Evolution vs. Creationism (IT DOESN’T MATTER)

Alright, before all of you think I’ve been sucked in by the recent Bill Nye vs. John (I mean Ken) Ham, I did not watch it. I like Bill Nye and grew up watching him, though I was a little mad he replaced Square One (which featured Mathnet). And Mr. Ham and I may have a very few things in common, but a literal interpretation of Genesis and a 6000 year old Earth is not one of them.

I’m personally very comfortable with the idea that evolution was part of the creation process, one kicked off by an intelligent designer (one might even say programmer since evolutionary systems have been modeled in programming).

But I’m not here to talk about that, because Christians and non-Christians alike are missing the point when they argue about creationism.

Let me speak to Christians for a couple minutes (but if you’re not one please feel free to listen in):

1) The most central point in our faith is not God creating the world in six days. It’s Jesus Christ! Christ and his death for our sins is the single most important part of our faith, and it has nothing to do with this debate. His resurrection and promise of return is hopeful, and a sign that he conquered death.

2) This debate makes us look dumb. And we’re not. But it doesn’t help to contradict scientific evidence. Is evolution fully explained? No. But let’s not lean too heavily on the whole “it’s a theory” thing, because that misunderstands what the scientific community means when they say theory. It’s the whole “this all happened randomly” thing, especially when everything else in the world seems to tend to entropy that gets me questioning some aspects of evolution. But the process itself? Not so much. You can be a scientist and still believe there are things out there you can’t understand, like heaven and the price of sin, or exactly how random mutations work or occur.

3) There are so many other valuable things we could be (and some of us are) doing! Let’s reach out a hand to those in our community, love in a Christ like way. Our church has a food-pantry every Saturday which serves 75 households (we’re a 60 person church).

Okay everybody, lean in, cause this one’s important:

4) It doesn’t affect your day-to-day lives. For Christians, how is believing in a literal six day creation helping you to live in a Christ-like way? For non-Christians, does knowing we evolved from monkeys and lesser creatures affect any of your daily choices? Who to date, what to eat, etc?

5) But what about thinking critically? Absolutely. But, I’d be more of a fan if we taught exactly what evolution can prove and show than what I’ll call for lack of a better term the “evolutionary belief system”. I’ll admit, we have not scientifically proven that a creator was involved in the evolutionary process, but we have not dis-proven it either. When it comes to things like “how or why does evolution work?” “how do simpler things reorganize into more complex things”, random mutation is kind of a lousy answer. What exactly causes mutations? Answering “we don’t fully know” here is an acceptable (and preferable) way to go.

6) We’re not changing anybody’s mind anyway. We can talk at each other all we like (apparently Ham and Nye went on for nearly two hours before the Q and A), but pretty much everybody’s leaving that room believing what they did before. You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see a Christian who believes in evolution argue with a Christian who doesn’t. That would be a conversation I haven’t seen, and one that might get us to look better, and get the outside world to realize we don’t all think the same way about this. But really, I’d like to just move on.

So let’s have the debate that really matters: Which is better Star Trek or Star Wars? Please cite your sources.

The correct answer is Babylon 5.

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23 Comments

Filed under Faith + Life

23 responses to “Evolution vs. Creationism (IT DOESN’T MATTER)

  1. The change now is that the Christians are becoming more vocal. They have started asserting their beliefs more and more and now they are threatening the future generation’s education by putting creationism in schools. There is no provable truth in Creationism, there has been no advancement in religion to spur on such a change. As per their history Christians are starting the war by chipping away at the intellectual constructs of the society. It must stop, and it must be opposed.

    • There are certainly specific political and denominational groups who are interested in putting creationism into public schools. I’m not sure if I believe it’s a movement and I’m not particularly interested in arguing with straw men.

      I’m of two minds on this. I don’t think any idea is bad to think about, so I don’t see a problem with students being introduced to the idea that creationism is a possibility. I would argue with a lot of Ken Ham’s specifics, and my personal interpretation boils down to it seems more reasonable to assume that evolutionary processes are not fully random, that the physical laws of our universe are not just because we happen to live in the correct universe out of all the random possibilities. Einstein thought that way too, by the way. I would want students to think critically about that piece, which seems to be just as much faith as believing in an intelligent designer. Describe the process, describe what you can prove, and get out of the way.

      That being said.

      I don’t think science classes are the best forum for handling these issues, if nothing else because it foments hostility. And it’s the hostility I’m trying to combat when I say “it doesn’t matter”. I don’t understand Christians who base their faith on Creationism, and I definitely don’t understand ones who ignore scientific evidence and believe the Earth is 6000 years old. I would oppose that viewpoint as well. But I think the argument (at least for Christians) is ignoring the things we should be caring about. I feel the same way about other arguments certain people in the church fixate on (marriage equality for starters).

      However.

      It is important to realize that Christians are no more a uniform body than republicans, Americans, black people, etc. There are some of us who blend faith and science together without inconsistencies. Personally, I love math because it is irrational, imaginative, and wondrous. We can understand math less by observation, and more by constructing complex models and descriptions of our world. It is a blend of faith, imagination, and science and it powers everything else we understand about the world. I know I’ve said this before, but the complexity that arises from the simplicity of Fractal algorithms, and the fact that in many cases we do not yet know how to describe why those things occur the way do, at least introduces the possibility that God is out there, and that maybe one day science can touch him directly.

      In the meantime we have faith, and it is important to the human experience to be able to believe something without it having to be definitively proved. Love for example. I want students, scientists and myself to have the full human experience. And I want them to stop quibbling over nonsense.

    • I too have an opinion!

      Here it is: The answer to stupidity isn’t hate.

  2. Yes, the debate makes us look dumb. Ham’s untenable YEC view is an unnecessary stumbling block for others. I have a friend whose whole mantra revolves around a young earth. I suspect that that is a major factor in driving his kids away from faith.,
    Both these guys have a B.S. Neither guy is well qualified to debate the science. It was a PR event for both. And Ham adds to what the Bible says. Most Christians do not accept his YEC view. http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/in-the-beginning/
    Here was a recent debate by real scientists.
    http://www.thegreatgoddebate.org/#.UttJFEM6H-g.facebook

  3. Also, I like your blog Ben but… Babylon 5 over STAR TREK??? Are you hearing yourself?!

    • So my wife said as well. Hey, it’s a personal bias, I happen to love the serial storytelling of Babylon 5, which only DS9 gets anywhere near in the Star Trek universe. Thanks by the way for engaging with the real debate 🙂

      • I can’t disagree with you on Babylon 5’s storytelling awesomeness, nor the DS9 comment, but… I don’t know, maybe I’m just biased toward the format. I did really like how Star Trek tackled social issues all the time, and the characters were really great too.

        They did also solve the evolution question (what with so many humanoids running around) in The Chase. So… there is that. 😀

      • Okay, piece of trivia for you. The hologram woman they discover at the end of “The Chase” has been in DS9. As which character? (No IMDB’ing or Memory Alpha nonsense 🙂 )

      • Argh! She’s the evil changeling! I had to watch the episode, but it was worth it. And I did NOT cheat. 😀

        Ok, here’s one for you: Excepting TOS, who makes it into every series as a character (or multiple characters) and is a dude? He is everywhere in the Star Trek verse is what I’m saying…

      • James Cromwell for starters, anybody else you were thinking of? Wait, damn, not in Voyager.

      • I’ll give you a hint: He’s known for his very obvious voice and… played Shran in Enterprise. But JC almost made it. 🙂

      • Jeffrey Combs, though it looks like he wasn’t in Next Gen, though if you know the episode that’d be cool.

      • Huh! You’re right. My bad. I thought he had. 😦

      • Jonathan Frakes works, William Riker in Next Gen, Voyager and Enterprise, Thomas Riker in DS9.

  4. I have a PhD in biochemistry; I am now a professor of nutrition, but the biomedical part, not menu planning.I also have some perspective on design in nature because I have designed biomedical products (though none are in the market quite yet). I got interested in evolution issues because research passes are given to this field that aren’t given anywhere else (including my own research areas). For example, many decades ago, a group of mathematicians said that statistics don’t back natural selection as an explanation for evolving new species. Their conclusions were just dismissed by biology. Also, it should be noted that no viable natural explanations exist for origins of life, which was admitted by Darwin and is conceded today by many staunch advocates of evolution of species. Along these lines, I did a presentation on God as a scientifically reasonable explanation for origin of life at an international science-religion conference at OSU. It was well received. On another related topic, I always hear how almost all life scientists believe in evolution of species. To that I say that almost all of these have never thought critically about the topic. They just accept the orthodoxy and concentrate on their jobs which don’t really require thinking about evolution. Lastly, I don’t support a lot of what Ken Ham says, especially about the 6 x 24 hour creation, but he does have a link to something I wrote about design of life’s machines http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/topic/countering-critics

    • I have a feeling there is a lot of “accepting the orthodoxy” on both sides, which is a lot of why I think having debates (at least ones like Nye/Ham) on the issue is unproductive. I would have loved to sit in on your talk and tend to agree that there are aspects of evolution that are suspect. However, I think that when a lot of Christians talk about this topic, particularly in a way that ignores accepted science (like carbon dating), they harm what should be their real goal which is bringing souls to the gospel. I seriously doubt that many people are won to Christianity by debating this topic, and many more are turned off completely, seeing religion as anti-science. What we need are more people who are scientifically rigorous, and faithful to God, as it sounds like you are.

      Good to hear from OSU (my old alma mater). O-H!

  5. Hey, this was a much-needed blog post! I’m glad you said it all. Every one of us who presses the point needs to re-read 6). No one is changing anyone else’s mind with their arguments. I completely agree.

    The way you worded 4) somewhat sidetracked your own point though. Those are the things we are accused of, not the things we hold up to define our identity. I’m not going to trumpet from the Mountaintop: I am descended from monkeys! Hear me roar! However, if asked, “How does the fact that someone else thinks the universe was created in six days affect my daily life?” oh, not at all.

    • Fair point. If I’m guilty of anything it’s using a more “pointed” shorthand for believers of evolution (of which I would count myself), and it was not really my intention to poke either side (except maybe my “own” i.e. Christians). You’re also correct that knowing what the “other side” thinks is not really important to your own point of view, even if your point of view is not something you’d be a booster for. This is what I get for not having the little red-haired girl edit this one 🙂

  6. Pingback: Either/Or « Bob on Books

  7. Thank you for articulating a very thoughtful and faithful perspective.

  8. AnotherVoice

    I never thought this, or other concepts outside our daily, monthly or lifespan were worth a moment of my time, until the day my wife told me to not teach my child ABOUT evolution. Didn’t ask my position, just wanted me to keep it in the dark.

    My official position, aside from ‘it really doesn’t matter in a given lifetime’ is, there are too many unknowns to take a firm stand. Both sides are on shaky ground so why pretend either is right? More so, why put such hatred on such weak arguments?

    And THERE is the problem- the staunch close mindedness. I don’t think close-mindedness is the hallmark of every religious mind walking the planet but it’s hard to argue religious texts or interpreters of said texts don’t encourage it on given topics within the scope of the text.

    The question ‘creationism vs evolution’ doesn’t matter so much as ‘do I want to spend another minute of my life next to this closed minded person’, and their are plenty on both sides.

    For those who have their camp of close minded friends, have fun with your hatred toward the other side- hope your opinions never change and you find yourself on the other side.

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