Creationism is a religious theory and should not be taught as science, Dr. Pauline Viviano told 110 participants during the Bible Institute at St. John Center in Little Rock June 18-20.
The event is hosted annually by Little Rock Scripture Study to enrich Bible study participants and religious educators.
Viviano, an associate professor of theology at Loyola University in Chicago, explored creation by explaining to participants what Genesis says about creation, whether the creation accounts are history, science or myth and how evolution got a bad name. She concluded the weekend by explaining what the Vatican says about evolution and creation.
Cackie Upchurch, LRSS director, said the subject is important for Catholics to understand because "there is a lot of confusion about what the Bible really teaches about creation. The creation accounts in Scripture are there to help us understand who we are and what our relationship is to the Creator, not to tell us how and when God created the universe."
Upchurch said Viviano was able to show participants that creationism "is not science. This is not history."
Creationism is supported by many Christians who follow a literal interpretation of the Bible. It is a "school of thought that denies Darwinian evolutionary theory by denying that natural selection can explain either the origin of life or the origin of new species. Biblical creationism relies upon the authority of the Bible. Scientific creationism relies upon scientific argumentation to establish the necessity for belief in God as creator of the natural world," Viviano quoted from "Evolution from Creation to New Creation."
"Creationism is not the same thing as belief in creation," Viviano said. "All Christians believe in creation, I'm sure, or that God created the world."
The topic has been hotly debated in the public school systems in Arkansas. From 1928 to 1968 biology teachers were banned from teaching evolution. In 1981 Gov. Frank White signed into law the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, requiring that creation science and evolution are taught equally. The state was under the spotlight in 1982 when a federal judge struck down the Arkansas law, saying it "was simply and purely an effort to introduce the biblical version of creation into the public school curricula."
According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, state legislators and school boards around the state have continued to push the creationism theory, and half of the state's biology teachers admit that they continue to teach creationism or ignore the topic of evolution completely in order to avoid conflicts with parents.
In one session titled "Neither Science nor Theology: Creationism and Intelligent Design," Viviano said many believe that Genesis is a "scientifically accurate account."
"They believe in the inerrancy of Scripture," she said.
However, she said the Catholic Church teaches that "the Bible is inerrant in respect to what we need to know for our salvation." Catholics "tend to be 'both/and' people. We have the Bible and we also have Tradition."
Supporters of creationism are against teaching about evolution, she said.
"As far as they are concerned, they see it as a threat to faith by removing a need for God," Viviano said.
She said creationists will select only the facts they believe support their point of view and don't take into account scientific data. For example, they believe the world is about 6,000 to 10,000 years old, but scientists have been able to prove it is 4.5 billion years old.
"It's bad science," Viviano said. "They get a black and white view of religious truth ... They take scientific data and conclusions out of context and they apply it where they do not belong. ... Anything they don't agree with, they ignore. ... They ignore a lot of evidence."
"It's bad theology because they say things appear ancient because God made it that way as a way to test us. It's not giving you a good image of God."
Viviano cited two encyclicals, one from 1950 and one from 1996, and one address by Pope John Paul II in 1981, showing that the Church has not supported the use of Scripture to prove "how the heavens were made, but how to go to heaven." The documents explain that faith and evolution don't conflict.
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