Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Evolving Attitudes

My mother recently sent my eldest sister and I this interesting opinion piece in the USA Today from Karl Giberson and Darrel Falk, two college science professors who embrace both the fact of evolution and a faith in Jesus Christ. The main purpose of the article was to announce their new website,, which they had created to offer a Christian alternative to such voices as the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and the Creation Museum. My mother's forwarding of this article was provocative to me for a number of reasons, first of all being that my mom is Jewish, not Christian, and also because my sister is a very literal believer in the seven-day creation story of Genesis 1.

A few days later and for unrelated reasons, my sister forwarded me an email about the Great Faith Debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza coming soon to UCF. The person forwarding the information to my sister signed off their email with the phrase, "Defeating Darwin, anyone?" which set me off a bit on a reactionary tangent about the purpose of true debate and how anyone interested in really being challenged in academic dialogue could do better than two such extremists as Hitchens and D'Souza, whose respective book titles are God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. I know something about how such debates go. They are usually quite entertaining and maddening, but few in the audience walk away with anything more than their own biases confirmed and comforted.

After my initial reaction, I spent some time researching D'Souza, with whom I was less familiar than Hitchens. The thing that surprised me was that despite being a liberal-bashing right-wing extremist, D'Souza is also a Christian evolutionist who has written eloquently in defense of Darwinism in multiple venues, and one of his books is even on the BioLogos Foundation's list of recommended readings for Christians who wish to reconcile their faith with the scientific breakthroughs of the past century.

How fascinating is the human mind and its capacity for assumption? Whoever sent the email to my sister assumed that any case against an atheist like Hitchens must also be a case against Darwinism, and I jumped to the same conclusion -- a foolish one, especially given the thoughtful article from Giberson and Falk I had read only days before. Just because some evolutionists are atheists, it does not follow that evolution is atheistic.

As D'Souza himself has written, atheists such a Hitchens "are in a way confusing the two faces of Charles Darwin. They are under the illusion that to be an evolutionist is essentially to be an atheist. Darwin, to his credit, rejected the equation of these two stances as illogical even if he didn't always maintain, within his own life, a clear distinction between his science and his animus toward God."

I've begun to follow BioLogos on Twitter, and I've really enjoyed some of the science they've led me to, as well as some of the inspiration. To deny evolution to me is our generation's equivalence of denying the heliocentric model of the solar system (just watched Carl Sagan's fascinating account of the importance and difficulty of that revelation, which hey, is available free from Google video!). It continues to frighten me that some people of faith believe their God is so weak that we must bend science to justify his existence, just as we did in the dark ages. However, I take comfort that the conversation continues, and that many find spiritual beauty in the complexity of natural law.


  1. I'm happy to see more Christians accepting science instead of spending all their time fighting it.

    If a Christian believes God created the Earth and knows the history of the Jewish people and their penchant for oral history, then what is the problem with the WAY God created the Earth?

    Also, these far-left, far-right public debates are not helping anyone. Everything in moderation, even political views. The vast majority of the nation finds itself within 20% of the middle between party lines and yet "conservative" and "liberal" are admired by their side and "moderates" are hated by both.

    I live by Benford's Law of Controversy: "Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available."

  2. I've been meaning to read Francis Collins book for a while now.

    Many American Christians don't realize that a 7-day literal interpretation of Genesis has not been the only view of creation throughout Christian history. Of course, they don't realize that the literal rapture is also a newer idea that most Christians worldwide don't necessarily believe.

    A lot of Christian schools and homeschoolers never even crack open a book about evolution or paleontology. The fossil record was not planted by Satan to trip up Christians. You have to do so many intellectual backflips to support a 7-day creation but yet there's nothing about the theory of evolution that can concretely deny the existence of God.

    Sadly, Christians have left the field of science to atheists. Francis Collins nomination for NIH Director has been attacked by atheist scientists who think that he's just another creationist.