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Can religious teachings prove evolution to be true?

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Matt Walker Matt Walker | 16:38 UK time, Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Bird-hipped dinosaurs (image: Natural History Museum, London)

Bird-hipped dinosaurs (image: Natural History Museum, London)

It is one of the great questions of the past 150 years.

Did God or evolution drive the emergence of life in all its resplendent variety?

This blog, the US education system, and even American politics have to a degree all become dominated by the debate at various times, which goes to the heart of our world view and our ideas of where we, and all other forms of life, came from.

But I’ve just come across an intriguing piece of research that may, to coin a phrase, put an evolutionary cat among the believing flock of creation scientists, many of whom believe in the literal account of Genesis.

One scientist has decided to use creation science to test the validity of evolution.

Because, he says, if it turns out that creation science proves evolution, then by its own logic, it will have to reject its own canon of research that previously denied it.

It’s a clever idea, because it once again puts evidence, rather than faith, at the centre of the debate.

Science cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, or that God may have once put in place all known physical laws and processes that shaped the universe and everything in it.

Science cannot challenge faith, which by its very nature, does not require evidence (many scientists are religious people who see no contradiction between their faith and work and many people of faith see no contradiction with what science can explain).

But science does require evidence, and this evidence allows us to explain, with increasing accuracy, how the world around us works.

Noah's Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846

Noah's Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846

The power of this evidence-based approach may explain the rise of creation science, which to briefly summarise, seeks evidence supporting the literal interpretation of the biblical book of Genesis.

Such research is then published in journals such as Journal of Creation and Creation Research Society Quarterly, and these technical reports are then cited in a vast, growing body of populist creationist literature that conflicts with, and undermines the teaching of evolution.

Today, more than 20% of the British public and the majority of US citizens, either tentatively or explicitly reject evolution, according to surveys published in the journal Science.

So it’s crucial that the debate is had, and that it is the evidence that is debated, rather than any faith-based position, which cannot be argued.

Which brings me back to the use of creation science to test the validity of evolution.

Biologist Phil Senter of the Fayette State University in North Carolina, US, has published the second of two papers that uses creation science techniques to examine the fossil record.

In the first, published in 2010, he used a technique called classic multidimensional scaling (CMDS) to evaluate the appearance of coelurosaurian dinosaurs over geological time.

That long, detailed paper was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, and you can read the abstract.

CMDS is derived from a branch of creation science called baraminology, which classifies organisms according to a creationist framework. Animals fall into types, or baramins, which were created independently, but have diversified since.

Artist's impression of Archaeopteryx (image: John Sibbick / NHMPL)

Artist's impression of Archaeopteryx (image: John Sibbick / NHMPL)

So cats, for example, are a single baramin or type of animal, that was created once by God, and have since diversified into those we see today (including lions, tigers, house cats etc).

Baraminologists trawl the fossil record for evidence that this is true. They identify “morphological gaps” in the record (for example, whether fossils of cats exist, but not cat-like animals) and use those to argue that such animal types (cats) are unique and created separately, from say dogs.

CMDS mathematically maps the occurrence of these morphological gaps, and baraminologists have used it to point out there are significant morphological gaps between modern and extinct whales, between arthropods and the worm-like annelids and arthropods and molluscs. And that, they say, is evidence that each group was created independently, and could not have evolved into the other.

Dr Senter has no real issue with the methodology – as he points out in the 2010 paper, mathematics has no creed.

But he argues that if CMDS shows that dinosaurs do show transitional forms, and are in fact genetically related to each other, then creationists are in a bit of a bind.

Either they must accept that to be true, and therefore contradict their own position that these groups appeared without evolution. Or they must throw out the assertion, but also reject their own methodology, which they have used to validate their creationist claims.

Dr Senter’s 2010 study did, of course, show that coelurosaurian dinosaurs are related, in particular that tyrannosaurs (to which T. rex belongs) form a continuous group with other dinosaurs belonging to a group called the Compsognathidae.

It also showed that one of the most famous animal fossils of all, Archaeopteryx, which has the appearance of a transitional form between birds and reptiles, is also morphologically closely related to other dinosaurs.

Cheetah (image: (image: Getty images / Gallo images)

Are all cats of a kind? (image: Getty images / Gallo images)

Now Dr Senter has done it again.

In a study published this week in the Journal of Evolution, he shows how another creationist science method, a baraminological technique called taxon correlation, also shows enough morphological continuity between dinosaurs to prove, by creationist standards, that dinosaurs are genetically related.

If you read that abstract, it shows that a continuous morphological spectrum unites the basal members of a range of dinosaur groups including the Saurischia, Theropoda, Sauropodomorpha, Ornithischia and Thyreophora.

Within these groups are the dinosaurs familiar to most of us: the huge sauropods, the bird-like theropods such as Velociraptor depicted in Jurassic Park and so-called bird-hipped dinosaurs such as the three-horned Triceratops.

The full paper is 20 pages long, and its conclusions will make for uncomfortable reading for creationists embracing an evidence-based approach to make their case.

Even some of Dr Senter’s results, which at first glance, may give succour to creationists, actually create new problems for them, he says.

For example, it shows that dinosaurs can be grouped into eight kinds, or baramins.

That is helpful to creationists. Many creationist scholars answered the problem of how so many pairs of gigantic dinosaurs fitted onto Noah’s Ark by saying there were only 50 “kinds”, and therefore only 100 animals were carried on the Ark. If only eight “kinds” existed, then there’s even more room on the Ark for all the other life forms that needed sanctuary.

But if just eight “kinds” of dinosaur existed, then that means that ever more types of dinosaur have to fit into each group, or baramin, that creationists believe was directly created by God. Which means of course, that somehow, in just a few thousand years, each “kind” of dinosaur begat the huge variation in fossils we see today.

It is reminiscent of evolution, just even faster paced.

Stegosaur (image: De Agostini UK / Natural History Museum London)

How many kinds of dinosaur were there? (image: De Agostini UK / Natural History Museum London)

Dr Senter points out that creationists' room for manoeuvre, when citing the evidence, continues to diminish.

Since 1990, Dr Senter says that at least 13 transitional fossils have been found that do bridge the morphological gaps between groups of dinosaurs that creationists once held were independently created.

The debate will no doubt continue.

Dr Senter’s research, which is more sophisticated than I can represent here, and this blog, pass no comment on any individual’s belief.

But his work, and my reporting of it, will hopefully take the discussion forward about what evidence is gathered and how, and what that evidence tells us.

So let the discussion evolve.

Will any creationists consider the idea that even some of their own evidence-gathering techniques may point to the veracity of evolution?

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I don't think creationists will accept even their own research if it contradicts the Biblical creation. Looking at evidence and reasoning are quite contrary to their style. If Dr Senter were to publish a paper concluding that humans (along with extinct species) have a common ancestor with apes (let alone every other organism) it would be rejected outright. I am skeptical of his motives.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am an evolutionist. My problem with Prof. Senter's approach is that it
    makes the hidden assumption that so-called creation 'scientists' are,
    like all modern biologists, entering the 'debate' with an honest and
    hard-won respect and knowledge of science and its practice. They
    may indeed claim so... they may even believe so. However, at the
    center of their entire belief system is neither science nor anything
    resembling the scientific method.

    That center is instead inhabited by an ancient concept of an angry,
    jealous and ever watchful god, who says that "Vengeance is mine"...
    who has stated a long list of sins, the worst of which is the betrayal
    of the living god. For any creationist or fundamentalist of any kind
    (eg: Christian, Hindu, Jew, Moslem...) to question even for a micro-
    second that their respective bibles are not literally and exactly true,
    is to inescapably betray and deny that ancient, and usually bloody,
    notion of godhood. It is simply not in their power to consider actual
    evidence in any way other than to support their central dogma. A
    terrible bind. Sadly, the defunding and decline of education, the
    venal politically driven attacks on science everywhere and the
    consequent coarsening of public dialog merely fuels this ugly
    process.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Creation Science" ? What ? The two are mutually exclusive. Scientists do not accept that a truth can be implied from a false premise. What is a 'science' editor doing; attempting to promote the non-science of creationism to a level commensurate with any kind of 'debate'?

  • Comment number 4.

    May we now look forward to a "debate" on Becher's phlogiston theory as an alternative to scientific descriptions of oxidation, or perhaps a "debate" on the four elements espoused by Empedocles as an alternative to modern atomic theory?

    Even in the Unites States, so-called "creation science" has been legally declared a religious dogma. It's worth as much scientific debate as dephlogisticated air - in other words, it deserves no more than a historical footnote of an impediment to the advance of knowledge.

  • Comment number 5.

    So far the comments, whilst eminently sensible, have taken the normal scientific view, but they have overlooked the fact that the report and paper are looking at undermining the falicies inherent in "creation science" USING THEIR CRITERIA.

    In a sane world you would not have people trying to peddle such myths as "creation science", people would try to keep to the "facts" or to "belief", it is merely the rather odd interpretation of the US Constitution in association with the US education system that has driven some creationists to invent their own way of trying to get around the restrictions thus imposed.

    The article and paper merely use the opposition's tools to demonstrate the falsity of their claims ON THEIR TERMS, thus (however unnecessary it might seem to be to others) holding up a light to the irrationality of "creation science" to those people who claim to think it valid. Those people have already dismissed the rational approch and have claimed their hybid science is somehow valid, it isn't necessary for a rational person to argue about this, but for an argument with people who hold peculiar views on a subject it is sometimes necessary to demonstrate to them that their own peculiar logic is incorrect. That might sound somewhat patronising, but it is not really, it is merely trying to explain that if someone has been mislead by a convoluted argument which leads to false conclusions sometimes it is necessary to demonstrate how false the argument is by looking at it in detail.

    My own argument against any ceationist is the old "perverse god" one (I do not know who promalgated it) that for a god to create an entire universe with physical laws and evidence from the largest scale (e.g. the age of stars and the shifts in their wavelengths) to smallest scale (e.g. radioactive decay used for dating evidence) all in a totally consistent whole, then that god must have been deliberately trying too mis-lead people from believing in that god's own account creation. Thus he perversely and deliberately tries to stop anyone from believing !

    .

  • Comment number 6.

    Scientists change their beliefs to fit the facts. Look at gravity, for example: Newton's theories were improved upon by Einstein, but observation has shown that a couple of pieces of the puzzle are still missing so we'll have a new and better theory at some time in the future.

    Religious people twist the facts to fit their beliefs - it's a totally different mindset. Creationists come up with convoluted arguments to "explain" the fossil record and the apparent age of the earth. If God is so deceitful, why worship him?

    It is a waste of time for the two groups to even try to communicate!

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm wary to write anything here, lest it devolve into a rant about the harm religion has done to humanity.

    I am very much an evolutionist, and will believe something if evidence is supplied to me on the topic.

    I'm still amazed that sane adults in possession of all of their faculties are able to place so much stock in a myth created to control and subdue.

    As for all the people who die 'in the name of God'.....

    Sorry, sorry, I've started ranting...

    I think you have my point of view on this one.

  • Comment number 8.

    The bigger problem is that so many people are turning away from science and that creationism is propaganda that feeds this. To get science into this communication channel can only be a good thing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Evolutionist, Creationist, religious or not the physical world full of its biological, chemical, & molecular frame works that permit such a truly wonderful , beautiful, caring, thoughtful yet harsh, bleak, ugly & unforgiving set of scenarios can’t have just `happened’

  • Comment number 10.

    I fully believe in science and could go on about the harm that religion does (or has done) or about how baseless it is. But thats not the point, religion does allot of good for allot of people, i just wish that it could be fully separated from science so that they can both help people in their own way.

    As to the article, touche to the scientist who has done the research. It is one more weapon against creationism, however i wonder if it will alter the mindset of any creationist believers.
    As the saying goes... You can't reason someone out of a belief they didn't reason their way into.

  • Comment number 11.

    In saying that faith requires no evidence, you show a basic misunderstanding of what biblical faith is. Faith means acting on what you know to be true about God and on his promises, on the evidence you have already received.

    On the basis of my experience of God, on the evidence of the evident supernatural authorship of the bible, on the word of Jesus that authenticates it and on the verification of his claim to be God by his resurrection, I have ample evidence to believe that God is absolutely trustworthy and that his word is true. It follows then that his account of creation is true; since it contradicts the story of evolution, that must be false.

    However, we can go beyond that to look at various parts of the story presented by secular science (and it is a story - no one was present to witness it; all we have is the interpretation of evidence which is interpreted on fundamentally different axioms by creationists and evolutionists). When we look at that story, we find numerous problems. The story of how the universe began (usually the big bang) depends first on an event when the current laws of physics were not true and then on the existence of vast quantities of unobserved matter and energy (dark matter etc.) to make the mathematics work. The fact that physical laws were supposedly completely different makes the whole idea non-science by secularists' own definition; this is in fact a religious claim. The story of how the solar system formed from a spinning dust cloud is demonstrably false, but no one can think of a better story to replace it. The story of how life began (Darwin thought it happened in some warm little pond) is complete fantasy; all proposed beginnings run up against the barrier of chemical entropy. The story of the development of the cell ignores the unbelievable complexity of the simplest cell, which makes the whole idea of its undirected evolution absurd. The story of the development of DNA and its code (which is an information-holding code which is the most perfect that could be used) makes no sense at all in the light of what we know and observe about how codes and information are created. Every living organism depends on the ATP motor for its energy, and life could not exist without it, but it is coded in the DNA and no conceivable process could create it accidentally, which is what the evolutionary story requires.

    The whole edifice is built on the work of Charles Lyell, who established uniformitarian geology. However, he did not do this on the basis of evidence, but on a philosophical decision to exclude Moses from science. His motive was avowedly anti-religious rather than pro-truth. Darwin seized on Lyell's work to provide the time needed for his own ideas of evolutionary origin to work. Contemporary scientists were very dubious, even scathing about his poor science, which had lots of speculation and almost nothing in the way of experimental verification. Ironically, Darwin got much more support from compromising churchmen, like Kingsley. As evolution developed, it found it needed more and more time to allow it to work, and the geologists and astronomers obligingly provided it. However, most real indications are of a much younger age for the earth. The recession of the moon, the amount of salt in the oceans, and many other factors set maximum ages for the earth that are much lower than that required for evolution. Only radiometric dating really supports long ages, and even that has problems which can be accounted for on creationist principles by supposing past changes in decay rates. Even the billions of light-years of the outer universe can be accommodated into a 6-day creation, if the earth is near the centre of the universe and relativistic effects of spreading out the universe are allowed for.

    On the other hand, an interpretation of the evidence that accepts biblical creation about 6000 years ago, a curse following Adam's fall into sin and 1500 years later a world-wide flood better accounts for the majority of the data that we have. Certainly there are problems, but that is what science is for, to solve these problems, if we can. We have historical evidence dating back to Noah of the flood, backed up by the physical evidence of miles-deep sediments and the fossils of animals suddenly overwhelmed by them (not gradually buried - that is not how fossils get formed).

    The reason the scientific world does not acknowledge creation and the flood is that it does not want it to be true. Theirs is primarily a religious position, of opposition to God and a refusal to accept the creator's authority over them. For that reason, no possible evidence would convince the majority of evolutionists that their faith is wrong.

  • Comment number 12.

    As a Christian I am as fed up with the creationists and their pseudo-science as any true scientist. There is no contradiction between the Christian bible and science and the apparent contradictions are the result of fundamental Christians and fundamental atheists dogmatically insisting on a literal interpretation of scripture. To a well-balanced Christian and, I would imagine, to a well-balanced atheist it is clear that the bible and science look at the same issues from completely different perspectives. The bible provides a poetic interpretation of humanity's existence while science seeks to explain reality within a literal framework of natural law. A Christian sees God's hand in those laws while an atheist does not. A good Christian can be an excellent scientist and an excellent scientist can be a good Christian. There really is no contradiction and all those who think there is should be placed in a locked room together and told to argue it out while the rest of us get on with our lives in peace.

  • Comment number 13.

    I studied Archaeology at University and although my studies didn't include Paleontology this sort of debate always fascinates me as I did spent a long time studying origin of Hominids/Australopithecus as well as early human migration theories (Out of Africa), both which also could be used as strong evidence against creationist theories.

    I am not especially well versed in biblical literature, so I was wondering if someone could help me with exactly when the Bible claims the world was created? And whether there are any theories as to the literal vs. figurative interpretation of this timeline.

    I do consider myself a fairly open minded person and not ardently opposed to the concept of some sort of God, but what does make me reject literal interpretations of the Christian creationist theory is just the speed at which all of this development and evolution was supposed to have occurred within.

    If you accept that God created all species individually with no natural variation on a creationist timescale, the rate at which God would have been having to create these species, kill them off, then create new species to have had all the current and extinct species in existence would have been phenomenal, and you would have to question Gods motives?

    If you accept that God had a part to play in initial creation and then natural selection took its course. Honestly, I actually struggle to accept without question natural selection as the sole cause of species variation over the vast time period evolutionary scientists suggest, so to try to fit this theory into a a creationist timeline seems impossible.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    I believe in something I can see, hear, smell, touch, things in this world that I also can't see, God created all things, your see it in all things, order, rules and regulations, how everything is held together (laminin), not only in the human body. But I must say that Evolutionists have more faith than any other person in this world. To think, someone dropped hundreds of scrabble blocks on the floor, time after time, and they always formed a word. Amazing thought is it not? Look at the complexity of a cell, virus, did the not our friend that brought this all into being state that if the cell be found complex then all is for the cat so to say. But whatever, I do respect your opinion and do not wish or pray evil on you in any form, be blessed, and have a super day.

  • Comment number 16.

    Creationism is a "comfort" thing. Just sit back and enjoy the ride and let the driver handle everything. A lot of people seem to need that. Evolution is starker, lonelier, scarier. Why creationists seem obsessed with fitting all the fairy stories in the bible, into some sort of time frame is a mystery to me. Why not say "Well God created the Universe, then let Nature take it's course" and sit back and leave it at that?
    There will always be "creationists" (just as there will always be "conspiracy theorists"). Galileo Galilei spent his latter years under house arrest for daring to suggest that the Earth was not the centre of the Universe. Over 350 years later Darwin was reluctant to publish because of bitter criticism of his theories. Every time science threatens to move mankind out of the comfort zone there will be a reaction. Yet, advances seem to hint at some beautiful "plan" being rolled out. Just abandon the old dogmas and "boldly go where no man has gone before" Wonderous things are out there and one day we’ll know who or what is in the driving seat.

  • Comment number 17.

    Has it occurred to any of you that evolution and creation are two sides of the same coin? However we got here, something or someone started the process. It is unreasonable to put down the synergy in the universe to happenstance. The account of creation mentioned "Increase and Multiply". That I think explains evolution.

  • Comment number 18.

    The author of this BBC article appears to adopt the non-overlapping magisteria principle advocated by Stephen Jay Gould. To quote professor Richard Dawkins on the matter:

    "I think that Gould's separate compartments was a purely political ploy to win middle-of-the-road religious people to the science camp. But it's a very empty idea. There are plenty of places where religion does not keep off the scientific turf. Any belief in miracles is flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science."

  • Comment number 19.

    I am not convinced that Creationists really depend on these apparently scientific methods. They're using a tool, and finding things which support their faith, but if it didn't come up with the answer they want, they would deny they have ever used the tool.

  • Comment number 20.

    The early Christians did not take the Bible literally - they saw it as as inspired by God - but they had not the doctrine it was scientifically infallible - indeed they felt felt free to give it new interpretations as the spirit led. Fundamentalism is not historic Christian faith. Most Christians in the UK are the same - we retain a profound respect for the Bible - there's good stuff in their if you want spiritual nourishment but we don't see it as a scientific textbook.

  • Comment number 21.

    The scariest part of this blog is the statement that the majority of people in the US reject evolution - seriously?? And this is the superpower that is supposed to be leading the "developed" world??

  • Comment number 22.

    Creationists and anyone who is religious is essentially like a conspiracy theorist. As soon as you have something that doesn't fit into their view of the world they simply expand the fabrication to allow for the new idea. This was something that I heard said about conspiracy theorists on Radio 4 the other day and didn't think about the correlation to faith until now.

    CynicalYorkie, world population is actually (and thankfully!) more like 7.1 billion. 6.5 billion too many in my opinion. Oh and if you actually understand science - oh never mind, it's like trying to argue with a child!

  • Comment number 23.

    This is all very interesting, but there is a major flaw in the way religion views evolution. All of the major religions agree that man is a creation of God. He was placed here in tact, a finished item. He is NOT evolved from the apes - he did not swing from the trees - he is Gods' jewel among many wonders. So, on that basis - religion will never be able to fully align their thinking with science, and there will always be disagreement between the two 'factions'.

  • Comment number 24.

    Epic fail BBC. In the interests of 'Balance' you have compared voodoo sky fairy addiction against hundreds of years of serious scientific study. Study that is verifiable, testable and supported by masses of high quality evidence versus the religious dogma of creationist loons. Time you got off the fence and joined the growing crowd of incredulous Brits against this frankly stupid type of debate.

  • Comment number 25.

    As a bible-believing Christian and contrary Gene's comment I am open to the belief in a seven day creation or the view that God created the universe through the process of evolution. In fact I would view atheistic scientists as being in more of a bind than like-minded Christians as for them life has to have occurred without a designer and this places them in more of a bind than those prepared to accept the intervention of a creator.

    I do however take issue with the claim for the rationality of science being the ultimate arbiter of all things. Why should logic and rationality be regarded as the ultmate judge of all things? It has severe limitations in our understanding what we might term 'the human condition'. In the last 2,000 years many philosophies have been and gone while Christianity has remained and is growing becuase it meets a need that science cannot.

    So Gene if you are as open to the evidence as you say you are please use your scientific brain to examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and why his life has impacted so many millions and I am not the only bible-believing Christian to remain chilled about well researched evidence for evolution.

  • Comment number 26.

    While I applaud his efforts, Senter's fundamental error is to conclude that creation 'scientists' adhere to the scientific method. This demands that they modify their opinions based on evidence. If they did adhere to this way of thinking, Dr Senter wouldn't need to tackle them with their own methodology - the existing (and overwhelming) body evidence would be sufficient.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's clever reasoning, but clever reasoning is pointless when you're discussing issues with religious people. Their minds are completely illogical when it comes to anything that might contradict what their holy book says. Science is about being open-minded and seeking the truth, religion is about believing you know the truth already and rejecting any evidence that might in any way contradict your beliefs.

    It's just pointless arguing with people whose 'evidence' is a third hand translation of various scriptures depicting events 2000 years ago, no originals of which exist, and the provenance of which is largely unknown.

  • Comment number 28.

    If people need to believe and it makes their lives better then so be it, but they do take it too seriously. More people have died in the name of religion than any other reason so why perpetuate the hope that divine guidance is setting our paths. My children believed in Father Christmas for as long as I could possibly string it out because it was wonderful for them to think that the guy in the red suit with the reindeer was going to somehow deliver their dreams on Christmas Day. But that story is now on the shelf until they have their children. If anyone needs to believe in a omni-present being to make them feel better then its really OK but accept its a belief without any real substance or evidence and don't impose what is a 'good story' on the rest of us.

  • Comment number 29.

    One problem with the creation theory is that while most perhaps all religions require a start point it is only the story which comes from the middle east (Palestine, Babylon etc) that is used in these arguments. Other creation stories are discarded by those intent on a religo-political agenda - hence the issues in America. The problem with religion is that it is easy to pick and choose what you prefer. With a 'scientific' approach the findings can be demonstrated which some find uncomfortable or cannot cope with. Many find life is easier if you know where you are. This is a debate that I suspect may never be resolved by humans as a species.

  • Comment number 30.

    The main issue with the theory of evolution is that it contradicts the scientifically established Second Law of Thermodynamics. The second issue is that it is more an issue of history (what happened in the past) rather than science (what is observable in the present and tested through experiment), so the principles of historical evidence rather than scientific evidence apply. Applying both these principles, I would plumb for creation over evolution, based on the non-availability of presently observable data and the many missing links which remain missing.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Science cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, or that God may have once put in place all known physical laws and processes that shaped the universe and everything in it.Science cannot challenge faith, which by its very nature, does not require evidence."

    Yes,it's knotty problem of logic proving things don't exist. If you say there are fairies at the bottom of your garden and I challenge you to prove it,then you tell me I have to believe in them and they will appear,I would not think that to be either a very scientific proof or particularily logical. I think we are on safer lines basing our lives on reason and empirical science myself,but many do not.

    And as for science being unable to explain religion,well I am sure psychologists,anthropologists and sociologists have had a good go,as well as the rather less scientific conjecture of philosophers and psychiatrists.

  • Comment number 32.

    The answer is no, no, religion cannot prove, nor provide evidence, for anything. It is faith-based, and as such cannot act as evidence except of its own existence.

    The scientific method is the important thing; not how much we know. The point is we have the process that is proven to reveal nature accurately. Religion by definition does not follow this, and as such it can never reveal anything.

  • Comment number 33.

    Please stop feeding the creationist myth by posing "balanced" questions that are completely irrelevant and invalid. You cannot compare creationism with science. There is nothing scientific bout creationism. Its only purpose is to continue ancient myths about how the world came to be in contradiction to ALL scientific evidence. Its pseudo-scientific language and irresponsible non-committal "balanced" media aid in the confusion and misinterpretation of science and suppression of truth.

  • Comment number 34.

    For me, Science needs to start with a humility due to the awareness of presence of ignorance. Then, it needs to seek the hidden truth that exists always.

    Neither the creationist nor the evolutionist appear to have such a start. They both appear to start with an arrogance due to the (possibly false) awareness of presence of supreme knowledge. Then, they appear to confirm that their supreme knowledge is indeed correct (or may be incorrect). They both do not appear to seek the hidden truth. This makes me summarily reject both these efforts as trivial exercises in ego-addiction and ephemeral (with respect to the life time of our perceptible universe) arrogance.

    I have not had the privilege of interacting with either Charles Darwin or the original authors of the Biblical books. I wonder whether their attitude towards truth was any different from their "so-called" followers.

  • Comment number 35.

    I've been a christian for twenty years and in all that time I've never once met a creationist. No doubt they exist, but the prevalence of the idea of creationism is, in my experience, atheist propaganda designed to ridicule someone else's beliefs.

    Most christians believe that evolution — or something very similar — is God's tool of creation. As with most of the world's mysteries it's very unlikely that our understanding of evolution is completely accurate, our understanding increases with time.

    Evolution as an idea would be lost to the sands of time if it had not been adopted, championed and developed by christians.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's my view that man created God, not the other way round. Before man understood the science of how the universe worked they needed a way to explain the world around them, why the sun rose in the morning etc.

    Thanks to science we are now well on the way towards that understanding. However, back when we were a young species humans attributed it to the actions of a divine being. I find it odd that such faith survives.

  • Comment number 37.

    Science has vast amounts of evidence to back up it's theories, theories that are derived from the evidence available. Religion has no evidence whatsoever, except reliance on some old fables, and relies entirely on attempting to twist evidence to match it's theories.

    Consider a situation where you are, for some reason, on trial for a crime you did not commit. Would you rather have scientific rigour employed to construct your defence based of the available evidence, or some bod rambling on about a heavily edited 2,000 year old book?

  • Comment number 38.

    30.At 09:42 6th Jul 2011, luojiehk:

    Sorry but that's false; it doesn't contradict the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The Earth is not a closed system, to which the 2ndLTD refers. The Earth-Sun system is the closest we have.

    Unsurprisingly, the Sun's reactions increase entropy far more than evolution on Earth reduces it. The net result is an increase in entropy of the whole system, perfectly in line with the 2ndLTD.

    As for historic data being unavailable...well, you're just trotting out creationist ignorance of science there.

    I suggest you actually look up these things you say, rather than basically copying and pasting from the first creationist site you can find.

    Plus you committed a false dichotomy of creationism and evolution, leading to you (incorrectly) thinking evolution being false is evidence for creationism.

  • Comment number 39.

    A reading of the first creation story in Genesis (Gen 1:1 - 2.3) demonstrates a clear progression, or process, from the initial creation of light, then stars & planets, the appearance of land, then plants, and then animals, through to the appearance of humans. If this account originated in the early (European) bronze age, then it's not that bad for a 'first guess' at an evolutionary process. Not everyone who honours God as 'creator' necessarily rejects an evolutionary process for creation, and recent scientific understanding simply develops our understanding of that process!

  • Comment number 40.

    "luojiehk wrote:

    The main issue with the theory of evolution is that it contradicts the scientifically established Second Law of Thermodynamics."

    Could you explain that please - exactly how does evolution contradict the Second Law?

  • Comment number 41.

    "many scientists are religious people". This is very misleading. It would be more balanced to say 'some' scientists. I suspect that somebody is overstating the idea that scientists are religious people.

  • Comment number 42.

    15.At 09:24 6th Jul 2011, quarterbloodcherokee:

    When scrabble tiles reproduce (you know - after coming to life) then you might find the same thing happens with them.

    Until then, comparing living, developing, reproducing biological systems with scrabble tiles demonstrates how deeply you've considered the topic. They're not analogous, and please don't make me explain why.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think the character Johnny from Mike Leigh's film 'Naked' sums up the whole evolution side of debate perfectly:

    "Well, basically, there was this little dot, right? And the dot went bang, and the bang expanded, energy formed into matter, matter cooled, matter lived, the amoeba to fish, to fish to fowl, to fowl to froggie, to froggie to mammal, to mammal to monkey, to monkey to man: amo, amas, amat, quid pro quo, momento mori, ad infinitum, sprinkle on a little bit of grated cheese and leave under the grill 'til Doomsday."

    Can't argue with that, can you?

  • Comment number 44.

    #30.
    At 09:42 6th Jul 2011, luojiehk wrote:

    The main issue with the theory of evolution is that it contradicts the scientifically established Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    -------------

    No it doesn't. Life on Earth does not exist in what physicists would define as a closed system, doomed to rot and decay into disorder due to entropy. In case you haven't noticed, we have a thing called 'the sun' sending a continual supply of energy in the system. This allows plants to grow (and evolve), thereby generating a store of food allowing animals to grow (and evolve).

  • Comment number 45.

    Religion can "prove" anything. Easy. Invent a God, say he ordered evolution to happen and hey presto.

  • Comment number 46.

    25.At 09:38 6th Jul 2011, Andrew:

    Precisely; it meets a need - the need to feel like the Universe is made for us, and the need to at least believe someone is guiding us.

    Do you really think that fulfilling a need rather than being true are equal?

  • Comment number 47.

    Life is too complex for evolution.
    Dawkins' Mount Improbable continues to be much higher than he thinks.


  • Comment number 48.

    I read there was a pre-existing primordial chaos generated by a previuos chaotic big bang. Before the chaotic big bang (we can call it CBB) there war a pre-pre-existing more primordial very chaos generated by a pre-previous very chaotic big bang (we can call it VCBB)... etc. That’s all. What is the lesson? Don’t loose your time with those discussions about creationism or evolutionism, please (in any case we will not see the next big bang!)

  • Comment number 49.

    Flackster wrote:

    "...Science is about being open-minded and seeking the truth..." and, therefore, if it transpires that the most likely explanation, based on the evidence available, is that something was created supernaturally, why do scientists not say this?

    The way scientists work should be explained as "Science is about being open-minded and seeking the truth, provided it fits in with the answer we want."

  • Comment number 50.

    The creationist movement may have a fashionable following at the moment but essentially it is doomed because over time the premise is unsustainable. Creationists are the dinosaurs of today and on the road to extinction!

  • Comment number 51.

    My main query is, why must the two ideas be mutually exclusive? If you read the creation story, it fits perfectly with the Big Bang and evolutionary theory, as long as a "day" isn't a real 24-hour day. If it's an epoch, it all fits together fine.

  • Comment number 52.

    Interestingly, there was a discussion on Radio 4 recently about a similarly contentious issue for Christians surrounding the Early Church and original sin. Apparently, it is Augustine of Hippo c.AD400 that we must hold responsible for many of the more fervent of Catholic beliefs including the one that we are all born sinners. At the same time, Pelagius, a British Christian scholar, was debating that Augustine was harking back to his upbringing in North Africa that was heavily into a cult called 'Manichaeism' (best to look this up really!). It would have been very interesting if the church had embraced Pelagianism over Augustine's teaching, because I think that it may then have become far more open to scientific theories such as evolution.

  • Comment number 53.

    The libraries of the world contain enough "transitional forms" to prove that modern religions all evolved from the campfire mythology of a band of Bronze Age goat herders. Looked at dispassionately, it's a strange thing to base your life around

  • Comment number 54.

    There's a basic flaw in this line of reasoning. It's quite subtle, but very crucial:

    Creationists Do Not CARE about evidence.

    The very fact that there Are Creationists in modern society, with the fields of Biology, Physics, Geology, Astronomy, etc, etc, All contradicting their dogmatic belief, All filled with enough evidence in each field that would satisfy even the most reasonably minded person, and they Still cling to their fairy story excuse of "science".

    It should be reminded also that Creationists are not just against Evolution; in fact if you ask the average creationist what evolution actually Is they will describe a bizarre thing called "Evolutionism", which starts at the Big Bang and goes from there. Tell them that Evolution is the change in genetic allelic frequencies in population allowing biological organism the ability to adapt to changing environmental pressures by decent with modification and natural selection, and they'll just reply: "That's just a lot of big Words!"

    So when we talk of Creationism versus Evolution, it's wrong; it's Creationism versus All modern science.

    The Creationism Vs Science story isn't about evidence or experiments or reasoned logic; it's a PR battle, and propaganda. Creationism's basic tactic is: The Bible is true No Matter WHAT, and Science is an evil conspiracy from Satan (I know that sounds ridiculous, but I've debated too many Creationists, and when you back them into a corner with over-powering evidence, that's All they say at the end). They have No evidence of their own so they basically attack the other side, in the mistaken fallacy that their side will win by default. We're already seeing this has effectively won the battle in the US; even those that aren't what they would
    consider religious fall back on the Creationist chant "Let both sides be heard!"
    And even worse, we now have a Creationist putting themselves forward for election for President (Michelle Bachman).

    (I'd also like to point out, that I couldn't give two flying tosses whether a God exists or not; this isn't they debate either as many Christians, and other faiths, accept science, an indeed work In science, so Creationism is not representative of all theists. The existence or non existence of a deity is irrelevant in this debate.)

  • Comment number 55.

    The religious argument as shown in post 11 is destroyed for me by the fact that so many different people believe so many different things. They all experience their gods (or non-gods in the case of Buddhists) with the same conviction, the same inner sense. It would imply that we cannot trust any of the specific claims because they contradict. If a Buddhist can be wrong, as the Christian claims, then how can the Christian know that their similar "Experience" and evidence is correct? Those that claim things like "The others are just ritual, only ours is a True Relationship" are blind to the real experiences of other people.

    I note that the comment on Entropy is already well answered.

    To answer the comment on "It can't just happen" - why not? The theory of evolution describes a feedback mechanism which rewards success and filters out failure. It has had a long time to act. Even "Creation", if random, has had a lot of time and space to happen in. Feedback control is central to a lot of problems and is effective.

    "It can't just happen" seems more wishful searching for meaning that hangs on something external, rather than finding meaning for ourselves.

  • Comment number 56.

    What is so difficult to understand that the monotheistic religions are man made creations of ignorant desert dwellers? Why do we have to keep banging our heads against this wall of faith which seeks the gaps in the scientific knowledge to establish a new theory which validates their sky daddy hypothesis. When that gap is closed down they move on to the next one - without ever having produced a shred of evidence for the actual deity! i.e. science cannot explain X so god must exist

  • Comment number 57.

    May be the Quran can solve the problem of the extinct dinosaurs, etc. The Quran says "And ye certainly know already the FIRST FORM OF CREATION: why then do ye not celebrate His praises? 56:62 Are the extinct species "the first form of creation"?

  • Comment number 58.

    The word faith, in the Bible, is defined as being based on evidence. The Bible definition of the word faith at no time alludes to credulity. The Bible's definition of and application of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, verses 1 and 6, explains that the matter of faith involves legal support of truthfulness, a basis of fact. There are facts, evidence, truths to support Creation while macro evolution remains a theory. While some scientists wait for their theory to be discovered, the Bible's evidence knocks on your front door.

  • Comment number 59.

    There are some excellent arguments here to dismiss creation as a serious concept, but the most compelling is Oliver Elphick's - long, muddled, full of unsupported assertions (e.g. the "evident supernatural authorship of the bible"?!) and in full denial of well-proven scientific principles. Creation is a fairy story - and let's not forget that just a century ago many people, such as Arthur Conan Doyle who should have known better, also believed in fairies.

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm a born again Christian, there is scripture in the bible that shows how creationists & evolutionists can relate to each other. i.e. Genesis 1:3 and God said "let there be light": and there was light. This is was spoken by God, evolutionists call this the big bang. Also the flood can account to what happened to the dinosaurs. If you want to no more on this subject check out "Answers in Genesis" online or Chuck Missler on you tube.

  • Comment number 61.

    I have never understood why people believe that science and the Bible are at odds with each other concerning evolution. The Bible is neither a scientific or technical document.
    It tells us that Adam, the first man, was created from a grain of sand. If we accept scientific evidence that life indeed started from single celled microbes grubbing about in the soil, we must also accept the Biblical standpoint that life originated from a grain of sand. As there is no soul or conscious (in the Biblical sense) before man, the Bible doesn't need to report the long evolutionary process between the two. It therefore appears that science and the Bible, are in fact, as one on this point!
    It is the self serving manipulation of the Bible by various religious orders that has created the problems! For those that have unlocked the secret of reading it properly, it is the most magical and powerful book ever written!

  • Comment number 62.

    This is a fascinating article but it does show a misunderstanding of the concept of faith. Clearly blind faith requires no evidence but most people I know who have a spiritual faith do so because of the experienced evidence in their own lives. Faith by definition actually requires evidence to the individual. I'm pleased Matt has not assumed the "fact" of Evolution but leaves room that essentially it remains a theory with some evidence. As a mathematical scientist is is evident to me that it still lacks any clear proven mechanism and thus as a theory, it is still very much in its infancy. I do think it's a beautiful illustration of how the world in all its intricacy may have been formed and I can understand why so many have faith in evolution as a theory.

  • Comment number 63.

    Oliver Elphick.. "On the other hand, an interpretation of the evidence that accepts biblical creation about 6000 years ago, a curse following Adam's fall into sin and 1500 years later a world-wide flood better accounts for the majority of the data that we have."
    What 'data'? What 'evidence'? Evidence of a curse?! Are you mad?
    There is nothing that would even come close to being classified as 'evidence' that would support any of the utter nonsense that you have written there.
    Yours is a dangerous and profoundly ignorant view of the universe. One that stifles human curiosity in favour of blind faith.

  • Comment number 64.

    "Consider a situation where you are, for some reason, on trial for a crime you did not commit. Would you rather have scientific rigour employed to construct your defence based of the available evidence, or some bod rambling on about a heavily edited 2,000 year old book? "

    Richard, you could almost be describing sharia courts.

  • Comment number 65.

    It appears to me that there are some here putting their case for religion by arguing that scientific facts do not stand up to scrutiny when religion is based on nil facts !!

  • Comment number 66.

    The "big bang" theory is the current predominant view on how the universe began. As more information becomes available it is likely that they the theory will develop and/or be replaced with a different one. The theory of evolution is the current predominant view on how life on earth began. As more information becomes available (and we keep digging stuff up all over the place) the theory will develop and/or be replaced with a different one. Science will never be able to "prove" how either of these events took place because they cannot be replicated on a repeatable basis. If we look back 200 years and see what the best scientists then thought about the creation of the universe and the origin of life, imagine what people will look back on from 200 years in the future and see what we thought.

    As for the comments on this back about the harm of religion. Don't forget how great atheism is. Stalin demonstrated the benefits of the athiestic faith. Conservative estimates of 20 million of his own people killed by the state. High estimates at 60 million. He beats all the religious wars and killings put together. The sooner we get a true atheist state in the Uk the better!

  • Comment number 67.

    Much as I admire the effort to debunk creationism on it's own terms, like others I think it's really a wasted effort. The creationists will simply abandon any discredited methodology and move the goalposts, as they always do.

    When we talk to creationists, we are not talking with reasonable people. We are talking with people whose ideas have been rejected by most of their fellow believers! Better not to give them legitimacy. Just don't respond to their baseless assertions, pastings from creationist pseudoscience and half truths (cf. posts like Oliver Elphick's, luojiehk's, above). Let them fume on the sidelines rather than incorporate them into our quest for the real truth of things.



  • Comment number 68.

    As a Christian I have always had a problem with creationists as they believe the Earth is far younger than the evidence shows. I also have a problem with Darwinian Evolution. The possible resolution of the problem is that

    1. Time is a variable thing. One day on Jupiter is different from one on earth, it also varies with velocity? so how long is God's day? No-one knows.

    2. Darwin may have got it wrong when he came up with his theory of Evolution. It may be he should have used the word Adaptation instead.

    Taking these two aspects together how does this fit with the evidence?

  • Comment number 69.

    I find the whole discussion essential nonsense. As I read the creation account in Genesis I am amazed at what an accurate summary (with some allowance for the vernacular of the times) it is of the modern big bang to suns and planets to life and evolution. So much so that it seems there must have been collusion between ancients and moderns and the only collusion there could have been is the hard wiring of the human brain. In other words both are reductions to the default state of our minds. If that is so then there is a high probability that both are co-jointly wrong! I must say that reports of the state of science for a while now are reminiscent of descriptions of science in the late 19th century before the advent of relativity and quantum theory.

    Perhaps the biggest single step we need to take is to get rid of Herbert Spenser's "survival of the fittest". There is no such thing as "survival of the fittest" and Darwin did not use it. He based his theory on "natural selection". To put things in perspective, ask why antelope do not eat lions!

    In my view, both creationists and Dawkins are guilty of blasphemy.

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm not a scientist (although I do very much believe in evolution) or religious in any particular way but Post 11 really made me cross. It talks about lack of evidence in science but ample evidence in the production of religious teachings such as the bible. The bible is a book, and was therefore written and EDITED by people. We all know that clever editing can change the viewpoint of written or spoken words. The bible talks about God creating Man. Adam and Eve, and that they have 2 sons. One of those sons kills his brother and then gets married. To Who? His mum?

    I have no problem with religion, my parents are very religious, it's just that I really struggle with the idea that all what we see before us just happened and yet all the evidence suggest otherwise.

  • Comment number 71.

    This really is a video worth watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOcEonkdI3w and it explains why creation science is NOT science. No matter how much this person thinks it is.

  • Comment number 72.

    My question is why does it take 'prooving' evolution to reject the literal interpretation of genesis. By getting bogged down in this complex debate, which only a minority of people can follow, it actually creates ambiguity, which is exactly what the creationists want. My point is there are SO many simple facts out there, principally to do with the age of the world: continents, ice sheets, mountain ranges, coastlines etc whose age can be measured relatively simply and conclusively, which have little to do with biological evolution (except perhaps very indirectly) and both implicitly and explicitly indicate that time, existence, life, the age of the Earth etc are for more massive in scale and scope, than the literal interpretation of genesis. Saying "this rock is 400,000 years old" is far more simplistically conclusive than a debate about biological evolution. After all, we aren't trying to convince the biblical literalists themselves, just the people they influence!

  • Comment number 73.

    200 years of industrial science has brought us close to extinction in a way 200,000 years of mysticism hasn't. If you value life that should give you pause.

    If you are still trying to argue that the Christian God doesn't exist ... well who are you arguing against ? That much is obvious.

    But in the search for truth at least read enough about science to understand it's limits. They are on wikipedia under the Philosophy of Science. It's not a secret. Science has limits. But people don't read about them, because these debates are mostly about being 'right' i.e. winning an argument.

    Believing and hoping that Science answers all questions is ... not different to hoping religion answers all questions. The priests also, like scientists, want answers.

    After all the debates, after all the arguments ... how do they leave you ? Do you feel like you have an answer to all your questions, the whys ? and hows ? of life ? After all the passion and anger have died down ... do you have your answer ?

    Not likely, and I would counsel you to leave this debate, and if it interests you look inwards for the answers because it is only yourself that you are ever going to trust. This, is called meditation.

  • Comment number 74.

    It's a shame that so many intelligent people here limit their own potential to learn and deny many of their own vital capacities to receive light from their own Creator and Spiritual Father. I have personal evidence that there is a perfectly benevolent and loving God who is wise, patient, kind and long suffering as He is misrepresented and slandered left right and centre. Knowledge brings with it power and also responsibility. We need to be worthy to receive the truths of God and willing to apply that knowledge for the benefit not detriment of others. I know (not believe) that Jesus Christ is personally alive today and that He created our world under the direction of an omniscient and loving Father. Hopefully there will not be too much egg on some of the faces here when they will also find out that this is true. We are invited to repent and prepare for the time when each of us will meet God. He knows and loves each of us. There are scientific explanations to all of the 'Hows' of Creation and the LDS scriptures promise that all of these answers will be given in due course. The scriptures are more concerned however with the 'Whys'. All knowledge in all fields is revealed according to God's plan. Sooner or later all scientists and religionists will know this and realise that we are brothers and sisters created in God's own image(s). We have an Eternal Father and an Eternal Mother. See http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/doctrines/knowledge_eom.htm if genuinely seeking knowledge and how to gain the most valuable insights into both the 'Whys' and 'Hows' of the Creation.

  • Comment number 75.

    2.At 03:30 6th Jul 2011, Gene wrote:

    Very well put.
    For me God is my absolute - but religion is that which is created by man, it is man's interpretation of Truth. So the debate will rage on and become ever more vitriolic from both sides.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think the thing for all of us to remember is that both the discipline of empirical science and the discipleship of the leap beyond it into faith are set in the same context for us – humanity. Our human outlook. Everyone has a human, emotional motive behind their work and outlook and science can be used as religiously, emotively and dogmatically as any religion. We are all in this wondrous and terrifying cosmos together. If God gave us awareness enough to analyse the world, analyse it we must, rationally.

    Genesis does NOT contradict evolution - get the freak over it everyone. If God is who the Christian, for example, says he is – the father of all truth – he would simply not have gone to such great lengths to make a world that looks ancient but isn't. He didn't make a theme park. That god is not a faker.

    Our response is what matters, believer or not. How do we live and treat each other in the light of the ever-growing body of understanding we little humans have of this astounding universe, and our place in it?

  • Comment number 77.

    Well said, Paul from Hong Kong (message 12). The conflict between science and religion is a false one, for which there is no need. There are many scientists who have no trouble also being men or women of faith. I personally know 5 biochemists who are also Christians, including my own son. Francis Collins, former Head of the Human Genome Project, is a Christian. University Christian Unions tend to have far more scientists in them than humanities students. Science and faith look at life in completely different ways, though it is not true to say faith requires no evidence at all - if I did not think there was very good evidence for Jesus' resurrection I would not believe in it.

  • Comment number 78.

    There are too many people who apparently don't know the difference between evolution and abiogenesis, haven't read anything about either theory, and furthermore haven't read the Bible.

    Genesis 1 and 2 have different orders of creation. Greenery exists before the Sun. The Earth exists before the Moon and Sun. Animals come before man, and man comes before animals depending on which you read.

    Not to mention that women apparently came after men, despite the contrary evidence from our genome.

    Then there's the part about animals reproducing after their own 'kind', and being created in their current form for Adam to name. And no mention of dinosaurs.

    They are very much mutually exclusive. The accounts in the Bible are so far removed from scientific understanding that they in no way exist side-by-side.

    The only reason people try to compromise between the two is because they don't know much about religion, nor the scientific theory of evolution (or abiogenesis).

  • Comment number 79.

    Who created the creator? Science is always pushing back the boundaries of what we understand to be true, which inevitably can be unsettling for those with fixed beliefs. The world is not flat, and we cannot assume the presence of a higher being to explain that which we don't yet understand.

  • Comment number 80.

    #28 "More people have died in the name of religion than any other reason": where is your evidence for that statement? Two World Wars, Gulags, Mao's China (the first two not religious wars, the last two persecutions in the name of socialism - a so-called "progressive" system; and that only scratches the surface of non-religious killing). Humanity is murderous by evolutionary development I'm afraid: the murderers survive to breed; the victims do not.Sorry if off topic.

  • Comment number 81.

    Ref.Post 70.

    Spot on. The Bible was not written by God, it was written, devised and published, for want of a better word, by a small group of powerful men as a way of promoting control, fear and subjugation of the people who would otherwise (as they feared) question things.

    Just as people are, more and more, doing so now.

    The Bible does not encourage curiousity, questioning and a quest for knowledge, it promotes obedience and a programmed mindset to accept, without that questioning.

    And, like religion, its nothing to do with God! Indeed, both the Bible and organised religion can be and should be, 'free' of, and from God. Whatever your faith, even if you do not have one, it is a personal and unique thing, and should be free of all dogma and control. Sadly, it is not.

  • Comment number 82.

    I think the creationist argument would carry more weight if ALL religions actually agreed (and not just the usual ones). There are many sects with pan theistic doctrines as well as the mono theistic ones. Even within single religious movements there are contradictory views meaning that they can't even agree with themselves let alone the wider community. Science is based on evidence and even if you dont like it, it's extremely difficult and narrow minded not to accept that a flame is hot and ice is cold. How many sects of atheism are there?

  • Comment number 83.

    There is of course an ultimate get-out clause for the creationists: that the evidence was planted. The question that really ought to worry them is whether the evidence was planted by the Abrahmic god because it wants us to believe this is how the universe came about (in which case they have to believe it upon peril of their immortal soul, and therefore believe in evolution), or by the Abrahamic satan to test us (in which case they must not believe it upon peril of their immortal soul, and must not believe in evolution).

    As always in the Abrahamic religion, the really big decision about which alternative to believe must be taken in vacuo, with no clues of any kind.

  • Comment number 84.

    god created 100 billion billion stars, but only 1 earth.

    you can't squash all that into a pea, blow it up and make you and me.

    I will pray for all your souls.

  • Comment number 85.

    We are, as individuals and as a race, here for a short time. In the grand scale of things our own little lives are fleeting ripples in a vast ocean. We are fearful the short time we have on our little spinning rock is all we have. The more we understand the immense scale of our Universe and our insignificance the more fearful we become. You will never by scientific means or even by huge adjustments in the central dogma of any faith remove the fear that this is it. This is all we have, we live, we die, we are no more. So people will always cling on to faith, no matter how preposterous or outmoded it’s ideals, beliefs or teachings may be may be.
    And that would be fine if only religious beliefs were not at the root of so many divisions in humanity and the cause of so much war and suffering.

  • Comment number 86.

    I'm a Christian and I've always been completely baffled by the creation versus evolution debate. To me, the two are not incompatible - one is the person behind it, the other is the recipe he used to make it happen. It's like looking at a cake and one side arguing that a baker made it while the other contends that the ingredients just happened to come together.

    I don't think that the 7-day creation story was ever meant to be taken literally but was a way of explaining the processes and order in which things were created. The order of things fits with what we already know about the beginning of the world - and the important thing for me as a Christian is that it demonstrates God's love for the world that he created somewhere so diverse and amazing for mankind. In fact, seeing evolution as the recipe he used only makes this more amazing.

    It's about time that people stopped trying to be right about everything and just let themselves be blown away by the creativity of the world we see around us!

  • Comment number 87.

    SteveHTZ wrote "I am not especially well versed in biblical literature, so I was wondering if someone could help me with exactly when the Bible claims the world was created? And whether there are any theories as to the literal vs. figurative interpretation of this timeline."

    Genesis 1:1 states "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This is before the account goes on to discuss the creative periods. So the Bible makes no claims as to the age of the earth or of the universe. It simply states that the universe had a beginning, which is entirely in line with current scientific thinking.

    So what of the creative periods discussed in the rest of chapter 1? Are these literal 24 hour days? No. The fact is that the Hebrew word translated 'day' can mean various lengths of time. For example at Genesis 2:4 the same word is used to describe the entire period covered by all six days. (In English the word 'day' is also used rather flexibly. For example a 24 hour period is divided into 'day' and 'night', we refer to 'in my day' etc.) So the Bible provides no basis whatever for claims that the earth and all the things on it were created in just 144 hours.

  • Comment number 88.

    The driving force behind these debates seems to be to define how the universe came to be without the need of God, evidenced by some of the pejorative terms used.

    The first thing to accept is that, whoever you are, creationist or anti-creationist, you do not and cannot understand all the facts. We do not have the knowledge, or the means to gain that knowledge, that will unlock the answers of the universe, and it is arrogance to assume otherwise.

    Creationists cannot force data to prove they are right, and anti-creationists cannot cobble together assumptions and theories to prove they are right.

    We simply do not know enough to say how the universe began, or how life on earth came to be as it is. All we can do is rely on mathematical tricks and guesswork.

    Set that aside. Even set aside whether or not the Bible is accurate, or whether it contains mistakes and inconsistencies.

    The proof of the existence of God, and the reliability of the promises in the Bible is to be found in the lives of believers. Not those that say they are believers, but those that, through obeying the teachings, have proven that the results are exactly as promised. The profound changes to their lives, their confidence, their power, their steadfastness in the face of all opposition and persecution, indicates that some mighty work has taken place in their lives, for which there is no credible explanation other than that which the Bible describes. Their lives prove the Bible true, which proves God is true, which proves creation is true.

  • Comment number 89.

    12.
    At 09:13 6th Jul 2011, Paul from Hong Kong wrote:

    "As a Christian I am as fed up with the creationists and their pseudo-science as any true scientist. There is no contradiction between the Christian bible and science and the apparent contradictions are the result of fundamental Christians and fundamental atheists dogmatically insisting on a literal interpretation of scripture. To a well-balanced Christian and, I would imagine, to a well-balanced atheist it is clear that the bible and science look at the same issues from completely different perspectives. The bible provides a poetic interpretation of humanity's existence while science seeks to explain reality within a literal framework of natural law. A Christian sees God's hand in those laws while an atheist does not. A good Christian can be an excellent scientist and an excellent scientist can be a good Christian. There really is no contradiction and all those who think there is should be placed in a locked room together and told to argue it out while the rest of us get on with our lives in peace."

    Well said! I couldn't agree more. This whole argument is specious and seems based on a wish to create division rather than unity. Science AND religion have both done terrible things to the world, and in some ways continue to do so - they are, after all, extensions of ourselves. But they have also done a lot of good and, if used properly, could do a lot more. Fundamentalist fanatics, either religious, non-religious, scientific or political, are the people who cause so much damage to the world. Science and faith, used properly, can work together to heal so many of the world's problems. In order to do that we, humanity, have to recognise our own faults and culpability, stop arguing about things that don't matter and get on dealing with things that do.

    God is the creation.
    Science is the process.
    Humanity is the material.
    Love is the aim.

    That's what my faith teaches me.

  • Comment number 90.

    #8 - "On the basis of my experience of God, on the evidence of the evident supernatural authorship of the bible, on the word of Jesus that authenticates it and on the verification of his claim to be God by his resurrection, I have ample evidence to believe that God is absolutely trustworthy and that his word is true. It follows then that his account of creation is true; since it contradicts the story of evolution, that must be false."

    Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. In one sentence this sums up why trying to reason with creationists is ultimately futile.

    The other day my dog told me he was able to speak French and Russian - I believe my dog, he wouldn't lie to me and I couldn't possibly be telling a porkie, therefore dogs can speak foreign languages. Q.E.D. simple, innit.

  • Comment number 91.

    I believe there is a God of sort who created the first ectoplasm maybe.
    However when it comes to all other nonsense, I believe all religions are wrong. Nothing but wars and bigotry and suffering comes from those.

    My opinion as a nordic pagan.

  • Comment number 92.

    84.At 10:29 6th Jul 2011, I am not a boat:

    The Universe is around 95% nothing. The amount of 'nothing' in the Universe makes up more of the total mass of the Universe than the 'something' does - the visible stuff.

    Yet, it was all created for us? Please. All the death and destruction going on with 99% of all species that ever existed on Earth now being extinct, and all the stars that have exploded and imploded to produce the atoms that form you and me - well, what a wonderful plan of chaos.

    The Universe is big, and rare things happen all the time - Lawrence Krauss.

  • Comment number 93.

    I am a scientist and believe in evolutionary theories (I'm not quite sure what an 'evolutionist' is). I probably have quite a relatively good understanding of evolution. I understand how papers are published, and how ideas and theories become accepted in the scientific community.

    For the most part, science is a black box to the general public. They will need to trust in the system (actually, it's quite sub-optimal - it's relatively modern, so it still needs time to evolve!): it is very difficult for a lay person to make a judgement as to how well science is a reflection of the ground truth. Some may think 'why trust the word of man when you can trust the word of God' (this is certainly not my opinion).

    Thus, I find it quite annoying that Creationists are often branded idiots or fools. A little less prejudice and a little more respect should be afforded to all parties.

  • Comment number 94.

    I am a scientist and believe whole heartedly in Darwinism. I fully reject the comments above that scientists "invent explanations" to suit their hypotheses (particularly particle physics). Good science sets out to disprove the hypothesis. Not to prove. A good scientist rejects a hypothesis the moment doubt is cast upon its validity. That is how research works and why there are always advances, because new evidence comes to light to support or shatter the current hypothesis. No scientist will ever tell you that a theory is 100% certain.
    I am agnostic in my view of religion. I am open to reviewing the evidence available. Sadly, it is not enough for me to say that this itself Earth is evidence, because I find it more plausible that we exist here purely by chance. In fact, this comforts me.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 96.

    People who wilfully rely solely on faith to make sense of existence, by definition, are not interested in evidence.

    Is this not clear?

    They're are not able to assimilate evolutionary theory or new evidence because their brains haven't evolved to handle it. I am not being belligerent as this will be scientifically proven by neurological evidence in the future. This is now a rapid evolutionary process with faith-based 'reasoning' heading toward extinction.

  • Comment number 97.

    "It's my view that man created God, not the other way round"

    Couldn't agree more. Religion moved from being a way of trying to influence the world around us to a tool used for the benefit of a powerful elite to control and manipulate the masses.

    Religion - I make very few exceptions to my statement - is in need of it's own mass global extinction.

    That, however, is my opinion and shall not influence those with "faith".

  • Comment number 98.

    How has Science done terrible things? It hasn't, Humanity has. While some have used faith for good others use it for money power and many other wrong things while Science is simply a way to explain the Universe, however in humanity's quest to destroy each other over politics and Religious hate. Religion has done a great deal of damage to mankind and events in the Bible can be explained by Science. Maybe God does exist and has created the laws of Physics and gravity to properly control our universe however it could be wrong. Sadly people also use Religious as way to control people, the 10 commandments are flawed and try to condemn natural Human nature while the belief in Heaven is a way to escape the thought of nothing after death.

  • Comment number 99.

    It is quite disappointing that many (non-religious) people regard the majority of religious people as closed minded and not open to reason or logic (cf. 27. Flackster. 22. JonE). I would like to reiterate what 12. Paul from Hong Kong said. So called 'moderate' religious people (the majority of religious people) are happy to accept both science and faith and see no contradiction in doing so. In fact it is part of Islamic tradition to ''seek knowledge from all those who could impart it'' (Hourani. A History of the Arabs). It is in Islamic tradition to pursue subjects such as mathematics, science, theology, politics and philosophy in order to reach a better understanding of the world we live in. The point here is that people of faith and people of science are both trying to describe and understand the same universe. @ 7HMMurdoch: To say that many people have died in the name of God is a very superficial take on the role of religion in history. It would be fairer to say that many people have died because of the economic and political interests of the people that led them. The problem is the abuse of religion and not religion itself.

  • Comment number 100.

    Why has the BBC moved straight to talk about the US and evolution when in nearly Muslim school (even in the UK) they're being taught evolution. Seems a bit cowardly.

 

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