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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. Fred

    It helps in these discussions to make a distinction between "little e" evolution as a process of natural selection and adaptation and "big E", which is The Theory of Evolution. There is simply no denying that a process exists called "evolution". The controversy, however, stems from accepting the theory that this process – "small e" evolution – over millions of years preceded by who knows what is what created all of the organisms on Earth today. I can totally understand (although disagree) how a person might accept "evolution" but not "The Theory of Evolution" despite it being a pretty well-formed theory that can explain a ton of observable evidence. But, you will never succeed in an argument if you reject the process of evolution (i.e., natural selection and adaptation) as a process. Again, the debate is whether that process is what created all of the life we have been able to observe.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  2. PRISM 1234

    Ever wonder why did God say " the FOOL has said IN HIS HEART that there is no God?
    It's because it's the things that are in man's heart which blind him to see the reality of God!

    Jesus put it in those words: "The light has come into the would, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
    For everyone practicing evil HATES the light, and does NOT COME to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. So in the darkness of their sinful hearts pride is born, and they profess themselves to be wise, exalting themselves above the knowledge of God, and become FOOLS!
    P.S. Satan is eagerly preparing himself for their "graduation day"...

    April 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Suzie

      No the bible is the biggest con game going and what better way to keep it going than to say if you figure it out you're a fool, especially if you throw so hell into it. LOL!

      April 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  3. Anna2

    You see, all you need to do is ask the right questions. They can't answer them. They're afraid because they don't know them either. Nobody can answer the Vitamin C gene question to my satisfaction because I don't know enough about modern genetics to understand what it means anyway. I just know what I know and my menza membership tells me...I'm smart ergo you're dumb

    April 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Anna2

      Nobody can answer the Vitamin C question to my satisfaction because
      #1 I keep moving the goalposts.
      #2 I don't really have the technical knowledge to understand what they say.
      They're afraid of me!

      April 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  4. kishore

    darwinists seem to be hoping that if you somehow bundle evolution along with concepts borrowed from physics (gravity, electromagnetism) or chemistry(chemical bonding) , half your problem is solved and credence is automatically given. rofl.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  5. Michele McGovern

    "What would Jesus believe?" That's as ridiculous as asking me what I believe about the origin of my biological children. He was involved in creation, he knows full-well how it came to be.

    Suggesting something such as evolution is attractive and helps me open my mind to truth. Telling me that Jesus would "believe evolution" is not only unintelligent in its very foundation, but it presumes too much for me to give it any credit. I was excited to read this article and then, at the end, I realized it was a waste of time.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  6. kishore

    what the f has gravity got to do with evolution?! so gravity is a fact and that somehow makes evolution a fact? if you are an idiot, that makes your neighbor an idiot as well?

    April 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Tron

      Actually gravity is still a theory because a graviton has never been observed. Although we know that "something" is keeping us grounded, its still a theory as to what that is.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • kishore

      i know. i mentioned about graviton in one of my previous posts. i meant that it is a fact as in we know that the strength of gravitational field on earth's surface is 9.81 m/s2 and that is a fact. nothing more than that.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  7. albert

    I believe that science has evolved from wanting to be God, to now speaking on behalf of his Son. The truth is, Christians should be able to prove their beliefs using the Bible. This author cannot prove (using the Bible), that Jesus would have believed in evolution. This is nothing more than anti-Christian propaganda.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  8. L MATE

    Most of commentators should think before writing: We all need to give thanks to our God, through Jesus because we are still alive. I CHALLENGE EVERYBODY TO READ THE BIBLE (PREFERRENTIALLY – GENESIS) TO SEE WHERE WE COME FROM. Your misbelieaf to the creator is an invitation of Tsunamis and other unforecastable devastating storms, wars, etc – be ware! – God is not interested in another "Sodoma and Gomorra", but He can do it, specifically to you.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  9. nash

    GEEEZZZZUSSS! :

    April 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Drew

    Regardless of whether you deny the proven facts of science or accept the baseless idiocy of mythology, just do the rest of us favor and DO NOT FORCE YOUR OPINION ON US! Have your opinion, your faith, your perception, whatever gets you through the night! Just keep it to yourself. It is a personal matter to decide how one will percieve the world. And if you choose to worship through The Bible and some one sitting next to you chooses to worship through Religion for Dummies, what is it anyone else's business? None of this has any bearing on real life until one tries force theirs on yours. Then it's real very quickly.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  11. Tosis

    When faced with a complicated issue, the easiest solution is usually correct. In this scenario, the simplest and probable correct solution is: There is no God.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • airwx

      Non Sequetur arguement at its worst ! Go back to atheist school....

      April 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Tron

      I guess what one considers a simple solution would depend on how simple one's mind is.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  12. Stephanie

    I believe that God is the greatest scientist and to say that I can figure it all out would put God in a most unfortunate box. If humans can think it up, it's not big enough. I believe that God created everything, but that he used what we call science to do it. Why we let it tear us apart is beyond me.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Godisamyth

      Stephanie, just because you are not capable of the scientific process, let alone independent thought, does not mean the rest of us hold such a crutch. You don't understand, that is perfectly alright – but there are those among you who WANT to know and have the ability to LEARN.

      "I'm not smart enough so I'll call it god." Give me a break. This is a prime example of why America is SO far behind the rest of the world when it comes to the intellect. The great brain drain is upon us, and Stephanie here is living proof.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Stephanie

      You completely misunderstood me and that's okay because I don't think you even care to.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  13. JTR

    The best part of science is that it's true whether you believe it or not. If you have to "argue" with someone to explain why bacterial resistance to antibiotics is real-time evolution, it's probably not worth your time. It's a spontaneous mutation in bacterial DNA which alters the trancription of mRNA and thus codes for different proteins which makes them immune to antibiotics. This isn't theory – it's observable and should be understood to anyone who's taken high school biology.

    Let's not forget that Galileo had to "argue" his points about the solar system for decades and was ex-communicated for his writings – probably by the similar ignorant 40% that this country now boasts.

    PS – are there any other rational conservative republicans in this world or am I alone?

    April 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Jason

      I think you might be the only one.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  14. thegoodson

    Why would Jesus have to 'believe' in anything? Wouldn't he just know. I'm an atheist but articles like this are completely stupid. You are trying to 'convert' people that believe in something they cannot see. What makes you think you can use Science to change that belief?

    April 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • tc

      agreed. A more interesting question would be: Would Jesus believe in god in this day?

      April 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Tron

      Agree. The last line of the article was particularly contradictory since it said that Jesus would believe in evolution because he "cared for the Truth." Didnt he just say jesus IS the truth? He pretty much just said Jesus cares about himself. What does that have to do with evolution?

      April 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  15. kishore

    fact is you are only observing causality and giving it names. you are interpreting cause and effect in your own ways. the bigger question should be who or what caused the laws and how are the laws enforced relativistically.

    alternatively, if you think you can create life (without borrowing from nature) do it and shut everyone up once for all. inserting the dna of one bacterium into another doesn't count as creation. it's called stealing.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  16. sean

    I'm so tired of people referring to evolution as something to be "believed" or not. You can not "believe" in evolution any more than you can "believe" in cells. It's observable, testable, and beyond any scientific doubt. The fact that you personally don't understand it has no bearing on its validity.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Jason

      well said.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • albert

      Yes blind faith can make you believe anything including in evolution. Evolution has not and cannot be proven. Can you recreate the "Big Bang" theory? Do do so you would have to create something from nothing. Like religion, evolution is something that children are brainwashed with from a young age. You either chose for it or against it. There are many flaws within the teaching of evolution and you know it.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Rich

      Two thumbs up.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Rich

      Evolution has been proven. Over and over again. Depending on how you take it, anyway.

      If you mean "as the definitive, end-all inarguable beginning of life on this earth", then no, evolution cannot be proved as an absolute certainty because nobody was around to see the start of life on this planet. We could, with time and experimentation, perhaps replicate the processes that undertook our beginning, but nobody has four billion years of lab time available to determine if we can completely duplicate the process that led to the rise of humanity. Not to mention, it would probably be unethical to implement some of the intermediate causes that led to h. sapiens' rise and planetary dominance.

      If instead, you mean "as a description of, and as an agent of, progressive change in the physical structures and behaviors of living organisms over a very long span of time", then it has indeed been proven over and over and over.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  17. Old Fool

    The paucity of such reasoned discourse in these comments sections is appalling. Thank you Q and those of you who haveeither supported or contested his point of view and his portrayal of evolution. Faith is dangerous when used as a weapon against reason. You do not have to reach back thousands or even billions of years to find proof of evolution. All you have to do is live long enough and pay attention. When the Bible was compiled and even when it was rewritten (in its many translations) the common form of transportation was a donkey and the most advanced form of communication was the carrier pigeon. They didnt even have indoor plumbing. Evolution has brought us pretty far from that. The average height of a man as late as 200 years ago was closer to 5 feet as opposed to closer to 6 feet as it is today. I am willing to bet that David's foe, Goliath, was not as big as Shaq. We've come a long way since history's first writings. That is enough evidence of evolution for me.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • JPC

      Old Fool,

      While there's plenty of evidence for evolution all around, I don't think historical increases in heights should be used as an example, as it's known that nutrition plays a significant role in growth. This can be seen among immigrant families, for example, where people who grow up in an industrialized society are frequently significantly taller than their ancestors of just a few generations back.

      While height has a significant genetic component, the dominant cause of changing heights in recent years is likely dominated by nutrition. Clear examples of true evolution in modern times include the development of antibiotic resistance, examples of speciation, and the results of the Lenski E. coli experiment.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  18. Anna2

    BTW, ignore the crap that has been written in my name by some idiot here.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  19. ktisis

    The blindness of those committed to Darwinian naturalism is astounding. Defects are the result of the fall, of de-evolution, if you will, not of upward-and-onward evolution. To believe that DNA, which has error-correction routines built in (some studies reveal to the order of only 1 mistake in 100,000,000 copies) can change from an amoeba (or a shrew like mammal) into a scientist studying evolution, requires more faith than this student of science and history can muster. Preposterous. To make a big deal about sharing a "broken" gene with other primates, consider that humans are about 50% identical to bananas in DNA. Think about it, there are only 1 of 4 nucleotides that can occupy any spot in the genetic sequence, therefore, by mere probabilistic mathematics you could predict that all life is about 25% similar in DNA. Similarities do not prove or even imply evolution by common descent, rather common design or common design principles.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Selfish Gene Simmons

      Can you provide evidence of your conclusions?

      April 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • JPC

      "(some studies reveal to the order of only 1 mistake in 100,000,000 copies)"

      Hmm, are you aware that the earth is covered by trillions of different organisms, many of which have trillions of cells in their bodies?

      iI think you drastically underestimate – by many orders of magnitude – the sheer amount of life on earth, the vast size of the "laboratory" in which mutations take place.

      Further, it seems your argument is that our broken Vitamin C gene is due to the fall.

      Well, the vitamin C gene contains thousands of base pairs. There is one particular place in that gene in humans where one particular mutation has occurred, which has deactivated it.

      Guinea pigs also have a deactivated vitamin C gene, albeit it's a different mutation in a different place. That makes sense – humans inherited their deactivated gene from a common ancestor, and guinea pigs inherited their deactivated gene from their common ancestor. Two separate species, two separate ancestries, two separate deactivation events.

      Many species of great apes also have deactivated vitamin C genes. And you know what? The location of that deactivation is exactly the same in all those ape species, and it's the same deactivation that is seen in human beings.

      The odds of that happening in a half-dozen or so independent events – the exact same mutation occurring in exactly the same place over and over in a number of independent ancestral lines – is just astronomically small.

      The only explanation that passes muster is that we all inherited that same deactivated vitamin C gene from a common ancestor. (And no, "common design" doesn't work, unless you can come up with a good reason why a designer would implant the exact same deactivated gene in a number of species so as to give the appearance of common descent.)

      April 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Q

      Wow. You either know nothing of molecular biology or actually do know a little and willfully twist it to satisfy your denial. When are similar, is it not the differences that identify us? So what do you make of the whole Neanderthal DNA clearly shows they're separate from modern H. sapiens? When were they specially created?

      April 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • JTWrenn

      Ok...lets take your argument and break it into two pieces. What you think happened to create these defects, and what you think is dumb about the authors ides.
      1. De-evolution has caused these defects. This would in effect agree with evolution. You can't really say these defects popped up do to changes as we de-evolve, and at the same time say evolution in any form doesn't exist. I mean...don't you have to be able to evolve in order to be able to de-evolve?

      2. Evolution makes no sense because our DNA is self correcting. Ok, so...how do we de-evolve then? If DNA is so self correcting that we can't spontaneously have errors that can then give rise to differences....then how did we get the errors in the vitamin C gene?

      I think you just destroyed your own idea:) Cheers! Oh and your ideas of DNA self correction are fine and all but you need to do your math before breaking out numbers like that. If life began even just 1 billion years ago...doubt it was that recent but anyway...and you had 10 million creatures each reproducing every say year, and if population stayed steady...which it does not it grew really really fast actually...then you would have 200 million major DNA errors. That is with a population of only 10 million. So...even if we just follow your numbers...you are wrong

      April 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • PhysicsMan

      Your conclusion from "probabilistic mathematics" is wrong - you're not considering that the order of nucleotides in DNA is what matters here. Sure, all organisms will have roughly the same number of each nucleotide, but the odds of them being in the same ORDER by random chance are astronomical, not 25%. Think about it: if you have 4 different nucleotides to choose from for any given place in DNA, then the number of possible combinations you will be able to make will be 4^(n), where n is the total number of nucleotides in a strand. In humans, this number is around 6 billion. That means that if you randomly piece together two strands of DNA, the odds of them being the same strand is 4^6000000000, a number that is too big for nearly any calculator you can get your hands on. Furthermore, the odds that millions of organisms would all share common patterns in DNA multiplies this massive number by another massive number to give you completely unattainable odds. There can be no doubt that all organisms evolved from a single common ancestor from the sheer probabilities involved. And that, my friends, is a mathematic TRUTH.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  20. Amelia

    This article is crap!! One day when the skies open up and Jesus comes back at his second coming like the Bible states everyone will know what truth is and this is far beyond truth!! The Bible is Gods truth plain and simple! It gives you self worth and a meaning and purpose to life! It gives you hope and a future unlike Evolution does! You cant put the two together!

    April 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Godisamyth

      I actually have all of that, without the guilt!

      viva la evalucion!

      April 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Selfish Gene Simmons

      Oh Jesusss...

      April 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • JM

      Cool story bro.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • larry c. lyons

      Which bible and which truth?

      The problem is that the bible as you know it is a flawed work of man (think of the description of the Horned Moses in the King James version) and cannot be used for a biology text – How many legs does a grasshopper have. Leviticus says 4 – last I looked it was 6.

      Frankly if the data and theory says the bible is wrong,that is almost always true.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Amelia's Love

      put down the tea, Amelia, and take a grammar course.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • william

      You might want to consider seeing a mental health provider. Anyone who can get so upset with basic fundamental scientific facts has serious problems. I think your family should be looked at closely, as most religiously delusional folks I know "became" that way by listening to and believe the blatherings of their parents, who got it from theirs, etc., etc. Truly a generational assault on reason, truth, and reality. Seek help.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Rich

      Ok, go. Prove the bible is god's truth. Try not to use quotes from the bible, as that simply produces circular logic (IE "The bible is the word of god. See, right here in the bible, the bible says it is the word of god. therefore it must be the word of god").

      Any and all external evidence is acceptable for consideration (although not necessarily acceptable for proof).

      April 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • albert

      The grasshopper argument is a very weak one. If you studied the Bible as much as you study your science text books, you would understand things better and not use weak arguments.

      'Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects [sherets] which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. (Leviticus 11:21)

      The key part of the verse is the phrase "above their feet jointed legs." The Hebrew uses two different words to describe the "feet" (regel) and "legs" (kera). What the verse says is that these insects walk on four "feet" (their anterior four short legs), with an additional two "legs" that are used for jumping. Therefore, all six appendages are described.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:25 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.