Thursday, 7 February 2013

Andy McIntosh and science vs. faith (part 2)

We got some very quick responses to last month’s interview with prof. John Polkinghorne. Some of our listeners were concerned that we show that Polkinghorne’s worldview is not the only one, and that Christians can understand the origins of life in a very different way. So we got in touch with the professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion at Leeds University, Andy McIntosh, to talk about an alternative worldview.

Like Polkinhorne, McIntosh presented a clear, coherent and consistent worldview. The difference between the two seems to lie in their starting points. Polkinghorne seemed to start with a scientific view of the world, and then interpreted the Bible (Genesis in particular) through this lens. Whereas McIntosh seemed to be starting with a literal reading of Genesis, and then interpreted science through that lens.

I certainly found McIntosh’s creationist worldview more consistent with a loving creator who is on the side of the weak and vulnerable (which flies in the face of the death and suffering required by evolution). But obviously to hold this view one has to stand in opposition to prevailing scientific opinion. And so unless you happen to be skilled in multiple scientific disciplines, it’s a hard position to defend.

What do you think? Is this an issue you’ve wrestled with? Is it an issue as central as organisations like Answers in Genesis would have us believe? What conclusions have you come to?  


  1. I'm risking a reply before listening to either of these podcasts. But I'd like to say 'thanks' for publishing them.

    It's a topic that often produces far more heat than light, but the Nomad interviews usually have the opposite effect and I'm looking forward to hearing the latest two.

    It's also a topic I've posted on from time to time, see especially

    One puzzle for me is the argument that evolution involves death and suffering and is therefore incompatible with a loving Creator. But what about the death and suffering in the Old Testament, the flood for example? Why is that not incompatible too?

  2. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your encouraging comments, we at Nomad need encouraging from time to time!

    Excellent point about the death and suffering in the OT, it's something I've spent a lot of time pondering as well. It is really hard to reconcile this with the loving creator God as revealed in Jesus.

    My current position is that in the OT God isn't directly punishing people with death and suffering, but rather death and suffering comes to them as, due to their sin, they distance themselves from God and his protection.

    The flood is a good example. God says that he would 'wipe mankind from the face of the earth'. But when the flood actually came there's no mention of God. So I think God simply stopped holding the waters back, he stopped protecting the earth. So in saying he would bring the flood he was taking responsibility for what he allowed to happen.

    I think the cross is our model of how God judges. God didn't directly punish Jesus with suffering and death, but as Jesus took on our sin he removed himself from God's protection, allowing evil men to do what evil men do.

    That's where I'm at at the moment anyway. I could well be wrong!


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  4. Thanks Chris, really glad you're finding the podcast helpful.

    We'll certainly check out Julia Fisher!


  5. Sorry Tim, just decided to make a slight mod, then saw you'd already replied! You are fast, chap - far too quick for me :-)

    Thanks for the reply, Tim. That's a good, cogent position and I don't want to argue about it.

    I've listened to both the podcasts now, and there were no suprises (for me) in John Polkinghorne's approach. But I seriously think Andy McIntosh was misleading in some of his remarks (I don't mean deliberately so).

    The one that particularly stood out for me was his claim that our galaxy is somehow near the centre of the universe. It certainly seems to be so, but that's missing a simple but subtle fact. Maybe I'll write a blog post on that topic.

    But thanks again for two outstanding and fascinating interviews. I'm a big fan of Nomad.

    There's another fascinating but quite different series by Julia Fisher. In fact I'd like to suggest you consider doing a podcast with her. Here's some information about Julia's work.