Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Evolution vs. Creation

According to a nationwide Gallup survey (reported in the SD Union Tribune on November 17th, 2007), nearly two-thirds of all Americans believe in the idea of Creationism. That is, in this modern age the majority of us think that the Earth was created and humans placed upon it, all within the last 10,000 years! Dinosaurs, if they existed at all, romped along the plains, forests, and seashores side by side with our ancestors. Just to make sure you got this – about twice as many people in the U.S. believe this as believe in evolution. Excuse me?

What’s behind this strange peek into the American mindset? It’s not that we’re a nation of flat-Earth believers who overall deny what science has discovered. For example, as the evidence for global warming has increased, so has our nation’s willingness to believe in that theory. Today, about 95% of the world’s scientists believe that global warming is happening and that it’s a serious issue. Something like 75% of Americans now believe the same thing. OK – so we lag behind the scientists, but we’re mostly on the same page and that 75% number keeps rising. Yet something like 99% of all serious scientists acknowledge that evolution is a reality. In other words, there are about five times as many scientists who question global warming as those who question evolution. Or to put it in legal terms, 99% certainty on the part of legitimate scientists (including many who are devout Christians) is the same as saying evolution is a fact, beyond a reasonable doubt. That's why in court case after court case, schools have been instructed to teach evolution, and have been ordered NOT to teach creationism, at least in science classes.

Of course, there are quite a few “scientists” promoting Intelligent Design (the sneaky new way to say Creationism). But those who are strict creationists, who believe that evolution played no part at all in the development of life forms, that the Earth was created by God a few thousand years ago just as it is today - they’re mostly pseudo-scientists, not really taken seriously by their peers and their “evidence” is easily discounted by those using legitimate methodology. In other words, you'd be hard pressed to find even a handful of respected scientists - people whose research and methodology is accepted by the scientific community - who don't think that plants and animals have evolved over millions of years

An example of the things you hear from strict creationists is that fossils and other ancient records that document evolution cannot be reliably dated. It’s like this: Archaeologist A dates pre-human primate bones at 2 million years old, archaeologist B dates them at 2.2 million years old, while archaeologist C dates them at 1.9 million years old, all using slightly different measuring procedures. “Aha” - says the evolution deniers! “You see how arbitrary those dating methods are? Surely, then, they could just as easily be only 6400 years old!” I'm sorry, but scientists disagree over differences of 5 or 10% in their measurements, yet the Creationists want us to believe that the scientists are off by 99% (virtually 100% wrong). Why in the world do 2/3 of Americans think this kind of reasoning makes sense?

Why should this be? Why can Americans accept global warming, space travel, the existence of sub-atomic particles that can't be seen, computers that do a billion calculations a second - but not evolution? What explains the blind spot in these people’s logic and world view? Of course it’s mostly about religion. Part of it is that folks in the U.S. are more likely to be conservative Christians than other people worldwide. "The Bible says God created man in His image, and that's that." Most European Christians, on the other hand, are perplexed and a bit embarrassed by their American cousins' rejection of evolution. In Europe, evolution is commonly seen as a fact, and most Christians there don't see why that should be a problem. But unlike most European Christians, many Christians in the U.S. basically feel that by questioning Creation you question the Bible and therefore their faith. So they won’t hear of it. Interestingly, most Jews (whose religion is based on the Old Testament) don’t seem to share this curious interpretation, but then Conservative and Reform Jews are noted for their respect of science, and for being open-minded.

What it boils down to for so many is a choice: either the Bible or scientific evidence. Refined further still, it’s either science OR religion. Choose one or choose the other; you’re either with me or you’re against me – no middle ground. And that, unfortunately, is a terrible and absolutely unnecessary choice to have to make. Perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, Albert Einstein, said that “Science without religion is lame.” He also said that “Religion without science is blind”. So – what if we really DON’T have to choose between the two?

Well, that’s the very compelling case Dr. Francis Collins makes in his 2006 book The Language of God. Collins is an interesting individual. As a devout, born-again Christian, he most definitely believes in God, Jesus Christ as humanity’s savior, and of course the Bible. Yet as the former head of the prestigious Human Genome Project, he is one of the world’s top experts in the field of genetics (so important to the understanding of evolution) and a scientist of unimpeachable reputation. The thesis of Collins’ most interesting book is that evolution may disagree with the literal reading of a small part of the Bible, but otherwise it meshes just fine with Christian religious beliefs.

It's this very literal reading of the Bible that causes so much trouble, by the way. 3000 years ago, when Genesis was written and humans understood so little of the natural world, could God really have explained how He created the universe with a Big Bang 6 billion years ago? How He caused sub-atomic particles to interact with the various cosmic forces emanating from dark holes, multiple-dimensions, and all the esoterica of astro-physics that we have trouble grasping even today? Seriously - how could the Bible have talked about this stuff 3000 years ago? So does it really lessen the value of the Bible and religion to think that the writers of Genesis used wording and analogies that the people of the time could understand - rather than only writing what was strictly, literally, verbatim true? Not really, a rational person might conclude.

But back to Collins and his book: Evolution is a fact beyond any reasonable challenges, and shouldn’t be a problem for believers, he argues. Put another way, there is no conflict between science and religion, between being a faithful Christian and a believer in the facts of evolution. Collins painstakingly addresses the most common arguments that Creationists and Intelligent Designers proffer, debunking each of them with cold, hard, convincing facts. Convincing, that is, to anyone with an open mind. In his view, incidentally, God gave humans a mind and wants us to use it to help understand the world He has created and, thus, to know Him. Collins goes on to show why God exists, and how He must have been the original source of life, which then changed over time via evolution. Whether you believe that part or not; whether you’re a fervent Christian, a firm evolutionist, an atheist, or somewhere else in between, you should at least read what Collins has to say. But the bottom line is that this fight – evolution vs. religion – is really needless.

What makes this even more needless is that in 1996 Pope John Paul II proclaimed that Evolution is “more than just a hypothesis” and that it is compatible with Christian faith! Probably no modern Pope was more loved and respected than John Paul II. And whether you're a Catholic or a Protestant (or even if you're not a Christian at all), can you think of anyone more knowledgeable about Christianity and the Bible than the Pope? The Pope, most European Christian leaders,and most Jewish leaders believe is that the Old Testament is beyond question - EXCEPT in matters involving science, which of course has broadened our understanding of things immensely over the centuries. Evolution's not just a theory; evolution (a scientific fact) doesn't conflict with Christianity. So said the Pope, traditionally the leader of the Christian world! Even if they're not Catholics, why would 2/3 of Americans think that the Pope lacks faith in the Bible, or isn't a good Christian, or any of the other claims made of those who believe that evolution is a reality?

So just what are we arguing about? Most Jews (who wrote Genesis, incidentally), most European Protestants, and the leader of the Catholic church believe in evolution, so obviously you don't have to sacrifice your religious beliefs in order to think the same. This isn't 1256 or 1803, when such an idea would have been unthinkable, just as space travel, computers, and atomic bombs would have been unthinkable - blasphemous! We've learned SO MUCH; we have endless examples of irrefutable proof. Why won't the strict creationists look at this proof with open minds? How in the world are they going to attract the agnostics of the world, those who WANT to believe in Christianity, but aren’t sure? If American Christians' position on something as clear cut as evolution is one of denial, why should people follow their beliefs on matters of (non-verifiable) faith alone? Honestly, strict Creationists: let's limit the debate to whether God created life on Earth, or whether it arose all on its own - THAT's the only part of the evolution issue where there's any reasonable doubt.

26 comments:

Anders Branderud said...

Hello!

I would like to reccomend you this following post: http://bloganders.blogspot.com/2009/09/could-bereshit-genesis-1168-be-history.html

It is about Adam and Khava (Eve). It is a scientifical article.

Since you accept science I also reccomend you the research in www.netzarim.co.il about the first century Jew Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Messiah).

All the best,
Anders Branderud

Jon Strebler said...

I think that my readers would prefer that you simply summarize some of those blogs' key points, Anders. I know I'd appreciate it.

Angelique Rousset said...

I always thought it was kind of sad how people would blindly follow what they've been taught sense childhood. I liked how in this blog you pointed out that there can be a compromise and religion and evolution can be accepted side by side.

Katya Martin-Gullans said...

I strongly disagree with the two thirds of U.S society who only sees evolution as "questioning faith" I do not understand how some people can be so ignorant and go so astray of the facts, because they refuse to broaden their perspectives. The fact that so many faithful religious people believe in evolution and in science proves that it is not the lack of faith or their part, but the closed mindedness of the other point of view.

Kai Pedersen said...

This is the first comment I have left on any of Mr. Strebler's essays, and, I must admit, I do feel like I can provide a very valuable perspective on this, oh so controversial issue. I am a Christian. I have been raised a Christian my entire life, and now I am a Christian of my own choosing. I am a JESUS FREAK and I LOVE IT! I also am a full-fledged believer in Evolution. I would love to write more at this time, but I'm sure that Mr. Strebler is tying his own noose right about now, so I will have to leave most further comments to my actual paper, however I will conclude by saying the following.

Not many people take this into much consideration, or at least this has been my experience, but Science and Religion both perform the exact same basic function. They both answer questions. However, they both answer different kinds of questions, and that is where so much of the controversy is coming from because extremists on BOTH sides of the debate do not realize this simple fact. Science is designed to answer the question "how". Religion is meant to answer the question "why". Under no circumstances do these two fields need to conflict.

Wesley said...

Interesting post, thanks. I just had a few questions and comments:

1) When you refer to "evolution", you're not just talking about variation within a kind or speciation, but actual "molecules-to-man" evolution, is that correct? You're referring to the evolution of non living material to highly complex living, breathing, thinking beings?

2) When you use examples like global warming, space travel, computers, and atomic bombs, do you understand the difference that some make between those observable objects and realities vs. the non-observable process of microbes evolving into microbiologists by an assumed process over the course of billions of non-observed years?

3) Are you aware (I don't believe you are that familiar, according to your other posts) with the biblical necessity and historicity of the first man Adam? Whether you agree he existed or not, do you realize (according to Christian tradition) that by getting rid of the first Adam (by an evolutionary process), or by using death and evolution to bring him in to existence ("nature red in tooth and claw"), putting death before the Fall, that you also get rid of the second (or last) Adam, Christ, thus destroying the foundation of Christianity altogether?

I appreciate your post, but I don't believe you've reflected adequately at all on any of the actual issues here. Far from being a "fact", evolution is rather assumed in advance, interpreting the evidence by its axioms (granted, as nearly all systems do). The evidence is not in dispute. The interpretation of that evidence, however, is. The very tenets and foundation of evolution preclude any possibility for thought or evidence or truth in the first place, since an impersonal process, through impersonal materials and impersonal chemical reactions, could never produce a mind or thought or anything not strictly material. It seems to me that the use of the brain to interpret the evidence for evolution (as you're attempting to do), is itself the biggest evidence against it. Your arguments are merely philosophical, not scientific, as you've attempted to stack the deck in your favor, saying that anything disagreeing with evolution, denies the facts. That's undeniably false.

Last point is that the Christians that you mention in your post have also not reflected adequately on this topic either. Having a deficient theology prevents them from understanding this issue correctly. And, just FYI, the Pope John Paul II isn't taken as authoritative to Protestants. They would challenge the notion of him being the leader of the "Christian world" as well as him being more knowledgeable than anyone on Christianity and the Bible. He does not speak with inerrancy. As he was wrong about many other issues, he was dead wrong about this one.

Joanna said...

People use the Bible for guidance and hope to find answers. It is an inspirational book, but it is not scientifically accurate. I understand why some devouted Christians are argumentative on science, because like my family they think science is trying to prove religion wrong. An example is Stigmatas, they are viewed by Christians as messages from God, while scientist view them as of hysterical origin, or linked to dissociative identity disorders. I can see how people could accept Evolution, but there are other topics that clash.

Sarah said...

This was a very interesting article, and I defiantly agree with the points Mr. Strebler makes. It surprises me that 2/3 of Americans flat-out deny evolution. I respect all religions and beliefs, but I have trouble seeing how Americans don't believe evidence provided by science, especially when even the Pope agrees that evolution is true. I also agree that evolution and religion don't have to clash, there are many parts of the bible that most Americans don't believe because they have been disproved (ie the world is flat.)

Mary Jo said...

Reading this essay made me see how closed-minded people can be sometimes. People do have the right to choose what to believe in, and that’s okay. I agree with Angelique that it is nice to see that there can be a compromise. But religion is strong enough to make people doubt evolution. And by strong enough, i do not mean scientifically strong.

hasheem said...

Evolution v.s. Creation is a very controversal topic, But i believe that everyone has their own opinion and that anyone should respect each others opinion. I also believe that religion blinds people from seeing the facts.

Breanna said...

Do you know everything? (No.) Do you know half of everything? (No.) Well, lets say that you do know half of everything. Isn't possible/logical that in the other half you don't know, creationism (Intelligent Design) is in fact the truth?

Autumn said...

I found this article very intriguing, although I don't think the statistics are as much shocking as they are sad. The saying "blissfully ignorant" comes into play here. Religion to me, among many things, seems to be a buffer. Human beings are always searching for some appeasement, some comfort, some point to life's madness. Despite the fact that evidentiary support is present to prove the theory of evolution, people will still continue to be headstrong and believe their own irrational fairytales simply because they can. Because it's what they've been raised with, it's what they're comfortable with. It's clear that people cling to hope and faith and fear change and the unknown. The numbers are fitting to this. In that most primal thinking it is easier for many to accept age-old religious ideas over the facts. A balance between the two would be ideal.

Kal said...

I liked how some common ground was made by accepting Evolution into Christian faith. Even the Pope said so himself that he accepted it. I liked how out of 99% of these Evolution scientists, one is well-respected and known for believing both Evolution and in the Bible. This essay shows a ground breaking bridge between the Bible and Evolution.

Rachel Maheras said...

I like this entry because it seems like most of the pionts made in it were ones I agreed with. I definetly think that evloution is real, and that there are fossils and carbon dated artifacts that prove it. I personaly am not sure of what relegion I 'belong' to, but I definetly am not one of those people that will immeadiatly disagree if you say that evolution exists.
-Rachel M

Emily said...

I agree with this essay, however I found some more information on the topic, and I found the lack of knowledge in the people who completed the survey astounding. Only 41 of the people interviewed were very familiar with evolution, and 50 people were very familiar with creationism. Also looking at the European vs. American knowledge, the US ranks 17 out of 30 countries in science! The lack of knowledge and lag in America is astounding, and I'm not really sure most Americans are in the position to be stating their position with much claim.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the essay and I was surprised at the statement Strebler made about “What makes this even more needless is that in 1996 Pope John Paul II proclaimed that Evolution is “more than just a hypothesis” and that it is compatible with Christian faith”. I had no idea that the Pope had even acknowledged Evolution as a possible reason for the Earth’s being, and makes it that much easier for the Creationists to simply accept Evolution as the truth. I do agree with what Strebler said about people not having to choose between their religion and evolution, that it is possible to believe in evolution without compromising your religious beliefs. If the Pope is known worldwide as being the ideal catholic with millions of followers, why aren’t those two thirds American’s listening to him now? If they say that he knows everything about the Catholic religion, then there’s no one who would know the religion better than him. Therefore if he can admit that Evolution is more than just a theory, then why can’t his followers come to the same realization?
-Olivia Sanchez 3A

Elizabeth Sykes said...

I agree with most points of the essay, but some things do bother me, such as the origin of the 2/3 statistic, as a brainwashed AP Stats student I question most things that aren't as widespread as census type surveys.
As a born and raised atheist, I admit I don't always understand religion, but I know that most sects don't take everything literally and pick and choose parts of the Bible that they like, or are just outdated.
I think that a lack of education on what evolution is exactly is a mistake on the education system's part, since some people automatically think that "we come directly from monkeys" is what evolution is about, which it's not!

Darius Lameire said...

I believe in Evolution personally but I respect those who believe in Christianity and Creationism. I think it is remarkable that two thirds of the population of the United States believe in Creationism. I strongly agree with this essay. As Mr. Strebler says, you need to take both sides of a point so I will first like to address the side of Creationism.
I believe that two thirds of the population believes in Creationism because it serves as a sort of proof for Christianity. Proof and evidence is the only thing that Christianity lacks because it is based upon belief. If Creationism was not real then there would be no Adam and Eve thus dismantling the entire religion. I agree that it is foolish to believe that dinosaurs roomed 10,000 years ago with our ancestors and our entire civilization started 10,000 years ago. Creationism also gives people a belief that there is something bigger than themselves and an all powerful being able to help them. This gives them something to rely on and depend upon.

Anthony said...

I enjoyed reading this, and agree that it is ridiculous that two thirds of Americans still believe in creationism when evolution has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt by the scientific community. But I do disagree with some of what you said; I don’t think that science can work when you try to mix religion with it.

Because your data came from 2007, I looked to see if there was anything more recent. According to a Gallup survey from 2010, although 78% of Americans believe God created humans, 38% of them believe that God helped shape us as we evolved. So the numbers accepting a form of evolution are increasing, only four out of ten actually believe in strict creationism.

drew said...

I think that the key word you used in this essay was "literal". In my opinion, taking everything to be so literal is one of the biggest problems. I'm almost positive the Bible was written not to be taken literally, but for each person to garner their own meanings from its text. In this essay, as always, you covered almost all sides of the situation. I think that a lot of Christians who are strict Creationists are so caught up in their faith that they're blinded from the ground they stand on. Although I agree strongly that faith in a higher being is important, it is just as important to pay attention to the discoveries being made scientifically. We have more proof of evolution than we do of Creationist beliefs. Good essay; well covered, well said.

Melinda Sevilla said...

As long as we are on earth and as long as there are religious beliefs or legends or anything of that sort, there will always be questions like these that will create controversy due to the broad answers given. I find it sort of amusing to hear people’s ideas of how humanity came to be what we are, some of the answers can be pretty funny at times. It doesn’t surprise me that Conservative Christians don’t believe in Evolution since they have been raised to believe in creation, but it makes me laugh at the idea that they are so conservative that they refuse to believe the facts that science studies have proven true.

Angel Aguilar said...

The Evolution vs. Creationism is a subject that shoult bot be devated against because, in the past there have been these type of problems for example, when evolution was being taught in school for the first time and the church sued the teacher. Since then evolution has been taught in almost every school in the U.S. This makes Einstein's quote, "without science, religion is boring" In the way that Religion needs science in order for them to work as in science can explain what religion can't and religion can explain what science can't. With that you can see that Religion and Science are both needed for Civilization to be in equilibrium. :)

Elizabeth Kenyon said...

Honestly, I think you're making a generalization that all Christians don't believe in evolution and are blinded to believe everything they hear from their pastors or their parents. There are many out there in the world who do, but there still others who can think for themselves and are Christians. It also helps if you've gone to a school like IS too. I have been a Christian all my life and when I went through confirmation, my pastor shocked me. He actually believes in evolution and the big bang theory. And if I remember correctly one of the first things I learned as a 6th grader, was evolution. What a surprise, evolution being taught in school. Then, again, it was most likely completely watered down and I haven't been taught evolution since. PLNU the Christian university in San Diego, teaches evolution, which I find surprising. Therefore, I believe that you're making generalizations and you do think of the other side occasionally but as someone who advocates looking at the other side, I was surprised to see your lack of counter arguments.

Karina Schulz said...

This essay brings up very good points about the differences between religion and science and how they can both be believed in at the same time,by factoring out some unnecessary components, yet it hasn't fully convinced me that this is possible. In my mind, I still look at evidences against religion such as archaeologist dating fossils back to certain dates to prove evolution.This point is brought up very nicely in this essay, and is explained that even though different archaeologists may date certain artifacts back to different time periods,that they are not all wrong. They clearly all know that it was sometime in the past and a difference .2 million years is only freckle compared to the whole time the earth has lived. To conclude, even though this is a very good point along with many other strong evidences it is not enough to say that science and religion can work hand-in-hand, so to speak, with each other. Many factors go head to head and not very much can be dome about compromising.

Sincerely,
Karina Schulz

Joshua Hallmark said...

This was a very interesting blog, though I believe that this topic of creation vs. evolution is very beat down and is discussed way to often. I liked it because it filled in facts such as the statistics of Americans that believe in creation(2/3 of the population). It filled in gaps of previous arguments and if this topic ever comes up again I have a lot of facts to back up my opinion.

Gabriela Peralta said...

Reading this essay made me realize how people still live in middle ages. They are close-minded that they cant accept the fact that evolution is something that exists and something that scientists have come to accept as true. People simply feel the need to separate religion and science as if they were to opposing powers. I agree that Americans should accept the fact science and religion can co-exist and not have a problem, but people always have to be stubborn and not accept this, but they feel the need to choose.