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.
Fear is the Path to the Dark Side
So why is everybody so up in arms about the side by side teaching of creationism and evolution? To me, it’s mostly about fear. Many Christians are fearful that if their children are exposed to a theory that man may have evolved from a lesser species that it will destroy the faith of their children. They fear that the moral fabric of society may be ripped to shreds and that we’ll all be heartless robots with no sense of right and wrong. Scientists, on the other hand, have hung their hats on these theories and have built their livelihood on developing scientific approaches to the origins of man. They too live in fear as they feel creationism threatens their research and quite frankly, they’re insulted by the notion that some might not believe wholeheartedly what they deem to be hard core truth. I have to laugh a little when I see the fact that people want creationism taught in schools as being considered “evil”. I believe that both sides have taken each other out of context. Both sides are overreacting. Neither wants to be controlled by the other. Both would like to control the conversation. Fear has truly brought this debate to become the ugly thing it is today.
A Better Way Forward
I am a Christian and unashamedly so. I feel no threat whatsoever by the theories of Darwin or any other scientist for that matter. I have colleagues here on Techie Buzz that are atheist and I respect them. They are true to who they are. How can I expect them to be otherwise if they have never experienced that which I have in my own heart? What I find most troubling in this debate is the lack of mutual respect. Why can’t students be exposed to differing world views? Should the schools be teaching that the Bible is hogwash and that only science holds the answers to our world? Personally, I don’t think so. Should the church hide from the eyes of its children what others believe in this world? To do so seems to me a disservice to them as they have to get along in this world. To me, science and the Bible have something in common, yet differing goals. Can anyone read the Bible with any sincerity and honestly come to the conclusion that this compilation of books was written for the express purpose of revealing the Higgs Boson? I would say, “absolutely not!” Nor would I look to science to reveal the heart and soul of God. However, they both should lead us to truth.
While theologians and scientists bicker, a world of sick and hungry people suffer and die every day. I believe that our world would greatly benefit if the scientific and religious communities would embrace each others right to exist. Not only that, what problems could they alleviate if they worked together? Together they should look for truth and neither should use their resources as tools of personal power. When scientists do what they do best, which is solving problems, and Christians do what they do best, which is loving people, then everyone benefits.