Origins debate

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The origins debate is the age-old conflict of ideas about how the Earth was formed and life came into being. It also concerns the timing and process whereby the various kinds of animals and plants came into being, and how human beings appeared on the Earth.

Major views

Most people throughout history have ascribed origins to a first cause - God or various gods. Materialist views, i.e. that our creation happened due to natural circumstances, have also been put forth in this debate, some as early as ancient Greece.

Judaism and Christianity posit that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Then He created plants (Genesis 1:11-13), animals (Genesis 1:20-23), and finally people (Genesis 1:26-27). Other major religions have similar creation stories.

Materialistic views are many and various. The prevailing contemporary view in the natural sciences (i.e., astronomy, geology and biology) among those who hold to a materialist worldview is that the Big Bang theory explains cosmic origins and the Theory of Evolution (in this case necessarily including abiogenesis) explains the emergence of plants, animals and people.

Teleological views of origins recognize purpose and therefore design in nature and are not in general in conflict with science; rather they are in conflict with any worldview that posits that no references to a creator, purpose, or design is necessary.

There is considerable debate over whether there is any viable middle ground between the materialist views and the creationist views. Some would hold, though, that a viable middle position could be found if both sides recognized how miraculous any theory of creation is, whether it is perfect conditions for development or a Prime Mover such as God.

A 2001 Gallup poll showed that 37% of Americans believed that human beings "evolved" in a process guided by God, 45% believed God created human beings in roughly their present form, and 12% believed a process of natural selection over millions of years developed humans completely independent of God. [1]


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