Science and origins
Religion and origins
In Six Days
Why 50 Scientists Choose
to Believe in Creation
Colin W. Mitchell, geography
Dr Mitchell is a former international consultant in the development of arid lands based in the United Kingdom. He holds credits from Harvard University, an M.A. with honors in geography from Oxford University, an M.C.D. (master of civic design) from the University of Liverpool and a Ph.D. in desert terrain geography from Cambridge University. Dr Mitchell has acted as a specialist consultant to 16 countries, including long-term assignments with Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Morocco, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s appraisal of Ethiopia’s national land use planning policy.
I was born in London and in my childhood attended a local church. My beliefs changed to that of an agnostic in my teens, which was reinforced during service in the RAF. After this I went to university to read geography. I became a Christian as a result of joining the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union.
Like so many others, I found it difficult to harmonize the evolutionary ideas in which I had been educated with the basis of the Christian faith that I had learned. The questions were particularly obtrusive since studying for a degree in geography involves a substantial component of geology. I read books which sought to harmonize the two, but found that the more my faith became biblically based the more difficult the task became. The most critical problem centered around the creation/evolution question and specifically the six days of Genesis 1. It was clear that there was no way that either the sequence of events or the chronology could be made to accord with current scientific theories of origins. It was not just a question of interpretation. One or the other explanation (or indeed both) had to be wrong. Choice was necessary, and on this choice hung much of one’s life orientation. If the choice had been solely intellectual, it would have been harder because the arguments for and against a young earth both appeared strong, but I was impressed both by conscience and through the lessons of history that the answer must start with ethical principles. Our whole Western culture and civilization were based on the Bible above any other source of wisdom. This appeared to be the reason for its moral worth and the basis for its global influence.
Critique of the scientific case
The scientific arguments for an old earth appear strong. How reliable are they? How secure is the idea that there is an uninterrupted creative sequence from the big bang through the formation of the solar system, the solidification of the earth, the spontaneous generation of life, and the evolution of plants, animals, and humans to end in the world around us today? Is this scheme impregnable? By no means. It has fatal gaps and inconsistencies. A few questions can reveal this. Who or what provided the material for the big bang? Why did it not implode rather than explode? How could it coagulate into stars and how could these generate planets? How could life appear spontaneously? How could one kind of living creature change into another when the fossil record shows no evidence of such changes? How could intelligence and mind develop in the face of the second law of thermodynamics which denies such possibilities? None of these questions can be satisfactorily answered.
There are also questions over chronology. Modern calculations of the age of the earth are based on measurements which assume a uniformitarian evolution. They calculate present rates of sediment deposition, radioactive decay, and presumed organic evolution and extrapolate these backwards. All must accept considerable margins of error. These often differ widely in their results, and can give contradictory answers within a single method. Radiogenic dating is today regarded as the most reliable. But if we rely on this we are dependent on a number of unprovable assumptions. These include such matters as the original ratio of parent and daughter isotopes, the constancy of decay rates, the occurrence of apparently parentless isotopes with very short half-lives and the possibilities of neutron flux and of the migration of chemically mobile atoms.
The debate between belief in a literal six-day creation and an old earth has far-reaching consequences. The Bible teaches creationism throughout, starting with the first chapters of Genesis. The Adam and Eve story is cogent for man’s whole religious problem. Adam’s relationship to his Creator, by identifying divine authority and law, gives a framework for all aspects of life. By elevating conscience above material interest, the story provides the basic rationale for free social, economic, and political institutions. Adam’s responsibility for the natural world provides a model for the environmental challenges of today.
But it goes further than this. The creation/evolution debate is marginal to a greater one: about our understanding of the supernatural. This is because our view of origins profoundly affects our understanding of who God is and how He deals with the world. It determines our view of His nature. The principle of atonement was first introduced in the Garden of Eden. This provides inspiration and moral guidance for human conduct. Through this, it influences our approach to science, the arts, education, and theology. Adam’s relationship with his family and the world around him is a guide to all religious and social relations. His relation with Eve symbolizes that between Christ and the church and even those within the Trinity. [CMI Ed. note: see God Q&A for more information about the Trinity.] The evolution theory, by denying the historicity of the creation story, is quite destructive of these insights.
Therefore, our response to the idea of a six-day creation governs our vision of the cosmos, and beyond this, of our ultimate destiny. The impossibility of harmonizing today’s scientific worldview with Scripture leaves a stark alternative. This is between seeing the world as having no meaning and human life as having evolved from primitive beginnings through upward struggle with a view of the future, which at best provides some material and cultural advancement for the race, at worst to its destruction, and in either case to oblivion for the individual. On the other hand, all nature can be seen as part of a benevolent divine plan. Our life, both here and hereafter, can depend on our answer.
- Is the fish really our ancestor? (review of Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin)