Foreword to Professor Ian Plimer's "Telling Lies for God "
Archbishop Peter Hollingworth - Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane
The resurgence of "creation science" in this country and the claims it makes is sufficient reason for such a book which analyses the issues in depth.
The idea of creationism as a "science" is not new. Even after Darwin published his The Origin of Species in 1859, many Natural Scientists, following Newtonian tradition, accepted the essential truth of the Genesis story, rejecting Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection as being inconsistent with the idea of Divine creation.
With the passage of time however, natural selection proved to be a powerful tool in analysing and explaining the natural world. There was thus a sharp division in the late 19th century between some theologians and scientists on how to deal with the Genesis account of creation.
In more recent times, growing numbers of theologians and many other thoughtful Christians have found that there is no inevitable conflict between evolutionary theory and the belief that God created and continues with the creation of His universe.
Yet at the very time when we have been led to believe that there has been a resolution of this profound historic conflict, creation science or scientific creationism has re-emerged as a powerful form world wide.
The context of this re-activated controversy is the science curricula in State schools and it has had its genesis in the United States of America. The "Religious Right" of that country has mobilised a huge measure of political and financial support for a range of conservative religious causes. The stated aim being to restore the nation, and the world, to its obedience under God and Divine Law. The belief of its proponents is that the modern scientific, technological and industrial world has suppressed religious faith, rejected ethical values and is now drifting into a state of nihilism, rudderless and without purpose or direction.
One can feel a deep sympathy for some aspects of this general thesis, but that is possibly to miss the crucial and particular issues which their supporters deduce from the present state of affairs.
There are critical problems associated with these extreme forms of Literalist Fundamentalism which I summarise as follows:
The first, "creationism", like most "isms" has become an ideological movement of Christians believing in the literal inerrancy of the Bible, who thus militantly apply that position to explain the origins of life and the Universe.
Secondly, creationists have constructed a framework to explain their position in a way that claims to be scientific.
Thirdly, they seek the right for this view to be taught in the State School science curricula, alongside evolutionary theory as a vying, alternative explanation of the creation process.
Finally, in recent years we have seen in this country the establishment of "Christian schools" drawing Commonwealth subsidy and with the express aim of teaching creation science as the true explanation of the origin of life.
The point is that the proponents of Scientific Creationism contend that there is as much scientific evidence to support the literal Biblical account of creation as there is evolution.
Thus in Orange County, California, U.S.A., in 1991, High School Biology teacher John Peloza insisted on his democratic right to teach creationism alongside evolutionary theory. The School District reprimanded him and he responded with a $5 million law suit.
Peloza could claim he had some popular support in the light of a Gallup Poll in 1989 done for the Princeton Religious Research Centre. That survey found that of the 82% of Americans who believed that God created human beings, 44% of them literally accepted the Genesis account of creation where the lesser figure of 38% believed more that God has guided evolution.
Whatever the statistics and how they might compare with Australia the real question is how are we to pursue truth and thereby assist students in the process of discovering it?
I would agree with Professor Plimer that creation science does not help this process because it is anti-science and deserves to be criticised on those grounds.
But in a broader religious and cultural sense, it also tends to promote conflict in students' minds. If creationists argue that the Genesis account of creation is to be taken literally and that accordingly, science is wrong, then empirically minded students, when persuaded by the general theory of evolution, are very likely to conclude that the Bible itself must be correspondingly wrong.
Thus instead of offering dialogue between Biblical faith and evolutionary science and then seeking a contemporary understanding of creation as a dynamic and evolving process, there is likely to be further estrangement between groups of people within our culture.
If creation "science" gains a further hold in our school curricula under the guise of science, the teachings of the Christian church will be discredited by more and more thoughtful people, notwithstanding the fact that this is not representative of mainstream theology.
I would want to approach the subject by asking what this resurgent world wide phenomenon is about and what has provoked it? It is a highly resourced, U.S. based conservative religious movement which has attracted large numbers of adherents who believe the modern secular world has led people astray, undermined religious faith, rejected ethical values and spurned the scriptural authority that directs these matters.
One could hardly disagree with such sentiments, except that the analysis is perhaps too simplistic and the solution not based on reason or revelation.
In the end we must conclude with Professor Plimer, that, notwithstanding the democratic rights of people to choose their own path or system of belief, creation science, if followed to its conclusions, is anti-knowledge, anti-religious and anti-science. Just as there is good and bad science, so there is good and bad religion
Today, all the major Christian churches are concerned about the place of religion in the State School curricula and of the distortions that occur when it is omitted.
But to secure a proper place for religion in these public domains requires a balanced, integrated and inquiring approach to religion and its relation to life, such that will open the minds of students to the richness of the created order. The aim must be to open rather than close minds, enriching beliefs rather than fixating beliefs and a world view which sees all of creation as part of the domain of God. This book will make an important contribution to the ongoing debate.