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Why the Creation-Evolution Controversy is Important

I’m going to try for a brief statement, something that seems to be an unnatural act for me!

I am sometimes asked why I spend so much of my time on the [tag]creation[/tag]/[tag]evolution[/tag] controversy. The reason is simply that there is a full scale assault going on against free inquiry, something that is essential to the integrity and continued progress of science. As we have seen in the case of Dr. [tag]Richard Colling[/tag], scientists are asked to give up or lie about what they know to be the truth in order to meet a theological conclusion.

Creation and evolution is simply the most obvious case at the present time. Not only is the pressure intense in church circles, so that many people prefer not to discuss the issue rather than deal with the controversy, it is also a factor in political circles as creationists seek government recognition for ideas which have failed in the scientific arena.

There is simply no excuse in my view for what amounts to a demand to lie. This overlaps into my field of Biblical studies. Shortly after I completed my MA degree, I was interviewed by a college for a possible teaching position. I had some disagreements with the dominant theology and I recall listing these off for one person, saying I was flattered to be considered, given my degree level and lack of experience, but that I would have problems in those areas. The answer? “You don’t have to teach everything you know.” That would not be an option I could live with.

In science the case is very clear. You go with what the evidence says, and to be evidence it must be something that can be seen by people of any religious persuasion, or of no religion at all. That’s a theologian’s way of putting it, but I think it does make the point.

I’m not interested in theistic or non-[tag]theistic science[/tag]. I’m interested in science. My personal faith requires integrity of me, and nothing less meets that standard.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Henry,
    I’ve followed your blog off and on the last several months. Although we come from somewhat different theological backgrounds (mine is strongly evangelical) I appreciate your perspective and your posts. I’m certainly in agreement with your recent thoughts on Richard Colling’s treatment by ONU. And I also agree that the “Creation / Evolution” controversy is important. You highlight one of the key reasons in this post – the integrity of science. As Christians, we should have integrity in all areas, and showing integrity for studying God’s creation is no exception. It’s a shame that Christianity has been given a bad name because of the lack of integrity shown by the vocal minority.

    I would like to say though that lack of integrity in science might not be the biggest problem resulting from this controversy. More pressing is that anti-evolutionism (and YEC in particular) within Christianity is damaging the gospel. By shackling the gospel with a dogmatic view of scripture and science we are leading many of our Christian youth to believe that the gospel cannot be true. And in the process, we are creating stumbling blocks for others who cannot see Christ because they conclude that belief in God must be accompanied by accepting a medieval view of science. I posted on this at http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2007/06/evangelicalism-and-evolution-why.html. (Sorry for the shameless plug, but I thought it dovetailed nicely with your post).

  2. Steve,

    Just a quick note. I don’t mind shameless plugs for relevant materials, and your post is very relevant. I’ve promoted the link to a new post.

    I had some trouble with your link, but I can’t see the reason–the link looks good. If anyone has trouble, just follow the link from this post, or go direct using this one.

  3. From Steve Martin: “By shackling the gospel with a dogmatic view of scripture and science we are leading many of our Christian youth to believe that the gospel cannot be true.”

    Actually there is not much in the Bible that is true. For example, Genesis, whether read literally or not, is pure fiction.

    A agree creationists are harming Christianity with their God Did It stupidity, but so what? All Christian beliefs really are crazy. Even if a Christian accepts the fact of evolution and a billions of years old earth, a Christian still has to accept the weirdness of a man-made god, the impossible Resurrection, and the other Jesus myths. The best way to solve the conflict between religions and science is just get rid of the worthless religions.

  4. Even if a Christian accepts the fact of evolution and a billions of years old earth, a Christian still has to accept the weirdness of a man-made god, the impossible Resurrection, and the other Jesus myths.

    Just because I believe six impossible things before breakfast doesn’t mean I have to believe seven.

  5. It is twisting words to meet your beliefs if you think that the world is much over 6000 years old. I am astonished at people who claim to be Christians and go about creating their own new version of how the earth was Created. I believe that most of you that believe in the 4 billion years age of the earth are under the spell of the podium. You simply cannot believe that your professor could have misled you. Well, think again folks. Evolution, the kind Darwin invented, is a farce. No living thing has ever evolved into another KIND. God, in His Bible is PLAIN on this issue. God DID include the ability to change ever so slightly, but NEVER outside the KIND. If He had not provided the micro-evolution into every life form, including us, then EVERY human and every human female would look exactly alike. How would you like to live in a world like that, CONFUSION would reign.

    But if you evolutionists want to end the arguments all you have to do is, get your brilliant heads together and assemble a ‘simple’ living cell. This should be possible, since you certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about what is inside the ‘simple’ cell.

    After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago,according to the evolutionists, having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely then the evolutionists scientists today should be able to make us a ‘simple’ cell.

    If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

    Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so. It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try answersingenesis.org. The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

    Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

    Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

    PS: Please don’t lie about the ‘first life’ problem, scientists are falling all over themselves to make a living cell. Many have admitted publicly that it is a monumental problem. And is many years away from happening, if ever. Logical people understand this problem and have rightly concluded that an Intelligent Designer was absolutely necessary. Think of it this way, if all the brilliant scientists on earth can’t do it how on earth can anyone believe that it happened by accident?????

  6. Mr. Collins:

    To be of interest, arguments presented must be:

    a) relevant
    b) show an understanding of the topic
    c) reasonably well defined
    d) coherent.

    Yours fail on all counts.

  7. I agree mostly with you until your last couple of paragraphs. Science isn’t nor has it ever been, free from religious and societal influence. So while you might object to the current dogmatism being imposed by creationists, you can’t view science as an innocent party in this debate.

    One of the most compelling examples I came across in my early study of my chosen field (optics) was how Newton’s ideas on what light actually is were able to dominate for so long even in the face of contrary evidence. Partly because of Newton’s personality and the respect which he garnered, and partly because of societies leanings at the time. This doens’t mean his science was shabby or that it was even completely wrong. It was in fact partially correct, just not the entire story. Yet it took a very long time to unseat his conceptions within the scientific community and allow for a more cogent theory of light.

    Science never exists in a pure unadulterated form. It always has the taint of our humanity and as such it should always be viewed with some skepticism. If you haven’t read Faster than the Speed of Light by Magueijo it is a good read to see just how human our scientific system of knowledge is.

  8. Larry, while it is true that individual scientists are as prone as anyone else to undue influence, bias, and error, the scientific method allows us to identify and correct these errors.

  9. Science never exists in a pure unadulterated form. It always has the taint of our humanity and as such it should always be viewed with some skepticism.

    I don’t believe I have assumed that science is perfect. What I am assuming is that science has the means of correcting its errors, however long that may take.

  10. Wouldn’t the same be true of religion through it’s own disciplines such as theology and apologetics? I don’t see such a sharp division between the two field in terms of their rigor of inquiry. I do think science and religion operate in two different spheres and answer different questions, but I still fail to see how science can be viewed as being more reliable than religion in the maters it attempts to answer.

    There are bad scientists and good scientists as well as bad and good theologians.

  11. Having briefly studied the history of science during my college years, I find it difficult to agree with your statement. The scientific method itself has been a continual source of debate and topic for philosophers and scientists alike for a long time. The methods whereby legitimate knowledge can be derived have been malleable for quite some time. The first recorded use I know of a disciplined approach to science was by an islamic optical scientist in 1000 AD who managed to finally dispel the idea that light was emanating from the eyes and illuminating objects to be seen and was instead coming from the objects themselves by either self luminescence or reflection of light. (thank goodness he had done so, because I rely on that science to make my living)

    Relatively recently modern philosophers like Hume have helped to shape what we now think of as a modern scientific method. So it’s not so cut and dry as to say that science is impervious due to the use of the “scientific method”. Much of what passes for science in the public today would fail as pseudoscience when held up to the scrutiny of recent thinking about what the scientific method actually entails.

    It’s especially true when you begin to deal with theories that try to deal with phenomenon that we can’t directly test and observe, such as an evolutionary argument for the origin of life. It is certainly clearly demonstrable by experiment that evolutionary principles are valid – this has been well proven by science. It isn’t, however, clearly demostrable through the use of the scientific method that these processes were responsible for the origin of life on earth. This requires the use of various other types of reasoning that have throughout time have sometimes been permitted or sometimes disallowed as part of scientific inquiry.

    All that is to say, that science itself isn’t so black and white as it is commonly purported to be, even today.

  12. You should check out the book “The Myth of Religious Neutrality” published by Notre Dame Press.

    The idea that evidence and its interpretation is neutral is a fairly outmoded concept in the philosophy of science. Another good read is Lakatos/Feyerabend’s “For and Against Method”.

  13. The idea that evidence and its interpretation is neutral is a fairly outmoded concept in the philosophy of science.

    Of course, as demonstrated by your own comment, the idea of excluding the middle is not so outmoded. My personal position is not at the extreme of believing the interpretation is totally neutral, nor do I believe it is totally predetermined.

    Young earth creationists, and for that matter ID and old earth creationists to a lesser extent, use the tactic of attacking the validity of the scientific method to make their conclusions seem more plausible. But when they try to get specific, it becomes clear that their own interpretations are almost totally predetermined. They are the ones not open to new ideas and knowledge.

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