Sunday, April 5, 2009

Science and Faith-- Enemies or Allies?

I thought for my first topic I'd start with an issue I've been reading about and wrestling with a lot these past 2 months-- evolution.

I used to believe the earth was created by God in six literal days, sometime in the recent past (as in less than 10,000 years ago).  From everything I was taught, I thought this was the only acceptable position a Christian who wanted to stay true to the Bible could take.  As I entered my science classes, I went in with the mindset that any scientist who believed in evolution was delusional, blinded to the truth of God's word and the true nature of our universe.  I didn't even allow myself to hear the case for evolution, because I assumed it was contrary to my faith and thus should be avoided and argued against vehemently.  I had no trouble believing in a worldwide flood of Noah, but I actually had the audacity to question whether dinosaurs really existed or if their bones were put here as a test to our faith.  ?!

Looking back, I'm rather ashamed at what a pig-headed, egotistical stance I was taking.  Here I was, not knowing a thing about science (and very little about theology), brazenly standing in the face of 150+ years of mainstream scientific research and saying, "Nope, you're wrong!"  Of course, I assumed that the evidence that creationists gave me as talking points was valid science and that they were in the minority simply because they chose to stand up for their faith in a godless scientific community.

That little paradigm started to fall apart when I started to contemplate the vastness of the universe.  I don't know if it was a PBS program or just an evening gazing at the night sky, but something made me think about stars that were millions of light years away from our galaxy... and I thought, "If they are millions of light years away, and we can actually accurately measure this, then the universe would have to be at least that old for the light to even get here..."  The wheels started turning in my brain.  I searched for the creationist answer to those stars millions of light years away and was dismayed to find the contortionist reasoning and mental gymnastics they had to do to explain this away.  So I dug further and thought I found a happy place within the ID (Intelligent Design) movement.  There I found scientists that believed the earth was indeed very old, but God was still the creator and we could still render a (fairly) literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2.  

Still, I had the uncomfortable feeling that somehow all the finagling we had to do in response to the fossil record just wasn't quite... right.  I didn't know what to do with that, so I decided to put it on the back shelf of my mind and just not think about it.  I was done with my science courses by this time, so that didn't pose a problem.

But now I have a 7 year old son who is crazy about science and dinosaurs and reads everything he can get his hands on about space and the universe.  What was I going to tell him about where we came from?  Was I going to tell him that much of what he read in his science books was lies?  How could I tell him that when I really didn't know?

So I launched out to give evolution a second look.  I've been surprised to find just how many scientists who are believers in Jesus Christ not only accept evolution but consider it an ally to their faith.  They have no difficulty reconciling evolution with their belief in God as creator and sovereign Lord.  In fact, the farther they delve in their scientific research, the more they find that makes them want to worship God in awe and wonder.  This was shocking to me-- why had I never heard from these people before?  Has the creation/evolution debate in our schools become so loud and cantankerous that no one has ever given them a chance to speak? Apparently there is not a lot of public interest in finding harmony between faith and science.

I'm not going to present the case for evolution here.  I don't understand enough about science to do it justice, and there are plenty of good books and websites written by people who have devoted their life to studying it.  I'll let them make their case.  I simply offer a few observations:

--Accepting evolution does not automatically equate to atheism and relativism.
--Accepting evolution does not automatically lead to a godless society.
--Evolution is the major axiom of all biological study for the past 150 years.  It is a forgone conclusion in almost every scientist's mind, because the evidence for it is so overwhelming.  If we as Christians are going to invalidate an entire wing of scientific research, we better have very good evidence for doing so.  
--While there are a few scientists who reject evolution and do so on scientific grounds, by far most of the prominent voices arguing against evolution know very little about science.  When did theologians, lawyers, and radio talk show hosts suddenly become experts in biology, geology, genetics, paleontology, etc.?  
--Darwin should not be blamed for things such as Social Darwinism, eugenics, Nazism, etc.  The "slippery slope" argument says that once we accept evolution, then it will inevitably lead to these other things.  I don't think that's the case.  If we're going to blame Darwin for Nazism, then we would also have to blame the gospels for anti-Semitism.

With that, I offer up some further reading.  Check out the books by Miller, Collins, and Giberson in the links to the left.  These sites may also be helpful:
--"Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?" - An essay by Kenneth Miller, Brown University
--Kenneth Miller's website Evolution Resources
--And coming soon... The BioLogos Foundation at

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