Another school paper, this one from a Western Civ class around 2003
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of touring the historic Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee. Eighty years ago, this stately, yet unpretentious building was the site of the infamous Scopes “Monkey Trial.” History came alive as I stepped into the main courtroom and reflected on the dramatic exchanges between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. There was also small museum in the basement, which featured such memorabilia as Bryan’s pith helmet and Darrow’s purple suspenders. Although these articles may seem somewhat antiquated to us today, the issues raised by this trial are still very much a part of our world.
In order to place Charles Darwin’s theories in context, it is important to examine not only the ideas themselves, but also the attitude in which they were presented. Darwin made it clear that his arguments were not merely scientific, but also philosophical. He was not simply offering a blueprint for how he believed our species came to be. He also went against general scientific boundaries by challenging the notion of supernatural design: “He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation…” (1)
Think about this statement for a moment. For the ones who wish to dismiss those of us who do believe in a divine creator as being “narrow minded,” keep in mind that some of the key battle lines were drawn by Darwin himself. In prior generations, science was generally considered a study of God’s handiwork in creation. Contrary to popular belief, this is not at all irrational. It is interesting to note that the Holy Scriptures describe many natural phenomena thousands of years before they were discovered by modern science. For example, the Bible tells us that the earth is round (Isaiah 40:22), that the sea contains mountains and canyons (2 Samuel 22:16) and that the elements of human life are found in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). It also describes the water cycle (Psalm 135:7), as well as the deterioration of matter, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Psalm 102:26; Hebrews 1:10-12). Could it be that the Bible is more up-to-date than we have ever begun to imagine?
When addressing the science vs. religion issues, it is important to keep two important questions in mind:
1. What is the precise teaching of Scripture, as opposed to simply being common religious dogma? and
2. What is proven scientific fact, as opposed to being mere theory.
Admittedly, both sides of the debate have often neglected these two precepts. By doing so, much unnecessary tension has been created between the scientific and theological communities. This is very sad, since both camps could potentially work together in very complimentary ways.
That being said, I do interpret the Book of Genesis literally, and I do believe that it gives a perfectly accurate overview of how the universe came into existence. However, this does not mean that it records every minute detail of how creation occurred (to do so would obviously fill countless libraries). In my opinion, this leaves open a wide range of possibilities.
When the term “creationism” is used, it is usually identified with those who believe that the Earth was created between 6000 and 10,000 years ago. However, creationism is a larger and more diverse school of thought than many have been led to believe. In fact, there are a number of opinions among orthodox Christians as to how and when creation took place. For example, one of these theories is called “Progressive Creationism,” which points out that the Hebrew word for “day” (as in “on the first day God created…”) can also refer to longer time periods, thus allowing for the Earth to be billions of years old. Another is called the “Gap Theory” which teaches that there was a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, which could also be a span of billions of years. Although an explanation of my own views of these issues is beyond the scope of this work, I will say that the truth of the Book of Genesis does not stand or fall based on the age of the Earth.
The same could be said about the theory of evolution itself. At its core, the word “evolution” simply means “to change over a period of time.” No reasonable person would dispute that this occurs. It is important to note that there is a large difference between microevolution. and macroevolution. The former simply refers to evolution within species. Obviously, we see new breeds of dogs and cats, as well as new strains of vegetables and flowers. Bacteria and viruses mutate and become more resistant to medicine. This is of no consequence to religious faith at all, and I do not know of any creationist who would argue otherwise.
However, the latter refers to evolution from one species into another, which is a bit trickier. Arguments can be made on both sides which time and space prohibit me from addressing. However, I will say that evolution is not as universally accepted as many believe (2). The numerous missing links in the evolutionary ladder cannot be overlooked. In the ladder itself, several “rungs” are of questionable origin and some (such as Piltdown Man ) have been shown to be blatant hoaxes.
In conclusion, exploring the origin of life is vital to understanding human nature and its place in the universe. Neither the religious nor the scientific community should see the other as competitors. There is much that both respective camps can learn from one another as we seek to know more about the world we live in.
1- Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man.New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1883. pp 606-607,619. Quoted in Sherman, Dennis. Western Civilization: Sources, Images and Interpretations, Volume II: Since 1660. Sixth Edition. 2004, 2000, 1995. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York. p 130.
2- For an extensive list of scientist who accept the Biblical creation account, see <http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/default.asp>