Further Thoughts on Evolution and Theology

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a long time, but not in the way I used to. The question of “creation versus evolution” is no longer a pivotal, no-compromise-allowed, authenticity-defining question for me, so I can tackle it much more peacefully. In fact, tackle isn’t the right verb at all, because it’s more like the topic and I stroll amicably through the park, sharing our differences and laughing about the fiery, perhaps misguided, passion we had in our younger days.

There was a time not so many years ago when, having recently read a few Creationist books, I nearly took the leap and said, “H E double hockey sticks, in spite of all the amazing things I learned and accepted after a great deal of scrutiny during my geology degree, I think I might just decide to become a YEC after all.” And that’s what it would had to have been: a leap of faith, and even more substantially, a leap of doubt in the many many discoveries (and interpretations) I had come to appreciate from highly respected, seemingly honest and sincere experts across many disciplines of science.

In the end, I decided I was most comfortable believing what I felt convinced about in the history of scientific inquiry along with the biblical revelation on the condition of mankind. I guess one could say I’m just believing what I want to believe, but surely everyone knows that deep down, that’s what we all do. We generally do what we think is best, and we believe… well, what we believe.

The beauty of the ancient earth framework is that it forms a fantastic context for describing so many phenomena we see in nature. The incredibly weathered, archaic appearance of the continental shields; the spreading of mid-ocean ridges at particular rates that can be calculated – in the hundreds of millions of years – and matched to reversals in polar magnetism; the fascinating and unique biogeography we find in isolated populations, even on the continental (e.g. Australia) scale; these all fit naturally and elegantly into an ancient earth framework, but result in awkward challenges for 6-day creationists. I can’t even be bothered starting on radiometric dating, because I usually find the YEC arguments against it unbearable to read.

In the face of evolutionists’ success at explaining so many facets of what we currently observe in nature, YEC’s fall back on the need to alter the very rules governing the universe as we know it, and this is precisely where they focus much of their effort these days: on historically (often radically) different rates of radioactive decay, tectonic plate movement, magnetic pole reversals, erosion and sedimentation, and even “microevolution”. This is what makes me uncomfortable, because so much of it feels forced, based on conjecture, although an entrenched YEC would definitely reprimand me for referring to the opening chapters of the Bible as conjecture.

At the end of the day I feel like the Bible is telling us a couple of big-picture messages: that we and everything in the universe were created by God, and as his subjects – who can only come willingly – we have certain privileges and obligations. It shows us a way to live that is higher than the rest of the selfishly struggling created order, and – after demonstrating repeatedly how awful we are at doing so ourselves through the course of history – provides us with an example and enabler in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I have no problem accepting that God’s mechanisms are different to how the ancient Israelites/authors perceived them. I think what He’s done is fantastic and that the people who have sought and served him as he’s asked us to have made the most positive, fantastic contributions to humanity throughout history. There have been a lot of misguided, terrible actions undertaken in the name of Christendom, but you’d have to be completely ignorant not to recognize that these were absolutely incompatible with the teachings of Jesus, and that many more atrocities have been committed outside of a religious context.

Accepting evolution and God means you can cast aside all statistical arguments against the former, along with a lot of unnecessary philosophy that stems from an awareness of those improbabilities. You can believe that God did it all intentionally; not just the big events, but that he set it all in motion, cradled the universe in his hands as it formed and developed. And not just the universe, but even you individually. That all of what may appear to be random chances through the course of ancient, primordial history was leading up to you, sitting and reading this blog post and marveling at the vast depth of God’s wisdom and love. In retrospect I hope it’ll be made clear to us what the order was behind all of what we can only now perceive as randomness. It’ll be another reason for us to bow down and give credit/worship to the mastermind behind it all.

So that’s where I stand these days. I enjoy science, I enjoy faith. If you like these kind of topics I suggest you check out the GeoChristian (http://geochristian.com/) and Naturalis Historia (http://thenaturalhistorian.com/) blogs, both of which I enjoy reading on a regular basis. To borrow from Kevin at the GeoChristian blog, I’ll close with a simple phrase:

Grace and peace.