200 years of Darwin
Creation will be viable science as believers develop testable models
by Dr. Hugh Ross
Two anniversaries in 2009—the 200th of Charles Darwin's birth (February) and the 150th of his book "On Origins of Species" (November)—have sparked global celebrations. Both the man, Darwin, and his theory of life's evolution are being touted as among the "brightest lights" in the history of science.
Christians may be tempted to respond in full-battle mode. However, I'd like to propose a different response, one that opens dialogue rather than shuts it down. It's an approach that engages rather than alienates a group of people we sincerely hope to draw toward our faith, not push away.
Perhaps you've already observed that "evolution bashing" tends to backfire. Claims that creation or intelligent design must be right because of flaws and shortcomings in the evolution scenario typically go nowhere, and for good reason. Scientists freely acknowledge that no theory comes forth perfect and complete. The investigation of flaws and weaknesses is the process that propels science forward toward more precise understandings of the natural world.
What's more, researchers and theoreticians interpret such complaints as a smoke screen, an attempt to cover up a lack of tangible, valid evidence for creation or, equally bad, an attempt to shield the biblical creation scenario from any meaningful evaluation and critique.
To gain a voice in the public arena, we cannot and need not stay "religiously neutral." We cannot ask for recognition of an unidentified intelligent designer who played an undefined role in bringing about the observable history of life on Earth. This lack of definition will prevent us from being taken seriously as scientists.
The way forward requires development of comprehensive creation "models" (explanatory scenarios or theories). These are the core of the scientific enterprise. Creation can be and will be considered as a credible alternative to evolution only if and when we creationists put forth our own testable models to describe and explain the origin and history of the universe and life.
When creationists propose specific details of what took place "in the beginning," creation can be scientifically tested. By providing the means to either verify or falsify (through observations and experiments) creation, we can effectively demonstrate that "creation is science."
Scientists drive discussion
It's important to remember that a shift in scientific thinking occurs only as the most talented and well-trained scientists become convinced of the need for change, not as students and politicians clamor for it. Eventually, new developments at the top research level trickle down to the classroom and the broader culture. These days, with the advances in communications technology, that trickle-down can proceed much more rapidly than in previous generations.
The boldness of my proposal springs not from naïve wishful thinking but rather from personal experience—as a scientist and as an evangelist. For more than 20 years, my colleagues and I have been developing a radically different tactic to counter barriers to belief in creation. This strategy is not new. We simply returned to the biblically derived scientific method, the same one that sparked the scientific revolution.
Applying that method to the rapidly emerging discoveries in both the physical and life sciences has brought forth an astounding weight of evidence in favor of biblical creation. In an open and free competition of ideas, that evidence—and the model that it informs—makes an impact even in the context of major secular universities. We have been allowed to present it and have received valuable feedback in the process.
Any creation model must explain in as detailed a manner as possible the origin and entire history of the universe, Earth, and Earth's life. Recognizing that evolutionists will not abandon one model until they see a more useful one, we endeavor to show how biblical creation indeed provides a better explanation, one that's more detailed and comprehensive in elucidating the record of nature and in forecasting future research findings.
Truth in nature
The process of model building is ongoing, but as my friends and I have discovered, by actively exposing our biblically based creation-model-in-progress to the comment and critique of non-theistic and agnostic science professors, we have earned their respect and provoked their interest. Future experiments and observations will further test our models—or any models—conclusions and predictions, either confirming them or denying them. But no Christian ever needs to be afraid of the truth found in nature.
By displaying a fearless yet humble commitment to follow the truth wherever it leads, Christians can open conversations that lead, ultimately, to conversions. At the very least we can win the respect of those who oppose our views, and that's one way we can honor our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ross is founder and president of Reasons to Believe, an interdenominational science-faith think tank whose mission is to show that science and faith are allies, not enemies.