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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.

 

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.

 

How could humans have evolved and still be created in the "Image of God"?

The meaning of the “image of God” has been debated for centuries in the church. A common view is that the image of God refers to the human abilities that separate us from the animals. However, scientists have found that abilities like communication and rationality are also present in animals on a basic level. Plus, theologians do not see the image of God as human abilities. Some theologians see the image of God as our capacity for a relationship with God. Other theologians see it as our commission to represent God’s kingdom on earth. Both of these theological positions are consistent with scientific evidence. Whether God created humanity through a miracle or through evolution, God gave us our spiritual capacities and calls us to bear his image.
(Updated June 25, 2012)

 

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)

 

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)

 

How was the Genesis account of creation interpreted before Darwin?

Given the stark difference between evolution and six-day creation, many people assume that Darwin’s theory shook the foundations of the Christian faith. In truth, the literal six-day interpretation of Genesis 1-2 was not the only perspective held by Christians prior to modern science. St. Augustine (354-430), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Wesley (1703-171), and others supported the idea of Accommodation. In the Accommodation view, Genesis 1-2 was written in a simple allegorical fashion to make it easy for people of that time to understand. In fact, Augustine suggested that the 6 days of Genesis 1 describe a single day of creation. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) argued that God did not create things in their final state, but created them to have potential to develop as he intended. The views of these and other Christian leaders are consistent with God creating life by means of evolution.

 

How have Christians responded to Darwin’s "Origin of Species"?

Even before Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, many Christians had already accepted an old Earth. One of the first supporters of evolutionary science in America—Harvard biologist Asa Gray—was a devout Christian. Conservative theologian B. B. Warfield also accepted the science of evolution, and both he and Asa Gray rejected the idea that evolution leads to atheism. Even the authors of The Fundamentals, published between 1910 and 1915, accepted an old earth. It wasn’t until a century after Darwin that a large number of evangelicals and fundamentalists began to accept the combination of flood geology and 6-day creation promoted by Seventh-day Adventists.
(Updated on July 10, 2012)

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