Confusing the Evolution Debate
Of all the Western nations, Americans are the least likely to believe in evolution, according to a recent survey. Still, some applauded when even more recent statistics apparently showed that support for creationism had dropped below 40% in America. Still, at 38%, one has to wonder how precise those numbers are.
America has had a history of fundamentalist Protestantism. The Puritans were not like the wavering Anglicans whom they fled. Nor would they take suggestions from the Pope. This streak has informed our country from its inception. And, contrary to present disdain, that influence was often for the good. A substantial number of those fundamentalists, especially Baptists, supported the American Revolution.
New polling data show that for the first time in a long time there’s a notable decline in the percentage of Americans -- including Christians -- who hold to the “Young Earth” creationist view that humankind was created in its present form in the past 10,000 years, evolution playing no part.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, the portion of the American public taking this position now stands at 38%, a new low in Gallup’s periodic surveys. -- USA Today
However, it has to be remembered that what has been reduced is literal creationism. A lot of Americans are otherwise bible-believing Christians who just understand the opening chapters of Genesis to be metaphorical. They otherwise accept Jesus, the Trinity, and the atoning work on the cross.
Europeans, by contrast, have chiefly embraced standard evolution as established fact. Even formerly religious Ireland is way ahead of the USA in acceptance of naturalistic evolution.
Confusing the debate is what exactly is meant by evolution. To scientists, what is usually meant is the process of change, directed by natural selection and natural law, apart from any non-natural input. At the other side, are literal six-day creationists who feel the earth is only a few thousand years old, and everything was created by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, (John 1:1-3) -- each animal from its kind, during the first six days of that creation, as described in Genesis.
These creationists believe that days means roughly 24-hour days, not undefined periods of time. These creationists do allow for modification of kind (roughly what we would call a genus or family), but not for macro-evolution. In other words, they might say that God created a generic cat kind, which later speciated into house cats, tigers, lions, leopards, etc.; but they do not believe that any kind evolved into another kind: no cat type ever became a dog. They insist on the story of Noah’s Ark and a worldwide flood.
By using the term “kind”, six-day creationists avoid having to explain the problems of populating Noah's Ark with millions of species. For example, Noah only had to bring two generic equines on board. These would speciate into horses, donkeys, and zebras et al post-flood. The literal creationists also claim that larger species/kinds were brought on board while still young and small -- thus conserving space, which is how they explain elephants or dinosaurs on the ark.
In between these two groups are myriad gradations of belief. Some believe in punctuated creation, with God intervening at times to introduce new species. Others believe God started the process and then let it develop on its own. Then there are Old Earth Creationists, who believe the universe can be old, but deny evolution.
Others believe that God directed evolution, through natural means, but in such a way that while it might appear totally random and natural to our eyes, yet it is ordered by a divine intelligence at every step -- similar to the views of John Polkinghorne, a physicist and Anglican priest, who accepts evolution because he sees God imposing order (information) from the divine side of the quantum soup.
We can believe a world in which we ourselves interact -- we’re not clockwork at all -- and we can believe in a world in which God interacts. We can believe in a God who doesn’t just sit and wait for it to happen but is involved in the unfolding of creation.-- Polkinghorne, cited by Why Evolution is True
How do you define these people in between? Are they evolutionists or creationists?
Within this vague group are the Intelligent Designers. These believe there is a God, but do not fight over the details of time and methods of creation. What they want to eradicate is the blind engine of atheisitc evolution which is being taught to students.
However, the true believers at opposing ends of the debate, unfortunately, allow for no dissent.
To the academy, Evolution must be defined as 100% naturalistic. There must be no appeal to any divine input. To six-day creationists, one must accept the literal understanding of a Biblical six-day creation, roughly six thousand years ago, with a world-wide flood, et al. There is no room for compromise.
We can't help but notice the militant obnoxious atheism of the evolutionist Richard Dawkins, who has gone so far as to say that religious instruction is child abuse. He has called God a delusion, and religion the root of all evil.
The most dishonest tactic of these evolutionists is to claim that the teaching of evolution is a central tenet of science. However, engineering, medicine, chemistry, and most of physics -- the hard sciences --do not require any reference to evolution. Physics only runs into evolutionary thought when astrophysics addresses the Big Bang theory or when particle physics claims to replicate the Big Bang with their collisions -- and those are only branches of a many-branched physics. Evolution is far from central to science. It is a side show, at best.
In contrast is Dr. John Whitcomb, the doyen of creationism. Dr. Whitcomb was a co-author of The Genesis Flood (1961), a famous tome which is considered the start of the modern creationist movement. Apparently, Dr. Whitcomb is disappointed that proponents of Intelligent Design recommend confining their debate tactics to appeals to logic (Go to 16:55 in the video), while avoiding reference to the Bible altogether.
Dr. Whitcomb's views are not unique in creationist circles, many of whom do not seem to appreciate that if they are to battle against evolutionism, sometimes the battle must be waged in steps. They forget that Paul himself, when dealing with the Greek pagans in Athens, started the debate with an appeal to Greek pagan understanding, not Jewish Scripture.
It would be wrong to classify all six-day creationists as ill-informed yahoos. Some are rather well educated and make extraordinarily good points. They have a love for Jesus -- always to be applauded --but too often exuberance of some creationists overrides common sense. In a scientific debate, some can lead with Genesis, not science. Atheistic evolutionists latch on to this and trip them up over it. The Intelligent Designers, to their credit, understand the battle, and the forensic tactics that must be applied.
The vicious – and there is no other word for it – atheism of many evolutionists will kill their own cause. It is unappealing. There is no way to explain the incredible complexity of design in nature, animals, and man, apart from a supernatural intelligence. They may pretty it up with graphics, and florid language; but anyone looking at the human genome has to know that this did not arrive on scene by mindless random natural selection. Even some world-famous scientists, such as the late Fred Hoyle, came to similar conclusions: namely, that blind evolution is impossible. The real issue in academe is the imposition of this atheism.
In between these take-no-prisoners groups stands the American student.
American students should be exposed to the debate and allowed to make their own minds up. Whether they accept atheistic evolution, Intelligent Design, theistic evolution, six-day creationism, or whatever, should be their own choice after being exposed to the arguments of all sides. In my expectation, what will not survive is atheistic evolution, and that is what terrifies much of academe.
Six-day creationists -- even if they are ultimately right -- will only shoot themselves in the foot if they do not adopt the common sense approach of Intelligent Design advocates who assert that the opening battle can be won using only appeals to reason and science apart from the classroom introduction of religious scripture. Such scripture, which is dear to six-day creationists, can be appealed to outside the school; and only after the initial debate with atheistic evolutionists has been won in the classroom.
Most Americans would not object to all sides of the debate being taught to their children, and that is what should be allowed. Dawkin's view should not be allowed to prevail uncontested.
If the teaching of origins survives in our schools, it should be of a variety that concedes theistic intelligence in the mix. This will differentiate the USA from Europe. And frankly, I see such a difference as a positive good. It may not be enough for six-day creationists, but they can argue the rest of their case outside the classroom. Some are comfortable with that.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who writes on various topics. He also just started a website about small computers at http://thetinydesktop.com.