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My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you
The most compelling evidence for evolution comes from the study of genes.
April 10th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you

Editor's Note: Karl W. Giberson, Ph.D., is vice president of The BioLogos Foundation and is the author or coauthor of seven books, including The Language of Science and Faith.

By Karl W. Giberson, Special to CNN

Jesus once famously said, “I am the Truth.”

Christianity at its best embodies this provocative idea and has long been committed to preserving, expanding and sharing truth. Most of the great universities of the world were founded by Christians committed to the truth—in all its forms—and to training new generations to carry it forward.

When science began in the 17th century, Christians eagerly applied the new knowledge to alleviate suffering and improve living conditions.

But when it comes to the truth of evolution, many Christians feel compelled to look the other way. They hold on to a particular interpretation of an ancient story in Genesis that they have fashioned into a modern account of origins - a story that began as an oral tradition for a wandering tribe of Jews thousands of years ago.

This is the view on display in a $27 million dollar Creation Museum in Kentucky. It inspired the Institute for Creation Research, which purports to offer scientific support for creationism.

And it’s hardly a fringe view. A 2010 Gallup poll indicated that 4 in 10 Americans think that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” (http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creationism.aspx)

While Genesis contains wonderful insights into the relationship between God and the creation, it simply does not contain scientific ideas about the origin of the universe, the age of the earth or the development of life.

For more than two centuries, careful scientific research, much of it done by Christians, has demonstrated clearly that the earth is billions years old, not mere thousands, as many creationists argue. We now know that the human race began millions of years ago in Africa - not thousands of years ago in the Middle East, as the story in Genesis suggests.

And all life forms are related to each other though evolution. These are important truths that science has discovered through careful research. They are not “opinions” that can be set aside if you don’t like them.

Anyone who values truth must take these ideas seriously, for they have been established as true beyond any reasonable doubt.

There is much evidence for evolution. The most compelling comes from the study of genes, especially now that the Human Genome Project has been completed and the genomes of many other species being constantly mapped.

In particular, humans share an unfortunate “broken gene” with many other primates, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and macaques. This gene, which works fine in most mammals, enables the production of Vitamin C. Species with broken versions of the gene can’t make Vitamin C and must get it from foods like oranges and lemons.

Thousands of hapless sailors died painful deaths scurvy during the age of exploration because their “Vitamin C” gene was broken.

How can different species have identical broken genes? The only reasonable explanation is that they inherited it from a common ancestor.

Not surprisingly, evolution since the time of Darwin has claimed that humans, orangutans, chimpanzees, and macaques evolved recently from a common ancestor. The new evidence from genetics corroborates this.

Such evidence proves common ancestry with a level of certainty comparable to the evidence that the earth goes around the sun.

This is but one of many, many evidences that support the truth of evolution - that make it a “sacred fact” that Christians must embrace in the name of truth. And they should embrace this truth with enthusiasm, for this is the world that God created.

Christians must come to welcome - rather than fear - the ideas of evolution. Truths about Nature are sacred, for they speak of our Creator. Such truths constitute “God’s second book” for Christians to read alongside the Bible.

In the 17th century, Galileo used the metaphor of the “two books” to help Christians of his generation understand the sacred truth that the earth moves about the sun. “The Bible,” he liked to say, “tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens ago.”

To understand how the heavens go we must read the book of Nature, not the Bible.

The Book of nature reveals the truth that God created the world through gradual processes over billions of years, rather than over the course of six days, as many creationists believe.

Evolution does not contradict the Bible unless you force an unreasonable interpretation on that ancient book.

To suppose, as the so-called young earth creationists do, that God dictated modern scientific ideas to ancient and uncomprehending scribes is to distort the biblical message beyond recognition. Modern science was not in the worldview of the biblical authors and it is not in the Bible.

Science is not a sinister enterprise aimed at destroying faith. It’s an honest exploration of the wonderful world that God created.

We are often asked to think about what Jesus would do, if he lived among us today. Who would Jesus vote for? What car would he drive?

To these questions we should add “What would Jesus believe about origins?”

And the answer? Jesus would believe evolution, of course. He cares for the Truth.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karl W. Giberson.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Opinion • Science

soundoff (3,562 Responses)
  1. Mohareb

    The only reason to not believe in evolution is because you don't understand how it works and don't know about the overwhelming evidence for it. The fact that 40% of americans don't believe it is a testament to the poor state of science education in this country. It's just a shame.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Anna2

      It's true. I don't know anything about science and I just graduated high school. It's really sad

      April 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Anna2

      Haha, you guys are so desperate that you resort to impersonation to discredit me. I like it. 🙂

      April 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • joe wilson

      no. anna 2. you are possessed by the devil.

      i have reported you for abuse because of your other lies on this website. YOU REJECT GOD FROM YOUR SOUL. I WILL NOT HAVE IT.

      you are lucky we are not neighbors. i will have you embrace the LORD or have you evicted.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  2. ArtinChicago

    Did I say chew food with wisdom teeth? I meant chew food with my bu+tt

    April 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  3. rooster

    Dear fellow readers. I am an evolutionary biologist by training. My mother was an evolutionary geneticist for 30 years. We are both devout Mormons. We believe in God and the Bible. We also recognize that evolution is indeed the process by which human kind was created. As was stated in the article, the bible is not an instruction book on how the earth or humans were created. The message is that God did it. The mechanisms deployed or used in the creation are best described by other books. Bottom line, Athiests: please don't worship your own smug sense of superiority in place of religion, and please don't denigrate people of faith. Christians, Jews, and other people of faith: Please understand that the Bible is the word of God for spiritual guidance, not a geology text. There is NO conflict between religion and science, and I hope that both have a long and prosperous future in America and elsewhere.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Joe Smoe

      Extremely well said, sir. The problem is all of these crazy, uninformed individuals will respond to you: "you're ignorant!!!".

      April 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • joe wilson

      you sir reject the word of the LORD in it's untempered form.
      renounce your doubts and you may pass to heaven.

      LORD have mercy for your soul and your wife.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • nosmo king

      Please tell that to the heretics that were burned at the stake for believing in heliocentric solar systems...

      April 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • joe wilson

      nosmo i have reported you for abuse.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  4. rahul kalra

    Watch This Full News With VIDEO :–http://bit.ly/fwiyvH

    April 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  5. ChristianChemist

    I am a Christian and a scientist and am constantly asking questions and thinking about these issues. The sheer number of people that are so "sure" that their opinion is correct just demonstrates that the majority of the people (in the US and in these polls) really have no comprehension as to what they are actually talking about. I have studied this stuff for years and can say soundly the more I know the more I recognize I will never have the answers to everything.....How so many are so sure of something unknowable is beyond me.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • rooster

      Thank you brother.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  6. megr

    Overall a good article. I'd like to make one comment. The author says "When science began in the 17th century..." Modern western European science began about the 17th century. However, science as a process of discovery about the natural world is as old as our species. Numerous cultures from all over the world engaged in scientific enterprises prior to the 17th century. Consider the Egyptians and their pyramids, the ability of the Mayan peoples understanding of astronomy, or the Chinese, who developed numerous technologies before Europeans. Even so called primitive peoples have a great deal of understanding about science when it comes to knowing the natural world by predicting when rains comes, the patterns of animal movement, and in some cases being able to predict storms and other destructive events. Our ancestors were engaging in science when they began domesticating plants and animals before civilization occurred. And let’s not forget the advances of European science in the 17th century built upon the knowledge of Islamic scholars. Science isn’t something new that’s attacking “that old time religion” it’s something that has been with us all along.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Mike Hunt

      Exactally why we should ignore the opinion of the author. The author is ignorant.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    Fight the good fight my believers! If Evolution is so, Jesus is just a dead carpenter. Ouch!

    Cheers!

    April 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Greg

      Or he never existed at all. Ouch. Too bad.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  8. Mike Hunt

    Read gen chapt 1 vs 20. The symbol of christanity is the fish. The symbol of evolution is the fish with feet. The bible tells us god brought fOrth life from the water. That's evolution in a nutshell, 7000 years before Darwin came up with the idea. What does this mean? Yes evolution is true. But that same book that tells of evolution so long ago also makes it clear that evolution is now how man came about. So to answer the question of the article, as the son of the creator and as someone who studied the scriptures I can say Jesus knows the truth of evolution much better than the author of this article of of today's scientists.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Mike Hunt

      Correction, I meant to say evolution is NOT how man came about.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  9. Jonathanl

    It is not a matter of believing so much as acknowledging that evolution is a natural process that occurs in Nature. Like saying "would Jesus believe the earth goes round the sun?" when really you are just ignorant if you still believe the Sun goes around the Earth, which was a common misconception at the time as well.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Derek

    Evolution does not have to contradict the bible... I'm a Catholic, and accept scientific discoveries for what they are - scientific fact.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  11. Rich Ferguson

    Even rabid creationists back off quickly when their kids try to get into a first level college. That's why Scopes got only a slap on the wrist all those years ago in Tennessee.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  12. Mark

    This article is so ignorant of the bible it is embarrassing CNN even put it to print.
    Actually Jesus is the creator according to the bible – so "would he believe in evolution?" No he is the creator! And why do you speak of Jesus in past tense. You will have to bow to Him one day – He is certainly not dead.
    Ignorance in Journalism – it's rampant.

    Now let me tell you the true reason this was put to print. To erode people's beliefs in the bible being the Word of God. This you will have to give account for on the day of judgment.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • david

      Please provide the evidence that Jesus was the creator, that he is indeed alive, and that their will be judgment due to him. And please don't site the Bible as proof. If we want to rely purely on what someone wrote down as irrefutable evidence, I have a book here that says I am God, so please bow down to me. No? Well then I guess printed word is not all that after all.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • tox

      David,

      If the book you are writing includes hundreds of prohecies written centuries before their detailed completion, I may actually be interested in checking it out.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Gerald F. Devlin

      Mark,

      Evolution consists in observation, evidence & fact....eventually forming a theory that "explains & predicts % probability....therefore evolution, as with all science theories, is based in knowledge. Religion is based on a centered act of faith. In the Christian sense of the birth, life, death & resurrection Christ....therefore religion is based in belief. From my view, true knowledge displaces believe & believe displaces knowledge. A great Christian can be a great Darwin type evolutionists. When we say "belief" in evolution, I think we mean "believe in the data presented by honorable scientists.

      Learning to discern what is my responsibility to know and what is worthy of my belief makes for life long learning. Jesus would "understand" cause & effect at the necessary level of understanding of how the world works. For the rest of us we need to focus on how we should live in it. Thanks for your article. –gfd

      April 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Greg

      The bible is so ignorant of science, it's embarrasing. Noah's ark? yeah, right.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Greg

      Who on the ark was carrying all the STD viruses that are alive today, since they didn't evolved from anything, someone had to have them. Ooops.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  13. Dog

    two little points:

    satellites in orbit have special clocks to account or time shifts (Read Einstein's theory of relativity) due to differences in speed... I guess "Six days" from where God is could easily account for billions of years Earth time, relative to our current rate of speed in our expanding universe.

    one could just as easily use chemical analysis, dna profiling and carbon dating to support the theory that crumbs found in a dumpster prove that cookies evolved from muffins which evolved from cakes which evolved from bread, as one could take the same evidence and conclude that the dumpster you
    re in is located behind a bakery and that the cookies, muffins, cakes and bread were all made by the same baker, in the same kitchen....

    April 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Stupid

      What a miserable analogy...

      April 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Crater

      No. No. No. DNA is not to life forms what crumbs are to cake and cookies. Not even close. Go back to school. And this time, read a textbook written by scientists.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Mike

    If there is no evolution, if change and adaptation are not passed along to the next generation, then how many different colored Adams and Eves must there have been? I see lots of different colored people on the planet. Or am I imagining them?

    April 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Greg

      They claim that change happened after the tower of babel, where everyone changed color and language. Or some such nonesense.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  15. meme

    if bible didn't mean to say 6 days they why did it say it? was god intentionally trying to deceive us? if the 6 day is no true, then why are we worshipping a book that talks about it and we worship with such passion !!!! I hate to say it, Carl Marx was right.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  16. dora

    I think that one thing that the author of this article lacks is the knowledge of the Bible. the Bible is clear when it talks about the definition of time to men as supposed to the definition of time to God. with that said the seven days that are referred to as the beginning of time are definetely God days and not man days. so evolution happened in those seven days of God not of men. Science and Faith are intertwined one can not exist without the other.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Greg

      A "day" is 24 hours, the time it take the Earth to revolved. Period. Not much happens in 7 days. If it was longer than 7 days, why say "7 days" at all?

      April 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Christian with a brain

      "Day" is often used in different contexts in the bible to describe different lengths of time. Research it. "Day" in the bible does not always refer to 24 hours. A day on earth is different then a day on mars. God is a God of the whole universe and we assume to know what he meant when he inspired someone to write the word day....really???? Are not we a little over zealous of our own thoughts.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  17. USminority

    Is Jesus PC, MAC, or Console? Which Final Fantasy game would be his favorite?

    April 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • vick maan

      Im I would like to think jesus is a PC.. also his favorite final fantasy game would have to be 7.. duhh

      April 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  18. Common sense

    I'm not that stupid to often ask what would Jesus do if he lived for today. If he lived in the prehistoric era– if he lived in the jurassic period... Please!

    April 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  19. tox

    If you want to know what Jesus thought , read Matthew 19:4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” I'm curious to know If Karl Gieberson really believes the Bible, he's got a choice to make. Either God made them male and female at the beginning or they evolved after years of evolution. Either embrace the Bible or reject it. If you want to reject it, that's a choice that's available to you.Let's not pretend you can have it both ways.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • cjbont

      A retarded 7 year old knows that there isn't a boat large enough to contain two of every species in the entire world. Ergo, if a giant flood really did occur, how do so many of them exist now? And how is it they occur in the western hemisphere? If you can accept evolution as being a 'tool of God', then at least you can breath a little easier in the face of such overwhelming evidence that the human race isn't several thousand years old, which is indisputable.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • tox

      Virgin births, resurrection from the dead, and the sun standing still for a day aren't scientifically possible either. I'll admit that my presupposition is in an almighty God who can do anything. Would you consider that you may be operating with a presupposition that there is not such an almighty God?

      April 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • marco

      This is a stupid question.Jesus is supposedly God, so he would know if you believe that fairytale .... Ha Ha Ha

      April 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • tox

      I think being honest about our presuppositions is extremely pertinent to this conversation

      April 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • tox

      It's also important to note the distinction between micro-evolution (minor variations over time within a species) which i do believe in vs. macro-evolution – massive shifts leading to entirely new species (which I do not believe in nor does the fossil record show)
      Darwin himself admitted that if the fossil record did not reveal large amounts of transitionary species, his theory would be debunked. It would be interesting to talk to him today now that we have access to that fossil record.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • joe wilson

      tox i have reported you for abuse of the forums. double posting is not allowed.

      GOD bless.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • ErikTheRed

      A story need not be true to teach truth. In fact, a "made up" story may teach an essential truth better than a true story. Jesus himself realized this - he used parables, made up stories, to teach essential truths. Such is the case with the Bible. Some parts a Christian must believe to be factual to be a Christian, e.g. the Resurrection. For other parts, a Christian need only believe the essential truths and not all the facts presented, such as in Genesis. Yes, God created the universe, but just maybe he wanted us to eat of the Tree of Knowledge so that we could figure out how he did it...

      April 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • tox

      That was a mistake Joe. I didn't see it post the first time.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • tox

      Indeed there are parables, poetry, hyperbole and other literary forms and tools. Jesus However, we must avoid labeling a passage one of the above because we struggle to reconcile it with our own understanding.

      The following verses in Matthew 19 say:

      “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

      8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

      He speaks of Moses and the beginning as historical realities. The logical conclusion is that he also sees the beginning in verse 4 when man and woman were made by God as a historical reality.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  20. Bad Facts

    Before recent findings, Scientists believed that Africa is where humans started – and the author of this post agrees with that – unfortunately he isn't keeping up to date with Science himself so I am going to have to throw this article into the junk pile:

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/29/worlds-oldest-human-remains-found-in-israel/
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/24/earliest-human-remains-fo_n_827972.html

    April 10, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • david

      Interesting article. If this 400,000 year old tooth is the oldest we will ever find. It still would not line up with the supposed dating of the earth by creationist. (10-40 thousand years). Remember, finding an older tooth in Israel, does not mean that it is the oldest tooth we will find. Who knows, we may find one a million years old in the states. Then what?

      April 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • mr_common

      These articles don't actually dispute the Africa origin theory, which has much, much support. The Alaska article is completely useless to your argument. The Israel article simply identifies that the home sapien sapien may have existed early than previously thought. Since early forms of the human line have been found in Africa, this article thus becomes a small speed bump to more complete knowledge of our history. It takes someone with a small mind to say they will throw an article to the junk pile because of one sentence – especially when in reality the reason for throwing the article out is the bias of the reader.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Scott

      Interesting, all together. Considering that in the beginning of this planet, for instance, this world was created by the Word (created for Him and and by Him). The Word would go onto become flesh – Jesus. So, outside of the position of the science community, the question should be asked (if at all), "What did Jesus create for this world to function the way it does; was it evolution, something else, or both? Do we really know? Do we really need to focus on the question? "Would Jesus believe in evolution?" should not even be a question. Actually, the question should be (for anyone), "Do you believe in who Jesus says He is, and what have you done to serve His interests in this world"? Rather than getting caught up in questions that have no true value. It's like asking the question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg"? Does it really MATTER! Jesus tells you to "Follow me." On that note, "What does Jesus think of you and what you are doing, right now"? That question seems a bit more important. Maybe some time should be spent on that question, instead. 🙂

      April 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.