Creationism vs. Evolution

 

A recent poll taken by "Citizens for The American Way" has supposedly established that a large majority of Americans think that the theory of evolution rather than "creationism" should be taught in the public schools. This was despite a minority who were unfamiliar with the term "creationism" which means taking more or less literally the stories told in the Book of Genesis as an explanation of the origin of the world, or of the human species.

The major flaw in such reasoning, which is also sometimes misnamed "Creation Science", is to mistake the Bible as a science book. As one wise churchman pointed out around the time of Galileo (too bad they didn't listen to him) it is a book about salvation "going to heaven" not about science or "how the heavens go". As such, it took for granted certain ideas about nature (for example, that the earth is flat, or that the sun circles the earth) that were part of the "science" of the time, but which we now know are incorrect. But we readily excuse such errors as being "a manner of speaking" to which God had to adapt to get the main ideas across.

But if we admit that much, then why not admit that the persons whom God inspired to write these books also used various sacred stories ("myth" in the original sense of that often misused word) and legends, poems, etc. to help communicate these same basic ideas? If we deny these writers these basic means of communication, then must we not throw out large portions of the Bible, like the Psalms (poetry) or even the parables (very short stories of an obviously fictional nature) that run through the Gospel accounts of the preaching of Jesus? Really, when you get down to it, there seems to be something rather arrogant like telling God what He can or can't do in insisting that Bible should be as literally factual as the local newspaper or telephone book!

Another major flaw in the "creationism" approach is that it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of science. Although creationists often trumpet the fact that evolution is only a "theory" (as no one has ever seen an ape turn into a human being, or even a fish turn into a bird) what they fail to realize is that all science rests on theories (much as even the "Law of Gravity") that seek to explain how it is that what we see happens or appears to have happened has come about. If I observe, for example, the fossils of salt-water sea creatures in stones that turn up in my yard, then, I am tempted to "theorize" that what is now my yard must have been not too far from what at one time was part of a tropical sea. Or if scientists discover that 98.4% of human DNA is identical to that found in chimpanzees, then they are apt to theorize that the human species are, biologically speaking, rather close cousins of this species of ape. True, God could have created "Petoskey Stones" in my back yard just to fool me, or given humans much the same DNA as chimps just as a kind of practical joke. But logic would dictate otherwise.

Fifteen hundred years ago St. Augustine suggested that if the scriptures seemed to clash with "clear, consistent reasoning" then it must be that we are interpreting the scriptures wrongly. All this scientific evidence, I would submit, is the kind of clear and consistent reasoning that shows that so-called "Creation Science" is neither scientific nor even profoundly biblical.

R W Kropf 8/1/2000 Creationism.doc 00-08-01.htm