Same Universe, Different Lenses: Science, Ethics, and Religion in Dialogue
This is a transcript of an interview given by Dr. Jennifer Wiseman at The Faith Angle Forum Conference on Religion, Politics, & Public Life on November 5, 2013.
Where are the Transitional Fossils?
A common argument leveled against the theory of evolution is that scientists have not been able to produce transitional fossils that show the change of one species into another. In this podcast, we address a common misconception about what transitional fossils actually are.
Creator of the Stars at Night
The God who created the cosmos is the God who came to us as a child in Bethlehem.
The song is built around the image of a river flowing through a canyon it has sculpted—an image that can easily be played out as a picture of the way that the Lord has been at work preparing a path for us in the material world, complete with signposts to his former and present activity.
What evidence do we have for evolution besides fossils and genes?
Scientists have found multiple lines of evidence for evolution, not just one or two. These types of evidence are independent of each other, coming from sources as different as ancient fossils and modern genetics labs. Evidence also comes from comparing the anatomy of creatures living today. All creatures with four limbs (whether mammals, birds, or reptiles) have the same bone structure in each limb, pointing to their descent from a common ancestor. More evidence comes from biogeography. Isolated islands are missing common species found on the mainland, but are filled with many unique species that can be related by a common ancestor. Finally, evidence comes from embryonic development. As an embryo of a mammal grows, its heart develops through stages similar to fish, amphibians, and reptiles. God’s creation declares the history of life in many different ways. All these ways are pointing to a consistent picture of God creating through evolution.
What is the genetic evidence for human evolution?
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.
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)
Fine-tuning and the “Fruitful Universe”
I ask the question, “Why is the universe so special?” Now scientists don’t like things to be special; we like things to be general, and our natural anticipation would have been that the universe is just a common specimen of what a universe might be like.
Saturday Sermon: Over and Above Naturalism, Part 2
Barkley suggests that material creation is not the end of our understanding (as Naturalists think), but a beginning that unveils the majestic and power of a Creator who loves us.
Wheat that Springeth Green
As we remember the narrative that takes us from Good Friday through Easter morning, the image of a buried grain of wheat invites us into the story rather than just describing what happens in it.
How does original sin fit with evolutionary history?
Original sin often refers simply to the current state of humanity, in that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Evolution does not raise questions about our current state of sinfulness. It does, however, raise questions about how and when the first sin occurred, and how this fallen state was transmitted to all people. The sciences of evolution and archaeology can provide some insight into these questions but are not equipped to answer them. These questions are theological, and over the centuries the church has considered many possible answers. Some of these options are consistent with the scientific evidence currently available.
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.
Did God create everything recently but make it appear old?
One way to resolve the apparent conflict between the Bible and science is to say that the world merely looks old. Perhaps God created it 6,000 years ago, but made it look millions and billions of years old. While God certainly has it in his power to do this, this view raises a theological challenge for the Christian: it makes God out to be a deceiver. It would have God revealing things in the universe that are contrary to what he reveals in the Bible. The lie would be not just in a few places, but embedded in galaxies, in stars, in rocks and fossils, and in our very DNA. If we trust that “The heavens declare the glory of God”, we have to trust that they truthfully declare the history by which God made them.
What is the genetic evidence for evolution?
Why should Christians consider evolutionary creation?
Because evolution is a challenging subject, many Christians are tempted to simply ignore or reject it. Yet considering evolutionary creation has important benefits for Christians both in our relationship with the Creator, and with our relationships with other people—believers and non-Christians alike. First, Christians should study evolution because (like all the natural sciences) it is the study of God’s creation. Creation itself is a complementary revelation to what is communicated in the Scriptures, and through it God shows how and when he brought about life, to his honor and glory. Studying the creation is also an invitation into a deeper understanding of the attributes and character of Father, Son and Spirit. Second, considering evolutionary creation aids the Church in its gospel mission, supporting young Christians in their faith, helping answer critics, and equipping us to engage effectively in the wider culture. An anti-evolution attitude can harm Christian young people by presenting them with a false choice between pursuing science OR holding to faith. Similarly, a hostile attitude towards evolution can hinder evangelism when seekers hear that they must reject science to follow Christ. On the other hand, studying evolution as a God-ordained process helps Christians refute arguments that science encourages an atheistic worldview. Furthermore, as the church engages front-page issues raised by the rapid growth in science, medicine, and technology, a Christ-centered voice in such areas as bioethics will be stronger if based on a thorough understanding of the natural sciences, including evolution.
(Updated on September 9, 2012)
Speciation and Macroevolution
A common challenge to evolutionary theory is that while life does indeed change over time (what is known as microevolution), no one has ever seen one species evolve into another species (macroevolution).
Saturday Sermon: Gloriously Functional
Is Genesis 1 describing material creation or functional creation? Pastor Richard Dahlstrom of Bethany Community Church beautifully articulates the insights he has received through John Walton’s book The Lost World of Genesis One and probes deep into the Biblical text with us.
The Creation of Beauty
Physical death is a necessary and, perhaps, disconcerting element of the evolutionary process for many Christians. It is difficult to imagine a perfect and loving God designing such a universe where forces such as natural death and entropy operate.
The lyrics begin by painting a picture of the Fall as something in which each person has participated: “The fruit (of the Fall of man) is seen in every eye and every hand.”