Monday, June 4, 2012

The Battle Over Genesis

According to a recent Gallup Poll, only 15% of Americans think evolution happens as a natural process. The other 85% thinks evolution does not occur or that it is supernaturally directed by God (theistic evolution). The success of Young-Earth Creationism is evident in that as many as 47% of those polled believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old.

In a 2001 Gallup Poll, over 28-32% subscribed to Evolution and 48-57% subscribed to Creationism. No distinction was made between Old-Earth Creationism and Young-Earth Creationism.

In the most recent poll, 46% of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

Gallup reports here that:

Most Americans believe in God, and about 85% have a religious identity. It is not surprising as a result to find that about 8 in 10 Americans hold a view of human origins that involves actions by God -- that he either created humans as depicted in the book of Genesis, or guided a process of evolution. What no doubt continues to surprise many scientists is that 4 out of 10 Americans believe in the first of these explanations.

These views have been generally stable over the last 28 years. Acceptance of the creationist viewpoint has decreased slightly over time, with a concomitant rise in acceptance of a secular evolution perspective. But these shifts have not been large, and the basic structure of beliefs about human beings' origins is generally the same as it was in the early 1980s.

Americans' attitudes about almost anything can and often do have political consequences. Views on the origins of humans are no exception. Debates and clashes over which explanations for human origins should be included in school textbooks have persisted for decades. With 40% of Americans continuing to hold to an anti-evolutionary belief about the origin of humans, it is highly likely that these types of debates will continue.

Every student should read The Evolution of Darwinian Evolution.

Why Just Genesis Matters

It appears that the creation-evolution conversation has reached a stalemate. Young-Earth Creationism may be declining among some Evangelicals, especially those influenced by the BioLogos crowd. However, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists alike tend to think that evolution is the only alternative to literalism, and that is not true. An anthropological approach to Genesis acknowledges Earth's great age and the remote origins of humanity without accepting the Darwinian theory of human origins, for which there is no substantial evidence. Biblical Anthropology, as scientific study of the text, requires setting aside both ideological templates in order to determine the meaning in cultural context. This is a labor to which I am fully committed.

It is also a fruitful approach to conversation with teenagers.  Today’s teens think empirically. They are intelligent. They want to know the How and Why. Simply telling them that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is infallible and true, is not enough. If the Bible is true it should align with the data. If Noah experienced a catastrophic flood, there should be physical evidence of that in the region where Noah lived. If the descendants of Noah spread out over the earth, there should be DNA evidence of that dispersion. Such evidence does exist and yet few are providing the next generation with this information. Teens are going to college environments which are increasingly hostile to Christianity and they are going ill-equipped to defend the veracity of the Bible. As the Gallup Polls show, the conversation about Genesis is stuck in the mid-1980s.

As Genesis is the foundation of the whole of the Bible, it is not surprising that it should stir conflict and confusion. I hope that Just Genesis will help readers break out of the stalemate and move forward with bold faith that the whole of the Bible speaks reliable truth that can be confirmed and will continue to be confirmed.

Related reading: YEC Dogma is NOT Biblical;  Biblical Anthropologists Discuss Darwin; Getting the Facts About Human Origins; Theories of Creation: An Overview; Between Biblical Literalism and Biblical Illiteracy; Objections to the Fundamentalist Reading of Genesis 1-5


Daniel Eaton said...

I think the young-earth creationists see this as a debate between creation and "everything else". But the poll doesn't ask when the WORLD was created. It asks if you believe MAN was created pretty much like is he now some thousand years ago. There are a LOT of old-earth creationists who believe Adam was a special creation or even those that believe God creates via evolution but that our "current form" is recent.

Alice Linsley said...

Yes, people fail to make a distinction between modern humans and archaic populations, and there certainly is a difference. However, the range of anatomical differences between the oldest human specimens, (about 3.4 million years) and today is not as great as evolutionists imply.

About archaic Man Genesis asserts that he was created from the beginning in the image of the Creator. About modern humans, Genesis supplies loads of important data which can be used to reconstruct a good picture of the migration of Abraham's ancestors out of Africa and the spread of their worldview.

That said, Genesis isn't really about human origins. It is about the origins of Messianic expectation among Abraham's Nilotic and Proto-Saharan ancestors.

Chris Masterjohn said...

Hi Alice,

This is off-topic for this post, but I was wondering if you have read the following book, and if you think it is good (i.e. well researched, scholarly, etc):

"The African Origins Of Civilization, Religion, Yoga Mystical Spirituality, Ethics Philosophy And A History Of Egyptian Yoga" by Muata Ashby.


Alice Linsley said...


It is great to hear from you. How is your research on the Masai going? I will read the link you sent me today. Should I add it to this list?

I thought of you when I posted this:

I have skimmed the book by Muata Ashby and his wife. It is more speculation than scholarly, but he does make some important observations. His book is trendy in that he is attempting to show a common religious antecedents to the world great religions. There is no doubt that the earliest Vedic writings show the influence of Horite religious beliefs, but Hinduism today is very far from the faith of the Horites. Ashby neglects the most important and the most easily verified connection - that between the Horite religion and Christianity. The core of Christian belief is that Jesus Christ is the incarnate fulfillment of the Horus myth and fulfillment of the Messianic (Son/Seed of God) expectation of Abraham's Horite ancestors.