Creationists and evolutionary science: responses to Professor Reiss

11 November 2009


From Mr Duncan Reeve
Sir, — The Revd Professor Michael Reiss’s evolutionary interpretation of Genesis (Features, 6 November) owes more to the ideas of those hostile to God than to the text of the Bible. It is sad to see our churchmen setting more authority in the changing theories of fallible man than in the plain teaching of scripture.

It hard to imagine how the Bible could have been written to make it more clear that Genesis contains a historical account of recent six-day creation. All the New Testament authors quoted from Genesis as a historical account. Genesis has been accepted as a historical account by the vast majority of Christians for the greater part of the Church’s life.

The creation-evolution debate is not really about science at all. It is about opposing world-views. Is the Bible reliable? Or do modern scientific fads have more authority than the Word of God?

In any case, the scientific evidence does not fit the old-earth picture, as Professor Reiss alleges. According to secular thinking, diamonds are more than a billion years old, and yet they are carbon-dated to just thousands of years old. Volcanic rock from Mount St Helen’s is millions of years old according to potassium-argon radiometric dating, and yet we know it is just 29 years old. Nevertheless, we are told to accept radiometric dating as authoritative, and anyone who dares question the prevailing dogma is branded loony.

The evidence does not speak for itself. It is not a surprise that some scientists infer age from the evidence, when that is one of their starting assumptions. The idea of great age stems from a belief in uniform­itarianism. This is clearly unbiblical, and even secular scientists acknow­ledge the part played by catastroph­ism. After all, you don’t fossilise a dinosaur by burying it a millimetre at a time over hundreds of years.
5 Lancaster Ride, Penn
Bucks HP10 8DU


From the Revd Professor Anthony J. Sargeant
Sir, — The standfirst on the Revd Professor Michael Reiss’s article said: “Creationists and evolutionists continue to vie with each other over Charles Darwin’s theories.” No, they don’t.

As the author knows very well, evolutionary science is a well-developed and tested branch of biology. There is no real sense in which that scientific understanding “vies” with religiously based creation fables, myths, and metaphors. There is no reputable scientific journal that publishes research papers arguing for “creationism” or its variant “intelligent design” as against evolutionary science.

Equally, and in tandem with this, nobody with a modicum of scientific education believes that the earth is only few thousand years old, even though this view is promulgated by some religious groups.

It is unfortunate that the standfirst also refers to “Charles Darwin’s theories”, as if 1859 were all there was to evolutionary science. Darwin was brilliant, but he was not alone, even in the 19th century. In the past 150 years, our understanding has developed enormously. Rather than speak of Darwinism or even neo-Darwinism, it would perhaps be preferable to simply talk about “evolutionary science”, especially since there is no other game in town.

The sooner that science is taught well and unambiguously in schools, the better it will be for our society.
Research Professor of Physiology,
Amsterdam and Manchester
Greenbank House
Astbury Village Green
Cheshire CW12 4RQ

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