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Die wêreldbeeld van die gereformeerde bioloog, Jan Lever (1922-2010): van evolusieteorie na ‘n evolusionistiese geloof?

B.J. van der Walt

Abstract


Abstract

The world-picture of the reformed biologist, Jan Lever (1922-2010) from an evolutionary theory towards an evolutionistic faith? Evolution as a theory is today proclaimed widely, accepted by many as a fact and it is often reflected even in South Africa in the prescribed textbooks for school and universities. The main question to be discussed in this reflection is whether the idea of evolution always remains a mere theory. Does it not often, even unintentionally, eventually develop into an evolutionistic faith or worldview and thus becomes to Christians an unacceptable worldview? Different contemporary secular thinkers openly acknowledge the dependence of their theory of evolution upon an agnostic or an atheistic faith and/or, vice versa, their evolutionary theory leading toward unbelief.

Some Christian-reformed natural scientists (1) clearly rejected the hypothesis of evolution, including an evolutionistic worldview. Others (2), again including those from the reformed Christian tradition, are of the opinion that, after God (before time) created everything, reality unfolded or developed under His guidance. In the case of a third group (3) Christian evolutionary scientists it seems as if the compromise or synthesis which they tried to achieve between their Christian convictions and their scientific hypotheses could not be achieved. Finally they had to choose in favour of the one or the other.

A first article (cf. Van der Walt, 2016a) already discussed these varying and even clashing viewpoints among Christians. It focussed on the position of an earlier, well-known reformed theologian from the Netherlands (Abraham Kuyper) and a South African Christian philosopher (Hendrik Stoker). A second contribution on the same issue (cf. Van der Walt, 2016b) shifted attention to the viewpoints of three biologists from the reformed Christian circle, viz. Harry Diemer, Duyvené de Wit and Jan Lever. The first two of them may be regarded as representatives of position (2) above, while the third initially belonged to (2) but after about 1970 gradually developed towards (3).

The present article follows Lever’s thinking from about the seventies up to 2010. An increasing tension developed between his Christian belief in the Bible, and God as Creator and his zoological research according to an evolutionary paradigm. It gradually becomes evident that he ascribed such weight and even revelationary power to his scholarly results that it eventually clashed and overpowered his Christian worldview, replacing it with an evolutionistic world-picture or even a (semi-)evolutionistic worldview.

Opsomming

Evolusie as teorie word vandag wyd verkondig, deur baie as ʼn feit aanvaar, en word dus ook gereflekteer in handboeke vir sekondêre en tersiêre instellings. Die hoofprobleem wat in hierdie refleksie bespreek word, is of die evolusieteorie altyd ʼn blote teorie of hipotese bly. Gebeur dit nie dikwels, selfs onbedoeld en geleidelik, dat dit eventueel in ʼn evolusionistiese geloof en lewensvisie ontwikkel en op dié wyse vir Christene ‘n onaanvaarbare wêreldbeskouing word nie? Verskillende huidige sekulêre denkers erken vandag reeds openlik die afhanklikheid van hulle evolusieteorie van ʼn agnostiese of ateïstiese geloof en/of die omgekeerde: dat hulle evolusieteorie tot so ʼn geloof voer.

Sommige Christelike natuurwetenskaplikes (1) verwerp duidelik die evolusieteorie en ook ʼn evolusionistiese lewensvisie. Ander (2), wat ook verteenwoordigers uit die Christelik-gereformeerde tradisie insluit, is van mening dat, nadat God (voor tyd daar was) alles geskep het, die werklikheid onder sy voorsienigheid verder ontplooi of evolveer het. In die geval van ʼn derde groep Christelik-evolusionêre bioloë (3) wil dit voorkom asof die kompromie of sintese wat hulle tussen hulle Christelike oortuigings en wetenskaplike hipoteses en teorieë wou bereik, gefaal het. Aan die einde moes hulle vir die een of die ander kies.

In ʼn eerste artikel (vgl. Van der Walt, 2016a) is alreeds hierdie verskillende en selfs botsende gesigspunte onder Christenwetenskaplikes bespreek. Dit was toegespits op die standpunte van ʼn vroeëre bekende gereformeerde teoloog (Abraham Kuyper) van Nederland en ʼn Suid-Afrikaanse Christelike filosoof (Hendrik Stoker). In ʼn tweede bydrae oor dieselfde vraagstuk het die aandag geval op die visies van drie gereformeerde bioloë, naamlik Harry Diemer, Duyvené de Wit en Jan Lever (vgl. Van der Walt, 2016b). Die eerste twee kan beskou word as verteenwoordigers van standpunt (2) hierbo, terwyl die derde persoon se siening aanvanklik ook onder dieselfde groep geval het, maar sedert ongeveer 1970 in die rigting van (3) ontwikkel het.

Die huidige artikel volg Lever se ontwikkeling vanaf ongeveer 1970 tot 2010. Daarvolgens ontstaan daar ʼn toenemende spanning tussen sy Christelike geloof in die Bybel van God as Skepper en sy dierkundige navorsing volgens ʼn evolusionêre paradigma. Dit word duidelik dat hy geleidelik soveel gewig en selfs openbarende krag aan sy wetenskaplike resultate geheg het dat dit eventueel gebots het met en selfs sy Christelike lewensbeskouing oorrompel het om vervang te word met ʼn evolusionistiese wêreldbeeld of selfs (semi-)evolusionistiese wêreldvisie.

https://doi.org/10.19108/KOERS.81.1.2253


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