The Collins Dictionary defines Faith as a ‘strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence’ and most would agree that Faith is a belief held despite a lack of solid proof and even where apparent contradictory evidence exists. This however, does not mean that the person holding a Faith Based Belief is irrational or unintelligent as of course many respected scientists believed many things that have since been disproven and many areas of science today are dealing with things that cannot currently be proven or disproven with today’s technology. This doesn’t mean that those who hold to a particular view without absolute proof are unintelligent; even though they believe something that is not current proven fact. Indeed, many highly respected scientists today disagree on certain aspects and theories so logically while holding conflicting views they cannot all be correct despite being intelligent people in possession of all the facts available.
So therefore, people shouldn’t be ridiculed for believing things that cannot be proven; 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t”. Faith based belief isn’t a sign of a lack of intelligence, but shows courage in the believer as they are holding to a principle that is not a proven fact which leaves them open to criticism and open to the possibility that they may be wrong. According to the Oxford English dictionary a fact is “A thing that is known or proved to be true:’ I think most people would say that they have many beliefs that are outside the realm of proven facts.
As someone who believes in the creation account as written in Genesis I am the first to admit that there are many facets of my beliefs that are faith based, in general terms they are not proven facts in purely scientific terms; Of course this does not mean that my beliefs are without evidence as there is much scientific and historical data that support the Biblical account and there is a huge difference between saying a particular belief isn’t proven fact and saying it is without evidence.
That moves us on to other faith based beliefs; in mainstream media evolution is often spoke of as scientific fact and indeed, it is taught in most schools (specifically Europe and USA) as fact. Is it a fact? That is, “A thing that is known or proved to be true”?
NewScientist.com article entitled ‘Introduction: Evolution’ says “Evolution has several facets. The first is the theory that all living species are the modified descendents of earlier species, and that we all share a common ancestor in the distant past. All species are therefore related via a vast tree of life. The second is that this evolution is driven by a process of natural selection or the – survival of the fittest.”
This is the crux of the problem, ‘Evolution’ cannot be said to be fact as it is not one particular thing that can be tested. As suggested in the above quote, ‘evolution’ has several facets; one of which being that all living things are descended from a single common ancestor, another being that over time and through generations species change through natural selection (and other natural processes such as genetic drift 1).
Using some of these evolutionary facets as examples; we can ask are they proven, unprovable or disproven? The latter example in the article mentioned is Natural Selection; in terms of producing directed change in a species, we can see this happening in many species today. In its simplest terms an animal with defects will likely not survive to bare its own offspring whereas the ‘fittest’ of the generation is likely to bare the most offspring which in theory will be ‘fitter’ than if all in that generation bared the same number of young. This therefore, is testable to a degree (we can witness it happening today) and therefore I would argue that this is proven to happen and therefore is a proven fact as it is testable, is observed and is repeatable.
The problem is that people are shown one or a number of evolutionary facets and then given the belief that ‘evolution’ as a whole, is proven fact. As another example, the first facet suggested is that ‘all living species are the modified descendents of earlier species’. Can this be proven, or even tested? Obviously we can only test things in the present, so therefore no, I believe this cannot be tested and there are no historical books or writings to substantiate this belief. Another aspect is the evolution of man. In order to come from an ‘Ape-like ancestor’ 1 we would have to conclude that man is (or was) on an upward path from this ape towards a more intelligent being. Do we have evidence for this? Fossil evidence of all types of humans (and apes) has of course been found all around the world but how do we conclude that these ‘beings’ are more primitive? I believe we can’t; evidence normally related to intelligence can include paintings and tools found but really this only tells us a subset of what these people were doing at the time with the technology available rather than bearing any relation to their intelligence. Man has developed technology through the passing on of information throughout generations as people build on other people’s ideas and develop existing ideas and concepts; computers wouldn’t exist had electricity not first been harnessed, yet several generations later the computing power on our mobile phones is many times more powerful than the early incarnations of personal computers. Yet are the people working on this technology today more intelligent that those originally discovering and harnessing electricity? I believe they aren’t, they just have vast amount of information available to them via the storing and passing on of information like never before. The Bible speaks of increasing knowledge where toward the end times knowledge will multiply Daniel 12:4 ‘But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.’ How true this is today as knowledge is at our fingertips at all times but yet we can gain knowledge without learning it ourselves by research and experiment. Therefore I believe there is no evidence that earlier generations of people were less intelligent, this is an evolutionary concept based on a belief.
The last aspect I’d like to mention is the origin of life; it is not strictly included in evolution as to where the first living cell came from but if we are to follow the evolutionary path then this raises the question as to how life started. In the evolutionary scheme how did life first come from non-life if non-living matter was all that existed? There have been attempts to answer this question most notably the Miller-Urey experiment which did manage to ‘create’ some amino acids but did not manage to create living cells from non-living2. Louis Pasteur in the mid 1800s disproved the theory of spontaneous generation proving that life only comes from life by a series of experiments, one of the most famous being sterilising beef broth then sealing it to contaminants and observing that it remained sterile while the container was sealed 3, nothing could grow without living cells (Bacteria) being introduced via contamination.
We’re often told that Evolution is fact while Creationism is just a belief. However when we look at evolution more closely (and I would recommend you research in much more detail than in this article) we find that both views have many facets that are not fact but are faith based and therefore an Evolutionist has faith in evolution the same way a Creationist has belief in creation. The scientific evidence for both sides has to be interpreted. For example, a fossilised Dinosaur skull is evidence that a Dinosaur existed and died. We can test the physical aspects of the skull to find out the facts of the skull; size, density, what it’s made of etc but in order to find how and when this skull came to be we must interpret these facts to come up with a hypothesis. We either interpret the evidence based on Uniformitarianism (if you’re an Evolutionist) or based on Creation/Flood geology (if you are a Creationist). The same evidence interpreted according to your worldview will come up with vastly different answers as to how it got there. Therefore we need to be careful what we categorise as fact and what we categorise as interpretation.
The creation/evolution debate has faith on both sides, not all facets of Creationism are true the same way not all facets of Evolutionism are true. Those facets that are proven fact such as natural selection are shared by both worldviews so the debate is not one of fact versus faith; it’s worldview versus worldview, Theistic thought versus Atheistic though and ultimately it comes down to belief in the Bible as truth versus belief that the Bible is false. In general terms both views are faith based as both views have facets which are unproven. Creationism however is backed and at its core has a historical document that was written near the time of creation and is inspired by the one that was there at the time as the witness of creation.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.