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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. GregK

    It's embarrassing 4 in 10 Americans don't accept the theory of evolution... Bunch of uneducated baboons... This country is going downhill...

    April 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Webbie

    "nor does the fossil record show"
    Not so. That was so in Darwin' time, but we have a much richer fossil record now, and it shows how mankind developed over 400,000 years. Look at the fossil record, actually look at it, and you will find it very convincing. What's more, genetics has confirmed our ancestry as well. The more we learn, the more proof we find that man evolved.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  3. Henry David

    Well, first off, if you believe that Jesus is God then you have to also agree that He knows everything.

    Jesus wouldn't believe, he would know.

    If you believe that the Bible is God's word, then you cannot just ignore what it says in Genesis. Jesus didn't ignore it. And whether you find it allegorical or a word for word explanation, you cannot simply rule out what God says about creation.

    All I'm saying is that this is an opinion article with certain assumptions.
    First, the author assumes that Jesus is on a lower level than Science. (He would have to believe science) This simply just isn't the case. If Jesus is God, whether he created everything by evolution or in 7 days, he is the God of science. So he doesn't have to believe what a scientist says, it is the other way around.

    Second, the author assumes that Science has proven evolution. This, again is not the case. Darwin himself calls evolution a theory. And a theory is something that a person has to believe in until it is proven. If evolution were proven to be true, then we would have no argument on the subject.

    This is an opinion article, though, so I understand that this person is using their own assumptions. But they won't do anything but preach to the choir.

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

      "Darwin himself calls evolution a theory." Really? Where does he say that? He seldom referred to evolution, and his theory was the theory of the natural origins of different species. Evolution was a known scientific principle long before Darwin.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  4. Ben Dover

    1. The earth if 4.5 BILLION Years old, based on radiometric dating.
    2. Evolution is BOTH a scientific theory AND a fact (they are 1 in the same, in science, for those who are scientifically challenged).
    3.. jesus/god never existed and there is no empirical proof of their existence, whatsoever.
    4. The bible wasn't written until the 4th century A.D.
    5. Dinosaurs existed and DIDN'T roam with humans.
    6. Read Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District.

    You may disbelieve Evolution, but it's still a scientific fact regardless of whether you believe it or not.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  5. SurRy

    I will never cease to be amazed by the number of seemingly intelligent people who will spend their time and efforts debating the existence of mythical figures and defending books full of made up stories.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  6. John

    What Jesus would have thought about anything is irrelevant, first prove that that fool was ever walking around in the first place. The collected stories of the new testament and the tales of Jesus' life are plagiarized from various myths/religions predating Christianity, obviously the disparate group of theologians who wrote parts of the bible at different times would sometimes fail in creativity, needing to borrow their holy ideas from the much older religions, namely the Egyptian and Hindu belief systems.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Kyle

      That is really dumb, I'm not saying the bible is 100 percent true, but multiple sources referencing the same individual is plenty to historically verify that a jewish man named jesus (or some hebrew version) walked around the middle east gathering a followers. Look at all the crackpots now a days that can round up a dozen followers, and speak in front of hundreds of people.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  7. SurRy

    I suppose viruses and bacteria are the only organisms that evolve.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  8. Steven

    Even the Vatican is smart enough to have stated that Evolution is not inconsistent with faith and the notion that God created the universe on day one along with laws of nature such that evolution is an inevitable consequence. If God created the system and set it in motion, does he not get the credit for the results? Seriously, why would God waste his time planting fossils of dinosaurs in the ground? Is it not more plausible that he created a universe in which dinosaurs eventually lived? Faith is not in conflict with truth.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Ben Dover

      Faith, by definition, is in conflict with fact/truth.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Brian

    People have a hard time accepting that man descended from an ape-like ancestor. Many people believe that devalues their existence, or devalues God's plan for them.
    However, with an open mind and heart no sane individual can deny that other animals evolved from each other (elephants, big cats, birds, whales), and the proof is undeniable that primates too are related.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  10. Chris

    How can anyone not accept evolution. The issue is we can actually research and perform scientific test to confirm evolution unlike religion. A great friend once told me. Back in the day people believed in the sun god and killed their own people to bring out the sun, Not realizing that the earth revolves around the sun. People used to do the rain dance thinking it actually helped make it rain, not realizing the process of precipitation. The point is we are becoming smarter and realizing that science is proving what a religion cannot.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • airwx

      Chris.. I agree with evolution as a science. I agree that science can answer a lot of questions. Science and faith however are not intended to compete with each other. Science answers the objective (deductive logic); faith answers the subjective (inductive logic). Please note that faith does NOT equal religion.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  11. Anna2

    I had no idea that asking a few intelligent questions the evolutionists can't answer will make them this pssed off 🙂 By everybody. A board where idiots and impersonation is tolerated is not suitable for conversations like this.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • T Dog

      Well, go ahead and ask the questions.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Anna2

      I don't need to talk to no "scientist" always talking sh+t and gettin me p+ssed. Magnets? How do they work?

      April 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  12. RMIshra

    Jesus was a wise person so he might. But I am not going to believe in any event or theories that is going to come in 2000 years from now!! I therefore think that this is a stupid question to ask. christianity needs to get out of "what jesus would think" and "do exactly as in bible" mentality just as quickly they want the muslims to think out of Koran. In so many ways therefore Buddhism is so much better – Buddha never believed in the existance of God! what a rebel! given that he existed 2500 years ago! (I am not a Buddhist or even planning to convert)

    April 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  13. Anna2

    I ask intelligent questions and you're afraid of me.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  14. Ebelray

    At what point does a theory become believable as truth . . . by Christ or anyone else?

    April 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Scott

      A scientific theory is not a guess, as you are insinuating. For something to attain the status of theory (such as evolutionary theory, the theory of gravity, or germ theory) it has to have passed a very large number of tests and explain a very wide variety of phenomena.
      The degree to which you accept a theory (or on a smaller, less established scale, a hypothesis) should correlate exactly to the degree which evidence supports that idea. There is no yes/no threshold.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Al

      A theory is truth (when you're speaking in a scientific or mathematical sense). For instance, the equivalent on the mathematics side would be the Pythagorean Theorem. In order for something to make it to the level of theory in science, it has already been proven.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  15. ijreilly

    Looney tunes will deny evolution until they get sick, then they want to mast advanced medicine to date, which is created using evolution as its foundation.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  16. Jesus

    Wow what a bunch of stupid as* Christian responses on here. Epic failure due to religious brainwashing.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  17. vick maan

    N you know if jesus really exists, i think his new campaign would be called shut the hell up,, everyone is equal,, science is awesome,, everyone move on with there lives.. are you really that bored you have to chat like chickens with your heads cut off all day...

    April 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  18. Anna2

    my problem with Evolution is that EVERY SINGLE ARGUMENT they bring up to prove it can be disproven easily by asking a few questions.

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

      Prove it. Ask away.

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

      The same can be said of creationism.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Daniel

      Evolution has not been disproved. Go ahead and ask your 'few questions'.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • JPC

      No it doesn't.

      And based on my past discussions with you (or somebody else using your posting name), what it means is that you fail to understand the arguments, so they don't make sense to you. I assure you, they make perfect sense to me. I see all the pieces, and how they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. I understand the methods being used, and understand why they're reliable.

      If you're not aware of those things, well of course they're not going to make sense, any more than a lay person can walk into the operating room and perform brain surgery. (And hey, I think it's fair to say that a comprehensive understanding of the origin and development of life is at least as difficult as brain surgery.)

      What you need to do is study some more. Actually learn the arguments, become aware of the evidence and what its significance is. Learn about the methods used, and how we know they are reliable. Learn how the pieces of evidence link to each other and reinforce each other. Unfortunately, you're not going to find that by reading a couple of websites or pamphlets; you actually have to do some hard work (as I have – I am a professional scientist, and have spent over 15 years intensively learning my field).

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

      I think I got a pretty good understanding of evolution in my undergraduate degree, while brain surgery requires quite a bit beyond that.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  19. Mike Hunt

    And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

    So god used evolution to bring life out of the water. But did not create man in the same manner. So evolution is true, but we didn't come from apes.

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

      Humans ARE apes. The human species is classified as a Great Ape due to fossil records and current physical, behavioral and genetic similarities with other apes. There is no logical reason to assume otherwise.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • RMIshra

      Humans are special though we have 98% identical DNA to these poor creatures; who according to some people like yourself and your religion are the only privileged ones to enjoy the gifts from God.. right?

      April 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • T Dog

      Evolution does't say we came from apes. It says that humans and apes had common ancestors How can you say that a concept is wrong when you don't even understand it?

      April 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • gabe

      Good point Mike. Stupid as ever. Your parents must be proud.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  20. carolyn

    If you want to know what Jesus thinks about evolution go straight to the source and read HIs own words...In John 10:35 He tells us "Scripture can not be broken." The only thing the scientist got right is that Jesus does care for the truth...the truth that is scripture– the word of God-the truth that can not be broken. In Matthew 5:17 "Don't think I have come to abolish the Torah ...I have come not abolish but to complete..I tell you...not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah -not until everything that must happen has happened. And Jesus warns, "Whoever disobeys the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven." The scientist would do well not to put words in the Lord's mouth!!

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

      You're just the kind of brainless idiot that this writer is talking about.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Kyle

      If you believe that, then why do you not follow the torah? Why do christians not stone their daughters to death for premarital 5ex, or abstain from eating pork and shellfish? Christians are the kings of hypocrisy, which was one of the primary things jesus railed against in his ministry. Jesus when asked how to get to the kingdom of heaven replied, "keep the commandments". There are a lot of commandments in the books of the Torah which Jesus followed himself.

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

      Please explain how God/Jesus/any prophet from 2000 years ago could go about explaining the concept of genetics, evolution or genetic mutation to people that do not understand something as simple as germs. They cant. The books are simply a moral compass, not scientific truth.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:19 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.