Friday, October 7, 2016

Perspectives on the Evolution/Creation Controversy

The vast majority of what we hear about the evolution/creation controversy comes from the rather vocal ends of a spectrum of views. These two ends (the supporters of “young earth creation” and “atheistic evolution”) debate through the media and other avenues, often generating more heat than light. However, while the extremes engage in heated debate (or talk past each other), there are a host of sincere, educated Christians who have carefully considered scriptural and scientific evidence to arrive at a range of intermediate views seeking to harmonize the evidence. In what follows, I will briefly summarize 5 perspectives on the evolution-creation issue.

Let me begin with what everyone (regardless of perspective) generally agrees upon.

First, most people recognize that the universe and earth give the appearance of being very old (universe = 13.8 billion years old, earth = 4.5 billion years old). Note that I do not say that the universe and earth are old, but that they appear old. I will say more about this later.

Second, most people recognize that a variety of species exists today and a variety of species previously existed (e.g., mammoths, dinosaurs, ammonites, dodos and so on). Furthermore, clear patterns of similarity (e.g., genetic similarity, morphological similarity) exist among species that exist today. Patterns of similarity also exist between the species existing today and species that no longer exist. Thus, for example, mastodons, mammoths, and modern elephants show genetic commonalities that are unique to that group. Similarly, dogs and bears show genetic similarities or commonalities, some of which do not exist in other creatures. Even strains of influenza virus (e.g., modern flu strains vs. the 1918 flu pandemic virus) show genetic similarities (which is why we can have “flu shots”). The genetic similarities are echoed by morphological (i.e., bone structure or physical structure) similarities. Mastodons, mammoths, and modern elephants show similar physical and bone structure, as do dogs/bears, or feline species (e.g., lions, saber-tooth tigers, housecats, and so on).

Three, adherents of each position below (with one exception - atheistic evolution), also consider the scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be divinely inspired and authoritative for Christian faith/doctrine and practice. That is, every position (except for atheistic evolution) is held by sincere Christians who are committed to the Bible as their guide for faith/practice; a number of these Christians also have graduate degrees (e.g., PhDs) in the sciences or social sciences and serve as faculty at a host of Christian universities and colleges around the world.
Having noted what most individuals involved in this debate agree upon, the question then becomes one of reconciling these three sources of evidence (physical evidence about the age of the earth/universe, biological evidence about species and their relationships, and scriptural evidence about God’s role in creation). In the chart I have provided below, I have presented 5 attempts at reconciling these lines of evidence. These attempts form a spectrum of views. I will start by very briefly addressing the single “non-Christian” view – atheistic evolution, then proceed to the other extreme (young earth creation) and subsequently address the middle 3 positions. Keep in mind that these are general perspectives; each perspective may contain several variations. Furthermore, the perspectives are not always clearly separable from each other. Individuals may hold views that combine or are on the border of two perspectives.


Young Earth
Creation
Old Earth
Creation
Progressive
Creation
Theistic Evolution
Atheistic Evolution
Very brief summary
God created all in 6 days a relatively short time ago (i.e., 4000-8000 years ago)
God created all in 6 days a long time ago (billions of years ago)
God created separate species over a long period of time.
Separate species appeared over a long period of time, through the “God directed” evolutionary process.
There is no God. Separate species appeared over a long period of time, though the evolutionary process.
Approach to Bible
Generally a strict literal approach to Bible
Generally a literal approach, with some interpretation. E.g., day = age theory, days of revelation theory
Non-literal approach
Non-literal approach
Rejection of Scripture
Scientific evidence (physical)
Rejects
Accepts
Accepts
Accepts
Accepts
Scientific evidence (biological)
Rejects
Rejects
Accepts some
Accepts
Accepts
Held by Christians
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No

Steven J. Hayduk
Former Salvation Army Officer
Canada



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