Back in 2013, I wrote a short article considering a biblical view of creation based on a literal reading of Genesis. The 64 pages and the nature of the feedback comments suggested that it was an emotive issue to many. This article is I hope, a considered response to the comments.
On the evolution/creation debate it's good to start at the beginning: what you believe (by faith) as your starting point will give you the framework through which you will interpret any 'evidence'.
Atheists (I will call them naturalists from now on) believe (by faith) that despite all the evidence, life just started when the right conditions came together, and over long periods of time that first life evolved into you and me. So by accepting these two assumptions, all 'evidence' is then interpreted through this lens. Only natural processes are allowed in this belief, no intelligence or supernatural agent (especially God) is allowed. Of course, if you believe your starting point is true, then so you will believe your interpretation of the evidence is also true.
On the other side of the debate is the Genesis account which is a historical narrative of everything's beginnings. By accepting this account (by faith), it then provides a different framework to interpret all evidence.
In the middle there are theistic evolutionists which essentially accept that God started it off and used evolution to bring about what see today.
So when we examine biology, geology, the cosmos, life, culture, religion, art, politics, economics and science we interpret what we see through a particular lens. This is our worldview. This is really where the clash lies. It is not, as some would like to promote, a clash of science versus religion, but a clash of worldviews.
The most important question to ask is which of these worldviews is objectively true?
Most people are unaware they have a worldview, in the same way you may forget you are wearing glasses and are seeing the world through the lens of your chosen spectacles.
Naturalists have a worldview. Christians have a worldview. Muslims have a worldview. In fact, every 'ism' (such as naturalism, capitalism, materialism, communism, feminism etc) is based on some worldview. All make truth claims. Christianity makes truth claims that contradict truth claims made by naturalists. For example, God created (theism) or he didn't (naturalism) is essentially the basis of the creation/evolution truth claims.
People can be entirely consistent with their worldview, yet the worldview be false. People can be inconsistent with their worldview, yet the worldview itself be true. Is an angry, anxious, name-calling and judgemental Christian acting consistently with theirs? Is an altruistic naturalist acting consistently with their belief? Is a Muslim executing someone by beheading acting consistently with theirs?
So does the particular worldview match up to the reality we can observe in the present, test and analyse today? Can we consistently live with the chosen worldview?
It is worth noting that some of the worst atrocities in the world were committed by those who were acting consistently with their worldview. Hitler for example, acted in a way that was consistent with his Darwinian worldview (Origin of the Species was one of his most influential books).
Understanding truth claims is a philosophical endeavour. Richard Dawkins is a good scientist for example, but a very poor philosopher.
Sadly, most people are indoctrinated with the evolutionary worldview from childhood. Also, (particularly evangelical) Christians, can be dissuaded from engaging their intellect for fear of it being seen as 'puffing oneself up'. Many Christians have accommodated the evolutionary worldview, then reinterpreted Genesis to fit within in it (e.g. the six days of creation aren't days at all, but long periods of time to fit within the millions-of-years naturalistic worldview).
My journey from atheism, via theistic evolution to biblical creation has forced me to try to understand the worldview through which I am interpreting whatever evidence I am being presented with as truth. It has also forced me to study philosophy far more than I ever set out to do. In doing so, it has allowed me to look at the same 'fact' from different perspectives and ask which is at the very least, more reasonable? More importantly, to ask the question which is true? It has allowed me to question (and falsify) the assumptions behind many scientific 'facts', like the dating methods used to prove things are millions of years old.
Darwinism is an example of naturalism. Its founding assumptions like spontaneous creation of life is assumed to be true, yet contradicted by what we can observe and test today. Mutations (DNA copying errors), whether they break, add or duplicate genes do not add anything new required by evolution. They in fact, usually make things worse in terms of illness, infertility or death. Even though there may be a functional advantage (e.g. bacterial resistance), nothing new has been added on to the genome of that organism. Whilst adaptation explains the variety within a particular kind of animal, like dogs, cats or birds, what we observe today and in the fossil record that they all remain true to their kind. When Dawkins is asked for an example of when mutation and selection has created new information, he flounders.
False worldviews have a habit of dehumanising people and followers are often led down an empty, dark path. We see this starkly in society. If there is no God as naturalists believe, and secular culture promotes, anything goes. Who then becomes the arbiter of what is right and wrong? For naturalists, there is no objective truth or morality. Yet whatever faith, or no faith, a person has, somehow we all do have an inbuilt sense of right and wrong which is what we would expect if were created in the image of God.
Dogs, cats and humans share similar characteristics. They all have eyes, a brain, ears, femurs, backbones etc. To a naturalist, this is evidence of common descent. To a Biblical creationist, this is evidence of a common designer. So it is easy to be convinced of the truth of your worldview because of how you have interpreted whatever evidence is in front of you. Essentially, the worldview comes first and people often stick rigidly to the worldview. Many have an a priori commitment to their worldview and won’t shift from it.
So believing evolution (beyond adaptation which no one argues with) despite the evidence against it, usually indicates there is an a priori commitment to a particular worldview. Most people take a particular worldview and dig their heels in, defending it ferociously and at times ungraciously. This behaviour is common; it is far easier to label someone a 'fundamentalist' with regards to biblical creation than it is to understand that worldview. I often wonder why people can get so angry at things they don’t believe in, which then leads to a whole smorgasbord of emotional reactions and avoid the rational debate altogether.
Discovering truth is a journey. You can travel to or away from the truth, or simply stay where you are. The more you embrace something which is false, the more you shed which is true. The more you embrace of the truth, the more you shed what is false. So, which is objectively true, good-to-you evolution or the Genesis account?
This particular journey of understanding the creation/evolution debate has helped realise the importance of worldviews in any area of life. In fact, worldview analysis is an essential tool for any Christian wishing to step outside of the Sunday morning service comfiness and influence the outside world. Failure to do so will simply allow Christianity to be shoved into a private cupboard labelled 'Values' (opened on Sundays) and restrict Christians from being the powerful redemptive force in the world we are called to be.
An additional benefit of understanding worldviews is also to help understand the likely success of any particular policy or strategy we see in daily life. If for example, people are merely more advanced pot plants, nothing more, then simple manipulating some environment factor should yield some euphoric state. Yet it doesn't. Time and time again we see the failure of these policies and strategies. We see this in housing, policing, even Norwich's traffic planning!
If 'safety is a priority', something we see and hear so often, then the product of this principal is curiously enough something which leads to a dehumanised environment where people are ill equipped to deal with risk and avoid taking any personal responsibility for their decisions whether these are practical or moral.
For those interested in this topic, read Nancy Pearcey's 'Total Truth' or any of Charles Colson's books. For those interested in the philosophy of science, read Alan Francis Chalmers book on the topic 'So what is this thing called science' or Alvin Platinga's 'Where the Conflict Really Lies'. All are enlightening, all are quite a challenge, but I would recommend anywhere to get their teeth into them before getting too hot under the collar and embark on the schoolyard tactics that so often prevent any mature debate on this issue.
Whilst many Christians abandon their faith in response to the 'overwhelming evidence' for evolution, I can safely say this pursuit has only strengthened mine.
To read Martin's original article, click here.
Martin Kentish is a Norwich-based marketing analyst and entrepreneur. He is the Founder of Free Range People, a company that has successfully developed feedback systems for organisations such as McDonalds, Tesco, John Lewis and the Royal Navy. He is a member of St Thomas Church, Norwich.
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