Monday, October 03, 2005

Why Evolution Makes the Baby Jesus Cry

"If only the geologists would leave me alone. After each Bible verse I hear the blows of their hammers."
- John Ruskin

Philip Yancey has written that astronomy is no friend to his spirituality. He looks up in the sky, ponders the unimaginable distances, considers the uncountable number of stars, and then questions whether his faith is a bit too parochial to serve as ultimate truth. I know how Yancey feels, but my angst has nothing to do with astronomy (paradoxically, I find astronomy awe-inspiring and good for my spirit). My bête noir is evolution, and always has been and probably always will be.

Why is this so, you ask? It has to do more with impressions - let us say "inklings" - than anything else. I am a committed evolutionist, and accept the extraordinary amount of scientific data accumulated over the past 150 years, which points to the fact that life on this planet has been evolving and changing for over 3 billion years. For me, to take any other position would be akin to committing intellectual suicide. I consider the arguments against evolution to be religious presuppositions masking as pseudo-science, and having all the credibility we now give to the Flat Earth Society (which by the way, still exists, and which shows just how resistant humans are to reality). Creationists like to point out the many missing pieces of information concerning the mechanics of evolution (e.g., the lack of transitional forms in the geological record), and they do have a point. Scientists themselves fiercely debate natural selection via mutation over time, versus punctuated equilibrium and other theories on how species arise and change. For example, there is a lively debate going on now whether birds are really dinosaurs. Nonetheless, 95% of all species which have ever existed are extinct, and while the specifics of evolution are being debated and investigated, the theory of evolution is now a fundamental scientific principle, debated only by people who live in Kansas, biblical literalists, and those whose family trees do not "sprout."

The problem which evolution presents for theology, is in my opinion, not sufficiently appreciated by theologians. For our understanding of salvation is based upon a Fall, an historical Fall, which left humanity in a state of sin requiring a savior. Further, scientific discoveries have resulted in a paradigm shift in anthropology. Humanity is now part of a taxonomic "tree," part of the great ape family, with extinct relatives who had culture and religion (e.g., Neanderthals). So out goes Adam, Eve, the Fall, the Garden, etc. Out goes human uniqueness. Gorillas make and use tools. Chimpanzees learn sign language. When exactly did the Fall occur? Without an historical Fall, how can we say we are "born in sin?"

That's just the tip of the iceberg for my angst. Evolution threatens the very morality of God. Cambrian life forms, which are some of the oldest fossils ever found (400 million B.C.), reveal animals eating other animals with great relish. In other words, the world never had a "peaceable kingdom," and the suffering of animals is not a result of human sin, but rather is the result of an adaptive advantage: i.e., the first creature who took a bite out of his neighbor got a big protein surge. This bothers me because it implies that this process of kill and/or be killed is either God-ordained, or that God doesn't get too involved with things (which is the philosophy of deism).

Another thorn in my side is whether or not Neanderthals and australopithecines have souls. I could go on, but I think you get the point. I actually agree with creationists on one point: if you accept evolution, it fundamentally undermines the biblical revelation. I see these two views of life as imcompatible, even at war with one another. Of course, I could just accept the changes evolution has made upon my worldview, and alter my theology accordingly. Many sincere believers do. But I remain nervous in the service of my Lord, and I don't like these accommodations - they reek of eventual defeat.

I look up into the sky and glorify God for a truly awesome universe. I look at the Burgess Shale and wonder what to do with the baby Jesus. Perhaps I'll just put this on my bumper:


Blogger Steve said...

"Why Scott makes Steve cry"

Wow, Scott. Doesn't it make more sense to take God at His Word, once we've understood it's meaning, and figure that somewhere human science is missing something that would change its whole paradigm? We've been through several paradigm shifts in human science, while the only theological changes have been misreading the earth to be the center instead of the sun.

How can you preach the truths of sin, Fall, creation, etc., if you so deeply believe in a cosmology that inherently rejects them?

Here's an interesting link for you

2:13 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Don't cry Steve.

I am asking questions in light of facts. All truth is God's truth in the end. I don't "believe" in evolution, anymore than I "believe" in gravity. It simply is. The question is how does one interpret scripture in light of that fact. The church burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for daring to oppose its cosmology, and yet in the end geocentrism was proven false. I want to take God at his Word, desperately, but my question is more about hermeneutical system failure as opposed to one of unbelief. In other words, can science and religion co-exist? Or are they condemned to being adversaries? These are the horns of my dilemma upon which I am impaled.

BTW, I don't think I have anymore controversial subjects to spring upon you! Universalism, socialism, homosexuality, and Darwinism pretty much covers the field...

3:14 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Thanks for the link to the internet Monk. A very interesting article, where I found much common ground and helpful insights.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The man Jesus took the book of Genesis literally...

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'

Matthew 19:4 , Mark 10:6

I would rather trust his take on origins rather than Steven Hawkings, Isaac Assimov and Hugh Ross.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Geocentrism has been proven false with far more certainty than evolution has been proven true.

Yes, I think religion and science CAN co-exist, but not when there are contradictory worldviews presumed by each.

Yeah, you're stretching me here, with all the issues. Thus the crying...

6:38 PM  
Blogger Walter Jeffries said...

"intellectual suicide" - I like that. Well put. Nice stickers. I hadn't seen some of them before!

2:37 PM  
Blogger Orikinla Osinachi. said...

From the Cave Man to the Yetty.

Most people in te Western world should come to Africa and see that the Cave Man still exists in the jungle of Africa. No not apes or chimps. The real Cave Man that Evolution lied that he existed hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Come to Africa where the mermaids and mermen are real.
And not myths.

Come to Africa where the fallen angels are still existing.

Come to Africa and discover God in the real sense.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Someone forgot to take their meds today...

2:55 PM  
Blogger Gina Burgess said...

I would like to know how the monkey has improved (not mutated) and how trees have improved. Gladiola do not evolve into a different, better bloom but alas my red ones have reverted back to their original white roots.

The scientific fact of entropy disproves evolution for me.
Rom 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.
Rom 8:20 For the creation was not willingly subjected to vanity, but through Him subjecting it, on hope;
Rom 8:21 that also the creation will be freed from the slavery of corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Rom 8:22 For we know that all the creation groans together and travails together until now.
Rom 8:23 And not only so, but also we ourselves having the firstfruit of the Spirit, also we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly expecting adoption, the redemption of our body;

6:36 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

You cite two interesting life forms. Monkeys have evolved to fill all sorts of ecological niches, and range in sizes and species from lemurs to gorillas to New World monkees. Plants have evolved from primitive ferns and cycads to the plethora of species we have today.

Your mention of entropy (2nd law of thermodynamics) is a red herring long used by creationists, and usually used incomprehensively. Most are unaware that the law is a mathematical formula for measuring the relationship between energy and work, and cannot be applied to the subject of evolution. For more information see this site.

8:31 PM  
Blogger puritanicoal said...

Neo -

The "3 billion-year-old earth" you have trouble reconciling with creationism is easily explained in that God created a universe with age built into it. Think about Adam. When Adam was created, he was a "man." Not an infant. So, if Adam had gone to a doctor the day after he was created, the doctor would have said, "Based on my experience, you look like a 25-year-old man." (Or however old he seemed). However, he would have actually been only a day old, as he was created the day before. I understand that is a fanciful illustration, but it makes an important point.

So, what scientists discover about the "age" of the universe, while "true" may only be the illusion of age built into this universe by God.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Scribe said...

I sure would like to believe that. It would solve all my problems in this area. Unfortunately, I don't think it holds up under the accumulated evidence of geological stratification over time, which includes fossilized animals, and more importantly fossilized plants and bacteria as early as 3 billion years. There is also the theological issue of God creating a universe which is deceptive in its appearance. Another point is that galaxies have been measured recently as moving away from each other at increasing speeds, which means God would have created the universe aged AND moving in every direction from a central point. The simplest solution is the big bang. Thanks though.

4:10 PM  
Blogger PaulQBall said...

I tend to believe God before I believe men and woman that make a business at the ATTEMPT to prove God does not exist.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Scribe said...

I don't really follow. There are many scientists who accept evolution and worship Jesus Christ, and read their Bible. I don't think most scientists are trying to prove God doesn't exist, but rather they are following the evidence and testing theories with the brains God has given them.

9:07 AM  
Blogger PaulQBall said...

Hi Scott

I don’t know how one can deny the miraculous power of God in creating the world and still see the resurrection as a miracle. If one denies one aspect of God’s power then all of God’s power is put into question. Then the power of Christ’s miracles are in question. And in conclusion the ultimate miracle of the resurrection is put into question. Without the resurrection then Christian Faith is meaningless. I see that one relies on the other. Christ himself said while being tempted by the devil “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes for the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 I believe that scripture is the word of God and therefore I live on every word in it. And in this word that is not an easy thing, but if it were easy it wouldn’t be called faith.
Sola Scriptura


1:33 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

I affirm that God did indeed create the world in the most miraculous fashion. That God did so 12-14 billion years ago takes nothing away from the power of that miracle, just as Jesus' resurrection 2,000 years effects people today.

The issue is not whether God created the world, but how, when, and by what mechanism. No physicist can yet answer the question, "What came before the big bang?" Who initiated it? So we are back at the miracle of God creating this rather impressive universe ex nihilo.

2:33 PM  

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