The Theory of Evolution and the Biblical account of Creation - are they compatible?

There is much debate as to whether Science and Religion are compatible and in particular can Evolution and the Biblical creation account co-exist as valid worldviews or does one negate the other.  As far as I am concerned the debate is only a bone of contention for religionists.  Science is the study of the natural world. It does not look for supernatural outcomes to its investigations. Religion has for the last 400 years has been continually discounted as a reliable tool to discover anything new. It’s explanations of the working of the natural world are being proven incorrect and Science is filling the gaps it used to dwell in.

When I am referring to the Theory of Evolution I am talking about Modern Evolution Theory and not just “Darwinism”.  Creation as used will mean the Bible story and Creationism in general.

If I posted this 400 years ago it would read “The theory of Heliocentricity and the idea that the Earth is at the middle of our Universe – are they compatible?” The religious did their utmost to thwart the advancement of scientific discovery. They did not “believe” it was true that the sun was at the center. It was “only a theory” and the scientists behind it were deemed to be heretics. Only as people became educated did they understand it. Now this once special knowledge is deemed almost to be common sense. The churches now accept the Theory of Heliocentricity as being true. That is mighty of them but irrelevant to me because like the Theory of Evolution it was never a matter of faith. It is only a matter of education. Knowledge is power. They controlled the flow of it for too long in schools and even Universities.  Information takes away more power from religion so it will do whatever it takes to keep as much of it as it can. So religions come up with alternative “theories” to counter the modern day heretics.

Even today I still get told by apologists that the Bible knew the world was round.  Many have become “Hebrew scholars” and love informing me about the meaning of the word “chug” to insist Isaiah know the world was round. He did not. He “knew” it to be flat as did everyone else at that time.

The same people will then try to argue with me that Intelligent Design is a credible scientific alternative to the Theory of Evolution and should be taught in schools. They “don’t believe in Evolution”. So they read more biblical science and come up with the idea that their god created every animal including man in his present “form”.  I will not discuss I.D. any further but if anyone else thinks it a good idea and has any merit please fire ahead. Maybe the dinosaurs died because they fell over the edge of the planet. These theists are the same as they were 400 years ago. They still maintain their book is the one and only truth necessary and deny the validity of the Theory of Evolution just as they denied the fact the sun is at the center of the galaxy.

I am not a scientist and do not claim any academic qualifications in this area.  Due to my lack of believe in any god or the veracity of written accounts I turned elsewhere for answers. I find that the Theory of Evolution is a fact because I understand it to be proven. It therefore reinforces my reasons for remaining an Atheist but in itself it did not make me an Atheist. I will reference my replies later to any questions I try to answer.

I consider it fair to say that most Theists deny the fact of Evolution because they do not know it. Those that think they do usually have only learnt it from the science section of the bible or from their local preacher. I have never met a Theist (I mean never) who could explain it to me correctly. I also consider it fair to claim that one does not need be an Atheist to see that the Theory of Evolution is a Fact.

The Theory of Evolution is the scientific study of how life of earth has evolved over time. To start with we need to get some concept of the time scale. It started about 3.5 billion years ago. You need to stop a minute and think about that. It is almost impossible to conceive of such a scale. Millions of species have lived and died out before man appeared a relatively short time ago. We are about as a modern species for the last 200,000 years. 40,000,000 years before us Mt. Everest rose up and yet 25,000,000 years before that the dinosaurs became extinct.  A few billion years further back and our early ancestors were getting ready to crawl out of the sea. Sound as fantastic as other stories? Well yes but all of this can be and has been fully proven. When all the various fields of Science, geology, chemistry, anatomy, fossil studies and especially DNA are taken together we see that all life on Earth is connected. No matter what species we look at once we go back far enough we see a common ancestor is shared amongst us all.

I am not going to further explain the Theory here other than say that the word “Theory” in this case means a body of facts and not an hypothesis that is still in need of evidence to make it acceptable. It is because Evolution is a proven fact that it is deemed to be a Theory.

I fully acknowledge that the Theory of Evolution does not explain how life on Earth began but that is not what it is about. I also accept that the Theory of Evolution does not disprove the existence of any particular deity.

However if anyone accepts that the Theory of Evolution is a fact (which it is) then we humans  are descended from other species and if we keep going back we are evolved from  simple life forms that lived in the sea. Therefore we could not have been created in human form in one day. Therefore the Christian story of creation is not true. It is a myth like those of all other religions.

Feel free to tell me where you think I am wrong and show me how the bible is right or at least compatible with Evolution. We can discuss the Theory of Evolution in greater detail and clear up any misconceptions held about it if this discussion EVOLVES.

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Reg - I've seen that enormous time scale demonstrated graphically on a 24-hour clock, in which the clock face was divided into 24 equal segments, rather than the usual 12 - it may have been in Carl Sagan's Cosmos. On that time scale, Humans first appeared on the planet at 15 seconds before the hour of 24.

Don't take this as a criticism of your work, as it's quite well done and well said, but it's your use of the phrase, TOE, to mean the Theory of Evolution, that jars me every time I hear it, as that acronym is one that is actually used in the area of physics to signify a grand Unified Field Theory that will unite Einstinian Relativity, Gravitational Theory and the sub-atomic world of Quantum Physics, and it's known by scientists as the Theory of Everything, or the T.O.E.

There's also a variant where the entire life of the universe is compressed into one year.

I saw one lecturer, though, do something a little different which I liked better;  he treated a billion years as one year, so the total span was 13.7 yeas for the 13.7 billion year life of the universe.  13.7 years is a long time but it's still comprehendable by adults.

Hey SteveInCO,

I think temporal constriction is the only way to make it work, but that would require a completely new set of theory about nature. And frankly, General Relativity and QFT are yet more solid than TOE.

- kk

Whoah!  I was just talking about variations on the "imagine the entire lifespan of the universe as one year" or "...one day", not about how to reconcile 6000 years with 13.7 billion.

(Incidentally the age of the asteroids is given as 4.567 billion years; multiply that by three and you get 13.701.  Proof that doG exists!!!  Alas someone recently refined the best estimate for the age of the universe a bit, and while 13.7 billion is in the new range, it's not at the center of it, so they ruined it.)

OK I suppose I'd actually better talk about the topic.

I do know some "old earth creationists" who don't deny anything the science tells us about the age of the universe, its size or even seeing progressively more complex organisms in the fossil record.  They think that god created the big bang, got life started, and eventually gave some species of ape souls. 

Through some very creative interpretations of Genesis they claim it's consistent with what we know today.  For instance, the Hebrew word for day can be metaphorically used to suggest a period of time--it's a valid dictionary definition of the word--much as we might say "back in Jefferson's day" not literally meaning a "day."  Also they claim the Genesis narrative describes what someone standing on the surface of the earth would see, according to our best scientific description of the process.  Darkness (because the atmosphere is full of gunk), followed by light (diffuse, through an atmosphere still loaded with gunk), then the sun, then the stars as the atmosphere clears out.  Most people who read Genesis sort of take a "god's eye view" as they read along and of course under those circumstances, it's absurd to have light before the sun, and to relegate the stars (each a sun unto itself) to an afterthought.  Of course what that means is that the famous six "days" would have to have elapsed after the earth was actually formed, but if you read carefully, it says "in the beginning god created the heavens and the earth" and they will claim that that is NOT a summary of what is to come, but that once you read that sentence, the stuff in the heavens existed, and so did the earth, and the first "day" happens after the earth has accreted from planetesimals--i.e, at least 9 billion years after the big bang.

It's an interesting interpretation but still fails for lots of other reasons.

All criticism is welcome.I tend to agree with you it's just I wrote it quickly. I should have done a global edit. Cosmic Clock

This is worth a look at too

I think the Bible has been misunderstood for centuries.  It's still misunderstood by the very people who claim to understand it most. The Bible is a poetical work of literature. One of its primary subjects concerns the personal identity in relationship to anything other than itself.  The reason the Bible gets butchered is because when one understands certain of its subjects, they become "free" and difficult to control politically (plus they are able to derive insights into things other than themselves). The story of creation, for example,  is a story about how to create. It uses grand and extreme metaphors to make a point that the creative individual is made of the same stuff as any creative being. If you accept there are creative beings at all, then this makes an interesting point.  But instead, the so-called Christians and others have turned into some sort of pseudo-scientific nonsense.  A different question toward reconciling science and (Christian) religion might be this: Is the idea that a creative person can exist compatible with the idea that the theory of evolution is true?  I say yes, perfectly compatible.

Hey onecae,

That may be, but I tend to call a duck a duck. In other words, I think the narrative is a conspicuously Earth-based narrative that is obviously not correct and belies the fact that its author is not the architect of the universe, imo.

- kk

I did call a duck a duck.  You and I are on the same page here. The Bible is a poetical work of literature. (However, calling it correct or not is irrelevant- sort of like "The Poems of Robert Frost are not correct.") Saying that the author is the architect of the universe is hyperbolic metaphor - something one might find on the dust jacket quoting a NYT book review. For me it's like asking if the works of Shakespeare are compatible with the theory of evolution. The contents should be evaluated in completely different ways.  However, sadly, many people do not know how to interpret and evaluate literature. They keep coming to this really strange idea that's akin to saying "if only we could find Hamlet's sword or Ophelia's dress, then we'd prove that the play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is true."

The Bible is a poetical work of literature. (However, calling it correct or not is irrelevant- sort of like "The Poems of Robert Frost are not correct.")

Of course the Bible is literature. But unlike the words of Frost or Shakespeare, 79% of Americans say the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God and mostly should be taken literally

They keep coming to this really strange idea that's akin to saying "if only we could find Hamlet's sword or Ophelia's dress, then we'd prove that the play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is true."

It's more like those 83% keep storming out in a huff, saying, "The moon doesn't reflect sunlight! It shines under its own power like the Bible says!"  

Hey Reg,

I commend you for taking on this topic. You know why I hate TOE? Because certain personalities in the extreme end of a certain set of belief systems are obssessed with trying to disprove it to such an extent that its nauseating and loaded with mass ignorance. The poor biologists working on this stuff are inundated with nonsense on a daily basis. But I digress.

Sorry, but it has poisoned the entire thing for me. I do find it an elegant and satisfactory theory, though. I think its incomplete but a lot of science is.

So, they are absolutely incompatible if we are speaking of the Genesis narrative. Only if something really obscure and quite surprising jumps out of the incompleteness side of this will that ever be true. The only thing I can think of is it will come from physics: that the flow of time is historically and probably spatially highly variable. But that is total conjecture.

- kk

Did you neglect to read the premise, Kir? - TOE in this instance refers to the Theory of Evolution --

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