Are Evolution and Creationism Equally Matters of Faith?

Faced with evidence for an old universe such as starlight that has clearly taken billions of years to reach us, young-Earth creationists say, “God created the universe about 6,000 years ago, but in a mature state. Your conclusion that it is old is a matter of faith in naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions. How do you know the speed of light or the passage of time have always been the same as they are now?”

Faced with evidence for evolution such as what we saw in the last post, creationists often reply, “You see evidence for evolution, but this could equally be the work of a Designer. Your conclusion of ‘evolution’ is a matter of faith just as much as my conclusion of ‘creation’.”

Is this true? Is the choice between mainstream science and creationism just a matter of choosing one faith or another?

At one level, yes. But let’s keep going.

Suppose someone were to say a god created the universe 10 minutes ago, complete with a lifetime’s worth of memories in everyone’s head. Making no claims respecting the playful or deceptive character of this god, our friend says this is just what he believes. “There’s no way to disprove it,” he says, “so my belief is just as valid as yours.”

Somehow his belief does not seem just as valid as either biblical creationism or evolution, does it? What’s the difference? What would we say to our loopy friend?

Maybe this: “But you have no evidence! Although you are supposedly only 10 minutes old, surely life has taught you that wild ideas unsupported by any evidence at all are almost always wrong.”

The creationist might add evidence he has for his position: Jesus’ resurrection is an historically verifiable fact; it establishes that he was God; he upheld the Hebrew scriptures; the scriptures teach a 6-day creation; Q.E.D.

And that, I think, is the answer to the creationist’s charge that both evolution and creationism are matters of faith. When push comes to shove, creationists don’t even consider creationism to be based on faith. They have faith in God in the sense of trusting him, but not in the sense of believing  without evidence.

(I speak here of the average creationist you’ll meet in church. I am not convinced that creationist thought-leaders have any honest regard for evidence.)

The creationist who says the universe is only 6,000 years old but was created in a mature state has progressed beyond taking things on pure say-so. He has thought about the issue enough to try to fit things together. As such, he must know that such as claim, by itself, is on a par with those of our 10-minute-old friend. However, he believes as he does because of evidence and argument, whether good or bad. Perhaps he doesn’t have direct evidence of a 6,000-year-old Earth (or maybe he does), but at a minimum he would at cite reasons to believe the Bible generally.

Next time a creationist says to me, “Your belief is evolution is just a matter of faith, as is my belief in creation,” I will reply, “I give you credit that you don’t even give yourself. Deep down, you know that strongly held beliefs require evidence. You think you have that evidence. So let’s talk evidence. We can start anywhere you wish. Evidence for the inspiration of the Bible? Evidence for the resurrection? Evidence for a young Earth? Let’s look at it all.”

2 responses to “Are Evolution and Creationism Equally Matters of Faith?

  1. I really think the folks pulling this game are celebrating their own powers of equivocation. It’s almost as if those who claim to take the Bible literally can’t really take anything literally, because the meaning of their words shift so easily. Their arguments will never be more than bad poetry.

  2. Reminds me of Omphalos Theory (wiki), which deals with whether or not Adam, formed by god from the dust of the earth, had a belly button or not. Having a navel indicates being born of woman. The theory is also derisively referred to as Last-Thursday-ism, much as you have described.

    Creating something via divine intervention what appears to be the result of natural processes means that god is dis-honest.

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