by Jason Bougger
As you may have heard, Answers in Genesis recently sponsored a debate between its founder, Ken Ham, who would be defending young earth creationism, and Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” who would be defending evolution.
Nye was universally criticized by his peers for even entertaining the idea of debating Ham. Famous atheist Richard Dawkins proclaimed, “When you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, but that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.” Ouch.
As a Christian, I have to admit that I cringed when I heard the debate had been scheduled. The cynic in me assumed that Bill Nye agreed to this debate not to promote science but to portray the image of the Christian as an uneducated out-of-touch American who simply ignores plain facts and believes that human beings were living side by side with dinosaurs only a few thousand years ago.
I not only feared the worst, I expected it. In my head, I could see Bill Nye smiling as he explained the basic facts of evolution while Ken Ham would stand at the opposite podium giving his rebuttal with a Bible in hand and using words like “Gawwwdah” and “Jayyyysus!”
Fortunately for me, and the entire viewing audience, it was nothing like that at all.
In Bill Nye’s opening statement, he immediately pointed out most of the millions of religious people in the world who do not subscribe to Ken Ham’s version of creation, showing me that his motive was purer than I thought.
Ken Ham, as well, was nothing at all like I expected him to be. He was polite and soft-spoken. He was well-researched and sounded like he knew what he was talking about even though I didn’t agree with what he was saying.
In the end, both men presented their cases well. I thought Bill Nye was the decisive winner, but I’m sure Ham’s fans said the same thing about him.
So, how do Adam and Eve fit in? That can be a little tricky. In the Nye/Ham debate, Adam and Eve were discussed only in the context of young earth creationism versus random evolution. To the young earth creationist, Adam was planted on Earth on the sixth day according to a literalist interpretation of “day,” binding the creation of the universe into six physical days as we currently understand them.
The Catholic Church, and most other Christian traditions, including Orthodox and mainline Protestants, don’t take this literalistic view of Genesis 1. “Six days” could have a variety of meanings – stages of creation, for example. So, according to that view, there is no reason the creation of Adam couldn’t have been a million-year process through an evolutionary process.
Anyhow, as a Catholic, sometimes it’s just easier to default to the Church’s position: Adam and Eve must be viewed as the father and mother of humanity, and the Fall was an actual event. Without the Fall, there would be no need for Christ, after all, so we can’t just say that it’s an allegory.
But what is the official Catholic position on evolution and the age of the earth? There isn’t one. A Catholic Christian is free to believe whatever his faith and logic tell him as long as he acknowledges that God is the creator of space, time, matter, and the soul.
In other words: there is no reason God couldn’t have chosen evolution as His means of creation.
So in closing, I’d like to say the debate between creationism and evolution doesn’t present all sides of this issue, and I’d also like any non-Christians reading this to understand that it really is a very small percentage of Christians who believe in young earth creationism. Those who accept it are buying into a narrow literalistic interpretation of scripture.
Putting everything else aside, if I ever find myself in Kentucky, I’ll be visiting the creation museum – just because I really like the idea of riding on dinosaurs.
Jason Bougger grew up in Brainard, Nebraska and currently lives in
Omaha with his wife and kids. His fiction has appeared in a
dozen places in print and online, most recently in the Garden of Eden anthology (Biblical Legends Anthology Series), Mad Scientist Journal, and Until the End: An Anthology of Love Vs the Apocalypse (Horrified Press). You can visit his writing blog at his website at http://www.jasonbougger.com.