Evolution and Creationism

This page comes from a letter I wrote to Majority Whip, Tom Delay after a television appearance on This Week.

Dear Mr. Delay,

Watching your appearance on This Week with Donaldson and Roberts has led me to believe that you don't quite understand what is meant by "the theory of evolution". I considered writing my own explaination of this, but I feel that it is clearly written on the talk.origins web site, the address of which is:

http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/faqs-qa.html

Specifically, within that site

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

addresses how evolution is viewed by scientists both as fact and theory in the same way that gravity is viewed as both fact and theory. We see that it happens, but the finer details as to how some of it happens are sometimes contested.

You also phrased your comments about teaching creation and evolution in schools as if they were necessarily opposing view points. Certainly, there are many Christians, Muslims, and Jews who believe in the truth of the Bible's Old Testament, yet allow for a metaphorical interpretation of the first couple chapters of Genesis. In this view, evolution can be seen as a tool used by God to create the diversity of life as it stands today. If one takes a more literal view of Genesis 1 and 2, then yes, evolution and dating methods contradict the order, the time scale, and the means at which such creatures came into being.

There are, however, a number of problems with presenting creationism as an alternative to evolution in a public school biology class as you suggested on This Week. The first problem is that the creation account is not science. It is not something that can predict an outcome and have those predictions be tested in a repeatable manner. It is entirely faith based and can not be proved. Evolution, on the otherhand, does have predictable, observable, repeatable outcomes which can be tested. For more on this, see:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-god.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/interpretations.html

Given that the Genesis creation account is a religious and faith based view point, we come to a larger problem. By holding up the Genesis creation as the alternative to evolution, you suggest that it is superior to other, faith-based origins accounts. That's fine for you as an individual or for those churches as religious institutions that require a literal belief in Genesis 1 & 2, however, when being presented in a public school it becomes a government endorsed religious viewpoint, and a violation of the principle of separation of church and state as outlined in the first amendment. There are numerous religious views on creation - as many as there are different sects of religions in the world. By not presenting these other accounts in the classroom, a particular religious viewpoint is endorsed.

Creation may have a place in the public school classroom, but only in the context of the history of religion, comparative religion, or when used to illuminate works of literature which relate to it.


Somewhat related to this is a quotation from St. Augustine (354-420 C.E.) that I found floating around USENET:
"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."

-- St. Augustine, "De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim" (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)


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Christopher B. Siren