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Faith vs. Fossils: Christians Debate Origins of Life

Otis Kline hopes to build Montana’s second-largest dinosaur and fossil museum, complete with 13 full-size dinosaur replicas, but it won’t be an ordinary museum.

Kline, a Southern Baptist, wants to use fossils to teach a literal biblical account of creation and to debunk what he calls “evolutionism’s nonsense.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
According to the Billings Gazette, Kline believes the earth is 6,500 to 7,000 years old and that dinosaurs lived alongside humans and are mentioned in Job 40:15, which speaks of the “behemoth” that “feeds on grass like an ox.” He believes there were dinosaurs on Noah’s <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Ark, though perhaps young and not adult specimens, which were unable to survive in a new environment altered by the Flood.
 
Nearly eight decades after the famous Scopes trial over teaching evolution in schools, Darwin is still on trial in many circles.
 
A recent Gallup Poll found that 35 percent of adults believe evolution is well-supported by the evidence and 35 percent say it is not, while 29 percent said they didn’t know enough to reply. Forty-five percent said God created man in his present form, and about a quarter of Americans believe it occurred in the last 10,000 years.
 
School boards like the one in Cobb County, Georgia, are battling over textbooks labeling evolution as “just” a theory and giving creation equal time as an opposing view.
 
The gift shop at the Grand Canyon sells a book titled Grand Canyon: A Different View, which claims the geographical wonder was created suddenly during Noah’s Flood and not by millennia of erosion by the Colorado River.
 
While “young earth” creationists like Kline are in the minority, attacks on Darwin have gained new credibility among many evangelicals with the rise of a theory called “Intelligent Design.”
 
Championed by scholars like William Dembski, a mathematician who recently moved from Baylor University to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “ID” maintains that life forms are too complex to have evolved by chance, inferring an intelligent creator.
 
“Any biology teacher must deal with the changes that occur in organisms over time,” said Hal Poe, a religion professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. “We experience these changes in everyday life each fall when the health officials begin encouraging the elderly to get their flu vaccination to protect them against the new strains of influenza virus that have emerged.”
 
Christian theologians must also grapple with whether God was involved only in the beginning of creation or is still involved in the creative process. For Poe, who has taught and written jointly with chemistry professor Jimmy Davis on relating science and faith, God is either involved at all levels or not at all.
 
“Any theology that does not believe in God’s continuing involvement is not orthodox Christian theology,” he told EthicsDaily.com.
 
Poe said Christians who view science as being hostile to faith often fall prey to two fallacies of modern thinking. One is to interpret the Bible literally instead of figuratively. The other is “reductionism,” the tendency to explain everything with one simple explanation—such as Darwin’s explanation of the origin of the species as natural selection and Freud’s explanation of human behavior through sex.
 
Christians who reject figurative language in the Bible in favor of scientific language, Poe said, may not realize they are elevating science above the Bible.
 
“The Bible says that God is responsible for all life,” Poe said. “What it does not tell us is how God did it.”
 
Poe said the Bible says God called light into being by direct creation, “Let there be light,” but did not create life with a similar command. Instead God said let the earth and the waters bring forth life.
 
Poe said no English translation he is aware of accurately translates the proper tense of verbs in Genesis 1. All suggest incomplete and ongoing action, like “and God began to say ‘Let the earth begin to bring forth vegetation.'” Poe said.
 
Other Christians also affirm God as creator but reject Intelligent Design. Critics call is a “pseudoscience,” which parallels but is not identical to creation science, the view that there is scientific evidence to support the Genesis account of the creation of life.
 
A Web site opposing Intelligent Design said it has no quarrel with people who believe that an intelligent being was involved in evolution of organisms, but only those who claim that empirical evidence exists to prove it scientifically.
 
While there are scientists who support Intelligent Design, the vast majority accept evolution as the best explanation for the origin of species. As a result, critics say, ID advocates have turned to the public sphere, seeking to advance their views through the media, schools and politicians.
 
The arguments for Intelligent Design are largely “arguments from ignorance,” the critics say, also known as “god-of-the-gaps” arguments. Biochemist Michael Behe, for example, claims that “irreducibly complex” systems could not have occurred naturally.
 
Behe’s model is a mousetrap. Composed of a wooden base, a spring and a trigger, a mousetrap isn’t more effective in catching mice than the individual components; it doesn’t work unless all are present. Similarly, even the simplest organisms have interacting parts that would not work alone, begging the question of how the components could have evolved without a previous function.
 
Evolutionists counter that lack of knowledge doesn’t necessarily imply intelligent cause. Most scientists would prefer “we don’t yet know” to invoking a cause outside of nature.
 
“I am convinced that God created the world,” said Argey Hillis, a member of Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, with a Ph.D. in statistics from Johns Hopkins, “but the statistical arguments are rubbish.”
 
“If you’re given enough time anything can be accomplished with a random process.”
 
Others counter the popular argument that evolution ought to be presented as “just a theory.”
 
The notion that Earth orbits around the sun is a theory, and even electricity is a theoretical construct, according to an article defending Darwin in National Geographic. Other examples are Einstein’s theory of relativity and the makeup of atoms.
 
“Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact,” the article says. “That’s what scientists mean when they talk about theory; not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence.”
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.