God and Evolution – Divine Design?
On January 3, 2008, The National Academy of Sciences issued a new publication Science, Evolution and Creationism advocating the teaching of evolution as the primary scientific understanding underlying contemporary biology. Many religious conservatives advocate the teaching of Creation Science in the public schools as an alternative to evolution. The core of the controversy for those who interpret the Bible literally is the fact that the theory of evolution contradicts the creation account in Genesis, which states that God made all of creation in six days and rested on the seventh.
Many want Creationism, or at least the theory of intelligent design, to be presented to students along with evolution.
Unfortunately, it is a false controversy. If we look at the issue from the standpoint of epistemology – the philosophical study of knowledge and truth – faith and science are looking at entirely different things. Science attempts to explain things in terms of matter and energy, based on experiments which can be repeated to produce the same results. The uses we make of science are called technology. The same methods that cause the light to turn on when we use the wall switch are the methods that indicate a very long history of planetary and biological development.
Holy Scripture is the inspired writing of believers for believers about the meaning and significance of God in our lives. Archaeologists and scripture scholars use the same methods of science that we depend on to design and operate cars, airplanes, and space ships. They use these methods to tell us how people lived at the times these documents were written and when they were probably written. These same scientific methods helps us understand the ancient languages and cultures of the time. Consequently we – as believers – understand the scriptures differently.
Much of the problem, as I see it, is the focus of Calvinism and the Anabaptist movement on “sola scriptura,” using the Scriptures as the sole authority for matters of faith and Christian living. This approach – barely 500 years old – is fairly new and radical in the history of Christianity. In order to re-create a church free of bishops, popes, and patriarchs, and to jettison many of the teachings contained in tradition, the reformers adopted a reformed version of the Bible.
It is interesting to note that from the very beginning, the fathers of the Church had two books: the collection of writings which the church assembled and approved in the fourth century and the book of nature.
I’ve had a radical thought. Why not teach philosophy in the public schools? We could teach the history and philosophy of science. Unfortunately, I give my bright idea slim odds, because many religious conservatives are wary of the liberal arts, including philosophy and theology, for the same reason many scientists are. From the standpoint of the liberal arts, the world is less certain and more open to questioning both scientific and biblical teaching.