In 1859 Charles Darwin turned the world on its side by publishing the book On the Origin of Species. This book outlined his observations on evolution and introduced the concept known as natural selection. Darwin’s theories have since gained wide acceptance in the scientific community and have laid the foundation for evolutionary biology. His theories have also been used to drive a solid wedge between the religious and scientific communities. This unfortunate result can be seen playing out even today as my esteemed colleague, Debjyoti Bardhan, points out in his article “South Korea’s Scientists Strike Back At Creationism; Force Withdrawal of Omission of Evolution“. To me the fundamental problems at the heart of this debate are that of power, fear, and lack of mutual respect.
He Didn’t Start the Fire
Contrary to the noise you hear on both sides of the creation vs. evolution debate, Darwin didn’t set out to stick it to Christians when he published his theories. Some may be surprised that early in Darwin’s life, he actually considered going into the clergy. As a matter of fact, Darwin struggled with his thoughts on God his entire life and in a letter to John Fordyce he proclaimed, “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” But the fire that burned between science and the church started long before Darwin’s time. One could point to the debate between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo correctly observed that the earth was not the center of the universe. He supported the heliocentric view meaning the earth was just a planet that circled the sun. This view got him in a lot of heat with the Roman Catholic Church. His views were deemed heretical and didn’t agree with church authorities of that day. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the tools he needed to really prove his argument. On the flip side, Galileo wasn’t entirely correct either. The sun was the center of our solar system however, as we know now it was not the center of the universe.
All of this history reminds me of the saying “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” One of the things I observe in this whole debate is that both parties involved seem to get drunk with power. Nothing is more unbecoming of science than when scientists wield their power and influence to push a social or political agenda. How many studies have I seen lately funded by some special interest group with the “surprising” result that the “scientific” conclusion agrees with those of the group. In the same line of thought, nothing can be more opposite of the life that Jesus lived than these so called “Christians” who would threaten the very lives of scientists with whom they do not agree.