Indiana State University Newsroom

Science speaker addresses evolution and creation

February 13, 2009

Evolution is a highly predictable science just like other good sciences, according to an Indiana University professor who spoke at Indiana State University to help students and staff celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday.

Craig Nelson, a retired biology professor, believes it's a mistake for people to present science as if "We know everything."

Scientists decide which things seem obvious but are probably false and which things seem false but are probably true, he said.

"Scientists know that most of the ideas we come up with, we throw away," Nelson said. "You have to get used to giving up good ideas."

Science is like solving a mystery because scientists have to look for evidence and see if the evidence agrees with the facts. If the evidence doesn't agree, scientists must investigate how something can go wrong, he explained.

Nelson, an evolution ecologist, said the two hardest parts of science are giving up things we are sure of and fond of and accepting things that are hard to believe.

He thinks the two thrills in doing science are the application and working on the, "I don't knows."

"The fun part is working out the mysteries and working out how this really helps people," Nelson said.

Nelson compared the history of the universe to a "Big Mac" sandwich by stating that the bottom layer of the sandwich represents from where the universe came. Scientists believe that the Big Bang Theory, which came from the quantum flux, explains how the universe was created.

He said if people want to think the universe came out of a miracle, or quantum flux, or the quantum flux came out of a miracle and that it's always been there, the evidence is equally strong because there is no evidence.

Once the universe was formed, the rest of the history of the universe could be explained by modern astronomy and physics, he said.

Nelson explained the second layer of the sandwich represents how life evolved on Earth but scientists don't know how DNA and RNA molecules form amino acids and protein.

"If you want to say it is miraculous, or if you want to say it is inevitable, or you say it was a lucky accident, the answers are all equivalent because there is no evidence," Nelson said.

He discussed how brains make people conscious, but scientists don't know how consciousness came out of molecular reactions. They aren't any closer to a scientific answer than philosophers are to a religious answer, he said.

"The right answer is, 'We don't know,'" Nelson said.

Einstein believed that space, time, and matter are the same and deeply connected. Darwin showed that adaptation; flaws in adaptation, geographical and fossil distribution, and classification were all just signs of evolution.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution," Nelson said. "Darwin did for biology what Einstein did for physics."

Many scientists believe in Christianity and other religions while many Christians believe evolution, he said.

"There is no fundamental conflict between evolution and religion so if you are inclined to believe in religion evolution should be no barrier," said Nelson. "Let it not cause you to turn away from faith."


Contact: Rusty Gonser, Indiana State University, assistant professor, at 812- 237-2395 or

Writer: Marcie Brock, Indiana State University, media relations intern, at 812-237-3773.


Cutline: Craig Nelson, Indiana University professor, speaks at Indiana State University as part of the Department of Biology Seminar Series. His talk was titled "Evolution, Creation or Both' Big Macs, Double Elimination Tournaments, and Blowing isn't Football: The Scientist's lot is not a Happy One -- or is it'"