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What scientific evidence do we have about the first humans?

In recent decades, scientists have discovered more about the beginnings of humanity. The fossil record shows a gradual transition over 5 million years ago from chimpanzee-size creatures to hominids with larger brains who walked on two legs. Later hominids used fire and stone tools and had brains as large as modern humans. Fossils of homo sapiens in east Africa date back nearly 200,000 years. Humans developed hearths for fire, stone points for spears and arrows, and cave paintings by 30,000 years ago. By 10,000 years ago, humans had spread throughout the globe. Genetic studies support the same picture. Humans share more DNA with chimpanzees than with any other animal, suggesting that humans and chimps share a relatively recent common ancestor. Also, the same defective genes appear in both humans and chimps, at the same locations in the genome—an observation difficult to explain except by common ancestry. Genetics also tells us that the human population today descended from more than two people. Evolution happens not to individuals but to populations, and the amount of genetic diversity in the gene pool today suggests that the human population was never smaller than several thousand individuals. Yet all humans, of all races, are descended from this group. Humanity is one family.

 

What do Biblical scholars today say about Genesis 1-2?

In recent decades, evangelical Biblical scholars have reconsidered non-literal interpretations of Genesis. The Accommodation view of St. Augustine and John Calvin is supported by recent discoveries about ancient cultures. Literature from these cultures shows interesting parallels and differences with Genesis accounts. The differences are striking, such as stories where creation is a battle among many gods rather than the acts of one sovereign Creator. The similarities, however, show how God accommodated his message so that the Israelites could understand it. For example, the Egyptians and Babylonians thought the sky was a solid dome. This solid dome appears in Genesis 1 as the firmament created on day 2. God did not try to correct the “science” of the Israelites by explaining that the sky was a gaseous atmosphere. Instead, God accommodated his message to their cultural context. Many evangelical Biblical scholars have concluded that Genesis is not meant to teach scientific information.

 

"Come and See": A Christological Invitation for Science

This chapter from Mark Noll's book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind seeks to understand science through a Christ-centered lens. Overall, if one accepts that nature is created and sustained by Jesus Christ, the author explains, then one must conclude that looking at nature is, in fact, the best way to learn about nature.

 

Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography in the Bible

Brian Godawa looks at several aspects of ancient cosmography (descriptions of the universe) that also appear in the Bible, and what these aspects of the text mean for our understanding of Scripture.

 

Recovering the Doctrine of Creation: A Theological View of Science

Philosopher Robert Bishop explores the Biblical doctrine of creation, which he describes as "perhaps one of the most helpful pieces of theology for thinking about science", and describes why the doctrine needs to be recovered from narrower, contemporary interpretations of creation.

 

The BioLogos Foundation and "Darwin's Pious Idea"

In this paper, theologian John Wesley Wright reviews Connor Cunningham's book Darwin's Pious Idea, a work that deeply explores the integration of Darwinian evolutionary theory and Christian faith.

 

The Cambrian 'Explosion', Transitional Forms, and the Tree of Life

Geologist Keith Miller examines the "Cambrian Explosion", a period of rapid evolutionary diversification approximately 575 million years ago, and whether it poses a challenge to evolutionary theory.

 

An Evangelical Geneticist's Critique of Reasons to Believe's Testable Creation Model

Biologist and BioLogos Senior Fellow Denis Venema examines the interaction between RTB literature and several lines of genetics-based evidence for common ancestry. In so doing, he also addresses the scientific robustness and reliability of the RTB model.

 

Science, Religion, and A. D. White: Seeking Peace in the 'Warfare Between Science and Theology'

Mark Noll, historian and author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, describes how Andrew Dickson White relentlessly advocated a view of history in which Science and Dogmatic Theology have always been at war with one another. Noll identifies 16 reasons why White’s notion of warfare is mistaken.

 

The Biblical Creation in its Ancient Near Eastern Context

"As a Christian and a biblical scholar, I care both about Scripture as truth and about the ongoing scholarly conversation regarding the composition of the Hebrew Scriptures. And so, when I was asked to speak on the story of creation in Genesis 1, I welcomed the opportunity to give my thoughts on the interaction between this text and its ancient Near Eastern context."

 

Biblical Creation and Storytelling: Cosmogony, Combat and Covenant

The literary conventions employed in Genesis chapter 1 mark it out, not as a scientific document describing material origins, but as a theological polemic against surrounding ancient Near Eastern pagan religions. Creation language here and elsewhere in Scripture is not about establishing scientific origins of material substance and structure but about covenantal establishment and worldview.

 

Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

Professor Denis Lamoureux presents the theory of evolutionary creation, which claims that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained, sustained, and design-reflecting evolutionary process. The view of origins, says Lamoureux, fully embraces both the religious beliefs of biblical Christianity and the scientific theories of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution.

 

Barriers to Accepting Creation by an Evolutionary Process: Concerns of the Evangelical Theologian

Renowned Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke considers eleven barriers that prevent evangelical theologians from accepting evolution as a possible means of creation and what these barriers tell us about the tensions perceived by many Evangelicals between science and faith. Waltke's work was based on a survey sent to members of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents and their faculty.

 

Adventist Origins of Young Earth Creationism

Many evangelicals believe that Young Earth Creationism is the only authentic, biblical way for Christians to understand origins, and that until the advent of Darwin's theory of evolution, it was the only view held by Christians. However, in this excerpt from Saving Darwin, Karl Giberson explains that Young Earth Creationism's origins are surprisingly recent.

 

Does the Cambrian Explosion pose a challenge to evolution?

The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the appearance in the fossil record of most major animal body plans about 543 million years ago. The new fossils appear in an interval of 20 million years or less. On evolutionary time scales, 20 million years is a rapid burst that appears to be inconsistent with the gradual pace of evolutionary change. However, rapid changes like this appear at other times in the fossil record, often following times of major extinction. The Cambrian Explosion does present a number of interesting and important research questions. It does not, however, challenge the fundamental correctness of the central thesis of evolution.

 

Can science and scripture be reconciled?

In Christian belief, God reveals himself in both the written book of the Bible and the created “book” of the natural world. Thus, the truths we find in scripture should not conflict with the truths we find in nature. Yet at times the two revelations seem to be saying contradictory things about how God made the world. Since God does not lie, the conflict must occur at the level of human interpretation: either a misunderstanding of what God is revealing in nature, or a misunderstanding of what God is revealing in scripture. Conflicts motivate us to reevaluate both interpretations. Christians may disagree on whether the scientific or the Biblical interpretation needs to change, but we can agree that God speaks to us in both revelations.
(Updated on March 10, 2012)

 

On what grounds can one claim that the Christian God is the creator?

The science of evolution is consistent with many religions and with atheism. Science alone cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. Some scientific evidence, such as fine-tuning, points to a Creator, but even this does not support Christianity over other religions. However, Christian doctrine is broadly compatible with scientific accounts of our origins. Though belief in the Christian God is not scientifically provable, it is not irrational. Commitment to Christ is a reasonable choice supported by a variety of evidence from history, philosophy, and the testimony of others. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit works in each person’s life to bring them into relationship with Jesus.
(Updated on March 10, 2012)

 

If God created the universe, what created God?

Many arguments claiming to prove the existence of God have been proposed throughout the centuries. The response to many of these arguments, however, is: “If God created the world, what created God?” It suggests that certain arguments for God’s existence only push the question of beginnings one step farther back. The Bible and Christian doctrine address this question by defining God as eternal and uncreated, but such answers rarely satisfy nonbelievers. A philosophical response is that God is the ultimate first cause; the atheist is left with a dilemma of what or who that first cause might have been. In the end, an uncaused creator may simply be a more plausible explanation for the universe we live in. Our universe appears to have had a beginning, to be finely tuned for life, and to have a place for love and purpose. These appearances affirm as plausible a prior belief in God.

 

Are science and Christianity at war?

Some people see science and religion as enemies, at war for leadership in our modern culture. Others see science and religion as completely separate and unrelated facets of life. However, science is not the only source of facts, and religion reaches beyond the realm of values and morals. In fact, religion can have a positive impact on science, such as in the development of modern medical ethics. Many early scientific leaders were devout Christians, as are some scientific leaders today. Science can also enhance the spiritual life of believers. Christians rejoice in scientific discoveries that reveal the glory of God the creator.
(Updated June 27, 2012)

 

What does the fossil record show?

Fossils provide a unique view into the history of life by showing the forms and features of life in the past. Fossils tell us how species have changed across long periods of the Earth’s history. For instance, in 1998, scientists found a fossil showing an animal at the transition from sea creature to land creature. This tetrapod had a hand-like fin, confirming a prediction of evolutionary biology. Though the fossil record does not include every plant and animal that ever lived, it provides substantial evidence for the common descent of life via evolution. The fossil record is a remarkable gift for the study of nature.

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