Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St Louis, Missouri. It’s titled Evolutionary theory lacks a core element of science. The newspaper has a comments feature.
Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today we’ve got a preacher — Brian Harrison. He’s a big deal, because Wikipedia has a write-up on him, which says: “Harrison is also one of the few young earth creationists among Catholics.” Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!
The coverage of science in Saturday’s edition is rather ironic. First, religion columnist Greg Weeks tells us to believe modern science when it “says we’ve evolved over millions of years” (“Christians can and should appreciate science”).
Here’s that column: FAITH AND SCIENCE: A Required Partnership. Then rev Harrison says:
On the editorial page, “Reproductive wrongs” begins by affirming, correctly, “It is a core element of science that any finding must be reproducible if it is to be valid. Someone must be able to do the same experiment and get the same results.”
We can’t find that editorial, but it doesn’t matter. Now the stage is set for rest of the rev’s letter, in which he tells us:
Well, since evolutionary theory plainly lacks that core element, it is not science. The supposed development of all different phyla (macroevolution) from a hypothetical original cell cannot be observed, much less experimentally reproduced.
[*Groan*] How often has it been pointed out that we don’t need to re-create the Earth’s biosphere in order to have confidence in the theory of evolution? Events in the past — whether astronomical, geological, or biological — can be reliably determined without literally reproducing them. We know what caused the meteor crater in Arizona. We know how the Hawaiian Islands formed. And we know a great deal about evolution — see The Lessons of Tiktaalik. But the rev thinks we know nothing. He declares:
One of evolution’s own core elements is the highly debatable philosophical assumption that all observable phenomena are to be explained by natural causes alone, i.e., excluding any appeal to divine intervention or revelation.
The rev is mistaken here too. That’s not a philosophical assumption of science. Rather, it’s an operational constraint, because science can’t observe or test supernatural phenomena — see Bring Me An Angel Detector! Having demonstrated that he knows nothing about the subject he’s discussing, the rev concludes his letter with this:
Rev. Weeks [who wrote the earlier column] says he “believe[s] in the goodness of creation” as well as in evolution. But how does he reconcile the two? His evolutionary scenario makes a supposedly loving God the author of great suffering (terror, bloodshed and painful disease) on the part of innocent animals for millions of years prior to the curse on the earth which, according to revelation (Genesis 3), followed Satan’s invasion of this planet and the consequent fall from grace of its first human custodians.
Does that myth excuse God for all the evil in the world? No, but evolution does. The rev should pay some attention to another Catholic theologian — Francisco Ayala — who explained it all beautifully. We wrote about it in Charles Darwin, Francisco Ayala, and the Problem of Evil.
So where does that leave us? The rev says there’s a core element missing. We agree. What’s missing is the rev’s understanding of science.
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