Chapter 1

Thus the debate about origins is eternal and interminable, because at its core lies a conflict between two diametrically opposed, fundamentally irreconcilable viewpoints: naturalistic and supernaturalistic. Yet within those two basic viewpoints are multiple ways of interpreting both the empirical and documentary evidence about origins, leading to a spectrum of opinions on the issue. This book is an attempt to present that spectrum in a way that is comprehensible to those with little background in either science or theology, as objectively as possible, to promote understanding of the presuppositions and logic of each position. (p. 19)

Science is built on the principle of logical consistency, making logical inferences based on the available evidence. Yet we will find that, based on different assumptions made about the presence or absence of God, or how and how often he interacts with the natural world, several different positions are all internally consistent, and all can be considered to be consistent with the evidence. (p. 30)

Many people evaluate others' models based on their own personal convictions, and find them to be logically untenable. In this they are correct. Each model rests on and is inextricably connected with particular philosophical presuppositions. Apart from that, it is nonsense. Thus, when passing judgment on a particular model, we are usually not judging its logical consistency or ability to explain the evidence as much as its philosophical or religious roots. (p. 30)

Chapter 2

Models may be explicitly stated or implicitly held, but they direct our research in the same way our worldview and philosophy subtly shape our thoughts. They have been shown to affect both the choice of what data to collect and how the data are interpreted. (p. 34)

Language both reflects and influences our perception. One group will call a suicide bomber a terrorist, while another will call that same person a martyr. The terms refer to the same individual, but reveal and reinforce two very different notions of what is acceptable or even laudable behavior. In the same way language is often used in the origins debate to denigrate specific positions and individuals who hold them. Needless to say, calling someone a terrorist or an infidel does not foster good communication about the underlying issues. Similarly, use of pejorative terms does not promote scientific exchange. (p. 34-35)

Chapter 3

One of the great myths in the history of science is that Galileo was persecuted by the church for removing humanity from the center of the universe, where the whole universe revolved around humans. Such a view reveals a very modern idea of the center, and demonstrates that the problem of choosing between competing interpretations is not limited to natural science. (p. 61)

Chapter 4

When students ask about it, teachers often repeat the line found in many textbooks and other places that evolution is the study of how life changed, not how it started in the first place. While this may be true, it is also more than a little disingenuous, since it is a valid scientific question, one that obviously is closely related to evolution as shown by the fact that evolutionary scientists now routinely talk about prebiotic evolution. (p. 82)

We have to wonder, given the depth of sentiment on this issue, if someone were to find a very clear sign in the cell that read, "I am God, God I am," how many would respond, "That God-I-am! That God-I-am! I do not like that God I am!" Tongue in cheek references to Dr. Seuss aside, perhaps of the four origins this is the one in which it is most clear that the choice of model springs from a person's worldview, rather than being directly based on the evidence; the evidence is so scanty that it would be nearly impossible to base any decision on it without viewing it from a particular perspective. (p. 94)

Chapter 5

Scientists must determine whether those exceptions are errors, odd events caused by unusual local disturbances that can be identified, or whether they represent an important pattern that might change the whole analysis, resulting in a simpler, more consistent interpretation. Throughout history there are examples of data that were ignored, explained away and even ridiculed by most scientists that turned out to be vital, for example, retrograde motion of the planets and transposons, resulting in major paradigm shifts. On the other hand, most such data are consigned to the dustbin of history, having made no impact. Only time will tell what will happen to the anomalies in this field. (p. 104)

In most of the other categories of evidence, where (neo-Darwinian) evolution cites common descent as an explanation, creation cites common design. Where evolution claims similarity in the order of genes reflects common descent, creation claims the order is important to the function, citing the order of the homeotic genes as an example. Where evolution postulates horizontal gene transfer (HGT), creation attributes the patchwork of genes present in different species of prokaryotes to God giving each organism the mosaic of genes it would need. As mentioned previously, creation cites certain data as evidence that evolution generally regards as anomalies and excludes from evidence. As a result, the two positions completely talk past one another on a number of issues. (p. 126)

It has often been noted that what we see depends on what we expect to see. This is true no matter whether we are dealing with general observations of our surroundings or scientific evidence. As we know from optical illusions, our senses can easily be tricked when we are conditioned to interpret things in a certain way. Thus, two people can look at the Grand Canyon, one seeing the results of a global flood, the other the results of millions of years of change, neither able to understand how the other could be so obtuse. (p. 127)

Chapter 6

The origin of humans is in one sense merely a subset of the origin of species. From a creationary perspective, humans were created, as were other species; from an evolutionary perspective, humans are one species among many that arose by the same mechanisms. In another sense, however, it is a distinct question that is central to the debate, because the underlying issue is whether humans are qualitatively or only quantitatively different from animals, whether we are unique or just smarter. (p. 129)

So which is correct? If chimp genes that code for protein are 99.4% the same as humans, how can 83% of the proteins be different, with 20% showing major changes? Let me give a simple illustration to show how this works. If we have one gene, coding for a protein 100 amino acids long, the gene itself will contain 300 nucleotides, since 3 nucleotides code for one amino acid. If one of those nucleotides changes, causing a change in one amino acid, we could say that 1/300 of the DNA changed (only 0.3%), or 1/100 of the amino acids changed (1%), or that 1/1 (100%) of the proteins changed. Take your pick—all are true. And although the actual numbers may change or be disputed, the principle still holds: which figures a person quotes will reflect what they want their readers to conclude. (p. 140)

Clearly this is not an issue that will be resolved easily, and it would be pointless to say that everyone should respect the rights of others to their own opinion, that since we really don't know the mind of the original author we should reserve judgment. We cannot reserve judgment— these beliefs elicit deep emotions; we feel a need for certainty—this issue affects our identity. (p. 150)

Chapter 7

The question of origins is a puzzle, and it is clear that no model has put the whole puzzle together yet. Moreover, no model even has all the pieces of the puzzle in hand. People working on a large physical puzzle will often collect many puzzle pieces of one color or pattern and try to fit those together, and only later figure out how the sections different people have assembled fit together. The same is true in origins, with regard to both different fields of science and different models of origins. (p. 153)

Within any academic discipline there are structuralists and functionalists, universalists and variationists, presenting prescriptive and descriptive views of reality, respectively, using different technical language. When this is combined with the multiple disciplines that contribute to understanding of origins, both empirical and nonempirical, and with varying underlying philosophical and theological positions, each with their own distinctive vocabulary, it is nearly impossible for all of the different groups to communicate in a meaningful way, nor do they necessarily want to. (p. 154-155)

The essential starting point for any meaningful communication is a desire to communicate, not just one way, conveying your views to another, but both ways, actually listening to find where you have common ground, where there are differences and why. Implicit in this is respect for the other person and his or her position. Unfortunately, it is often at this basic starting point that communication breaks down. (p. 155)

We live in an age of specialists. Scientists do not have time to read extensively in areas of science outside their specialty, let alone in philosophy or theology. The same could be said for philosophers and theologians, who can become very adept in a certain subfield of their discipline but only dabble in other areas. But the study of origins touches on many areas of science and theology, as well as philosophical questions about the nature of science. Somehow, we have to find a way to work together to get the big picture. (p. 170)

These blinders can also cause us to focus on the worst arguments of the opposition rather than the best. Blinders benefit the person controlling a horse, reducing distractions that might make control more difficult in a race or on city streets, but they do not benefit a horse trying to safely negotiate treacherous ground or find a new trail through uncharted and constantly varying terrain. (p. 172)

We cannot make progress toward resolving this issue as long as we work only with the puzzle pieces in our own hands. The issue is just too large, and no group has all the pieces. But to work together we must examine the best evidence, examples and arguments used by the opposition, not the weakest. We must not denounce them based on their model or the underlying worldview, or focus on old arguments they have already abandoned. This requires actually reading what they write rather than looking for points to attack, participating in dialogue rather than debate, looking at the actual evidence, not secondary descriptions of it.25 It requires more work, but is the only way to reach the desired end. (p. 173)

Chapter 8

The definition of science, like any definition, is a social construct, which changes over time. It is not based on empirical evidence, and therefore cannot be decided using the methods of science. Currently, this definition has become a central battleground in the origins debate, by which certain models are excluded from science education. But just as our judgment of the strength or weakness of various inferences is affected by our philosophical presuppositions, so is our judgment of the validity of different definitions. (p. 175)

It is impossible to do science without a foundation of underlying philosophical presuppositions. At the root of the origins debate is the question of which presuppositions, which principles, should guide scientific inquiry in our generation, a debate that cannot be settled based on the empirical evidence. (p. 177)

Three models (NE, NTE, PE) claim that science is the search for natural causes and explanations of phenomena and empirical data, whereas the other three (DE, OEC, YEC) claim that science is the search for causes and explanations of natural phenomena and empirical data. Notice how much difference the placement of one word makes. The first group, models that accept methodological naturalism, restrict science to the search for natural explanations, whereas the models that reject MN extend science to the search for explanations of natural phenomena. (p. 179)

It is inevitable that the burden of proof must rest on one party. Many court cases are decided on circumstantial evidence, evidence that can be interpreted in different ways, and a decision must be made ahead of time which way the case will go if it ends up deadlocked. The fact that a person is released if the charges against him or her cannot be proven by the prosecution does not mean that the evidence has proven this person innocent. It means that society has determined, apart from the evidence, that it is better to allow a guilty person to go free than to place an innocent person behind bars. Similarly, the fact that creation, at the moment, cannot prove its case against evolution, and so evolution walks free in the land, does not mean that evolution is without fault. The case is deadlocked, the jury divided along ideological lines, but society has determined that something must be taught in the schools about origins, and it currently feels that it is better to teach a model that is neutral toward the idea of God than one that requires the existence of God. (p. 186)

The problem is that each of the six models of origins presented here is intimately wedded to a certain theological interpretation of Scripture, so the model and the theology rise or fall together. Since we each have a faith commitment to a certain theology, we also have a faith commitment to a corresponding model. To change our model we also need to change our theology and admit that what we believed is incorrect. This is something few are willing to do, and so the conflict will continue. (p. 189)