Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The clergyman was right

I am alarmed to hear that a clergyman of liberal persuasion has been persuaded to resign his post at that most eminent and distinguished of institutions, the Royal Society. Her majesty herself would have intervened in such an unseemly dispute which may besmirch our national tradition of the liberal advancement of scientific endeavour; I wonder why her descendant does not take action to protect the reputation of the Royal insignia.

For it seems entirely in error that it can be stated that wearing the collar of the national church prevents a clergyman from participating in science. The Rev Dr Michael Reiss's offence, it seems, is to suggest that science teachers should not be restrained from discussing the significance of Holy writ and in particular Archbishop Ussher's thesis that Creation took place in 4004BC. The Society, it seems, wants schoolmasters to teach that Creation is nonsense, is not in any way scientific, and that the estimable Mr Charles Darwin is the true architect of the correct interpretation of our origins. The society says that evolution is a sound scientific theory - as indeed it is - but that creationism is unscientific.

It is my opinion that the Society should go on its knees to Dr Reiss and beg him, indeed implore him, to return to his post. For the question about the Creation is about theology; it is not about science. I do not know Dr Reiss's theology but he is a clergyman and must know a little. He might be able to help his scientific colleagues see the distinction.

For it is perfectly possible that Archbishop Ussher's view continues to be correct 300 years after it was formulated. It would be possible for the Almighty to have accomplished all the things that many of his adherents in the creationist movement say; indeed for Him to lay a false trail to deceive scientists and other clever men. For His wisdom is folly to men.

The question for theology - and here I concur that schoolmasters assigned to teach science must refer this to other forums - is why should the God of the Jews and the Christians and the Mohammedans choose to do this? Is this the way He has chosen to veil His presence on earth? Or is it simply that His purposes are entirely mysterious to mankind? If that is so, it is also possible that mankind does not understand the very ancient writings in the book of Genesis. They were not dictated by Jehovah but were given at some time to some scribe in antiquity. What was this scribe shown and what words did this individual have to write down his visions?

I was alarmed in my time by the theories that Mr Darwin expounded, alarmed they might spread atheism and lawlessness. In this century I am not reassured I was wrong; yet I understand that the weight of scientific discovery has continued to support Mr Darwin. Yet Mr Darwin cannot disprove God - and nor can his self-pointed heir Mr Dawkins; God could disprove Mr Darwin and Mr Dawkins but may choose not to. There is still plenty to understand in this age and the likes of Mr Reiss could assist all sides in a better understanding both of scientific and of Divine revelation.


1 comment:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

An interesting take on a topic I'm surprised comes up in your fair Kingdom. Here in the US, it is all the rage to get up in arms over discussions of creation vs evolution. Yet, in your post, Sir, you highlight a point so often missed, viz., that "creation" and "creationism" are two distinct things, and from your description of the expulsion of the gentleman from the Royal Society (what would the present members think of Newton's commentary on Daniel?), it seems all he did was discuss "creation", a theological concept as you correctly state, rather than "creationism" a pseudo-science.

As for your Mr. Dawkins, he is a poor man's Thomas Huxley, a third-rate Bertrand Russell, and kind of silly, to boot. We have Sam Harris here in the States, who makes Dawkins look open-minded, congenial, and a serious scholar of religion.