The Nobel Prize winning scientist Linus Pauling aptly described science as the search for truth. Science does this by continuously comparing its theories objectively with evidence in the natural world. When theories no longer conform to the evidence, they are modified or rejected in favor of new theories that do conform. In other words, science constantly tries to prove its assumptions to be false and rejects implausible explanations. In this way, scientific knowledge and understanding grow over time. Religious explanations for the order of things are not science because they are based primarily on faith and do not subject themselves to be objectively falsified. Because of this fundamental difference in the approach to understanding our natural world, the U.S. Supreme Court in effect decided in 1987 that the Biblically based "creation science" is not a science and cannot be taught as such in public schools as an alternative or in addition to the mainstream evolutionary theory of the biological sciences. However, religious creation stories and the idea of "intelligent design" can be taught in philosophy, religion, or history courses. Religion and Science provide different approaches to knowledge. It is important to understand both.
What Is Evolution?
Biological evolution is genetic change in a population from one generation to another. The speed and direction of change is variable with different species lines and at different times. Continuous evolution over many generations can result in the development of new varieties and species. Likewise, failure to evolve in response to environmental changes can, and often does, lead to extinction.
When scientists speak of evolution as a theory they do not mean that it is a mere speculation. It is a theory in the same sense as the propositions that the earth is round rather than flat or that our bodies are made of atoms are theories. Most people would consider such fundamental theories to be sufficiently tested by empirical evidence to conclude that they are indeed facts. As a result of the massive amount of evidence for biological evolution accumulated over the last two centuries, we can safely conclude that evolution has occurred and continues to occur. All life forms, including humans, evolved from earlier species, and all still living species of organisms continue to evolve today. They are not unchanging end-products.
For those who have difficulty in accepting evolution because of what they perceive as contradictions with their fundamental religious beliefs, it may be useful to distinguish the ultimate origin of life from its later evolution. Many, if not most, biological scientists accept that primordial life on earth began as a result of chance natural occurrences 3.5-4 billion years ago. However, it is not necessary to believe in that view in order to accept that living creatures evolved by natural means after the origin of the first life. Charles Darwin modified his religious beliefs, as did many others, as a result of the discovery of convincing proof of evolution. Darwin's religious faith was also severely challenged by the death of his 10 year old daughter Annie in 1851. Apparently, he came to believe that his God created the order of the universe including the rules of nature that result in biological evolution. His famous book, On the Origin of Species, was not a denial of his god's existence. However, he did reject a literal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian Bible. His religious beliefs were probably very similar to those who advocate "theistic evolution" today.
The Public Perception of Evolution in the United States
Biological evolution is far from being universally accepted by Americans. Annual national polls carried out since the mid 1980's by the Center for Biomedical Communication at Northwestern University School of Medicine indicate that the percentage of Americans who accept evolution has dropped from 45% to 40%. Curiously, the number who reject evolution have also dropped from 48% to 39% over the same time period. Those who are uncertain about whether evolution occurs or not have increased from 7% to 21%. While it is encouraging that fewer people are now hostile to the idea of biological evolution, the U.S. still has a higher percentage of its population who hold this view than 33 of the 34 European nations and Japan. This is very likely a consequence of the relative emphasis placed on teaching science in public schools in the different countries. In addition, anti-evolution sentiment is far stronger in American national politics.
For the vast majority of biologists, the debate over whether evolution occurs took place in the 19th century and has long been settled--evolution won. The noted environmental biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky summed it up in 1973 by saying "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution".
Some of us think that thousands of trained scientists examining mountains of consistent data are credible. Some of us think that a fat Southern anti-Semitic charlatan spouting ancient superstitions is credible.
If you still feel in need of more guidance....
So children in fundie households start out behind the eight-ball. Actually, I think the Magic Eight Ball is what their parents consult for answers. (?Is there a God?? ?Signs point to yes.?)
We say we desire to give glory to God with our lives, yet by acting under our own power, we give glory to ourselves. We fool ourselves into thinking we are living in Christ when there is very little we do that does not require His power to act. We live, eat, work and play with Jesus carefully tucked in our backpack, or tattooed on our body. Occasionally we even consult our magic Jesus Prophet doll and ask Him ?what would you do??