Well, I’ll be: of all the characters whom I’m compared to, the young-earth creationist Ken Ham is the one I find the most unlikely. But Joel Edmund Anderson, who presents himself as a Sophisticated Theologian®, sees profound similarities between Ham and me. Well, yes, we both have two arms, two legs, and presumably a Y chromosome. Yet Anderson sees another similarity—and there is one, though Anderson characterizes it wrongly. First, a bit about Anderson from his Linked In site.
Although I current am a high school teacher, I hope to eventually teach Biblical Studies at the college level. In addition to my masters degree from Regent College, I also have an MA in Old Testament from Trinity Western University, as well as a PhD in Old Testament from the University of Pretoria. I would also like to get more articles and books published.
According to Anderson’s blog, Resurrecting Orthodoxy, Ham and I are in fact like “two peas in a pod.” Click on the screenshot to see the 2018 post that someone called to my attention. But the arguments that Anderson makes are still around in 2021; I’ll talk about a more recent version of this argument against the “war between science and religion” next week. The narrative that there’s no incompatibility between science and religion, and that they’re not in opposition to one another, continues. In Faith Versus Fact I describe what I mean by “the war between science and religion”, and apparently Anderson either didn’t read that book, did read it and didn’t understand it, or read it and understood it but deliberately mischaracterizes my views.
. . . . for the purposes of this post, I am going to focus on a recent article Coyne wrote, entitled, “Yes, There is a War Between Science and Religion.” It came to my attention because Ken Ham tweeted about it three different times the other day. Ham’s tweets were as follows:
- “Jerry Coyne (emeritus professor) is an atheist, & so such an article as this is totally expected from one who is against God & totally committed to his religion of atheism. Interestingly he sees Christians who compromise as inconsistent–which they are”
- “There’s no war between observational science & creation, such science confirms Genesis account. But there’s a spiritual war between Christianity & blind faith religion of atheism & the belief in evolution which is contradicted by observational science”
- “This scientist arbitrarily defines religion as involving the supernatural, declares atheism is not religion, arbitrarily declares evolution science & fact, so he can then falsely declare creation is at war with science! It’s how secularists work”
So Anderson’s point is that Ham and I are alike because we see a war between science and religion. In Ham’s case, the war is between evolution and creationism, and he sees creationism as “science” because it’s “observational science”, and views evolution as a religion, because it’s based on faith and the “religion” of atheism. In other words, Ham sees a war between the Bible and atheistic modern science.
My own view, which I’ll summarize in one sentence (read Faith Versus Fact if you want the whole megillah) is this: science and religion both claim that they involve “ways of knowing about the universe”, but while the methods of science really do enable us to understand the universe, the “ways of knowing” of religion (faith, authority, scripture, revelation, etc.) are not reliable guides to truth. If they were, all religions would converge on the same truth claims, which is palpably untrue.
Note that I do not claim that religion is the same thing as science, for it includes things like morality and worship and divinity. The Bible is not a “textbook of science.” But all religions do make firm claims about what’s true, and these truth claims, insofar as they’re not based on actual evidence, contravene the methods of science. That’s why science converges on what we think is real (and use to make correct predictions), while religions haven’t converged one iota. (Compare the truth claims of Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, cargo cults, and so on.) Nor do I claim that religion has always been opposed to science, is always in conflict with science, that religionists can’t accept modern science, or all all scientists are or must be atheists.
End of my views. Now here’s what Anderson has to say:
Like Coyne, Ken Ham also sees the creation/evolution debate as being a war. Ham doesn’t see it as a war between science and religion, though. Ham simply throws in his made-up distinction between “observational science” and “historical science,” claims “observational science” confirms the creation account in Genesis, and then equates the scientific theory of evolution with “blind faith religion of atheism,” and claims the “war” isn’t between science and religion, but rather atheism and Christianity. But make no mistake, both Ham and Coyne agree: evolution is atheism, and evolutionary science is at war with the Christian faith.
No, evolution is a science, atheism a disbelief based on the absence of evidence. Science is atheistic in practice, for we do not use gods or the concept of miracles in our research. We don’t rule them out a priori—we’ve just found that dragging gods into science doesn’t help us understand anything. Evolutionary science is at war only with those Christians who deny evolution (or other scientific findings) and accept either an ex nihilo creation or the intervention of God in evolution.
Now, sadly, it is true that many people have abandoned their faith because they think evolution has disproven the Bible. In that respect, both Coyne and Ham are correct. But let’s be clear, the reason why evolution has led to a loss of faith of many people is that people like Coyne and Ham are mischaracterizing what science is and what the Christian faith is. Ham is actually correct in one of his tweets: Coyne essentially is hijacking the scientific theory of evolution and smuggling in his atheism into—later in his article, he claims, “science is practiced as an atheistic discipline.” Yes, it is “atheistic” in the sense that is simply studies natural processes, but to call it an “atheistic discipline” as Coyne does is to falsely equate the scientific theory of evolution with the philosophical worldview of atheism.
To the point, when atheists like Coyne and YECists like Ham are telling people that if you accept evolution then you must reject belief in God and accept atheism, then a whole lot of them are going to reject their faith because they are being told they have to.
I wish! Yes, I’ve met people who abandoned their faith because they were literalist Christians, and when they saw the evidence that the Genesis stories weren’t true, the whole edifice of their faith toppled. But I don’t tell people what to do. I either teach them evolution and let the results fall where they may, or I explain to them why I, Jerry Coyne, see science and religion as incompatible. People can ponder my arguments and make their own decisions. I don’t believe I’ve ever told anyone that they have to reject their faith if they accept evolution.
Just a bit more. Anderson touts himself as having a “correct” understanding of religion versus the “cartoonish” versions held by Ken Ham (and about 40% of Americans with him!) When I say that evolution is incompatible with creationism, I mean just that: it’s incompatible with a literal reading of the Bible. Anderson, however, being a Sophisticated Theologian®, somehow knows that much of (but not all of) the Bible was written as metaphor. Clearly Augustine, Aquinas, and many other church fathers didn’t understand Scripture properly either, for they always defended literalism—sometimes with a metaphorical veneer. Anderson:
And both Coyne and Ham lump the creation account in Genesis 1 in as being the same kind of writing as found in the Gospels. They see no difference between the genre of Genesis 1 and the genre of the Gospels. This failure of basic reading competency views anyone who acknowledges the difference in genre as trying to pull a fast one. Call it accomodationism [sic] or compromise, both Coyne and Ham think you are deceptive and dishonest if you simply acknowledge that the Bible is not written in one monolithic genre. Both men might think that failure to read Genesis 1 a literal history automatically means you have to reject the account of Jesus’ resurrection, but competent readers of Scripture know better.
In other words, Anderson knows that Genesis was metaphorical, but the Resurrection really happened. But we have no more evidence for the latter than for the former: they’re both assertions in a book that’s almost wholly fictional. Anderson is a Picker and Chooser, presumably anointed by God to know that sometimes God was speaking metaphorically, and at other times literally; and Anderson can tell us which is which. Piffle!
I could go on for hours, but we have celebrating to do, albeit many are celebrating the birth of a fictional being. I want to proffer one more bit of Anderson and let you have the laughs:
(5) Coyne (like Ham) misinterprets Hebrews 11:1 (“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”) as referring to believing things about the origins of the natural world without evidence.
Both men are horrible biblical exegetes, as seen in their understanding of Hebrews 11:1. Both view it as defining faith as nothing more than blind belief about the past creation of the natural world. On AiG’s website, one can find an article entitled “Blind Faith” that says this: “So faith, as commended in God’s Word, is being sure about something that wasn’t witnessed firsthand (including creation), or that cannot be seen now, or that is yet to be revealed. By this definition, all faith is blind! If we can see something, then faith is no longer operative.”
Well, not quite. To the point, the “substance (or assurance) of things hoped for” and “the evidence (or conviction) of things not seen” has nothing to do with looking back and believing things about the creation of the material universe. Rather, the faith of Hebrews 11:1 is forward-looking to the fulfillment of the saving work of Christ and the new creation. Faith is being certain that what had begun in Christ and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit will be completed in the New Heaven and New Earth. The faith that Hebrews 11:1 is talking about is the faith that sees the evidence of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in part, and that looks forward to the fulfillment of Christ’s work in the future. It is being certain of the outcome because we have been given, and now witness, a foretaste of that future reality. Contrary to what AiG (and Coyne) belief, the Christian faith is not blind, and Hebrews 11:1 isn’t about “blindly believing” that Genesis 1 is telling us exactly how God actually created the world.
Yes, Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”—but it is not a scientific statement. It is saying something fairly simple: God created the universe and there is more to reality than just the material world.
No unevidenced claims in those paragraphs!
Ummm. . . .if you look at Hebrews 11, it’s not something forward looking, and it says almost nothing about Jesus, even though it’s in the New Testament. In fact, most of it tells people how faith was used in the Old Testament. What Anderson is doing here is exegesis: interpreting the Bible, and in a way that suits his beliefs. I would assert that the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 is accurate.
I’ll pass over Anderson’s claim that “Coyne says that religion is science”, as it’s a lie. I say that religion makes truth claims, but they aren’t asserted after using the methods of science.
End of story: I’m off to rest and have some bubbly. Happy holidays, and send in your cats!
Here’s Hebrews 11:1-8 (King James Version) being backward looking; you can read the rest of the chapter here.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.