Ruy Vieira: Dialogue with an Adventist creationist in Brazil
His parents had little or no interest in religion, and they hardly cared about passing Christian beliefs to their children. His teachers all the way through high school were agnostics and evolutionists. Fed on a steady diet of these twin systems, Ruy Carlos de Camargo Vieira was ready to face university education as an intellectual, untainted by Christian claims. But the road to Damascus passes by each individual, and when Ruy entered the university, he found himself on that dangerous road. He was confronted by One he did not yet know. The philosophic tent of agnosticism and evolution that sheltered him thus far was blown over by another set of beliefs that had its origin not in human reason but in divine revelation. For the first time, he read in the Bible about origins, about God's love, grace, peace, and freedom from sin that He gives so freely. The new discovery made sense to Ruy, and he pursued the study of the Bible with great vigor and speed. Soon he became a Seventh-day Adventist. From agnosticism to faith, from evolution to creation--it was not simply a discovery, but the dawn of a divine perspective on life.
That turned Ruy's life around. Eventually he became one of the most active and prominent scientists who have promoted and defended Creationism in Brazil. The new road was not easy. For a scientist to openly confess creation is to invite professional ridicule. But Ruy persisted in his discovery. In 1972 he founded the Brazilian Creationist Society, and published the first volume of the Folha Criacionista (Creationist Journal, in Portuguese), which now has more than 60 issues. He continues to be the president of the society, in addition to his university teaching and writing on creation. He also serves as a consultant for the Brazilian Government at the Education Ministry and as the treasurer of the Brazilian Bible Society.
How did your interest in Creationism begin?
It began after I became an Adventist. As I began to keep the Sabbath, I found that it was necessary for me to know more about the issue of origins, especially that of creation as it stood in opposition to evolution, which has become the "academically correct" view.
Why did you choose to be a creationist?
Becoming a creationist is a logical consequence of becoming a Christian. To be a Christian is to accept Christ as Saviour and His revealed Word as divine and normative. The Bible speaks of God creating a perfect world, and then of the temptation and the entrance of sin with all its degenerative consequences. Just before I graduated from the engineering course, I came in touch with Christianity, and that changed all my perspective. I discovered that the claims of evolution cannot be squared with the Christian claim of creation. From the Bible, I discovered that behind all life there is a creation brought about by God who has instilled in the universe a purpose and a design. God helped me overcome the difficulties on my journey from evolution to creation. I praise God for this! Today, I can relate through basic scientific principles the image of a perfect world created by God and its degeneration due to sin. Moreover, I can integrate this newfound discovery with the subjects I taught as a university teacher, subjects such as the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics involving philosophical considerations about the concept of entropy, order and disorder, directionality, decadence, and degradation. I can see in all the fields of human knowledge a perfect coherence between the creation paradigm and a genuine scientific perspective.
Tell us something about the Brazilian Creationist Society of which you are the president.
As a teacher and as a parent, I helped my sons in their secondary school work, and I noticed how evolutionistic ideas were presented in almost all the textbooks. As a creationist, I was concerned how subtly these evolutionist ideas became the sole perspective from which social, political, economical, scientific, and technological courses were taught. Thirty years ago, by God's providence, I learned of creationist societies outside of Brazil that were trying to counter evolution and provide an alternate view of origins. I found out how these societies work and went through the basic approaches by which they deal with the controversies between creation and evolution. Then I decided that it was time Brazil, too, had a similar society. So in 1972, the Brazilian Creationist Society was founded, with the first issue of its Creationist journal.
What are the main differences between creationist and evolutionist models?
Creationism begins with the assumption of a planned, designed, and purposeful universe. Evolution's assumption is different: There is no planning in nature--all things happen by chance. Basically, both creation and evolution are philosophical and not scientific assumptions.
What is a model or theory?
The study of the universe requires certain systematization, with a methodology to study and establish hypotheses. The study involves certain preconceived theses, which in turn requires the construction of hypotheses. It is right here that the whole philosophical structure of science begins. A model is always a mental structure thing that intends to reproduce "reality." What happens is that many hypotheses end being accepted and disseminated as absolute and "scientific" truths, when in fact, they are not.
Is it possible to integrate faith and science?
The question raises other questions: (1) Can a Christian be a scientist today? Can a scientist be a Christian? (2) Has modern science destroyed the basis for Christian faith? (3) Does faithfulness to Christianity imply the rejection of all scientific claims? (4) Do we have to accept that science and Christian faith are two incompatible fields? (5) Has science proved the Christian faith as some Christians affirm? (6) Does the present scientific development require a new science and technology that will be more adequate for the new millennium?
Such questions can be answered in a satisfactory way so that we can legitimately speak of one being a Christian and a scientist at the same time, without the need to declare that science is always secular and therefore has nothing to do with Christian claims. That's why we should avoid a false dichotomy between faith and reason. For sure, faith and reason are both essential aspects of all human activities, including science and theology. Both make assumptions (faith) and both draw conclusions (reason). The faith that the universe is rationally comprehensible is a scientific hypothesis. The faith in this hypothesis does not only motivate the scientists to investigate but it also makes research possible and efficient. The same faith can prove to be a reasonable conclusion that derives from biblical teachings concerning a created universe by a rational God. In this way, science and faith are not mutually exclusive concepts. As the Christian naturalist philosopher Blaise Pascal once affirmed, science is an activity "of following God's thoughts."
Can one be an evolutionist and believe in the Word of God at the same time?
No. Evolution and the Bible are antithetical. The Bible is creationist. It is impossible to harmonize evolution with biblical claims without destroying the basic claims of both. We cannot scientifically "prove" either models, because they are philosophies.
Is it possible to accept the Bible but not believe in the literal claims of Genesis 1?
Free interpretation of the biblical text can produce different understandings. However, I believe that the content of Genesis 1 is historical, and therefore, must be understood literally. A denial of the literal authenticity of Genesis 1 leaves us with no ground for the understanding of the Sabbath, the origin of sin, the plan of salvation, and eventually the Second Coming. The entire Christian faith-edifice collapses without the foundation of Genesis 1. Those who do not accept the literal authenticity of Genesis 1 have not studied its content under a broader view--from the origin of history moving to its ultimate climax. Your readers may appreciate some of these broader perspectives provided in volumes 52 and 53 of the Creationist Journal.
What evidence of design do you see in the universe?
Much, for sure--from the macrocosm to microcosm. For example, take the structure of substances such as the organic levogyrous molecules that have to do with life. How can we explain their appearance in living organisms by chance, considering that there are also similar dextrogyrous organized structures? If we took everything as being randomly and more or less chaotically brought about, would not everything be disorderly, so that there would not be specific atoms that could be organized in the chemical table? (The very existence of a chemical table where we can make certain predictions concerning the characteristics of the elements implies an order, which is contrary to disorder, typical of a random process.) If we consider the Solar and the Earth systems, our galaxy and other galaxies, we can see a coherent and logical structure to the point in which we are able to establish a design. The very fact of science--which presupposes that certain causes will result in specific effects--implies a universe with design.
What is today's greatest challenge against the concept that asserts "God is the Creator"?
What Paul called "false science" (1Tim. 6:20) is still the greatest threat to creation. True science and true religion converge in their objectives, but a "false science" has preconceptions, dissidences, arrogance, and pride.
Interview by Roberto de Azevedo. Roberto de Azevedo is the director of education of the South American Division and regional representative of Dialogue. To contact the Brazilian Creationist Society, log on: http://www.scb.org.br.