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The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.
- Stephen Jay Gould
My first reaction to this quote was to notice the irony. An evolutionist concerned about the dethronement of human arrogance was a combination I had not considered. In thinking about Gould, I decided to read a little. In my internet research, I happened on this article regarding NOMA. NOMA stands for non-overlapping magisteria. That is non-overlapping teachers. It is Gould's reflection on a statement by John Paul II's address Truth Cannot Contradict Truth in which he supports the view of neo-darwinian evolution and the idea that science and religion are two distinct domains and that the church only has authority to teach in religion.
I must say that I was surprised by Gould's grace. So-called Christians could learn by reading a Jewish agnostic on how to deal with opposing or nearly-opposing views. While I suspect Gould might have had a less tender tone with creationists in my own country, I suspect an honest inquirer would have received a generous welcome.
In many ways, Gould's tone reminds me of on of my favorite professors, Dr. Charles MacKenzie. Dr. MacKenzie is of Gould's generation, and it makes me wonder if there were be any room for real dialog if I ever reach the academy.
If I had the opportunity to talk with Gould about this quote, I think my first point would be that while one might think that the history of science would have dethroned man, it has actually had two effects in the opposite direction. In one sense, human life is regarded very lowly. Abortion, abuse, rampant materialism in the face of world poverty, high rates of suicide and depression all show the low estate of man's appraisal of himself. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine a society more dedicated to the human individual than western 21st century culture. Francis Sheaffer gives great insight into how this came about in his Escape from Reason. Ironically, NOMA is in some sense a product of the fundamental problem in modern philosophy.
I would say that in the above quote, Gould is delving into the magesterium that he most often back away from. He was commenting on religion. For it is only in light of God, that man can be both properly humiliated and glorified as a creature created in the image of God. And, it is only in the light of God that creation can truly be seen for what it is.
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I have been thinking lately about creation and evolution. I am listening to a very interesting lecture series on anthropology, a subject just brimming with evolutionary theory. In addition, I am running up against many references to old earth and evolution theories in preschool science material. I need to start figuring out exactly how to talk to my kids about this.
I am wondering about how to integrate the insights into biology, sociology, psychology, and anthropology we learn using evolutionary theories. Evolution is not without merit, but it is not without problems either. I working on a theory that adds some aspects evolution to creation at the fall. We will see how it turns out.