but it can't tell us why our brains interpret those signals as the color we call "blue". You can't describe "blue" to a being that doesn't perceive that light frequency, even if you can show them it exists by measuring its frequency.

We're storytelling creatures. A certain degree of romanticism and thinking with the heart is good for us. You should read some poetry or something.

1:07 PM  
Blogger punkedbyatheists said...

The "theory" of evolution and natural selection has the same place in a biology classroom as the "theory" of intelligent design. Both of which have so many holes that "science" should not be applied to either!!! This debate is conveniently being disguised as a science/religion debate by the secular atheists who want God out of society altogether, and the C

1:58 PM  
Blogger FishyFred said...

The difference is that evolution will eventually plug any of your "holes." If you think that "God did it" is a good explanation, then maybe you're in the right camp with ID or creationism.

I love it when someone accuses us of framing this as science vs. religion and IN THE SAME SENTENCE says that we are secular atheists who want God out of society.

punkedbyatheists: At its heart, this is not science vs. religion. This is science vs. fake science and the fake science is being put forward mainly by fundamentalist Christians who have a religious agenda. We're sorry that we have to hurt some religious people, but you started it and you're RUINING SCIENCE CLASS FOR EVERYONE!

Most atheists basically don't care about God's place in society. They (and most religious people too, for that matter) just want religion to stay out of government affairs and public school.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous matt george said...

"While you used the word "why", these are all How questions in the context of the Reverend's comments." While the previous poster used the word 'how', those are all Why questions in the context of my comments.

If you're suggesting that the Reverend's faith extends to teleological propositions beyond the scope of our reality, then it would be meaningful to distinguish between 'why' and 'how' - but then his comments would be incompatible with rational thought.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The theory of evolution, when taught as fact as it typically is today, clearly contradicts most religions. Obviously this is why so many people are up in arms over this topic. To me the solution is simple. Why not address the issue head on in the class room by providing a disclaimer prior to teaching evolution that first acknowledges evolution as a theory, not fact, and second points out that evolution contradicts many religious beliefs and as a United States citizen you are free to explore those religious beliefs on your own.

10:30 PM  
Blogger FishyFred said...

"Why not address the issue head on in the class room by providing a disclaimer prior to teaching evolution that first acknowledges evolution as a theory, not fact, and second points out that evolution contradicts many religious beliefs and as a United States citizen you are free to explore those religious beliefs on your own."

Look up the stickers on the Biology textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia. They were declared unconstitutional. It's a clear establishment of religion. Also, you're wrong. Evolution is a theory AND a fact. We know that evolution in some form or another has occurred. What we're still not 100% on is how it happened for every little thing.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous g. small said...

matt george: "While you used the word "why", these are all How questions in the context of the Reverend's comments." While the previous poster used the word 'how', those are all Why questions in the context of my comments.

If you're suggesting that the Reverend's faith extends to teleological propositions beyond the scope of our reality, then it would be meaningful to distinguish between 'why' and 'how' - but then his comments would be incompatible with rational thought.


Did you actually read the blogger's commentary? Context is everything.

I'll break it down for you:

When the Rev. said "...evolution science attempts to answer the question: How. My religion attempts to wrestle with: Who and Why...." what do you suppose he meant by that?

How: The mechanics of nature.
Who: God, of course (this is a reverend after all) and God's character.
Why: Questions of purpose--why are we here? and the like.

The entire point of the commentary is that faith does not necessarily demand supernatural explanations from science. Why would you argue against that when a bogeyman like ID is at the door?

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved reading this. I also needed to say my husband is also a Charles W. Holsinger the w is for William. and he is a Sr. and our son is his Jr

11:08 PM  

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