Creation 15(1):18–21, December 1992
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In 1954, a journal called Scientific Monthly surveyed college students after an introductory biology course to see if they held any ‘animistic’ beliefs about life. Animism is the pagan belief that objects such as rocks and the like have some form of spirit or life. They were asked graded multiple-choice questions on such things as whether the sea itself knows the whereabouts of lost shipwrecks, whether plants feel depressed from being cut, whether a tyre feels something when there is a blow-out, or whether the sun is alive in any way, for example.
One would have expected all such educated young people to have given the straightforward ‘no’ answer to all such questions. However, a small, but none the less surprising, percentage gave answers which indicated a clearcut tendency towards what one can only describe as pagan, superstitious beliefs.
Bruce Stewart, a now-retired professor who participated in that survey, wondered how things had changed after some decades. So in 1989 he gave the same test to 100 equivalent university students. He was alarmed to find that these ‘occult’ responses had actually increased dramatically. For instance, when asked if a pearl in an oyster shell was able to feel the movement of water over it, the obvious and correct answer was ‘No, a pearl could never feel anything’. In 1954 only 50 per cent of students gave that answer; 35 years later it had dropped still further, to 35 per cent.
For each of the questions, there was an option for an outright ‘yes’ answer (yes, the sun is alive, the tyre feels the blowout, the sea knows exactly where all the shipwrecks are). In 1954 (looking at the average for all questions) the number of such outright superstitious responses was only 5 per cent (though obviously there were many hedgers and waverers, since adding the number of partially superstitious answers brings it to 26.4 per cent). Thirty-five years later the average number of outright animistic responses had leapt to 22.4 per cent, more than fourfold!
In the box on page 19 is an example of one of the questions and its results—the pattern of increasing ‘animism’ was seen for all the other questions as well.
Interestingly, this was reported in the anti-creation journal Creation/Evolution (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1992). Presumably they thought it would be of interest to their readers as an example of just one more ‘anti-science’ trend (which is how they, as committed materialists and humanists, view creationism).
The result is not, though, what they would have expected. Those 35 years have seen a dramatic increase in awareness of science, particularly evolutionary science. How can such a result happen, they must wonder? To them, increased awareness of evolution should, logically, lead to increased materialism (the belief that matter is the only reality, there is no spiritual realm).
As a possible explanation for this result, they lamely offer the influence of ‘TV and scientifically irresponsible books and magazines’.
However, I want to suggest a more obvious, logical explanation as to why increased superstition has gone hand in hand with an increase in evolutionary belief.
Historically, it is in fact the once-dominant biblical Christian, creationist world view which has largely conquered and suppressed such superstitious notions for centuries. Pagan societies commonly worshipped the sun as alive, the source of light and life. Genesis makes it clear that the Creator Himself is the ultimate source of light and life, the sun (a temporary, inanimate light-bearer serving His purposes) being created three days after light itself. In Scripture, only animals and man have the nephesh, the sentient, conscious life principle. The sea is an inanimate creation serving God’s purposes in the same way as the tyre is a secondary creation by man as he exercises dominion; neither can ‘feel’ or ‘know’ anything.
That the scriptural world view matches both commonsense and modern scientific knowledge should come as no surprise, because the modern scientific endeavour which has been of such benefit to humanity developed out of a rediscovery of biblical, creationist truth, as even many secular philosophers now acknowledge. The fact that modern science developed and flourished in Western Europe (after the Reformation made the Bible widely available) and that the fathers of modern science were mostly creationist Christians reflects neither any racial superiority of Europeans nor a mere coincidence of history.
Science based on Bible
Rather, it is because the launching of the scientific quest only made sense once a biblical, creationist foundation had been laid, as will be shown.
Science involves finding out how the world works, finding out its rules and regularities. A given culture is not likely to generate individuals wanting to do that unless a certain set of beliefs or faith-assumptions is held widely in that society to begin with, as follows:
1. The world ‘out there’ exists as a real entity.
This might sound laughably obvious, but in fact a lot of Eastern religious thought holds that reality is an illusion, a trick of the mind. The Bible teaches that the world exists independently of you and your mind—God created them both.
2. Order, rules and regularities exist in the natural world.
Before you will want to start looking for order, you must have a belief that it probably exists. If you believe that the universe exists at the whim of some deity who has no well-defined character, or that it is itself just the mind of that deity, or that the world (including ‘the gods’) has just happened (evolved) out of some primordial chaos, as many religions held, why should there be such order? But the lawgiving, covenant-making Creator of nature who is revealed in Scripture gives meaning and a rationale to the search for laws in nature.
3. The universe is capable of being understood.
Why should that necessarily be so? For centuries many cultures were fogged by the vague notion that the world was full of impenetrable mysteries. Rediscovering the fact that the same God who made the universe also made the human brain, and instructed mankind to exercise dominion over that created world, helped launch an unparalleled journey of exploration into the workings of that world. ‘Thinking the Creator’s thoughts after Him’ as Newton is claimed to have said.
4. Nature is not fickle.
What is the point of looking for the rules if they are likely to always be changing? If the universe, as in Eastern thought, is a great mind, why shouldn’t it change its mind? If your gods were capricious, like those of the Greeks, which had nasty streaks and were capable of playing tricks, then an apple which falls to the ground today might just float up tomorrow. If you saw an impression of a fish fossil in a rock, well, that could have been put there by the gods to deceive you—after all, fish don’t usually live in rocks, do they?’
It was the biblical, creationist view which lifted Europe and then other parts of the world out of the Dark Ages of superstition, by liberating the world from such fear-ridden beliefs about a fickle universe and thus unleashing the flowering of science and technology.
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Creator—He is also the Truth, and will not deceive. Observations could be taken at face value—if it looked like a fish, then it probably was a fish before it became part of that rock. The Creator Christ is unchanging—He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow, neither fickle nor unreliable. Hence, the ‘rules’ are likely to be the same throughout time—a basic assumption of science.’
And since the same God created every part of this universe ‘in the beginning’, we have a logical basis for another fundamental assumption of science, namely that …
5. The rules are the same everywhere in the universe.
Scientists assume that the laws of physics and chemistry hold equally everywhere, not only on the earth, but on the moon, on Alpha Centauri and the remotest detectable quasar.
These faith-assumptions are taken for granted by those of us who have been brought up in a Western technological culture. Science today has cut itself off from its historical biblical foundations—it still uses the same faith-assumptions, but these are justified by simply pointing out that ‘they work’. And indeed they do. Landing a man on the moon would not have been possible unless the faith-assumption that gravity would follow the same principles ‘out there’ as ‘down here’ turned out to be a correct belief.
Thus, the modern position is that ‘science works, so the assumptions are true’. Period. They forget to go on and add the phrase ‘therefore we give due honour and glory to the God on whose Word they are based’. Modern science is still living on its Christian capital, but neglecting to pay the interest.
If, then, rational, clear and experimentally successful thinking about the real world has resulted from a biblical creationist view, is it any surprise that decades of evolutionary saturation have resulted in the beginnings of a slip back into the darkness of pagan superstition?
The so-called ‘rationalists’ are puzzled by the student survey results discussed earlier. Haven’t we taught them, they would say, that everything has just evolved by chance, that mere matter in motion has produced everything, that everything can be understood without reference to any spooky, mysterious influences? So how, they must wonder, can 35 years of increased evolutionary teaching, to ever younger age groups, be associated with this upsurge in mystical, animistic thought?
They forget that the innermost workings of each person are rarely satisfied by the strange notion that everything ‘just happened’.3 Deep down, the Apostle Paul tells us in the first chapter of Romans, all people really know that the created world reflects something of the power and intelligence of the Creator, which is why they are ‘without excuse’ for rejecting their Maker. We also all ‘know’ instinctively that there is more to mankind, more to our personality, our ability to love, worship, create, to contemplate eternal things, than just a random collection of atoms. We all ‘know’, even if some suppress and rationalize it, that there must be something which transcends a mechanistic, chance explanation of reality. Most, though, do not wish to believe in the sin-judging God of the Bible.4
Yearning for spirituality
Making the point
If the thrust of this article is correct (that evolutionary thinking increases the incidence of irrational superstitious beliefs about the natural world), people with a strongly non-evolutionary view of reality should have much lower ‘superstition scores’ than the university populations tested.
We therefore gave the same set of questions mentioned in this article to seven of our secretarial/ administrative staff at Creation Science Foundation. These subjects were randomly chosen from our staff, and none had any tertiary science background. They were not told what the test was about. One thing all seven have in common, though, is a sound, biblical creationist view of the world, and much exposure to creationist material. All seven achieved a perfect score—not a hint of superstition, or a whiff of animism, but the scientifically correct, rational answer in every case, to every question. Creationist office staff thus scored much better than the 1954 university students, and dramatically better than the still more evolution-soaked 1989 university group.
In practice, most people who have been taught to believe that particles gradually turned into people will usually somehow blend these heart-yearnings for the transcendent with evolution, often resulting in forms of ‘spiritual evolution’, seen overtly in New Age teaching.
Pantheism (nature is itself ‘god’ and worth worshipping) and animism have been helped along, not hindered, by the modern evolutionary ‘push’. If matter has really turned into people, then many will conclude that matter, dead chemicals, must have some mysterious creative essence.5 If chemicals in the sea billions of years ago mysteriously gave rise to complicated, programmed machines (living cells) bearing vast amounts of coded information (this blatantly anti-science notion is what evolutionists have taught their students) then how much more magical or ‘way-out’ is it to believe that, well, maybe the sea does somehow ‘know’ where ships are?6
Committed theistic evolutionists have helped things along considerably. Prominent Australian biologist Charles Birch once told an interviewer on a television show, ‘The Biology of God’, that when he was a first-year student, he went around doing things he now regretted, like telling people they were sinners and needed to believe on Jesus to be saved. He was asked what changed him from that ‘naive’ view. He indicated that it was his growing belief in evolution—if evolution was true, it was nonsense to take any part of the Bible literally.
Tables and carpenters
This leading academic became a major figure in the Student Christian Movement, has influenced countless young people who came to university as fresh-faced, Bible-believing Christians, and won the Templeton prize for religion. Birch has firmly rejected, as he puts it, the view that God made the world in the way in which a carpenter makes a table, with the carpenter himself not being a part of the table, being ‘outside’ of it. Rather, the carpenter, in his view, is somehow tied in with the table. The creator is not, ultimately, distinguishable from the creation—about as close to overt pantheism as one can get, and much closer to Hindu than Christian belief.
I recall hearing Birch talk about how people could have spiritual relationships with such things as trees and, yes, even electrons. All very logical, actually, if you begin by believing in evolution, but wish to retain a spiritual dimension in your thinking as well. Such common heresies are the inevitable end consequence of abandoning the authority of the Bible at its Genesis foundations under pressure from ‘science’.
Much of the blame for the upsurge in New Age, mystical and animistic thinking therefore rests squarely on the shoulders of all those, atheists or theists, who promote the fantastic, neo-pagan mythology that chaos has become cosmos, all by itself: that particles have turned into planets, palm trees and people by their own innate properties. Our culture seems, for the moment at least, to be destined to replay Romans 1, in which God tells us about those who had the knowledge of God, but did not remember or honour Him, and in fact worshipped ‘the creature’ (i.e. the creation) rather than the Creator. They ‘became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.’ And God ‘gave them up’ to foolish and degenerate things—something to remember as we watch society today.
As the once-Christian West begins to sink into the superstitious foolishness of a new pagan night (as we increasingly abandon the Christian foundations of not only our science, but law, justice, morality, even economics) a heavy responsibility rests with those who passively accept the ever-increasing promotion of this false evolutionary religion; a religion which gives glory to the creation (for having made itself) rather than ‘the Creator, Who is blessed for ever. Amen.’
- The Christian church is often caricatured as having once believed that God made fossils to fool men. While such ideas were entertained in the church of the Middle Ages, it was really part of the strong influence of early Greek thought on medieval Christendom, before the Bible became freely available to the common man.
- As the fathers of science well understood, this does not preclude the Creator’s acting in extraordinary ways (the ‘laws’ of nature being His normal governance of His creation) for special purposes at special times—miracles. Dead men stay dead, and decompose—that is natural ‘law’ and is a secure generalization which can be relied upon. However, in the case of Lazarus and the crucified Jesus, this ‘law’ was not binding upon Its own Creator. The Christian creationist pioneers of science were well aware that scriptural miracles are (as a proportion of the total timespan covered by biblical history) rare events of great spiritual significance, and not the arbitrary acts of a fickle, capricious Deity. If divine miracle superseding natural law (raising the dead, walking on water, transmuting water into wine) was in any way arbitrary or an everyday, commonplace phenomenon, scientific inquiry into how creation works would come to an end. Thus, the practical application of the scientific method must implicitly assume that miracles do not normally happen. (If they did they would hardly have had the same impact as occurred in the incarnate Saviour’s time on earth.) But not that they have never happened. The modern position has taken a subtle twist: since science excludes miracles, they say, then miraculous creation is excluded from even being considered as a possible origins explanation by science—by definition (see ‘Science: The Rules of the Game’ Creation Vol. 11. No. 1, December 1988–February 1989.) A moment’s thought shows this to be unwarranted dogma preserving evolutionary naturalism from any competition. Assuming such a one-off original creation in no way denies any of the fundamental assumptions needed for workable scientific method.
- Even evolution guru David Attenborough. on an Australian late-night news show, admitted to believing that the incredible wonders his documentaries were revealing ‘didn’t just happen’. Attenborough, of course, vehemently rejects the Judeo-Christian Creator God.
- Scripture teaches that the descendants of Adam, being naturally rebels against their Maker, do not like to retain the knowledge of the true Creator God in their thinking. Anyway, as atheists are quick to point out, evolution doesn’t fit the Bible In the slightest—not only does the Old Testament crumble, but death and struggle before Adam (which is what all evolutionists must accept) undermines the Gospel-related issues of sin, death and the Atonement.
- This is seen in the upsurge in ‘green extremism’. Also, several leading evolutionists are flirting with the so-called ‘Gaia’ hypothesis, that the earth is somehow a living organism which regulates itself to nurture and protect the life it carries. Named after the ancient earth goddess, some of the founders of this idea get upset when it is taken to mystical lengths, far beyond what they intended to be merely a useful framework of thinking. But this is one of those genies that is hard to put back into the bottle when the climate is so ripe for nature-worship.
- Evolutionists often refer to the sea as our ‘mother’—perhaps mother does know best. In evolutionary thinking, the sun is the source of all life, so why shouldn’t it be alive, in a sense? After all, it has energy, and matter in motion, and isn’t that all that life is about? We’re related to every plant, and just like the tyre, we’re only a collection of molecules, yet we have feelings, so maybe the plant and the tyre … . I’m not suggesting that these connections are logical, only that they are not surprising. interestingly, Ernst Haeckel, professor of zoology at Jena University, and Darwin’s most influential disciple on the continent, claimed to be a ‘rationalist’—he denied the existence of a personal God of free will, and of the soul of man after death. Yet according to ‘New Universal Encyclopedia’ (c. 1951) p. 4010, he believed that matter itself ‘possessed sensation and will’. Lord Chesterfield is claimed to have said that when men cease believing in God, they do not believe in nothing—they will believe in anything.
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