True scientists are by their very nature skeptical, and they frequently discuss and argue about theories, even well-established ones. This, by itself, is a strong refutation of the accusation that scientists have “faith” in evolution or in other theories. Faith has no part in the scientific method. This is not to say that scientists don’t have faith in God. Scientists may wax eloquently about faith as applied to their lives and even to their profession. Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.” However, when scientists practice science, they are practicing reason, not faith. They are doing their job.
Some will point to lists of scientists with degrees in biology, chemistry, and related fields who do not accept evolutionary theory. Most of these people are associated with various pseudoscience organizations who pay them to write papers to support a specific conclusion. These scientists are in a tiny minority when compared to the number of scientists who agree with the theory evolution. Many have only honorary degrees, and almost none of them conduct current research in biology or chemistry or related fields. (Some exceptions, like Stephen Meyer, are discussed elsewhere on this site). And yet, their names and titles are paraded about and they often quote one another in a way that makes them seem like experts in their fields. Francis Collins and Karl Giberson discuss this chicanery in their book, The Language of Science and Faith.
In general, the scientists who dissent from the basics of evolutionary theory are driven by ideological goals, usually based on faith, whether or not it is faith in the God of the Bible. In many cases, they do not hide the fact that they use presuppositional logic when formulating their “theories”; that is, they start by selecting their desired outcome and then seek only evidence that supports that outcome. They readily and openly admit that they sift facts through a filter, discarding any facts that do not fit with a literal interpretation of the Bible because they “simply cannot be true.” Presuppositional logic may be fine for understanding some foundational parts of the gospel message. It is of dubious value when used as an apologetic tool. But it fails miserably and completely as a scientific method. Let’s be clear — this is not science. If you seek answers to questions about the natural world using presuppositional logic, you will open yourself up to any number of incorrect answers. This goes a long way toward explaining why the results disseminated by the various “creation science” and “intelligent design” organizations rarely agree with each other! Which “Bible-based” outcome would you like? You can choose from many different ones, simply by believing the results from the various organizations who claim to do science but actually do a parody of it (Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, Creation Science Evangelism, Discovery Institute).. I say “believe” rather than “accept”, because your reception of these results will be based on faith, not reason, nor trust in the practice of reason. Some evangelical Christian educators lambaste the teaching of evolution and “materialistic” science, claiming that it is an example of a heinous relativism that pervades the American educational system. They are encouraging relativism by using presuppositional logic.
Even extremely intelligent persons who are trained in the scientific method, with degrees from prestigious universities, may fall into the trap of thinking that yielding the scientific method to presuppositional logic is acceptable if done under the guise of Christian education. After all, the end justifies the means, right? Author Michael Hawley, in his book Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight, explains the psychology of this trap. In short, people will believe what they want to believe, and when they let this drive their approach to science, they will construct all sorts of flawed arguments to prove it to themselves. In many cases, they simply let themselves submit to the argument from incredulity. The human mind excels at both of these logical failings. Some will turn this around and say that this is exactly why scientists accept evolution and other theories; they want to “believe” in evolution. They completely miss the point of how and why the modern scientific method has been applied since its inception almost 200 years ago. When the scientific method is practiced using deductive logic with integrity, the impact of individual beliefs and human failings such as confirmation bias is minimized. When over 99% of scientists from different specialties and a variety of backgrounds (including many evangelical Christians) practice the scientific method with integrity and objective reasoning and come to agreement on a theory, you can trust that the theory is a solid one.
And some scientists who are held up by creationist organizations as doing research which supposedly disproves evolution, do not actually dispute common ancestry. Michael Behe, a long-time intelligent design proponent and the author of Darwin’s Black Box (1996), accepts the common descent of all species (including humans) as he describes at length in his latest book, The Edge of Evolution (2007). Michael Denton, who wrote the oft-quoted book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1986) now accepts common descent, as he explains in his more recent Nature’s Destiny (2002).
Why do we agree about atomic theory — that atoms are composed of electrons, protons, neutrons, and that protons and neutrons are in turn constructed from quarks? Nobody has ever seen these tiny particles. But we trust that the practice of the scientific method has yielded accurate results because of the sheer weight of the evidence in favor of atomic theory. We don’t have all the answers about atomic theory. Scientists are still debating what quarks are made of. Yet, this doesn’t mean that we toss atomic theory in the trash or consider it a “theory in crisis”. It’s extremely unlikely that any new discovery will turn our current understanding of atoms on end. Does science, as it currently stands, have all the answers about evolutionary biology? Of course not. However, all of the basics — mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, common descent, and natural selection — have withstood the test of over 150 years of research, and the evidence from genetics and developmental biology within the last 20 years has provided exceptionally strong support for evolution that is in agreement with what we have seen in the fossil record. The 2010 NOVA documentary, What Darwin Never Knew, is a very approachable explanation of some of this recent research. Still, there are those who refuse to accept this evidence simply on the basis that their interpretation of the Bible (or something else) says it must not be true.
Creation science, also known as scientific creationism, is a pseudoscience (not a true science) that tries to come up with scientific-sounding arguments to “prove” that certain events occurred in a way that is consistent with a specific interpretation of certain verses in the Bible. It generally never occurs to them that their interpretation might be wrong.
One of the creation science proponents’ favorite tools is the art of quote mining, or taking the words of scientists out of context and twisting them to support their view. In many cases, scientists discuss the minutiae and edge cases of different aspects of evolutionary theory. Creation science proponents will search for such statements from prominent biologists and paleontologists, take them out of context, and use them purposely to falsely indicate that these scientists are saying that the entire theory of evolution is somehow flawed when that was never their intent.
Creation science encompasses young-Earth creationism (YEC) and much of old-Earth creationism (OEC), the latter of which is sometimes known as progressive creationism. Young-Earth creationists say that our planet is six to ten thousand years old and they reach that number by adding up the ages of all of the people mentioned in the Biblical genealogies from Adam onwards, and further stating that the universe is five days older than Adam. They believe that the universe was created in six literal days. Old-Earth creationists say that the Earth and universe are much older, consistent with what cosmology, geology, and physics have to say about that subject. However, most people who refer to themselves as old-Earth creationists still deny biological evolution as having any part in God’s creative plan. Those who see no reason to reject the findings of paleontology, archaeology, developmental biology, molecular biology and evolutionary biology are more appropriately described as accepting theistic evolution. Theistic evolution is discussed further below.
Intelligent design (ID) is just a new name for old-Earth creationism and the specific denial of biological evolution, occasionally with some spiritualism or metaphysics thrown in. Understand that I am in full agreement with the concept of intelligent design insofar as God designed the universe and everything in it for His glory. The problem with this term is that it is now used exclusively by pseudoscientific old-Earth creationist organizations who leave no room for those who accept that God used biological evolution to accomplish the creation of the diversity of life. All intelligent design proponents deny biological evolution by natural selection, although you will find some (such as Michael Behe) who accept the common descent portion of evolutionary theory. Behe even accepts natural selection, but only without the benefit of naturally occurring beneficial mutations on which to operate. The distinction between the intelligent design movement as it stands today and the rest of old-Earth creationism is that the intelligent design movement does not specifically identify the creator as the God of the Bible. If you are going to enter this arena of mixing theology with science, get the science wrong, and in addition you do absolutely nothing to get the theology part of it correct, you are at worst encouraging superstition and paganism, and at best you are reinforcing the belief in any number of false gods or new age, pluralistic interpretations of the Bible. How does the intelligent design movement in any way glorify the true God of the Bible?
Creation science in its various forms, including intelligent design, denote viewpoints that completely deny that God used biological evolution to bring about the diversity of life on Earth. To varying degrees, these viewpoints deny the validity of findings of molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, and nuclear physics.
To describe those who accept an old Earth, and additionally accept that God used biological evolution to create the diversity of life on Earth, we use the terms theistic evolution, evolutionary creationism, or BioLogos. Of these terms, BioLogos is the only one that explicitly asserts the tenets of the Christian faith, and it is the term that I prefer; however, it is not yet in widespread use. Those who hold this viewpoint see no need to argue that the Christian faith is at odds with evolutionary biology, any more than it is at odds with meteorology or physics or any other discipline. They state that it is impossible for the truth of the Bible to be at odds with a truth about God’s creation reached by any other means, for truth is an absolute quality, and God is the author of truth and the creator of everything. They recognize that throughout history, there have been cases where Biblical scholars have had to take a step back and admit that our interpretation or understanding of certain verses of the Bible — but not the Bible itself — has been incorrect.
[This is an excerpt from the longer article, On Matters of Faith and Science.]