I know I’m going to get flack from both sides on this entry, those who believe that the world was created by God, and those who don’t. Why am I not taking a definite stand you may ask. That’s an interesting question that I actually heard discussed this morning in a podcast on my way to work.
Richard Dawkins was being interviewed and was basically asked the opposite of the above question, which is why he is so adamantly against creationism. He said that he knows plenty of his colleagues in science who feel that it is important, politically, to not antagonize creationists because their beliefs are deeply held religious beliefs and should be respected. But he himself is not able to because he feels he would end up being disingenuous if he did.
My view is more along the lines with his colleagues. As I’ve said before, I’m agnostic, so I don’t feel that the concept of God is something we can either prove or disprove so I guess that makes me neutral in this. I’m taking a pragmatic view because I think that if you antagonize people, they are going to refuse to listen to what you have to say, no matter how rational and reasonable it may be.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into the meat of it.
There seems to be a huge disconnect between religion and science when it comes to evolution. I think this is because most people really don’t understand evolution. They assume that since evolution is supposed to show that humans descended from apes, that this somehow means that God didn’t create us. But this is simply not the case at all. Yes, there are scientists, like Dawkins, who express the idea that evolution is proof of the non-existence of God, but that doesn’t mean this has to be the case.
First, what is evolution? I’m not a scientist so here is a definition. Wikipedia defines evolution as follows:
“Evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms through successive generations.”
Let me provide you some examples of actual physical evidence that supports the theory of evolution:
Tiktaalik – Tiktaalik is an intermediate fossil, which means it is of a creature that is evolutionarily between a finned fish and a four-legged vertebrate, or a tetrapod. It is the first know example of what is now called a fishapod. It was found in the northern Canadian territory of Nunavut.
I say “found” rather than discovered, because I feel that “discovered” makes it sound more like it was stumbled upon by accident, which it wasn’t. Using two independent theories from two different scientific disciplines that made predictions about the past, this fossil was found right where it was predicted it would be found.
According to this article:
“..it was found by predicting that a transition occurred approximately 360 to 380 million years ago, before which, according to the fossil record, there were no four-legged vertebrates living on land. Relying on geology, an appropriately aged and conveniently exposed rock stratum was located in the Canadian Arctic that had once been an ancient shoreline. That’s where the search commenced.
Bear in mind that the fossil search was based on two independent theories about the past — first, that the fossil record tells a reliable history of the development of life on earth, so the scientists knew when to search; and second, that geologists have developed reliable methods for determining the age of various rock strata, so the scientists knew where to search. The fossil hunt was a test of both theories.”
And the fossil that was found was exactly what, where and when it was predicted to be. One of the hallmarks of a good, reliable theory is that it can make accurate predictions so I think that this is pretty persuasive evidence of evolution.
Here is another example. DNA research has show, time and again, that the Genetic Code is the same for almost every organism, from bacterium and viruses to plants, fish, and reptiles, to birds, insects and mammals, which of course, include humans. In fact, the more research that is done and the better our methods of examining DNA get, the more we can see the overwhelmingly commonality of all life on earth.
These are just two examples. There are many, many more from paleontology, and comparative anatomy, to geographical distribution and others.
All of this overwhelming evidence points to the inescapable fact that life has, and continues to, evolve.
So, what does this mean for creationism and the place of God in creation? Nothing. Sure, it CAN mean that something other than God created everything, but it have to mean that. In fact, evolution doesn’t really even touch on creation at all. Evolution merely explains how life on earth works and what it’s history is. It says nothing at all about what brought life about or even how the conditions conducive for life arouse.
This leaves plenty of room for the idea that God could have created everything, including life, and that evolution is the mechanism that he used to create it.
So, evolution isn’t bad, it isn’t evil, it isn’t anti-God. Evolution isn’t a belief or a religion or a philosophy any more than the theory of plate tectonics or the theory of gravity are. It is simply the best way we have to describe how life arose on earth and how it developed and will continue to develop. It is supported by overwhelming evidence from multiple disciplines that continues to get stronger every day.
Just as the Patagonian Theory doesn’t threaten the existence of God, neither does the theory of evolution. It is just one more way that we have to understand and explain the world we live in.