Since it seems likely that I will post frequently on my interactions with young earth creationist Don Patton, I have decided to create a category 'Patton Pending' so that anyone who wants to can just quickly find all the posts related to Patton's visit, Patton's claims, Patton's choice of venue, etc.

And why 'pending', other than to be cutesy and halfway-memorable? Well, just that it often happens that when questions are asked, we are told that the answer is coming. And then we wait...and wait....and....

You get the idea.


Anonymous said...


I'm a Christian who'd like to ask you a few questions about how evolution and Christianity mix. I'm not a YEC, I typically refer to myself as progressive/old earth creationist.

The questions won't be very scientific as I'm not a scientist, but more philosophical and theological.

I'm not looking for a debate, but a better understanding of how a theistic evolutionist looks at God and man.

I'd also like to post the questions and answers on my blog.


Earth and All Stars

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

I would be delighted to blog with you and have both of us post the exchange on our respective blogs. I think Christians should dialog with themselves and each other on such matters.

For the record, I am neither a theistic evolutionist as usually defined nor a progressive creationist after the manner of Hugh Ross. However, I do participate from time to time in the local chapter of Ross's organization Reasons To Believe and enjoy a friendly dialog with many members of that chapter. I have even given a couple of presentations for the chapters on both Noah's Flood and on some of the misconceptions associated with evolutionary theory. In fact, while I do not share Ross's theology I am very much in agreement with the general tone and purpose of RTB.

Have you ever attended an RTB chapter meeting?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying Scott.

I'm a fan of Dr. Ross, but haven't been to any meetings. I've read a few of his books and I also appreciate the tone he sets.

I guess I had misunderstood that you were a theistic evolutionist. Rather than asking you a bunch of questions from the start, do you have a more detailed explanations of your beliefs?



Evan Jones said...

I attended Mr. Patton's lecture and was greatly disappointed. I have long sided with evolutionary biology and had hoped to actually hear the other side of the argument. Patton instead spent his time sniping at the academic world, using quotes entirely out of context, while doing little to promote an intellectual argument in his favor. I found him to be an abysmal public speaker. He rambled, making leaps and bounds from topic to topic, not while not constructing a flowing narrative, nor offering relationships between different points.

My brother studied under Stephen Gould, toward the end of Professor Gould's lifetime. The Stephen Gould portrayed my Mr. Patton is not the person my brother knew nor the same person represented in Gould's masterful arguments found in "The Panda's Thumb," "Ever Since Darwin," and "The Mismeasure of Man." Patton took cheap shots at others and did little more. In brief, I feel sorry for the people who ate out of his hand and I feel especially sorry for the gentlemen who asked Patton for guidance on Monday evening, by inquiring how he should instruct his children to argue against biology as early as grade school. Patton and his followers are anti-intellectuals promoting junk science.

-Evan Jones

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...


To me, 'theistic evolution' is something of a misnomer, for two reasons:

In the first place, while the term may sound more 'scientific' than at first hearing, 'theistic evolution' is really just another version of creationism. A 'theistic evolutionist' is still asserting that God creates, it's just that they admit the possibility that the Almighty may have done so through evolutionary means. You can burnish this idea as much as you like, but at the end of the day it adds nothing to the science it accommodates.

Since the above is true, it follows that 'theistic evolution' is but a belief system, albeit one which has the advantage of being in less overt conflict with the practice and acceptance of science. The core assumptions that God exists, that God creates and (typically) that this is still the all-powerful, all-knowing and loving God affirmed by Christians remains. Much of that core remains inaccessible to scientific investigation, and so (again) its affirmation adds nothing to science and in fact, any attempt to use legitimate science to affirm those core beliefs would be met with scorn by the scientific community.

Less obviously, evolution is irrelevant to the core beliefs. To the Christian, God exists whether or not He happened to use natural selection in any particular case. To the Christian, Jesus is alive and bridges the gap between God and man, regardless of how that gap came to be in a fallen world. And so, just as I recognize that 'theistic evolution' is not a scientific position, I am leery of having 'theistic evolution' as a label for my own private beliefs. Why? Because people may get the false impression that some sort of understanding of evolution is somehow central to my understanding of Christianity, that (like Teilhard de Chardin) evolution plays some essential role in the unveiling of God's will, etc. This is not my position, and so I do not feel any need to attach any sort of scientific-sounding qualifier to my beliefs.

Instead, my approach is similar to Brown University cell biologist Ken Miller, who is an observant Roman Catholic and yet also one of country's leading defenders of evolution. He emphasizes the conventional, even orthodox nature of his thought in two separate realms which nevertheless (to Miller) do not pose any irresoluble points of conflict. How does this work? By understanding the nature of science. Consider the qualitative difference between these two statements:

I believe that the God described in the Bible exist, and that the core doctrines affirmed on faith by Christians are true.

I accept that the evolutionary model for the diversity and distribution of life is at the present time the best fit to its data.

I think most people would recognize that these are different kinds of statements about different ways of thinking. The former is unconditional; the latter is provisional.

Anonymous said...

Scott, thanks for the reply.

Here is my first question:

Hugh Ross the other day mentioned that stellar evolution was simple (compared to complex life) and so God essentially set things in motion and used natural laws for stellar evolution. When it came to formation of life, Ross believes that God performed specific miracles to create life, particularly complex life due to the complexity of it.

As it pertains to abiogenesis, and particularly the formation of complex life what is your belief on how active God was in this process?

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

God was as active as it suited him. I don't mean to sound smart-alecky. It's just that this is not a scientific question. It's a theological question, and I don't think I'm wise enough to have an opinion on when God acted or didn't act, nor do I think it has any bearing on my relationship with God. It is enough for me to believe that God interacts with me and the creation today in a way that invites relationship with humankind. The degree to which it might have been necessary for him to be involved at past junctures in the history of life is irrelevant to my experience of faith today. Similarly, and from the opposite point of view. as I understand it the game of science is not played by positing, in effect, 'mystery = God did it'. The latter may be entirely true, but we don't make any headway by proposing explanations that can't be tested.