Creationism and Evolution
A subscriber to my Brainpower Newsletter wrote to ask
me about my views on creationism and the theory of evolution.
His specific questions are not reprinted here, but my response
is. In general he was confused - as many religious people are
- about the difference in basic approach between looking to prove
your beliefs and following where the evidence leads. Here is
I think evolution is more than a theory. It is plain to see
a selection process causing change when farmers breed better
plants or people breed dogs or roses to have the characteristics
they desire. The mechanisms of evolution are not as clear in
the natural world, but it seems evident that the overall process
is the best explanation of how things got the way they are. That
may change (more likely the theory or explanation itself will
evolve as we come to understand things better), and anyone with
an open mind should go where the evidence leads.
Evolution is the best that science has to offer at the moment,
and I see no better ideas out there in this area. Science is
not always correct. Actually it is often wrong. But the difference
between science and theories or beliefs based on faith or religion
is that a good scientist will change his mind if the evidence
demands it. In fact, it is actually common for scientists to
change their minds. Steven Hawkings, for example, disproved his
own theory about black holes after it was the accepted standard
for years. The scientific community in general changes its beliefs
often - not always easily - but they do change their minds as
new evidence comes to light.
Those who get their most important ideas about the world only
from holy books rarely change their thinking about key ideas.
In fact, many seem to be proud of their unwillingness to drop
their beliefs. To me that plainly cannot be the way to the truth.
If there is a God I imagine that he gave us a brain for a reason.
To adopt beliefs based on an unexamined faith is to turn ourselves
into unthinking animals or robots. We are clearly more than that.
This isn't an attack on spirituality - which is not necessarily
related to religion. But to get back to the point in question,
many who hold religious views of creation normally refuse to
seriously consider anything which might contradict their religious
dogma, regardless of the evidence. A rational approach to life
does not preclude a spirituality nor perhaps a belief in a creator.
But it cannot include closing our eyes to the best evidence when
it happens to contradict what we already believe - or what some
book says in the name of some god.
I realize I didn't explain too much about why I believe in
evolution - other than pointing out the clear examples we see
from experience. Many others have done a better job explaining
it than I can. I am telling you why I choose this theory as opposed
to the "creationist" ones because I sensed that you
have some preexisting religious ideas or are wondering about
By the way, I'm not sure what other "intellectuals"
think about it, but the theory of evolution actually gives no
explanation of why life exists. It really only explains the general
process (natural selection) by which life forms evolve into different
I hope that makes my thinking on the subject a bit clearer.
I could be wrong, and if I someday see better evidence for another
theory, I will embrace that - and then only until an even better
one comes along. I think any real respect for truth demands that
we change our minds when necessary and never have any absolute
belief which cannot be challenged (at least in the forms we can
express them in words).
Following creationism and using the theory of evolution as
the best guess as to our origins are two entirely different approaches
to truth. The former simply uses some of the language of science
to justify a belief that is admittedly based on faith and not
subject to being altered despite any evidence. The latter - the
theory of evolution - is an honest attempt to understand, and
those who use it are willing to cast it aside if there is a better
idea. That's real science.