The creation-evolution controversy
‘Some piously record “In the beginning God,” but I say in the beginning hydrogen.’ This pompous claim of crass materialism challenging the creative work of God, by astronomer Harlow Shapley, reflects the quandary students face today in our public and private schools. Many students, for example, have been required to watch and discuss the 13-part television series ‘Cosmos’ featuring one of Shapley’s best known students, Carl Sagan. In the first sentence of his book Cosmos (which is meant to supplement the television series), Sagan confidently declared in capital letters that ‘THE COSMOS IS ALL THAT IS OR EVER WAS OR EVER WILL BE.’ Sagan assures us that ‘we humans are the products of a long series of biological accidents’ and concludes that all of our human traits—loves and hates, passions and despairs, tenderness and aggression—are simply the result of ‘minor accidents in our immensely long evolutionary history.’ Sagan believes that ‘men may not be the dreams of the gods, but rather that the gods are the dreams of men.’ In an interview published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (6 October 1980), Sagan was asked to comment on his view of the future of man. Sagan replied, ‘I feel in order to survive we someday must be able to give up our allegiance to our nation, our religion, our race and economic group and think of ourselves more as just a temporary form of life ….’
We hear much about that great ‘wall of separation’ that the framers of the USA’s Constitution were supposed to have erected to protect Americans from state-mandated religion. But are they to also be protected from state-mandated instruction in evolutionary beliefs and speculations that threaten to undermine the religious beliefs of many of their students? Evolution is a jealous god that neither seeks nor welcomes divine intervention. Julian Huxley, one of evolution’s most vocal champions, declared that ‘the whole of reality is evolution—a single process of self transformation.’ In this view there can be nothing above or outside of evolution, and thus the origin of religion itself is merely a minor blip in the recent evolutionary history of the universe. Even so, evolutionists often argue that there is nothing incompatible between religion and evolution as long as each confines itself to its own legitimate domain. But what limits can be set for a belief in a natural process that claims to be nothing less than the whole of reality?
Science, or more accurately ‘scientism,’ has not hesitated to wade into the domain of religion. In 1981, theologians and scientists met at Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the auspices of the World Council of Churches to discuss ‘Science, Faith and the Future.’ The general premise of the conference was that modern science requires us to develop an entirely new religion for the future. One theologian proposed evolutionary theory as an especially rich source for this new religion. Another proposed ‘ecotheology’ as an approach to religion that starts with the premise that the universe is god. Not to be outdone by theologians, a scientist claimed to have localized the exact part of the brain responsible for what ‘traditional religion calls the intuitive perception of God.’ Religious experience, he claimed, is a product of the parietal-occipital region on the non-dominant side of the brain! Who knows—by now he may even have found a cure.
Although many popular spokesmen for evolutionism are self-proclaimed atheists or agnostics, this certainly does not mean that all those who accept evolution in principle are atheists or agnostics. Indeed, many leaders, teachers and clergy in most major Christian and Jewish denominations have tried to make their peace with Darwin. These theologians generally argue that the Bible tells us who created, while science (that is evolution) tells us how He ‘created.’ This perhaps explains why a large gathering of Catholic educators meeting in St. Louis once invited Carl Sagan to be their keynote speaker!
Darwin himself received his formal education in theology, not science. His atheist father sent him to divinity school at Cambridge University after he dropped out of medical school. In his autobiography, Darwin claimed to have once believed in God and ‘every word of the Bible’ but confessed that his growing evolutionary views gradually led him to unbelief. In the end he considered the Old Testament to be a ‘manifestly false history of the world’ and said that he ‘could hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true.’ Sadly, the widespread rumors of his deathbed repudiation of evolutionism and return to Christianity are unfounded (see Did Darwin recant?).
Today we encounter evolutionary indoctrination wherever we turn. It may be incorporated into almost any subject at any grade level in our schools, but it is especially prevalent in classes dealing with social studies, history, and science. Outside the classroom, evolution is heavily promoted in our newspapers, popular magazines, television, radio, movies, national parks, museums, science centers, zoos, and even on the backs of breakfast cereal boxes. Despite all this exposure, most Americans are still not convinced that evolution can explain the marvelous complexity we see all around us in nature.
A 1992 Gallup poll revealed that 47% of Americans believe ‘God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.’ Only 9% believed that ‘man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life’ by a purely materialistic process. Most of the remaining respondents believed in some form of divinely-guided evolution. [In 2001, a Gallup poll showed ‘Americans choose “creationism” over “evolution” when asked which of these two terms best describes human origins, but slightly larger numbers of Americans choose one of two evolutionist explanations than choose a strict creationist explanation when given a choice between three specific views. At the same time, only about a third of the public say that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is well supported by evidence.’] Still, the media would have us believe that those who reject evolution in favor of special creation comprise only a tiny minority, even among the religious—a small band of ignorant fundamentalists who are ‘poorly educated and easily led.’
For those interested in critically evaluating the scientific evidence both for and against evolution, AiG has a wealth of resources, including Creation magazine, TJ—The in-depth Journal of Creation, and our web Q&A section.