Do Evolutionists Believe in Evolution by Faith?

Evolutionists often draw a distinction between the science of evolution, based on evidence, and belief in creationism, which is based on faith.

Many creationists make the counter argument that belief in evolution is also faith and not science at all. Is this true?

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method

What is Involved in this Claim?

Creationists claim that science is based on the scientific method. The steps of the scientific method can be described as:

  1. Make an observation
  2. Ask a question
  3. Form a hypothesis (educated guess)
  4. Conduct an experiment
  5. Accept, reject, or revise the hypothesis

For creationists, the problem with evolution is that evolutionists can’t even make an observation. No one was there to see evolution occur and no one observes evolution today. A second problem is that evolutionists cannot conduct an experiment, and the test of the scientific method is that many experiments, based on the hypothesis, should be performed and they all must produce the same results in order for the hypothesis to be valid.

Evolutionists have not observed evolution and cannot cause evolution to occur again—not even once. Therefore, they have developed only a hypothesis (guess) based on something they have not observed, and they cannot conduct an experiment to determine whether the hypothesis is valid. So belief in evolution is actually faith in the hypothesis. Creationists like to point out that evolution is only a theory, not science.

How Does the Creationist Position Compare?

No matter how it describes itself, creationism is not based on science at all but on the authority of the Bible—specifically the early chapters of Genesis (1-11), including the flood of Noah. For creationists there is really no need for additional evidence.

Scientific Creationism, which arose in the mid-twentieth century, claims to present a scientific case for creationism, but it is merely an attempt to use science to refute the scientific claims of evolution; the foundation of creationism remains the authority of the Bible. If there were no conflict between evolution and the biblical accounts of creation, there would likely be no opposition to it.

More recently, creationists have embraced an approach called intelligent design. It purports two important observations that seem to point to an intelligent designer or creator. One is the fine-tuning of the universe that, against all odds, makes it the perfect place for life and humans to arise. The second is irreducible complexity, which is the claim that certain biological functions cannot evolve from random selection because they are not useful until all the components are fully developed. We will discuss intelligent design in a later blog post.

Are Claims that Evolution is Faith-based Valid?

Some creationists insist that evolutionists were not there to observe and they cannot reproduce the results, therefore the scientific method does not apply and evolution is accepted on faith. But evolutionists do observe; they do not see one species of mammal evolve into another, but they do observe the results of that evolution in the fossil record and in DNA analysis. These are valid observations.

Evolutionists do test their hypotheses. They do so by making more observations to determine whether the results are consistent. Sometimes they find that new data does not support the current hypothesis, so they adjust the hypothesis and continue observing.

Creationists delight in pointing to ‘errors’ of evolutionary theory that were once widely accepted but later abandoned or even exposed as hoaxes. This somehow discredits evolution because evolutionists just can’t get it right, but what it really demonstrates is that evolutionary theory is self-correcting. ‘Errors’ in evolutionary theory are not corrected by creationists but by evolutionists.

Creationism is based on authority, but evolution is not—evolution is not even based on the authority of evolutionary theory. As evidence improves, the theory is adjusted. This is science—not faith.

However, some evolutionists DO have faith. But it not faith in evolution. It is faith in God.

At this point it is helpful to discuss what creationists teach.

image credit: File:High_School_Chemistry.pdf, page 23 via wikimedia commons
Your observations and comments are welcome below.
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9 Responses to Do Evolutionists Believe in Evolution by Faith?

  1. A few little points. All science is a theory so to say “it isn’t a theory, it’s science.” isn’t really true.
    I’ve heard some scientist talk about how they can’t be honest about the changes and doubt about evolution/elements of evolution as they fear it would give strength to the creationists.

    Probably should separate interspecies and intra-species evolution.

    Anyway I’m interested in the series but wary as well, it’s so easy for mud slinging to occur from Creationist, Inteligent-design(-ists?) and evolutionist Christians at each other when discussing these topics. It doesn’t take much to turn into “you are stupid”. (I don’t detect that here but I suspect some will read it as such, people have an amazing ability to read messages that aren’t there)

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    • Thanks for your observations Chris. I hope there will be no mud-slinging or insults here, but you are right–it is a controversial issue and emotions can run high. But I think it is important to talk about it.

      It is true that scientists are not always certain about the details of evolution, and it is true that creationists take every sign of doubt among scientists as proof that the evolutionary perspective is a failure. But two items are worth considering: a) ideas of how evolution works is challenged and corrected by other evolutionists as research improves, and b) doubts about details of evolution are unlikely to cause a scientist to choose Young Earth Creationism as the answer.

      Your comment about theory is correct in itself, but the problem in talking about evolutionary theory is that the two sides often use the word ‘theory’ in different ways. Evolutionists use the word in the scientific sense of an established working model based on research–like the theory of gravity.

      When creationists say it is ‘only a theory’ they are using the word in the popular sense an idea or hunch like ‘I have a theory’. This is a useful concept, but it is closer to what scientists mean by hypothesis. Evolution is no longer just a hypothesis but an accepted working model based on a scientific foundation.

      You raise a good point on ‘interspecies and intra-species evolution.’ Some creationists accept micro-evolution, which is change within a species, but not macro-evolution, which is the change from one species (which they identify with ‘kinds’ in Genesis) to another. Of course, what evolutionists mean by ‘evolution’ is macro-evolution.

      You brought up some good questions! Thanks for your contribution to this discussion!

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  2. sheila0405 says:

    Well, Creationists weren’t there at the beginning of the universe, either. No one saw God set up the earth for habitation. Moses is credited with the authorship of the Pentateuch, and there is nothing in the first eleven chapters of Genesis to indicate where he got his stories, and why he penned them as he did. It could certainly be that those chapters are allegorical in nature. I find these discussions interesting, but not life altering. I can accept that God created us without knowing exactly how. The fossil records are fascinating, but, again, I don’t find these to be life altering. I believe the Genesis narrative of creation, the fall, and the Flood to be allegory. But the truths they transmit are affirmed as we move into the historical narrative.

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    • You are right Sheila! Neither creationists nor evolutionists were witnesses to the beginnings of life! And you are also correct that if the Genesis creation accounts are allegory or some other genre of writing it does not mean that they are of no value.

      The issues of Genesis and evolution should not be ‘life-altering’ as you say. But to many Christians it is life-altering because they feel that, if the Genesis accounts are not literally and historically true, then the entire Bible is untrustworthy. This is a consequence of accepting the recently popular view that the Bible is inerrant in every word that is written.

      If some Christians had a less rigid view of the nature of the Bible, evolution might not be much of a problem to them.

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  3. Marc says:

    It seem that their are actually three models and not just two to explain origins. Young earth creationist and old earth evolutionist are at the forefront of most of these debates. However, the old earth creation model offers an attractive alternative to many. This model accepts the astronomical and geological findings regarding the age of the cosmos and the earth, however it is not held captive by a lack of fossil evidence, or a plausible explanation to explain the rapid appearance of new species after mass extinctions.

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    • Hi Marc,

      For many years I embraced old-earth creationism; I was never a young-earth creationist. Interestingly, it was not evolution that caused me to abandon old-earth creationism. Rather it was the realization that the Genesis creationist accounts were not meant to be descriptions of creation at all.

      I came to see the chapter 1 account as a contrast to the similar creation accounts throughout the Mesopotamian area. The creator-God of Israel was portrayed as more systematic and more in control than the chaotic battling gods of other creation accounts.

      Chapter two represented to me an essay on the common questions we all have. Why is life so hard? Why is there pain and human conflict? Why do we die? And on a less significant note: why do snakes have no legs?

      Evolution itself does not mean much to me and I did not accept the general outlines of evolution until sometime later. The difficulty I have with both YEC and OEC is that they are based on Genesis documents that, in my opinion, are all about something else entirely.

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      • Marc says:

        Hi Tim,
        I will be interested to read your thoughts about Genesis, and other Scriptural revelations. I believe that there are often multiple layers of revelation in many of the Scriptures, so I am open to various interpretations. However, I believe that ultimately these revelations point to Jesus Christ.

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  4. Pingback: What Do Creationists Teach? A guest post by Jonny Scaramanga | Jesus Without Baggage

  5. Pingback: Creation Science Conclusions are not Observable or Testable | Jesus Without Baggage

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