There is a lot to take into consideration when discussing the origin of life and how the great diversity of life came about on earth. This question has been around forever but has not been greatly challenged until that last 200 years or so. The fact of the matter is that Charles Darwin revolutionized the way that we view life and the way that it changes over time. Many people assume that the famous theologians rejected and fought against Darwin’s theory as soon as it came out. This is not true, however. Most of them were open to it or even embraced it. So, when discussing scientific matters like this, the question arises of whether intelligent design should be considered a viable scientific option.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I was often taught that evolution and believing in an ancient earth was detrimental to the Christian faith and should not be given any credit. I was told that the fossil record is the number one thing that can prove evolutionary theory, and that it was flawed and should not be taken into consideration. I accepted this view without much consideration until my senior year in high school. Discovering just exactly what evolution was and why the church’s concept of it was completely distorted forced me to reconsider my options on this issue. Struggling through it was a difficult process for my spiritual life, but I soon discovered that Christianity was not in conflict with evolution. What we need to do is separate science from philosophy.
There is one central reason why evolution will not go away. Francis Collins and his team mapped out the entire human genome and the evidence that we share common ancestry with all of life on earth is so clear that any sophisticated scientist cannot deny it. We actually know more about how evolution works than gravity, and denying evolution would be like denying any other part of history. However, another reason it won’t go away is because it is the only scientific paradigm that has succeeded. If you want to get rid of a model, you can’t tear it down, you have to build another one to take its place. This is something that the intelligent design community has not done. They have presented no data to counteract evolution in any way. Sure, they have found problems with evolution, but no data to replace it. And why is this? BECAUSE THERE IS NO DATA FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN! When discussing issues like God, you cannot use scientific observation to show any evidence. Like I said in one of my previous posts, you have to ask the right questions, and scientific questions do not pertain to God. Creationism is not a science it’s a philosophy. I really hate it when people throw the argument around as “Creation vs. Evolution” because I would consider myself to withhold both positions. I believe that God used evolution to create. This is not a difficult thing for me to believe because God’s mechanism of creating has nothing to do with the relationship I have with him. The “evolution” side explains the science, and the “creation” side explains the philosophy that backs it up. The two are not in conflict, they compliment each other. If you have just evolution, or just creation, you are going to be left with a lot of empty answers in either the scientific realm or the philosophical realm. I am not an expert on evolutionary theory, but I feel as if the church does not accept this view, it could be headed for a crisis.
It honestly pains me to see people who grow up in an environment where they are taught that evolution is wrong and the earth is extremely young and they get into high school or college and find out that the evidence for the contrary is overwhelming. Their first instinct is to do one thing, abandon the Bible. This is a tragedy because it is proof that many Christians are not willing to allow their faith to “evolve” and move forward, as opposed to being stuck in the past. The reality is there are still some people who genuinely believe that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it. Why? Because they cannot accept the evidence and move forward. This is hindering the progress of Christianity, and the lack of acceptance of evolution will do the same.
Lastly I want to emphasize the proper reading of Genesis. The creation story is one of the biggest victims of biblical literalism. Trying to read it as a literal material account of origins is completely missing the point. Genesis is an account of functional origins, not material. The six days and other details of materiality have no relevance at all to what people thought about the origins of life. We have to take Genesis for what it is, and that is an ancient document. I am not saying that evolution fits into the Bible, I am saying that it has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible, just like the Bible has absolutely nothing to do with material origins.
Science cannot tell theology how to construct a doctrine of creation, but you can’t construct a doctrine of creation without taking account of the age of the universe and the evolutionary character of cosmic history.