The theory of evolution, which says that all life, both living and extinct, is related and gradually changes over time, is held by experts across the board.
Although there are no signs that this consensus will change, there are those in the general public, notably among religious groups, who reject the theory of evolution. But why?
Observing many Christians who reject evolution leads one to notice that their reasoning is not foremost scientific but primarily theological, and largely derived from a certain view or interpretation of Genesis, the first book of the Bible telling of God creating the universe and life. According to biologist Ken Miller,
“when you answer those scientific objections, one after another, they just search for other objections. They approach it with such passion and look so desperately for examples to counter evolution that it’s obvious there is something that bugs them besides science alone” (1).
Genesis is frequently cited by Christians who reject evolutionary theory. Many Christians take a “literal” view of Genesis which discards many ancient literary categories such as myth, symbolism, legend, and fable. For the literalist, the Genesis creation account is viewed as rigidly historical and scientific in the same way modern scientists view factuality.
The biblical literalist is often an inerrantist who considers Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, being incapable of committing any error. All content presented in the Genesis creation account, including the origin of life and humanity, is literally (factually) true. No room exists for any other interpretation. For many literalists, this entails the view that Genesis teaches a young Earth (the Earth being 6000 or 10 000 years old), that Adam and Eve were the progenitors of humanity, and that there was a universal flood which wiped out all of humanity except for the few God decided to spare on the ark.
For the literalist to admit that evolution took place over billions of years is too much for him to concede. If evolution is the correct theory of biological development then there can never have been just two human progenitors (Adam and Eve) who gave rise to the entire human race. Instead, all biological life descended through the process of natural selection and random mutation over billions of years. The time scale usually posited for evolution to take place cannot, the literalist feels, be reconciled with a literalist view of Genesis. This explains the rejection of evolutionary theory.
It should be remembered that this “literalist” interpretation is but one of several interpretations held by Christians of the Genesis creation account. Theologians and biblical scholars have offered various ways of interpreting Genisis. The literalist view is but one interpretation of many. Miller notices that the literalist view only came to be “in the last hundred years, mostly in the United States, that you have people coming up with a radically different view, which is that Genesis has to be true of science and history” (3).