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Evolution & Creationism: Issues, Science, and Religion

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Is evolution a science? Is creationism a science? What is science, anyway? Is there evidence for either? Religious fundamentalists often attack evolution, but rarely from a positions of really understanding what evolution is and how it works. The documents in this FAQ will not only teach you more about the nature of evolution and evolutionary theory, but it will also explain some of the more common complaints and where they go wrong.

1. What is Evolution?

Evolution can be a difficult concept for people to come to terms with, especially if they do not have much experience with life sciences. Is evolution a fact or a theory? Or is it both? Does evolution explain the origin of life or not? These are important questions which people need to be able to understand and answer. Unfortunately, there are too many examples of people who don't understand any of it with many of these people trying criticize evolution while promoting creationism. No criticism will be valid when it proceeds from gross misrepresentations of the facts. Evolution is not a minor matter - it is, in fact, the cornerstone of all modern biology.

2. What is Creationism?

Like evolution, creationism can have more than one meaning. At its most basic, creationism is the belief that the universe was created by a deity of some sort; after that, there is quite a lot of variety among creationists as to just what they believe and why. People may lump all creationists together in one group, but it is important to understand where they differ in their ideas and theology because they can make very different critiques of evolution. You yourself won't be able to adequately respond to creationist arguments or offer counter-arguments unless you understand what sort of creationism you're dealing with.

3. What is Science?

It isn't easy to provide a simple, definitive explanation of what science is because there is no entity with the authority to define science. Coming up with a proper definition of science is not unlike coming up with a proper definition of other human institutions, like religion or family: there is so much going on that long, complex books are written in an effort to explain it all - and still people disagree. Nevertheless it's critical to identify what science is and is not because otherwise you can't understand why evolution is a science by creationism is not; why astronomy is a religion while astronomy is not. Science is an important foundation of the modern world which we should all better understand.

4. Evolution & Religion

Evolution and religion often seem to be locked in a desperate struggle of life and death - and, for some religious beliefs, perhaps that impression is reasonably accurate. However, the fact that some religions and some religious dogmas are not entirely compatible with evolutionary biology does not mean that the same must be true for all religions or religion generally. What is certainly false is the assertion that evolution itself is a religion — that's a claim which rests upon falsehood about both religion and science.

5. Evolution & Law

Evolution is perhaps the only area of science which has been transformed into a legal issue on which courts around the country have had to render decisions. No one initiates lawsuits over the teaching of gravity, physics, chemistry, or any other part of the science curriculum — even though the evidential and scientific foundations of evolution are just as strong as the rest. It's also highly unlikely to find heated legislative debates over the status of such topics in public schools, which makes evolution even more unusual. That only evolution is the subject of so much non-scientific, political debate is a testimony to the power of anti-scientific religion in American society.

6. Creationism and Evolution: Evidence and Use

Many people think that there isn't any evidence for evolution, but that is an error. There is biochemical evidence, genetic evidence, fossil evidence, and quite a lot more. Creationism, however, does not have any evidence to support it whatsoever. Understanding the superiority of evolution over creationism is greatly aided by a better understanding of what kinds of evidence exist out there as well as how and why all that evidence clearly supports evolutionary theory but not creationist religion.

7. Abiogenesis & The Origin of Life

Over the past few years, many scientists have been rethinking just how life on this planet might have begun. Traditionally, it is has been advanced that billions of years ago, in some muddy pool on the Earth's surface, life first began. Recently, however, evidence has begun pointing to new possibilities - in particular, that life might have gotten its start deep under the surface within geothermally heated rocks in hot, high-pressure conditions. Most people simply aren't aware of these changes - very little is reported in the media, unfortunately, and far too many people imagine that the origins of life are somehow part of evolutionary theory, which is untrue.s

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