Dogmatism, Philosophy, and Evolution

Yesterday I received a copy of the Southern Seminary Magazine for Winter 2011 in the mail. You may obtain a copy by clicking here. The cover of the magazine is black and has Ex Nihilo printed in bold capital letters across the bottom. No doubt in light of recent controversy involving especially President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and the BioLogos Foundation the issue focuses upon the subject of origins.

A few points made by philosopher Mark Coppenger in his article, “Evolution and Creation in Higher Education” on pages 36-38 are worth repeating in an effort to reconsider the dogmatic tendencies in academia to adhere to particular theories of origins.

Dr. Coppenger rightfully notes that philosophy has “shelved some of its critical resources by giving Darwinism a pass.” He notes that Socrates was an obnoxious inquirer who challenged “the idols of the age, the sophistries of the sophists.” A question Coppenger asks per Karl Popper’s “falsifiability” is “what discovery could possibly dethrone evolution in the minds of its devotees?” I have asked a similar question before without receiving a very satisfying answer. Thomas Kuhn is mentioned as a third philosopher who demonstrated that scientists work less than dispassionately within the context of paradigms which are accepted and rejected in an irrational manner for other than scientific reasons.

Coppenger also succinctly states two problems he sees with evolution. The first no doubt stems from his interest in aesthetics. He questions, “how evolution can adequately account for the fact that all around the world, people are moved by the beauty of their natural surroundings, whether desert, grassland, mountain range, seashore or forest; after all, aesthetic distress is not fatal, and would not have driven ‘natural selection.’” The other problem Coppenger finds with evolution is located in the exceedingly large quantities of time that evolutionists necessarily propose as having preceded the present. Positing an earth that is billions of years old is an epistemological matter, and an extraordinarily shaky one at that. Coppenger thus makes no new argument here, but states a popular one magnificently.

It seems to me that extrapolating an earth age of billions of years is like my claiming to be 400 years old since I gained half a pound this year. Drawing on maybe a few thousand years of observation (an almost infinitesimally small slice of history on their model), they insist that the past must have operated like the present. But the Bible speaks of catastrophes and “fast-forwards” – childhood and adolescent growth spurts, if you will – which depreciate latter-latter-latter-day uniformitarian fantasies.

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