Sunday, August 5, 2012

Three Views on Creation and Evolution

I finally finished reading Three Views on Creation and Evolution. I bought the Kindle version over a year ago, on recommendation from a fellow church member and scientist, to help me understand the three main views of Christians: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and theistic evolution. There are other names for those 3 views, but those are probably the most common ones. There are also wide variations within those 3 views too, as everyone seems to have a slightly different take on things. The book has 3 main articles, one for each of the views, written by someone who believes in each view. The articles mostly explain each viewpoint, and give various thoughts about why they believe it. There is some loose similarity in the outline of each article, imposed by the editor, but the authors write with such different styles, and emphasize such different points, that the articles are really quite different from each other. Then there are 3-4 reactions to each article, written by people who mostly believe differently than that article's author. These "responders" are all different people than the 3 main article writers - I wish the editor had let each of the 3 respond to each other's articles, but I suppose they wanted even more viewpoints.

I found the book to be extremely interesting, though a little heavy reading, mostly because I kept making notes on everything that I disagreed or agreed with. (I really like the ability to take notes on a book with Kindle, by the way, though it takes me a lot longer to type with the little keyboard.) I found the discussion enlightening, too, since up until a year and a half ago, I hadn't ever heard anyone argue for a young earth. There were some new thoughts in all of the articles for me, some of which I have ruminated over quite a bit now.

I found the young earth article (the first one) to be the least convincing, probably because that is the viewpoint I disagree with most. But I also found many of the arguments to have logical faults. That is the article I probably made the most notes on, as with every logical fallacy made, I just had to make a comment. It was interesting that they admitted that pretty much all scientific data contradicts a young earth theory. It was also not nearly as accusative toward the other viewpoints as I have often heard other young earth proponents be, however, so I appreciated that. In fact, the whole tone of the book was much more cordial than most discussions of this controversy, though a few negative comments (about their opponents) slipped in here and there. The article on old earth, or progressive, creationism probably gave me the most thoughts to contemplate. The article on theistic evolution was by far the most thorough and precise.

[As a side note: I do not have a strong background in biology (I mostly studied physics and astronomy), but I am now inspired to study it more on my own. I think I'll start with a high school text I have handy, and then move on to some of the college material available online. I need to get up to speed before my kids get there, after all!]

I think I fall somewhere in between the viewpoints of the last 2 articles: old earth creationism and theistic evolution. Both made interesting philosophical points, but of course, philosophy cannot prove which viewpoint is the truth. You cannot really prove which Biblical interpretation is the absolute truth either. There really is no way to prove absolutely which viewpoint is the truth, other than going back in time and watching it all happen, or else waiting for God to tell us in heaven. You can decide which viewpoint is more likely, given the scientific data.  Science helps us understand physical reality (as we understand it) - it doesn't cover supernatural intervention, obviously. (And by the way, a "natural" event doesn't mean God had nothing to do with it - it just means it was an event that follows the physical laws we have understood to date.) There really is no way to prove with science what God has done supernaturally. It's like trying to use science to show how a group of worms made a home out of twigs and leaves when actually a little girl came by half an hour ago and made it for them. Perhaps the worms were capable of doing it themselves, but unless she confesses, you might never know how it really happened. (This is not a perfect analogy, so don't try to read more into it!)

My analogy brings up another point, though (in a roundabout way): even if humans evolved from teensy, tiny life forms in the beginning, at some point, I believe God breathed His spirit into us, separating us from all other life forms.  Evolutionists don't have to disbelieve in Adam and Eve. Humans are different than animals (despite some who claim we're not). Our souls are the fingerprint of God. Even if the human form evolved from earlier apes, I believe God chose a single moment in time and a single human-like creature into which He breathed His spirit. God could have created that being at that moment in time, apart from the evolutionary family tree, or He could have taken a special specimen from that family tree and made him at that moment to take on the image of God, creating a true human. I don't think it really matters how God did it, how He created humans. I believe that He did.

I wish it weren't such a controversy among Christians, because that strong, sometimes accusatory and bitter disagreement is a bad example for non-Christians. If we Christians can't accept each other, how would we ever accept them?

I found some interesting statistics a few days ago, from a 2010 survey. (See:
The graphic linked to above doesn't give all the data, but lumps respondents into 3 main groups: those who believe (a) God guided evolution, (b) atheistic evolution (it happened without God), and (c) YEC (young-earth creationism - God created everything about 6000-10000 years ago). These categories are rather vague and lump a lot of people with different viewpoints together (did they not separate out old earth creationists? the remaining category was "other"), but the results are still interesting.

Overall, among all respondents:
God guided evolution: 38%
atheistic evolution: 16%
YEC: 40%

Among weekly church-goers:
God guided evolution: 31%
atheistic evolution: 2%
YEC: 60%
(I wonder about that 2% of weekly church-goers who don't think God had anything to do with it. Are they conflicted internally? Do they attend church only because someone else is making them? Do they attend a church which doesn't believe in a specific God, but is more of a proponent of spirituality in general?)

Among monthly/almost-every-week church-goers:
God guided evolution: 47%
atheistic evolution: 9%
YEC: 41%

Among rare church-goers:
God guided evolution: 39%
atheistic evolution: 31%
YEC: 24%

Here's another survey, from 2012, with similar, but slightly different, results:

I am most familiar with those in the weekly church-goer group, where 60% believe in a young earth. I am a little surprised that number is so high, since among my friends and acquaintances, before I started homeschooling, I only had met 1 (yes, 1 single person) who seemed to be a strong proponent of YEC. Perhaps it's just because it wasn't a big deal amongst us. It wasn't a controversy - just one of those matters in the same category of how many angels fit on the head of a pin. I remember one Sunday School class, when I was in college, I believe, where we briefly mentioned evolution, and the consensus was that God could have created us any way He wanted to!

Since starting to homeschool, the number of YEC believers I have met (online or in person), has skyrocketed. It would be very interesting to see these survey results separated into homeschooler and non-homeschooler categories. I think YEC is a much bigger group among homeschoolers. Maybe 90% or so, but that's just a guess.

As an interesting side-note, I am a member of the yahoo group for the BFSU (Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding) curriculum, and there has recently been a big online discussion about young earth vs evolution. It was quite refreshing to read a discussion like this that wasn't filled with name-calling and accusations, with people willing to hear arguments for all sides. It was also refreshing to hear of many other Christian homeschoolers who are not YEC. We may not be vocal, but there really are some of us out here!

No comments:

Post a Comment