I found this sub heading in the religion and ethics section of our preferred news website this morning:
“Is it time that all religions accepted evolution as fact in line with the majority of scientists?”
Well, this little snippet has coincided with my son, Jamie, starting to learn philosophy with his new Religious Studies teacher, Mr Webster. Mr Webster has jumped off at the deep end with this motley collection of eleven year olds, by getting them to discuss the difference between facts and beliefs. I bet that was lively. We’ve had some great conversations on the topic at the dinner table, and it all seems remarkably appropriate to the afore-mentioned article.
Dictionary definitions of fact’ and ’belief’ can be found easily; this is what I found through my web browser:
A fact – a thing that is known or proved to be true.
A belief – an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.
Which all throws our question as to whether evolution can be considered as fact into a level of disarray before we start.
Two things that were never even proposed as more than theories by their original proponents, The Big Bang Theory and The Theory of Evolution have, somehow, become enshrined in our modern ’scientific’ thinking as fact. With regard to the theory of evolution – Darwin noticed strong evidence for adaption when he looked at finches in the Galápagos Islands, and numerous further examples have continued to be found since. However, to extrapolate this into full scale evolution of modern day man from microbes, purely by the influence of natural selection, is infinitely more far reaching than it would be to draw the conclusion that, say, because a friend would be prepared to lend you five pounds in an emergency, they could also be naturally assumed to be ready to cough up five million pounds to cover your gambling debts.
Interestingly, if we consider the matter a little further, we realise that we constantly blur the edges between what we accept in our minds as ’fact’, and what we accept as ’belief’, and, therefore, how often we require proof in order to satisfy ourselves of where our opinions should lie.
For example, having witnessed the whole event, my husband, Kevin, recognises as fact that James is my son – because, not to put too fine a point on it, he saw him come out. However, short of a DNA test, he can only ever, realistically say that he believes James is his son. Meanwhile, we, our families, our friends and, perhaps most importantly, James himself, are all quite happy to be in absolutely no doubt as to who both parents are.
Thinking on, there is a startling amount that we accept as fact which could arguably be deemed to have no right to sit in that category at all. We are bombarded with information from the papers, television, the internet, people we meet, or even the greater part of our education, and it’s all made up of things that most of us will choose to accept as fact , in spite of rarely seeing any more conclusive proof than a school text book or a piece of TV video footage. And if you consider the decisions you have made so far today, the conversations you’ve had and the plans you’ve made, most of it will have been based on trust, faith, belief. Very little hard evidence will have been demanded. Think of how readily you drive across green traffic lights, without checking that it really is safe to do so.
Because if we were to take the demand for proof to its full conclusion, life could really get pretty exhausting; not to mention how hurt I’d be if Kevin was suddenly to demand a DNA test to establish James’ paternity. Fortunately, he has considered a number of factors in the forming of his conclusions, such as how much he knows I love him (Kevin), the fact that James has a great many similarities to him, and, perhaps most importantly, he trusts me.
For the sake of expedience, we take other factors into account, such as experience and feelings, to help us decide whether we can trust our sources. And sadly, regardless of what our instincts tell us, a disturbing number of us are also influenced, more than is quite comfortable, by whether we will be made to feel foolish for believing or disbelieving something; which with Richard Dawkins or another of his strongly aggressive New Atheist cronies telling us what idiots we’re making of ourselves by believing in God, we’re sadly inclined to follow along and do as they suggest.
I carried out a quick ’straw poll’ over the last few days, in which I asked thirty random strangers which of the three following statements applied to them: ’I believe in God’, ’I believe there is no God’ and ’I believe in something, but I don’t know what it is’. I found there was an overwhelming body of people who either instinctively believe in God, but who told me that they don’t go to formal worship, or who ’believe in something, but don’t know what it is’. Our whole being cries out for our Creator, but some of us are reluctant to actually name Him because that might be too close to believing in Father Christmas, The Soup Dragon and The Tooth Fairy.
As a Christian in modern society, it takes quite a lot of courage to stand up and say what we believe. Furthermore, we’ve now reached a point where we are inclined to temper our beliefs and our statement of them in order to accomodate the potential negative reaction. Surely this is a dangerous place to be?
On a lighter note, I used to have a great game I’d play with James when he was very small. I’d sit him on the edge of a table, and encourage him to jump or fall into my waiting arms. He rapidly found that the game was great fun and would leap enthusiastically from all sorts of places, confident in my love for him and my ability to catch him.
People who believe in God, and believe that He created the world, along with everything around and in it, don’t do so because they have no imaginations and are too stupid or lazy to understand any other possibility. They have come to believe what they do because something greater and more wonderful has been revealed to them. Personally, God has shown me that if I trust him and follow him, he answers prayer, speaks to me, walks beside me. I can’t prove Him to you, but I have tipped off the table into His arms. He has satisfactorily proved His trustworthiness to me.
Faith or knowledge? Fact or belief?
Doesn’t matter. It’s good enough.