Origins & development of life etc.
promoters, and various theories
Scope of this section:
This section compares and contrasts three main groups of belief systems about
the development of Earth's plant and animal life forms, including:
- Hundreds of diverse, conflicting, beliefs promoted by various religions
throughout the world. This includes about a dozen
theories of creation science derived mainly by conservative Christians from a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis in the Bible.
- The theory of evolution. This is based on the concept of
natural selection coupled with unguided processes of nature.
- Theistic beliefs about origins. These blend scientific and
religious beliefs, including:
|Theistic evolution -- the concept that God used evolution as a tool to guide the development of species
towards human beings, and|
|Intelligent Design (ID) -- the theory that some deity, or other entity
with knowledge well beyond that of humans, designed at least some parts of
We also include material on other related topics including:
||Abiogenesis, the study of how life on Earth, in the form of the first primitive single cell life form, could have arisen from
|Beliefs about the origins and development of the Earth and the rest of the universe.|
Promoters of various systems of belief:
Conservative religious groups and scientists tend to work independently of each other.
Their concepts of truth, proofs, analytical methods, etc. are quite different.
Thus they look at items in very different ways, and often define terms quite
Religions tend to combine stories about the:
|Creation and development of animals, plants, geological formations,|
|The Earth itself, and |
|The rest of the universe. |
Scientists generally separate these into separate specialties:
|Abiogenesis: the study of the origin of life in its most primitive form|
||Biology: the study of living species. The main organizing principle accepted by almost all biologists is the theory of evolution.|
|Other specialty studies, ranging from acarology (the study of ticks
and mites) to virology (the study of viruses).|
||Geology, the study of the Earth over time. |
||Cosmology, the study of the universe's origin and development.|
Scientists generally confine the scope of the term "evolution" to
include only the study of the
development of life, from -- but not including -- the first life form. Non-scientists often expand
the scope of the theory of evolution to include the study of the origin of life.
Still others use "evolution" to refer to processes like the development of
stars, galaxies, etc.
Even the word "theory" is often defined very differently:
||Many religious folks define the word in the same way as is seen in the
programs CSI or Law & Order: a theory is a hunch, an unproven conjecture. Thus
the theory of evolution is "merely" a theory and does not need to be given
much weight. One often hears the expression that evolution is "only a theory."|
||Many scientists, and essentially all biologists, believe evolution to be a fact. The Theory of Evolution consists of a body of work that attempts to give explanation to what many scientists believe to be observable fact or phenomena. The term "theory", as used in science,requires well substantiated explanations that have been repeatedly tested and have received extensive peer reviews. |
Four categories of belief systems:
The media delight in talking about the warfare between evolution, creation science, and the new kid on the block:
intelligent design. However, there are more than three conflicting belief systems concerning the origin of plants
and animals. There are literally hundreds of theories which can be grouped into
- Many diverse, conflicting religious views from non-Abrahamic religions:
These are all of the world religions except for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and perhaps the Bah'ai faith. According David Barrett et al, editors of the
"World Christian Encyclopedia" there are 19 major world religions
which can be subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many thousands of smaller ones. Among
these various faith groups, we estimate that there are hundreds of significantly different creation stories
from which to draw.
- Creation science: This consists of about a dozen different, conflicting, belief systems,
based on different interpretations of the creation stories in the biblical
book of Genesis. These beliefs are found frequently in the North American conservative wings of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism,
Christianity and Islam. They can be roughly subdivided into two groups:
||New Earth creationists believe that the earth, its life forms, and the rest of the universe
were created by God during a six day, 144 hour interval, less than 10,000 years ago. Only very minor
changes within various species have happened since creation. No new species have evolved or been created.
In North America, this belief system is mainly promoted by fundamentalist and
other evangelical Christians who believe that
God inspired the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) to write
|Old Earth creationists believe that geology and radiometric dating has shown that the world
is billions of years old. They believe that God created the Earth itself, the earth's life forms, and the
rest of the universe at that time. Those old earth creationists who believe in the literal interpretation
of an inerrant Bible interpret the six "day" creation interval as occupying a very long interval
- Scientific view: The origin of the universe occurred about 13 billion years ago.
The earth coalesced about 4.5 billion years ago. Life
subsequently began, perhaps as single cell prokaryotes -- elementary forms of
life that lack a cell nucleus -- deep in rocks, and has been evolving ever
since. These various processes have been driven by
purely natural forces, without input from a God or a Goddess or
multiple deities, and without any overall plan.
- Theistic evolution view:
The theory of evolution is accurate, just as scientists believe. However,
it is viewed as a tool created, used, directed, nudged, and/or controlled by God in order to
accomplish a higher purpose -- the creation of humans. This view includes Intelligent
Beliefs among U.S. adults:
The Pew Research Center conducted a piblic optinion survey during 2018, from APR-23 to MMAY-06 about the history of humans. They asked people whether they believed that humans:
- Have always existedin their present form. (Creationism)
- Have evolved due to processes gided by God or a higher power. (Theistic Evolution)
- Evolved over time due to natural processes. (Theory of Evolution)
||Existed in present form
||Evolution, guided by God
||Evolution, natural process
|All U.S. adults
|White evangelical Protestants
|White mainline Protestant
These results show that even among evangelicals, only a minority of adults believe that humans have existed in their present form, as described in the biblical book of Genesis.
- WordNet Search, Princeton University, at: http://wordnet.princeton.edu/
- David Masci, "For Darwin Day, 6 facts about the evolution debate," The Muslim Times, 2019-FEB-12 (Darwin Day) at: https://themuslimtimes.info/
Copyright © 1995 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1995-NOV-3
Most recent update: 2019-APR-13
Author: B.A. Robinson