November 15, 2013
Why I Am Not a Creationist
On Thursday the 7th of November Dr Ian Saunders, a CSIRO scientist, spoke on “Why I am not a Creationist”.
Christians are divided on the issue of evolution and the age of the earth. Many of our own members are supporters of Creation Ministries International (CMI), which promotes Young Earth Creationism (YEC). On the other hand, many of our members are not YECs. Ian is one of those.
Ian has been a Christian and a professional scientist for about 40 years. He recently retired from a position as Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO. The publication of his first scientific paper coincided with his conversion to Christianity and he has endeavoured since to keep the two sides of his life thoroughly entwined, each being a part of the search for truth. His talk is summarised briefly as follows:
In his talk he spoke about the development of the scientific method as a response to dissatisfaction with a wholly philosophical view that sought to deduce everything from first principles. As an example of the method, he described the rise and fall of the phlogiston theory of combustion, which initially seemed to explain the facts, but became less and less tenable as more experiments were done until after 70 years it was abandoned. The scientific method seeks to avoid reliance on authority and to take an impartial approach to evaluating theories against observations: “Love your colleagues’ results as your own”.
The danger with accepting prior authority is that it encourages looking for evidence to support a position rather than to discover the truth. So Ian is neither an evolutionist or a creationist in the sense that he squeezes his data to match his preconceptions. He illustrated the way in which modern biological research papers promote an evolutionist position even when there is no need to go beyond the observed phenomena.
However, he does not accept Genesis 1-11 as accurate history. He gave some examples from geology and astronomy that cast severe doubt on a literal interpretation. Instead he sees them as parables teaching spiritual truth about the relationships of God to the Universe and to Mankind and about the existence of evil. He spoke also about evolution, acknowledging that he sees it at the most likely explanation of a range of phenomena, though without direct evidence one way or the other at this point.
He quoted with approval St Augustine “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture” [De Genesi ad Litteram, I, xviii, 37]
Ian’s view is that the Bible contains unique knowledge about God and his purposes, while science can tell us about what is (or was) but not about meaning or purpose. The fine details of creation are not key to our relationship with God and it is possible to combine a strong faith in Jesus with an acceptance of scientific research. We should avoid placing stumbling blocks in the path to Jesus by insisting on matters of secondary importance. Ultimately, Jesus is the Truth and one day we will see Him face to face.
Ian’s talk may be accessed from the following links:
- Why I am not a Creationist PPT
- Why I am not a Creationist Presentation on You Tube
- Why I am not a Creationist Discussion on You Tube
Did we resolve the issue once and for all to everyone’s satisfaction? Absolutely not! However, (for the most part) we were able to discuss the issues in an open, friendly and respectful manner.
Reasonable Faith Adelaide currently does not officially endorse any particular view, but encourages discussion on the relevant issues so that that people are better informed to develop their own opinion. So, I encourage you to come and hear Ian and participate in the discussion.
During the course of discussion we decided to cover a couple of additional topics in future meetings:
- Radioactive Dating Methods – What are they, how do they work, how accurate are they, and are they reliable?
- On the 20th of February 2014, John Hartnett (Associate Professor of physics at Adelaide University) will speak on “Cosmic Mythology: Exposing the Big Bang as Philosophy, not Science“