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Evolution Explained, Part 18 – Wilberforce and Creationism

[This is Part 18 of a series of approximately sixty posts that outline evidence, support, and an explanation for evolution. To receive notification of further posts from You Woke Up Breathing enter your email address at the top of any page.

Copyright Dennis Mitton

Go here for Part 17.

Theology and Religion are the same?

Samuel Wilberforce – It is the job of the scientist to arrive at the conclusion the Church defines for him.

Until Darwin’s Bulldog Thomas Huxley met Soapy Sam Wilberforce at Oxford in 1860, science was considered a specialized and focused discipline of Christian theology (cf Part 16).

The job of the scientist was to discover and to explain God’s character and methods through the study of nature. When Wilberforce banged his fist on the podium at Oxford and said that the scientist’s job is to arrive at the conclusion that the church tells them to, and when Huxley delivered the unadulterated facts of Darwin’s idea, it was clear to many in the audience that the game had been rigged. This famous debate, as much as any single event or idea, hammered the first real wedge that began to split apart science and religion. And thus Creationism as an anti-evolution religious position became popular among certain Christians. See here at the National Center for Science Education for a brief overview of the history of Creationism.


Creationism as a term is simply explained: a belief that god, or gods, or consciousness created the universe and our reality. There is a wide swath of beliefs that fall under the heading of creationism and, in fact, this view is held by most of the world’s population and by a large percentage of evolutionists. There is nothing within evolutionary theory that strictly excises a creator. But capital-C anti-evolution Biblical Creationism often called Young-Earth Creationism or Biblical Literalism for the belief that the universe is only a few thousand years old, is something different. A quick overview of Creationist books and websites shows a general belief in five truths:

  • The earth is about 6,000 years old based on Hebraic genealogies.
  • Adam and Eve were real people and the first two human beings.
  • Adam was molded from earth and Eve was created from Adam. They were created with dominion over all animals and with one-to-one communion with God.
  • All living things were created according to ‘kinds’ and kinds do not change over time. Genetic relationships of living things only show that God used the same tinker-toys when creating life.
  • The Noahic flood explains extinction and geology.

I’ll add two more points that aren’t specifically tenets of Creationism but are tenets of faith among most conservative evangelical protestant Christians who make up the bulk of Creationists. They are important in explaining suffering and death and man’s supposed willful rejection of God and of God’s wisdom.

  • Adam’s voluntary and knowing disobedience of God’s command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil unleashed pain, death, and suffering on the planet in the lives of all living things.
  • Willful sin separates the unbeliever from the ability to see the truth of Creationism.
And you thought it was just a bad movie?

Basis of Creationism

There is little science to discuss regarding Creationism. Creationists1 accept the authority of the Christian Bible and believe it to be wholly without error or flaw and breathed by God as His literal perfect Word. Thus, a Genesis day is a 24-hour period. Adam was a real man and the first human being. Since we have dinosaur fossils, and since Adam and Eve were created along with all animals, it follows that Adam and Eve must have walked with dinosaurs. These great beasts were killed off by the world-wide Naohic flood. Since the earth is about 6,000 years old, any dating method that tells us differently is in error. We begin with the truth of Genesis and of the Bible and ensure that our answers fit. We begin with the answer and make ‘facts’ fit. Wilberforce banging at the podium.

What science Creationists do argue for is typically tweaked and is sometimes – and this never ceases to amaze me, made-up. If you read more than a few paragraphs of Creationist literature you will almost assuredly learn that evolution is impossible based on the science of thermodynamics. Or mathematics. Or biochemistry. They aren’t deterred when virtually every working scientist in the world shrugs their shoulders and won’t even take the time to respond to such a failure to understand science.

I read on a site recently that DNA is an actual language and, well, could I offer one instance of a language not invented by a creator? There’s a big cash prize if I can! I can’t. Language is a collection of symbols that humans and some animals use to pass information. Humans create language for humans. But DNA is not a language any more than a tree is a language with its structure relating to words, sentences, and grammar. It’s silly and contrived.

Another Creationist I know of doesn’t like the definitions that working evolutionists use to define evolution. To rectify this travesty he has set out to give the world the first truly accurate and useful definition of the theory. It’s just a hunch but my guess is that he will tweak very useful terms to make a gloriously weak straw man that he will beat about the head and shoulders to ‘prove’ the impossibility of evolution.

Identity Politics of Faith

None of this means that there aren’t difficult and interesting questions about the details of evolution. Science, by its nature and definition, is never quite done (cf Part 4). When we answer one question we ask another. As the song says “every new beginning is another new beginning’s end”. And I am careful not to put all Christians or other believers into this Creationist brew. I know that there are thoughtful Christians with real questions about origins and evolution. And many of these folks are derided by Creationists just like evolutionists are. For the Creationist, your view of the age of the earth defines your religion. Not your faith or your joy. Not how you care for widows and orphans. Not your support for medical missionaries in Sudan. If you believe that the earth is 6,000 years old then you are one of the choir. If not? You had better hope for a God who forgives.

Note 1: Know that there are many Christians and religious evolutionists who do not fit the creationist mold. Many agree with an old earth view, and that human evolution is a part of that unfolding. Many argue that the Christian scriptures were never meant to scientific textbooks, but, instead, teach ‘true truths’ about the character of mankind.

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