The Fish Wars -- Continued
The Fish Wars -- Continued
Is Evolution Supported by Evidence?
Although some Christian authors want to debunk evolutionary theory by pointing out its "holes," these remaining questions are a normal part of any scientific field of study. The National Association of Biology Teachers official statement on teaching evolution states, "Modern biologists constantly study, ponder and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms and pace of evolution, but they do not debate evolution's occurrence."
As an Ecologist who has studied the evolutionary biology literature and as a College Biology Instructor, I can say with confidence that
Hotly debated among some scientists and Christian intellectuals is whether natural selection alone can explain the development of new structures -- like wings with feathers -- in organisms over millions of years. Among the major parts of evolutionary biology outlined above, this is one small scientific -- not religious -- disagreement. Its answer, one way or the other, will not diminish the truth of either evolutionary theory or the Bible.
A new group of evolution critics call themselves "intelligent design" proponents. Their goals are essentially twofold: to attempt to find scientific evidence for God's fingerprints on his Creation, and to attempt to debunk evolutionary theory. Although the first question is a fascinating one, finding scientific evidence for a Creator would in no disprove evolutionary theory - only evolutionism.
The Conflict? Evolutionism Alone
The true conflict for all believers lies with evolutionism alone, not with any other aspect of evolutionary biology: natural selection, microevolution, or macroevolution. Recall that "evolutionism" is the personal -- not scientific -- belief that evolutionary theory is incompatible with belief in God.
Some authors have false stated that the entire scientific arena is full of hardened atheists. Truly, only a handful of scientists -- and their "followers" -- falsely claim that evolution "disproves God," which is evolutionism. But the sentiment is promoted every time someone slaps a Darwin decal -- or a Truth-fish-eating-Darwin decal on their car.
In his book Cosmos, the late Carl Sagan wrote, "The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins writes in his book River out of Eden, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."
Saying evolutionary theory and faith are incompatible is unfortunately not limited to atheists. Certain Christian authors also state that evolution disproves God, causing much unnecessary confusion among Christians. However, the belief that evolutionary theory disproves God is merely a personal interpretation of science, not the science itself -- and that is why the debate occurs in books, on TV, and in the pews but not in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Most scientists accept that evolution and faith in God need not conflict, even non-religious ones. Two well-known non-religious scientists -- Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and Harvard University professor Stephen Jay Gould (who calls himself an "agnostic Jew") -- openly state that evolutionary biology does not say anything about the existence of God.2
It only takes dabbling into issues of creation and evolution -- in the media, sermons, Christian radio talk shows, or books -- to see that the topics are loaded with controversy, anger, bitterness, and false information.
But Saint Paul writes, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful" (2 Timothy 2:24). Paul also writes, "avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless" (Titus 3:10).
Jesus makes it clear that his followers must spend their time and efforts wisely in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt. 25: 1-13) and the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25: 14-30). Time is a gift from God, and we must be careful stewards of it.
Instead of responding to Darwin decals with anti-Darwin decals, proudly convinced we know "Truth," we should stop, think, and pray. When science reveals facts that don't seem to fit what we, as human beings, think the Bible means, we must be humble. Many Christians also accept evolution and prefer to be called "evolutionary creationists." There are a number of ways evolutionary creationists correlate the Bible and the scientific findings of evolutionary theory.
One critical message from the Creation story -- as the early church fathers outlined in the Apostles Creed
-- is that God created the world and everything in it, not the methods God uses to create and sustain life.
Ponder how many interpretations of various Bible passages different believers have. For many things, we may never have a complete understanding this side of heaven. And if we will never know the absolute answers within our lifetimes, rather than debating we should turn to those things Jesus clearly called us to -- loving God with our whole hearts, loving our neighbors as ourselves, building up the body of Christ in love, freeing ourselves from idols, and caring for the poor.
I had seriously considered sticking both a Darwin and a Jesus fish on my car to boldly state that the two do not conflict! But although it would make an interesting conversation-starter, it might not be the most peace-making maneuver. Rather, I will keep my Jesus fish decal, continue teaching the science of evolution in biology I, and hope to shine a small light of understanding between the two realms: science and faith.
One of my favorite sayings regarding the Christian faith states: "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. And in all things, love." If we followed these words, the Fish Wars could move beyond foolish debate and into the realm of common sense and peacemaking.
Wendee Holtcamp attends a Lutheran church in Kingwood, Texas. She earned a M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University, and is currently a Freelance Science Journalist and an Adjunct Biology Instructor at Kingwood College. Visit her web site at http://www.wendeeholtcamp.com