To me, one of the most frustrating debates in this country is between evolution and creationism, and it’s frustrating because it’s completely unnecessary.
Evolution is not something that factored into my deconversion. But after leaving Christianity, I became interested in learning more about it, since I had left my past ideas on how we all got here behind. And the more I learned, the more it struck me that the debate between the two sides is completely superfluous. Of course, I’m not the first to say so, but I’ll offer my thoughts on it, nonetheless.
First of all, how should we refer to those who don’t believe in evolution? I don’t want to call them creationists, because there are a number of Christians who believe in a Creator and in evolution. So I think I’ll just use the term “anti-evolutionists.”
Anti-evolutionists tend to have several problems with evolution, but I think the most important is that the theory of evolution contradicts a literal reading of the Bible’s creation account in Genesis. While this is true, there are many different ways to rationalize it. First of all, why can’t the creation account just be viewed as allegory, just as many people think of the story of the rich man and Lazarus? Perhaps the sin in the Garden was just representative of the sins all men commit? Another idea is that each day is simply representative of a long period of time, rather than a literal day in order to allow for the millions of years required for life to develop. Then there’s the view that I tended to hold to when I was a Christian — it’s sometimes known (jokingly) as “last Thursday-ism.” It’s the idea that even though the earth and universe appear old, they’re actually quite young — just as Adam and Eve (if they had been real) would have looked like full-grown adults just moments after their creation. If God could create stars and the laws of physics, why would he have to wait for the light from those stars to travel all the way to earth? Why not just create it so that it already shines here? Why not create the earth with fossils already within it?
The real beauty of this belief, and really all the ones I’ve outlined so far, is that it allows one to hold onto his or her religious beliefs, regardless of what science tells us. But for some reason, many anti-evolutionists prefer to argue the science itself. I really think this is a bad idea. It’s reminiscent of the Catholic church’s argument with Galileo on whether the earth was round and revolved around the sun. It just draws a line in the sand where one may not be needed at all. Not only does this potentially upset the faith of those Christians who are finally convinced that science was right all along, but it also jeopardizes the education of children who are told to ignore what science shows us.
But It’s Only a Theory!
Yes, yes, we’re told this often. But a scientific theory is very different from our casual use of the word when we’re talking about an idea of which we’re unsure. In science, a theory is an explanation of some phenomenon that includes many different facts that have been verified over and over. This is why we have germ theory, the atomic theory, and the theory of gravity. Frances Ashcroft in a Fresh Air interview from September 27, 2012 said:
So science is indeed a theory, but I really like what the very famous American physicist Feynman said. He said, “science is imagination in a straightjacket.” We are constrained by all the things which we already know, so you can not simply conjure a story out of the air. It has to explain all the current facts, and the new ones which have just been discovered, and it has to make predictions that can then be tested to see whether in fact that story continues to hold when we know even more information.
This is a really important point. The theory of evolution is a scientific theory built upon facts, not guesses. And every discovery we’ve made since the time of Darwin has only supported the theory of evolution . Everything we’ve discovered in physics, everything we’ve learned about genetics, and all the fossils we’ve uncovered, have all given further credence to evolution . And more importantly, if we were to discover evidence that overturned the theory of evolution, then it would be discarded in favor of a theory that could make sense of all the evidence. But so far, we’ve never had reason to do that.
In my next post, I’ll talk more about the evidence for evolution. But the main point I’ve been trying to make here is that this argument between evolution and creationism is completely unnecessary. What all Christians need to accept is the fact that even if God really created everything, he did so in a way where all the physical signs point toward evolution. Maybe he did this to trick those of us who don’t believe (2 Thess 2:11-12), or maybe Genesis isn’t supposed to be taken literally. Either way, the evidence really only points one direction. So why fight about it?
Let’s stop trying to get creationism or Intelligent Design taught in our public schools, because they make claims that we can not verify. Let’s simply encourage our schools to teach our current best understanding of science, and then you can handle your child’s religious education in your home or church. This just doesn’t have to be an issue we fight over.