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Friday, November 30, 2007

Karl Giberson Makes Us Think

FROM THOMAS JAY OORD, A PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY AT NORTHWEST NAZARENE UNIVERSITY: Karl Giberson has a way of sneaking up on you. Last night, his lecture to 300-plus students, professors, and interested others at Northwest Nazarene University was a subtle yet convincing sneak attack.
Giberson, a physicist and Christian evangelical scholar, began by innocuously noting that as some scientists gain fame, they come to represent the face of science. Yet the statements that these famous "oracles of science" utter on life's big questions do not necessarily represent science in general or even the opinion of a majority of scientists. Most of the scientific oracles Giberson had in mind have names as famous as political leaders and televangelists: Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, E.O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Weinberg, and Stephen Hawking.
Giberson offers a convincing case that science is not and has never been essentially at odds with theology. Some scientists hate religion, sure. But numerous scientists believe in God, even the kind of God that's taught in Sunday School. To the crowd of God-believers Giberson addressed last night, this criticism of atheistic scientists was music to the ears. Most had intuited something like Giberson was saying, but it was heart-warming to hear a world-renowned science-and-religion scholar explain well their intuitions.
But then Giberson turned the temple tables. While the oracles of science do bad theology, said Giberson, critics of evolution do bad science. Philip Johnson rightly rejects a scientism that has no room for God, but evolutionary theory need not be—and, in fact, is not—scientism. (Scientism is the religion of those who find their purpose, ethics, and explanation of reality in mindless materialism alone.) Johnson and his ilk are misguided.
Ken Ham suffered even more from Giberson's criticisms. Ham and other anti-evolutionists regard all social evils as the product of evolution. This inference is at best hilarious and at worst destroys the impulse to love God with one's mind.
Giberson called on his audience to reject the megaphones at the extremes of the science-and-religion "discussion." Instead of embracing the scientism of the oracles and instead of rejecting evolution like the young-earthers, Giberson called for a sophisticated scientifically and theologically informed approach to the ultimate questions of life.
Just when we thought that the explanation of life could be captured on a bumper sticker, Giberson sneaks up and obliterates our simplistic answers. Hallejuah!