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Exploring the Validity of Natural Theology
The thought processes that underlie Creationism and Evolution are undoubtedly very different. The fundamentalists of the former school of thought adhere to the Biblical tenet that divine creation in six days is responsible for environmental diversity, whereas evolutionists have repeatedly stated that the universe was created billions of years ago and is in a constant state of fluctuation. At first glance, these accounts of life on Earth seem incompatible—the creationists base their beliefs purely on faith and explain their surroundings based on that conclusion, while scientists work in the opposite direction by asking questions first and make systematic observations that have resulted from their propositions (Moore 5-6). Ernst Mayr claims that “the beliefs of creationism are in conflict with the findings of science,” but the founders of Natural Theology have managed to unite the principles of Genesis with those of evolution (qtd. in Mayr 4). There are strict purists who claim that it is not viable to combine the two ideologies, but it is possible to incorporate the concept of G-d into scientific fact.
Although there are several variations on the concept of Natural Theology, its advocates generally accept evolution. Whereas strict creationists reject the notion that the Earth was formed billions of years ago, natural theists accept the scientific evidence for the age of the Earth with one large discrepancy: organisms could have only originated with the aid of divine intervention. However, it is acknowledged that there is no concrete evidence to substantiate the belief that the Earth was created a mere few thousand years ago, just as there isn’t any geological confirmation that a global flood engulfed the entire planet (Science and Creationism). This liberal interpretation of Genesis and cautious acceptance of evolution allows for some flexibility with previously undisputed Biblical notions, such as the idea that the creation of the world was completed within six twenty-four hour periods. Those six days have been construed to signify as a literary device by the author of the Bible, six days separated by long time periods, or as six days from the perspective of an ageless G-d (Commission on Creation). Thus, the essence of Natural Theory is that an omnipotent creator fashioned the physical processes that set evolution in motion and these processes resulted in the creation of life.
This theory appears to be logical, except for the notion that some aspects of life are so complex that they completely transcend human understanding and are thereby the work of an Intelligent Designer. This idea would have been more logical in previous centuries where the scope of science was very limited or nonexistent altogether, but we have since gained the knowledge of the cell—the basic unit of life—and have thus learned of the complexities of the even the smallest micro-organisms. It would appear that in modern times, there is very little that is (or will ever be) completely unknowable to the formidable scope of science, but at the end of the nineteenth century, such a conclusion would have been unreasonable. For example, the discovery of radioactivity provided scientists with an accurate geological clock that enabled them to determine a close approximation of the Earth’s age, which led many creationists to re-evaluate their belief that world was merely thousands of years old (Moore 180). Essentially, what we do not know today we may discover tomorrow; the only genuinely improvable concept being the existence and nature of G-d.
Science and Creationism do not completely make sense on their own accords, so the concept of a higher being can be incorporated into evolutionary thought. Faith is not necessarily only for the closed-minded—it is the few vocal fundamentalists who give religion a negative reputation in the eyes of logical thinkers. The question of the Creationists is certainly valid: how can inanimate matter suddenly become life and how did that matter even come to be created? A
strict interpretation of the Bible states that G-d created the universe in all of its entirety in a mere six days, but this explanation of our existence does not correlate with proven facts regarding the age of the Earth. Science cannot prove the existence of a G-d or other supernatural occurrences because science is involved with the natural world and there are no such tools that have been developed to prove in the reality of an omnipotent force. Conversely, Genesis contains no scientific evidence nor provides an explanation of the diversity of life and the universality of cellular biochemistry in living organisms (Moore 52). The Natural Theology solution: G-d created evolution.