Friday, January 17, 2014


With the upcoming debate between creation scientist Ken Ham and evolution scientist Bill Nye, I thought I'd share a few thoughts and opinions.  Just a couple of disclaimers before we begin: these are working opinions, "thinking through my keyboard" if you will. I'm always asking questions and pointing out things in an effort to get everyone to think, so before either side blasts away at what I say here, just calm down, read carefully, and respond constructively. Second, I am neither a professional scientist, nor a professional theologian, but I admit I've spent more time in the latter field than the former. If you want to parse Hebrew verbs and ancient Semitic literature types at me or you want to pick apart a cell or DNA strand, I'll need a bit of time to look it all up.

The debate has been heavily reported as a contest between "science" and "religion."  I think that is misleading for a couple of reasons.  First of all, this is hardly the first epic debate on this topic.  I had the privilege of attending a college that shared the campus with a prominent creationist organization.  We had a front row seat to see the so-called "creationist movement" in the early 80's, when names like Morris, Gish, and yes, even Ham were engaged in debates with evolutionary scientists. At first, the evolution profs would try to debate the merits of the Scripture, laying out alleged Bible contradictions and seeming moral inconsistencies, while the creationist profs would carefully bring out their arguments from biology and geology to show the inconsistencies of evolution and the strength of the creationist model.  After a short time (and widespread public response), the universities quit sending their scientists. 

Phase two (which I look upon as the golden era of debates) was when the scientists decided to get serious about debating science and not the integrity of the Bible.  These were great evenings of direct clashes between the champions of evolution and the champions of creation. And using the criteria of formal debate, I have to honestly say that sometimes, the evolutionists did a better job presenting their case.  But at some point, the evolutionary scientists decided that creation was only about religion and debating creationists about science was as absurd as an aardvark playing in the NBA.  Since then, the mantra of evolutionary scientists has been "science equals evolution. If it isn't evolution, it isn't science." Case closed.  So the reason the Ham/Nye (Hy? Nyam?) debate is getting so much attention is that we've forgotten the good old days.

The second reason the "science vs religion" moniker is misleading is because it suggests that science and religion are incompatible. They're not incompatible, they simply deal with two different world views.  Trying to line up the two to compare is well nigh impossible (no pun intended).  If Ham sticks to the articulation and examination of verifiable scientific facts and if Nye does the same, we're going to have a good debate.  If Nye trots out a list of Bible difficulties and how Christians are responsible for war, slavery, and the Tea Party movement, it will end, at best, as an exercise in condescension, and, at worst, a total confirmation of what the press is calling it: "science vs religion." If you want a good debate, it has to be "science vs. science" or "religion vs. religion."

While I feel the hype between "science and religion" is misleading, I think there is a more fundamental point that is being overlooked in this great, grand event.  You see, Ken Ham is what is known as a "young earth creationist." But as other Christian pundits have pointed out, there are other models of creationism besides "young earth." Theistic evolution, progressive creationism, day-age, gap--all of these are touted by some pretty knowledgeable people who maintain that evolution and the Bible are not in conflict.  Would not a debate between Bill Nye and a creationist scientist who is actually trying to make peace with evolution be a more interesting discussion? Maybe, but it ignores a pretty big difference.

Aside from the young earth model, most of the other theories of creation tend to focus on how to explain evolution in the context of the Bible.  It's almost as if the scientists who are Christians woke up in a cold sweat exclaiming, "the fact of evolution is so overwhelming, how can we possibly accommodate it?"  Solution: God used evolution to bring the universe into existence. Whew...problem solved! Yes, I'm grossly oversimplifying and I intend no disrespect to those scientists who hold to these models, but all of them, to one degree or another, inject an evolution element into their view.

The problem I see is that committed evolutionists are not as accommodating with creation. I can almost guarantee that the evolution scientist is not sitting up in bed saying, "the Bible is so compelling, how can we fit it into evolution?" To put it even more simply, evolution does not need God.  There is no mechanism of evolution that requires a Divine Being. You can assert that "God used evolution to create the world," but a committed evolutionist will just nod and smile and think, "evolution did just fine on its own." Even the hint of God is rejected, as we saw in the whole "Intelligent Design" debate  a few years ago. A theory as innocuous and watered-down and generic as I.D. was still soundly rejected because it included somebody bigger than you and I.  Evolution works just fine without any intelligent Maker, thank you very much.

Just for the record, I believe in an actual 6 day creation and world-wide flood (I no longer hold the view, however, that a young earth is the dogmatic essential to Christian faith. I may lean toward it, but I don't think it's a hill on which I want to do battle). And I am convinced, that even though evolutionism doesn't need God, so too God doesn't need evolution.  And maybe, in the long run, the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye isn't so much about science, but about competing world views: one in which God is irrelevant in life, the universe, and everything, and one in which He is central and supreme.

No comments:

Post a Comment