How can we tell who is right in the origins debate?
Published: 24 July 2021 (GMT+10)
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Who is right? Even when each side presents their case how can we decide who is right? Charbel Y. from Lebanon wrote in, and CMI’s Shaun Doyle’s responses are interspersed.
Hello, I am Charbel from Lebanon.
I want first to appreciate your effort and express my gratitude to the information you give me by following your articles and subscribing to your newsletter.
But, I think there is something wrong. Many Christians claim that evolution is not a theory in crisis and the theory can be compatible with the faith.
In what sense is evolution ‘a theory in crisis’? In terms of its levels of social acceptance, or its social credibility, I don’t think it’s any more ‘in crisis’ than it has been for a century or more.
But, we could say the picture today is dimmer for evolution than it was 50 years ago. The rise of genetics and cellular biology in the last few decades has shown the amazing engineering present in the cell and the genome. This can make it harder to say that it’s all the result of just natural law and chance.
But one must have eyes to see design in biology (Design: Just a trick of the mind?). The whole point of evolution, though, is that there was no designer directly involved in biology. It all happened by natural cause and effect. Now, someone who believes that phenomena in nature should only be explained by natural causes (an idea called ‘methodological naturalism’) really must believe in some sort of evolutionary theory. Evolution is basically a logical consequence of deciding that only natural causes can be used to explain events in nature (The rules of the game).
And of course yes, we acknowledge that many think evolution is compatible with Christianity. We think they’re wrong, and have many articles and resources (e.g. Evolution and the Christian Faith) that explain why. The biggest problem? The Bible teaches special creation, i.e. that God made distinct types of things in separate instances of creation. Both Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 depict God as creating different things at different times. Moreover, the Apostle Paul (alluding to Exodus 20:11; God’s own words) puts it in Acts 17:24: “The God who made the world and everything in it”. “Everything in it” must refer to something different from “the world” itself. We should then take it to refer to all the different types of animals and plants we see. Paul doesn’t say that God made the raw materials of the universe and these materials transformed themselves into living creatures, but that God himself made “everything” that exists in the world.
On the other side, you refute this opinion [of theistic evolution], claim that evolution is not true and that there is a conspiracy done by mainstream media and education to promote evolution …
No. We say that it’s a worldview dispute. We say that evolution is the logical consequence of the naturalistic worldview that is assumed throughout so much of the West today. The idea is well captured in this quote from Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin:
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen.
These people really believe science is the best, if not only, way to discern truth about the world, and they think that only natural causes should be used to explain phenomena in nature. Religion, ethics, philosophy, and theology are regarded as mere matters of personal taste—i.e. morality and religion are just a bunch of conflicting opinions (that only seem to result in violent conflict) that don’t give us truth. They’re wrong, but they’re not generally trying to deceive.
… but both of you claim that you refer to science.
Both do refer to science. The issue, I think, is which one of us does it properly. That’s a complex question that involves an analysis of not just science, but the Bible, history, philosophy, and theology as well (See e.g. Biblical history and the role of science).
We became in a time that we can’t know who and what to believe.
If I ask you about theism evolution, you will refer me to an article which I respect and I very appreciate its content. If I ask you about anything you will refer me to an article. By that, I am not seeing the confrontation between the two points of view.
The supporters of the theory explain that the feeling of conspiracy of the refuters is like those who believe in the flat-earth.
It’s impossible that this conflict between the two points of view continue while you two claim you have the facts. The fact is a fact, it cannot be debatable.
First, we need to check that claimed facts are indeed facts. If someone claims a scientific ‘fact’ check what has actually been observed, and distinguish this from the story they are telling, which has not been observed. If someone makes a statement about what the Bible says, check it in the Bible, reading before and after for context, and checking a couple of different translations.
Second, it is not just about who has the facts. Everyone has access to the same facts. The question is: who has the correct framework in which to interpret the facts? (See Faith and facts and Same data, different interpretations?)
As a person who I can’t read very much on both sides because I am very busy, I prefer watching debates to know who is more convincing.
We have a few debates in our Media Center (I suggest inputting “debate” into the media search function to find them). One of the most interesting and impactful debates was between Dr Ian Plimer and Dr Duane Gish in the 1980s. You can find it on Youtube by searching for “Facing the Fire - Dr Ian Plimer vs Dr Duane Gish.” We also have these resources: The Great Dothan Creation/Evolution Debate and Clash Over Origins (see Clash over origins for notes on this debate). We also have a written debate: Skeptics vs Creationists.
Bear in mind, though, that oral debates have their limitations. Generally only a sampling of the positions being debated can ever be presented in a live debate setting. So, it’s not the best forum for an in-depth look at either view. Moreover, the debate is often won by the better prepared debater, or the better speaker. There are many debating tricks that can win an audience: logical fallacies, attacking the person, charm, name calling, etc. In other words, it’s not always the best view that wins the debate, but the best debater does.
telling who is right
In a nutshell, there are three guiding principles we can use to tell who is right:
- Test everything by the Word of God. It’s especially important to understand the big picture history of the Bible (e.g. the 7 Cs of history). That will help you recognise if an idea/story is wrong.
- Understand the big picture worldview of naturalism (evolution). This will help you understand why they are saying what they are saying. They are trying to develop a plausible story that bypasses the Creator God.
- Test all scientific claims and stories by asking “What did they actually see?” When you can distinguish the facts from the narrative you will be empowered to reinterpret the facts within a biblical worldview.
For that reason, can you please give me links for Creationism Evolution debates but not only to Kevin Hovind.
Another question, can you please give the rate of peer-reviewed science utilized by you? Because there is an overwhelming opinion that evolutionist refer to peer reviewed science much more than creationism.
We refer to lots of peer-reviewed papers, from both the secular and the creationist literature. I suggest perusing practically any volume of our Journal of Creation to see this. The issue, though, that many evolutionists will raise is that creationist ideas are practically never presented in the secular peer-reviewed literature. That is because they are censored out (Search Youtube for Ben Stein movie “Expelled no intelligence allowed”.) Also, please see Creationism, Science and Peer Review.
At the end of the day, Scripture is our final guide. Test everything by the Word of God, and hold to the good that aligns with that.
Creation Ministries International