Posted by: crewsnr | February 3, 2009

Evolution vs. Creationism: Is It an Either/Or?

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quickly and forcefully claims that religious ideas are completely unsuited for the realm of science.  He knows that the last several decades have not been kind to religious scientists, especially conservative Christians who have tried to pass Creationism off as a scientific theory named Intelligent Design.  Therefore, in a sense, Dawkins is attempting to throw the knock-out punch that causes religious leaders to retreat altogether from the scientific community by declaring that theistic faith claims have no place in science.

In a development that has not helped the matter, the Christian community has splintered over the notion of evolution. Many mainstream Christians have dropped Creationism altogether and have accepted Evolution completely.  Others have tried to combine the theory of Evolution and Creationism, while conservative Christians who read the Bible literally tightly hold on to Creationism.  In other words, Christianity is unable to present a united front on the issue, yet the conservative Christians have been the most vocal about the topic.  Because of this strong conservative voice, the secular perception of Christianity is that Christians believe that Creationism and Evolution are like water and oil; they simply don’t mix.

However, I think it is perfectly possible for Christians to find a happy medium between these two belief systems that have been cast as polar opposites in recent years.  The essential difference between Evolution and Creationism (ID) is that Evolution asserts that there is no creator while Creationism maintains that there is a creator.  The idea of God the Creator is an indispensable belief of the Christian community; however, there is lots of leeway when it comes to ideas regarding how God created the universe.

Scientific experiments have verified over and over again the Darwinian theories of natural selection, survival of the fittest, and microevolution.  Therefore, Christians must recognize the validity of these endeavors and incorporate these ideas into their belief systems.  However, this is in NO way means that Christians must accept whole-heartedly the theory of Evolution.  There are basic differences between the theory of Evolution and evolution.

As stated earlier, the theory of Evolution maintains that there is no creator needed and all life evolved from a single “entity” over time.  Yet, the biological phenomenon of evolution occurs when a population evolves or is altered through natural selection over time.  Importantly, the biological phenomenon of evolution makes no claims about a creator or the origin of life.

Therefore, contrary to Dawkins’ ideas, it is perfectly acceptable for religious beliefs and science to interact and combine to form a scientific, yet theistic belief.  Christians should feel free to believe in a creator God who designed the universe and employed evolution as a means to allow his creation to develop and advance.

When presented with the idea that God creates through evolution, Dawkins scoffed and asserted that this belief just produces a lazy God.  On the contrary, I believe that this belief constructs a wonderful image of the Triune God working with his creation and through his creation as it continues to progress, advance, and develop.

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Responses

  1. I find it troubling that few believers have realized that evolution and God are not exclusive. It seems as though many believers have simply ignored science/evolution, because they believe that they are too advanced or have no bearing on their faith. However, it is vital that Christians examine evolution by natural selection, and respect it as the leading theory governing how life came to be in its present forms. As Nick successfully explained, evolution is a process which acts upon life and does not explain the origins of life. The religious community would be well served if it came to the realization that evolution is likely the method through which life has developed. However, this in no way eliminates the possibility that God is eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient and may have created the life on which evolution acted.

    As a believer, one should not remove him or herself from the progress of science. This tendency, along with the disparity between the stances of believers in response to the theory of evolution, is a major issue facing religion today. Belief as a whole would be well served if it developed a more uniform way in which it responded to the notion of evolution, and if believers were educated in regard to these topics. If this does not occur, religion will be thrown by the wayside by future generations of possible believers, because many will falsely believe that it stands in opposition to learning.

  2. Yes – I completely agree with both of you guys, and thanks for taking up the matter! It is frustrating to read Dawkins’ false dichotomies and know that he represents a majority of the world’s mindset; namely, that religion and science must be kept mutually exclusive. You both explained it well, but just to repeat, both Christians and Atheists alike tend to assume that belief in a creator God necessarily implies that we accept a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation, in which God says “monkey” and baam – there’s a monkey. Similarly, Christians and Atheists also tend to assume that belief in evolution requires that we believe in the sequence that goes something like, Big Bang – amoeba – monkey – human. And consequently, it is not hard to see why the two are pivoted against each other.

    Garrett, I really like your claim that the religious community must respond to scientific evidence, because if we do not, we will most certainly become those sort of mindless, stubborn Christians that Dawkins paints so vividly in The God Delusion. We cannot deny the theory of natural selection, as rationally it makes perfect sense that organisms that are better adapted to their environment have the best chance at survival. But, this does not mean we have to accept any claims that God is not present in creation and daily life.

    I want to throw a word of caution, however, in how Christians relate to scientific evidence. I know plenty of Christians who have embraced the theory of evolution openly, but slightly incorrectly, as they have found consolation in the gaps in the fossil record. They use such gaps between, say monkey and human, to conveniently fit God into the theory of evolution through the claim that only He could be responsible for such a “leap”. Though this may be true, this is extremely dangerous in that, as Dawkins explained, God will eventually run out of space as archaeologists and scientists continue to fill in the gaps. I think a better approach would be to adopt a more fluid idea of God as creator, simultaneously acknowledge scientific findings, and then work to show how the two can be compatible. Though thoughts such as the following may be met with initial resistance (due to our embedded understanding of creation through the Genesis stories), I have heard some of the following arguments in support of merging creationist and evolutionist ideas: 1) Perhaps God did not create the world in 6 literal 24-hour days, but rather through 6 different stages of different length… 2) Perhaps God created in a step-wise manner, building his more complex creatures off of His earlier creations (like he “built” Eve from Adam)… I mean, if God is perfect and designs a rabbit perfectly with the most efficient bone and muscular systems possible, why wouldn’t He use a similar structure for a monkey??? 3) Perhaps God was the Big Bang! And I could keep going forever, but this is just a taste to get the mind going…

  3. I think that people who so strongly support the incompatibility of evolution and creation of the world by God do so because they do not fully understand their meanings. Evolution, at least on the micro scale, has been repeatedly scientifically proven. Therefore it seems completely ignorant to deny such scientific evidence, even operating under the pretext of creationism. The ability of God’s creation to evolve in order to adapt to the changing environment should not attributed to God’s imperfection as a creator but rather his perfection. He set creation in motion in a way that He does not have to recreate, but that changes to increase survival. Science is able to explain this, but that does not mean that God cannot be the driving force behind it all.

    Second, going off of what Rae said about God not creating in a literal 24 hours, I have heard an interesting hypothesis regarding this. It is not an impractical assertion that God was not constrained to human conceptions of time. Thus, some believe that God created the world in six days and that we are living in the seventh day, God’s day of rest. This is an imperfect rationalization, but it is an interesting thing to consider and puts God’s creation in a new perspective.


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