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Science, it is arguable, has opened the eyes of humanity and rid us the ignorance that we once lived each and every day of our lives in. it has helped us to come to scientifically sound and empirically based theories that are now universally accepted. One such example of a theory that empirically seems to prove scientifically, rather than religiously, where humanity came from is the theory of Evolution. This seemed to lead many people to accept the above statement. This is because it proved that there was a natural explanation of the existence of humanity, rather than the supernatural biblical account that was so popular in the Victorian Age. Charles Darwin, the mind behind the theory, would certainly agree with the statement as he seemed to have done the impossible: prove scientifically that God did very little, if anything, to create humanity itself.
Instead of being created on the sixth day of God’s impossible creation, we evolved through the very slow and very natural process of natural selection. This was added to the undeniable evidence of fossils that were being found in layers of the rocks of the earth that was found due to the very new and promising science of Geology: fossils of animals that do not exist and that have no place or mention in the Genesis account of creation. Fundamentalist Christians had feeble replies to these findings, showing the limits to which their faith was being tested. Darwin’s theory is also, now, widely accepted by nearly all scientists and many theists as being the truth of the origins of humanity through a purely scientific method of research.
A philosopher who whole-heartedly supported Darwin’s theory with no room for doubt was Richard Dawkins. In his book, “The Greatest Show on Earth”, he claims that although almost 40% of Americans who don’t believe in evolution, believe that it was created in the last 10,000 years or so, as it is stated in the Bible. He feels that if only this 40% was exposed to the evidence for evolution, then they couldn’t possible believe this. Although some people would argue that evolution seems almost incapable to create humanity in such a short time span, Dawkins claims that “dogs and cabbages and pigs and cows have all been changed in huge ways in a very short time, maybe a couple of centuries, a couple of millennia”, in a his new book.
The then goes on to muse that the earth has been in existence for hundreds of millennia, and this time frame gives us a great deal of time for evolution to take place and transform single-celled amoeba into fully functional human beings. Dawkins also states that although fossils are a very persuasive method of proving that evolution happened, it’s not as important as other findings. These include things such as the molecular comparisons of animals, radioactive dating and also the geographical distribution of animals. Dawkins thoroughly believes that if we assume evolution to be true, then everything we see in the world is evidence for it. Everything in the world is how it should be if evolution is true. Through this, Dawkins believes that science can, solve the problems about where we come from and, also, any other problems we may be encountered with.
However, someone who would strongly disagree with Darwin, and through him, Dawkins, is Samuel Wilberforce. He was a bishop of Oxford and also led the attack against Darwin’s theory, six months after he published it. He claimed, in an article in the Quarterly Review, that the theory of evolution showed a “tendency to limit God’s glory in creation”.
Wilberforce felt that humans have superior reasoning to all other animals: we are able to reason what is best out of a situation, as opposed to simply acting on instinct and impulse with a complete disregard for the consequences. If evolution is correct and our reasoning was to have stemmed from it, then all animals, by now, should have developed the ability to reason and ignore powerful instincts that deprive them of the ability to be civilised. However, we are the only animals to have developed this skill and other animals, even now, have shown no sign of developing the same, or a similar, skill. With this in mind, Wilberforce felt that if evolution is correct, then it does not even come close to explaining our ability to reason, or even the emotions of humans and animals.
However, in response to this, Robert Wright feels that post-Darwin Darwinists have solved this issue. Feelings such as lust and hunger have been passed down through evolution as those who eat more are more likely to survive and those who have sex more are more likely to pass on their characteristics in their genes.
Even favour of high status, he claims, can be pin-pointed to evolution: humans are socially competitive as “high social status brings improved access to mates, so genes that fuel the pursuit of status fare well”. He also feels that even gossiping can be traced through back to evolution. “Genes inclining us to lower the social status of rivals by spreading unflattering gossip or harsh moral appraisals would be favoured by natural selection”. A chemical has even been found that has been implicated with maternal bonding, romantic bonding and the trust that undergoes friendship. Using all of this evidence, Wright feels that not only can science solve the problems as to where humanity comes from, it can also go a few steps further to explain why humans act the way they do, not only at their unconscious, base instincts, but is also at a conscious, public level.
Someone who vehemently opposes the statement above is Henry Morris, although he has a different viewpoint to Wilberforce. Henry Morris is a strict Creationist (one who believes in the exact account of the creation story, as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2). In his book, Biblical Creationism, Morris denies the idea of evolution, and even the compromise that some people has reached that the word “days” as stated in the Bible simply means “eras” or “long periods of time”. In Biblical Creationism, he states that “the Bible taught clearly that all things were made by God in a six-day week of natural days. There was no room for evolution of the long geological periods of time”.
Morris, using the original, Hebrew version of the Bible, deduced that the word used in Genesis 1 for “day” was a word that always means a “24-hour period”. The word used for “era”, he stated, is a completely different one. “There should be no uncertainty whatever that God intended the account to say that the creation of all things had taken place in six literal days”. Therefore, Morris would feel that science, in no way, can prove everything and solve all the problems about where we come from. Instead of using science to question ideas that the Bible gives, science should be judged against the Bible as to whether it is correct or not. This is because the Bible is, overall, the word of God, so it must stand tall above all other forms of “proof” that claim they know the truth of all things about humanity. God can never be mistaken as God is completely perfect, and, therefore, the Bible, Genesis included, is correct, right the way until the end.
In reference to the fossils found by geologists, who would also claim have no place or mention in the creation story, Morris would beg to differ. He feels that he has found passages in the Bible that seem to refer to a diplodocus (a large, four-legged, long necked animal with a long whip-like tail) and a plesiosaurs (animals which had a broad body, four paddle-shaped ‘flipper’ limbs and a short tail) in the form of the “Behemoth” and the “Tannin” which were both used to describe monsters in the Bible.
A very thorough description of the Behemoth is given in Job 40: Look at the behemoth which I made along with you and which feeds like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly!” Morris not only seems to have an explanation for the apparent lack of mention of dinosaurs, but also can pinpoint their time in creation: “even animals that have since become extinct – such as dinosaurs – were made on the fifth and sixth days of the creation week”. Morris feels that science cannot possibly have solutions to the origins of humanity as the answers to everything that we can ever question have already been given to us in the perfect, flawless form of the Bible.
There is also a view to the above statement not by an atheistic philosopher or scientist, but a theist, attempting to reconcile religion with science. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin felt that although science and religion seemed very much opposing on the surface, fundamentalists on each side tended to draw artificial battle lines about it in a very complex field. He felt that it was simple to reconcile the two if you only rearranged the idea of God’s purpose, as perceived by humanity. He also felt that evolution and an expanding universe made no real difference to God’s creation. Although Teilhard’s ideas weren’t very popular, he found a way to effectively disagree and agree with a statement by claiming the ideas of one field could enhance the understanding in both. Science can be used to solve all problems about where we come from, but it cannot do this without the help of religion.
Another theist who supported the same views as Teilhard is John Polkinghorne. He felt that the scientific explanation of the world raises more questions than it seems to solve. For example, how could the world have created itself, if it was random, so perfectly and with such precision that if it was created with any less or more energy, the universe would have ceased to exist very shortly after its beginning? Although science seems to give answers and explain very well how things were created the way they did, it doesn’t explain how they were created against the overwhelming odds, if it were due to random chance.
The chance of the existence of humanity through the Big Band theory is so absolutely minute, Polkinghorne sees it as impossible. He, therefore, plays a major role in analysing the Anthropic Principle which states his exact beliefs. For Polkinghorne, religion and science are completely complimentary and support each other. Therefore, he comes to the same conclusion as Teilhard about the problems of where we come from: science can explain and solve all the problems about where we come from, but cannot do so with religion.
A person who also not only strongly agrees with the statement, but also attacks the creationist, and any theistic point of view, is Peter Atkins. He is very much an atheist and rejects any theistic ideas as simple ignorance of the unexplained. In the Middle Ages, when people didn’t know or understand how something, they would simply use God to fill in the gaps in their knowledge out of ignorance of the truth. For example, the Bubonic Plague, which was an extremely contagious bacterium, unknown to those at the time. However, those who were alive throughout the pandemics contented themselves to using God as an explanation to the disease, when they could find no immediate causes. Atkins feels that that is what theists are doing now: “finding God in the Big Bang is the last refuge of the desperate”. He feels that, in accordance with this statement, science has already solved the problem of where we come from, and will ultimately solve all problems with no help from religion.
In conclusion, after looking at both sides of the argument, I feel that I agree with the statement, but only in part. I feel that it can solve many problems about where we come from, using the overwhelming evidence that Darwin put forward and the evidence that Dawkins reminds us of. However, I do not feel that it can solve all the problems that are related to do with where we come from. For example, it is still unknown by science about where we come from. It is universally agreed by scientists that before the Big Bang, there was nothing: no matter, no energy, and no forces. How, then, it is entirely reasonable to question, did the Big Bang come about? It is reasonable, therefore, by theists such as myself, to assume that there was a superior and intelligent designer must have caused the Big Bang into existence.
Without the Big Bang, humanity would never have come into being. But even if the Big Bang would have being by some external, omnipotent force, it would have been highly unlikely that the Universe would have sustained itself without a sustainer. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the scientific concept of entropy, states that “in any natural process there exists an inherent tendency towards the dissipation of useful energy”. This basically means that when left alone, order tends to revert back to chaos. If this were so then why isn’t the world full of chaos, but order instead? Why does evolution lead to progression and not regression?
I feel that science can explain the processes by which the universe and humanity came into being, but I don’t think that it can thoroughly explain, using only natural and empirical evidence, how and, more importantly, why these processes came into being. It’s all well saying that the Big Bang just happened, but to me, I feel that if the whole Universe was just an accident with no intent or purpose, then none of humanity really has a reason or purpose for living, other than being the result of an accident. Or, perhaps, the universe is just “brute fact” as Bertrand Russell stated, and we just have to accept this. Nevertheless, although I feel that people can have different views on the world, for me, the universe cannot go without explanation as to why it exists.