Where we come from is a question as old as mankind itself. There are countless numbers of religions, each with their own twist on the origins of earth and mankind, but one of the most highly visible debates would be creationism vs. evolution. Depending on where your beliefs lie, the Earth has been around somewhere in the neighborhood of 6, 000 years to 4. 5 billion years. One would tend to believe that this vast difference in time would make it impossible to have 2 "theories" that are so widely accepted.
However this debate gives you just that. Each argument has its variations, however it comes down to either God created the Earth and all things in it as they are now or that life today has evolved from a single one-celled organism. According to Genesis God created the Earth and all things in it in 7 days (actually six days and one day for a little R&R). There are within the belief wide ranges of explanations for the scientific discoveries in modern times. In 2000 the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) created a committee to study the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis. What they found were 4 different views of creation days within their group.
The first view is that God created the world in 6 consecutive days, with each day being a normal Earth calendar day (24 hours), any geological formations seen today (such as sedimentary rock formations with ten's of thousands of years of different layers) are said to have come from the Flood in Noah's time. The most generally accepted date of the creation of the Earth was October 22, 4004 B. C. E.
Certain groups such as and especially Christian fundamentalists who believe in the inerrancy and literal interpretation of the Bible are the main subscribers of this train of thought. One example of how this would be possible even when scientific evidence suggest that the Earth is far older then 6, 000 years is that when God created things, he created them with a history. Trees would have been created already containing rings. New mountains would appear already eroded. In short, the world would appear much older then it actually is. Other examples such as the "Gap Theory" states that the days were in fact 24-hour periods, however there were large gaps of time between each one of them, enough time to accommodate many geological ages.
The second view is that each "day" represents a period of time longer then 24 hours. The Que " an for example states that one-day with God is like 10, 000 years. Under the same idea, the "Old Earth" train of thought is that the "days" mentioned in Genesis were actually up to many millions of years each. This is one of many "theories" that justifies the actual age of the Earth being around 4. 5 billion years old.
The third view states that the story of creation contained in Genesis is not a literal or even a chronological account of happenings. It is instead a guide promoting a six-day workweek with the seventh day a day of worship to God. The last view is much like the second, in that it considers the "days" to be God's workdays, which may or may not be equal to an Earth calendar day. Each day represents a period of time that God performed a major task. Each view has the same underlying concept that God created everything, and the way it is today, it the way it was when it was created.
Webster's Dictionary defines evolution as a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modification in successive generations. Like creation, evolution is not immune from differing of opinions. Evolution is split between two frames of though, naturalistic and theistic. Naturalistic evolution is pretty much cut and dry. It simply states that life started as a single one-celled organism. The universe was created 14 billion years ago, and the Earth was formed 4.
5 billion years ago. All of the processes involved in the creation of life where natural phenomenon. Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to be an Atheist to believe in naturalistic evolution. Deistic evolution, which is filed under naturalistic, is the belief that God created the universe over 14 billion years ago but has had no hand in any aspects of the development of the Earth. Theistic evolution much like naturalistic evolution believes that the universe was created 14 billion years ago, and the Earth 4. 5 billion years ago.
Life today has its origins from that single one-celled organism of all that time ago. However where theistic evolution differs from naturalistic evolution is the roll that God plays. Theistic evolution believes that evolution is a function of God. They believe that God created the single one-celled organism, and that God serves a supervisory function, helping the species along through evolution and is responsible for the creation of each human soul. The Roman Catholic Church has recently announced, "Fresh knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis'. The Church still believes in the inerrancy of the Bible where there contains truths that have been revealed for personal salvation, however they state that the Bible may not be free from error in other places, such as in scientific matters.
This debate is not only relevant on the religion vs science front, but also is rooted in education. As little as 25 years ago, creationism was the main lesson plan when it came to the education of youth in the matter of where the world originated. Several states including Arkansas and Louisiana passes laws trying to get evolution taught in conjunction with creationism. Arkansas wanted equal time for evolution and creationism, while Louisiana was looking for either both be taught or neither. These laws were met with great resistance and were later deemed unconstitutional under the 1 st amendment. In an ironical turn of events fundamentalist and evangelical Christians are now trying to get creationism back into the lesson plans of the science department, a total 180 from just 2 decades ago.
The evidence supporting evolution continues to increase, and someday we may be able to prove without a doubt that mankind developed from a more primitive species. Some fundamentalist groups though may never update their way of thinking no matter what science is able to prove, however, in my opinion, the vast majority of the "developed" world, will eventually make their way to a theistic evolutionary outlook. The combination of science and religion will offer someone the gift of knowledge with the piece of mind of knowing there is some guiding force, and not just some natural process without a specific goal. Albert Einstein said it best when he said, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.".