A Student Response to
Dr. Lamoreux’s Talk on Evolutionary Creation
By Ethan Zook and David Gish, Spring 2008
When it comes to the ongoing controversy between proponents of Evolution and proponents of Creation science, Dr. Denis Lamoureux of St. Joseph’s College, Alberta, is singularly well qualified to comment on the issue. He holds three doctoral degrees; one in dentistry, a second in theology, and a third in biology. However, Dr. Lamoureux did not come to EMU to support one side or the other; instead, he wished to explain to the audience of students, faculty, and community members that it is possible to move beyond the idea that one must choose between evolution and creation, and instead find common ground.
No one knows the perils of an “either/or” approach to evolution and origins better than Dr. Lamoureux himself. Raised in a conservative Catholic home, Lamoureux left for college in 1972, hoping to receive a major in biology. By the end of his first term in biology, his exposure to evolution, and his acceptance of the “either/or” dichotomy had caused him to start to question his faith. By the end of his first year of college, he was a Deist; he believed in God, but in a God which set the world in motion and had no further part to play. Four years later, Lamoureux had become a full-fledged atheist and evolutionist. His life took a dramatic turn several years later, when he re-found the faith during a tour with the Canadian military in Cyprus. He came to believe that evolution had ruined his life, and reacted by becoming a Young Earth Creationist; he then left the military and went to school to pursue a career in theology and eventually, he hoped, as a creation scientist. As a result of his studies in theology, Lamoureux came to a startling conclusion; “Young-earth Creationism,” he explained in his talk, “was unbiblical.” Lamoureux then went back to school for a doctorate in biology; he hoped to attack evolutionary biology using science. However, as he studied more he found the evidence for evolution to be overwhelming. This led him to become an Evolutionary Creationist in 1994.
Dr. Lamoureux asserts that a dichotomy has been constructed by the two opposing sides; one must choose between “Evolution” and “Creation.” Dr. Lamoureux used the example of Julian Huxley, a well known evolutionary biologist, to illustrate one side of this artificial dichotomy. “The Earth,” wrote Huxley, “was not created, it evolved…so did religion…Evolutionary truth frees us from the subservient fear of the unknown.” To illustrate the other side of the debate, Dr. Lamoureux quoted Henry Morris, a well known Young-Earth Creationist who wrote “There are only two basic world views: the God-centered world view, and the man centered world view…Satan himself is the originator of the Theory of Evolution.” According to Lamoureux, both sides have their good points; however, each side also conflates, which means “to meld, or fuse,” the good with the problematic. Evolutionists conflate excellent science with an anti-God world view; Creationists conflate a strong faith in God with a fundamentalist adherence to a literal six day creation.
Is there middle ground, or must we choose one side or another? Lamoureux is quick with an answer. “I am an evangelical theologian, educated to the PhD level, and I’m a born again Christian…I am also a thoroughly committed evolutionary biologist, educated to the PhD level…I feel that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.” As further evidence of there being middle ground between religion and the natural sciences, Lamoureux cited surveys of leading scientists which found that 40% of leading researchers believe in a god to which they may pray and expect answers. Additionally, only 4% of Americans believe that the cosmos has no order. This phenomenon of mixing is not limited to science; Pope John Paul II stated that “Evolution is more than a hypothesis,” and worked hard to show that evolution is compatible with Catholic beliefs. Furthermore, Billy Graham stated “Sacred scripture simply declares that the world was created by God. Whichever way God did it [i.e. by evolution or by direct creation] makes no difference as to what men and women are, and to their relationship with God.”
Finally, the range of viewpoints on God’s position in the cosmos and his role in evolution held by scientists, clergy, and researchers destroys the arguments of those that argue for a clear cut “either/or” approach; Lamoureux covered five different views, Young Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, Theistic Evolution (also known as Evolutionary Creationism), Deistic Evolution, and Evolutionism. Each is certainly different from the others; yet many have great similarities, especially in terms of theology and ethics.
Dr. Lamoureux concluded that the evolution vs. creation debate is, in fact, a false dichotomy. There is no reason that God could not have guided evolution, using natural means as a tool for creation. Furthermore, He suggested that those involved in this “debate” consider a quote by Sir Francis Bacon, which says:
“Let no man or woman, out of conceit or laziness, think or believe that anyone can search too far or be too well informed in the Book of God’s Words or the Book of God’s Works: religion or science. Instead, let everyone endlessly improve their understanding of both.” -Sir Francis Bacon, 1605
After Lamoureux’s presentation, two respondents from the Bible & Religion department at EMU shared their thoughts on the topic of faith and evolution. Dr. Peter Dula spoke first, and prefaced his response by emphasizing that he is primarily a theologian rather than a scientist. He acknowledged the significance of understanding the creation of humanity, explaining that, “an account of creation is an account of salvation, and an account of salvation is an account of creation.” Dula further explained that from a theological and philosophical perspective, the end is directly tied to the beginning, and because of this connection the beginning is of great importance.
Dr. Dula addressed God’s affirmation of creation in Genesis, where God calls the creation “good.” By looking into the state of creation when God makes this assertion, Dula pointed out that good included a state of no predation. This initial state, which directly relates to the ultimate final state, would imply that in the New Creation there would be no predation. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah confirms this as he describes a harmony in which “The wolf will live with the lamb…and the lion will eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:6-7). Dula concluded his response by asking whether evolutionary biology can help us to reach a peace with creation.
Dr. Nancy Heisey was the second respondent, and also identified herself as a theologian rather than a scientist. She is in the company of believers such as Billy Graham who believe that the important message from the Genesis account of creation is that “God is creator.” Dr. Heisey emphasized the significance of purpose in creation, and asked us to consider the question, “where are things going?”
After the respondents, Lamoureux gave a few closing remarks. He explained that examination of this topic will grant a clearer understanding of the facts, and will allow scientific believers to identify science versus ancient storytelling elements in the text, and thereby separate away the underlying message of faith.
Reflections from Ethan Zook:
Personally, I greatly appreciated Dr. Lamoureux’s discussion. In a world where the most vocal voices on the interplay between faith and evolution are those on the extremes, such as Richard Dawkins and Ken Ham, a highly educated individual such as Dr. Lamoureux who believes that the two are compatible is highly reassuring. Personally, I do not understand how one can decide that large amounts of research and evidence are simply false. I also do not understand how one can extrapolate the non-existence of an omnipotent deity using science; the leap of faith in both of these perspectives is astounding. Dr. Lamoureux’s position allows me to accept science, but also to keep my faith in God.
Reflections from David Gish:
I found Dr. Lamoureux’s disclosure of his own struggle to understand the topic to be meaningful. His personal experiences with the topic have qualified him to speak with authority and conviction. In contrast to other discussions that I have heard on the topic, Dr. Lamoureux presented his beliefs in a way that did not polarize the issue or alienate those who are yet exploring the topic, as he once was. He has found a secure way to bridge science and faith, and the products of his message resonate with the message of scripture.