Full text of author Denis Lamoureux’s talk titled ‘Beyond The “Creation vs. Evolution” Debate at TedxEdmonton conference.
MP3 Audio here:
Denis Lamoureux – Author
Our theme today is uncertainty. When it comes to the topic of the origin of the world, there’s a lot of uncertainty in North America. For example, I’ve just noted, this past February, there was a debate between evolutionist, Bill Nye, the Science Guy and creationist, Ken Ham, the CEO of the Creation Museum in Kentucky.
The fact that this debate received over 7 million hits online, speaks of the uncertainty within the minds of many. A debate like this should have never happened in 2014.
So, as my title suggests, I think we have to get beyond the Bill Nye versus Ken Ham so-called debate. Now, I’m certain most you have identified the problem. This debate is cast within a simple dichotomy, forcing people into thinking that there’s only two credible positions. And you’ll notice the quotation marks. You’re either on the evolution science side and of course there’s no place for God here, or you’re on the Creation Religion side and this of course is God’s side, purportedly.
But I have a question. Are there only two credible positions when it comes to origins? For example, what do you make of an individual like myself? I am a thoroughly committed and unapologetic evangelical theologian trained to the PhD level. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and I’ve experienced miracles. I believe in a Creator. So, that makes me a creationist.
And at the same time, I am thoroughly committed and unapologetic evolutionary biologist also trained to the PhD level. I find the evidence for evolution to be simply overwhelming. There is no debate. Evolution is a fact. And I love the explanatory power of evolutionary theory.
So, what do you make of that? Let me suggest. Yes, I’m an evolutionist as well. Let me suggest that there’s someone out there who would think my position as being quite credible.
The man himself, Charles Robert Darwin, who is the father of modern evolutionary theory and late in life, he said the following: ‘It seems to me absurd, it’s ridiculous to doubt that a man or a woman may be an ardent theist, that is one who believes in a personal God and an evolutionist.’
And it’s worth pointing out that when Darwin wrote in his autobiography and he published the Origin of Species, he believed in a personal God.
Well, let me suggest one way, one solution to getting beyond this dichotomy, and we need to begin by defining some terms. Two words that I find absolutely essential in this discussion are the words ‘Teleology’ and ‘Dysteleology’. Teleology comes from the Greek term ‘telos’, which means plan or purpose.
Do you believe there’s some sort of ultimate plan or purpose in the universe? If you do, you’re a Teleologist. If you don’t, you’re a Dysteleologist.
Now, the word ‘Evolution’. Evolution is a scientific theory that describes the origin of life through natural processes. Now, watch my finger here. Period. Science deals with the physical, not the mystical or the spiritual.
When it comes to the term ‘Creation’, creation is a religious belief that the world was made by a creator. Watch my finger again. Period. The doctrine of creation does not deal with how God created but rather with: that God created.
Now that we have some basic terms, let’s work out some relationships between them. Now for most of us, we have been socially conditioned into believing that evolution is dysteleological. In other words, that evolution is run necessarily by bland chance and irrational necessity.
But let’s think outside the box, could it be that evolution is a teleological process, that this process has been ordained and sustained by some sort of creative mind? And if indeed you would believe that, that would make you like me, an evolutionist, also a creationist. And the term being used today is ‘Evolutionary creation’.
Now a lot of religious people wrestle with the idea of evolution, but I think the embryology evolution analogy is helpful, and in fact, it appears in Darwin’s most famous book “The Origin of Species” and it goes like this: I have never met a religious person that when they were thinking about when they were being created in their mother’s womb, believes that God comes out of heaven to attach an arm or attach a leg. No, most religious people believe that they were created by God through natural processes — embryological and developmental processes.
Well, why can’t there be another set of processes that we call ‘evolutionary processes’ by which they were created by a God?
Now, if I had about 20 minutes with Bill Nye, this is what I’d like to point out to him. The basic relationship between science and religion.
It’s worth noting that in the last twenty years, there’s been an explosion of books written by some of the best scholars in the world, showing how it’s possible to have a peaceful and fruitful relationship between science and religion. In fact, there are now science-religion professors in some of the best universities in the world: Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, Harvard and I always like tacking on at the end of this list, little old St. Joseph’s College, the University of Alberta. Kind of sounds good, doesn’t it?
Now, this is the basic paradigm most of us in the business accept what science, we all know this, science is about observations, experiments from which we get our theories of laws. Again, science is about the physical, not the spiritual or the mystical. It’s about the physical, period.
Now, when we finish doing our science, there’s nothing wrong with doing this. We all ask those larger questions. For example, is there some sort of mind or maybe a God behind nature?
Now, of course these are not scientific questions, but they are religious and philosophical questions, or if you want another term, these are metaphysical questions. Questions beyond the physical.
Now, for some people, they come to the answer very quickly through intuition. For others, they go through a slower process, an analytical process of reason.
But here’s the bottom line and I think the most important thing I’ll say this afternoon, everybody, after we’ve done our science, needs to take a step of faith whether they’re religious or not, from their scientific data to their ultimate beliefs.
Now, this is the perfect opportunity to define this term ‘intelligent design’, which regrettably in the last 15 years has been manipulated and mangled by a group of American anti-evolutionists. No, intelligent design is not a scientific theory, intelligent design is a belief that beauty, complexity and functionality in nature point to an intelligent designer.
Now, the thing to note, this was Darwin’s definition of design and in fact, in the autobiography, he said when he wrote ‘the Origin of Species’ he believed in intelligent design. So, let’s give you a practical example coming back to our basic paradigm.
Take the standard cell, about a thousandth of an inch, and in that single cell, stretch out all the DNA to about a yard of DNA and on that yard of DNA, you get the information content of a 30 volume encyclopedia. Watch my finger again. Period. That’s what science gives us.
Now, once we’ve done this scientific analysis, we can’t help but ask the question, you know, does this reflect some sort of amazing engineering mind? Well, for some individuals like Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist in Oxford, in taking his step of faith, he would say that intelligent design is the illusion. Your mind is simply tricking you. On the other hand, and I’m the first to identify this in my taking a step of faith, I think intelligent design is real.