A couple weeks ago (Nov. 24), Springfield, Illinois' local free weekly, the _Illinois Time

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A couple weeks ago (Nov. 24), Springfield, Illinois' local free weekly, the _Illinois Times_, printed a long cover story on the evolution/creation debate as it pertains to schools, etc. It was quite well-written, and got the "thumbs-up" from National Center for Science Education Exec. Director Dr. Eugenie Scott (I faxed her a copy). Anyway, several letters have been printed in response to this article. The following is one that was printed two weeks after the article. Understanding Miracles To the editor: Regarding your cover story on the evolution/creation debate [see "The evolution solution?," _Illinois Times_, November 24, 1993]: It seems that many people don't understand the difference between the method of thought that is science and the system of belief that is religion. While some biblical stories or passages have at least general scientific support, many have been flatly contradicted by scientific research. And many more can be neither contradicted nor confirmed through science. Therein lies the distinction between science and religion. Science is a process by which evidence is collected and evaluated, and possible explanations are put forth. This process is based on two assumptions: 1) that the universe is orderly; and 2) that we can perceive and understand that order. Religion, on the other hand, is an appeal to authority, and requires only the belief that one source contains the whole truth. One need look no farther than at that one source, and all other information must be interpreted to conform with the "truth" contained in it. Creationism asserts that the entire universe was created--as recounted in the Bible--in a preiod of seven (presumably twenty-four-hour) days. The Bible gives no date for the creation, but in the middle 1600s, a Christian scholar, Archbishop Usher, used the "begats" in the Bible to determine that the creation took place in 4004 B.C. Some-- but by no means all--Christian denominations accept this interpretation as gospel. But where are the converging lines of independent evidence and reasoning to support this belief? There are none. This interpretation is based on the belief that every passage in the Bible is 100 percent accurate. Why do so many people accept creationism and reject evolution? First, it is easy to attribute the wonder and complexity of our world to an all-powerful, all-knowing God who simply created everything the way it appears today. It requires no mental effort to observe, test, assess, and propose alternative models because no alternative models are required. In contrast, science requires a considerable amount of physical and mental effort to collect information, test that information to ascertain its validity, and assess the results of that testing. Only then can scientists propose models to explain how the universe works. Others must then repeat the process, and seek other supporting evidence, before any scientific conclusions can be considered to be reasonably valid. Second, religion has the appealing feature of being certain. Science can never be absolutely certain about its theories because scientists must rely on observable, repeatable data--and new data may overturn the conclusions reached with old data. Religion, on the other hand, can afford to be certain in its interpretation; since the "truth" is contained in the Bible (and is therefore above question), all evidence to the contrary must be misinterpretation. Open-minded scientists are willing to accept the possible explanation offered by creation science--but that acceptance depends on the submission of independently verifiable evidence. Such evidence, to date, has not been forthcoming. All that supporters of creationism offer is _one_ interpretation of _one_ religion's primary manuscript, while attacking certain specific interpretations of certain specific data and theories that challenge their _faith_ in a 5,997-year-old universe. There is nothing wrong with having faith, but one must remember that faith and science are not the same thing. Faith is belief in the miracle of the universe; science is an attempt to understand that miracle. Jeffrey R. Paine Springfield


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