THINKING ANGLICANS

creationism in Britain

Theos has announced Biggest evolution and God survey ever launched today.

Among its key findings, the report reveals that:

  • Only 54% of people know that Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species (3% believe he wrote The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and 1% think he wrote The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver).
  • Only 15% of people know that Charles Darwin was a self-described agnostic towards the end of his life (20% think he was an atheist).
  • 42% of people believe that evolution presents some challenges to Christianity but that it is possible to believe in both.

The research also canvassed people across the UK about the origins of human life and found that:

  • The East has the largest proportion of people in the UK who believe that the theory of evolution removes any need for God (44%)
  • Wales has the largest proportion of theistic evolutionists (the belief that evolution is part of God’s plan – 38%).
  • Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people who believe in Intelligent Design (16%) and Creationism (25%).

Read the full report as a PDF here (1.1.Mb).

The Guardian has published a snazzy interactive map which shows more details of the regional breakdown of answers. This accompanies a news report headlined Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism.

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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“There are twe lessons in particular that we learn from Darwin. The first is that belief in God and evolution are compatible. Secondly, in a time when debates about evolution and religious belief can be aggressive and polarised, Charles Darwin remains an example of ‘how to disagree without being disagreeable'”. – Paul Woolley – In these concluding remarks by the Director of the ‘Theos’ research project undertaken to find out the attitude of Britons to the current debate on Creationism in Britain, he points to a finding that could well be emulated in the controversies in the Church about women… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Fr Ron It strikes me that the biggest problem most Creationists have with Darwinism is that evolution implies that we have been created as we are, and that we are still developing. That can be interpreted as negating the Fall. If there was no perfect creation – what does it say about the creator? If there was no perfect creation from which we fell by our own disobedience – why did we need Jesus to atone for our sins? It casts huge questionmarks over the Incarnation and over many people’s understanding of Atonement, Redemption and Salvation. Maybe it would be… Read more »

PeterM
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PeterM

Erika – Evolution (or Darwin’s theories) doesn’t imply anything about the perfection of creation. It takes as its starting point the observation that the earth and the life upon it have changed over time. Darwin and his successors have provided an explanation for the way life has evolved, they haven’t changed anything about creation but our minds! If you want: the perfection lies not in a static state of creation, but in the way it can evolve; the creation is fallen because things are not right (just look around, Darwin hasn’t changed anything); we still need a Saviour for humanity… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Erika: It’s nice for you to find reasons for the Creationists to think as they do, but the thinking is still faulty. It means they read the Genesis story as fact, rather than as myth, parable or allegory. Man’s “fall” occurred the first time he did something that his conscience–God speaking to him in his mind–told him was wrong. That was the first sin. I’ve read many attempts–good ones, ones that speak directly to your question–to reconcile evolution with the fall and redemption. Most boil down to what I’ve written here. Yet, the Creationists reject them, because they are not… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
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Columba Gilliss

What shook Darwin’s faith was not his scientific studies but the death of his deeply loved daughter.

I’m glad to know what I am, a theistic evolutionist. Never saw the term before and while not terribly comfortable with the historic uses of the term theism find it intersting.
Columba Gilliss

john
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john

Excellent post, Erika, with which I largely agree, except for your first sentence, which I think inaccurately formulated. Evolution: (a) forces us to say there was never any ideal state; (b) forces us to admit that the created world is necessarily a rough old place; (c) kicks a big hole in any notion of original sin; (d) at least raises the possibility that man isn’t/won’t always be ‘the pinnacle of the creation’; (e) forces a major redefinition of the trad. ‘sin narrative’. We still need a ‘sin narrative’ but have to admit that any such narrative doesn’t explain all the… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

PeterM and Pat

thank you. They are not my questions, they are the questions I have heard people ask many times.

Whether the answer is convincing or not, isn’t it true that the conversation is rarely heard?

Or maybe I’m moving in the wrong circles 🙂

JCF
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JCF

Erika,

I don’t have time for a long answer, but I suggest looking at the first “theistic evolutionist”: St. Paul.

When Paul wrote (para.) “I want to do right—but I don’t do right. I don’t want to sin—but I do sin. {Argh!}” he didn’t blame Adam&Eve for his condition. He was simply describing WHAT IS.

THIS is “The Fall” we need saving from: our sinful selves, not some supposed criminal incident of pre-history.

Is it possible we Homo sapiens could evolve out of sin? Maybe—but who cares? I need a Savior now!

bobinswpa
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bobinswpa

The arguments for and against the fall and atonement theology are well documented. Pat: You stated,” Man’s “fall” occurred the first time he did something that his conscience–God speaking to him in his mind–told him was wrong. That was the first sin.” I would content that our definition of sin has over timed changed. Look how Paul saw sex as a necessary evil (“But if they have not continence (i.e., they cannot exercise self-control), they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn.” (Hell vs. passion interpretations). My understanding is most of our present sexual repression comes… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

The problem really is that evolution shows a world founded on pain and loss. The underlying assumption is that many genetic mutations are ired out, and found to be wanting, and die away. And believing in evolution we can no longer believe that the tiger’s taste for meat arises from the sin of two humans at the dawn of time. A theistic evolutionist must believe that God made the tiger and the less-appealing parasites, too. Those who burrow into childrens’ eyeballs and bind them. Parasitic wasps who eat out the interior of their hosts, and emerge. The latter horrified Darwin,… Read more »

Ford ELms
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Ford ELms

“If there was no perfect creation – what does it say about the creator?” But what is a perfect creation? For me, the Fall was something in our evolution that changed us and our relationship to each other, the rest of creation, and God. We, as a result of the Fall, have a different relationship with sin and death than others of God’s creatures. So, I don’t believe that evolution implies that there was no perfect creation. Animals killing one another according to the laws of nature don’t commit murder, for example, German animal rights industrialists to the contrary. So,… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“If there was no perfect creation – what does it say about the creator?” – Erika – Erika, this question is almost as tricky as the one about the chicken and the egg: ‘Which came first’ – except that we who believe in God as Who/what used to be called ‘The uncaused Cause’, have sufficient faith in both the Creator and the reality of a continuing evolution of the Creation, to understand that science is merely knowledge, and to us mortals, our knowledge is continually expanding – about the Cosmos, and the possible intention of God in the ongoing Creation.… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

‘Traditional Christology’ has had its day, so it may not be essential to reconcile it with evolutionary theory afterall. (Unless you would enjoy the project).

Btw It may be worth bearing in mind that there is no ‘Fall’ in Judaism.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

We have no dearth of serious, productive efforts to demonstrate how following Jesus of Nazareth is harmonized with science in general, and volutionary models more particularly. Just one example of many? See: http://www.salon.com/books/atoms_eden/2008/07/01/saving_darwin/ We also have plenty of traditional believer stuff, misreading evolution and science, in favor of a more literalistic than not reading of the scriptures. The whole debate is not really so much an inquiry into science or evolution, or a test of Darwin, as it actually is a test of the more literalistic than not readings of the scriptures. The business is complicated. On one level the… Read more »

peterpi
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peterpi

Columba, I too am intrigued by the phrase “theistic evolutionist”. I have often cheekily stated I agree with the concept of Intelligent Design. Except that, while God is the Intelligence, God’s Design is evolution! Erika, define “perfection” or “perfect creation”. Maybe Creation is unfolding exactly as God intended, with its evolving species. I feel the notion that, because two members of the species homo sapiens sinned against God, therefore all of the tens of billions of life-forms on this planet, the tens of billions of life-forms that may exist on planets throughout the Universe, the tens of billions of galaxies,… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Thanks everyone yet again. I would like to stress one more time that these are not my questions but questions people have asked me. So if I take what you all said: We have fallen because we have been given a free will which we then use to do wrong, knowing that it is wrong (when we go against our conscience). Therefore we need Jesus as saviour. But without a lot more explanations, this doesn’t work. As peterpi says, maybe Creation is unfolding exactly as God intended. And that includes our still evolving brains and sense of what is moral… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Once you take away the concept of “it’s all our fault that we spoilt God’s perfection”, the idea that someone sinless had to atone for us just doesn’t make sense at all to many people.”

Of course, it doesn’t. It isn’t meant to. God’s love for us is beyond our ken. It encompasses sacrificing his son for our sake, to bring us closer to God. Sure, we wouldn’t do it…but we’re not God.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“Second is the nature of the event that brought about the Fall.”

But how about the “placing” of the Gnosticist Idea of a “Fall”?

Why is it put in Genesis 3 and not in Genesis 4?

Isn’t that the real question?

(which put more questions about the influences we read into the Bible)

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Pat
“It encompasses sacrificing his son for our sake, to bring us closer to God.”

That, precisely, is what many don’t understand.
Why would it need a sacrifice to bring God’s creation, that is precisely as he has created it, closer to him?

And it’s not “oh, he does this for us, see how much he loves us”, but it’s “died for our sins”….

The crux remains. If evolution means that these “sins” are part of our process of growing up, then we need all kinds of help to recognise God, but we don’t need someone to die to “reconcile” us to him.

john
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john

Erika, Why not like this: We need a God who suffers with us. Jesus fulfils this requirement. We need Jesus’ death as exemplary of all that is bad (what we do bad, what is intrinsically bad in the universe). We need the resurrection (anticipatory of our own) as a sign that everything will eventually be well. We have to go for kenotic Christology. That’s not too far from the traditional Christian narrative (which I – unlike, say Pluralist – want to hang on to in some form). It should enable traditionalists and liberals to co-exist. In practice, few of the… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Isn’t that the real question?” I’m not sure what you’re talking about here, Goran, but I’m sure I’d be interested if I did. I love this kind of approach that reminds us that the only reason we give Scripture the authority it has is because of what we believe it to be. In their day, the writings some now consider infallible were just some of a whole bunch of stuff, some of it incredibly bizarre, that was being written as “Christian”. We, especially the fundies who seem to think God got up one day, said “Moses take a letter” and… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

John
Absolutely!
But not many Christians are actually saying that.

And I believe that many creationists are so worried that, if they had to breathe some life into their tight beliefs, the whole edifice would crumble. Better not to breathe and to deny the difficult science altogether.

Many of the 92% non churchgoers (in Western Europe) don’t often hear that kind of explanation being preached either.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

What I mean dear Ford, is that Genesis 3 is a story about 2 moving trees, which has been overlaid with a great many alien pre-suppositions of a Fall, “sex”, disobedience…

But that Genesis 4 portraying Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, would in all respects be a more worthy candidate for a theology of fallen humanity…

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“That’s not too far from the traditional Christian narrative” Except that it misses completely one of the central aspects of whole myth, which is the Fall of all Creation with its subsequent resoration in Christ. It is why we are made a “new creation” at our baptism, it is why representational art is acceptable in Christian devotion, it informs sacramental theology, it is why the day of the Resurrection is called at times “the eighth day of Creation”, it is why we speak of Creation “groaning in her travail” yearning for her perfection. In this light, the Christ event is… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Why would it need a sacrifice to bring God’s creation, that is precisely as he has created it, closer to him?” Because it isn’t “precisely as He created it”. It was damaged at the Fall. “we need all kinds of help to recognise God, but we don’t need someone to die to “reconcile” us to him.” Why not? We were created perfect, then, because of some mystical act that includes our own free will, we fell from that perfection. How can you say that restoration to that state of Grace doesn’t require sacrifice? I get the feeling you don’t like… Read more »

joan_of_Quark
Guest

Incorporating evolution and aspects of modern biological knowledge into faith might also have implications for a view of the soul: for instance, as humans evolved from something that did not have a soul, where is the point at which they acquired it? Or is it a continuum – can you have some kind of continuing essence which is not a soul, at some point before consciousness and self-awareness? Does this affect debates on experimentation on highly evolved animals or on abortion, for example?
(I’m finding the discussion on creation/fall/incarnation fascinating)

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford “Except that it misses completely one of the central aspects of whole myth, which is the Fall of all Creation with its subsequent restoration in Christ.” Indeed, that’s what I’m saying. It has to miss it out. Because if evolution is going exactly as planned, then the consequences of our evolving free will are also part of the plan. And therefore, restoration is not needed. And if evolution is not going as planned, then free will was a design fault for which no sacrifice on our behalf is needed to restore us to God. That is, precisely, where traditional… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“We have to go for kenotic Christology.” – John – John, I think you have hit the nail on the head right here. The concept of kenosis, which has been around for quite a while in the Church, has likely been left out of modern preaching – simply because it is not only difficult but unpopular. We need to look at the attitude of the human being, Jesus, who, when confronted with his own death, was at first (humanly) appalled at what was awaiting him, then realised that he was the example – par excellence – of the only perfect… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Reading back over all these discussions, I am led to the following conclusion:

Our understanding of the “Fall,” like our understanding of everything, is limited by our human capacities. In some senses, our ongoing scientific knowledge increases our ability to understand it; in other senses, it obscures that ability. I think, again, we come down to the difference between empirical science and faith. We can never “know”–in a scientific sense–what it means to be part of a fallen and redeemed creation; we can only believe that we are and act accordingly.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron
“Kenosis – the act of putting one’s self at risk for the sake of others – is at the very heart of the New Testament, and its Christological kernel. When we examine God’s plan for humanity, we see that it is based on the community ethic. This was not only Jewish but also an intensely Christian philosophy. That we have been created to “love one another as Christ has loved us”. “

Amen to that!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“What I do see myself as is failing……knowing I’m held in God’s love and forgiveness.” This is enough for me, Erika. You said you don’t like to think of yourself as a sinner, but this statement is a pretty good definition of what it is to be a sinner. I agree with you about the business of beating yourself up like an unworthy worm. That’s not metanoia, that’s just guilt based self flagellation. Some need that to feel whole. But others, like us, don’t. Put it this way, if you were to do something that put a separation between you… Read more »

john
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john

Father Ron, Thanks. I don’t disagree with what you say. But I meant it rather in another direction. “Fully human, fully divine” is a very difficult doctrine. Paul’s idea of ‘kenosis’ seems to raise the possibility of a temporary, partial, human-life, suspension of full divine knowledge. Trivial example: Jesus couldn’t speak German (utterly implausible to claim that), though he could speak Aramaic (his first language), at least some Greek and maybe some Latin. The theological point is that the ’emptied-out’ God as manifest in Jesus may be expected to speak in theological language which we know (yes, we do) to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

John, re your latest; it seems to me perfectly understandable that Jesus in human form was in some way limited as to his divine perception. I can believe that his divinity at that time consisted in his unique relationship to his Father through the medium of the Holy Spirit – a paradigm wherein we might better understand our own connection with the Father and the Son. I believe that the process of the Incarnation of Jesus involved that ‘self-emptying’ – kenosis – which was necessary if Jesus were to completely understand our common human frailty – which he shared during… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Father Ron,

Thanks again.

Best,

John.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“seeimingly fully accepted by Jesus” Or perhaps accepted by the people to whom He was talking. I don’t really think God Incarnate, in addition to all the rest He had come to do, had time to give first century Jews a crash course in modern pathophysiology. Better to talk to them in terms they understood. Who would have listened to Him if He started out saying that the leper He had just cured wasn’t really cursed but actually had an infection caused by something they couldn’t see? Or that the epileptic wasn’t possessed, but actually was suffering from a disfunction… Read more »