God as 'Creator' is not believed by theologians to be the reason why we have five fingers rather than eight. The Creator is neither a superpowerful planner who arranges every detail of natural history nor an omnipotent and omniscient manager of a business that is called the 'Creation'. God creates the world ex nihilo, out of nothing, and continually sustains it in existence. It is no denigration of evolutionary biology to recognise that it does not have the tools to address properly the question of the world's relation to God
- Dr Stephen J Pope, Chair and Associate Professor at the Department of Theology of Boston College and expert on Christian ethics and evolutionary theory
There has been a trend, beginning in the last century, for religion to try to match up to science. This has been done on science's terms, using the language and thought systems of science. This has been particularly the case of fundamentalist Christians from the United States.
An example of this phenomenon comes from the Creationist or 'creation science' movement. Creationists are fundamentalists who believe that God created the Universe, the Earth and all life upon it. Most Christians agree that evolution is how life came to exist, albeit guided by God's divine hand. Mainstream Christian theology rejects Creationism's basic 'Sunday School' view of God. However, creation science is a group that tries to employ falsehoods and misleading arguments to debunk the theory of evolution, the backbone of modern biology. For some reason this beautiful and elegant work of science threatens their faith.
Most Christians, such as Dr Pope, would agree with biologists that evolution is an excellent way to explain how life came to be. For this reason it should be made clear that the subject of this entry is not referring to mainstream Christian theology, only the fundamentalist point of view that Creationism offers.
Science, Dogma and Straw-men
Creationism twists the concept of science to its own whims: it shows very little of what is considered 'science'. It ignores the scientific consensus and cherry-picks the background knowledge, choosing only stuff that happens to support its hypothesis. Science tries to be as objective as possible at all stages. Creationism falls down at the first hurdle. Creationism does not experiment; its 'evidence' comes either from the bible itself (a tautological argument) or it warps both logic and scientific knowledge to fit its fundamentalist and inflexible view of the world, as seen in the 'anthropic principle'.
Creationism is not peer reviewed, it is just propaganda distributed from one source: the Institute of Creation Research. It is unchanging and has been left behind in the 19th Century from where it sprang up as a backlash against Darwinism.
In short, it is religious dogma and propaganda, it is not science.
Creationists seem to think that disproving evolution proves their own theory: a logical fallacy. They do not present any evidence or even simple reasons to describe their beliefs. They just present outdated and out-of-context 'evidence' that evolution is wrong. Sometimes they just lie. A debate with a Creationist usually involves flawed logic and misconceptions of the theory of evolution itself, often deliberate. The term for this is called a 'straw-man argument': in debate you purposefully misinterpret to weaken the opposing argument so you can knock it down more easily. For example, Creationists will tell you that the theory of evolution says that life originated and evolves by random chance. This is not true. If a neutral observer were to come across this Creationist explanation they would think that the Creationist were right - surely nothing as complex as life could come about by sheer chance? Evolutionary biologists would agree. Natural selection is not random. Genetic drift and mutation are random processes, ones that create enough diversity for natural selection to work upon.
The whole Creationist movement shows an incredible amount of willful ignorance, purposeful deception and, most notably, they display a great fear of evolution.
Religion and science are not mutually exclusive, but they do have their limits when describing each other. For example, science does not have the capacity to describe God or to prove or disprove his/her existence, as this is the realm of religion and spirituality. Therefore science doesn't even try. In the same manner, Creationists should stick to what they know. Creation science should heed the wise words of St Augustine1:
If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
Other Entries in this Project
- Evolution and Creation - an Introduction and Glossary
- The 'Genesis' Creation Account
- The Theory of Evolution - Part II
- Discrepancies in the Theory of Evolution - Part II
- Creationism - Fundamental(ist) Errors
- Human Evolution - the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
- Creationism in the UK