1. Views of Creation and
"When we disagree,..."

    Christian views of creation — Who, When, How 
    Relationships between Worldviews and Science 
    Understanding & Respect, Distortion & Conflict 
              ( Why are so many so confident? )
    ASA's views about Creation, Evolution, Design 

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

A condensed version of this page is in my Overview-FAQ.
I recommend reading it first because it's shorter so you can get quick overview of the ideas, and because after initially writing both pages I've been more diligent in revising/supplementing the Overview-FAQ (especially in Sections 3-7) so it currently includes some ideas that are not in this page, but some other ideas are only in this page.



1A. Christian views of creation — who, when, and how?

      Is there only one Christian view of creation?
      Some Christians claim that a belief in young-earth creation is necessary for correct Christian doctrine, although it isn't necessary for salvation.  They acknowledge only two views of creation:  1) a Christian young-earth view, and  2) an old-earth "evolutionary" view that is inherently atheistic, even though some Christians have been fooled into accepting it. 
      This "two views" perspective is popular in some churches, among some non-Christians, and — due to its "sound bite simplicity" and its value for producing dramatic conflict — in the media.  But is it accurate?

      Three Views and Three Questions
      Most members of ASA think that three basic creation views, plus variations, are compatible with a Judeo-Christian doctrine of theistic creation:
      In young-earth creation, everything in the universe was miraculously created in a 144-hour period less than 10,000 years ago.  Later, most of the earth's geology and fossil record were formed in a global flood.  /  In a variation that is less common, the earth is young but the universe is old.
      In progressive creation, also called old-earth creation, at various times during a long history of nature (spanning billions of years) God used miraculous-appearing action to create.  There are two kinds of progressive creation:  one proposes independent creations "from scratch" so a new species would not necessarily have any relationships with previously existing species;  another proposes creations by modification of the genetic material (by changing, adding, or deleting it) for some members (or all members) of an existing species.
      In evolutionary creation, also called theistic evolution, natural evolution was God's method of creation, with the universe designed so physical structures (galaxies, stars, planets) and complex biological organisms (bacteria, fish, dinosaurs, humans) would naturally evolve.

      Let's look at three questions:
      WHO — creation by God?  Is our world designed and created by God, with the ideas-and-actions of God producing the material substance and characteristics of nature, and actively governing the history of nature?  A theist says YES, affirming that God created our world and is active in our world.  By contrast, an atheist denies the existence of God, a deist denies the ongoing activities of God, and a pantheist claims the universe has become God
      WHEN — age of universe?  Is the universe (including the earth) young or old?  Is its age thousands of years, or billions of years?
      HOW — method of creation?  Did the formative history of nature include only divine natural-appearing action, or also some divine miraculous-appearing action?

      These questions, when answered, define three views of creation:
      who?  all three views say "creation by God" so each is a creationist view, despite the fact that — due to an unfortunate abuse of vocabulary — many people think "creationism" refers to only young-earth views;
      when?  young-earth creation says "thousands of years," but "billions of years" is the answer for progressive creation and evolutionary creation;
      how?  evolutionary creation says "only natural-appearing creation," but progressive creation and young-earth creation propose some miraculous-appearing creation.

      In addition, these monotheistic views are challenged by those (including atheists, deists, polytheists, and pantheists) who propose other views of origins, and by agnostics who — instead of just saying "I don't know yet" — claim "we cannot know."

For more information, check the HOMEPAGE and LINKS-PAGE for Views of Creation.


1B. What are the relationships between science and worldviews?

      Each of us has a worldview — our view of the world, used for living in the world — that includes our views of nature and science, and much more.  Some groups of people tend to have a "collective worldview."
      As individuals and as groups, we want our ideas (and actions) to be logically consistent, so we adjust our ideas (and actions) in an effort to achieve consistency.  This leads to mutual influences, at the levels of individuals and groups, between worldviews and science.
      Science is influenced by worldviews and related factors, operating in a variety of ways (psychological, sociological, pragmatic,...) that include personal desires (for self-esteem, respect from others, security, adventure, money, power,...), group pressures, opinions of authorities (who are acknowledged due to expertise, personality, and/or power) and cultural thinking habits, metaphysical worldviews (about the nature of reality and purpose of life), and ideological principles (about "the way things should be" in society).  These factors interact with each other, and operate in a complex social context involving individuals and groups, the scientific community, and society as a whole.
      Worldviews are influenced by science, which is a "cultural authority" in the modern world, mainly because it has been so useful for understanding nature and developing technology.  Due to this authority, science influences many people's views of "the way the world is, and why."

      As an example of influence, consider the effects of religious beliefs on ideas about origins:
      An atheist or deist has no scientific freedom, since only one conclusion — a natural Total Evolution — is acceptable.  An open-minded flexible agnostic (who says "I haven't decided yet") can have freedom, but a rigid agnostic (who wants to remain agnostic) will want to reject any theory with theistic implications.  A non-theist believer (in new-age pantheism,...) will prefer a nontheistic theory and interpretation.
      A Judeo-Christian theist has options: young-earth creation, and old-earth progressive creation or evolutionary creation.  In principle, these options can let a theist follow the evidence-and-logic of science to any conclusion about the "when and how" of creation.  In practice, however, theology (interacting with other factors) may lead a theist to believe that the earth must be young, or evolution must be false, or evolution must be true.   { Is young-earth belief necessary for a Christian? and What can a Christian believe about evolution? }
      A theistic science is based on the principle that theists should use all they have reasons to believe, including their theology, when doing science, when constructing and evaluating theories.  But theistic science, using a Christian worldview as a foundation, is not a single way of thinking, because our differences — when interpreting the Bible (in theology) and nature (in science) and combining these interpretations, and when thinking about God's actions in the world and in science — can lead to different ideas about God, scripture, nature, and science.

      two opinions:
      • We should recognize the influence of cultural-personal factors, and — to make science more effective in our search for truth — we should try to minimize these biasing influences.  We should want scientific evaluations to be objective, based only on evidence and logic.  One strategy for "recognizing and minimizing" is to imagine the results of idealized evaluation (without cultural-personal influences), analogous to the way Newton imagined idealized motion (without friction).  This strategy can be useful, even though the results of imagining will be influenced by our biases.   { But even if scientists are biased, maybe "the way they hope the world is" corresponds to "the way the world really is" and is thus true.  Therefore, a biased conclusion is not necessarily a false conclusion. }
      • We should recognize that "science is influenced by worldviews and other factors" without getting carried away to silly extremes.  We should challenge postmodern radical relativists when they claim that cultural influences destroy the credibility of science, and that if scientists cannot claim certainty, they can claim nothing.   { Two examples are overly skeptical critics of old-earth science and intelligent design. }

Ideas about worldviews-and-science are explored throughout this FAQ — when we ask the questions above (about a young earth & evolution) and Are science and religion at war? and Can we prove the existence and activity of God? and Is methodological naturalism theologically acceptable? — and in other parts of the website, in worldviews in education & life-stewardship and elsewhere.


1C. Understanding and Respect?  Distortion and Conflict?

      Why are so many so confident?
One motivation for conflict arises from a noble quest for personal consistency:
      Each of us has a worldview that includes our ideas (based on theology, science,...) about nature and its history.  We want our ideas to be logically consistent, so we adjust our ideas in an effort to achieve personal consistency.
      Eventually, most of us become satisfied with the quality and consistency of our own ideas.  One result is that vigorous advocates for every view of origins, ranging from young-earth creation to atheistic evolution, are extremely confident in thinking they have The Answer.  Those with other views seem to be obviously wrong — because their ideas don't fit logically into the framework of our ideas — so we may conclude that our opponents are either deluding themselves or intentionally trying to deceive others.
      In his book, The Battle of Beginnings, Del Ratzsch explains that because "the popular caricatures reigning in this area... make confident choice appear supremely simple" there is a tendency "for favorite ideas — on both sides — to be credited within their respective camps with a status they really do not deserve.  Indeed, each side can see the case as so utterly closed that the very existence of opponents generates near bafflement."
      While watching "hot debates about origins" we often see sharply contrasting views about the foundations of rationality, about the kind of arguments that are considered rational and persuasive, or even allowable.  When two sides cannot even agree about the ground rules of arguing, we shouldn't be surprised when they "talk past each other."  Too often, the zealously vocal leaders on one side are aggressively comparing their own apples with the other's oranges, and are listening in French when the other side is speaking Italian.  Similarly, some on the other side are enthusiastically praising their own oranges, and are listening in Italian (so they hear their opponents speaking gibberish) due to the mismatch of idea-frameworks.  In this sad situation, do you think improved understanding might be useful?

      Understanding and Respect
      Del Ratzsch describes a common "us against them" mode of thinking in which many people, from all perspectives, "see the case as so utterly closed that the very existence of opponents generates near bafflement."  And he encourages us — if we want to improve the quality of conversation — to improve our understanding, to "carefully study, with an open mind, the evidence and logical counter-arguments presented by opponents, in an attempt to accurately understand the logical support for other positions and why someone might hold these positions, to see what things look like from another point of view."  He wants us to listen and learn.
      I agree.  In fact, I've been using this approach — which is the educational philosophy in the website you're now reading — since being inspired by a high school teacher.  He often held debates in class, and Monday he would skillfully convince us that "his side of the issue" was correct, but Tuesday he made the other side look just as good.  We soon learned that, in order to get accurate understanding, we should get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support.  After we did this and we understood more accurately and thoroughly, we usually recognized that even when we have valid reasons to prefer one position, people on other sides of an issue may also have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do, so we learned respectful attitudes.
      But respect does not require agreement.  You can respect someone and their views, yet criticize their views, which you have evaluated based on evidence, logic, and values.  The intention of our teacher, and the conclusion of his students, was not a postmodern relativism.  The goal was a rational exploration and evaluation of ideas in a search for truth.

      Distortion and Conflict
      Helping you search for truth is the goal in this educational website.  We hope it will help you avoid unintentional distortions, because you'll have the knowledge you need to describe your opponents' views more accurately.  Sometimes, however, in the heat of argument we slip into a "debating mode" and are just trying to win.  But with the motivation that comes from respect — for people, and for the principle of intellectual honesty — hopefully more of us will choose to avoid constructing weak "strawmen" that are intentional distortions of opposing positions.
      But even when we try to understand and respect those who disagree with us, the mere fact of disagreement can lead to conflict.  The intensity of conflict (and associated emotion) is often increased by the practical importance of the issues being debated, as when we're thinking about potential applications in public education.
      In some situations, instead of avoiding conflict you may decide it's best to state your opposition to ideas being expressed, or policies being proposed.  But in situations where conflict seems worthwhile, we can disagree with respect, in a way that is more enjoyable and is more likely to be productive.  And sometimes a better outcome, with greater good for a greater number of people, can be achieved through a willingness to look for common ground, make reciprocal concessions, and cooperate in a search for a mutually beneficial win-win solution.


1D. What are ASA's views about creation, evolution, and design?

      Positions of ASA
      "As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue.  We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation.  Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth." (the preface to ASA's Statement of Faith)"
      ASA has no offical position on the "when and how" of creation, but when we ask "who" our position is clear:  "Creation is not a controversial question.  I have no hesitancy in affirming, ‘we believe in creation,’ for every ASA member.  The Biblical doctrine of creation is one of the richest doctrines revealed to us by God.  It reveals to us that the God who loves us is also the God who created us and all things;  at once it establishes the relationship between the God of religious faith and the God of physical reality. ...  We believe in creation.  It is unthinkable for a Christian to do otherwise. (Richard Bube, writing as editor of the ASA journal in 1971)"

      Actions of ASA
In August 2005 the new executive director of ASA, Randy Isaac, explained that ASA is committed to careful studies of scripture and nature, in a pursuit of quality in theology and science: "The ASA policy of neutrality... does not mean wishy-washy relativism. ...  We have a strong platform with two planks:  We have a strong statement of faith... and a commitment to integrity in science. ...  The role of ASA is to encourage and enable dialogue, in an atmosphere of trust and respect, about the honest differences regarding these two key planks." 
      He is explaining why neutrality is not passivity, and even though ASA does not advocate a conclusion, we do enthusiastically endorse a process of respectful discussion, so we can better understand the similarities and differences in our views of theology and science, so we can learn from each other, and about each other.
      Since 1949, the ASA journal has provided an open forum with a variety of views about origins.  Since 1994, similar forums have been developing in the ASA Website, including the part of it (for whole-person education) you're reading, which includes a disclaimer about our multi-position forum: "You'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation." 
      Our journal and websites are educational resources, and are not declarations of policy.  The ASA won't tell you what to conclude, but we will provide educational resources so you can make an informed evaluation and reach your own conclusions.

      Here are some other actions of ASA in the past two decades:
      In 1986, responding to the first edition of Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences (1984), ASA published Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy: A View from the American Scientific Affiliation.  This 48-page booklet did not take a position on evolution.  It did encourage a logical process of open-minded scientific evaluation, willing to ask questions about evolution and to consider intermediate positions, not just the extreme positions of young-earth creation and atheistic evolution.  It described the climate of controversy that unfortunately exists, and explained how a teacher can "teach with openness while upholding standards of scientific integrity."
In 1991 the ASA Executive Council — motivated by a desire "to promote excellence and integrity in science education as well as in science" — adopted the resolution, A Voice for Evolution as Science.
      In 2000 the ASA Creation Commission released a Statement on Creation summarizing general creation principles and four specific positions — three views of creation (young earth, old earth, evolutionary) plus intelligent design.

      Are we creationists?
      The 1991 resolution of ASA recommends that "the teaching of... evolutionary biology should include:  forceful presentation of well-established scientific data and conclusions;  clear distinction between evidence and inference;  candid discussion of unsolved problems and open questions."  Does a willingness to discuss problems and questions mean we are creationists?  The answer is "yes and no" because it depends on how creationism is defined.
      YES.  All members of ASA are Christians, so we all believe that God designed, created, and sustains natural process, and (sometimes or always) guides it.
      But how did God create?  There is disagreement when we ask, "did God design the universe so it would be totally self-assembling by natural process?"  Some members of ASA are evolutionary creationists who think natural evolution was God's method of creation, but some think occasional miraculous-appearing divine action was necessary (*) and it was used by God during the formative history of nature.  Jack Haas, editor of the main ASA Website, says "the ASA has no official position on evolution; its members hold a diversity of views with varying degrees of intensity."   {* Maybe a universe designed for optimal operation would not be totally self-assembling. }
      NO.  If a creationist believes the earth is young, then most ASA members are not "creationists" because most of us think there is a wide variety of scientific evidence strongly indicating that the earth and universe are billions of years old.

      Whole-Person Education for Science and Faith 
      The website you're reading is designed to help you learn effectively in two ways:  we'll provide a coherent overview of important ideas, to help you quickly understand the ideas and their relationships;  and to help you explore more deeply, we'll link to pages that examine the ideas and relationships in more depth.
      We've searched the web and have selected high-quality pages that will help you learn quickly and well.  But our selectivity is not censorship, and for controversial issues the range of views will be wide.  We want to give you accurate information about a wide range of positions, by letting representatives of each perspective clearly express their own views and criticize other views.
      Exploring this area can be an exciting adventure for you, because the awesome creation of God is wonderful and exciting, and because there is "intellectual drama" in the conflict of ideas.  We won't always agree, and this will make it interesting for you.  But we can make the process of agreeing (about many things) and disagreeing (about a few things) more enjoyable and productive.  Consistent with our Christian worldview, we want to use productive communication — in an effort to achieve our goals of improved understanding and mutual respect — in our search for truth and in our personal interactions.

For a deeper exploration of ideas in Sections 1C and 1D:   Why are so many so confident?    Understanding & Respect (and our Multi-Position Website)    Views of the ASA (with details about people and ideas, plus links)


This page is one part of
responses to Frequently
Asked Questions about
Creation, Evolution, 
and Intelligent Design,

written by Craig Rusbult,
with an ASA-disclaimer.
Home-Page for FAQ 
Introductory FAQ 

8-Page Full FAQ: 
1. Views of Creation 
2. Scripture and Nature 
3. Age-of-Earth Theology 
4. Age-of-Earth Science 
5. Christians & Evolution   
6. Four Types of Design 
7. Evaluating Evolution 
8. Origins Education 


Homepage for Origins 



other related pages:

The views in this page don't necessarily represent views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  It is written for ASA but is not the ASA-FAQ, as explained in the FAQ-homepage.

Other pages in the 8-page set are in the right sidebar above.

This page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of "Whole-Person Education" website),
is an "editorial" that doesn't claim to speak for ASA, as explained above.

Copyright © 2006 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved

The top-of-page images are from NASA/NSSDC, U.S. National Park Service,
ASA's Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy, The Nature Conservancy, and NOAA.

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