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NEW - Review of the book Creation or Evolution, do we have to choose. Review by Andrew Sibley.
Darwin would perhaps be surprised that 150 years after his theory on natural selection was put forward as a way of explaining the development of different species, the debate on evolution and origins still continues.
The debate is older than Darwin's time though. Thales of Miletus (640 to 546 B.C., picture left) over 2000 years ago proposed that water developed into other elements and these elements developed into plants, then into simple animals and finally into more complex animals like man (Thompson, 1981).
At a similar time, Chrysippus (c.280 to c.207 B.C., picture right) stated that "If there is anything in nature which the human mind, which human intelligence, energy and power could not create, then the creator of such things must be a being superior to man. But the heavenly bodies in their orbits could not be created by man. They must therefore be created by a being greater than man ……. Only an arrogant fool would imagine that there was nothing in the whole world greater than himself. Therefore there must be something greater than man. And that something must be God."
Is it all about the reason of science versus the Faith of religion?
The quotes on the Home page of this site show that not all think the science with respect to endorsing the theory of evolution is without question, as shown below:-
"The percentage of people in the country (USA) who accept the idea of evolution has declined from 45 in 1985 to 40 in 2005. Meanwhile the fraction of Americans unsure about evolution has soared from 7 per cent in 1985 to 21 per cent last year." Science 2006, vol. 313 p765.
BBC news, January 26th 2006. "Just under half of Britons accept the theory of evolution as the best description for the development of life," according to a recent MORI opinion poll. "Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design (ID) should be taught in school science lessons" - see Britons unconvinced on evolution
John Lennox, author of the book God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God suggests it about a clash of major World views rather than clash between science and Faith.
However, the debate does tend to polarise opinions, and to begin to understand why the debate continues, it is helpful to look at the polarised views. On this page, the different views that Christians can hold will also be briefly examined.
On the one hand, Richard Dawkins, an atheist and an ardent champion of evolution stated in 1989 that “it is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” (Dawkins, 1989). Dawkins believes atheism is the logical deduction from Darwinism and that the world would be a better place if more people shared that view (Behe, 1996).
At the other end of the spectrum, the American creationists group Answers in Genesis (and many other such groups) defend a literal six day creation and believe that widespread acceptance of the theory of evolution undermines the authority of scripture and contributes to moral decay in the West (see links below for several articles). However, it should be noted that Answers in Genesis accept that one can be a Christian and believe in evolution, see article Is it possible to be a Christian and an Evolutionist?
Many Christians hold views somewhere between these two poles. Theistic evolution (God working through evolution), progressive creation (God creating in stages over a long period of time), intelligent design (an unspecified intelligent designer with no set time span) and the gap theory (a gap of indeterminate time between the first two verses of Genesis 1) are all views that fit somewhere between the two poles. Some responses of Answers in Genesis to these different viewpoints can be found at the bottom of this page.
There are many issues that Christians disagree on, such as women priests, the charismatic movement, predestination, the second coming etc. Most of these differences of opinion would not be considered major by many people. However, some truths to some people are worth defending, and this surely contributes to the ongoing debate on origins?
Many Christians would argue that it is in the first three chapters of Genesis that they learn not only of their need for a Savior or redeemer in the form of Jesus Christ, but also about the institute of marriage, that they are made in the image of God and as such have a special dignity and worth, as well God creating animals that produce after their “kind” (stated ten times in the King James version), and that such literal truth should not be reduced to myth or allegory.
The two extreme views then are that:-
(i) Man arose though the process of evolution by random chance events, and God is no more than a delusion.
(ii) God literally created Adam and Eve, the parents of all humanity, who somehow fell out of relationship with God, resulting in all of humanity needing a Savior or redeemer in the form of Jesus Christ.
However, John Stott, the well known Christian author stated that, “It seems perfectly possible to reconcile the historicity of Adam with at least some (theistic) evolutionary theory. Many biblical Christians in fact do so, believing them to be not entirely incompatible. To assert the historicity of an original pair who sinned through disobedience is one thing; it is quite another to deny all evolution and to assert that separate and special creation of everything both subhuman creatures and Adams body. The suggestion (for it is no more than this) does not seem to be against Scripture and therefore impossible that when God made man in His own image, what He did was to stamp His own likeness on one of the many hominoids which appear to have been living at the time." (John Stott, The Church of England Newspaper, June 7, 1968).
Although not all Christians would share John Stott’s view as above, it seems to present a way of reconciling theistic evolution and the Christian faith.
More recently, Dennis Alexander in this book "Creation or evolution, do we have to choose", endorses such a view from a scientific and a theological stance. Dennis Alexander tends to be very scathing of the Creationist viewpoint.
Andrew Sibley has recently reviewed Dennis Alexander's book and it was also recently reviewed by Ranald Macaulay in Evangelicals Now in November 2008.
Ranald Macaulay summarises his review by saying, "The temptation to elevate scientific theory above Scripture accounts in no small measure for Christianity’s decline in recent centuries. Well before the rise of modern science, however, the ‘assured results’ of countless other human speculations endangered faith, as both the New Testament and church history testify. Were they ever presented as anything but plausible and benign because, like evolution since 1859, so ‘obvious’ and ‘normal’ and ‘necessary’? From the perspective of God’s revealed Word they were simply foolish and destructive. An insistent choice seems almost daily to grow in intensity: do we wreck the church in order to rescue Darwin — or vice versa?"
To attempt to marry up scripture to an evolutionary viewpoint would seem to make Christianity more acceptable to those who see are totally convinced by the theory of evolution. However, such a view is not without its problems. Would a world that had been evolving for millions or years, presumably full of mutation, disease and death, really be the good Creation described in Genesis?
The book "Should Christians embrace evolution" (picture left) offers a different perspective to that offered by Dennis Alexander and has a number of different authors including R T Kendall and Professor N. Nevin (OBE, Professor of Medical Genetics).
But what of belief in a literal interpretation of the Biblical creation story? Surely like the fossil records, starlight from distant planets, radiometric dating and the like make it difficult to believe in this?
In the last 20 years or so, there have been several books written by well qualified scientists and academics that de-bunk the theory of evolution by authors such as Professor Michael Behe, Dr Michael Denton, Professor Gary Parker, Professor Paul Back (former Rhodes scholar) to name just a few. Whilst not all of these authors believe in a literal six day creation, they all show that the science does not irrevocable show molecules to man evolution.
Some major problems with the theory of evolution are:-
Even Richard Dawkins admits there is no scientific explanation of how the first living cells arose
Natural selection only selects genes already present
The process of meiosis (shuffling around of DNA during formation of sex cells) largely explains variation within species (such a process was unknown of in Darwin’s day)
Most evidence shows that mutations disrupt rather than enhance gene function
There is no evidence for mutations giving rise to more complex genes
Several leading paleontologists state that there are gaps in the fossil records between all the major groups of organisms
So whilst Dawkins and others may still suggest the case for Darwinian evolution is watertight, this viewpoint is clearly not held by all scientists.
Will scientists ever understand how Jesus turned water into wine, fed the 5,000, raised the dead or healed lepers? If one accepts that such things are true, the mechanisms by which they occur remain a mystery. In a similar way, despite hundreds of years of scientific investigation, the origin of life on earth remains a mystery to us, even if we do mainly understand the way diversity occurs within species.
Perhaps God allows such mysteries to remain to test and strengthen faith of believers? The scientific skeptic may devote his or her life to trying to come up with some naturalistic explanation of how Jesus turned water into wine. Perhaps believers should just appreciate and enjoy the vintage?
Gap Theory, Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creation - Links below from Answers in Genesis
How is the Gap Theory refuted by the Bible?
Hugh Ross and ‘progressive creationism’: why is it wrong to add billions of years to the Bible?
Gerald Schroeder and his new variation on the ‘Day-Age’ theory
Did God rest on the seventh day for a literal 24 hour day, or for millions of years?
Why is evolution so dangerous for Christians to believe?
Did God use evolution to create the world?
How has theistic evolution harmed the faith of scientists who professed Christianity?
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