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Basic theories on the origins of humans

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

By Pamela R. Winnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The chart below illustrates some of the basic differences in views about the origins of humans. (It is a summary and is not meant to be exhaustive.)

EVOLUTION

To achieve the diversity of life we observe today, the evolutionary process has required several billion years.

All living things, including humans, are descended from common ancestors.

Through a random process known as natural selection, certain members of a species have genetic mutations which give them an advantage ("survival of the fittest") which then is passed on to their offspring. This process accounts for changes in a species over time.

The evolutionary process is a natural one susceptible to scientific investigation and thus by definition cannot include supernatural intervention as a necessary component.

Those opposing evolution say that the theory is tantamount to atheism. However, scientists say it is possible to believe in God as well as evolution.

Embraced by National Academy of Sciences, National Center for Science Education, National Association of Biology Teachers and a majority of scientists. Pope John Paul II has said evolution is not incompatible with Catholicism.

YOUNG EARTH (Creation science)

As stated in Book of Genesis, God created the earth in six days. (Some say six 24-hour days; others, that the days were longer)

The universe is only 10,000 years old.

Humankind has a special, divinely ordained place in the universe and is the central concern of the divinity.

Belief in moral absolutes. Evolution implies humans have descended from animals, thereby excusing immoral behavior.

View held by some Protestant fundamentalists and some ultra-conservative Jews.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN

Most do not adhere to literal interpretation of Book of Genesis.

Dispute scientific basis of evolution because, among other reasons, evolution (unlike, for example, gravity) cannot be duplicated in a laboratory.

Most agree with evolutionists that earth is billions of years old.

Agree with young-earthers that humans did not evolve from lower forms of life, but were created by a divine presence.

Some things in nature are so complex that only a nonrandom guiding force could account for their development.

View held by some religious fundamentalists and a minority of scientists, including Professor Michael Behe of Lehigh University.

OTHER THEORIES

Members of the Nation of Islam believe that the universe is trillions of years old.

Adherents of some Native American religions hold that their ancestors have been located in their tribal areas forever.

Some left-wing political groups oppose evolution for political reasons. The Stalinist view rejects any implication that human behavior has biological roots, blaming the evils of society on economic injustices.


Sources: "Good Science, Bad Science: Teaching Evolution in the States" (Thomas B. Fordham Foundation); Philip E. Johnson, "Darwin on Trial."



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