Posted by jlwile on July 11, 2011
Dr. James Hannam is a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge. He earned his physics degree from Oxford, and then he went to Cambridge to earn a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science. So when it comes to science, Dr. Hannam is clearly no slouch. As I mentioned in my previous post, he has written an excellent book entitled The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. I plan to write a review of it, but that won’t happen today, because while I was doing a bit of research into Dr. Hannam, I ran across an article he wrote about a year ago. I found the article incredibly interesting, so I thought I would write about that first.
Dr. Hannam is a theistic evolutionist. Unlike many young-earth creationists, I don’t have a problem with theistic evolution. I certainly don’t think you have to give up a belief in the authority of Scripture to be a theistic evolutionist, and I don’t consider theistic evolutionists to be “compromisers.” Some of the most devout, God-honoring people I know are theistic evolutionists, and they have a very high view of Scripture. I would not be surprised if Dr. Hannam is one of those people.
The article I ran across is entitled “Debating a Young-Earth Creationist,” and it details a radio encounter between Dr. Hannam and a young-earth creationist (YEC) named Bob Enyart. Dr. Hannam specifically says that he doesn’t run into many YECs in his circles, so he was happy to have a chance to dialogue with Mr. Enyart. His report on the dialogue brought up a couple of interesting points.
First, he made the unsurprising statement that Richard Dawkins is wrong when it comes to people who don’t believe in evolution:
Richard Dawkins once said that “if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” It rapidly became clear that Bob was none of these things.
Obviously, there are many YECs who are quite well-educated, quite brilliant, and quite moral. There are also many other anti-evolutionists who are not ignorant, stupid, or wicked. As a result, this quote by Dawkins says a lot more about him than it does about those who disagree with him.
Not only did Dr. Hannam decide that Dawkins was wrong, he seemed genuinely surprised at how well-educated Mr. Enyart was on the scientific issues related to evolution:
For a start, I know a fair bit about evolution and genetics. But when it came to familiarity with the arguments, he was way ahead of me. On epigenetics, RNA/DNA chemistry, and animal physiology, I was hopelessly outclassed…So if I had tried to win an argument on the science, he would have shot me to pieces.
I don’t find this surprising at all. In general, I find that most anti-evolutionists understand evolution and the science that relates to it significantly better than do most evolutionists. That’s because most anti-evolutionists (at least the ones I know, anyway) are critical thinkers. They have evaluated the evidence and found it lacking. In order to evaluate the evidence, you must first know the evidence and the hypothesis to which it relates. As a result, anti-evolutionists tend to understand evolution and the data that relate to it better than the evolutionists. Obviously, this can’t be said for every anti-evolutionist, but I think it is probably true on average.
Since Dr. Hannam admitted to being “outclassed” when it came to the science behind evolution, he tried to focus the discussion on the Bible. He found more common ground there, but he was still unable to sway Mr. Enyart. I don’t find that surprising. Both Dr. Hannam and Mr. Enyart have probably put a lot of thought and prayer into their beliefs, so it is hard to imagine that ninety minutes of conversation would sway either of them. However, I do think their conversation is a great example of how Christians should discuss this issue. There was no name-calling. Mr. Enyart did not accuse Dr. Hannam of being a “compromiser” or having a low view of Scripture, and Dr. Hannam did not accuse Mr. Enyart of being scientifically illiterate. Instead, they both honestly presented their views, and they each learned from the other.
You can listen to their discussion for yourself here. Please note that the discussion is divided into three thirty-minute parts, and the other two parts can be found under “Handy Hannam Links” near the middle of the page.