1. Belief Systems
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1
“Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity and whatsoever things were not thus constituted, perished, and still perish.”—Charles Darwin (Origin of Species).
Belief systems fall into two basic categories—natural and supernatural. At the natural end of the belief spectrum is Materialism. Materialism is the atheistic belief that material (natural) reality is the only reality. Revelation lies at the opposite end of the belief spectrum. Revelationism is the belief that the scriptural account of creation is a direct and personal revelation from the Creator.
The most straightforward reading of the creation account in Genesis is that the entire universe and all kinds of life on earth were created in six ordinary days. According to scripture, the earth is roughly 6000 years old. Man was created in God’s image with purpose and free will. Man used free will to rebel God—this is called “sin”—and death resulted. All death and suffering today are the result of sin. Genesis goes on to explain that the world and all air-breathing creatures were destroyed in a planetary flood because of the wickedness of rebellious humanity. God spared Noah, his family, and at least one pair of every air-breathing animal on an ark built at God’s personal direction. All people and land animals alive today are descendants of those who survived on the ark. Those who believe Genesis to be true are Creationists. Some believe the account to be both true and literal. This belief is often called Young Earth Creation (YEC). Some believe the Genesis account to be true, but not literal. There are a number of beliefs in this category such as Day-Age theory, Progressive Creationism, Theistic Evolution, and others.
Materialism in its pure form is purely naturalistic and necessarily atheistic. If there is no supernatural reality there can be no God, god, gods, or any other spiritual mumbo-jumbo. Without a supernatural super-mind the universe must have organized itself and life must have arisen by purely natural means. Materialism is fatalistic because denies purpose and relegates origin to chance. If nature is all that there is, then the only source for understanding must be human thought. In other words, Materialism can by definition be no more than a human philosophical invention.
Technically, the phrase “Theory of Evolution” refers the diversification of life through the process of natural selection as initially described by Charles Darwin. Although Darwin was among the first to theorize natural selection is the mechanism of Evolution, the idea of evolution dates back at least as far as Aristotle and ancient Greece. Evolution seeks to explain the origin and diversity of life in purely naturalistic terms. Scientists prefer the term “abiogenesis” to describe the rise of life from non-life and “Evolution” to describe the development of diverse life from original life. Since the theory of biological Evolution (and abiogenesis) is based on natural processes, its foundation is Materialism. A number of other theories, notably Uniformitarianism and Big Bang, dovetail with Evolution to form a comprehensive natural (Materialist) explanation of origins.
Between the extremes lay any number of belief systems. In ancient times many people worshipped the sun, moon, wind, animals or other elements of nature. Many Eastern religions as well as various New Age cults deify nature in substantially similar ways. Keeping crystals because of belief that they provide healing power is an example of nature worship. Druid, Wiccan, and Hindu religions all include some form of nature worship. In Western society, most people tend to ignore “non-scientific” forms of Naturalism. Naturalism disguised as science is actually Materialism. In this regard science ceases to be a technique for analysis and becomes its own religion in the minds of its many followers. We commonly just add the word “Evolutionary” in front of whatever science discipline we like and suddenly the field of study takes on Materialist presuppositions.
Intelligent Design (ID) is another mid-spectrum belief system. ID includes belief that the universe and life as we observe it today were designed by an intelligent mind. ID can best be thought of as the agnostic approach to origins. ID does not claim to know who or what the intelligence is, but those who accept ID do not accept pure Materialist explanations for origins either. ID is a convenient label for anyone who does not take Genesis or Darwin at face value. As such, many Creationists tend to reject ID because ID does not believe in the God of the bible. Many Evolutionists reject ID because it accepts the possibility of God and thus rejects the Materialist foundation for Evolution.
Science is a technique, not a belief system. Some people think science is a religion, but all science can do is help us understand how things work. Science is impersonal. Beliefs are personal even when what you believe in is impersonal.
Science is concerned with causality (cause/effect relationships). A hypothesis is a suggested cause/effect relationship. The scientific method requires testing cause/effect relationships to determine if they are true. Tests must be devised which are able to demonstrate whether the cause/effect relationship can be shown false. If the relationship is proven false the hypothesis is discarded. If the relationship cannot be proven false it becomes accepted as theory. When the theory is shown to be true under all conceivable test conditions it becomes accepted as law. The whole point is to be able to make successful predictions about an outcome (effect) under specific circumstances (cause). This helps us understand our natural world and so that engineers and technicians can turn scientific knowledge into useful things.
Science is limited because it cannot directly examine the past. Science also cannot directly examine the supernatural. These limitations mean that science cannot directly disprove Evolution or Creation. We can only scientifically examine natural evidence existing today. The same evidence is available to people of any belief system.
The value of science is found in its ability to make meaningful predictions. The way to apply this is to generate theoretical models and see which model (cause) best predicts the evidence (effect). There are only two basic origin models to consider. The Creation model uses scripture as a basis for prediction. The Materialism model comprehensively uses Evolution, Uniformitarianism, and Big Bang theory as the basis for prediction. Since science ultimately cannot prove or disprove the belief system on which each model is built, ultimately it is up to each of us to choose what we will believe.
Related Topics: Creation