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.
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