163: BYU Professor Dr. Michael MacKay and His Students Discuss Evolution and Religion with Dr. Michael Ruse

In this special episode, BYU History Professor Dr. Michael MacKay shares a 1 hour presentation exploring science, evolution, religion, and the LDS Church with Dr. Michael Ruse, one of the world’s leading experts in the philosophy of science, and author of the book:  “Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion“, published by the University of Cambridge Press in 2001.

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  1. We do know how God created the heavens and the earth. He created them through purely natural methods. Proving this is easy. We can look through the Hubble Space Telescope and look into any nebula cloud and observe stars and suns forming at different stages of development. Why should we expect our sun to be any different. The Bible tells us that God said ‘Let there be light. And there was light.’ Where did the light come from? What kind of light was it? I ask these questions because we are told that the Sun was not created until the fourth day. So although I believe the scriptures, I don’t believe them literally. Genesis is not a scientific account of creation. It is a theological account. A scientific account of creation would ask the questions… ‘How was the world created?” and ‘When was the world created?’ But rather Genesis asks theological questions. ‘Who created the world?’ and ‘Why was the world created?’ Herein lies the ‘truth’ of scripture.

    I am a Darwinist. I’m also LDS and I see no conflict between the two. Firstly, Darwin did not say that we evolved from apes. (Darwin didn’t actually like the term evolution or evolve). He said that we together with other primates share a common ancestor, if you go back far enough. He lost his faith but it wasn’t because of his theory. It was the death of his beloved daughter Annie that brought about his loss of faith. Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult for religious people, natural selection is not a process of chance. (as Dawkins constantly tells us). It is a process whereby nature selects certain traits as more suitable than others. Hence natural selection.
    Fossil records, geology and DNA reasearch means that (in my amateur opinion) Natural selection is an undeniable science fact.
    Even in my lifetime I remember the unchristian attitudes and ignorant views that was directed at Darwin and his theory by McConkieites and the like. But Once again, Darwin together with Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein and others have proven to be correct.
    Now we religious people are in a position where, yet again we have to modify our version of the truth to accommodate proven facts. Where will it end?
    Little bit dangerous sometimes to cling to the one true church concept. It just begs to be challenged.

    1. Dawkins does not tell us natural selection is by chance.  What is random are the slight genetic mutations that lead to small and incremental changes in the species.  Nature will select according to the new fitness of the slightly altered organism.   The economy of the slightly altered species will be quickly judged favorable or not.   The selection process is not random and brutally unforgiving a trait that does not improve the economy of the species in its particular environment.  

  2. I probably shouldn’t say too much before I have listened to the entire thing, but man — what a great approach! If I was still teaching I would totally rip-off this idea. Students assigned to create a podcast as a research assignment. Brilliant! I’m just 11 minutes in — I think I just heard the last of the introductions — but I am totally looking forward to this. And James, if you are reading, keep working on that podcast voice of yours. It’s marvelous. It’s like I’m listening to Lt. Sulu on NPR. Rock on.

  3. This was an amazing approach to the science vs. religion controversy. Ironically, both theology and science changes as new information is collected. It would be equally bad for a theologian to claim that we know all there is to know about God as a scientist who claims we know all there is to know about the natural world. Each view point evolves with time as new information is gathered and collected.

  4. England have just lost 4 1 to Germany in the World Cup!! Ruddy Nora!!! Could Dr Ruse (as an Englishman) or even Dr McKay appeal to the laws of science and Religion to answer this clear travesty of flippin reason and justice!!!!

  5. I’m with Glenn — this was a great episode. I may just have to steal this idea (I just won’t tell anyone I got it from BYU! ;) )

    I also love the idea that someone is assigned to a view that they may not agree with. I had to do that in a class once — it’s a great empathy-building exercise.

  6. My wife bought me an interesting book that came out about a year ago entitled, the Genesis Enigma by Parker. It demonstrates that the Genesis story is scientifically substantiated if you make a few assumptions and it’s actually a remarkably accurate account given the era in which it was written. For example, on the fourth day, “let there be Light”, is the Cambrian explosion when the first eye evolved. Prior to this, organisms could not see, so light was irrelevant. Let there be light was a scriptural way of saying “let the animals see the light”. Made sense to me! Also he traces life as it begins in the sea, starting with cyanobacteria in the rock fissures and follows it through to the various phyla. BTW, the prophets of today’s are far more careful when they make public statements. They have an entourage of advisors. The Joseph F. statement wouldn’t occur today. These older prophets were wonderful men, but they were out of school when they started talking about science.

  7. Need to clarify that on the fourth day, the light referred to was the light emanating from the sun and the moon, which had been there all along, but which was invisible to life forms without advanced eyes.

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