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Believing in God and Evolution

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January 18, 2010 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's entry was written by Karl Giberson. You can read more about what we believe here.

Believing in God and Evolution

The following in an English transcription of an article which recently ran in the Brazilian magazine Galileu.

I was raised to believe that evolution was a conspiracy to undermine faith in God and had no evidence to support it. Scientists were evil non-believers, out to destroy faith, and Darwin was the most evil scientist of all, having been influenced by Satan to propose evolution in the first place. Like many young people today, I thought of Darwin in the same negative way that I thought of Hitler—simply evil.

I am happy to say that I am no longer among the tens of millions of Christians in America who think this way. I have made my peace with Darwin and evolution and have found it to be enriching and encouraging to my belief in God. My book, Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution unfolds my personal story and gives some of the reasons why I think our present conversation on this topic is so unhelpful.

When Christians reject evolution, they alienate themselves from science and, in most cases, from intellectual culture in general. Contrary to the claims of many anti-evolutionists, you cannot reject evolution all by itself; you have to reject most of science as well as attack the integrity of the scientific enterprise. The ideas on which evolution are based are tightly woven with ideas from geology, nuclear physics, astronomy, and more. Rejecting mainstream science is unfair to the millions of scientists around the world who work honestly and in obscurity trying to understand the world. Few scientists have any anti-religious agenda and many of them, in fact, are religious. Unfortunately, the most famous scientist in the world is Richard Dawkins and he is very anti-religious.

However, America’s most famous scientist is the geneticist, Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, and he is an enthusiastic religious believer. So we can clearly see that belief in God does not interfere with doing good science.

Darwin proposed the theory of evolution in 1859 in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Many found the theory intriguing at the time but were uneasy about the possibility that humans were related to primates: "Descended from the apes? Dear me, let us hope it is not true," exclaimed the wife of a19th-century English bishop upon hearing of Darwin's new theory. "But if it is true, let us hope it does not become widely known." Uneasy Christians hoped the advance of science would undermine Darwin's novel theory, which threatened their understanding of traditional biblical stories such as Adam and Eve, and the six days of creation.

The evidence for evolution is now overwhelming; those who confidently announced that the theory was collapsing have been proven wrong time and again. The fossil record has provided evidence of compelling transitional species such as whales with feet. DNA provides an irrefutable digital record of the relatedness of all living things. Mountains of evidence now support Darwin’s original proposal and it is a testimony to his genius that he could outline a theory that would be so effective at gathering subsequent evidence into its paradigm.

I don’t see evolution as sinister any longer; I see it as God's way of creating. And it is not a chaotic and wasteful process, as the critics charge. Evolution works by differential reproduction—organisms with the most offspring extend the reach of their genes more than their competitors. It is possible, of course, that the competitors are cruelly killed as a part of this process, but more likely is the simple fact that some organisms have more children. I have twice as many children as Bill Clinton (no jokes, please!) so my genes will be more influential in the next generation than his. But I didn’t have to rip off his limbs to get ahead in this way.

To be sure, there are aspects of the evolutionary process that are hard to reconcile with the affirmation that God is Love. I wish that “bad design” was not so common, especially when it causes suffering, like the Parkinson’s disease that took my mother’s life. But this is simply the traditional problem of evil, a problem that is actually mitigated by evolution, not exaggerated.

Evolution, we now understand quite well, occurs in an orderly universe, on a foundation of natural laws and faithful processes. The narrative of cosmic history preceding the origin of life is remarkable; the laws enabling life appear finely tuned for that possibility. The ability of organisms to evolve empowers them to adapt to changing environments. My belief that God creates through evolution unites my faith and my science. And it allows me to respect and appreciate science, rather than fear it.

This is good news for Christians who are nervous about science.


Karl Giberson directs the new science & religion writing program at Gordon College in Boston. He has published more than 100 articles, reviews and essays for Web sites and journals including Salon.com, Books & Culture, and the Huffington Post. He has written seven books, including Saving Darwin, The Language of Science & Faith, and The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age.

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Gregory Arago - #3246

January 23rd 2010

‘All truth needs to be scientific’ - this is the ideology called ‘scientism.’ Science has answers to all questions.

The problem here is that philosophy and theology are under-valued for their contribution to knowledge. America is a highly un-philosophical country in comparison to others. It might be over-reaching to say it, but ‘love of wisdom’ is not at a premium there.

Karl Giberson could answer to this question more eloquently and even-handedly than I have. Since much has already been written challenging the ideology of scientism, I’d just recommend reading about it.

Wrt faith, I don’t think it rests at being just a matter of what we don’t know. We can have faith in something uncertain (e.g. an outcome) or faith in something highly improbable. In the context of religious faith, we believe in the transcendental reality of the divine. We believe in the one God. This is true for Muslims, Christians, Jews, Baha’i's and others.

One cannot ‘prove’ one’s faith with ‘scientific methods.’ This does not take away from the reality of that faith, but invites other methods. One accepts evolution but believes in God.


Charlie - #3253

January 23rd 2010

Obviously we cannot make the bold claim that science answers all questions because we don’t have the answers to all questions.  All I’m saying is that science is the only tool for us to answer questions with a fair and unbiased approach.


Gregory Arago - #3261

January 23rd 2010

‘Science’ is not ‘fair and unbiased’ except in its ideal type (which doesn’t exist)! Philosophy of science and sociology of science amply demonstrate that it (via the scientists who do it) is filled with biases. The now understood myth of ‘pure objectivity’ applies even to mathematics!

Have you given philosophy and theology enough of an opportunity to show that they are legitimate ways to discovering and knowing truths, Charlie?

http://www.math.miami.edu/~jason/gibran/kahlil/prophet_ch17.html


Charlie - #3290

January 24th 2010

Gregory,

Yes, humans can corrupt science, but the scientific method (what humanity should strive to stay true to) is unbiased and is the best way to search for truth.

As far as philosophy and theology, how about an example for how they lead to truth?


Gregory Arago - #3315

January 25th 2010

Philosophy has a long history of leading to truth. Take for examples the Ancient Greek triad of ‘truth, beauty and goodness.’ We are asked as philosophers (and we are *all* philosophers, to one degree or another) to seek these things.

‘Modern natural science’ arose from the tradition of ‘natural philosophy.’ We are now living in a ‘scientific age,’ at least in some parts of the world, but this absolutely does not, contrary to what A. Comte said with his ‘three stages’ theory, that philosophy and theology are now obsolete, outdated or useless. Philosophy and theology don’t ‘progress’ like science does; this gives them a supra-temporal meaning in comparison to science.

Second, HPSS has shown crystal clear that there are multiple methods involved in ‘doing science.’ It is false to uplift a single entity called ‘the scientific method’ and pretend that it is an icon in which self-understanding and community living *should* be based.

The link to Gibran (#3261) combines poetry, philosophy, science and theology. Doesn’t it strike you in the least, Charlie?


Charlie - #3320

January 25th 2010

First, I would still like an example of philosophy and theology leading to truth.  How do they “progress” to lead to truth?  Also, what alternative science do you speak of that does not follow the scientific method?  Last, with respect to that link you sent me, what conclusion was I supposed to draw from that?  I understand each individual’s uniqueness and some things we can learn from others and some things we can’t, but what does that have to do with truth?  Are you saying everyone has their own version of truth and that’s good enough?  Don’t really get it.


Gregory Arago - #3413

January 27th 2010

Charlie, If you’ll forgive, I tire rather easily when people say ‘only science can lead to truth.’ Such a scientistic view is painfully weak in philosophy and/or theology to even suggest such a thing. Some healing of this great imbalance is apparently needed.

H. Dooyeweerd’s “Twilight of Western Thought” is an interesting read.

Likewise, “The Mind of God and the Works of Man” by E. Craig.

Again, though you persist, there simply is *no* single entity called ‘the scientific method.’ It doesn’t exist! There are multiple methods. There are many sciences. This makes sense when one studies the diversity of the Academy today!

One conclusion you could draw from Gibran is that “God created the heavens and the earth” and that we are simply individual parts of it who live in our various communities. Truth is bigger than any single individual, yet it lives in all of us (humans) to varying degrees. Trying to discover it with poetry, philosophy, science and/or theology is part of being human.


Gregory Arago - #3414

January 27th 2010

Corr: Trying to discover truths with poetry, philosophy, science and/or theology is part of being human.


Charlie - #3453

January 27th 2010

Gregory,

Again, do you have an example of how philosophy and theology lead to truth?  Is there anything that humanity considers true that came from philosophy and theology?  Also, what kind of science does not follow the scientific method?  I ‘d be interested to know.


Gregory Arago - #3457

January 27th 2010

I think you need to re-read what was already written above, Charlie. To repeat, as you do, the following phrase shows you are not in touch with contemporary views: ‘the scientific method.’

This ‘entity’ called ‘the scientific method’ simply *doesn’t exist*! Period.

Take a 100 level course in ‘science studies’ or philosophy of science or history of science or sociology of science or history, philosophy & sociology of science (HPSS) & you will immediately, probably in the first class, be taught that there are ‘multiple scientific methods.’

Which science? Whose science?

Will you do some reading to discover this & then incorporate it into how you view the world or simply revert to saying ‘the scientific method’ again and again in the future?

Here’s another recommendation:
http://www.galilean-library.org/manuscript.php?postid=43842

Philosophy & theology are respectable and worthwhile fields of knowledge. I urge you to consider them in higher light than you do now.

That’s all for me to say now on this topic.


Charlie - #3495

January 28th 2010

Gregory,

Ok, putting definitions aside, we answer questions by forming a hypothesis, observing and experimenting, obtaining evidence that either supports or does not support a given hypothesis, and making conclusions based on that evidence.  That is what I mean when I say the scientific method.  I understand unethical scientists can fabricate data to support their “favorable” hypothesis, but by doing that, they are no longer following that definition of the scientific method.  All of science universally follows this method and anything that does not, is not considered science (even the scientists that fabricate data).  So that’s how science seeks truth.

Also, with respect to philosophy and theology, I’m sorry if I came off as threatening or confrontational, but all I was curious about is if you had an example of how philosophy and theology lead to truth.  I’m just curious.  That’s the whole point of these blogs; it’s to get others’ opinions because we all have unique backgrounds and can learn from each other.


Jacob - #3724

January 31st 2010

#3495

The pursuit of philosophy and theology provided the foundation for and led to the development of what may be called science, and since, for you, all truth must be scientific truth, theology and philosophy led to truth.


Charlie - #3744

February 1st 2010

I agree that philosophy led to science (and therefore, a process for us to determine truth), but how did theology?


malour - #8319

April 3rd 2010

We all have a conscience which tells us what is good and evil; that’s why we know between good and evil. We have the love in our hearts, we know how to love, how to love our parents, our brothers and sisters, our own self, and even to others. Nobody teaches us to love, but it is the SPIRIT of GOD that teaches, guides, and leads us to love because GOD first loved us. We love and know how to love because HE first loved us. The SPIRIT of LOVE naturally dwells in us. No one has ever seen GOD; but if we love one another, GOD lives in us and HIS love is made complete in us (1John 4:12.) GOD is in us; HE exists in our lives because HIS SPIRIT is within in us, inside of us, and the evidence is the love that is in us. If you don’t believe in GOD, would you think there is life? there is peace? there is love? there is creation?there is you? If there is no GOD nothing will be formed. No you is in this world, and no world and whole universe. If you think that there is no GOD, all people don’t have peace in their mind and heart, there is no life in them and hope to live because there is no GOD in them, but in them is destruction, no life.


malour - #8322

April 3rd 2010

1st John 4:8 “WHOEVER DOES NOT LOVE DOES NOT KNOW GOD, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE.”
Come to think of it where does your love come from? Your love comes from the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY! The love you have is placed within you by the ALMIGHTY GOD THE CREATOR OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, THE CREATOR OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE AND ALL THAT IS WITHIN IT, YOUR OWN CREATOR.. BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE, AND HE FIRST LOVED YOU, THAT’S WHY YOU LOVE! I SEALED THIS WITH THE BLOOD OF JESUS! COLOSSIANS 2:15 “GOD DISARMED the powers, and authorities, HE made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (through THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST AND THE POWER OF HIS BLOOD). We are from GOD because we love and because of the love, we believe in HIM, and we are HIS dear children, and we have overcome the world BECAUSE THE ONE WHO IS IN US IS GREATER THAN the one who is in the world—1JOHN 4:4 IT IS GOD WHO IS IN US, THE ALL-POWERFUL, MIGHTY, GREAT, MAJESTY, FULL OF SPLENDOR, THE ALMIGHTY, LIVING, OMNIPOTENT, ALL-POWERFUL GOD!!!!!GOD IS LOVE-1JOHN 4:8, AND GOD FIRST LOVED US THAT’S WHY WE LOVE-1JOHN 4:19


malour - #8323

April 3rd 2010

Ask you one question. Can you explain the love that is in you, the love that you feel.. are you able to explain that and support that with your own understanding, thinking, or if you have some theories of it? THE LORD DECLARES, “FOR MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, NEITHER ARE YOUR WAYS MY WAYS. AS THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE MY WAYS HIGHER THAN YOUR WAYS AND MY THOUGHTS THAN YOUR THOUGHTS.”-ISAIAH 55:8-9; GOD HAS GIVEN US THIS COMMAND: WHOEVER LOVES GOD MUST ALSO LOVE HIS BROTHER.-1JOHN 4:21; TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.-PROVERBS 3:5; FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD IS RIGHT AND TRUE; HE IS FAITHFUL IN ALL HE DOES.-PSALM 33:4; You love, and know how to love and feel love, right? Your body is the temple of GOD because you love. Your body is the temple of THE HOLY SPIRIT, Who is in you, whom you’ve received from GOD. You are not your own; you were bought at a price(through the LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST, Who is THE SON OF THE FATHER GOD). Therefore honor GOD with your body. GLORY TO GOD ALMIGHTY, THE LORD OF HOSTS, HIS LOVE ENDURES AND REIGNS FOREVER!!!! GOD SAYS,“SO IT WAS WRITTEN, SO IT SHALL BE DONE.


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