Oct 042007

Continuing in my series on the problems of Creation Science we come to what should, by rights, be the first and only point:

Creation Science is contradicted by the facts.

As I said, this should, perhaps, have been the first consideration. But as fallible human beings, our minds can deceive us. Whatever we say about wanting the truth, we generally only want truth that reinforces what we already want to believe, on a deep and sometimes irrational level. This is why I thought it was necessary to first open up some room in the minds of Creation Science believers for the idea that the Bible does not explicitly and infallibly teach Young Earth Creationism (YEC).

The Bible gives us some interpretive space to form our own conclusions on this issue. We should do as the book of Job suggested (as was previously quoted).

But ask the animals, now, and they shall teach you; the birds of the sky, and they shall tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you. The fish of the sea shall declare to you. (Job 12:7-8 WEB)

Let us use our reason and powers of observation to inquire of the animals, the earth, and cosmos – and discover the facts. What, then, are the facts? The fact is that science has demonstrated two facts almost beyond any reasonable doubt, and these two facts completely contradict a Young Earth Creation. Those two facts are:

1 The earth (and the cosmos) are billions of years old.
2. All life on earth descended genetically from a common source.

I don’t have time or space now to even summarize all the mountains of facts that have been collected to demonstrate these two facts, but these links represent a good place to start:

On the age of the earth: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html
And the age of the universe: http://education.aas.org/publications/AncientUniverseWeb.pdf
The case for common descent: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/
I had begun a series trying to address this evidence from a specifically theistic viewpoint, and the first installment of that series can be read here: http://perennis.pathstoknowledge.com/evidence_evolution

Expert Opinions

For the purposes of this series, I’ll limit myself to quoting from expert or influential opinions. I will quote here from statements of the official bodies representing large groups of scientist, and from religious groups or leaders.

“we are convinced that masses of evidence render the application of the concept of evolution to man and other primates beyond serious doubt.” (Statement of the Pontifical Academy of Science)

“The core concepts of evolution are well documented and well confirmed. Natural selection has been repeatedly demonstrated in both field and laboratory, and descent with modification is so well documented that scientists are justified in saying that evolution is true.” (Botanical Society of America's Statement on Evolution)

“Scientific evidence indicates beyond any doubt that life has existed on Earth for billions of years. This life has evolved through time producing vast numbers of species of plants and animals, most of which are extinct. Although scientists debate the mechanism that produced this change, the evidence for the change is undeniable.” (American Geological Institute)

“Today, nearly half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor provoked, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.” (Pope John Paul II – Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 22, 1996)

“During the past year, religious fundamentalists have intensified their effort to force public school science classes to include instruction in "creationism." As defined in publications of the Institute for Creation Research and in laws passed or under consideration by several state legislatures, this doctrine includes the statement that the entire universe was created relatively recently, i.e. less than 10,000 years ago. This statement contradicts results of astronomical research during the past two centuries indicating that some stars now visible to us were in existence millions or billions of years ago, as well as the results of radiometric dating indicating that the age of the earth is about 4.5 billion years.” (American Astronomical Society Statement on the Teaching of the History of the Universe)

“Evolution is a fact in the sense that life has changed through time. In nature today, the characteristics of species are changing, and new species are arising. The fossil record is the primary factual evidence for evolution in times past, and evolution is well documented by further evidence from other scientific disciplines, including comparative anatomy, biogeography, genetics, molecular biology, and studies of viral and bacterial diseases.” (The Paleontological Society)

“As a community, biologists agree that evolution occurred and that the forces driving the evolutionary process are still active today. This consensus is based on more than a century of scientific data gathering and analysis.” (American Institute of Biological Sciences)

“We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris.” (The Clergy Letter Project – endorsed by over 10,000 clergy of all denominations – see http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/religion_science_collaboration.htm)

So above we have the official endorsement of Biologists, Geologists, Botanists, Paleontologists, Astronomers – all testifying that from the perspective of their own disciplines, evolution and an ancient earth are not only supported by the facts, but overwhelmingly supported. We also have the statements of thousands of clergy, including the late Pope, that evolution is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence, and that it does not contradict faith.

While this sort of “argument from authority” is admittedly a shortcut, it’s important to understand that the opinions of these bodies of scientists are not offered simply as something we must believe because they SAY so. They are offered as the result of the combined observations and studies of hundreds of thousands of trained observers who have tested the predictions of the theory of evolution.

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