Creationism vs Theistic Evolution - Key Questions

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As I have journeyed from theism to atheism, I've had the opportunity to discuss Creationism in all its various guises from multiple perspectives. It started when, as a teenage member of the congregation, church choir and youth fellowship of an Anglican Church in Sydney, I attempted to reconcile the account of Creation in Genesis with the science I was being exposed to at school. For a period of time, the somewhat facile (hindsight is a wonderful thing) argument that in the language in which Genesis was originally written (was it Aramaic or Asyrian, or maybe Hebrew?), the word which is translated in modern bibles as "day" actually meant "period of time," and could therefore be interpreted as "eon." This explanation worked OK, so long as I didn't get into TOO much detail in correlating the order in which everything was supposedly created.

It wasn't long after that, in my late teens, that I abandoned organised religion in favour of what one might now refer to as metaphysical beliefs. I got interested in philosophy and left the origins question alone.

It was none other than Richard Dawkins who got me interested in evolution again, and then I started consuming as many YouTube clips I had time for of the Three Horsemen, and others besides. Since then, and many many FB, face to face, and emailed debates later, I believe I at least have the questions I feel need to be answered, firstly by declared Creationists, but also by the seemingly more rational (looks can be deceiving) theistic Evolutionists. This latter category is apparently more prevalent in England, but I understand the Pope has declared himself accepting of Evolution by Natural Selection, as has William Craig in the USA.

I'll leave the questions for Creationists aside (we probably all know them already), and focus on the theistic Evolutionists.

The first step I've found to be necessary (to avoid the inevitable moving target which typically occurs when any theist talks themselves into a logical corner) is to get the theistic evolutionist to explain what they understand to be included within the science of evolutionary biology. For example, do they believe in evolution by natural selection for all life forms EXCEPT humans, or do they accept the whole box and dice, including the ladder of hominid development?

The second step is to establish which life forms have souls. Is the soul exclusively a human thing, is it restricted to higher level mammals, or does all life on the planet have some form of soul?

The third step, which lines us up for the exposure of another significant logic trap, is what they believe in regard to objective or absolute morality? Does human morality exist independently of humans?

Once we have a definition of theistic evolution, the theist's understanding of the soul AND the theist's position on objective morality, we can start delving into more detailed questions.

For example, given the fact evolution points to an on-going gradual change in humankind (i.e. there is no single point at which you can suddenly declare that homo sapiens emerged from its immediate predecessor), and assuming the theist subscribes to the common belief that only humans possess souls, at what point did God see fit to insert a soul into the hominid species? Did Australopithecus have a soul, or was it later in the process?

Another good question is, assuming the theist believes in objective morality, is that morality specific to each species, or universal across all species? This question really must be answered by the theistic evolutionist, for the simple reason that evolution binds all life forms together into a single family tree. If morality is exclusive to humans, why should that be the case? At what stage in humankind's evolution did murder become immoral? Infanticide? Rape? Since there are numerous examples of these "crimes" in other species (lions, for example, will kill any offspring left behind by a defeated patriarch. Is this infanticide immoral for lions, or just a way of ensuring that the gene pool remains strong?).

The theistic evolutionist really has nowhere to hide, once he/she has committed him/herself to objective morality and the existence of the soul. Mostly, I've found they tend to change the subject when it reaches this stage, or just discontinue the discussion if it's on FB.

I'd be interested in any comments/criticisms of this article.

Contributors: Nick Whiley

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