To: All May0894 12:01:34 Subject: Swinburne on evolution G'day All: I thought the followin

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From: Tyler A. Wunder To: All May-08-94 12:01:34 Subject: Swinburne on evolution G'day All: I thought the following quotation might prove interesting to some. It's from Swinburne's "For the Possibility of Miracles", which appeared in the Philosophical Quarterly Vol. 18 (1968); I'm taking it from a reprint in E.D. Klemke's _To Believe or Not to Believe: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion_. I found it to be rather eloquent, and perhaps others might agree. Most importantly, I would recommend those who feel that Christian belief is incompatible with evolution to pay special attention. While I think it highly unlikely that the piece will actually convince Creationists of the compatible nature of Christianity and evolution, it is still a well-written essay concerning an issue which should be close to the heart of any Creationist, and many non-Creationist Christians and atheists as well. "If the prophet's message is to be understood by a primitive culture... [it must reflect the historical and scientific suppositions -- which may be false -- of the prophet's day]. And unless one thinks that divine revelation can be given only to sophisticated peoples, that means that when a divine revelation is made to a primitive people, there is a distinction to be made between the prophet's message and the scientific and historical presuppositions in terms of which it is expressed. This distinction would need to be made by a later and less primitive society which knew a bit more about science and history, in order for it to see what was the religious message clothed in the false presuppositions. And of course if the later society was not sophisticated enough, it might fail to make the distinction, and so suppose the science and history to be part of the prophet's message. This could lead to rejecting the message on the grounds that the science and history were false (the rational reaction); or, worse (the irrational reaction) adopting the old science and history (and rejecting the alleged advances here of more recent times) on the grounds that the prophet's message was true. It will, I hope, be unnecessary to give many historical examples of such reactions. "One all too sadly obvious modern one is the example of the different reactions to Darwin's theory of evolution. Christianity has regarded the Old Testament as in a sense and to a degree licensed by Christ. He took it largely for granted in his teaching, and the Church which he founded proclaimed it (with the exception of the laws about ritual and sacrifice) as God's message. The Old Testament in telling in Genesis 1 and 2 the Creation stories seems to presuppose that animal species came into being a few thousand years ago virtually simultaneously. The theory of evolution showed that they did not. So some rejected Christianity on the grounds that it taught what was scientifically false, and others rejected the theory of evolution on the grounds that it conflicted with true religion. But it seems odd to suppose that the religious message of what is evidently a piece of poetry was concerned with the exact time and method of animal arrival on the Earth, or that that was what those who composed it were attempting to tell the world. Their message concerned, not the details of the time and method of animal arrival, but the ultimate cause of that arrival." Klemke, pp.546-7.


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