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Evolution Matters

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By Starlight - Posted on 15 February 2010

Why bother with evolution when it just upsets everyone?

Does evolution matter? Why do so many people care about it? Is it really a big deal if most of the citizens of the United States and Turkey reject it? Is it really worth the heroic effort it takes to keep Darwin in the public schools? Why not have the janitor take Darwin out to the recycling bin and replace him in the classroom with more Newton, or Einstein, or even Mark Twain?

BioLogos seeks to promote harmony between science and faith, but the main part of that project is helping Christians see their way clear to accepting evolution. Why is this important?

People often ask me why it matters so much what they think of evolution. At Christian colleges evolution is controversial and there are always concerned constituents fretting about what students are learning. Many parents don’t even want their kids to learn about it—evolution is like pornography, not to be trifled with under any circumstances and certainly not something to be “integrated” with the Christian faith.

The quick—too quick—answer to the question of why evolution is important is that “Evolution is science and people need to know science.” This is certainly true but it misses the point. There are many fascinating and important ideas in science and we can’t teach all of them. Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity are central, fundamental ideas in physics that explain much of our world. But few students encounter them along the way and yet nobody frets too much about that. Pollsters never inquire about how many Americans accept the odd conclusions of these theories—that space is curved and electrons seem to have free will. Nobody sues to keep them out of the public schools and there are no organizations devoted to either promoting or attacking them.

I was recently in conversation with some of America’s leading pastors who expressed their concerns on this issue. The evolution controversy, for the most part, simply doesn’t come up in their ministries. (What parent worries more about Darwin’s theory than their daughter’s boyfriend?). Most parishioners probably think evolution is false, but mainly they just don’t need to think about evolution at all. Why should a pastor engage a topic that seems irrelevant when it will certainly lead to controversy?

Despite these perspectives I think evolution is far more important than most Christians appreciate. The reason why it may seem like a back burner topic is that the people with the questions have left the church and taken their questions elsewhere. If they, and their questions were still in the church then their voices would be heard and the issue would seem more pressing.

Read the full article from this link

Mick's picture

First, I too am indebted to the service Clayton has done for me and those around me who are important. He was the first to give me the reassurance that it was OK to believe the Bible and the Science I had learned as a Chemical Engineer and was learning in Medical School, that was back in the early 80's. The Bible and Science are not in conflict, period. Only bad theology and bad science. Second, I too have grown beyond some of what John writes but his articles often point out the weakness of dispensational thought and how it adversely affects the whole Genesis discussion. He is right on that point. He often writes very effectively on the the amazing amount of design in nature. He was very quick to point out that Behe's irreducibly complex concept was more of an apologetic than science. I believe he still has an important role in the Genesis discussion even though I may disagree with him at times.

The drawing that the charts from monkey to man are more created in the mind of the artist then the remains of the animals. We have no soft tissue to cover the bones and fill in the features in the drawings, yes we can take a guess, but that is all it is, a SWAG.

Virgil, the effect of viruses and other environmental stresses is well known and not disputed by me. In fact that was part of the point I was making at the BCS conference last year, when discussing the resistance to HIV some populations of humans have BEFORE exposure. The question that must be asked was that just random, or was an intelligent source, outside of time, aware of the challenges that Humanity would face over time and designed as sequence of events to bring about just such a mutation at just the right time. See my comment to Sam here:

Comparisons of chimp brains and human brains make it obvious that our brains and our genes are not what make us as humans unique. Just because a chimp's genome is 99.2 percent, the same as a human, does not mean that a chimp is 99.2 percent human. What is amazing researchers is how different we are from apes and all other life when our genome is not much different at all.

Consider these observations (sorry Sam):
It turns out that humans do not have more genes than other forms of life. In fact, humans have fewer than 25,000 genes, roughly the same as a fruit fly or a roundworm. What IS different about humans is the interactions that take place among proteins. Human genes interact in roughly 650,000 different ways which is ten times more than a fruit fly and three times that of a roundworm. These interactions allow for the massive diversity and complexity seen in the human species. These interactions also involve RNA and other parts of the gene machinery. Michael Stumpf summarized the complexity of the system by saying "It's much, much more than just the organization of protein interactions. There's so much we don't know." When you have such enormous complexity in something as basic as the gene pool that controls heredity, it is obvious that trying to explain its creation on a chance basis also becomes something that we know very little about, and in fact is probably an inadequate explanation of how life came to be on this planet. Source: Science News, June 7, 2008, page 10.

In the past ten years, mankind has learned an amazing amount about his own genetic makeup. As we add the genomes of other animals to our storehouse of knowledge, the comparisons continue to surprise and amaze us. When the final comparisons were made between humans and mice, researchers found that humans have only 300 genes that mice do not have. The single-celled amoeba called dubia has 200 times more DNA than humans do. Studies done of racial differences have shown that the greatest difference between the races genetically is 1/100 of one percent. The variations within each race can be as high as 1/10 of 1% or ten times larger. Racially we are more alike than any of us realize. You can knock out 40% of the genes in a mouse and it will still be able to live. Thirty five percent of all human DNA replicates, but does nothing. It is called junk DNA.
--Reference: Francis Collins. "The Human Genome," ASA Journal, September 2003.

Here is the point our genes do not make us human. The Bible says out humanity comes from the image of God. The stuff we are made of looks like the stuff of all creation because it came from the same source.

Mickey E. Denen

Starlight's picture


All the faithful I believe are Creationist. The differences are where we choose to start the process. The YEC start the process 6000 years ago, some old earth Creationist like Hugh Ross pick certain times much further back for special days of creation. Ross and the YEC are what we call concordist and try to work their science with the biblical narrative in Genesis. Others look at the Cambrian explosion and believe God created specially at this time and possibly at other interludes such as modern man. I am an evolutionist creationist which means I believe God has set the world in place in an original creation event and has allowed the evolution of the physical universe to bring into play the special environment of the Earth in a fine tuned preparation for life. I nor anyone that I know understands how God sparked Life on the earth to start the evolving biological process but however God did it was a creative process that without doubt required His hand. So creationist is an application that applies to all of us and the details are where we diverge. Amongst Old Earth adherent’s special creation is often applied to fill in what are perceived as gaps in the historic records. The problem is that these gaps are continuing having to be refined and often Old Earthers have to readjust their timing.

The mapping of the Neanderthal species DNA has demonstrated that they are separated from us time wise by about 500,000 to 700,000 years at the point of divergence.

“The comparison to chimpanzees with modern humans is 55.0 ±3.0, compared to the average between humans and Neanderthals of 25.6 ±2.2. These results indicate a divergence of the human and Neanderthal lineages long before the most recent common mtDNA ancestor of humans. Based on the estimated divergence date of 4-5 million years ago for humans and chimpanzees, the authors estimate the human and Neanderthal divergence at 550,000-690,000 years ago. The age of the common human ancestor, using the same procedure, is about 120,000-150,000 years ago.”

Full article at this link.

Mick I haven’t always been enamored with the Evolutionist approach but as I kept my mind open and read more it started to make sense when I understood the paradigm through the eyes of Biological faithful scientist like Conway Morris in his books.

As far as the image of God upon man: Mick you might want to take a look at my article on Preterism Debate to see how I believe we have lost the biblical understanding of that prophecy. Unfortunately Sam and I are having a back and forth that stretches through about 130 postings so you will have to filter through some of our personal diatribes that waste others time but I think if you filtered it you might start to pick up on how Paul views the Image of God.

Here is the link.

JL's picture


Not only is the time separation between Neanderthal and human unexplainable, but so is the spatial separation and cultural separation.

Neanderthal was from Northern Europe. Man from Africa.

No Neanderthal remains show signs of division of labor. The earliest human remains show extreme levels of division of labor. Division of labor is, from the beginning, one of the unique characteristics of our species.



JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Starlight's picture


In your view which lineage does the Neanderthal belong to? The ape or human lineage.

John Clayton thinks he sees a resemblance with Jim Thorpe. ;-)

JL's picture

If by lineage, you mean biological descent, neither, nor do the different species of apes belong to an ape lineage, or ape-kind as the YECs might say.

If by lineage, you mean Linnaean taxonomy, the taxonomy of apes, bipedal primates, and humans is all messed up. Neanderthal looks like a bipedal gorilla, while most critters in the genus homo look more like bipedal chimps. Neanderthal and gorilla defy the binomial nomenclature system of Linnaeus.

There's the spinal column shape. They alternate, over time, in the different species of homo, oval, circular, oval circular. It is a difference that can not be chosen for by natural selection. Humans are circular. H. Nean. spines are oval.

And there's the little issue of the baculum. Apes have them. Humans don't. Rodents have them. Rabbits and hares don't. That feature was enough to create an entire new order in the classification system. If apes are primates, then humans are not.


JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Ransom's picture

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff,

I'd appreciate you raising these issues with James Kidder, a believer trained in paleoanthropology. He'll be sad, but I think someone really ought to let him know that a mathematician who thinks Adam wrote Genesis has debunked his entire field of inquiry by raising a point about bacula (so to speak) that he and his peers have just clean forgotten to address. ;-)

If you really believe any of that stuff you spouted so confidently above, what say you run it by him?

JL's picture


"Serious biological imperfections, on the other hand, can only logically be expected of nonsentient evolutionary processes that are inherently sloppy and error-prone. They're more troublesome to rationalize as overt mistakes by a fallible God."

I see that James Kidder also dabbles in bad philosophy. We certainly have a lot in common. :)

Thanks for the link.


JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Starlight's picture


Jeff and I have a “bone” of contention between us on this divergence. ;-)

Mick's picture

This is an important article to consider. We must ask how are we preparing the next genetation of Christians? Must they choose between the Bible and the study of biology, chemistry or physics? I would argue no!
It is a shame though the the people at Biologos continue the myth contained it the picture at the top. John Clayton has addressed this myth for decades. A recent article appears here:

Mickey E. Denen

Starlight's picture


John Clayton has always had a place in my heart because he helped convince my youngest brother to place his faith in God and Christ.

I will tell you though this statement here really gave me a chuckle.

“In the early twentieth century there was a famous American athlete by the name of Jim Thorpe. When you look at the pictures of Jim Thorpe and the diorama of Neanderthal man in the Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, you have to be struck by the similarities.”

I’m still laughing at that because as hard as I can I don’t see the close family resemblence between Jim T and the Geico Caveman dudes ;-)

Mick I’ve grown beyond John’s understanding now but he served a purpose for me at one time in my growth as a Christian so I’m indebted to him.

Ransom's picture

Mick - please. The place of the "hobbit" has not at all been established, nor is it depicted in that chart. Even Behe wouldn't dispute the basic pattern shown in that image. What does Clayton know?

In point of fact, the "The Ascent of Man" has been criticized by scientists for an anthropocentric suggestion of teleology, but not for its accuracy.

Virgil's picture

I think it's the instinctive fear of the church that prompts most Christians to have a knee-jerk reaction, perhaps out of misunderstanding it.

Once people understand the dynamics and the diversity of the biological world around us, they would think about the chart and "hobbits" differently :) One amazing thing which I just learned about a week or so ago was that "about 8% of human DNA has been assimilated from viruses over time." How would a staunch biblical YEC-ist account for something like this? Cover ears and shouting la-la-la doesn't work anymore. :)

MiddleKnowledge's picture

"Cover ears and shouting la-la-la doesn't work anymore. :)"

Yes, it does not work for YOU anymore. The big problem is that it still works for millions of YEC futurists.

People are coming around, though. It is one at a time... one by one. I am pleasantly surprised at how this whole thing has developed over the last few years. YECism is still huge, but it is on the decline. The trajectory is very encouraging.

Tim Martin

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