Edinburgh Creation Group Article for The Student Newspaper
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Paul James-Griffiths and I work with an agency called Edinburgh City Mission. My work is multi-faceted but also involves communicating the Christian message in science and the arts. I am also a writer and researcher.
When did you become a Christian and how has it changed you?
Quite unexpectedly I became a Christian in my 20s. I say 'unexpectedly' because even though I was involved in a thorough quest for the meaning of life in philosophy and spirituality, I was really closed to biblical Christianity. I was doing a sort of DIY attempt at salvaging what I thought was wisdom from a whole range of teachings, anything from Evolution and the Human Potential Movement, to Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism. I suppose my belief system was a pantheistic evolutionary philosophy similar to that of the ancient Greeks. I think this was the sort of conclusion to which Einstein, Haeckel (one of Darwin's disciples) and others had come.
Without any sort of auto-suggestion I had a vision of Christ, judgement and heaven. This experience catapulted me into a deep search concerning the Bible. The more I investigated this book the more convinced I became that it was true. I do not know all the answers but the last 20 years of research has taught me some humility; often things that I had scoffed at in the Bible turn out to be true. My ongoing relationship with Christ has revolutionised the way I see life and how I behave, and has radically reconstructed how I build my marriage, family and lifestyle. In Christ I have great hope for this life and the next.
What is Creationism?
Creationism is quite a broad word with which to describe people that believe the Universe and life were created by an intelligent being that we call God. This is not just a Christian position, but it includes any people that believe in a Creator, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims or others. Also, there are different strands within these groups. Some accept evolution fully, except for the first cause of the universe being God; others have varying hybrid versions, and others accept a more literal reading of the Bible and Qur'an.
Furthermore, many scientists and philosophers have become Creationists as a result of their rigorous assessment of scientific evidence. I personally know of two agnostic Ph.D. biologists (from Cambridge and Durham) who became Creationists through Dawkins' books The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene. More recently, Sir Anthony Flew, formerly Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, rejected Darwinism in favour of a Creator, because he followed the evidence where it led.
What is the Edinburgh Creation Group, and what does it do?
In November 2006 a small group of scientists (and one historian) launched the Edinburgh Creation Group with a vision to investigate Evolution scientifically, and to promote and investigate the alternative view – Creationism. Obviously Creationism is a faith position, but new ideas of Intelligent Design are being developed by biologists and philosophers without any religious connotations.
During the spring and autumn terms we invite different speakers each week to come and give presentations on these subjects. Most of the speakers are specialised in some particular area. For example, Professor John Walton, Head of Reactive Chemistry at St Andrews, gave a very challenging talk on the origin of life. More recently Dr Arthur Jones presented us with some really thoughtful material on the limits of natural selection based on his Ph.D. work on the diversification of the cichlid fish.
Is Darwin's Theory of Evolution unfounded?
There is a lot of confusion over this subject. I would like to make it clear that all the Creationists I know accept natural selection and adaptation as scientific facts (microevolution); however, many reject the idea that variation within each kind of creature is sufficient to suggest the common descent of all kinds of creatures from a single-celled organism (macroevolution). To go from one to the other is a huge leap of faith even at the molecular level; the evidence is simply not there.
There are several problems with the evolutionary idea of the origin of life and its development, which a growing number of agnostics also realise. Briefly summarised here are a few of these problems:
- The Law of Probability: even the probability of a single average globular protein appearing by chance is about 1 in 10130. That is a figure larger than the number of atoms in the history of the cosmos. And we have not even looked at the rest of the evolution package. More recently scientists have calculated the probability of the simplest genome emerging through random trials as 1 in 1080,000. Mathematicians generally regard 1 in 1045 as being the upper limit of sensible random processes.
The Law of Biogenesis: nobody has ever contradicted this law and demonstrated that life can come from non-life. Any successful attempts would involve intelligence.
The Law of Thermodynamics: everything on the planet is subject to decay, which works in opposition to evolution. Even open systems only work if there is existing machinery in place, such as proteins that control cellular function.
Information: all known codes are evidence of an intelligence; this should, if we are unbiased, include the DNA.
Heredity: In every experiment thus far when we have tried to demonstrate macroevolution, whether with Drosophila, E.Coli, or anything else, we have always found a fixed boundary beyond which the road leads only to dead ends or the lethal degeneration of a species.
Stasis in the Fossil Record: 40-80% of living forms today are represented in the fossil record, despite being told in many text books that only about 0.1% are in this category. The rocks testify that no macro-evolutionary change has ever occurred. With the Cambrian Explosion complex fish, trilobites and other creatures appear suddenly without any precursors. Evidence of any transitional forms in the fossil record is highly contentious.
Have you ever come against aggressive opposition as a Creationist?
Well, I haven't been put in prison yet! However, I have become used to years of ridicule, humiliation and verbal abuse. But that's alright. Gandhi once said: 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' I think that we are on the verge of a paradigm shift in science and philosophy that will welcome fresh ideas, especially in the areas of information and design models.
To what extent do you agree with the way that science and religion are taught in Britain?
I am so grateful that we live in a democratic nation. I shudder to think what it would be like living in a fundamentalist religious or atheist country! However, I have noticed a growing fascist trend in Britain that hides under the banner of 'political correctness'. We are told that we should tolerate most things, and toleration is good, but increasingly Christians are being pushed into a corner and persecuted. If we protest, even with gentleness and respect, we are called 'fundamentalists'.
In the area of science I know of university biologists who are doing cutting edge research and who are realising that Darwinism does not work. Growing numbers are secretly being drawn to design models, because that is where the evidence leads us. However, very few will actually speak out publicly for fear of discrimination.
If we are allowed to use design methodology in archaeology (e.g. discerning Stone Age tools from normal rocks) and in forensic science, why can't we use it in biology? If NASA can spend billions of dollars on SETI to search for signs of intelligence in the cosmos, can't some money be put into serious design research in biology?
What are your thoughts on the Edinburgh Humanist Society, and how cordial have your interactions been?
We have really enjoyed open and honest discussions with the Humanist Society, and we have respect for the people. We may not agree on everything but we value the bridge of communication that has been formed between us. We would love to see a forum for open discussion for other societies as well, such as the Philosophical Society, The Pagan Society, Islamic Society and others.
Where can we find out more about Creationism?
You are very welcome to look at our website (edinburghcreationgroup.org) and download the videos of our talks on various subjects. If you want to view talks on full screen, make sure you allow time for them to download properly. You are also welcome to join us at the Edinburgh Creation Group presentations in Buccleuch Church, Buccleuch St every Tuesday evening at 7.30 pm, opposite the university and next to the Human Bein café. There is also a free booklet available whilst stocks last called The Evolution Crisis. It contains the accounts of five Ph.D. atheist scientists who became Christians (theevolutioncrisis.org.uk). Thank you.