Thursday, January 3, 2008


Science, Evolution, and Creationism,” a report published today by the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine emphasizes the importance of teaching evolution in the public schools and warns against teaching Creationism and Intelligent Design in the science classroom.

"Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes," the report says. An eight page summary of the eighty-eight page document, “Science, Evolution, and Creationism,” is available from the
National Academies Press.

The report echoes the finding of a U.S. District Court Judge in a 2005 case brought against the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania. In a trial over the teaching of Intelligent Design, the Republican judge issued a scathing
139-page ruling equating Intelligent Design with religion. Two years later, a Nova science documentary, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial,” retells a 2005 version of the 1925 Scopes trial.

Evolution continues to be hotly debated in many areas. In Florida school officials are considering adding “evolution” to the state science standards. In Texas the state’s director of science curriculum was fired apparently because she was “biased” against the teaching of Intelligent Design.

REFLECTION: There is a common impression today among Christians and non-Christians alike that until the last two centuries Christians interpreted Genesis 1-3 literally. The ideas that God created the world in six 24-hour days, that there was no death in the world until the fall of Adam, that God introduced all kinds of unpleasantries as punishment for sin, and that all living things were created in their current state have been assumed by many not to have been challenged until the 19th century. That is a false assumption. While Augustine (354-430 A.D.) didn't know about evolution, he saw creation as a continuing and unfolding process, in which the commands of the Creator were fulfilled progressively, not instantaneously. More importantly, he was adamant that the “literal” meaning of Genesis must not stand in contradiction to the kind of knowledge that today we call “scientific”. As we consider the continuing controversy it is worth recalling his words from his two-volume work, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, written fifteen hundred years before the 19th century and Darwin:

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for a [non-believer] to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

If Christians believe that all truth, from wherever derived, is from God and that truth will set us free, what is there to fear from science?

- Milo

[1] St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J., Vol. 1. (New York: Newman Press, 1982), p. 42.

No comments: