Evolution and the Bible

Evolution and the Bible

The argument of evolution versus the Bible is one of the most heated and passionately debated issues of today. Questions such as: Did humans evolve from apes? Is the Bible factual? Where did we come from? And how old is the Earth? Are all hotly debated topics that almost always circle back to one of two main vantage points; evolution and the Bible.

As children most, if not all, Christians are taught the story of Adam and Eve. Whether it is in Sunday school or at home by their parents, the idea that God created Adam and then Eve as the first human beings is something that is engrained into their young minds. Everyone knows the story, “And the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and a man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Poof that out of nowhere God created man! The Bible is seems very clear that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). In these two verses it becomes apparent from a biblical standpoint that God not only created man in his own image, but that there was no man before Adam. It sounds as if humans were God’s special creation to be like him. Not that he made them one way and they eventually transformed into their present day form.

That is where the theory of evolution comes into play. In the scientific world if something is not answerable by the scientific method it may not be true. This sole fact is the reason why it is so hard for science to grasp the Bible as a literal interpretation of the creation of mankind. There is no way to prove that God created man out of dust and that he breathed the breath of life into man’s nostrils. That is something that one has to believe based on faith alone. The problem is that science is not very accepting of things based on blind faith. Thus, the search for answers began. The main name associated with the theory of evolution is Charles Darwin (1809-1882). In Darwin’s time “ Mainstream western thought going into the nineteenth century had viewed the biological world as orderly and stable, the result of what Greek philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, had described as and immutable ‘nature,’ ‘form,’ or ‘essence’ that naturally breeds true for every organism. This concept of static species had been combined with a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account to foster a theological legacy for the early 1800s” (Reconciling the Bible and Science, 59). This was the way of thought that was widely accepted during this period. However, as science began to advance it was finding more and more inconsistencies with the Genesis account of creation. One such issue was new species. Why were new species still being discovered throughout the world if God had made all kinds of species during those designated days of creation? If every living creature was formed and then named by Adam, “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19), why were we still finding and naming creatures? These were questions that were slow to be answered, especially because of the backlash that would come with the questioning of the Bible.

Enter Charles Darwin, as an Englishmen who had grown up Christian in the upper class, Darwin’s career opportunities were seemingly endless. Being the son of a doctor he was pushed into studying his father profession. It became clear for Darwin early in his medical education that following his father’s footsteps and being a doctor was not in his best wishes. After his short stint in medical school Darwin began his studies to become a clergyman, “a sensible decision at a time when most clergymen were provided with high social status and a comfortable income” (RBS 60-61). Part of being a clergyman was the responsibility of studying Gods creation. As a result, “After graduation, while waiting on his ordination, Darwin received an invitation to serve as a gentlemen companion and unpaid naturalist for Robert Fitzroy, the captain of the HMS Beagle, during a two-year expedition to chart the coastline of South America” (RBS 61). The expedition turned into a five-year trip that would change Darwin’s views on life and creation forever.

While on the trip Darwin observed many things; such as how life differed from place to place and how different types of rock were layered into each other. He began to question his own beliefs and upon returning and began searching for a way to explain why life forms and species differed so much from based on their location. Other scientists had doubted the Genesis creation account before but none had any substantial evidence to support their claim. Upon reading “Malthus” An Essay on the Principle of Population, Darwin had found his hook—-the concept of natural selection. Natural selection provided a possible hypothesis for explaining all the differences he had observed between the species in the Galapagos Islands” (RBS 65). Thus the theory of Evolution was born.

Evolution by means of natural selection is scientifically defined as a process that is inferred from three facts about populations: 1) more offspring are produced than can possibly survive, 2) traits vary among individuals, leading to differential rates of survival and reproduction, 3) trait differences are heritable. This means that as the weaker organisms die off and the stronger ones survive, the weaknesses in species slowly begin to disappear as the population begins to fill up with the ones who are best suited for survival. Or, as Darwin referred to it “survival of the fittest.”

This eventually led to, “The modern theory concerning the evolution of man proposes that humans and apes derive from an apelike ancestor that lived on earth a few million years ago. The theory states that man, through a combination of environmental and genetic factors, emerged as a species to produce the variety of ethnicities seen today, while modern apes evolved on a separate evolutionary pathway” (allaboutscience.org).

Obviously this theory goes against everything that Genesis says. The Bible doesn’t teach us that we evolved from apes over a period of millions of years. In fact, if you read the Bible literally, you can conclude that the earth is only a few thousand years old. That is where the controversy begins; the theory of evolution causes many to question whether or not the Bible is factual. And if the Bible were in fact fiction the foundation of all Christianity would crumble. That makes the theory of evolution a very sensitive subject in many fashions. Although it is widely accepted by the majority of scientists, the fight against evolution continues. One person who always fought against Darwin’s theory of evolution was his beloved wife Emma. She was, “a devout Anglican who worried that Darwin’s lapses in faith would prevent their meeting in the afterlife” (RBS 63). This was one of her many concerns, in her mind and to her beliefs Darwin would not gain entrance to heaven if he maintained his views on evolution. In fact it was mainly Emma who delayed his publishing of The Origin of Species. He even “wrote a friend that explaining his theory was like ‘confessing to murder.’ And his wife did not want him to publish. She hoped the theory was not true. But even if it was, she did not want the book published because she believed it would have a detrimental affect on Victorian morality and the current understanding of the essence of a human being” (RBS 66).

Whether or not evolution should be taught in schools has been a raging debate since its induction in public schools. During the summer of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee the debate found its platform. John Scopes was a high-school biology teacher who was being charged with teaching evolution under Tennessee’s anti-evolution statute. William Jennings Bryan led the movement to stop the teaching of evolution in classrooms across America. Jennings was even famously quoted in the opening statements with claiming, “if evolution wins, Christianity goes.” The trial took on a life of its own as, “A carnival atmosphere pervaded Dayton. Banners decorated the streets. Lemonade stands were set up. Chimpanzees, said to have been brought to town to testify for the prosecution, performed in a side show on Main Street.”(The Scopes Trial: A Final Word). The result of the case was a guilty verdict and a fine of one hundred dollars. Darrow, the defense attorney, appealed the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court. When the case reached the Supreme Court it was noted that the jury should have set the fine amount and not the judge, therefore the decision was reversed due to a technicality. This was viewed as a major loss in the anti- evolution movement and set a precedent that would haunt anti-evolutionists for good.

The theory of evolution is dealt with in the Bible in many ways. Throughout the Bible are verses that clearly contradict the theory of evolution. These verses point towards a single creator who purposefully designed man to his own specifications. Unfortunately most of these Bible verses on creation have to be taken on faith alone. “We believe in creation through faith”(Hebrews 11:3). Because of this it is impossible to scientifically prove that there is a God. On the flip side, it is also scientifically impossible (at the present time) to prove that there is not a God. Science seems to have a problem with dealing with the supernatural. Unfortunately that is exactly what faith is. It is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. That is exactly what the Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Science will probably never be able to prove that there is or is not a God. So the debate will rage on. One can choose to believe in the facts and the theory of evolution or with faith can take on belief that the Bible is actually factual. It is a hard choice to make and many people tip toe on the edges of both views.

That brings me to my next point. There is plenty of gray area when stating what you believe in. One does not necessarily have to choose the polar opposites of Christianity and Atheism (some radicals view evolution as atheism) and just because you are a Christian does not mean that you have to deny evolution. In fact the Catholic Church recognizes evolution as “compatible” with Christianity. In other words they have taken a stance that says evolution does nothing to harm the credibility of the Bible. There are numerous other views that lay in this gray area of beliefs. One of which is Concordism. “Concordism is the belief that the biblical account of creation, when properly understood, will be in concord (agreement) with correct scientific conclusions. They have accepted the scientific community’s assessment of the earth’s age and interpreted scripture in keeping with the evolutionary timeline” (RBS 123). This is their way of accepting the theory that the earth is much older that the Bible portrays while at the same time fighting the theory of evolution. Another similar view is the belief of old earth creationists (progressive creationists), who “believe that God created the universe and the earth, and especially created human beings, but concede that the world is billions of years old, as geologic and radiometric dating have shown. They accommodate scripture by adopting one of two theories of old creation science—– the gap theory or the day/age theory” (RBS 124). Once again this is their way of fighting evolution and the idea that humans evolved from apes by maintaining that God especially made human beings. At the same time they do concede, like Concordists, that the earth is much older than the Bible portrays.

The God of the Gaps theory is commonly used by “Christians” who are trying to maintain their beliefs in the Bible while partially surrendering ground to some of science’s recent discoveries. The God of the Gaps theory argues that there is gaps in scientific knowledge that are best explained as acts of God. This is their way of accepting some of sciences doctrines while still holding onto a firm belief in God. Because according to the God of the gaps there is a divine being that controls all things that science fails explain. Basically, this is an argument that the earth operates on its own for the most part, but God steps in when needed and keeps things in balance if necessary.

The Day-Age creation theory is yet another attempt to establish compromise between the theory of evolution and the creation account in Genesis. This theory believes that every one of the seven days of creation was long periods of time and that natural selection was Gods way of creating humans. Biblical scripture also backs this theory. 2 Peter 3:8 states that “ But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” This scriptural reference is seen by many as all the proof needed for the Day-Age creation theory. It says right there in the Bible that one-day with the Lord is like a thousand years. So could this be the evidence needed to prove Darwin’s theory of evolution and support scientific claims that the earth is millions if not billions of years old? That is up to you to decide.

Another belief that is similar to the creationist beliefs above is the view of Intelligent Design. “Intelligent design holds that the complex characteristics of living things are better explained as having an intelligent origin than as resulting from ‘mindless evolution’” (RBS 127). This vantage point maintains that this universe is far too complex to have happened by chance and that the only explanation for things being as perfect and specific for life as they are is a prime creator of the universe. For instance, we need a certain amount of oxygen, a certain amount of gravity and a very specific amount of numerous other things. Because of this people who trust in intelligent design believe that a greater being designed earth perfectly to meet standards for human and animal life forms. The only argument against intelligent design is that if a higher being created earth, who created the higher being?

Most of America still remains very divided in their beliefs. In a Newsweek poll conducted during March 2007 “Only 13% believe in naturalistic evolution (that is that God had no part in evolution). However, 48% of Americans believe that God created humans pretty much in the present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. 30% of Americans took the middle ground responding that they believed humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process. 9% remained unsure” (Newsweek, March 2007). This Newsweek survey gives us the best idea of how many Americans feel on this matter. As the results show, there was great disparity in America’s views. However, it was interesting to find that 68% of Americans disagreed with the widely accepted scientific views around the globe. While science has overwhelmingly accepted evolution as something that undoubtedly happened (with evidence to support its claims), 68% of Americans do not agree with Darwin’s theory of evolution and maintain that there is a God of some kind that at the least has a hand in the process of our development. Does this mean that science is wrong? Does this mean that 68% of Americans are wrong? The answer to both of those questions is simply no. Once again there is no way of proving or disproving that there is a God. So as a result there is really no way to prove correctness on either side. Scientists can form their views and regular people can form theirs. Neither one is right and neither one is wrong because when you are simply dealing with faith or a lack thereof, it remains impossible to prove something that can not be seen, nor touched, nor heard.

There is no doubt that evolution has become more accepted, perhaps a better word would be “tolerated”, today than it was in the past. Sure there are always going to be people that will fight evolution until their very last breath. But it is undoubtedly at least considered by many and in many cases mixed into the beliefs of individuals such as the Concordists and the Old Age Creationists. Science will continue to search for answers to the question of where humans came from. They may get closer and closer to answering that question and one day they may actually answer it, or maybe they never will. Until then, all people can do is try to become as educated as they can on the different views, read up on all of them, do their homework and form their own perspective on the beginnings of life. Don’t forget about faith though. It is a powerful thing that deserves to be at least considered in the big picture.

After reading this I genuinely hope that you have a better understanding of the ongoing battle between evolution and the Bible and all the different vantage points that go with it. Regardless of what side you choose to take, or maybe no side at all, I hope that an educated choice can be made based on what you have just read. Remember there is no right or wrong answer as long as there is reasoning behind it.

                                         Bibliography

  1. Mitchell, Lynn, and Kirk Blackard. Reconciling the Bible and Science A Primer on the Two Books of God. Charleston : BookSurge Publishing, 2009. Print.
  2. Politico, College. “Poll: Most Americans Don’t Believe In Evolution.” (2007): 1. Web. 15 Apr 2012. <http://collegepolitico.hubpages.com/hub/Poll-Most-Americans-Dont-Believe-Evolution&gt;.
  3. Linder, Douglas O. “State vs John Scopes (“The Monkey Trial”).” Scopes Trial: A Final Word. n. page. Print. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/evolut.htm&gt;.
  4. . “Evolution of Man- Theory Concepts.” All About Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr 2012. <http://www.allaboutscience.org/evolution-of-man.htm&gt;.

 



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