Science and Faith
Do you believe in creationism (God created the universe and all living things) or evolutionism (all living things evolved from whatever it was that crawled from the primordial sludge)?
I believe in Creation but not creationism, which is an attempt to use scientific approaches and facts to defend and prove the Biblical concept of Creation. The problem with this perspective is that it assumes the format of the Biblical record fits the modern rationalist thought-forms and scientific truth-concepts, and thus corresponds to the categories of scientific analysis.
Creationism is a modern attempt to "defend" the biblical accounts by using scientific arguments and evidence. This approach attempts to formulate biblical creation concepts in the scientific mold. This is different from belief in purposeful divine creation of the universe.
Creationism gives up too much of the Judeo-Christian belief in order to grant scientific assumptions as a basis for arguing. I believe in doing so, Creationism undercuts its own arguments. Creationism becomes just a religious science. I prefer the belief in divine Creation, with faith as the basis of life, not science. The concept of a Divine Creator seems to account best for all the factors pertinent to existence.
It seems clear just from reading the Bible (supported by extensive scholarly textual study) that the documents collected in the Bible are not intended to be a scientific treatise. Thus it does violence to its integrity to analyze it for "scientific" fact.
Evolution is basically an attempt to explain the continuum of variations in life forms. It takes on the aura of non-theism also, but that is not the thrust of any theory of evolution.
In Britain, evangelicals are not distracted by the details of evolution, feeling no threat to their basic faith. Indeed, in UK and Europe, theistic (God-oriented) evolution seems fairly common among evangelical Christians
Different Disciplines and Realms of Knowledge
Science is a method or discipline seeking knowledge and thereby truth. As with any discipline of learning, science sets out its parameters and procedures (the scientific method has developed out of this process), initially based on observation.
This began, of course, with the senses (what can be seen, felt, tasted, etc.). The same concept and procedures extend to technological perception, such as microscopes, telescopes and forms of indirect perception, such as instruments of quantum physics. Such technology has pretty well proven the existence of particles, or at least forces, far beyond the human senses.
Reason is used to draw logical conclusions from knowledge thus gained, and make predictions, which then may be further tested to yield more knowledge. This method is self-limiting, and continually self-redefining. The Bible was not written in the 19th or 20th century from a scientific perspective. It seems to me illogical to impose on the biblical texts the modern scientific viewpoint.
The scientific perspective is recent in history and thus cannot be an adequate precondition for how the Bible must make sense. It makes sense on grounds appropriate to the time and cultures it originally addressed. If taken out of that context, its meaning actually becomes distorted and less clear to modern times.
"Facts" are the scientific certainties based on sense data verification by the scientific method, aided by logical reasoning. The Bible should not be required to speak to the expectations of science. The Biblical texts should be allowed to speak in their own format.
The biblical perspective is not limiting its focus to mere sensory "facts" of the matter! A "fact" is below the threshold of the declarations and proclamations of the biblical viewpoint
Creation is thus, not a matter of "fact," but a matter of declaration and proclamation, of celebration and appreciation. The Creation story is not a simple, mundane, factual description of an event. It is a grand declaration of faith about the world and existence. It goes very far beyond the facts!! Yes! I believe in Creation. But Creationism is woefully misfocused.
The problem with Creationism is that it gives reason the primary place, accepting the limited assumptions of science, focusing more on the "facts" than on the declaration, and thus becomes an intellectual exercise more than a faith commitment and celebration.
On the other hand, logical reasoning can support and aid faith, just as science, in the understanding and clarification of its focus. Logical reasoning enhances the declarations and proclamations of the Bible and of Faith. This is, in fact, the role and purpose of theology -- to reflect, question and clarify the faith claims and declarations of revelation.
Claims for evolution are also sometimes grandiose, irrational and over-reaching. Evolution may be fine as far as it goes, as a set or series of theories attempting to explain the overwhelming mass of information about the variety of life. Evolutionism is just another ideology, and becomes a religion just as surely as any other ism.
The focus and point of the scientific endeavour is not evolution, but the discovery of the how and what of all that exists -- and to some extent why this all exists. Theories of evolution are varied. The original form as proposed by Darwin is no longer valid, having been revised, extended and superseded by other conceptions of evolution, as more information and details have been discovered.
It seems valid, however, to continue to learn by comparing various life forms, to find similarities and differences, to broaden our understanding about the plan of life in general. This will reveal more subtleties and details about God's creative design.
Surely the very complexity of the biological treasures of earth are a testimony to intelligent design or purpose. Just look at the intricacy of our sexual and digestive systems!
A Perspective of Wonder
Don't you think the varieties of life forms and systems indicate a mind and actions of an active living artist? Sometimes I see a sense of humour, maybe a glimpse of God's joy and pleasure in seeing what could come from certain variations he wanted to try. As the Old Testament poet declares "We are made for his pleasure!"
Now, one has to realize that when we talk like this, this is the language of appreciation and wonder, not a scientific description of how things came to be. This is faith language. The Creationists confuse these two domains of speech, they flatten everything out to a positivist philosophical point of view that attempts to reduce everything to an empirical verification.
With this kind of approach, they've already given in before they can begin their argument. They let empirical science determine the terms of discussion for a God purported to be non-material and, in biblical terms, relational. Creationism thus lets modern science set the parameters for any discussion. This wooden analytical Rationalism used by Creationism to formulate its arguments analyzes the life out of the powerful metaphorical language that is built into the neurological patterns of human thought.
Linguistically, Creationists seem to confuse faith language and worship language with analytical science language. This winds up tying God to the Rationalist assumptions and the materialist implications of modern science.
Modern western science did not exist as a worldview when the ancient scriptures were written. It violates their integrity to submit them to modern Rationalist expectations. Let them speak on their own terms.
Scientists likewise may forget that they are committed by the Scientific Method to discuss what they have observed, and interpret the material evidence, not develop a metaphysical philosophy for the unseen world. Of course, any reflection is going to extend the concepts and interpretations to the greatest extent we can. But Science describes the material world, it does not construct metaphysical systems.
Some designs are puzzling. But the dynamism of life and its forms and continuing variations seem to me to point out a living character to the essence of the universe, not a dead, undirected, purposeless materialism in trial and error, occurring as it can. The latter is hard to make sense of. But we will continue to observe and gather evidence that will help us better understand the universe and how it works.
Violating Self-Imposed Parameters
When evolution attempts to make metaphysical (beyond perception) claims,-- such as the purpose in the design of nature, the character of the universe, the (non-)existence of God, etc. -- it steps beyond its declared realm into philosophy, theology or metaphysics
Now there is nothing wrong with this in itself. The only thing is, evolutionists, and science in general, claim to deal with facts, perception, description and verification
Thus to make metaphysical or philosophical declamations steps beyond its self-defined intentions and capacities. If we wish to develop and declare a non-theistic, rationalist religion, let's be honest and acknowledge that is what we are doing.
Yet evolution cannot claim to explain the why of existence or the universe, and rarely is so arrogant as to explain the how, in the full sense. When avowedly atheistic scientists speak in evolutionary terms about purpose, design, decision-making in the evolutionary process and the order of the universe, they are speaking of intelligence and planning.
Who then was/is this intelligence? What is the plan? Why is all this happening? These are theological (or philosophical) realms and the answers refer to divine purpose. You can't have it both ways.
Why claim to reject God, then account for everything with the very characteristics of a thinking and purposeful Creator.
We laughed and laughed when we saw a TV program on evolution, in which Richard Attenborough explained that the fish decided to crawl up onto to beach, so they used their fins to crawl up. But when they got up on the beach they realized they would need legs. So they started growing legs. But they also couldn't breathe, so they had to grow lungs. And so on. (My account here is not an exact quote, but a faithful approximation of his words.) Wow! Those sure were intelligent and adept fish!
One hilarious aspect of this was to consider the long amount of time scientists indicate is needed for such changes to take place. How did the fish breathe out of the water for the thousands or millions of years needed for them to finally adapt by growing the lungs so they could breathe out of the water?
And if they stayed in the water to breathe till their lungs got developed enough (over hundreds of generations, remember), how did their fins have the incentive (to remember) they needed to adapt into legs. What is wrong with this picture?
They weren't up on the beach, at least not all the time, so they still needed fins while they lived in the water for those thousands of years for their lungs to grow during their times out of the water. And how did they breathe while their lungs were developing? How did the lungs know to wait until they were fully developed to breathe, so they would not breathe in water and drown in the interim?
They must have continued to use the gills to breathe underwater?
When did the gills begin to drop out of use and how many generations or millennia did it take to finally lose the gills they did not need after they finally lived all those centuries out of the water? Isn't this really entertaining? It was one of the best comedy shows we had seen in ages! We still talk about it at family gatherings.
Some form of Special Creation seems more and more appealing the more we think about it. That is, some form of Intelligent (Divine) intention, initiative and purpose is involved in life and existence. This is not to deny the great similarity across various species, an indication that God is an artist of continual and creative variation. And it is obvious that genetic and perhaps other mechanisms do indeed cause observable change generations to generation. However, at least in the Homo Sapiens species, cross fertility continues to be universal.
Realms of Knowledge and Faith
Evolution is one scientific attempt to explain what we have discovered. We keep discovering more. The Bible is not attempting to account for all the facts we might happen to know at some particular time in history.
Rather, the Bible makes a declaration about any truth we might discover about the underlying meaning of things. Faith statements, like the Creation story and the Bible as a whole, do attempt to state why, as well as how, in a spiritual, universal sense.
Creationism: Contradictory Commitments of Rationalism
Darwin and God – Different Domains of Reality
Did God Create the World?
Faith, Science and Technology
Genetics Out of Africa
In the Image of God
Mapping Human Origins
Our Genetic Journey
Topic first addressed on an internet discussion group in 2000.
This version posted 20 April 2002
Revised 18 June 2010 and 6 May 2013
Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2002, 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Please give credit and link back. Other rights reserved.