The title of our article was a subheading of an article titled "Evolution" in the Rice Sallyport: The Magazine of Rice University, Winter 2007. In the article, there are some reports of evolutionary biological research at Rice. The author takes a page to state that there should not be a religious objection to their research. Several of the researchers say they are believers in God and are frustrated at the controversy that the evolution question has generated.
One of the main points we attempt to make in this journal is that science and faith are not enemies--that they are complementary and symbiotic in nature--each mutually beneficial to the other. This has to be true if you are a believer in God and in the Bible as His Word. If God created the cosmos, the earth, and all of life on the earth and if God gave us the Bible in which He told us what He did, the two disciplines (science and the study of the Bible) have to agree! If they do not agree, then we have misunderstood the science or we have misunderstood the Bible or both! The lesson of history is that both science and the Bible have had a massive amount of misunderstanding. If we look at the evolution issue carefully, I believe we can reduce or eliminate most of this--and that is what we hope to do in this article.
One of the main problems in this debate that should not be is the meaning of words. Michael Kohn, one of the researchers quoted in the Rice article says, "The simplicity of Darwin's theory is what makes it so compelling ... . Evolution is just change over time. Scientists argue viciously about the mechanisms driving it, the dynamics, the relative intensities of strains and time scales; but we do not argue about the process, because it is everywhere around us." What Kohn is talking about is what evolution really is. As you look at the dogs running around your neighborhood, you see everything from Chihuahuas to St. Bernards. When you visit a 4-H fair, you will see numerous varieties of chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows, and horses. When you go to the nursery to buy plants, there is an endless variety of roses, petunias, daisies, tomatoes, etc. These are all evolutionary products and "it is everywhere around us."
Not only is it a matter of just looking around us, but it is also a practical tool in agriculture and medicine! A major battle for all farmers is to avoid pests that eat the crops and kill livestock. These pests change (or evolve) and what will kill a bug today will not do it tomorrow. Diseases of livestock like mad cow disease and avian (bird) flu evolve and have to be counteracted. The HIV virus has mutated and evolved and this affects how we treat it.
The Bible gives illustrations of evolutionary change. Jacob's selective breeding of Laban's flocks using sexual stimulants is an application of evolutionary principles. The serpent's loss of legs so he was consigned to crawling in Genesis 3:14-15 is a typical evolutionary change. The fact that Eve is the mother of all living humans (Genesis 3:20) and that we have different races of man is again a basic demonstration of evolutionary change.
As you read these illustrations, I seriously doubt that you would want to maintain that they did/do not happen. What is more likely is that you will want to suggest that these examples of microevolution or variation, and you may wish to say that this is not what you object to when Darwin's theory of evolution is discussed. The fact is, however, that the kinds of examples I have given are what the researchers at Rice and all researchers in the field of evolutionary biology are working with. The examples I have given you are typical of what Darwin's work with the finches in the Galapagos Islands was all about. Darwin did not discuss iguanas evolving into finches or seals or giant tortoises. Darwin talked about how the different bills of various birds came to be as they are and how those bill types were controlled by their diet.
There is no need for debate about anything we have considered so far. Young people need to understand that, when they learn about Darwin's work and how it is used in farming, medicine, and horticulture, they are not looking at anything that has any negative connotations to their faith or to the Bible.
The problem with evolution is the questions that arise when we try to understand how this wonderful capacity to change has come about in living things. Without this capacity, life could not survive on this planet. Climatic change demands that living things be able to change to survive in a new environment. Those of us who believe in God believe that the genomes of plants and animals have been designed by God to allow this to happen. Everything from the SP-3 hybrid selection structure of the carbon atom to the DNA helix have to be carefully designed and planned to allow us to do what we do in agriculture and medicine.
Atheists obviously do not want to admit any kind of intelligence or design in the creation. To explain the complexities of life and its capacity to change without admitting design and intelligence in the natural world, atheists have to find a method that can produce what we see by chance. In addition to chance, they invoke natural mechanisms like natural selection to be the unintelligent causal agent. This belief system is called naturalism, and it is a theoretical proposal to explain evolutionary change without intelligent direction.
There is a lot of room for debate about naturalism. There is also much room for debate about how naturalism should be applied to social issues and ethics. Some horrible things have been done by those who applied naturalism to racial issues, and eugenics has been a product of some of these practices.
Science and faith are friends. Evolution needs to be understood and used in ways to improve man's food supply and cure diseases. This is not a subject that should be open to debate. What is needed is an understanding of theories and philosophies that attempt to eliminate God from our thinking and force all of man's relationships to be caused by "survival of the fittest."
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