Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Evolution: Vast Atheist Conspiracy? Part II

I finished the book, "Language of God" by Dr. Francis Collins. It was a great book and relatively easy read given the complexity of the material (DNA). He spends half of the book describing the details of DNA, while he uses the other half to discuss broader issues of faith. He defends belief in God from a scientist's perspective and encourages a bridge between science and religion. All in all, it is a great apologetic resource even if one doesn't believe in evolution.

To answer my tongue in cheek title to this post...I do not believe that evolution is an atheist conspiracy. Some will differ with my assessment, but after learning more about evolution from a fellow Christian, I must confess that I feel persuaded to give evolution greater consideration. Collins, for the most part, takes critics of evolution head-on and attempts to respond to their questions -- especially those from young earth creationists and to some extent progressive creationists.

Prior to reading the book, I felt relatively comfortable with my position as a progressive creationist. I thought the fossil record was sketchy and the Cambrian Explosion (the sudden appearance in the fossil record of most animal types in the zoological tree) fell right in line with the Genesis account of God creating animals. The concept of irreducible complexity (such as the eye or bacterial flagellum) made me even more convinced that evolution could not be true. It also appeared that evolution violated the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, a fundamental theory in science (which states that things become less ordered, not more, as time goes by). Lastly, I could not grasp how macroevolution could work -- how would an animal gain new DNA to evolve into another animal?

To his credit, Collins responds to each of these questions and gives even more reasons why he believes that evolution is true (theistic evolution or BioLogos as he calls it). Rather than explain how he defends evolution in this brief blog post, I would encourage you to read the book. I will say that there are answers to the above questions (he even touches on the interpretations of the creation account in Genesis).

I wonder if atheists had not gravitated toward evolution, would Christians still have such a hard time accepting the concept? Atheists and agnostics have used evolution to remove the need for God. But, Collins makes the following observation, “At this point, godless materialists might be cheering. If humans evolved strictly by mutation and natural selection, who needs God to explain us? To this I reply, I do.” Evolution only explains a process, it cannot answer why we are here. Atheists and agnostics have made certain conclusions or assumptions after looking at evolution and assume that there cannot be a god. Collins feels that the “claim that science demands atheism…goes beyond the evidence…[T]hose who choose to be atheists must find some other basis for taking that position. Evolution won‘t do.”

The close relationship between atheism and evolution has caused me great hesitancy in supporting evolution. But this should not be the primary reason why I dismiss it. Those of faith have used religion, in some cases, for horrible purposes (such as the Inquisition). But we should not dismiss religion because it has been used for evil. In the same sense, we should not dismiss evolution because non-religious persons have hung their hat there. If God directed evolution (theistic evolution), then many of the materialistic, humanistic, and relativistic conclusions that can be drawn from evolution by the non-religious do not hold water.

As people of faith, we must be willing to accept science when it shows that its findings are persuasive. If we do not, it can undermine our witness. Saint Augustine, an early Church theologian, wrote on this subject around 400 A.D. “Usually even a non-Christian knows something about earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the world…and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, taking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such embarrassing situation, in which people show a vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but the people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason.”

I do not believe God would mislead us through our observation of nature (general revelation). When there is an apparent contradiction between the Bible (specific revelation) and nature, we should reassess whether our observations are correct. If they are shown to be correct, we must ask if we are interpreting scripture in the correct light. It has become almost trite, but this is what occurred when Galileo found that the Earth revolved around the sun. The Bible was not wrong, but our interpretations were.

As I said in my previous post on the subject, I do not believe that evolution is heretical or contradicts Genesis. However, I understand that some would fiercely disagree with this statement. Given that the subject is not a key tenant to salvation, I would say that we can and should debate it vigorously, but must not break fellowship. I have a lot of respect for people who hold to the views of young earth creationism and progressive creationism (I have friends and fellow Christians who hold to such beliefs).

I still am not 100 percent in the theistic evolution camp, but at this point I would have to say that their arguments are rather persuasive compared to the others I have seen. In the end, however God created us does not minimize His love for us -- or my love for Him. I still have the same dedication to the teachings of Christ and to spread His word.

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