A request for perspective

Dear Friends:

I am (pretty) new to these forums and have made only a handful of posts. I was hoping to get some perspective on my approach to questions of faith and science. In doing so I am not looking to engage in debate over what is or is not true. I am more than happy to do so in separate threads however.

My purpose here is to vet my approach to these matters and to ask if I am being unreasonable in any way. Am I coming at these issues in an intellectually honest way?

I come out of a YEC position and to be honest I feel lied to by groups like AIG. I don’t want to accuse them of willful wrongdoing but rather, that of simply being mistaken. I say this not to generate a long rant about YEC groups but only to give some context on how this affects me emotionally.

As a Christian I find myself piecing my worldview back together. In this process I am putting all cards on the table and absolutely do not wish to beg the question in favor of the Bible. There are philosophical considerations to be considered here but to my mind if the Bible makes claims in the realm of a scientific discipline that may test or evaluate those claims, then the Bible is then open to critique on those points.

I hope that this approach of “the Bible may not necessarily be true” is the most honest way to look at things. I’m quite tired of presuppositional apologetics. While I am not demanding proof in the mathematical sense, I am looking for what is most likely to be true and what best explains the evidence.

I think that there can be a reconciliation of modern cosmology and biology but it will come at the cost of a large paradigm shift. One that is not terribly welcome by the YEC minded church I attend.

I ask for encouragement and constructive criticism. Thank you.


If you are looking for encouragement, I have to say that I think these remarks from you are very much worthy of encouragement. I think you are looking at this the right way.

If you are looking for constructive criticism, I would have only one point – not so much a criticism as a point which I think is worth thinking about. And that is that perhaps the best way to approach all of these things is really to leave the Bible by the bedside table and go out and see what you can learn about biology (and/or cosmology), itself, on its own terms.

My sense is that when people are questioning these things seriously, even when they have realized, as you have, that they need to set presuppositions aside, the Bible is often a kind of looming omnipresence: every fact learned is seen as casting some sort of shadow in the Bible’s light. And I think that has the unfortunate effect of causing some strange artifacts of vision.

I am a civil rights lawyer by profession (though now retired from that work). There are, as a result, a number of things which I see through the lens of civil rights law and constitutional history. But I also know that when I am attempting to decide whether lemon pickle or mango pickle will go best with my dish of Indian food, civil rights law, for all its depth and its profound extent, can shed very little light. And so I do not think about civil rights law when I make that decision. I don’t think that when I don’t think about civil rights law in the course of selecting an appropriate pickle, I am committing any disrespect to those pillars of jurisprudence whose views shaped it. I do not disregard it, I don’t have it out my head, and I don’t stop believing in its profound importance; I just set it to one side.

I think that learning about biology is so useful, so important and so interesting in its own right, and yet, to people who have found its implications for religious thought troubling, it can be a hard thing to do without constantly asking oneself what all of this means. And so I would suggest, when you find yourself doing that, that you at least sometimes stop and say, “right now I am selecting a pickle for my meal, not contemplating the scope of the Fourth Amendment, and so I will put any possible implications of lemon versus mango to the reasonableness of searches and seizures out of my mind entirely.”

Perhaps you are already there, and this advice is unnecessary. But if you’re not, I would suggest giving it a thought. There is always time, after you’ve digested a lot of new information, to come back and revisit matters later to see what you think its implications are for external philosophical issues. Biology for its own sake is a beautiful thing.


As a plug for PS I’ve enjoyed this conversation between Dr. Swamidass and John Walton. I appreciate both of these men and how their work is helping me work through these issues.

1 Like

I’m an evangelical Christian who finds your whole posture quite encouraging.

Co-sign. My own position is that the Bible likely makes little to no scientific claims (i.e., I am a non-concordist). So I don’t feel the same pressure (though I do feel it when it comes to historical claims). One helpful distinction for me has been not to equate orthodoxy with inerrancy (which I tentatively hold, as long as I get to define it :slight_smile: ). That is, one’s commitment to the faith, and even to biblical inspiration & authority, need not rise or fall based on whether there are any errors at all. This allows me, I think, to be a bit more open to the evidence, knowing my union with Christ is not tethered to a specific hardline view of the Bible.


Thank you for your thoughtful input. I appreciate it. My opinions on this subject in my personal sphere are not necessarily very welcome (they come at a cost) so I am very grateful to have an electronic forum such as this one where I can discuss things to a sympathetic ear such as yours.


I’ve been hesitating on whether to reply.

I left Christianity some time ago, so you might not value my comments. The reasons that I left had nothing to do with supposed conflicts between Christianity and science, as I never thought there were serious conflicts.

I took the position that the Bible was written by humans. They may have been inspired (whatever that means). But they were not stenographers writing down what was dictated to them. So, unavoidably, they presented their ideas in ways that were consistent with their culture. They were not writing 20th or 21st century science. They were describing things as they understood them.

Take Genesis 1, as an example. Looked at from the viewpoint of modern physics, it is absurd. But it is a beautiful presentation of the way people of that era are likely to have understood their world.


Thank you Kenneth. I’ve been a concordist in this area but I may have to reconsider my position in light of what I’ve been learning. I understand what you mean about historical claims. I can live with ambiguity in the Genesis 1-11 account and how exactly (if indeed true) it corresponds to what we currently understand of the universe. Where I’d have even greater difficulty would be if the more recent historical claims were shown to be false.

I am not “Reformed” per se but come from that background and inhabit a social world where things like inerrancy are fought for, so any position I hold that may differ from traditional teaching will have to be held with much tact.


Thank you Neil for writing. One thing I appreciate about this forum is the opportunity to interact with people with different points of view which helps to avoid the echo chambers so prevalent these days.


Thanks for this thread @CaveatLector, and for telling us about your path.

1 Like

I felt the same. It is similar to my story. Have you read these yet?

Maybe it’s surprising, but I generally agree with the other comments here. Here’s what I have been trying to do: Study the science because it’s fun and interesting. Learn the basics of what holds up the various models in each discipline - Big Bang on cosmology, the evolutionary model in biology and geology and related fields. Read why the ID and YEC scientists think they don’t hold up. Decide if they have points or not based on the science itself. Realize everything - scientific data and the Bible - are always interpreted through a worldview.


Puck’s advice is excellent. If you’re looking for a subject into which you can take a deep dive, may I recommend virology, specifically the real-time evolution of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19? Almost every journal is placing such papers outside of their paywalls.

In addition to being interesting, it may save your life or the life of someone close to you.

Sorry, I don’t see how you can do that, given your unwillingness to get into the science itself.

Science isn’t merely retrospective data interpretation. You’re rejecting its essence.

The scientific worldview requires that hypotheses and theories account for ALL of the extant data (IOW, ID and YEC “scientists” reject the scientific worldview). The scientific worldview requires that hypotheses and theories predict future empirical data (not anyone’s interpretation of them); this also is rejected by ID and YEC “scientists.”

Does describing the conflict in your preferred frame of worldviews help?


I’m reading them now (may not finish them today). I believe that I’ve read some similar thoughts you have shared (perhaps in an abbreviated form) on PS a while back, but these are longer and more in depth. Thank you.

First, I should say that I am surprised at the extent of my agreement with @thoughtful here, but this last sentence, invoking relativism as it does, sounds a thousand alarm bells. It’s not so much that I disagree with it as a general proposition; it’s that I think that it’s not germane to the mission you are on.

Relativism is an intellectual tool of sorts, but people are liable to use it for one thing when it is only useful for another. If relativism is a set of precision calipers, I could not count the number of times I have seen people observe that it’s got jaws and an adjustment knob, and try to use it as a pipe wrench.

Relativism can shed no light on biology at all. Only evidence, aided by the strictest adherence to careful consideration and reasoning, can do that. What relativism is good for is understanding WHY other people hold the views they hold and, on occasion, helping you to scrutinize why you hold the views you hold. But the Embden-Meyerhof pathway, the Krebs cycle, the processes of cell division, and any other phenomenon in biology one could name – these things do not respond to “worldviews.” They do not give a fig for what you think of them. They do what they do.

The “worldview” thing, when used as a pipe wrench instead of a caliper, gets people horribly, horribly twisted up, until they are announcing that all accounts of reality are merely stories we tell ourselves, none better than another. But if you believe there IS any such thing as reality – whether that is a purely scientifically-observable reality or whether it includes any of the claims of Christian belief – then this is manifestly false. Some accounts DO represent reality better than others.

Relativism is best used as an explanatory notion to describe the ways in which disagreements about facts, or the implications of facts, or disagreements about morals, cultural practices, et cetera, arise. It is useless as a tool for the evaluation of reality itself. And so while the social facts surrounding biology, e.g., the existence of creationism, may be EXPLAINED by relativism, the claims of creationism are neither strengthened nor weakened by relativism. Only evidence and careful reasoning can do that.

It is a grave error to defend one’s position by invoking relativism. People do it, sometimes, because they feel backed into a place where they can no longer reconcile their views with the evidence, yet cannot, for other reasons bear to discard or modify those views. But it is always a mistake.


Then you don’t know how science works which is frankly not surprising despite your nearly constant participation in chats discussing scientific methodologies. I see @Mercer has pointed out how its done traditionally.

This is the easy part, learning about scientific facts. The relatively more difficult but more important part is looking at actual data and using them to test ideas and claims.

A better approach would be to see if the widely accepted models and theories in the fields you outlined are consistent with or explain the data quite well and make testable predictions. For example, one might ask, if modern humans and chimps had separate origins, then what we would expect to see upon examining relevant datasets; I don’t need to tell you that the genetic data and other datasets support common descent.


I appreciate the thoughts from @Mercer, @Puck_Mendelssohn and @Michael_Okoko .

Part of my journey out of YEC stems from having learned better critical thinking skills. Part of that involved learning about cognitive biases like confirmation bias. It was a giant eye opener. Wow.

I do appreciate that @thoughtful desires to really see what each side has to say. This is far superior to getting their information from just one source (like I used to do). Once I started reading what Evolutionary Biologists had to say about Evolution, I was staggered. I didn’t quite know how to respond. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions or even minor doubts about the theory, but I am brought low by the weight of the evidence.

When I hear phrases like “we look at the same evidence but come to different conclusions” or “that is just your perspective”, little alarm bells go off in my head. I’m not calling anyone out here but I suspect that phrases like that (like Puck also eluded to) are often just ways of deflecting information that we don’t agree with.

I want to believe that the Bible is true and can be reconciled with our current consensus on these matters. For me this means a man-up, face-to-face interaction with the issues. It is hard. It is uncomfortable. It is exhausting, but I want to know the truth. In saying this I realize that scientific truth is always provisional but I cannot use that limitation as a “get out of jail free” card.

I appreciate this forum and the variety of viewpoints here. I am glad to be a part of it.


Have you read the GAE yet?

Ha! No! Not yet! I intend to though. I have watched or read several reviews of your book (most of them including you) as well as your material on this site, so I have a good sense of your premise. I do want to read it, but have not yet bought a copy.

1 Like

You are doing all the right things; asking question, seeking opinions, and questioning assumptions. You are all set, and in the words on Miracle Max, “Have fun storming the castle!” :slight_smile:

“Not terribly welcome” may be something of an understatement. Are you prepared for the reception you will receive, or maybe you have encountered that already?