Written by Nicole Mae Halasan
Illustration by Eva Gonzales
Published 2021 March 10
It has been an irrefutable idea that science and faith practitioners should never be in the same room. For the two disciplines are on the opposite sides of the swing, both trying hard to outweigh each other. But seeing how the world evolves and so does conventions and society incessantly modify themselves, is it really impossible for the two extremes to coexist and give way for the spotlights of one another?
A long-term study conducted among the first-year biology students at the University of New South Wales revealed that as years passed by, students who are formerly strong believers of creationism—a belief which posits that the universe and all life forms were created by God out of nothing —were gradually renouncing their credence and are now becoming devouts of evolutionism—an idea which propounds that the universe was brought by cosmic accidents and life forms emerged from unpremeditated chemical processes, all stemming from a common ancestor. This result was derived from an annual survey among the Australian students for the past 32 years. In figures, it showed that there was a significant downward shift over time from 60% of the class who were strong upholders of theism in 1986, to 29% in 2017. This statistics was further backed up by the data that there was an upsurge in the percentage of the students who are persuaded that a Father in Heaven had nothing to do in bringing into being the various universal life forms, from 25% in 1986 to 62% in 2017. These changes in their belief systems ought to be a good implication in terms of supporting the existing scientific evidence about evolution and in inferring the kind of beliefs that Australian communities were now nurturing and how this nation as a whole shaped or contributed to the views that their inhabitants put forward over time.
This goes to show as well how this result is distinctively contrary to what most of the Filipinos believe in about human origins, especially that our country is considered as Asia’s bastion of Christianity. Although myths about creation such as the famous story, “Si Malakas at si Maganda,” can’t be completely ignored as it was deeply rooted to the Filipino folk tradition, still most of the Filipinos are theistic followers. Fortifying this is the national statistical data that 80% of the Filipinos profess their faith as Catholic and so their conviction lies on the idea that Bathala, who created Earth and man, was superior to the other gods and spirits that the Filipinos’ pre-Hispanic belief system has. This instilled belief introduced by our past colonizer, Spaniards, was mostly apparent now on how Filipinos carry out their utmost expressions of piety during patronal feasts like the venerable religious procession of Black Nazarene where hundreds of thousand faithfuls walk barefoot during the event and even during Holy Week traditions where some devotees whip their backs while others were nailed to crosses to imitate Christ’s sacrifice for humankind.
But then considering this great number of people holding on to this accustomed belief; Philippines just like any other country such as the Australian community have locals as well who just found themselves embracing the modernity and the more realistic and evidence-based view of life. Only in this context, Filipinos who got away from Catholicism and creationism belief are not because they were enticed by the substantial proofs that justify the other end of the spectrum for human origins—evolutionism—but because they are strong activists for human rights and secularism, branding themselves as atheists. This is duly because these groups of people, like the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) and the University of the Philippines Atheist Circle (UPaC) were advocates of humanitarian activities that endeavor to counteract the public stereotypes about the alleged immorality of nonbelievers.
With these accounts, how people acquire and foster their belief about human origins, may it be theistic, scientific or even in the gray areas of such, totally depends on the kind of society they were exposed to. The evident decline of theistic human origin believers in Australia as a result of the growing scientific-based communities in their state and the emergence of new atheists of the Philippines along the consistent dominating power of the Christian community who believe in creationism are the concrete proofs of this assertion.
Nonetheless, these shifts coupled with the perpetuation of the beliefs that these differing cliques uphold within a nation demonstrate the growth of this world to qualify already the possibility of making opposing views to coexist. In this case, it evinces that science and religion shall not be bound with the preconceived notion that they are in contradiction with each other. Because truth be told, ever since, these two were absolutely concerning different matters. Quoting from Francisco Ayala, a famous biologist, “Science and religion are like two different windows for looking at the world. The two windows look at the same world, but they show different aspects of that world. Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world while religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life.” This may not be directly rationalizing the disparate views about human origins but what is certain about this is that the universe, along with God or/and natural processes, seem to have prepared for us coming into this world full of wonders.
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