Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Creation Of Evolution: Why Does It Have To Be Either / Or?

Benjamin came home from schoo the other day, upset that he has a science teacher who's entrenched in the evolution camp and does not believe in creation. Now he and I have had this discussion many, many times that, since he is wanting to go into technology and will be taking a lot of science classes this will be something he has to face a lot. I think he was surprised, however, when I told him that I don't believe one has to be either a believer in either creationism or evolution. And I don't. I am tired of the either / or that has been drawn in the sand by both scientists and religion. As someone who is not scientifically minded, but loves to watch documentaries on the subject and attempts to read books on different subject matters (particularly about the universe), I find that the more I discover about our world and the universe it's in and that there are other universes and possibly multiverses, fills me with awe and wonder that I worship a God who is not only a Creator but is so much greater and vaster than all of that.

Somebody whose shows I enjoy watching are Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is also very vocally antagonistic against creationism and faith. In the past, he has arrogantly said things like, "God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance." Or "The question is not why 85% of our most brilliant scientists reject God - it is why 15% do not." He thinks faith is nothing more than superstition and a "philosophy of ignorance." While I respect his intelligence, I can do without his arrogance.

I was watching an episode of his show "Star Talk" where his guests were the evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins and Jesuit priest James Martin discussing this very issue of science versus faith. Benjamin stops for a moment, listens, and then asks, "Why are you watching this?"  I answered, "Because these are all very bright men. I may not always agree with them but I can always learn something from them."  And I do. Science expands, not diminishes, my faith.

Bill Nye (Bill Nye the Science Guy for those of you who used to watch his TV show) said that at best, he's an agnostic as there is neither definitive proof for or against the existence of God.  About faith and religion, he's said in interviews, "People get a lot out of being religious. They have a strong sense of community and mutual support. So, what's not to love? Our goal in science is to discover universal laws of nature. That pursuit fills me with wonder. If one's faith requires one to abandon or ignore natural laws, well, that person is going to have trouble reconciling religion and science. Otherwise, I don't see any conflict." Nye grew up Episcopalian but left the faith. "I abandoned my religious teachings after I read the Bible twice - cover to cover. It took me a couple of years. I followed along with maps and a few study guides. There are two questions that get to us all: Are we alone in the universe? And, where did we come from? For me, science provides a much more satisfactory way to seek answers than does any religion I've come across. With that said, the universe is mysterious and wonderful. It fills me with reverence for nature and our place among the stars; our place in space."

I look at the stars and, like Van Gogh, think, " . . . but the sight of the stars makes me dream." And these are the dreams of God. 

For me, both faith and science should begin with a sense of wonder. As one of my favorite scientists, Albert Einstein, once said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science." From this, he continued, religion is born. I agree. Of course, for me, it is all the Divine Mystery.  God is bigger than my conceptions and when I think I know God, it is merely an idol I have constructed. As Saint Augustine wrote, "We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God." The sense of wonder is at the center of faith. And faith is not faith if one does not continue to do so, continue to ask questions, continue to delve deeper. Religion, not faith, is born of fear and a desire to have all the answers.

In Milton's Paradise Lost, Adam asks the angel about creation that occurred before his human existence. The angel essentially asks him, "Why do you want to know?" I love Adam's answer, "The more to magnify His works." That is how I approach science and understanding. Whenever I learn more about creation, I grow in my astonishment of the God who created it.

I cannot help but feel overwhelmed whenever I stop to look up at the night sky. As Psalm19:1 tells us, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Neil deGrasse Tyson would feel the same but not go a step further to ascribe that feeling as one from God. He sees it only as a connection to the universe.

Science shows me that God is, indeed, bigger than my questions, that I can never fully understand or know Him. When I read, "In the beginning, God created . . ."  I marvel that He created with such variety.

There are 10,000 different species of birds in the world.

There are over 2 million different species of marine life.

There are over 20,000 species of butterflies.

Over 400,00 types of flowers.

And no one knows how many different types of fruit there are, though they do know that there are over 1,600 varieties of bananas. Clearly, God is a a God who wants to delight us with all of this. I cannot help but think it gives Him pleasure to see us bite into a juicy summer peach. Or a strawberry.

This is obviously a God who delights in His creation and wants us to marvel at how varied are the works of His hands. He wasn't just interested in creating to create, He wanted to really WOW us with it. To knock our socks off. It is supposed to lead us to worship.

And just look at the creation of humans who are made in His image. Did you know that there are over 7*1027 atoms in a human?

I'm amazed when I learn more about the biology of humans and the complexity of genomes and DNA. Did you know that in the average human there are as many as 60 to 100 trillion cells?  That the DNA is made of four letters of genetic code that create codes for thousands of proteins that the body produces and the large number of traits they govern?

On a larger scale, there are over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. That's just in the observable universe. I don't know about you but that takes my breath away. It fills me with a holy sense of awe and gratitude.

Does a Big Bang contradict creationism?

Not to my mind.

Scientists cannot explain what caused the event to happen in the first place. They say that time and space that are both contained in the universe only came into existence after the Big Bang occurred. That there is no "cause and effect." They are left with mystery.

Those of faith are willing to make that leap from mystery to the Divine Mystery.  What created the Big Bang?

I would imagine the voice of God speaking everything into being would have such magnitude and force behind it. I, however, do not believe it's all random, luck and chance. I believe God spoke the language of creation. As a writer, the strength and importance of words is deepened by the concept of the universes and all they contain coming from the lips of the Creator who is the Word. This is beautiful theology and poetry at the same time.

I don't believe we came from primordial ooze or that we are descended from . . .

Although I do allow him to ghost author on my blog from time to time.

Nor do I think we're accidental or that everything was random and by chance. As Pope Francis, who has a degree in chemistry, said, "The earth's origins were not chaotic, but were created from a principle of love." It's a divine love that created us for fellowship and, once created, was found "good." We were created with purpose.

I also believe that God created animals to adapt and evolve. I believe he created human beings distinct from other creatures. They were created according to internal laws that allowed them to develop. We continue to evolve. God created the cosmos, created man and by doing so gave them meaning.

At the same time, I don't believe that the earth was created in a week's time or that it's only 6,000 years old. I'm not a literalist. I'm not a young earth creationist. I'm not a follower of Ken Ham's theories and won't be visiting his museum in Kentucky. Nor do I believe that Satan planted dinosaur bones in the ground to deceive us.

I believe in carbon dating.

I believe that the earth is 4.543 billion years old. This does not diminish my belief that God created everything but gives me perspective. Unlike the scientist who cannot explain the first cause when they ask, "What caused everything?" I can believe that God is the uncaused cause.

Neil deGrasse Tyson says that when he has is a sense of wonder but feels no need to describe that as God. He is unwilling to take that next step which is the step of faith.

To me I am constantly in wonder of a God who is the author of neurobiology, microbiology, psychology, anthropology, semiotics, and the creativity that brings forth Mozarts, Tolstoys, Einsteins, and the ability to ask, "Why?" or "What if?" He is a God who is greater than our questions and our small answers. He is an infinite and unlimited God. He has shown his greatness through the biodiversity of this planet and throughout the universes. Many would say that such thinking means we are not the center of the universe and I would say, "YES! You're exactly right. But we never were to begin with. God was and is the center of all things.

I don't know how God works or what time frame He created all things in. But I don't need to. That's not the important thing for me to grasp, that He created does. Too often we cannot see the Truth because we're focused on facts. Facts and Truth are not always the same thing. One can have facts and miss truth. The physicist Michio Kaku said, "The fact of the matter is that we are dealing with the cosmic questions of existence and meaning. Thomas Huxley, the great biologist of the last century said that the question of all questions for science and religion is to determine our true place and our true role in the Universe. For both science and religion it is the same question." 

It's funny, something Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it" reminded me of a statement by Flannery O'Connor who wrote, "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." He in science, she in faith. Yet the two are connected. Both should begin in the question. How? Why? Both deal with the nature of being. Both science and faith allow us to enlarge our vision of God. Both science and faith can help purify each other from any false absolutes. The Nobel Prize winning English physicist Nevill Mott said, "Science can have a purifying effect on religion, freeing it from beliefs of a pre-scientific age and helping us to a truer conception of God. At the same time, I am far from believing that science will ever give us the answers to all our questions."

But I think Christians do a disservice when they either want to deny or ignore science. What kind of faith does one have if asking questions causes your belief system to crumble? Faith is not falling in love with our false fantasies.

I love what Madeleine L'Engle said on the matter when asked on a college campus if she felt there was a conflict between science and faith.  Her response?

"Of course not. Why should there be a conflict? All that the new discoveries of science can do is enlarge our knowledge of the magnitude and glory of God's creation. We may, and often do, abuse our discoveries, use them for selfish and greedy purposes, but it is the abuse which causes the conflict, not the discoveries themselves. When they upset the religious establishment it is not because they have done anything to diminish God; they only diminish, or - even more frightening - change, the current establishment's definition of God. We human beings tend to reject change, but a careful reading of the Scripture reveals the slow and unwilling acceptance of change in the ancient Hebrew's understanding of the Master of the Universe, and the Incarnation demanded more change than the establishment could bear. But our fear and our rejection does not take away from the truth, and truth is what the Bible instructs us to know in order that we may be free.

Neither our knowledge of God and his purposes for his creation, nor the discoveries of science are static. I must admit that scientists are often easier for me to understand than the theologians, for many theologians say, 'These are the final answers.' Whereas the scientists - correction: the best of them - say, 'This is how it appears now. If further evidence is to the contrary, we will see where it leads us."

I think she's right about rigidity - on both sides. When we close our minds we show open ignorance. We both have to be open to the questions and the wonder. To again, return to Einstein, "Anyone who is not lost in rapturous awe at the power and glory of the mind behind the universe is as good as a burned-out candle."

So I do not think we have to choose either / or between science and faith; the Darwin or the Ichthys bumper-sticker. One should not have to disconnect one's intellect or one's soul in either pursuit. What I think we need to do is allow God to allow us to get new glimpses of Him through His handiwork. We will never know all the answers and that's okay. As God told Job:

Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know.

A great website to read more on Christianity and science is:

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