I recently read “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution” by Richard Dawkins. Being a neuroscientist, I obviously believe in evolution and need no convincing of its reality (or splendour for that matter) but I was curious to read how Dawkins would present it. It was an incredible book and if anyone you know has doubts about evolution or questions about the theory, I would recommend they read this book. Dawkins did a good job of staying away from the whole “angry atheist” persona he displays so beautifully in some of his other works, which is probably a good thing. For a believer it can be intimidating and it wasn’t the point of the book. The book outlines hundreds upon hundreds of sound scientific reasons why evolution is true and creationism or intelligent design theory is not. I’m not going to get into them here because Dawkins does it so much better.
However, I will venture to say that the growing trend of religions claiming that evolution and faith are not mutually exclusive is really starting to tick me off. The Catholics tolerate and now largely accept evolution, or as they call it, “theistic evolution” and according to my sister-in-law who is currently studying at BYU Idaho, she has been taught that evolution is true. The Mormon church, as far as I know, has not taken an official stance of the subject (they know not to touch this one with a ten foot pole) but there does seem to be an increasing tolerance towards evolution, at least anecdotally.
Faced with the overwhelming evidence for evolution, many churches are being forced to do back flips and have come up with all kinds of compromises to somehow allow for evolution within a religious framework; God used evolution as a tool, the belief of inner-species evolution but not inter-species evolution, and the general “evolution lite” that allows for some natural selection among lower vertebrates and invertebrates but denies any real connection between humans and any other species.
I’m going to say this plainly so that there is no room for confusion. One cannot be a believing Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, etc. and believe in evolution. Despite what ill-informed religious scholars and terrified atheists will tell you, faith and evolution are mutually exclusive.
I could get into all the scriptural inconsistencies, the carbon dating, the age of the earth, the problems with genesis and other creation myths and the fossil record but I won’t. The thing is, it is much simpler than that.
In order for religion to exist and to hold any power over the human spirit and consciousness, it must place us as separate and unique among all creatures. There is no religion that treats humans the same as dogs. In every religion, humans are precious, created by God in his image and chosen above all other living creatures.If this wasn’t the case, people would never have bought into it in the first place. We like to be prized.
Since evolution maintains that humans are in no way special, and despite our grandest of hopes, not the final outcome of the evolutionary processes, it is incompatible with any religious faith. There is no clear line between humans and those that preceded us. There is gradual change over time so that no scientist could ever pinpoint the one point or line in the fossil record where say, Home Erectus became Homo Sapiens as we know it today. So, if that is true (and to believe in evolution you must accept this as truth), did God love Home Erectus in the same way he loved us? How about the neanderthals? They were more human-like than the early Homo Sapiens were in many ways. Were they created in God’s image? What about their ancestors? It really all just starts to fall apart when you realize that we are living fossils on a continuum of life that goes back a very long time and (God willing – ha!) will continue for a very long time.
When things like this get too tough and believers are faced with having to make a rational jump into the abyss of non-belief or stay safely quaking on the ledge of faith, they usually sputter that “There are things that have not yet been revealed”, “Only God knows the truth”. And then we come all the way back to the beginning.
Much like the neanderthals that preceded us, believers are being faced with a changing world and more information than their brains can handle.