WHILE taking a break from door-knocking in Glasgow East today, discussion round the table turned, rather inevitably, to religious extremism. And then to the subject of creationism. And a colleague claimed that a recent survey had concluded that 40 per cent of the British public believe in the biblical version of the creation of the world.
No way. I just don’t believe that figure. I fully accept that the theory of evolution is just that: a theory, not fact. But those who dispute it can’t simply substitute religion for science; if there’s an alternative scientific theory of how life developed on earth, I’m open to it. But simply to say that evolution is wrong and that God created the universe in the space of six days just over six thousand years ago (October, apparently) is a statement of faith, not science.
I’m a Christian. I know that God created everything in existence. But I don’t accept the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis because I believe in scientific empiricism; that everything in the universe can be explained by the laws of science. Moreover, I believe God created those laws too.
But when religious fundamentalist types start trying to sound all scientific by talking about “intelligent design”, it’s only because that sounds less dogmatic than “creationism”.
Shortly after starting my journalism course in Edinburgh in 1984, some Christian friends suggested I go along to a lecture being given by a visiting American professor who, unusually in those days, was expounding his theory of creationism. They figured it might make for the basis of a news story which I might be able to sell to a newspaper. The professor, it turned out, was clearly very sure of his facts, and was certain of the scientific weaknesses of the theory of evolution. But I wasn’t convinced. Just because you can pick holes in an established scientific theory, it doesn’t mean that scientific theory itself should be abandoned for religious dogmatism. That’s a bit like concluding that if a light in the sky can’t be immediately explained, then it must be an extra-terrestrial spacecraft.
Creationism, or intelligent design, is a concept of faith. As such it should only be expounded as a religious tenet, never in the context of scientific debate.