I work with students in Kristeligt Forbund for Studerende (KFS) in Denmark. I spend a lot of time with Danish high school students, and I often meet young Christians unsettled about what they are taught in school. When evolution comes up, it makes them wonder if they should resist what they are taught in either biology or church, and they are not able to wholeheartedly engage with the science. I also recognize this feeling from my years in high school. Whenever evolution would come up, I would have a buzzing feeling of discomfort. Now, having read more about the biblical creation account and evolution, I have come to embrace evolution and the feeling of discomfort has been replaced by a sense of awe and wonder. This did not happen in a day, however. I have always loved science and Jesus, but I recently changed my mind from a proponent of Intelligent Design to Evolutionary Creation.
Admiration of Science
When I was about 6 years old, I wanted to become an astronaut. Space was mystical and amazing. I learned about Sputnik 1, Apollo 11, Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” and all sorts of funny facts about our universe and its planets. And when I travelled to other countries with my family, it was always a plus if the cities we visited had a science museum! For many years, I loved science and firmly believed in Jesus without ever questioning it or noticing any conflicts.
When I attended high school at 17, I went to two KFS camps for Christian high schoolers and university students. This is where I encountered Intelligent Design (ID) for the first time. I quickly found ID compelling and was convinced. I thought Darwin was right about evolution within a species, but the neo-Darwinian evolution across species had no evidence to back it up. Atheists had to believe in evolution because they had excluded God before even looking at the evidence. It seemed obvious to me that large-scale evolution was a terrible explanation, but the best natural one. I was told that not a single transitional species was ever found and that the evolutionary mechanisms could not bring about the species we see today. How could almost all scientists be so misinformed and believe firmly in evolution? This was a mystery to me.
After high school, I went onto a Bible school (also by KFS) where we got to be guest teachers in some high school classes in Religious Studies. Here, the high school students could ask us any question about our faith, and science and faith came up almost every single time. I passionately explained how large-scale evolution was long debunked by the Cambrian explosion and how scientists had misinterpreted the fossil record for 150 years. I even remember once having a conversation about evolution in a biology class. Mounted with evidence from reading Jonathan Wells’ The Icons of Evolution, I presented evidence against evolution and not a single student could drive back my arguments. I felt like I had won an important battle. Today, I wish I could take back those words.
Seeking Answers to Unresolved Questions
Later at the Bible school, I felt more and more unsettled and unresolved due to questions regarding faith and science that frequently popped up. Like “Who did the cave paintings?” and “What about the dinosaurs?” I used to believe that death and dinosaurs existed outside the perfect garden of Eden, but did God not declare all creation good? How could there be dying dinosaurs outside of Eden (and why were the coolest animals not in Eden?!)? These and many other questions bombarded my mind, and there did not seem to be any good answers to them. The grand jigsaw puzzle did not work out. It felt as if I were to make one harmonious picture with 500 puzzle pieces from two different jigsaw puzzles. It felt like I could not fully engage science nor theology at that time.
After Bible school, I had a very long summer vacation partly due to the Coronavirus. This is when I discovered Evolutionary Creation. I did so by firstly realizing that ID just did not cut it for me. This was through a growing understanding of four important things: The scientific community, the scientific method, what evolution actually means, and the evidence presented by evolutionary biologists.
The Danish podcast “Eftertanke” (roughly translates to “reflection” as in “serious thought or consideration”) was a great help in discovering this. It is conducted by three thought-provoking Christians who accept evolution. They put ID under a magnifying glass and its flaws were quickly exposed. After listening to their arguments and trying to make my mental jigsaw puzzle add up, a thought struck me out of the blue: “Who am I to believe that I can knock down evolution—a widely agreed upon scientific theory – by presenting a few simple counterarguments?” I suddenly realized that this was not a reasonable line of thought and had been rather naive of me.
Unraveling Intelligent Design
When I was an ID proponent, I thought that most scientists wanted to protect the sacred theory of evolution because it was the holy grail of atheism. But the fact of the matter is that scientists would love to disprove evolution—that is how you win a Nobel prize! They just cannot! Scientists widely agree to evolution being true for a reason, and that reason is not hidden motives. The scientific community is not infallible, but on largely agreed upon theories like evolution, we should trust experts in their fields.
The fact that we have evolved does not imply how we ought to behave or find meaning. This is why the creation narrative of Genesis is so wonderful! Because it does answer those questions about value, morality, and existence.
A better understanding of the scientific method also revealed obscurity around the “god of the gaps” idea. ID proponents will often respond to this by saying that they are not making a god-of-the-gaps argument from lack of evidence but a positive case for Design. In order to test the ID hypothesis, it seems like you need to test for (lack of) natural explanations to discover irreducible or specified complexity. So even though semantically you could rephrase ID to make is sound as if it were science, pragmatically, I think its lack of capability to test the actual Design hypothesis shows that this is in fact an argument from ignorance—an argument to lack of contrary evidence—is truly a “god-of-the-gaps” argument.
Some Christian critics of evolution criticize the theory of evolution for being contradictory to having value, morality and being in a relationship with God—that if evolution is true, we are nothing but animals, killing the weak is a moral deed, and the meaning of life is to pass on our genes. But this criticism is unjustified. Evolutionary biology makes no claims about human value, morality or contains any existential philosophy. David Hume famously made it clear that it is a logical fallacy to go from an is to an ought statement. The fact that we have evolved does not imply how we ought to behave or find meaning. This is why the creation narrative of Genesis is so wonderful! Because it does answer those questions about value, morality, and existence.
Becoming familiar with the evidence of evolution was the nail in the coffin for me and ID. After the Human Genome Project led by Dr. Francis Collins, the evidence of evolution has been overwhelming. Reading Collins’ The Language of God and Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight’s Adam and the Genome has been a huge myth buster. Phrases like “there are no evidence of transitional species,” “information cannot be explained by evolution” or “we have never observed macroevolution” that I believed in high school had now been refuted effectively.
The Creator and My Creator
“But there’s no room for God in your worldview! Where is he?!” I hear this a lot—the notion that God would no longer be necessary if the biodiversity can be explained by natural processes. But is it really so? In order to come to terms with these objections, re-considering what Scripture and Nature says about a creator God has been essential.
To determine whether or not God is creator of this seemingly secular universe, understanding what it means to be creator is crucial. Not what I think it means. Not what is intuitively understood in a 21st century framework of modern science. But what it meant to the original audience of the Bible. Scot McKnight points out in Adam and the Genome that ancient near eastern science was about function not materiality. Its concern is the purpose of creation, not the physical origins. It is not about God building a house (material ontology) but a home (functional ontology), using the words of John Walton.
Furthermore, I have noticed a pattern when the psalmists state that God is creator. When this is stated, there is usually a proper reaction. In Psalms 33:8-9, 19:1 and 104:33, the psalmists’ reaction to God being their creator is to “fear the Lord,” “declare the glory of God” and to “sing to the Lord all my life.” These and many other psalms show that it may be important that God is a creator, but it is absolutely crucial to me as a Christian that he is my creator as well. He is my creator in relation to me, his creation, and my response to him is more important than my particular view on contemporary science.
Seeing God’s Fingerprints
Evolutionary Creation is compatible with seeing God in the Bible. But what about nature? If evolution is all just natural processes, does God then leave no fingerprints? In a debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins, Dawkins points out that nature appears designed and even entails worship! I think there lies a useful analogy in the language of music here. I play the piano almost every day and absolutely love music—it is, in a sense, magical. As I am writing this The Oslo Philharmonic’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony is filling the room—a stunning performance of some of the most breathtaking melodies in the history of music. To me, music is clearly a pointer to a creative, glorious, and awe-inspiring God. This is not because the key of E major, chords or certain frequencies require God’s intervention as a causal mechanism to exist. No, music points to God because it displays his handiwork by evoking a wondrous reaction in me that leads to, as Bach puts it: “Soli Deo Gloria”—“Glory to God alone.” My awe, wonder and worship are all relational reactions that seem most sensible if there is a receiver of my worship, namely a God who is my creator. I think of nature and science much like of music. The excitement, mystery, and grandeur of looking at the night sky is very similar to my musical experiences. The diversity of life, vastness of the universe, and complexity of the human brain all inspire worship and its design displays the nature of God!
Richard Dawkins proposes in River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life: “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” May I instead suggest: “God both cares and knows. God just is. And we dance to his music.” The music of God is the marvelous symphony we call creation, which is being played through and for Christ, (Colossians 1:16) testifying the glory of God. By dancing to the “music of God” all of creation is joined in resounded worship: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)
Evolutionary Creation helped me rethink how I viewed God and science—how my unsettledness could be replaced by awe, and the cognitive dissonance I experienced could be substituted for a more coherent worldview. This is an idea worth talking more about. KFS is open to having discussions about the EC view at their camps and smaller events, and I am very excited to hear how students are dealing with faith and science and share how those two may be reconciled in a way that enhances both God and his creation. I believe honest conversation and weighing the evidence can bring clarity among students, and I am delighted that I am to take part in the students’ journeys.
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