John Haught: Making Sense of Evolution

THIS is about a new book by John Haught, a Roman Catholic theologian whom we regard as an important figure in The Controversy between evolution and creationism. He was an expert witness for the winning side in the landmark case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We’ve previously posted what the opinion by Judge John E. Jones III said about his testimony. See John Haught: Witness in the Dover Case.

TalkOrigins has Dr. Haught’s complete testimony starting here: Trial transcript: Day 5. The cross-examination continues here.

Dr. Haught has just had a new book published. Here’s the link to its Amazon listing: Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life.

This is the “Product Description” at that website, presumably from the publisher — the bold font was added by us:

Evolution makes good scientific sense. The question is whether it makes good theological sense as well. Christians who find evolution contrary to faith often do so because they focus solely on the issues of the world’s design and the notion of the gradual descent of all life from a common ancestry. But that point of view overlooks the significance of the dramatic narrative going on beneath the surface. What evolution is has become more important than what it means.

Haught suggests that, rather than necessarily contradicting one another, theologians and Darwinian scientists actually share an appreciation of the underlying meaning and awe-inspiring mystery of evolution. He argues for a focus on evolution as an ongoing drama and suggests that we simply cannot — indeed need not — make complete sense of it until it has fully played out.

Ultimately, when situated carefully within a biblical vision of the world as open to a God who makes all things new, evolution makes sense — scientifically and theologically.

This is an important book by an important thinker. You may not agree with Haught in all things, but he’s a friend of science. We need more like him in the field of theology.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “John Haught: Making Sense of Evolution

  1. Haught has both given me hope (that theists might be able to “reconcile” with science … i.e. stop tapdancing around it) and disappointed me (in that his arguments are not better). Still, as you say, he’s a friend of science … up to a point. That’s still better than an enemy.

  2. John Pieret says:

    Haught has both given me hope (that theists might be able to “reconcile” with science …

    The only way to reconcile the two is to stop trying to reconcile them. Recognize that they are totally separate endeavors and then let each go its separate way, without interference from the other.

  3. From Haught’s testimony, “…the way the scientists explain intelligence is by looking toward what is earlier and simpler in the process, whereas the way theology would interpret intelligence — and I think it has every right to do so — is in terms of final causes and divine causation, which is not detectable to scientific inquiry.” It’s those last seven words that are the key. Everything that the creationists keep using as their talking points about the “science” of creationism cannot, in fact, ever be called “science”. And it’s for the very reason that Haught points out, which is none of the what creationists espouse as “evidence” can be scientifically tested.

  4. When it comes to theology and the nature of science, there are others with whom I agree much more than I do with Haught. But I still consider Haught one of science’s most valuable assets, because he is one of the best equipped to get through to ~1/2 of the population that has some doubts or uncertainty of evolution but are not hopeless deniers. These people often find people like Dawkins too confrontational, and even devout theists like Miller too technical to follow.

    The analogy that comes to mind is this: Ideally I would like to explain the benzene ring in terms of pi orbitals and electron delocalization, but the technically incorrect 3-double bond structure is easier for most beginners to remember.

  5. Ultimately I think it is futile to try and reconcile science and theology. It seems to me that these efforts are more to convince the religious that their faith isn’t misplaced.

  6. RogerE: “It seems to me that these efforts are more to convince the religious that their faith isn’t misplaced.”

    That’s what they ought to be if not what they are always meant to be. Yet many people say “why bother, ‘creationists’ will never change.” And I would agree that is the case for the ~25% of adult Americans (roughly coiniciding with hard-line fundamentalists) who will never concede evolution under any circumstances. But for every one of them there are 1-2 more who can and do learn to undestand and accept evolution, without abandoning their religion.

  7. @Frank J, “…But for every one of them there are 1-2 more who can and do learn to undestand [sic] and accept evolution, without abandoning their religion.

    And your point is what? Science should kowtow to religion so some people might accept fact?

    The thing about trying to reconcile theology with science is, whose theology are we getting reconciled with? Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Bhuddist, Greek, Norse, Harry Potter?

  8. The bible uses the term, “Science falsely so called.” Evolutionary theory isn’t really science, but only an interpretation of scientific laws, and processes that God created. There is no disagreement between a correct interpretation of science, and a correct interpretation of the Bible. We need to pray for both these things.

  9. themysteryof says:

    Evolutionary theory isn’t really science, but only an interpretation of scientific laws, and processes that God created.

    Okay. No one here is going to debate with you.

  10. Actually, the idea of science itself as “interpretation of scientific laws, and processes that God created” is the essence of theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism/BioLogos.

  11. retiredsciguy

    Scientists can define what is meant by the word “science”.

    How would theists define what they mean by “God”?

  12. James F says: “Actually, the idea of science itself …”

    Yes, but I always have a really bad reaction when someone starts out with that Timothy quote.

  13. RogerE: “And your point is what? Science should kowtow to religion so some people might accept fact?”

    Not at all. Not to “kowtow” or to even necessarily “reconcile.” Only to explain in understandable, non-threatening terms. For many religious people all it takes is to make them aware that their own religious leaders accept evolution, and take conflicting scriptural accounts as non-literal allegories.

  14. Evolution- Biology- Rate of Change

    There are moments throughout time where evolution pushes forward and different species are capable of evolving at a faster rate than usual. However, this accelerated rate of change takes anywhere from 10,000 years to a million years to occur. With the acceleration of technology in the past 50 years it may become impossible for human evolution to keep up with the pace of technology. What do we do when evolution can’t keep up with the rate of change in technology that humans are now forced to confront?

  15. What do we do when evolution can’t keep up with the rate of change in technology that humans are now forced to confront?

    Interesting concept, could you give an example of this?

  16. This is probably a horrible example, but it’s what comes to mind and hopefully it’ll be funny.

    In the movie Jurassic Park, the scientist’s took knowledge they used for granted, and spliced dinosaur DNA. Those scientist’s didn’t earn the knowledge of bioengineering of genetic scientists before hand, they took something and didn’t even realize what they had before they used it. And then everyone was eaten by dinosaurs.

    And I suppose that’s the glory of science, to take all the research and confirmation learned by other scientists, to use that knowledge and conduct research that pushes science to the edge.

    I’m saying that when scientist’s try to make breakthrough’s in research(fringe Science), that’s when our evolution won’t be able to keep up with technology. Which will lead to self destruction.

    One mistake and ……. suddenly we got a problem that we don’t know how to fix, like say Global Warming. All we can do is try to not make it worse.

    I remember seeing a discussion like this on evolution and technology on a Facebook community page http://www.facebook.com/thewatchmansrattle

    Here’s a link to the actual video on evolution.

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1492968725894

  17. 0ut0f0rder says:

    I’m saying that when scientist’s try to make breakthrough’s in research(fringe Science), that’s when our evolution won’t be able to keep up with technology. Which will lead to self destruction.

    No need to trouble yourself over such things. According to the Mayan Prophecy, the world will end in 2012.

  18. 0ut0f0rder sounds like another author trying to sell us their book.
    Their name links to rebeccadcosta.com and they just happen to “remember seeing a discussion like this…on a Facebook community” which coincidentally just happens to be about Rebecca D. Costa’s book “The Watchman’s Rattle” which comes out in October.

    It also seems a bit odd that after 0ut0f0rder’s first comment here, ANewHope makes their one and only comment in these pages, “Interesting concept, could you give an example of this?”

    Maybe Costa has written a wonderful book but I rather resent the sneaky way it has been inserted here.

  19. Yeah, it could be spam. We’ll let it go this one time.

  20. I’m going to use an option I’ve never bothered with before. I can “Automatically close comments on articles older than … days.” Spam shows up in older threads. So I think we won’t lose any valuable discussion if I shut all threads after, say, 90 days. I’ll give it a try.