In the 17th century, Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), with his telescope, was able to carry out repeated observations which supported Copernicus. For example, he observed that the sun had spots which moved across its surface, showing that the sun was not ‘perfect’ and it itself rotated; he observed the phases of Venus, showing that Venus must orbit the sun; and he discovered four moons that revolve around Jupiter, not the Earth, showing that the Earth was not the centre of everything. (Contrary to legend, Galileo was not accused of criticising the Bible, but rather of disobeying a papal decree.)
Should Christians oppose evolution?
So then, in the light of the above, should Christians oppose the theory of evolution today?
It is not a comparison of like with like in three pivotal aspects. These are:
- The Church of Galileo’s day was a monolithic structure in which there were no men of science of the calibre of Copernicus or Galileo in positions of authority. Today the Church is made up of many different denominations, comprising many different congregations, in which there are many men and women of science in positions of leadership or influence, who hold to the creationist position and whose scholarship is not one whit less than that of any evolutionist.
- Galileo, by using his telescope to view the sunspots and to track the motion of the planets with respect to the sun, was able to do repeatable experiments of observation to confirm the Copernican theory. Today, there is no experiment that any evolutionist has ever done (much less a repeatable one) either to observe or to confirm the theory of evolution. Put another way: the matter of the earth’s motion was in principle capable of test by the scientific method in terms of settling the question once and for all; today the origins issue is in principle not capable of being so resolved. As Dr Henry Morris says in his book Scientific Creationism: “A scientific investigator, be he ever so resourceful and brilliant, can neither observe nor repeat origins!”4
- Although the Church fathers in Galileo’s day mistakenly thought that the Bible supported a geocentric system, there was nothing intrinsically atheistic about the notion that the earth moved. By contrast, the theory of evolution is a non-theistic or atheistic explanation of origins and as such has become the scientific ‘justification’ for the anti-God belief system of humanism, which pervades society today. Christians who believe in evolution would do well to consider that while not every evolutionist is an atheist, all atheists are evolutionists. Julian Huxley, grandson of Darwin’s exponent, Thomas Huxley, and one of the foremost evolutionists of his day, stated in 1959 that Darwin’s real achievement was to “remove the whole idea of God as the Creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion”.5
As well as the above points of difference, there are also, sadly, some similarities between the scientific and theological viewpoints of Galileo’s day and those of today.