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Archive for Friday, November 3, 2006

An evolution solution?

November 3, 2006

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If a theist can acknowledge the possibility of evolution, and an evolutionist can acknowledge the possibility of a creator, where is the conflict? This conundrum is at the root of the current controversy and of its solution. Let's examine both pieces of the puzzle.

Can one be a Christian (the only theistic religion I can speak for personally) and believe man evolved from bacteria? Like it or not, many do. It is uncharitable hubris to deny the fact that some true Christians find scope within the interpretation of Scripture for God to have designed evolution as the means of diverse creation.

Now, can the scientist convinced that evolution has occurred, or committed to the rigorous standards of experimental science propose an intelligent First Cause? Like it or not, many do. It is patent nonsense to deny the fact that some highly credentialed scientists find scope within the interpretation of scientific evidence for a purposeful Designer.

In the middle of this muddle are the majority of Christians who would be content if biology teachers asserted that nothing in the fossil record or the theory of evolution contradicts belief in God. With them, the majority of atheistic evolutionists who can admit that there is less unequivocal evidence for macro- than for micro-evolution. At the extremes are those who would make belief in evolution a ticket to hell, and those who cannot bear to have the different usages of the word "evolution" more clearly defined.

For the first, let me quote Pope John Paul II who, though he could not speak for all Christians, clearly was one and earned universal respect: ": the origin of life and evolution, [is] an essential subject which deeply interests the church, since revelation, for its part, contains teaching concerning the nature and origins of man. : if, at first sight, there are apparent contradictions, in what direction do we look for their solution? We know, in fact, that truth cannot contradict truth."

For the second, let me suggest that in defining the terms microevolution (changes and adaptations within a species that account for its differentiation, such as moth or finch diversification in response to environmental variables), macroevolution (changes from one life form to another, such as amoeba becoming man, dinosaur becoming bear), and dogmatic/ideological evolution (belief that undesigned and undirected natural processes account for all living things and disprove the existence of, or absolutely did not involve, a creator or supernatural intelligence of any kind at any point) and sorting out the evidences accordingly, you would be doing our state and students a great service.

The creationist is frustrated by the irreconcilable dilemma of belief in "God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth" and belief in evolution, the process almighty, random emergence of life from soup. Let him understand that we are all looking at the same scripture and interpreting it differently because of the different mix of other beliefs and understandings we bring to bear upon it. The evolutionist is frustrated by the vast numbers of people who, despite his assertions (per Biology, Miller/Levine, high school textbook) that "evolution is random and undirected" (bold, as in text) continue to insist that, if macroevolution happened, an Intelligence far beyond ours planned it. Let him understand that we are all looking at the same fossil record - the one with explosions of whole creatures, transitional gaps, and open questions about mechanisms - and interpreting it differently because of our different presuppositions.

Is a theist free to examine the evidence for and against macroevolution (none dispute the occurrence of microevolution) and conclude that God created through this means? Absolutely. Is a biology teacher free to offer his students such evidence, or the testimony of scientists who conclude that its order, complexity and beauty imply design? I would hope so.

It is possible to keep religion out of the debate if evolution is taught as a possible means of the development and not as the self-sufficing explanation for the origin of life. It must be remembered that atheistic materialism is as much a religious position as Christianity or Hinduism. Separating church and state to the point where we forget that religious presupposition of one kind or another underlies all other thought is simply ignorant. In a country founded upon the belief that God created all men equal, it shouldn't be too threatening to mention in science classes that there might be a God and that science can't prove or disprove it. Once we get past knee-jerk opponent bashing and indoctrination from both extremes, we can find a large expanse of middle ground on which to agree and get on with education.

- Charlotte Ostermann is a homemaker and free-lance writer living with her husband and six children on a little farm-to-be north of Lawrence.

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