In this blog entry, I would like to provide a religious explanation for the origins of the Earth and the universe, that allows for a literal interpretation of religious beliefs, but does not directly conflict with evolution, cosmology, and other scientific explanations. I will refer to this explanation as Naturogenesis, because I am better at coming up with ideas than naming them.
Before I go into what Naturogenesis itself is, I’d like to provide some background and my motivations.
My purpose for stating this alternative is to prove that religion and science do not need to be in direct conflict. For people who choose a literal interpretation of their religious beliefs, they can still hold those beliefs without having to reject science and the general consensus of scientists.
I want religious people to be able to use this explanation and embrace it over creationism and intelligent design because those ideas are seriously flawed and have been proven to be flawed many times over, so the sooner religious people abandon these views, the better. They are not vital to religion, and in fact cause a disconnect between believers and the modern scientific world.
This should go without saying, but since this is a blog post, I don’t expect any compensation for this idea, even if others claim it for themselves. I just want this idea to spread, and to help end the conflict between science and religion. This is not just a cynical way for both sides to cop out, but a genuine attempt on my part to reconcile science and religion, a task that so many more qualified than me have undertaken as well.
I am not a theologian. I considered myself a Christian for several years in my youth and adolescence, but without going into the details, I have since become an atheist. I have read more of the Bible than On the Origin of Species. I am a physicist, not a biologist, so do not consider myself an expert on evolution. My intent is for this post to be accepted or challenged based on its merits alone, and not on my pedigree or background.
At the same time, I am not someone who directly profits from the conflict between science and religion, or the resolution of that conflict. Indirectly, I hope to profit by providing a way to end this conflict, so that religion and science can coexist and better spend their resources towards efforts other than undermining each other.
With this post I’m focusing primarily on the Christian views and beliefs, because that is what I’m most familiar with. However, I believe this concept can subsequently be applied to most other religions that feel science conflicts with their beliefs.
So without further ado, here is the basis for Naturogenesis, the science-friendly alternative to creationism and intelligent design (I am actively avoiding trying to call it a theory, hypothesis, or any terminology related to science, since it is purely meant to be religious based. In my mind, explanation and alternative are adequate):
According to a literal interpretation of the Bible, God created the Earth and the universe in seven days and he did it only a few thousand years or so ago. But when he did, he created a universe that was already 14 billion years old, which included an Earth that was already 4.5 billion years old. This includes the fossils in the earth with the correctly aged radioactive isotopes. In other words, Naturogenesis proposes that God created an old Earth/universe.
According to a literal interpretation of the Bible, God created all the living creatures, including human beings. But when he did, he created them according to the laws of evolution and other natural processes that occur in the world and the universe. In other words, Naturogenesis proposes God created evolution, the Big Bang, and the other natural processes verified by science.
God created the universe according to all the scientifically-verifiable laws we have discovered or will ever discover, because the universe was meant to exist and function without God being necessary. In other words, Naturogenesis proposes God created an autonomous universe.
Naturogenesis does not refute the idea that God can also intervene in the universe at will. However, he does so in ways that obey the established natural laws.
Naturogenesis does not require scientific evidence to support religious beliefs or religious beliefs to be supported by scientific evidence.
Naturogenesis does not reject scientific evidence because it conflicts with religious beliefs, or religious beliefs because they conflict with scientific evidence.
These are the basis of this explanation that is Naturogenesis.
So for example:
Q. According to the Bible, Noah created an Ark that held all of the animals on the Earth and that a giant flood wiped everything else out. According to science, this could not have possibly happened. Does that mean we need to reject science to keep our beliefs in tact? Or does it mean we need scientific evidence that it occurred to believe that it actually happened?
A. Because the story of Noah is religious in origin, it should not require scientific evidence to support its validity. Choosing to believe it does not require rejecting the scientific evidence that refutes its validity.
In a world without creationism/ID, this answer would not be controversial for a majority of people, religious or not. However, creationism/ID have required people to take a stand on one side or the other, and so Naturogenesis is necessary to separate the two realms once again.
I hope part of the reaction to this idea is an outcry along the lines of, “Hey, why didn’t anyone ever think of this before?” I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with these ideas, but here’s what I think happened.
Part of the reason that I’m proposing this alternative is also to show that the primary purpose of creationism and intelligent design has always been to push religion into schools and proselytize students. Naturogenesis should be favored by Christians because not only does it allow a literal interpretation of the Bible, but also provides an explanation for scientific evidence like why according to scientists the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Creationism only does the former, while intelligent design only does the latter. The only thing Naturogenesis lacks is a reason to be taught in schools, since it does not purport to be a scientific theory. Just like most believers do not feel the need to prove the existence of God, or Heaven, or Jesus, they should not feel the need to prove Naturogenesis. As a result, there is no need to teach Naturogenesis anywhere except in church, or in the home. I think this is also why an alternative like this, where a creator-God works through evolution and other natural processes, has not been embraced by religion, because their intention all along has been to get religion into public schools, in any way possible. Undermining science has just been a means to that end.
Some people will probably argue that there is no need for Naturogenesis because it’s just codifying what the average believer probably does to reconcile their beliefs with science. However, without a formulation like Naturogenesis, these believers have no religious-based way of allying themselves with science against the creationists/IDers. There are likely believers who would rather stand on the side of science, and personally reject the views of creationism/ID, but because both are on the side of religion, they feel more of a natural allegiance to the creationists. With Naturogenesis, they can say, “Hey, I still believe what I believe, but I also think scientists know what they’re talking about, and I don’t want my religious views to be in the same venue as science.” I think it would be a benefit for the science side to have believers like this on their side, because ultimately if what they want is for science to be generally accepted by religious people, there needs to be a way for them to keep their religious views in tact.
In arguments with evolution-deniers, one of the arguments they almost always make to me is that the conflict is just as much the fault of scientists as it is the religious. Scientists demand that the religious change their views to more line up with the scientists’, just like the religious demand that science lines up with their views, goes their argument. And Naturogenesis (though this is the first post that I’ve actually coined the term) is always the argument that I go to. If Christians believe in a God that created the Earth, why can’t they believe in a God that created a 4.5 billion years old Earth? If they believe in an omnipotent God, what’s the difference to him of making a raw egg or a scrambled egg? If they believe in a God that created the Earth and the universe, then why can’t they also believe in a God that created evolution and plate tectonics and the Big Bang? They cannot come up with a good explanation for this incongruity in their beliefs. And this is why I feel the conflict between science and religion has mostly been a push by the religious, and their views are the ones that need to be altered.
I know that there are some on the religious side who simply do not want to coexist with science, just like there are some on the science side who do not want to coexist with religion. So they may not see a need for Naturogenesis to replace creationism/ID as the primary religious explanation. I would argue that it’s still in their best interests.
Naturogenesis is useful to the religious because it allows them to embrace science without feeling that it violates their beliefs. After all, they didn’t originally base those beliefs in science, so they should not require science to support those beliefs. And unless they would rather live a life like the Amish, religious people who reject scientific concepts that conflict with their views but continue to benefit from all the other scientific advances, like modern medicine, the internet, and computers, face looking like hypocrites on a daily basis.
Naturogenesis is also useful to the scientific community, because it eliminates the pressure for science to compromise or abandon facts because of religion, and allows science defenders to measure whether or not religious people are truly trying to reconcile religion and science, or if they are just trying to proselytize. It removes the religious basis for attacking and rejecting widely-accepted scientific concepts like evolution and the age of the earth.
I know that for a lot of people on both sides, Naturogenesis is not a complete idea to completely settle the debate. However, I think both sides would benefit in the long run if this idea were embraced and eventually gained more acceptance than creationism/ID.
Again, I’m not trying to get a book deal out of this idea, but I do want it to spread, evolve, and perhaps even provide value to the whole evolution-creation debate, and wider religion-science conflict.