“Creation versus Evolution”: Is This a Real Issue?

School boards in an uproar. Parents protective of their children. Teachers defensive. Students confused. The furore over creation versus evolution has been going on for almost a century and a half since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species (1859).

Recently, Gallup reported that a quarter of Canadians continue to believe that God created human beings in our present form within the last 10,000 years and referred to that belief as “creationism.” And more than a third of Canadians think that creationism should be taught in schools.

Uh, oh.

The crucial thing to get straight here is that the apparent battle of “creation versus evolution” is, in most respects, nonsense.

Belief in creation means simply to believe that a deity, or several deities, brought the cosmos into being. It is a core belief of many religions: Judaism, Christianiy, and Islam, of course, but also certain varieties of Hinduism and Buddhism and of tribal religions around the world. That God (or the gods) created the world is what ought to be meant by “creation” and “creationism.”

How God (or the gods) did this creating is the open, scientific question.

Nowadays, however, many people assume that belief in creation (= “creationism”) means a very particular set of beliefs: that the Biblical God created the world in six 24-hour days; that the earth is less than 10,000 years old; and that the planet appears older because a global flood in Noah’s time laid down the deep layers of sediment that evolutionists think took billions of years to accumulate.

These beliefs are not, in fact, traditional Christian beliefs, but a particular, and recent, variety of Christian thought, properly known as “creation science” or “scientific creationism.” Creation science was popularized in a 1923 book called The New Geology by amateur U.S. scientist George McCready Price. A Seventh-Day Adventist, Price learned from Adventism’s founder Ellen G. White that God had revealed to her that Noah’s flood was responsible for the fossil record.

Price didn’t influence the popular mind much, however. It remained for a 1961 book called The Genesis Flood, largely an academic dressing-up of Price’s work by engineer Henry Morris and theologian John Whitcomb, to disseminate the creation science scheme. A variety of organizations (such as the Institute for Creation Research in Texas) have so energetically propagated these ideas that some polls show they are believed by more than 40 per cent of the American population and, as Gallup recently confirmed, by a considerable fraction of Canadians.

This version of creation, however, is but one of four different understandings of creation held by Bible-believing, church-going Christians.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Why Slain Missionary John Allen Chau Might Be a Martyr

[The following appeared this week via Religion News Service]

Now that many more details have emerged about how John Allen Chau prepared for his fatal foray onto the shore of North Sentinel Island, it has become clear that fair-minded people might agree on everything about his story — except the most important thing.

The “most important thing,” of course, is whether the gospel message he aimed to bring the islanders is actually true, and on that hangs the verdict as to the validity and value of his effort.

Chau first emerged to international attention as a kind of kooky kid missionary whose naïveté cost him his life. The huge smile beaming out from initial photographs seemed to combine both youthful enthusiasm and callow recklessness.

As journalists began to talk with the missionary agency that sent him, however, a different portrait appeared, a portrait of a young man, not a boy, with long dedication and extensive preparation.

He trained in both linguistics and missionary anthropology. He knew no one else spoke the islanders’ language and he was ready to try to learn it, even over years living among the islanders. (Missionaries have faced such linguistic barriers many times before, of course, and have often been the first to reduce languages to writing.) He even attended a boot camp that simulated first contact in order to learn best practices in such encounters.

Chau and his mission knew about the risk of infection by outsiders. He underwent a full range of inoculations and took time in quarantine to render himself as safe as possible. He recognized the islanders’ fierce protectiveness of their isolation, and he knew the history of missionary work being connected odiously with imperialism.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Gay-Straight Alliances, Secrecy, and the Public Trust

The word out of Alberta about Gay-Straight Alliance clubs (GSAs) hasn’t been good of late. According to the Calgary Herald, the Alberta Court of Appeal this week heard that in at least two instances, children were taken away from school by GSA sponsors and exposed to graphic sexual material.

According to Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) and the appellant in this case, one child was taken to a GSA conference and reported that he “watched a demonstration on how to put a condom on a banana; he was given materials with a space ship shaped like a giant penis with a caption ‘explore your anus’; [and] he was given a 50-page flip book with step-by-step instructions on how to have sex, with what appears to be an older individual.”

The crucial problem being litigated here is the provision in Alberta government’s Bill 24that prohibits the school from informing parents of their child’s involvement in a GSA. But of course there are more problems coming to light. What’s the main one?

The main problem is not, in fact, that some GSA sponsors might abuse, and apparently have abused, the trust students have placed in them. Such abuse—that might well end up in actual sexual abuse—is abhorrent, of course, and it is irresponsible not to think predators won’t take advantage of these situations. Have we so quickly forgotten hockey coach Graham James and gymnastics physician Larry Nasser?

The main problem is also not that children will be see graphic sexual material, since the Internet puts it in front of them all the time—although a key difference here is that authority figures are putting it in front of them, which makes it much worse. A child might well understand that the Internet is full of unseemly and even disgusting things she should avoid. But how is she supposed to react when a teacher or other sponsor is the source? How much freedom does she have to turn away then?

Bad as these problems are, they can be remedied by the usual measures we take in public schooling. We make sure those in charge are people trained to perform this particular duty well. (We wouldn’t put a home economics teacher—no matter how sweet and no matter how good an educator—in charge of teaching kids to swim who wasn’t also a qualified lifeguard.)

And we make sure that what happens in the club or team or ensemble or troupe is thoroughly vetted in advance by stakeholding adults, including parents, so that the activity truly serves the mission of a public school serving the (whole) public.

Well, what is a GSA and what is it for? According to the website of the parent organization, GSA Network, a GSA club typically provides three services:

  • Social GSAs — Students meet and connect with other trans and queer students on campus
  • Support GSAs — Students work to create safe spaces and talk about the various issues they face in school or their broader community, such as discrimination from teachers or school administrators
  • Activist GSAs — Students take a leadership role to improve school climate through campaigns and events that raise awareness and change policies or practices in their schools.

In sum, GSAs aim to help sexually different youth, and their friends, view sexual differences right across the LGBTQ+ spectra as ethically and medically healthy and to push back against anything in the school that says otherwise.

Interestingly, however, now that GSAs are well established, they are aiming at more. Far more.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]