The debate between creation and evolution has a long history. The first public debate between a creationist and a Darwinist was probably the one where Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford, and Thomas H. Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” because of his aggressive defense of Charles Darwin, faced each other at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science on June 30, 1860. This was less than a year after the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

The first book-length critique of Darwinism was written by Charles Hodge (1797–1878), professor of systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Hodge’s What Is Darwinism?[1] was published in 1874 and expanded his earlier assessment of the theory that appeared in his multi-volume Systematic Theology**[2]** that was first published in 1873. His critique of Darwinism was “based on his central objection that Darwin’s theories excluded intelligent design from any part of natural selection or evolution. Therefore, to Hodge, Darwinism was in effect atheism and by its very nature incompatible with Christianity.”**[3]** Also in 1873, Hodge had attended the General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance that was held in New York City where papers had been presented on the topic of “evolutionary development.” After listening to several speakers, Hodge summarized his views on what he perceived to be the heart of Darwinism:

My idea of Darwinism is that it teaches that all the forms of vegetable and animal life, including man and all the organs of the human body, are the result of unintelligent, undesignating**[4]** forces; and that the human eye was formed by mere unconscious action. Now, according to my idea, that is a denial of what the Bible teaches, of what reason teaches, and of what the conscience of any human being teaches for it is impossible for any such organ as the eye to be formed by blind forces. It excludes God; it excludes intelligence from everything.**[5]**

Probably the most famous creation-evolution debate took place in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee, where John Scopes was tried for violating a March 13, 1925 statute that stated the following: “That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities . . . and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”[6] Scopes had been using George William Hunter’s A Civic Biology, a decidedly pro-evolution textbook that included the following statements: “If such people,” that is intellectually inferior, “were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.”[7] Hunter’s Civic Biology taught that the most evolved of the five “races of man” constitute “the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America,” which he described as “the highest type of all.”[8]

Since teaching evolution in Tennessee schools was against the law in 1925, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) saw this as an opportunity to challenge the statute so the theory could be taught legally alongside the creation account of origins. It bears repeating that the goal of the ACLU was not to stop the teaching of creation in public schools but only to permit evolution to be taught as well. As time has shown, the roles have been reversed. Neither biblical creation nor Intelligent Design can be taught in American public schools. It has gotten so restrictive that the following disclaimer could not be put on biology textbooks used in the Cobb County, Georgia, school system:

“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”[9]
Let’s suppose that Scopes had been teaching from a creationist textbook. I have no doubt that the ACLU of 1925 would have worked overtime to get the following worded disclaimer placed on the creationist textbook: “This textbook contains material on creation and Intelligent Design. Creation and Intelligent Design are theories, not fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” The ACLU would have wanted access to the science classroom so teachers could assess the scientific legitimacy of creationists and their scientific arguments. But now that evolution is the prevailing worldview of the educational establishment, its supporters have used the law, as the creationists tried to do in 1925, to shut out academic competition and debate.[10] Even scientists who are not creationists find this troubling: “A disturbing feature of the debate over evolution,” Steven D. Smith, Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, argues, “. . . is the aggressive campaign by many in the scientific and judicial establishments to silence the opposition so that only the Darwinist story will be heard.”[11] Evolutionists have been using their academic and political muscle to shut off all debate on the subject of origins even though there is a growing list of academically trained scientists who are skeptical of the tenets of evolutionary theory.

This growing list of Darwinian skeptics refutes the often repeated and unsubstantiated claims that “virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true” and a person who does not believe in evolution cannot be a legitimate scientist. For example, in “A SCIENTIFIC DISSENT FROM DARWINISM,”[12] nearly 700 international scientists have signed their names to the following statement: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” A similar list of dissenters exists for physicians and surgeons.[13]

When there is an open exchange of ideas regarding evolution and creation rather than rigidly controlled propaganda, one soon learns that this is not a debate between religion and science. The history of science is the history of Christianity. P. E. Hodgson, in reviewing Stanley Jaki’s Science and Creation, wrote: “Although we seldom recognize it, scientific research requires certain basic beliefs about the order and rationality of matter, and its accessibility to the human mind. . . . [T]hey came to us in their full force through the Judeo-Christian belief in an omnipotent God, creator and sustainer of all things. In such a world view it becomes sensible to try and understand the world, and this is the fundamental reason science developed as it did in the Middle Ages in Christian Europe, culminating in the brilliant achievements of the seventeenth century.”[14]

Neither is this a debate between faith and facts. “The chief major battle between Christianity and modern science,” Cornelius Van Til charges, “is not about a large number of individual facts, but about the principles that control science in its work. The battle today is largely that of the philosophy of science.”[15] Both sides in the debate are looking at the same body of evidence. Their interpretations are different because their operating assumptions are different, and when pushed to account for these interpretive first principles, both will appeal to the worldview they are attempting to prove. For example, the person who claims reason is the interpretive standard for knowing will most often use reason in an attempt to prove the point. If he uses something else, then he has only moved the foundational principle back a step where proof is needed for the new interpretive authority. Van Til has made the point that “facts and interpretations of facts cannot be separated.”[16] Neither the creationist nor the evolutionist is approaching the evidence as neutral observers and interpreters of the facts called into evidence. The question will come down to which worldview best explains the facts.

Footnotes:
[1]
Charles Hodge, What is Darwinism? And Other Writings on Science and Religion, eds. Mark A. Knoll and David N. Livingstone (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994).[2] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, [1873] 1968), 2:4-41
[3]  Matthew Ropp, “Charles Hodge and His Objection to Darwinism: The Exclusion of Intelligent Design—A Case Study of American Anti-Darwinism in the Late 1800’s”
[4] Probably “undesigning” as per Ropp.
[5] Philip Schaff and S. Iraneus Prime, eds., History, Essays, Orations, and other Documents of the Sixth General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1874), 317–320. Quoted in Matthew Ropp, “Charles Hodge and His Objection to Darwinism: The Exclusion of Intelligent Design—A Case Study of American Anti-Darwinism in the Late 1800’s”**
[6]** House Bill No. 185 (passed March 13, 1925)**
[7]** George William Hunter, A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems (New York: American Book Company, 1914), 263.**
[8]** Hunter, A Civic Biology, 196. **[9]** Text of disclaimer can be read here.
**[10]** Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District . For a critique of the decision, see David K. DeWolf, John G. West, Casey Luskin, and Jonathan Witt, Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision (Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute, 2006).**
[11]** Discovery.org**
[12]** “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.”
**[13]** Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific integrity PDF**
[14]** P. E. Hodgson, “Review of Science and Creation” by Stanley L. Jaki in Nature, vol. 251 (October 24, 1974), 747.**
[15]** Cornelius Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, [1961] 1978), ix.**
[16]** Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences, i.