Surprising Similarities

eolecki's picture

Elizabeth Olecki

Ann Dalke

Evolution of Stories/Story of Evolution

13 February 2009

Surprising Similarities

Both sides of the evolution versuscreationism debate are constantly trying to break down the other theory and show which one is the “true” story. For my entire life I have always viewed evolution and creationism as polar opposites, with nothing in common. However, this class has made me question my long held view.  Applying the ideas we developed in class discussion, I have come to realize as stories, Darwin’s evolution and creationism have more similarities than differences.

            At first this may seem like an outrageous claim.  Two opposing view points that have been warring against each other for decades are more alike than unalike?  For me to come to this conclusion my first step was clearing my head of all of my prior prejudice against religion.  I viewed religion comparably to the way I viewed most humanities, as inferior to science.  However, being exposed to a new way of thinking about science, as unknowing and subjective, I saw science as less of a truth and more of a story, a story just like religion. Many people look down on religion. Religion is what uneducated, uninformed people believe in because they have not been exposed to science. The truth is, science holds no more value as a story than religion.  Both stories exist and serve different purposes for different people. Once I stopped looking at the stories told by religion as inferior to the ones told by science I was able to see how similar they really are.  I see now that it should not be any harder to believe that God created humans as opposed to humans evolving from a distant common ancestor.  Both theories are equally extraordinary claims, and once the unfair label that“anything that is considered scientific is automatically superior” is removed, it is clear that they both hold equal footing in the realm of stories.

            When it comes down to it, neither evolution nor creationism can be proven.  There is no way to prove that there is an intelligent being who created everything.  On the other hand, there is no way to disprove it.  Likewise, there is no outstanding proof that all organisms slowly evolved overtime into modern organisms in the precise way that we think, but there is still no way to disprove it.  Many people may say that might be true, but it is much more logical to think that organisms evolved than that they were individually created.  What is the probability that evolution did really occur?  Let’s say there is a single celled organism, what is the probability that it mutates and becomes multi-cellular? Pretty small.  Then what is the probability that it continuously gets mutated, has offspring after offspring and eventually an ancestor of a single celled organism evolves into a human being?  The odds are astronomically small.  The fact that so many people are willing to believe something so statistically unlikely is a bit surprising.  Could the idea of a creator be anymore unlikely than Darwin’s idea of evolution? The truth is, I really don’t think so.  This means that both evolution as told by Darwin and creationism are on equal terms when it comes to probability of truth.   

            Evolution and creationism are also very similar in the way the stories are viewed.  At first this may seem to not make sense.  Darwinian evolution is a scientific theory and intelligent design is a religious story, how could they possibly be viewed in the same way? I would argue Darwin’s theory of evolution and creationism are both viewed as sacred.  It is easy to see why I would consider creationism to be viewed as a sacred story; it comes from religion and can be found in the Bible.  However, as I was reading Origin of Species, I ran across many quotes from Darwin that seemed to elevate his theory to near sacred levels.  Darwin claims, “it istherefore of highest importance to gain a clear insight into the means of modification and co-adaption”(Darwin, 97) and that “there is grandeur in this view of life” (Darwin, 398).  But it is not only Darwin who puts the idea of evolution on a pedestal.  As we discussed in class, there is a devout following of Darwin’s theory. Many people “believe” in evolution, meaning they don’t question it, theybelieve it to be fact.  Therefore,in this regard, both Darwinian evolution and intelligent design are viewed as sacred stories.

             Another aspect of the stories that makes them similar is that both have the same purpose.  Simply put, the reason both stories exist is to explain how life came to be as it is now.  Both stories are a summary of the same series of observations: that there are different organisms that exist on the earth.  Using the crack, or the creative aspect of story telling, both authors put forth a different story to explain the same observations.  One tells a story of a higher being independently creating every species we see, and the other tells a story that all animals came from a common ancestor and diverged into what we see today.  The stories are simply both hypotheses, both guesses of how things came to be.  And since neither theory can be proven or disproven, one isno more scientific than the other.  

            Despite all of these distinct similarities, I have found that these two stories haveone major difference.  This difference dawned on me while we were in class and Professor Grobstein said, “What makes a story good science?  If it opens new ways to see things.”  Darwin’s theory has provoked uncountable experiments and studies all of which have opened new ways to see things.  In reality, the further inquiry of the evolution has led to a strengthening of the theory.  Without the findings of Mendel and numerous other scientists I do not believe we would still be reading Origin of Species 150 years after it was written. This is in direct contrast with the story of creationism.  It is not a story that is meant to be questioned.  The story of creationism was created to remain in stasis, never to change or evolve.  Thereare not supposed to be additions to the Bible, no new revolutionary changes inthe general theology that surrounds it. Religion is supposed to be explored and critically thought about, but the end result is supposed to be uniform. What would be the point of the story of creationism if for hundreds of years people tweaked and changed what the Bible said?  All exploration in religion is supposed to bring the seeker back to the original story, not to radiate outward like Darwin’s story of evolution.  The story of evolution evolves just like the organisms it describes.  And this evolution is what has made Darwin’s story good science; it clearly opened everyone’s eyes to see things in new ways.  Even though modern ideas of evolution differ from Darwin’s original version, it was still his story that began the inquiry and led to the theory we have today.

            This class has opened my eyes to see stories differently.  By removing my preconceived prejudice and looking at the actual properties of both stories I was able to see similarities that were previously masked.  Even though both stories are virtually equivalent in provability, way they are viewed, and purpose, the major difference presents itself when being qualified as “good science”.  The applications of this new way to view stories could help me see many new comparisons that I was previously unaware of.

Works Cited

Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. Toronto: National Library of Canada Cataloging in Publication, 2003.


Paul Grobstein's picture

Science as story: its significance for conversation

I hope lots of people read this, both those interested in science and those interested in religion. Yes, there is no reason to be drawing lines in the sand. And scientific stories need to be evaluated in terms of the extent to which they can help people "to see things in new ways" (see Science Matters ... How? and An Update).

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