For more information about religious perspectives on evolution, please see the Science and Religion section of our website.
Statements added since the 3rd Edition are denoted with a *
The Affiliation of Christian Geologists is committed to the historic Christian faith and to its meaningful integration with the best available science. This effort reflects our desire to serve God with all our minds. Data from science also help us to serve our neighbors and to care for God’s creation. Investigations of the Earth and the universe have been ongoing for hundreds of years using such scientific methodologies as:
Beginning in the mid-1600’s, geologists and astronomers (including many Christians) have consistently found that the scientific evidence clearly favors a vast age for the earth and the universe. Current scientific calculations indicate that the universe began about 13 billion years ago and the earth about 4.6 billion years ago. These conclusions are based on cumulative evidence and are refined with each new study. All scientific knowledge is constrained by the limitations of the methods of inquiry and discovery. We are limited and sometimes mistaken in our understanding of both nature and Scripture, but ultimately the two must not conflict, both coming from the same Creator. Although Scripture contains essential information on origins that gives meaning and perspective, technical details of the method and timing of creation are not major concerns of the Biblical text, and many orthodox theologians do not see a conflict between the Bible and an old creation.
The authors of this statement constitute a group set up for the purpose by the Executive Committee of the International Society for Science and Religion. Through a process involving consultation with all members of the Society, the statement has now been accepted by the Executive Committee for publication as a statement made on behalf of the Society.
The Society retains the copyright of the statement, but gives general permission to reproduce it, in whole or in part, provided that the statement in the paragraph immediately preceding this is reproduced.
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The International Society for Science and Religion is a scholarly society devoted to ongoing dialogue between the sciences and the community of world faiths (see www.issr.org.uk). It was established in 2002 for the purpose of promoting education through the support of interdisciplinary learning and research in the fields of science and religion, conducted where possible in an international and multi-faith context.
The society greatly values modern science, while deploring efforts to drive a wedge between science and religion. Science operates with a common set of methodological approaches that gives freedom to scientists from a range of religious backgrounds to unite in a common endeavor. This approach does not deny the existence of a metaphysical realm but rather opens up the natural world to a range of explorations that have been incredibly productive, especially over the last 400 years or so.
The intelligent-design (ID) movement began in the late 1980s as a challenge to the perceived secularization of the scientific community, which leaders of the movement maintained had been coloured with the philosophy of atheistic naturalism. ID theorists have focused their critique primarily on biological evolution and the neo-Darwinian paradigm. They claim that because certain biological features appear to be "irreducibly complex" and thus incapable of evolving incrementally by natural selection, they must have been created by the intervention of an intelligent designer. Despite this focus on evolution, intelligent design should not be confused with biblical or "scientific" creationism, which relies on a particular interpretation of the Genesis account of creation.
We believe that intelligent design is neither sound science nor good theology. Although the boundaries of science are open to change, allowing supernatural explanations to count as science undercuts the very purpose of science, which is to explain the workings of nature without recourse to religious language. Attributing complexity to the interruption of natural law by a divine designer is, as some critics have claimed, a science stopper. Besides, ID has not yet opened up a new research program. In the opinion of the overwhelming majority of research biologists, it has not provided examples of "irreducible complexity" in biological evolution that could not be explained as well by normal scientifically understood processes. Students of nature once considered the vertebrate eye to be too complex to explain naturally, but subsequent research has led to the conclusion that this remarkable structure can be readily understood as a product of natural selection. This shows that what may appear to be "irreducibly complex" today may be explained naturalistically tomorrow.
Scientific explanations are always incomplete. We grant that a comprehensive account of evolutionary natural history remains open to complementary philosophical, metaphysical, and religious dimensions. Darwinian natural history does preempt certain accounts of creation, leading, for example, to the contemporary creationist and ID controversies. However, in most instances, biology and religion operate at different and non-competing levels. In many religious traditions, such as some found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, the notion of intelligent design is irrelevant. We recognize that natural theology may be a legitimate enterprise in its own right, but we resist the insistence of intelligent-design advocates that their enterprise be taken as genuine science — just as we oppose efforts of others to elevate science into a comprehensive world view (so-called scientism).
We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology. We recognize medical, technical, and scientific technologies as legitimate uses of God’s natural world when such use enhances human life and enables all of God’s children to develop their God-given creative potential without violating our ethical convictions about the relationship of humanity to the natural world. We reexamine our ethical convictions as our understanding of the natural world increases. We find that as science expands human understanding of the natural world, our understanding of the mysteries of God’s creation and word are enhanced.
In acknowledging the important roles of science and technology, however, we also believe that theological understandings of human experience are crucial to a full understanding of the place of humanity in the universe. Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities and seek the kind of participation that will enable humanity to sustain life on earth and, by God’s grace, increase the quality of our common lives together.
WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church has for many years supported the separation of church and State (¶ 164C, Book of Discipline, 2004, p. 119);
Therefore, be it resolved, that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church go on record as opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools.
Objective scientific process should not be subverted to serve political or ideological goals. In recent years, however, substantial evidence has surfaced indicating that policymakers within the federal government are attempting to suppress objective scientific evidence, to distort scientific findings and to appoint or place individuals in a variety of positions in order to promote a political and ideological agenda. Such concerns have been raised in various contexts, perhaps most notably in areas affecting our nation's environment and public health. These concerns have been documented in the newspapers, congressional hearings and reports from respected scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Union of Concerned Scientists. These investigations document several ways in which science is being misused: through efforts to suppress or distort scientific findings, through the appointment of scientists and researchers who meet certain political and ideological rather than professional criteria, through funding politically self-serving scientific studies and through the intimidation of scientists. These alarming efforts undermine the integrity of the scientific process.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently conducted an investigation into allegations of the politicization of science within the federal government, which found evidence suggesting a systematic effort to suppress and distort scientific findings in order to promote certain political ends. For example, according to the UCS, under pressure from the White House, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) replaced a web site fact sheet containing information on proper condom use, the efficacy of different types of condoms, and a study showing that condom education does not lead to an increase in sexual activity with information on condom failure and the value of abstinence. Additionally, information suggesting a link between breast cancer and abortion was posted on the National Cancer Institute's web site against the objection of CDC staff who denounced such information as long-refuted and unsubstantiated.
The same report indicates that the Bush administration delayed for nine months an EPA report (eventually leaked) that indicated that 8 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 49 have blood mercury levels that could lead to reduced I.Q. and motor skills in their offspring. When new rules of mercury emissions were finally released by the EPA, at least 12 paragraphs were transferred, sometimes verbatim, from a legal document prepared by industry attorneys.
Additionally, several reports commissioned by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA)5 have documented numerous distortions of science by the executive branch, including the widespread incorporation of erroneous, politicized information in federally funded abstinence-only curricula. Some of these misrepresentations include inaccurate statistics about contraception, a false linkage between abortions and breast cancer, the labeling of a 43-day-old fetus as a "thinking person" and the notion that "sweat and tears" can transmit HIV. There is also growing use of political litmus tests for scientific appointees, who, reports indicate, have been asked about their political affiliations rather than their professional credentials. For example, the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine released a report in the Winter of 2005 entitled "Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments." Among their recommendations was that "it is no more appropriate to ask S&T [Science and Technology] experts to provide irrelevant information — such as voting record, political-party affiliation or position on particular policies — than to ask them other personal and immaterial information, such as hair color or height."
Furthermore, the scientific theory of evolution is being challenged in school districts and the courts by proponents of "intelligent design." According to the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that is a leading intelligent design (ID) proponent, "The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."
ID proponents are increasingly, and with success, seeking to use public schools to advance this concept, suggesting that "intelligent design" holds scientific merit equal to the theory of evolution. The overwhelming majority of the scientific community, which supports theories that are testable by experiment or observation, oppose treating ID, which is neither, as scientific theory. A 1999 report by the National Academy of Sciences states, "Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science." Public officials have supported public schools teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in science curricula.
There are several legislative proposals seeking to prevent the obstruction of federally funded scientific research, censoring findings, or disseminating scientific information known to be false or misleading. Politicizing science is antithetical to Jewish values. Maimonides notes, "The spiritual perfection of a person consists in becoming an intelligent being — one who knows all that he [or she] is capable of learning. And such knowledge is obtained not by virtue or piety, but through inquiry and research." The scientific process requires the generation and analysis of objective data. The insertion of politics and ideology into science represents the subversion of that process.