Evolution and Creationism
Islam and Evolution
"Jalal-uddin al-Rumi (d. 1273), an infamous Sufi philosopher, in his book Masnawi, presents a theory of evolution in the form of the following lines recognized as the central theme of his work: "I died as mineral and became a plant, I died as a plant and rose to an animal, I died as an animal and I was a man."(82)
However, the Sufi sect Ahl as-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah believe that "mankind, and all creatures were created by God. They do not believe in the theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin, rather that God created man as a species in his present form, more or less. In reality, the theory of Darwin has been debunked, for random chance does not increase functionality, even in already existing genes. It is likely that once the highly pervasive influence of Darwinism comes to an end, a new theory of creation will be proposed which is more realistic. As to the question of the earth's age, Muslims tend to leave that to the scientists to discover. "
May 24 1976
Debate between Henry M. Morris and Duane T. Gish - pro
Aharon Gibor and Preston Cloud - con
"Resolved, the Theory of Special Creation is Superior to the Theory of Evolution as an Explanation for the Scientific Evidence Related to Origins"
Position Paper by Preston Cloud Research Biogeologist, U.S. Geological Survey and Professor Emeritus of Biogeology and Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.
Constructive discussion of any subject starts with an understanding of what that subject is. The subject tonight is scientific evidence. That would appear to be evidence relevant to science. Science is a special, active way of trying to understand the universe, solar system, and Earth. It differs from subjects such as fundamentalist theology that seek their insights wholly from inspiration, meditation. intuition, or divine revelation, unhampered by experimental or naturalistic constraints. Inspiration, meditation, and intuition also play important parts in the mental processes of scientists; but ideas so arrived at do not become a part of science until checked against relevant evidence and found to be consistent with it.
Evidence relevant to science consists of measurements or observations that can be made or confirmed by human observers. If the evidence is experimental, the experiment must be repeatable by others with the same results. This is above all the province of physics and chemistry. Should the evidence be the results of natural processes such as floods, earthquakes, climatic change, or exploding stars, the observations must be repeatable. Others, observing the same results must be able to see the same things. This is the prevailing situation in historical sciences such as astronomy and geology. Biological evidence is of both sorts.
The rules under which science operates specify that scientists must strive for objectivity. That objectivity is difficult is a part of being human. Even the most self-disciplined of us are products of previous experience and social climate. Although total detachment is impossible, however, our work is under constant scrutiny by other scientists and that promotes caution. Characteristically the ability to do first-rate science is not fulfilled by a high level of intelligence alone. Intellectual integrity, balanced and critical judgement, and independence from authority in affairs of the mind are also important. Unverifiable assumptions are not permitted. Assumptions made must be consistent with what is already known, and they must be clearly stated so that others can see, test, and challenge them.
The central assumptions are that there is order in the universe and that, if there is order, it can be found and explained. The twin goals of science thus are (1) to search for order in the universe and (2), where found, to attempt to explain it in terms of processes that can either be detected and measured or whose results can be observed and shown to be consistent with causes that do not violate the facts or laws of nature. Science may not invoke supernatural causes--not even in support of divine revelation. There is no conflict between science and theology because they are mutually exclusive realms of thought.
When I first heard of "creation science," therefore, I supposed it sought to comprehend in naturalistic terms the various stories of human and world origins that all societies have evolved. What is it that, in the environment, traditions, or local circumstances of a particular society leads to their gods being snakes or people, many or one, female or male, cruel or benevolent, lustful or chaste? Why do people of one origin generally favor different creation accounts than those of other origins? If you are interested, as I am, in this sort of creation research you will not find it in writings by members of the Creation Research Society. You will. however, find a well-referenced analytical summary of creation legends by the Reverend Edwin 0. James, Chaplain of All Souls College, Cambridge University, England, in the 14th (1970) edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But the debate this evening also concerns theory and origins. What do those words mean? The approach to theory in the scientific sense starts, not in books, but with data and the formulation of hypotheses. An hypothesis is an attempt to explain the data. Science requires that its hypotheses be consistent with known evidence from nature and that they have verifiable consequences--that is, they must be capable of disproof. One way of increasing objectivity is to think of as many hypotheses as possible that are consistent with the evidence and have verifiable consequences. As competing hypotheses are tested, their believability grows or shrinks as they withstand or fail opportunities for disproof. From at first merely permissible, they are either eliminated or grow in believabi1ity until the most successful hypothesis may become a ruling hypothesis. If it continues to be successful in predicting previously unsuspected facts or relationships, and to withstand all opportunities for disproof, and if it has broad application, it may finally be accepted as a theory, often modified from the original hypothesis. These distinctions are important. Although not always made, they should be. They express different levels of probability, which is what science is about.
It is essential in science to distinguish among observations and measurements, the hypotheses and theories which integrate and propose mechanisms to explain the facts observed, scientific principles which specify operating procedures, and the laws of science. The laws of science represent the highest level of supportable generalization. In order to be accepted as a law, the generalization must have proved invariable under all of many observed circumstances, or, if variations are observed, they must occur in systematic and predictable ways. The laws of science may not be broken. Angular momentum must be conserved. The entropy of a closed system may not be decreased. Water may not flow uphill without a pump. Hypotheses which run against established scientific law are not acceptable unless they can demonstrate that the law is wrong.
It is characteristic of science that it is controversial. Scientists love to explore new areas, methods, and ideas. Hypotheses and even theories that once appeared well established may be challenged, modified, and even overthrown as they are tested against new experimental or observational data or better measurements. As investigation continues, the explanations of science sort out at different levels of probability without ever being considered unchallengeable where new evidence suggests the possibility of other naturalistic causes. Science is thus dynamic, progressive, ever changing, never finished. It is like the expanding wave-front of a pebble flung into a sea of ignorance, its growth both widens the domain of scientific understanding and expands the surrounding circle of ignorance as new knowledge raises new questions. Moreover, previous knowledge, without necessarily being wrong, constantly needs reconsideration in the face of new knowledge or new scientific ways of looking at it. Euclidean geometry yields to hyperbolic geometry and Newtonian gravity is refined by relativistic gravity as science expands into space. Darwinian ideas of selection evolve into more complex theory as we probe the molecule, behavioral responses, and the rocks. The stable continents of a few decades ago become moving pieces in a great new game of geologic chess because of discoveries made on the ocean floor. Special creation. however, undergoes no modification. It remains as written in Genesis. If you can't stand uncertainty it wins hands down.
As for the question of origins, creationists in the sense of the Creation Research Society focus on the origin of the earth, of life, and of the diversity of life. Since what we have learned about the origin of the chemical elements tells us that the stars came first, however. I will start with the origin of the universe. Given a bail of neutrons, scientists can think of naturalistic explanations of varying degrees of probability for all subsequent events. There is, however, no scientific explanation for where the primordial ball of neutrons might have come from. In fact there is no certainty that there was only one and not several balls of neutrons, or even that the universe didn't emerge from one or several black holes, or from a deity. And. of course, we have no idea from where a deity may have come. That is the problem of first causes. Science has no answers to the problem of first causes. although it can place limits on what kinds of answers are permissible. Science does not contradict the idea of a divine origin for the embryonic universe, during which it acquired those characteristics called natural laws. whose unfolding underlies all later events. It does. however, have something to say about the permissible time framework and the composition of primordial materials. And it has a lot to say about those later events.
Creationists are most concerned with the origin of the "kinds" of life by something they call "the theory of special creation"? What do they mean by this? Is it consistent with the observed facts of nature? What are its verifiable consequences? Has it survived opportunity for disproof? Consider the words of Dr. Morris, on p. 16 of his 1972 book, "The remarkable birth of planet Earth." He states there that "The first chapter of Genesis describes this creation and it should be stressed as strongly as possible that it is only in the Bible that we can possibly obtain any information about the methods of creation, the order of creation, the duration of creation, or any of the other details of creation." I will not be evasive. I have searched for common ground with the creationists. But Dr. Morris and I agree on only one thing. We both like to put commas before the last phrase in a sequence of statements.
Hear what Dr. Morris has to say about the issues before us (1972. p. 94): "The only way we can determine the true age of the earth is for God to tell us what it is. And since He has told us, very plainly, in the Holy Scriptures that it is several thousand years in age, and no more, that ought to settle all basic questions of terrestrial chronology." He continues (p. 58). "The problem is completely settled, of course, by the Scriptures." At another place (foreword to J. C. Whitcomb, Jr., 1972, "The early earth") Dr. Morris comments "Even the early chapters of Genesis should be recognized as completely historical and scientifically accurate" (emphasis added). In other words, the net effect of all scientists who ever lived has been zero as far as understanding origins is concerned; the answers, according to Dr. Morris, are all in Genesis as written hundreds or thousands of years BC.
What does Dr. Gish have to say in his extensive writings? In his 1972 book on "Evolution--the fossils say no!." he states that "The general theory of organic evolution is the theory that all living things have arisen by a ... naturalistic evolutionary process." So far so good, if we change process to processes. He continues: "The creation account found in Genesis, on the other hand, records the fact (emphasis added) that all basic animal and plant types . . . were brought into existence by acts of God using special processes which are not operative today." After chiding scientists for taking evolution as a fact instead of a theory, he repeats that "The first two chapters of Genesis were not (emphasis added) written in the form of parables or poetry but present the broad outlines of creation in the form of simple historical facts. These facts (emphasis added)", he says. "directly contradict evolution theory."
How do you like that? And why, if the Bible is so factual, did the organizers of this debate tell Dr. Gibor and me that "Dr. Gish and Dr. Morris do not want to talk about the Bible or any other religious/philosophical treaties (sic). They wish to discuss the scientific facts."
Let us examine the creationist perception of scientific facts. The order of creation given in the first chapter of Genesis is (1) on the first day 1ight, and a separation into night and day — note neither sun, moon, nor stars were yet present, and the earth was "without form"; (2) on the second day a "firmament" was made; (3) the third day saw the separation of earth and seas and the origin of grass, herbs, and trees—no sun yet. however; (4) on the fourth day. finally, came sun, moon, and stars, the moon, strangely enough, shining by its own light; (5) the fifth day brought fowl, whales, and "every living creature that moveth": (6) on the 6th day we get beasts and cattle and "everything that creepeth." followed by man and woman. (I will note later the contrasting versions of human origin given in Genesis One and Two.) The creationists have a hard time with this sequence. Their ingenious interpretations do not support their contention that the Bible tells us all we need to know about origins.
Dr. Morris (1972, p. 84) finds "at least 25 discrepancies." and they are major discrepancies, "between the sequence of events in Genesis One and the evolutionary sequences of geology." For instance, although grass did appear long before it made its way to college dorms, fossil evidence shows clearly that plain old grazing grass came long after the origin of all major animal groups up to and including mammals. Do these discrepancies dismay Dr. Morris? Here's how he resolves the conflict (p. 81): "The Genesis record of creation was verified by God himself, as He gave the ten commandments." And, later (p. 87), quoting the Bible. "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is ... ." "These words," Dr. Morris assures us, "were written on a tablet of stone by the finger of God Himself." The fact that geologists read the rocks differently, he concludes, must be faced up to. He asks the reader to decide this question for himself (p. 89)--"if it really took five billion years for God to make all these things, why did He tell us it took six days?"
That question didn't bother the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences when in 1966 it awarded the Pope Pius XI Gold Medal to Astronomer Allan Sandage for studies of the universe which implied an age of 9 to 12 billion years for it.
If the creationists really believe, as they say they do, that there is a kind of massive collusion among geochronologists the world over to distort the facts about the age of the earth (e.g. Slusher, 1973). they either don't know what mavericks geochronologists are or they will believe anything! Now some of my best friends are geochronologists and they disagree whenever possible. They agree overwhelmingly, however, and within narrow numerical limits, on an age of about 4.6 to 4.7 billion nuclear or atomic years for the age of the earth, as well as on the ages of subsequent major events in Earth history.
Consider now the internal differences between Genesis One and Two regarding the origin of mankind. Genesis One implies that man and woman in unspecified numbers were created simultaneously, "male and female created he them" (emphasis added). In Genesis Two, the account creationists prefer for human origins, a single male named Adam came first and a single female somewhat later—out of Adam's rib no less! What does a scholarly theologian like the Reverend E. O. James have to say about these contrasting accounts? He finds that the cuneiform texts of the 7th century BC show the first version to be similar to that of the Babylonian Enuma elish, with roots in a Sumerian account of about 3000 BC. The second version, that of Genesis Two is "more Palestinian in its cosmology," but also has "Babylonian affinities."
If one is to accept Genesis as historical fact, which version is one to believe, and which are Dr. Gibor and I to debate? Creationists have no problem. Having pronounced genesis beyond question, they are free to focus on the fact that evolutionists disagree among themselves as to exact mechanisms, as well as on the meanings of some facts—a common situation in science. By clever manipulation of the data. focus on discredited evidence and hypotheses, and injection of new improbabilities, creationists are then able to arrive at the conclusion they started with—like the gambler who made his fortune tossing coins on the call "heads I win, tails you lose." You might ask yourself—even if Darwinian evolution were disproved. would that prove creationism?
The conclusions I want to leave with you from my discussion so far are: (1) Creationism is not science at all but simple invocation of "authority", a form of antiscience. (2) creationism is therefore, not a scientific alternative to anything, (3) science is no threat to religion because science has no more bearing on religion than religion has on science.
It is not possible in half an hour, let alone the time remaining. to set forth more than a tiny fraction of the vast body of evidence showing that organisms have progressed from simple forms of limited diversity to complex forms of great diversity over vast intervals of geologic time. Yet it was essential first to have a clear view of the differing approaches of evolutionists and creationists to problems of origin.
Evolution implies a systematic progression of related events— a continuous process of change from one state to another, although at varying rates. It is hard to think of systems that do not evolve— social, political, economic, or natural. Even though they may stagnate temporarily, change sets in sooner or later. Historical geology attempts to trace the interrelated evolutions of life, air, water and Earth's rocky crust. Its results provide compelling support for Darwin's basic ideas of progressive change brought about by selective processes acting on naturally varying systems over long periods of time in response to changing circumstances. Indeed creationists do not deny either natural variation or the effects of natural selection on local populations. What they deny is time in excess of a few thousand years and the reality of the progressive changes observed. Indeed they claim, wrongly, that the latter would be a contradiction of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which, in greatly simplified terms specifies that the order of the universe decreases with time.
The direct way to assess evolutionary theory is to ask what it predicts, or "postdicts," about the past, about the geologic record of life. Current evolutionary theory, of course, is more complex than that visualized by Darwin, including a foundation of experimental evidence unknown to him, and it is still evolving. It does, however, predict the following: (1) Life either originated on Earth under an essentially oxygen-free atmosphere not long after liquid water first began to accumulate, or it reached here from elsewhere in the universe; (2) the earliest forms of life were simple non-sexual, or procaryotic. cells that evolved in essentially oxygen-free environments until such time as their photosynthetic activities and tolerances to oxygen permitted that gas to accumulate in the atmosphere; (3) sexually reproducing, eucaryotic, microorganisms evolved only after oxygen increase in the atmosphere to levels capable of supporting a fully oxidative metabolism; (4) Many ceiled animals are first known from rocks about 680 million years old; they are delicate, soft-bodied animals of primitive sorts related to worms jellyfish, and sea-pens, but without shells or skeletons. (5) the first many-celled animals were delicate, thin-bodied forms because they depended on simple diffusion for their oxygen supply, they acquired protective armor and skeletons only later as oxygen levels increased; (6) there has been a generally steady progression of increasing variety and complexity of life from that time until the present.
How do these predictions fit the geologic record? Not only have they been borne out by the steady growth of factual evidence, but nuclear age determinations confirm and amplify the observed sequences of geology. These nuclear methods permit estimates in atomic years, equivalent to present sidereal or clock years, for about how long ago major changes occurred. Let us take them in the order predicted. (1) In the last 15 years we have learned that life and the beginnings of photosynthesis originated more than 2 billion years ago and probably more than 3.8 billion years ago.
(2) The oldest demonstrable organisms were single-celled, procaryotic (or asexual) forms and the geochemical evidence indicates an absence or very low level of oxygen in the atmosphere at that time: although they probably were photosynthetic. oxygen did not accumulate because that released was absorbed in vast sinks of reduced substances. including dissolved iron that now forms our largest iron deposits. (3) Free oxygen first began to accumulate in the atmosphere about 2 billion years ago, as shown by the oldest records of oxidized sediments deposited on the continents; the oldest pretty surely eucaryotic cells so far known are younger—about 1.3 billion years old. (4) Many-celled animals are first known from rocks about 680 million years old; they are delicate, soft-bodied animals of primitive sorts related to worms, jellyfish, and sea-pens but without shells or skeletons. (5) The first shell-bearing animals appeared about 600 million years ago; they were very simple types—trilobites and most of the main kinds of organisms did not appear until later. (6) Although early diversification was rapid, a natural consequence of the many then unoccupied ecologic niches and probably multiple origins, the progression was orderly; from then .until now there has been an essentially continuous progression of increasing variety and complexity of life.
I speak of my own field of specialization. The results I have summarized so briefly come from 42 years of independent study and research on life processes in earth history. Let me add. however, some words about the discontinuities in the evolutionary record. of which creationists make so much. Populations of forms transitional from one successful form of life to another should be small, peripheral to larger populations of successful forms, and represent brief time spans. Only evolutionary successes became abundant enough to have a good statistical chance of leaving a fossil record, and those having hard shells or skeletons were the most likely to be preserved. Because land deposits tend to be eroded, while marine ones tend to be preserved, marine fossils are commoner than those of land animals. And, on the continents, smart animals like man rarely become fossils by accident. Nevertheless, there are intermediate forms, as well as gaps; and, although no man was there to witness the progress of evolution in pre-human times, its results are in the rocks for all to see. Just as we do not discard gravity because we do not have measurements of the mutual attractions between every particle in the universe, so the general evolutionary progression is clear, even though fossil remains are not found for every creature that ever lived, and even though some new forms seem to have arisen abruptly by processes not yet well understood. Evolution as an historical phenomenon, however, rests on as sound and extensive a factual basis as any scientific generalization we know in biology or geology.
The mechanism of evolution is a different matter. Yet no one since 1859 has yet come up with a durable scientific alternative to the action of natural selection on varying populations or gene pools. The possibility of large jumps as a result of precocious sexual maturity or for other reasons, however, is still debated. and the evolution of non-sexual organisms involves different patterns from that of sexual ones. The rules of science require that, if situations are found in which natural selection is not consistent with the facts it must be modified or abandoned. This doesn't mean, however, that it needs to be seriously reconsidered without the introduction of new evidence or because a few people don't or won't understand it. Thus among biological and biogeological scientists, natural selection in the modern sense is the favored theory for the observation that organisms have evolved. If evolution over a long time interval, as documented by the geologic record is to be explained as the work of a deity, that also has some consequences, although not verifiable. Either the deity set the rules by which evolution took place or personally created all of the millions of species that have ever lived, and in a systematic progression of increasing complexity and diversity.
Two last thoughts. Creationists fear that without a literal acceptance of the Bible there is no basis for morality. In contrast it seems to me that the best testament to the basic goodness of mankind is that so many are honest and compassionate for reasons other than fear of punishment, or religious conviction.
Then there is one's vision of a supreme being. Do you like to think of yours as a grand architect who set the whole thing in motion with a divine plan of operation and then let it alone, or do you prefer to think of her or him as the whimsical builder pictured by a literal interpretation of Genesis.
To summarize: Fundamentalist creationism has been thoroughly considered over many generations and rejected as outside the realm of science by the world scientific community. It is not a scientific alternative to any form of evolution theory, and unlike much of the Bible, it has no bearing on morals or ethics. Like flat-earthism. which branded photographs of Earth from space as frauds, it is of interest only for its historical aspects and as a sociological aberration.
Nevertheless, although science and religion are mutually exclusive realms of thought, they are complementary aspects of human nature. It is fitting to close, therefore, with a thought from Aristotle, "The truth is in some ways hard and in some ways easy; for none of us can achieve it fully or miss it wholly."