Can Creationism and Evolution Coexist?: A Speculative Essay
Thank you for the question: Can creationism and evolution coexist?
Well, the first thing to do is ask you (rhetorically, in this case) just what you mean by that? What do you mean by 'coexist'? Do you mean to ask if both doctrines can exist side-by-side, somehow, 'in peace,' as it were? Do you mean to ask if both doctrines can exist side-by-side in such a way as to completely exclude scorn and contempt for one side for the other? That is to say, to be even more frank: Is it possible for a state of affairs to come about such that people can openly declare themselves to be creationists, without fear of being treated with scorn by sections of the evolutionist community, accusing the former of simple stupidity?
Conversely, is it possible for a state of affairs to ever materialize such that people can boldly declare themselves to be evolutionists without fear of being treated with scorn by sections of the creationist community, accusing the former of godlessness (though self-avowed atheists would prize this label), and therefore, somehow, guilty of a kind of godless badness?
Do you, JThomp42, mean to ask if ever there can come into being a state of affairs in which both doctrines can be given an equal institutional representational presence in public schools? Can it ever be the case that both evolution and creation science are taught and respected as 'reasonable' in public schools generally?
Well, depending on the society one is talking about, in order for both doctrines to 'coexist' in the public school system, there would have to be widespread local legislative action, perhaps with a touch of federal legitimacy. But one imagines that in order to gain popular support for such a legislative project, a general societal consensus as to the essential 'reasonableness' of both doctrines must be arrived at first. Follow me?
Does it matter if human beings were 'created,' or if we took our current form through evolution?
1. Unless I'm mistaken, nobody is claiming that, say, this generation of human beings were 'created' in the same way that Adam and Eve, were, right? That is to say, nobody says that the guys were made from sand or something and that the gals were 'made' from male ribs. Nobody says that, right?
2. Unless I'm mistaken on this point, too, there are no evolutionists who actually say that humans or any other organic life 'evolve' over time and change WITHOUT any outside stimulus acting upon them, correct? In other words, nobody---I hope---says that species change over time simply because time elapses.
I'm no scientist but that's not quite how the evolutionary process is said to work. Cartoons/comics like X-Men, and other science fiction can give a misleading idea about this. There's a movie out called Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson. Again, the film is science fiction; and it is based on the old fairytale about, We only use about five percent of our brains, and so forth; and if we could somehow access greater and greater percentages of it, more and more fantastic powers would be granted to us, and so on and so forth.
No. Neuroscientists and whoever else need be will tell you that we humans use one hundred percent of our brains, one hundred percent of the time. Yada, yada, yada....
Anyway, I think it is points #1 and 2 are the basic, farcical extremes that each 'side' of the debate generally accuse each other of holding to.
3. No evolutionist actually says that human beings are descended from apes or monkeys. This is another extreme, farcical position that creationist end up accusing evolutionists of adhering to. No evolutionist says that. Besides, if human beings had been descended from apes or monkeys, there would not be any apes or monkeys left on the planet since the apes or monkeys would have all turned into us, yes?
Basically, what I understand evolution to say is that humans and apes derived from a common ancestor, the so-called 'missing link.' But I suspect for creationists, that is a distinction without a real difference.
Might there ever come a day when both doctrines can generally regard the other as reasonable? But what does 'reasonable' mean? We say, sometimes: 'Reasonable people can disagree,'... about something or another.
What makes certain situations such that various points of view are considered to be reasonable? The answer is that both or all sides basically agree that there is a gray area concerning how things came to be the way they are today, whatever way that is giving rise to the debate.
But creationist believe there is no gray area concerning the origin of species along with the rest of the universe. For them it is God.
For evolutionists there is a bit more give. Some evolutionists subscribe to a God-induced evolution. But atheists and others for whom God and evolution are separate spheres, do not see God as having in part in the whole thing.
Now, the existence of a creationist community reveal a schism in the religious community, because, as you know not every person 'of faith' takes scriptures literally; while some do.
1. Some people take scriptures literally, which, naturally, includes a wholesale acceptance of creationism.
2. Some people 'of faith' do not take scriptures literally.
a) That can mean that these people 'of faith' accept evolution along with religion.
b) It can also mean that these people 'of faith,' while not rejecting evolution, may remain relatively 'agnostic' to it, evolution.
B. Intelligent Design
This is the idea that says that the human body (for our purposes) is so obviously well engineered, so that its functionality and form perfectly cohere, that the body and all its components fit together and work so well that this fact must have come about by the deliberate action of some higher intelligence, and so on.
What I would say, here, is this: Hypothetically, why could it not be the case that 'we,' human beings, having been given the instrument of the body, refined it, modified it over time the way any carpenter refines his tools or a mechanic is always modifying and refining the engine(s) of his automobile(s). Do you follow me?
Probably not yet, right?
There is a saying: The body is the temple. And so forth.
If the body is a temple then it stands to reason that it has a tenant, presumably something like the 'soul.'
Now, I---the person writing this---do not know whether or not I have a soul. I cannot feel it the way I can feel my hand, arm, foot, or leg. Even though I cannot say whether or not I---the person writing this---have a soul, the strongest evidence, I've ever heard of, that perhaps human beings have souls comes from the fact of the existence of the transgendered community.
Why should this be the case? What we're dealing with, here, are people who, very early in life I understand---after spending a mere handful of years on this Earth, after birth, if that----are conscious of, what is for them, the fact of being in the wrong body, the wrongly gendered body.
The outward body born as a girl feels like a boy inside.
The outward body born as a boy feels like a girl inside.
If all of this is true, one implication is that the 'soul' thinks of itself as male or female prior to incarnation.
Now as I said, I---the person writing this---do not know whether or not I have a soul, because I cannot feel it like I can any other appendage of my body. It could be that since I cannot feel my 'soul,' if I have one, I must be in the correctly gendered body; perhaps I am in the right body.
There is a school of thought on this matter that, effectively, tries to split the difference between evolution and creationism, believe it or not. If any of you have seen the movie Mission to Mars starring Don Cheadle and Gary Sinise, just know that the film's ending, more or less, sums up this position.
The movie ends with Don Cheadle, Gary Sinise, and one other, who all play astronauts, floating in outer space outside of their rocket ship, wearing their space suits, of course. Well, they come into contact with a 'Martian,' who, thank goodness, obviously cannot speak English (as the Earthlings cannot speak "Martian?"). At any rate, the Martian, effectively, provides them with a PowerPoint presentation which explains how the Martian race "seeded the Earth," as Don Cheadle exclaimed in wonder.
"They are us," Gary Sinise said wisely, "and we are them."
Anyway, if you think about it, this approach gives you the best of both worlds---creationism and evolution. The whole idea that the "Martians" "seeded the Earth" with their very own DNA, as the fellow with the PowerPoint presentation indicated, gives you all the wonder of "creationism"---the whole "God" "making Man in His image," and all that good stuff.
The evolution stuff comes from the premise that these "Martians" merely "seeded the Earth," and the organic processes were left to "naturally" unfold as they would.
In other words, this kind of premise gives "creationists" much to marvel at, to revere, if not, in some strange way, even "worship," while it gives the "evolutionists" all the science they could ask for.
Now then, just as a side note, let me just mention that there is a variation of the extraterrestrial thesis, which does not quite credit "Martians" with the actual creation of all life on the Earth. This variation has "Martians" intervening within the evolutionary trajectory of the creatures that would later transform into us. That is to say that the "Martian intervention" itself gives rise to homo sapiens, whereas such a transformation and homo sapien emergence, presumably, would not have otherwise occurred.
What if we were to find out that such a scenario were true? What if we were to learn that "Martians" actually had something to do with the emergence of humankind on Earth, either by "seeding" of the entire planet, giving them "kinship" to literally all life on this planet down to the gnat; or if they merely intervened in evolutionary trajectory of the species that would transform into homo sapiens?
Well, I hope that would not be the end of our curiosity. This is just my two cents, but I would be interested in how said "Martians" understood their own origins. Whom do they think "made" them? Is there room in this conceptual universe for "God"?
If there is, wouldn't the following be an intriguing speculation----What if "God" "created" a species, the universe's very first sentient species an unimaginably long time ago, indeed, at a "time before time," and all that? And then what if that sentient species---let's call it Species A---created the "next" sentient species---let's call it Species B? And now imagine the process going on until we arrive at "Species Z"---us, homo sapiens, Earthlings. What if there were at least 26 other SENTIENT SPECIES between us and "God"?
Here's what I'm trying to say
Mind you, I'm not taking "sides" in this debate, but something I would ask creationists is this: Isn't it true that your premise is based on the idea that there are no other forms of sentient life between ourselves and "God"? How do you know there aren't? And suppose what I said is, amazingly, accurate? What if it is the case that a descending continuum of sentient species creation has indeed occurred, from "God" to "Species A" to "Species Z," ourselves? If all of this turned out to be the case, why shouldn't we say the same for universes?
How do we even know that the "universe" we live in is the only universe? What if there are many universes? What if our universe is just a compartment within a mammoth edifice, of which "we" are only a tiny part? What if polytheism is correct after all? That is to say, what if it was the case that there is one "God" for each "universe"? And then, on top of all that, what if it were the case that the descending continuum of sentient species creation, I alluded to before, happened in each universe, from each "God" to each "Sentient A" to each "Sentient Z"----by the way, I'm not talking about "parallel" universes.
Endless theoretical possibilities present themselves.
I suppose I could, theoretically, find myself slightly in misalignment with atheist evolutionists, in that I discern some---perhaps nebulous---foundation for the belief in the existence of a human soul, as mildly evidenced for me, as I said, by the existence of the transgendered community.
The goal of this essay, JThomp42, was not to take a position on the creationist/evolutionist debate. I was trying to answer the question presented: Can creationism and evolution coexist? I took that to mean: Is there a way to arrive at a state of affairs in which both "schools of thought," if you want to call them that, can respect each other? Is it possible to even foresee a day in which both schools of thought can regard each other without scorn---without accusing one of stupidity or the other of Godless badness?
I took you, JThomp42, to be asking: Is there a path to mutual respect of both schools of thought? My answer is that I don't quite know. I hope that in writing this essay I have given some indication of how complicated the matter is, and that neither the so-called "creationists" nor the "evolutionists" have any reason to feel smugly complacent about the rightness of their position, that, I must say, excessive certainty comes from excessive small-mindedness.
I suppose the answer to the question (Can creationism and evolution coexist?), after all, is this: Not if both schools of thought remain schools of thought. I don't want to sound all mystical and "New Age-y" but we must move to a place beyond such simple categories. We must get to a place where someone whose overall conceptual architecture, being one which we might be tempted to label "evolutionist," nevertheless, also features, as a matter of course, what we might call "creationist" elements; and do so without any shame or irony. By the same token, of course, we must move to a place where someone whose overall conceptual architecture, being one which we might be tempted to label "creationist," nevertheless, also features, as a matter of course, what we might call "evolutionist" elements; and do so without any shame or irony.
I hope that time will work this out. I hope that in the future, as our knowledge of the universe, hopefully, grows, our wonder and amazement grows; and as our wonder and amazement grows, our present forms of conceptual---and too often antagonistic---categorization will be shattered, so that in this future, JThomp42, there will not be people who need to ask the question you have, which inspired this essay.
Does that make sense?
Let me know.
Thank you so much for reading