A number of events have coincided to bring the topic of evolution into my thinking life yet again. My father has just finished (or is about to) a year or so long Sabbath School class on the topic of the scientific evidence and Genesis 1-11, the Adventist church has just finished holding a worldwide forum on the same topic, and President Bush has recently expressed verbal support for the intelligent design theory. Now this topic is a very hot potato for an Adventist pastor to handle. So before we go anywhere else, I want to state that I believe that the earth was created in seven days in harmony with my church's Fundamental Beliefs. I plan to elaborate why I believe this in a later post.
Right now I want to talk about way it's so hard to talk freely and honestly about the creation-evolution debate. But first, a brief personal history of Dave and evolution. I was home schooled until grade 5, went to an Adventist elementary school until grade 9, and attended an independent, conservative high school operated by Seventh-day Adventists from grades 10-12. After this education I came away with the understanding that people who believe in evolution were misinterpreting the clear evidence of creation because they hated God. Ok, there's a bit of hyperbole in that statement, but you get my point.
Next, I was off to an Adventist university for my first year in college. The regular science class for scientifically uninclined, Religious Studies majors was full by the time I registered, so I got to take Geology instead. Fun, I thought. I'll actually get to learn something, and I certainly did. In one of the first classes my Adventist professor basically stated that the evidence indicates that the world is millions of years old, and then he proceeded to explain the good reasons why he had come to those conclusions. (I suspect that he is a theistic evolutionist). Over the course of my first semester in college I was forced to radically re-evaluate my position concerning the scientific evidence and the beliefs of evolutionists.
At that point I felt betrayed by my upbringing. Why didn't anyone have the guts to tell me that there is good evidence in favor of evolution before I got to college? Why were all those smart, Christian, science teachers so biased with the evidence? Why did they highlight weaknesses of the arguments for evolution, and teach only the strengths of the arguments for creation?
I've since come to realize that children can only handle one version of the truth and they expect answers, not questions. Therefore, parents and teacher have to teach their children what they believe, and in time the children themsleves will learn to question it. I was simply experiencing the disillusionment of my idealistic and absolutist, childish ideals.
I also realized the Evolutionists aren't the only people who taint science with an ideological/spiritual bias (and you can't tell me that someone like Steven Jay Gould isn't an ideologue). Christians are also biased in their scientific theories, because they also want the evidence to say certain things about God. The problem is that as a Christian, if I say anything that might support evolutionism, my status as a Christian is questioned. Within ideologies there is no tolerance of disinterested analysis. Why do we have so little faith in the revelation of God through nature?
And along those lines, I came to understand that just because someone believes in evolution does not mean that they don't believe in God. Maybe their understanding of God doesn't agree with what the Bible says, but that doesn't mean that God isn't working in their lives or that they don't have a relationship with Him. I'm sure that I have misunderstandings that God is seeking to correct. What evolutionists probably have are different concerns about the character of God than I.
For example, I have a problem with the idea death before the first sin, a necessity for evolution to occur. All the best arguments for evolution won't convince me, because I believe that if God is love, death must be a consequence of sin. But I recently heard a evolutionist saying that she belives in the theory because it gives people a reason to take care of their environment, unlike all those Christians who trash the planet because Jesus is coming anyway. I don't think the best creationist arguments would change her mind because she believes that if God is love, His teachings wouldn't cause people to destroy His creation.
And that's the level I think we need to dialogue on. The scientific arguments will end up being inconclusive anyway, because, whether it happened 7000, 70,000, or 7 million years ago, none of us were there when creation occurred to perform scientific experiments. What we can talk about, however, is what belief in creation and evolution mean to us today. And after all, isn't that what's ultimately important.
So, instead of getting into ideological arguments about the evidence of science, I'm going to start talking about what belief in creation means in my life, and what it tells me about God. Then, maybe, I'll be able to freely talk about it.