‘Adam and Eve are back in the saddle again. The cover story of this month’s Christianity Today details the ongoing debate about human origins.
This is an important conversation for us to have.
As I read this article and talk about these issues with my friends and colleagues, I am increasingly struck by two things. First, as I accept the conclusions of scientists I am increasingly consenting to things I know nothing about. I do not now, and probably will not ever, have firsthand knowledge of DNA sequencing, pre-genome project evolutionary evidence and theory, or archaeological evidence of hominoid development.
I anticipate that I will always be dependent, at some level, on some sort of scientific consensus to tell me what the origins of humanity are, even as I anticipate that my friends who are not in the theological studies academy will always be dependent on me to tell them about the ins and outs of making sense of the New Testament as a set of first century documents.
With such dependence on the professionals, why do I not exercise a bit more reserve in my affirmation of evolution theory, and old earth, and the like?
This is my second point.
Evolution, as a theory, has created expectations that later scientific research, even brand new scientific fields, has confirmed, whereas literal creationism and attempts at biblically created depictions of the world are always having to adjust dramatically to account for the new evidence.
Darwin came along and said that species evolved from one another. This is a process that would take millions (at least) of years. Biologists begin postulating relationships among species. Heredity and change are explored.
Paleontologists and archaeologists dig and explore. They discover early signs of tool use that seems to go back tens of thousands of years–humanity in particular and certainly the earth in general seem older than 6,000 years.
Researchers build on evolutionary theory, and discover that cancer cells evolve–and develop cancer treatments.
A brand new field of genome mapping comes onto the scene, and the results confirm the expectations of evolutionary biology: not only do humans share functional DNA with other primates, we also share the sequences that don’t seem to do anything.
Translation: things that would be part of us if we have evolved from something other than precisely what we are right now were, in fact, discovered in the DNA sequences–and these “somethings” are shared with primates. And, there is no reason on theories of direct creation why God would put such unnecessary ingredients into his humans, or chimpanzees.
What this tells me is that scientific accounts of human origins are on the right track in way that a literal biblical rendering of human origins is not. The latter fails in the role of accurately predicting what the evidence will demonstrate–which is precisely the role of a good scientific theory.
No, the earth is not flat. No, the earth is not a land mass supported by pillars that stand in the midst of the sea. No, there is no firmament holding back the waters of the heavens. No, the sun does not race back around to its starting point every night so that it can make its course over the earth’s sky once again. No, the earth is not 6,000 years old.
So what about humans?