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It’s not about evolution…

May 13th, 2007 · Posted by Who Knows? · 6 Comments

In some circles there is great conflict about “creation versus evolution”. The debate is a Vietnam. (While some see the Vietnam War as a civil war between communists and non-communist factions, it may also be seen as a Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.)

As Wikipedia points out, “other fields of science, such as cosmology and earth science, also conflict with literal interpretations of many religious texts”, yet, “evolutionary biology has borne the brunt of these debates”. Considering evolution is obviously harder to accept than its necessary preconditions, I often think it makes more sense to shift the discussion to the Age of the Earth instead.

Consider this quote from Augustine (apparently the originator of the phrase “Love the sinner and hate the sin”), written around the 5th century CE:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, . . . and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

A more thorough quoting can be found on Wikipedia, the version I used, I found in one of the responses in the Index to Creationist Claims on The TalkOrigins Archive.

Of course, Augustine was arguably a Young Earth creationist, but you can’t blame him, living in the 4th/5th century. His warning from 1600 years ago applies as much to our knowledge as it did to theirs, and our knowledge includes “the world is 4.5 billion years old”. It also applies to physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy, cosmology, molecular biology, genomics, linguistics, anthropology and archaeology, all fields that have some conflict with Young Earth creationist perspectives.

Some people do not realize there is such conflict, due to not being educated on such matters, and can therefore not be blamed for believing what they do. (Some may be blameable for some related things though: shunning education or critical thinking, or arguing about things they really know nothing about.) In some cases, then, it should be useful to educate people on such matters. I think it is also important to point out that there really shouldn’t be a conflict between their Christianity and their acceptance of science. (Of course, the anti-theist might disagree. The anti-theist might prefer it if all religious people were literalists, as literalistic religions really are such easy targets. ;) )

I am also certain that accepting evolution does not decrease your chances of going to heaven.

A note about my context: What I see most often in my town and among friends that reject evolution, is Biblical literalism and Young Earth creationism. As such, that is what I will be discussing most often. Similarly, with respect to other religions, I mostly write as a “Christian”, with an audience of Christians in mind. I do also know people that do accept that the earth is old, but still doubt or reject evolution – they seem to be a minority however. We do not have a strong intelligent design movement, I suspect that is mostly limited to USA? (And yes, I placed “Christian” in inverted commas. There has been, for close to two millennia, some disagreement about what that label exactly means. Some of the more than 30 churches on Stellenbosch claim there really are only a small handful of these that are “real churches”.)

Categories: Religion and Science
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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pienk Zuit // May 14, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Great, one of my favorite topics to get worked up about! I have a few friends in Shophar, but I’m afraid to talk to them about creationism. I’m afraid I’ll not be able to control myself and get really nasty about how stupid it all is. How do intelligent people stop thinking for themselves like that? People with degrees in science, who should at least know how the scientific process works (because that is the largest strawman argument used by creationists, they misconstrue how it works and then attack that false image).

    I feel that people like Kent Hovind give Christians like me and you a bad name by the nonsense they spread. (See, it’s stuff like that I’m afraid I’ll say when I talk to them).

  • 2 Hugo // May 14, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Welcome, Pienk Zuit! Good to have you on-board, hope to hear from you again. ;)

    I know how you feel. Lately I ask myself though: why is it that you are afraid of saying such things to them? I have gotten to the point where, if the opportunity presents itself, I will make statements exactly like that. “It’s people like that that give Christianity a bad name…”

    I’ve read enough books that give me much more confidence in handling such discussions, which is maybe why I’m so ready to tackle the topic in any conversation. The typical problem, I think, is most people feel (and correctly so) ill-equipped to discuss it? There really isn’t much one can say to them, anyway – the only effect you can typically have, is to make them angry at you. Discussions do have to be handled very carefully… (Or much more fun: condemn you to hell! Wheee! There’s a Facebook group: “I’m going to hell with Brian McLaren”. <grin>)

    How about leaving it at a single comment, when the topic comes up: “I think it’s bullshit. I think people like Kent Hovind gives Christianity a bad name. However, I don’t want to discuss it.” Another possibly useful comment: “Do you think CS Lewis was a good Christian? He did accept evolution, you know?” (Ah, thanks for reminding me, some other nice gems to be found amongst CS Lewis quotes… next time.)

    Thoughts?

  • 3 stefan // May 14, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Strange, I havn’t found many Christians who believe that the moon-landing was a hoax. Yet, there are many who won’t believe science when it proves that the earth is more than 6 odd thousand years old. So why is the moon-landing more believable than an old earth? I assume because it does not conflict with the literal interpretation of the Bible.

    I am not a Christian. Not if Christianity entails absurd rejections of science, supporting the brainwashing of young, intimidated young students, intolerance of other religions and mighty crusades against those who have a different point of view.

  • 4 Hugo // May 14, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Hey, Stefan! Checked out the latest RLP post yet, titled A New Abraham and a New Earth? Man, I love that guy! That page exploded into comments. Go read it!

    I totally agree. As I’ve said before, I’d much rather follow Jesus’ example, than be called a Christian. Have I sent you Marcus Borg’s paragraph about believing “iffy” things before? Ah, I’ll just paste it here:

    “””A further result: Christianity in the modern period became
    preoccupied with the dynamic of believing or not believing. For many
    people, believing “iffy” claims to be true became the central meaning
    of Christian faith. It is an odd notion – as if what God most wants
    from us is believing highly problematic statements to be factually
    true. And if one can’t believe them, then one doesn’t have faith and
    isn’t a Christian”””

    Too true…

  • 5 Pienk Zuit // May 15, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Love daardie quote van Borg. En RLP. Ek sal dit van nou af gereeld lees.

  • 6 jade // May 21, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Mmmm. I agree, at the moment we are studying poems at school, and I am reminded of one poem – which entitles Paganism. Weird, but after I read your article – the poem “The world is to much with us” by William Wordsworth – I felt a connection somehow…? It has a lot to be said about materialism.

    The Sophar-debacle has also caught my attention. I do not believe anybody else should be shunned if he/she does not believe in the same things. That goes either way. But deciding basically what you are going to believe is out – is should be something you discover by yourself. oeee. you can’t argue.
    jade

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