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The Evolution of Species and Thought

A Modern Perspective of the Challenges Between the Evolution Theory and the Christian View of the Creation

The Evolution of Species and Thought

Knowing how things work and asking the great questions of life have always been my passions. Since I was a child, questions relating to the origin and development of life on Earth had a powerful effect on my thoughts, and soon after, finding those answers was no longer a matter of curiosity, but a driving force in my desire to acquire knowledge. As a Christian and a believer in the traditional view of the creation, I soon realized that Creationism faces a set of big challenges and apparent contradictions when submitted to the scientific test and to all that is known about the Evolution Theory. Over time, the scientific view of biological evolution has gained more and more adepts and space in our lives, and has gradually been raising questions about the authenticity of the traditional view of the Genesis account, leaving the future of Christianity uncertain. With this scenario, the following questions seem inevitable: In what ways is the Evolution Theory influencing the Christian view of the creation? 

The first important point to address is that it is nearly impossible to accurately categorize the perspective of billions of people and the teachings of thousands of different denominations into one strict and specific religious position, even if they are all founded on the rock of Christianity. That happens because religion is often subjective and allows for a variety of interpretations and diversity of opinions. With that being said, I noticed that the scientific and objective attacks on the authenticity of the Gospel is often based on the interpretation of one particular religious group, although the conclusions are often applied to all. The immediate problem of this type of analysis is that it creates an imprecise view of what religion actually teaches and can conduct us to a limited understanding of the different views held by Christians. One example of this type of inaccurate analysis is found in James R. Henderson's essay "Teaching Evolution to Creationists," where the author claims that the Christian view is divided into two categories; Young-Earth Creationists and Old-Earth Creationists (Henderson 76). Although these are real categories that divide the views of a considerable portion of Christianity, they are definitely not the only ones. However, as I went deeper into my analysis, I found that religion as a whole is not entirely innocent of the accusations of inconsistency made by science. The arguments made by evolutionists are not invented stories that came out of nowhere. For a long time, Christianity has indeed held a literalist view of the Genesis account and in some cases persecuted individuals that opposed its teachings, which consequently creates the perspective that religion fights knowledge and promotes ignorance.

While researching the particulars of both points of view, it became clear to me that the roots of this debate lie in the tendency of some Christians to understand and preach the creation, as it is recorded in the Bible, as a historic and literal account. As noted by Ernest C. Lucas in "The Bible, Science & Creation," "this leads new atheists to reject the biblical account as a piece of outmoded pre-scientific speculation. And it leads fundamentalist Christians to reject modern scientific theories of origins, claiming that they are the result of atheistic, materialistic presuppositions which distort the understanding of the evidence (Lucas 99)." The danger of having such an extreme perspective is that it creates an environment where the desire to defend a specific position or assumption overcomes the desire to find the truth. History has proven that when this type of rationale is applied, it is not science or religion that loses but all humankind which ironically takes longer to evolve.

The opposing ideas within the arguments

Since an overwhelming amount of evidence has been found in the last century supporting the Evolution Theory, this background provides context to the questions that are raised and how they contribute or affect the debate. It is difficult to imagine how the Genesis account on the creation of species could possibly be right if there is solid evidence supporting the fact that all forms of life on earth have a common ancestor. I also tend to reflect on the ways by which we can reconcile the description of men as being made in God's image using the scientific claim that men evolved through ages from lesser to more complex forms of life. Furthermore, I contemplated how the literalist Christian view of Creationism could reconcile the fact that life on earth has, not thousands, but millions of years. Reflecting on these points brought me to the realization that it is not possible to distinguish the line that separates fact from myth, without carefully examining all aspects of both sides. As asserted by Francis S. Collins, who is one of the greatest living scientists in the world, "one must dig deeply into opposing points of view in order to know whether your own position remains defensible. Iron sharpens iron (The New York Times par. 8)."

In my research, I found that with the advent and improvement of the Evolution model, and as a result of the acknowledge of facts mentioned before, Christians that for a long time have been holding a conservative position on the origin and development of life on earth are now gradually starting to open their minds to a more naturalist view of the world. This shift in perspective in some branches of Christianity stimulates reasonable thought and allows one to exercise faith in a laboratory while looking for reason and evidence in the church. However, that shift increases the distance between those Christian branches while in theory, it shortens its distance from science.

This logic has caused me to wonder how much Christianity will have to change to be able to handle the scientific discoveries that often defy what traditionally seemed to be absolute truth from the scriptures. This idea raises important questions that in some instances can shake one's faith and cause the Christian foundation to appear fragile. In fact, one might wonder why we should trust the Bible if whenever discrepancies are found, changes of interpretation are allowed to reconcile what is known through the scientific method. Furthermore, I ponder questions about God's omniscience, concluding that if He knows everything and revealed His will in the Bible, how could science, in some cases, prove traditional concepts to be wrong? Following this idea, Francis S. Collins in his book "The Language of God" explained that "if the existence of God is true... and if certain scientific conclusions about the natural world are also true... then they cannot contradict each other. A fully harmonious synthesis must be possible (Collins 169)."

Analyzing old information under a different lense

Since the views of Evolution and Creationism seem at first to oppose each other, I've asked myself how we can determine which one is right or if it is possible to find a common ground for believing in Evolution while having faith in God. The answer for those questions will probably not come from a specific verse of the Bible nor from a scientific experiment, but from a change in the way Christians tend to see the scriptures, sometimes trying to fit the verses to their assumptions instead of analyzing what it is saying and what it is not, with an open mind. As noted by Visky Sándor-Béla, Christians can find a common ground by accepting the concept that God might use natural laws in the process of creation and by acknowledging that in both Christian and Evolution views, mankind sits on the top of the evolution tree (Bela 67).

Christians that hold this perspective tend to analyze the scriptures in a more flexible way, looking not only at what the Bible says, but to whom it speaks to and under what context and circumstances. For those Christians, God is the source of all truth, and all truth must be accepted, whether it comes from a revelation in a prayer or from a physics laboratory. For such individuals, Evolutionism may very well have been the tool used by God to create and develop life on earth, and in this case, there is no real contradiction between Evolution and Creationism, but a lack of understanding of the subjects in their totalities. For fundamentalist or traditional Christians—who rarely change assumptions or doctrinal interpretations,—  the Evolution Theory is an obstacle and simply another one of Satan's strategies to deceive humankind. For those, the future might not look so promising, since humankind as whole is gradually becoming less religious and superstitious.

Conclusion

After researching this topic, analyzing the available data and reflecting on the subject, I find it interesting that many scientists dedicate their lives to attacking religion for its methods while forgetting that the first scientists started their search because of religious or philosophical questions, for which science has no answers for. As a Christian and an adept of the scientific evolutionary theory, I learned while in search of an answer that science is the best way to understand the physical universe and how things work, while religion has the power and ability to give meaning and purpose to life. This reflection on the past and analysis of the present provides a good background of the influence of the Evolution Theory on creationists, that like me, might gradually switch to a more rationally based faith or, like many others, remain in the current traditional belief, or go even further, despite the contrary evidence that may be available. Although it's possible to see this shift of thought in the last decades, in and outside religious circles, I believe that only time will determine the next chapters of human development and ultimately bring the conclusive answers for the proposed questions.

Works Cited

Collins, Francis S. The Language Of God : A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief. n.p.: New York : Free Press, [2006], 2006. UVU Library Books and Media. Web. 7 Aug. 2015. 
Collins, Francis R. "By the Book." Sunday Book Review. The New York Times. Web  Jul 25, 2013. 
Henderson, James R. "Teaching Evolution to Creationists." Sociological Viewpoints 23. (2007): 73-84. Sociological Collection. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. 
Lucas, Ernest C. "The Bible, Science & Creation." Evangelical Quarterly 87.2 (2015): 99-113. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Aug. 2015. 
Sándor-Béla, Visky. "Several Theological Considerations Concerning The Creation Vs. Evolution Debate." Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, Theologia Reformata Transylvanica 54.1 (2009): 51. Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.  

Escrito por: Luiz Botelho em 13/05/2016




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