Missing Link?

“Unless we are actively looking or listening for something, there is a real and distinct possibility it will simply fail to reach our conscious awareness, at least not at the levels that are desired”

-Dr. Richard G. Colling

I realize that I am about to tread on some dangerous territory. There is a warning that you’ll hear about blogging. Anything that you put up on the internet is there forever even if you delete it someday. This makes what I’m about to write even more dangerous for me. I feel that the truth is needed and that recent events may lead to an even more dangerous area for many conservative Christians. I am writing about the controversial subject of the theory of evolution.

Yesterday stories came out about the discovery of the “missing link.” It’s so energizing and gathering so much momentum that even Google is supporting this. If you go to the Google search page you will see that they have designed their logo in a way that reflects this story. It’s catching on fast.

I see a few problems with this. Instead of shedding more light on the theory of evolution I believe that it is only going to cause more division. I have read as much information as is out there at this moment. According to what I have read, Scientists can confirm that this is an ancestor to a lemur. It is not clear that it is an ancestor to other primates. Jen Franzen, a scientist on the team that has studied this for the past two years stated,

We’re not dealing with our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt

Because of the fact that there is some uncertainty (at least at this moment) this is going to cause larger divisions. Those who believe in the theory of evolution are going to find it very easy to rally behind this and see it as evidence that Darwin’s theory of evolution is fact. They will be even more certain of this theory. Those who don’t agree with this theory will find it easy to say that this is not close enough to prove anything, putting them even more on the defensive.

It is possible that more information will soon be available and this may prove to be closer than we all think. It’s possible that this will be the most important scientific discovery of our times. It’s possible that this will move Darwin’s theory into the realm of scientific fact. If that’s the case, this is where things get really bad.

If this happens, there are many Christians who will decide to no longer believe in God, or at least not Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. There will also be many Christians who will use this as even more of a reason to reject the value of reliability of science. Why is this? Why would this cause such a great schism, or at least widen an already existing schism?

There are many scientists who have been trying to prepare conservative Christians for this event. Scientists such as Dr. Francis S. Collins, former director of the human genome project. What Collins and many others have realized is that there is a false premise that created much of this debate. The premise is that for Darwin’s theory of evolution to be verified, the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible must be myth. This idea leads Christians to say “God is not myth, therefore Darwin’s evolution has to be false.” It also leads many others to say, “Evolution happened, therefore God must be myth.” Collins, and many others, disagree with the premise that leads us to these conclusions.

In his book, The Language of God Collins makes the argument that it is possible to agree with Darwin’s theory of evolution and still believe in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. Dr. Richard Colling made this same argument before Collins did, in his book Random Designer. Many of these scientists have been publicly rejected by the conservative Christian community. They may start gaining some popularity if recent discoveries make Darwin’s theory even more likely.

I do not know whether I agree with Darwin’s theory of evolution. I do see it as a possibility. If science some day “proves” this theory, I will submit to the knowledge of those who know more than I. I am a part of a Christian denomination that allows me to take this stance. This is where the Church of the Nazarene stands,

The Church of the Nazarene believes in the biblical account
of creation (“In the beginning God created the heavens
and the earth . . .”—Genesis 1:1).We oppose any godless
interpretation of the origin of the universe and of humankind.
However, the church accepts as valid all scientifically
verifiable discoveries in geology and other natural phenomena,
for we firmly believe that God is the Creator.
(Articles I.
1., V. 5.1, VII.) (2005)

I believe that Christians can believe in God and the Bible and still agree with the theory of evolution. We need to quit preaching the false premise that these two cannot coexist. We need to show that they can and it’s possible that they do. If we don’t start now, then as more scientific discoveries are made we are going to drive more people away out of ignorance or drive more people into ignorance.

9 thoughts on “Missing Link?

  1. Okay, I’ll bite…

    The problem is that some people seem to think that science and faith are mutually exclusive and that therefore believing in evolution and believing in God are also mutually exclusive: you cannot do both.

    (On a side note: I would also argue that evolution is not something one can ‘believe in’ i.e. ‘have faith in.’ We simply accept it as credible or we don’t.)

    Both sides of this debate, however, are flawed by mankind’s fallibility. We can ‘prove’ science, but only within the scope of our limited understanding. And – at least, as I interpret it – The Bible, though it may be divinely inspired, was written by humans and more importantly is READ and INTERPRETED by humans. Based on the text alone, our faith may be flawed. Even the logic that tells us that science and God are mutually exclusive may be flawed.

    The bigger point is, when we measure God with logic, we attempt to limit that which is limitless. We cannot hedge God in, or force God to fit into a handy box of our own understanding. If we truly believe in a creator greater than ourselves, then God will always defy our understanding. God is big enough to contradict (him/her)self. Personally, I think that is something to rejoice in.

    I hope that these discoveries neither discourage people from their faith nor drive them to an even more zealous rejection of science. In the end, I think science and religion are merely two tools that humans use to try and understand the world around them. I believe we are enriched by a mutually inclusive understanding of science and faith where each informs the other.

  2. “I agree, Paul; I think Christians can agree with the theory of evolution. I don’t, but I know sincere Christians who do.”

    I would either suggest that you get to know more Christians, or that you exercise less hubris. “By the measure you use…”

    Thanks for the post, Paul. I just want to quibble with one thing. For all intents and purposes evolution is a “fact.” Some folks (mostly from Kansas) refer to it as a “theory” as if that means it is not scientifically verifiable, or to imply that it is just as scientifically verifiable as any other “theory.” Technically, relativity theory is still a theory, not a fact, but without it we fire missiles or talk on our cell phones. A theory is not the same thing as an hypothesis.

  3. Thank you all for your posts. Dave you made a good point. Maybe I should have clarified in this post the difference between the fact of evolution and the theory of the evolution of primates as posed by Charles Darwin. All beings and all species evolve. What I am referring to is the “monkeys to man” theory. That’s an ignorant way to put it but that’s how most conservatives put it.

    Is that better?

  4. Before I throw in my two cents worth, I just need to clarify something and see if my piece has not already been said…How exactly are we using the term ‘fact’?

  5. I would say one of or both of these definitions.

    1.an observation that has been confirmed repeatedly and is accepted as true

    2.A concept whose truth can be proven through experimentation and replication. However, “scientific hypotheses are not facts.”

  6. You are right that a lot of ignorant people tend to think that the “theory of evolution” means the “monkeys-to-man theory”…but let us be clear that evolution does not propose or state that humans are descended from monkeys as we know them today. Rather, humans and monkeys (and apes), being primates, share a common ancestor. This ancestor would have likely been monkey-like, but also would have had some of the same traits we find in modern day humans – as these have been passed down genetically. In fact, all life on earth shares common ancestry; more appropriately you could call evolution a “microbe to man” theory. But again, that assumes that evolution works as a single line of which humans are the culmination, the most advanced – when in fact, evolution works much more like a giant family tree, and all the organisms alive today are merely the most recent generation of life. Just as you share much of your genetic makeup with your parents and your siblings, so too do we share our genes with all life on the planet. Humans simply share more genetic material with certain organisms (primates, mammals, vertebrates, etc.) than they do with others (bacteria, plants, etc.)

    I think it’s just hard for some people to acknowledge that humans ARE ‘animals’ or ‘organisms’ – despite the fact that we acknowledge our own alive-ness.

    Gotta run – that’s all for now!

  7. Ok. Lets clear this up a bit. What we’re talking about is abiogenesis. Not evolution. It’s simply referred to as evolution. Evolution is a fact. When referring to the theory I am actually referring to abiogenesis.

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