And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Well we are about done with the creation of the Earth and we have come upon the most hotly debated issue of creationism; the evolution of man. I admit that I am not much of a biologist so I cannot give a highly detailed scientific opinion about this matter. Instead I will endeavor to show why Christians have a hard time with the idea of evolution and how a better understanding from both sides can help smooth out the debate over this issue.
Evolution at its simplest, most basic form is a fact. Throughout nature we can see examples of a species adapting to a new environment in order to survive. A classic textbook example is the example of the Peppered Moth. Before the Industrial Revolution these moths had an almost uniformly white/black coloration. As early industry began to pollute and darken the air, the advantage of being light colored was lost, leading many of the white/black moths to be eaten by birds. Years later it was noted that around 95% of the moth population now had a dark black coloration. This is classic example of evolution. A species was able to evolve in a fundamental way in order to give itself a greater advantage in nature. Usually, the evolution of species takes a more complex route, but the Peppered Moth is a great example because it involves one easily definable trait.
Ok so if evolution is something that we see happening all around us, then what is the problem with it? Why is there such a debate between scientists and religious people as to the origin of humanity? The problem comes from some doctrinal problems that arise in the ideas of classical Darwinian evolution in regards to the origins of humanity. Unfortunately, these doctrines tend to not be well understood in the Christian community and thus the opposition to evolution comes across as merely an anti-scientific opinion. As with all theology, an understanding of the doctrine is critical.
The problem is this. In Christian’s theology, the central act is the atonement of Jesus Christ. As taught by all Christian churches, without the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, man would be doomed to never make it to heaven and forever live in a state of sin. One of the reasons that the atonement is necessary is that it counteracts the flaws in our current state of being that were brought about by the Fall of Adam and Eve. When Adam and Eve fell from the Garden of Eden, one of the immediate consequences was that death was brought into the world. Before that time, everything on the Earth was living in a eternal state. This state was lost when Adam and Eve made their choice, but it was still part of God’s plan for humanity to live eternal with him. Thus, the atonement of Jesus Christ rectified this problem. When Jesus Christ was resurrected, he paved the way for all of humanity to be resurrected as well, giving them eternal life. If organic evolution is to be believed in its broadest application then death has always been present in the world. The following quote explains why this is against Christian theology:
“Then Adam, and by that I mean the first man, was not capable of sin. He could not transgress, and by doing so bring death into the world; for, according to this theory, death had always been in the world. If, therefore, there was no fall, there was no need of an atonement, hence the coming into the world of the Son of God as the Savior of the world is a contradiction, a thing impossible.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:141–42.)
This is the fundamental contradiction between Christian theology and organic evolution. Unfortunately we do not enough about the creation of the world and about organic evolution to accurately make claims about one or the other. As previously stated, religious writings do not provide enough detail to make any broad scientific claims from them. On the other side, scientific writings do not have any place in them for the ideas of religion, which are for the most part intangible and un-testable.
With regards to organic evolution, this quote has always given me perspective:
“None of us … knows enough. The learning process is an endless process. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds. I believe in evolution, not organic evolution, as it is called, but in the evolution of the mind, the heart, and the soul of man. I believe in improvement. I believe in growth.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 298).
In my opinion, organic evolution has been applied too broadly in regards to the evolution of humanity and is has been used historically beyond what it can accurately predict and explain. We simply do not know enough at this point for anybody to give organic evolution a 100% stamp of approval or a 100% stamp of falsehood. As scientists and religious people we are stuck at an unenviable crossroads where both sides have an incomplete understanding of the issue at hand and we must wait for further developments in order to fully understand this complex idea. I believe according to my religious convictions in the creation of man as spelled out in the Bible. As I hoped I have shown, up to this point, religion and science have been able to support each other, but in this regard one must make a decision. Being one who studies science, I believe that one day we will have a better understanding of the topic of organic evolution and things will be made clear, but until then it is the duty of both scientists and religious people to foster a spirit of understanding and mutual respect in regards to the beliefs of each other.