I realized this debate has gone on forever and will go on forever, and I also want to say that I’m not going to attempt to solve it or shed brand new light on the subject. I just want to give my perspective.
Let me start this post off by stating a few things about myself:
- First of all, I’m a Christian. I believe the Bible. I believe it is the infallible word of God, and I believe that what is written in it is truth.
- Second, I’m a scientist. I majored in Chemistry and Biology in college, and I’ve worked for several years as a research technician in a biomedical research lab.
If you were expecting two conflicting viewpoints about this issue, sorry – I guess I tricked you. One of the reasons I’m writing this is because I’m tired of people arguing one versus the other – creation vs evolution, and science vs religion. I don’t really think anything good comes from that argument, and ultimately, I think that argument is flawed. I think science and religion – creation and evolution – go hand in hand.
Before you get too worked up about what I just said, let me explain…
The word “evolution” gets a really, really bad rap in the church. Evolution can mean a lot of things to different people. It can mean the really big idea that all life descended from one single celled organism (this is not what I believe). When I say evolution, I mean change over time. I’ll categorize it simply by distinguishing “Macro” and “Micro” evolution. “Macro” evolution would mean humans “evolved” from apes. “Micro” evolution is more like Natural Selection, meaning that species change over time – those individuals that have traits more suited to survival in the environment are “selected” and pass their traits on to further generations. Over time, the traits that work out the best show up more often, and the species changes. On a “micro” level. This “evolution” was proven by Charles Darwin with his work on the Galapagos Islands. It went like this.
Charles visits the islands and takes note of the finches there. He studies all kinds of things, most importantly the size of their beaks. A few years later, Charlie visits the islands again. This time he’s really interested in what he finds, because he knows that there has been a serious drought since he was there last. The first time, there was plenty of lush vegetation for those finches to get at. Over the last years, though, that vegetation has dried up. All that has been available for a while is scarce vegetation hidden in crevices and hard-to-reach places. As Charles studies the finches the second time, he notices something peculiar. The beak sizes on all the birds he sees are significantly different than they were before. Because the vegetation was suddenly harder to get at, most of the birds with smaller beaks (those unable to get to the food) died. The birds with longer, narrower beaks (the ones that could eat) lived. The birds with long beaks had little baby birds with long beaks, and pretty soon most of the birds on the islands had long beaks. Change over time. Evolution. Proven. It exists, and there is no denying it. We see it all the time in nature, with all different species, including human beings.
So this brings up a couple of points about science. What is science? To put it simply, it is the investigation of how things work. We see something happening in nature. We want to know why and how it works. For example: When you throw a ball up in the air, it eventually comes down. What the heck causes this? Well, you and I know that gravity causes it, but at one point, somebody had to sit down and figure it out. That person might have started off with an idea of how that worked – call that a hypothesis. Another example: A long time ago, lots of people held the idea that the earth was flat. This was their hypothesis. Until we realized that we can start out sailing in one direction and come all the way around the earth without changing course. Hmmm, something must be wrong with the original hypothesis. It’s at this point that we start collecting data and evidence, and we start looking at that data to see if it supports our original idea. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, come up with another idea. This is the scientific method, and I believe in it.
Another point about science: Many people think that science is “pure” and “objective”. Meaning that when you prove something scientifically, it stands no matter what. I would like to challenge that point. I don’t believe science is pure (I’m kind of stealing this idea from somebody else, but I believe it to be true). Everybody who does science – whether it’s the atheist scientist who has dismissed the idea that a creator created anything or the Christian scientist who believes that God created everything – every scientist comes to science with a preconceived set of ideas. A good scientist will allow the data and evidence to direct their discovery and shape their notion of how things work, and not the other way around. What I mean is, a bad scientist will try and make the data say what they want it to say, and a good scientist will make their claims based on the data. It is an extremely gray area – you can make “facts” and “data” and “evidence” say pretty much whatever you want it to, depending on how you communicate it. This is why I say that science isn’t pure. Even the best scientists – the ones that make their claims based on the evidence they gather – even their science is influenced by their preconceived ideas and belief systems.
OK, so that was quite an introduction to this post, so let me get to the meat of what I want to say. We have a lot of evidence that suggests things like the Big Bang and evolution, and on and on. We also have what may seem like two sides: Science and Religion, and it has seemed that these two sides have been at war since the dawn of time (speaking of, isn’t the “dawn of time” what we’re all trying to figure out?). I propose this: Science and Religion are not enemies. Science and Religion are friends. The more we understand, from a scientific perspective, about how our world is and works and began, the more mystery we unveil. Evidence points toward a Big Bang, which says, in a nutshell, that from an almost infinite point of energy all things came into existence. If I were to describe how the creation story works, I think I might use the word “bang”. God spoke, and “Bang” it was. The Big Bang seems to suggest that something came from nothing, which flies in the face of science which clearly states that something cannot be created from nothing. I’m no expert in the Big Bang theory, but it might seem to suggest things that are impossible with science.
Take the human body. It is a complex and wonderful thing. In our physiology, we see evidence of evolution. But we can also appreciate the fact that it is such a complex thing that it would be impossibly mind-boggling to claim that it all randomly came together by chance. In my opinion, the human body is evidence of intelligent design.
Like I said earlier – I’m not writing this to shed new light or evidence on the matter. I don’t have some kind of groundbreaking find. I do think that we could change our way of thinking about these things, though. The world is more complex than simple scientific claims, and it cannot be put into a scientific box.
I conclusion, I think I should state that the church, over its history, has done terrible things to fight this war against science. I really liked the book and movie “Angels and Demons”. While I don’t agree with all the points made by Dan Brown, I think he brings to light the perspective that science and religion co-exist in a very innovative way. As Christians, we are called to love one another, not be at war with one another. If you are invested in this issue, I encourage you to do all you can to educate yourself from both sides – the Christian side and the Scientific side – and keep an open mind when doing so. I also encourage you to have open conversations with friends and colleagues in both camps about the issues, again, keeping an open mind.
If you’ve taken the time to read this whole post, I’m sure you’ve got some ideas kicking around in your head. I’m also aware that many of you are far more educated than me in both science and religion (and just plain smarter, too), and I welcome your discussion.
Disclaimer: these thoughts are mine, and are not the property or opinions of any employer I’ve worked for or currently work for