While many believe that the debate over our origins comes from only two opposing sides -- creationists who believe in God's intelligent design and evolutionists who don't -- one man is saying that there are at least six different overlapping categories to consider in the great debate.
Jeff Hardin, evangelical biophysicist and chair of the zoology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that the six views are based on several different factors, including whether or not one believes in the supernatural and how closely one believe in science versus the Bible.
Hardin's explanation comes from a November 18 lecture hosted by the Ethics and Public Policy Center's Faith Angle Forum that allows journalists to come together to speak about religious issues.
On one side of the coin, Hardin explains that Christians and even some non-Christians are Creationists, believing that an intelligent being created all living things. On the other end of that spectrum, we have Atheists known as "Metaphysical Naturalists" who believe that a trust in evolution is only achieved by a disbelief in a creator.
But it's the in-between categories that Hardin explains as being significant to the growth of bridging that gap between creationists and evolutionists. Young Earth Creationists, as an example, believe that the Earth was created in 144 hours. They also believe some scientific discoveries related to the theory of evolution go directly against what it says in the Bible, and ultimately, it's the scrpture that dictates what's right and what's wrong.
Hardin describes himself as an Evolutionary Creationist who believes that the scripture holds the ultimate authority, but that that doesn't mean they should throw out all possibilities that evolutionary theory could be wrong.
"Let no person think or maintain that they can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's Word or the book of God's works," Hardin quotes from Francis Bacon's interpretation of Psalm 19.
Progressive Creationists is another category that Hardin explains to be encapsulated by astrophysicist Hugh Ross. This group believes in an old Earth and strives to find a balance between biblical teachings and the latest scientific findings. This is exactly the type of belief that is explained in Eric Metaxas' recent controversial editorial at the Wall Street Journal where he explains that modern science is actually further proving the existence of an intelligent designer.
While Young Earth Scientists and Metaphysical Naturalists make up only a small portion of origin views, Hardin points out that they're often the ones that receive the most amount of attention. Case in point, last year's televised debate between Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and celebrity scientist and TV show host Bill Nye "The Science Guy."
Ultimately, Hardin believes that the traditional wedge between religion and science is loosening as more people are considering the viewpoints of the other side.
"It's not about who's right and who's wrong, who we can beat down, who we can win against," Hardin said, "but who we can invite into a conversation, and during that conversation making sure that we do well by the text of Scripture, that first book, and that second book, the book of God's world."