Beliefs for and against Creationism
and Evolution: The origins
of animal species,
the Earth itself:
Why conflicts between science and many forms of religion are inevitable:
- Religious beliefs are often derived from the interpretation of a holy text like the Hebrew Torah, Christian Bible, Islamic Qur'an, etc. Many religious conservatives believe that their texts are inerrant -- free of error -- in their autograph form as composed by their author.
- Over time, the original autograph copy is usually duplicated and changes are inserted into the text either intentionally or through copying errors.
- When a holy text is translated into English or another language, the meanings of many passages are altered according to the understanding and interpretations of the translators.
- There are often multiple interpretations of a given passage by followers of different religions, by different traditions, denominations, sects, etc. within each religion, and by different individuals with each faith group.
- There are often multiple conflicting passages within the same book.
- Many ancient religious texts were written during a pre-scientific era, and based on very different traditions and cultures that no longer exist today. Some examples from the Bible are:
- Forcefully beating children with a rod is generally frowned upon in most countries.
- Executing women who were found to not be virgins at the time of their first marriage is generally considered a very serious criminal offense.
- Women are no longer required to marry their rapists.
- Childless widows are not required to marry one of their their deceased husband's brothers.
- The death penalty has largely been phased out in many developed countries or has been reserved only for cases of multiple murders.
- Scientific understanding of nature is determined by the scientific method. 8 This typically involves a half-dozen or more steps:
- Defining a question;
- Doing background research;
- Selecting a tentative hypothesis that may explain the question;
- Performing an experiment or series of experiments during which data is collected;
- Analyzing the data and tentatively conclude whether the hypothesis was valid;
- Share results with others.
This sequence is repeated multiple times, sometimes over multiple centuries.
Listed below are some randomly selected quotes concerning science-religious conflicts:
They illustrate some of the conflicts between religious beliefs and scientific understandings of the origins of the earth and its life forms.
This assessment from six and a half decades ago remains accurate today and is unlikely to change anytime soon.
- 2009-MAY: A Letter was sent by over 50 scientific societies to the Texas Board of Education expressing concern over the quality of science education in that state. It said, in part:
"Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, and is crucial in fields as diverse as agriculture, computer science, engineering, geology, and medicine. We oppose any efforts to undermine the teaching of biological evolution ... whether by misrepresenting those subjects or by inaccurately describing them as controversial and in need of special scrutiny." 4
At the time, Rep. Broun was a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee in the federal House.
His beliefs conflict with scientific research which indicates that the universe started with a "Big Bang" some 13.7 billion years ago, and that the Earth coalesced into its present form about 4.5 billion years ago. Meanwhile when theologians scan the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) from a known date in history, backwards through multple generations to Adam and Eve, they generally find that the Bible implies that the date of creation is between 3,761 BCE (a common Jewish estimate) and 4,004 BCE (a common Christian estimate). The latter estimates makes the earth and the rest of the universe only about 6,000 years old. The creationism and evolutionary estimates vary by a factor in excess of two million times! However, there is a general agreement that when the Bible says that one person begat another, sometimes the child was really a grandchild. That is, the Bible sometimes skipped a generation. So most creationists believe that the earth may be somewhat older than six millennia -- perhaps as much as 10 millennia. This would reduce the discrepancy to "only" about 1.4 million times!
2014-APR: A political skirmish in South Carolina to name an official state fossil:
Olivia McConnell, age 8, from New Zion, SC, was a third grade student at the time. She wrote a letter to the governor of South Carolina noting that the South Carolina has an official state bird, flower, fish, tree, spider, amphibian, reptile, fruit, and 20 others. However there was no state fossil. She suggested the woolly mammoth be chosen because part of a fossil of this species was first discovered in her state by slaves during the 18th century. When Olivia sent her letter, South Carolina was one of only seven U.S. states that lacked an official state fossil. 11
"I wanted it to be the state fossil because I didn't want that history to be lost, and our state to not get credit for it. If something's wrong, I've got to help out. It's just the right thing to do. That's what I'm all about." 9
Her original proposed version of the bill was very brief -- only 13 words:
"The Wooly Mammoth is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina." 9
Her Senator, Kevin Johnson (D), thought that selecting a state fossil was a great idea. He said:
"I thought it would just fly through the House and through the Senate, and we'd have the governor pass it with no problem."
Olivia’s class at Carolina Academy wrote letters to lawmakers supporting her request." 11
But the task turned out to not be a simple one.
The General Assembly approved Olivia's request -- but with a lengthy amendment added by Senator Keven Bryant (R). that included a full Bible passage. That was later defeated. So he suggested a shorter version based on the creation story in the Bible's book of Genesis:
"The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the 'Columbian Mammoth', which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field." 10
Senator Bryant said:
"I think it’s an appropriate time to acknowledge the Creator. Since we’re dealing with the fossil of the woolly mammoth then this amendment would deal with the beginning of the woolly mammoth."
"I just had a notion that we ought to consider acknowledging the creator as we acknowledge one of his creations." 1,2
Olivia dug in her heels. She responded:
"Maybe it might not be until I'm 23 or 40. If it doesn't pass this year, I'm going to be back next year." 9
The Assembly finally did pass a version of Olivia's bill. It includes a preamble, added to the original draft. It says:
"Whereas, giant mammoths used to roam South Carolina; and
Whereas, scientists have identified the fossils of about six hundred and fifty species of vertebrates in South Carolina to date; and
Whereas, it has been recognized that fossilized mammoth teeth were discovered in a swamp in South Carolina in 1725; and
Whereas, this discovery has been credited as the first scientific identification of a North American vertebrate fossil. Now, therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Chapter 1, Title 1 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
“Section 1-1-691. The Columbian Mammoth is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina.”
The compromise was passed by both the Assembly and Senate. Governor Nimrata Haley (R) -- universally referred to as Nikki -- signed it into law.
As her next project, Olivia has considered writing a book about the political process. 11
- 2015-JAN: The National Center for Science Education posted a notice about an annual celebration of the Theory of Evolution:
"Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, 2015-FEB-13-15, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, who initiated the project, wrote:
'Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic — to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith'." 5
- 2016-JAN: The following image was posted on this web site's page:
The core problem expressed here is that the word "theory" has two very different meanings:
- In normal use, a theory generally means a guess based on scanty information that may or may not be true. A theory requires additional study before determining if it has any value.
- In scientific use, according to AstronomyNotes.com, a theory is: "... a logical, systematic set of principles or explanation that has been verified -- has stood up against attempts to prove it false."
To use a term like "hunch" to refer to the former, and "scientific theory" to refer to the latter would help avoid confusion and would greatly improve clarity.
- 2018-FEB: Clyde Berkley, writing for the Abilene Reporter News in Texas, believes that:
"... there is no conflict between science and religion. They deal with two different spheres of understanding. ..."
"These two concepts are reconciled by a religious person by noting that God always creates with age. When God created Adam, he was created as a grown man. Any scientist looking at Adam would have said that he was born of a woman some 20 years earlier. Both would be right in their own spheres of understanding.
The age of Earth can be understood in the same way. God could have created the world any time he wanted to, with age. ... God could have created the whole universe this morning with all we have on earth and created all of us with our memories and we would not know the difference. This is because when God is brought in to the equation of understanding the world, anything is possible. " 11
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Harriet McLeod, "South Carolina legislator seeks to give God credit for state fossil," Reuters, 2014-MAR-31, at: http://www.reuters.com/
- Evan Bleier, "S.C. lawmaker won't let mammoth become state fossil unless God is credited as creator" UPI News, 2014-APR-02, at: http://www.upi.com/
- "Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA): Evolution, Big Bang 'Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell'." TPM, 2012-OCT-05, at: http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/
- "Scientists to Texas Board of Education: Teach Evolution Right!," National Center for Science Education, 2009-MAY-19, at: http://ncse.com/
- "Darwin Day approaches," The National Center for Science Education, 2015-JAN-12, at: http://ncse.com/
- John Eligon & Michael Schwirtz, "Senate Candidate Provokes Ire With ‘Legitimate Rape’ Comment," New York Times, 2012-AUG-19, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
- Mary Beth Griggs, "When Evolution’s Controversial, Declaring a State Fossil Can Get Tricky," Smithsonian Institution, 2014-APR-09, at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/
- "Steps in the Scientific Process," LD Online, 2019, at: http://www.ldonline.org/
- Wyatt Andrews, "8-year-old takes on S.C. lawmakers in fossil fight," CBS Evening News, 2014-APR-22, at: https://www.cbsnews.com/
- Hemant Mehta, "Biblical Language Taken Out of Bill to Make the Wooly Mammoth South Carolina’s Official State Fossil," Friendly Atheist, 2014-MAY-15, at: https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/
- Clyde Berkley, "Is there a conflict between science and religion?," Abilene Reporter News, 2018-FEB-24, at: https://www.reporternews.com/
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2019-FEB-16