By Alan Bean
It’s hard for ordinary people like you and me to evaluate the creationism v. evolution debate. We all have our opinions, of course, but most of us are taking a shot in the dark. Young earth creationists generally believe that the “Christian world view” will be lost forever if the evolutionists win. In other words, this really isn’t about science at all, it’s about tribalism. If every member of the tribe could admit to being wrong about evolution at the same moment, we could pull it off. But so long as embracing evolution means banishment from the tribe, few have the courage to change their convictions.
The pro-science people embrace the doctrine of evolution because the vast majority of biologists believe it. Some of us have a course or two in evolutionary biology and may even have read a popular book or two on the subject. But we are not scientists.
We believe in evolution because the theory makes conceptual sense.
More importantly, because an overwhelming consensus has emerged within the scientific community that evolution is the only theory available that squares with the evidence at our disposal.
Finally, we find it unlikely that 99% of the world’s biologists have joined a conspiracy to lie to the public.
During my days at the University of Alberta, I attended a lecture by Duane Gish, a fundamentalist biologist who rejected evolution, largely because it was inconsistent with a literal reading of Genesis. Gish normally debated members of the local faculty, but in Edmonton no one took up the gauntlet so Gish was on his own.
It was probably just as well. Gish, who died earlier this year, was famous for unleashing so many arguments in rapid-fire succession, that his opponents didn’t know where to begin their refutation.
I was impressed by Dr. Gish’s presentation. He was a biologist, after all, he was engaging, and he had a good sense of humor. I wanted to believe the guy.
One of my friends, like me a Baptist on the road to pastoral ministry, was downright mesmerized.
But the third member of our party was working on a PhD in biology. As I recall, his primary focus was on the reproductive organs of moths. He believed in evolution, he told us, because there was no other good explanation for what he observed under a microscope on a daily basis. “Gish misrepresents the science,” he told us. “His arguments are full of holes.”
I believed him. He was just as devout as me (likely more so), but, unlike me, he knew what he was talking about.
The great state of Texas has been fighting about evolution (and other threats to Christian civilization) since Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview Texas charged that the textbooks sanctioned by the state were riddled with errors in the early 1960s (they were right most of the time it turns out). But the war with evolution has became big business in the 1990s when a Texas billionaire started pouring big money into State Board of Education elections.
Now, according to Brantley Hargrove of the Dallas Observer, the tide could be turning against the creationists.
That’s good news for Christians who have much more important things to worry about.
There has never been a serious beef between honest science and honest religion.
Genesis is poetry and parable, not literal description or science.
Most trained theologians, Catholic and Protestant, stopped railing against Darwin generations ago.
So why are the young earth creationists still determined to die on this hill?
This fight isn’t about science, and it’s sure not about Christian discipleship. It’s about preserving a Christian America in which everyone believes the same things on pain of banishment. In other words, its about how hard it can be for an entire subculture to admit it was wrong when saying that means immediate excommunication.
Or maybe it’s all about fundraising. Young earth creationist, Ken Ham is building a replica of Noah’s ark for the low, low price of $24.5 million. I wonder where Noah came up with that kind of scratch? (although a radically un-inflated dollar went a long way back in 4,000 BCE).
According to Fred Clark, “For $6,000 a year you could ‘sponsor’ a wooden beam on a replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky. Or you could use that same $6,000 a year to sponsor 15 desperately poor children through World Vision. These are, obviously, equally valid uses of that $6,000 for a good, godly American Christian.”