Sunday, 1 March 2009

Tony Campolo's Great Mistake

I don't know that I've ever been more disappointed to read something online. I respect Tony Campolo so much. I have been lead to the Truth by his words so often. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Pasadena Tab, when I was with the Salvation Army and he lead a conference there. This is a man who has consistently upheld the liberal end of evangelicalism, who calls for us to honor the social justice cries of the Gospel. He has truly helped me come closer to Christ. And now, he publishes this.

If you haven't heard, or haven't read, in the latest issue of Christianity Today, Campolo comes out strongly against the teaching of evolution, or "Darwinism", as he calls it. (Darwinism is a dismissive insult purposely used by Literal Creationists, to try to turn evolution into a religion.) Campolo doesn't come out and say that evolution is wrong, but rather argues that it should not be taught, for the philosophical, social, and religious implications and beliefs of Darwin are monsterous.

I was shocked to read this. Campolo is a level-headed guy, with great reasoning and logic, who speaks for a non-literalist interpretation of the Bible. Yet down the line he quoted the standard Literalist arguments used against evolution. I would have wished that someone else had emailed this article in under his name, and that he was the victim of identity theft, rather than believing that you actually wrote this.

Evolution should or should not be taught in schools because it is either the truth, or it is not. What the results are of the theory, or how people use it, are rather irrelevant. The truth shall set you free, regardless of what kind of truth that is. And it just so happens that there is probably no other scientific theory out there that has more evidence for it than the Theory of Evolution. In this article Campolo proved that he might be a great theologian and pastor, but that he knows very little about science.

Campolo claimed that Darwin directly advocated eugenics and the wiping out of inferior races. In truth, Darwin is rather famous for being an abolitionist, and speaking against what would be later known as eugenics. Certainly, the Intelligent Design crowd and the Discovery Institute often quote him out of context to try to say the opposite, ignoring the very next line where he says (to paraphrase anachronistically), "If eugenics were actually practiced, it would be horrible." And I have no doubt that his beliefs on race aren't up to our standards today- but the same could be said for Lincoln, and more easily said.

Campolo points out another common Literal Creationist argument, that the long title of "Origin of a Species" refers to the preservation of the races. This is true, but the long title of Origin isn't used as much in referencing the work because the word "races" in the 19th century means more than just humans. Indeed, today, the same is still true in biology. My professors would speak of races of seastars, meaning different colors of the same species of Patiria miniata. Since Darwin doesn't really ever get to the evolution of *our* species in Origin, when he used the term "races", he was quite clearly referring to animals in general.

Campolo brings up the rather tired argument tying the Nazis to evolution, the same one that was brought up in the awful Expelled movie by Ben Stein. These arguments are completely inaccurate every time they are blindly repeated. In Campolo's condemnation of the ethical implications of evolutino, he ignored, or more probably had not read, the numerous statements by Darwin that his biological theory should not be used as an ethical paradigm. Yes, the Nazis used evolutionary theory incorrectly to support their beliefs. (Indeed, their distortion of evolution was so great as to advocate the opposite of what evolutionary theory advocates.) They also used a distortion of Christianity to do the same. Campolo knows that Satan loves to distort the truth, and to use lies to advance his agenda. That doesn't mean we should throw out the Christian faith.

Campolo then refers to some others who were tied to the Nazis and evolutionary theory. Tod o this, he refers to Ernst Haekel as German, and therefore is to be lumped with the Nazis. This smacks too much of the same that Campolo accuses Darwin of. Haekel made mistakes, but he also contributed a great deal to biology. His drawings of plankton were immaculate and advanced our understanding of them a great deal. Though he fudged his drawings of ontology recapitulating phylogeny, his basic premise was sound and is still followed today. Indeed, it is a foundational principle of EvoDevo Synthesis that has supplanted the NeoDarwinian Synthesis of Evolutionary Theory.

Remember, if evolution is true, and the evidence indicates it is, than it is also a work of God. And for my money, a more powerful God creates in this manner than in the Q snap-your-fingers style of the IDists or Literal Creationists. There are many authors and theologians now who are discussing not only how Christianity and evolution are compatible (see Kenneth Miller), but how the theology and the science of the two are interwoven and dependent on each other (see John Haught, Darrel Falk, and Denis Edwards). Yes, we affirm with Campolo that humans are in God's image, and unique in that way. But if evolution is true, then by attacking evolution, one is attacking the very work of God.

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