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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. Bonnie

    Mixing the Truth and Lies creates a much bigger lie, because even though it is a lie it looks like the truth, which is the most dangerous kind of lies. God created the heavens and the earth... He created man from the dust of the ground and blew life into his nostrils and that is the truth and the only pure truth.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • UglyTruth

      Man Invented God.
      Man Created God.

      Religion is fantasy, socially accepted insanity.
      Religion was created by rag headed men living in caves.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  2. Doug

    There are two great presuppositions in life. One is based on Religion, the other on Science.One is based in space and time ,the other is not.Both claim to have truth about the world. Neither does, because truth is infinite and both the perception of Religion and Science live in the finite world. That is why Faith and Science are both presuppositions. What bridges the gap between infinite truth and finite reality is evidence. Evidence can be causal or direct ,or inferencial and indirect. In either case, logic plays a key role in determining the evidence of any proposition. In both logical cases of evidence, both can ONLY be gotten through time and space. Religion does not operate in time and space, only our perception of it. Science does not operate in the firmament of the Here After. Science can claim nothing empirical about the here After, nor does it care to. It can only make statements about the way the world operates, here, in time and space. If one accepts Christianity, then one will see clear to accept that God made all creatures each after their own kind in a matter of six days. Six days in Religion is infinity. Each after its own kind describes each distinct species, now living and all those which have become extinct over time. How each species got to be the way they are is not a matter for religion because each species now is pure and distinct from all other species, just as God designed them. It is, however, a matter of concern for Science, because understanding the nature of Evolution goes beyond just the understanding of this dynamic in and of itself about animal and plant divergence. Genetics is leading to better crop production. perhaps gene splicing will some day absolve a Vitamin C deficiency in Primates. And there are a host of medical advances stemming from evolutionary genetics. If God does exist and is somehow the Creator, he already knew all of this when He created the world. And he would have created the world just as the Bible suggests (assuming the Bible is correct. And that is an insurmountable stretch) Be it as it may,Science, on the other hand, is God's tool and measure of explanation about how all of this is brought forth in time and space.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  3. 2logical

    can anyone prove that God exist anywhere other than in the mind of those who believe. God is simply a figment of the believers imagination. He can only be bought into existence through explanation. If it were not for religious rhetoric, God would not exist.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  4. clyde

    Who cares what some 2000 year old person might think. We cannot ask him. Evolution is real, religion is a crutch for the weak.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  5. nunya

    There is no "good" or "bad" thing aside from that which we define as such. Things either are or are not.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  6. Taye1164

    Hopefully mankind will continue to evolve enough to realize the absurdity of the Jesus myths and the bible in general.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  7. mitzy

    What a stupid question. Does someone actually get paid to think of these idiocies? Jesus belongs to ancient astrological-theology, evolution belongs to nmodern science.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  8. ATN

    Evolution does NOT contradict any religion, nor does it the Bible, or anything else. Evolution is real and it is an absolute necessary for survival of species. Even if you believe that humans were created as they are today, evolution is still a reality. They will change slowly over time or else they will vanish. The creator (whoever that woud be) "coded" evolution in the design. It is a reality. Those who say they don't believe in evolution, don't be ridiculous...

    April 10, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  9. Chris Putt

    Give it a rest you Creationists. Anybody still debating this issue, look up on Youtube Father George Coyne. He was the former Director of the Vactican Observatory directly appointed by Pope John Paul the first...You Creationists are aruging things your own religion doesn't even agree with!

    April 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  10. why christianity and evolution don't mix

    The bible says that Adam (thefirst man) sold his offspring into sin and death when he disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad.

    Jesus sacrifice redeems and repurchases mankind from sin and death.

    If the story of Adam is allegory, and never really happened, why was it necessary for Jesus to be executed? How was mankind alienated from God in the first place?

    Contrary to what the author implies, there can be no harmony between the two

    April 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Bernard

      You're instead going to have a hard time selling that Mankind is but a few thousands years old and that we are all somehow the product of inbreeding several times over: once with Adam, then with Lot, then with Noah because god could only manage to find one family at a time to care about in the old testament. One big incest family.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  11. UglyTruth

    No.
    Jesus is a lie. Jesus is not reality, not truth.
    Religion is fantasy, socially accepted insanity.

    Evolution is not a belief; it is an acceptance of reality.

    Man invented God.
    Man Created God.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      I agree with all but one thing: I think it is a wonderful truth, not an "Ugly" one.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  12. GatsbyGlen

    Jesus was 1/2 alien, and so he probably won't agree with Evolution since he knew that life on this planet was created by his alien friends. Unfortunately, these "aliens" were mistaken to be a god by primitive people thousands of years ago. The age of revelation will hopefully be upon us soon – not the end of the world, but rather the "revelation" of humanity's true origin. In Greek, Apokálypsis means to reveal, not necessarily the end of the world.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  13. UH60L

    This is like arguing that King Kong would have believed in wal-mart.

    Or that bugs bunny would have believed in the possibility of life on Mars.

    We're comparing Apples and doctor Seuss here.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • airwx

      Dr Seuss is a good ana-logy here. i believe that Horton Hears a Who should be required reading for most posters here. It would teach that there are multiple perspectives that must be understood to bring us to an understanding of each other!

      April 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  14. Ultimos

    Who cares what someone who may or may not have existed thought two thousand years ago.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Joe

      My great great great great great great great grandfather believed the creators name was Zumbabumba and lived in the bottom of the Great Lakes. I am willing to forfeit my life to support this believe, for I know I will sit on the left hand side of Zumbabumba in all of eternity!

      April 10, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • PeterVN

      All hail the great Zumbabumba. He gave us slumba and lumba, not to mention blubba, and rubba.

      April 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  15. Goo-to-You

    Basic tenet of biology: a species only reproduces its own kind
    Scientific method: define the question, observe, hypothesis, experiment, analyze data, conclusions, new hypothesis, communicate results, retest

    I'd say evolution's a pretty tough sell since it needs new species to emerge from existing ones, and no one has observed, tested, etc evolution. Changes within a species is vastly different than the formation of new species. Genetic observations bears this out: never has there been a case where new, original infomation has been created by change, mutations, etc. Only the loss of genetic information is observed (changes within finches, bears, etc). Now that's real science.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • P

      Do yourself a favor and take a biology class or two. If you're gonna argue against something it's probably wise to understand it.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      Modern science says nothing about "kind". That is a Biblical translation. A species is a species precisely because it can interbreed. Once change over time creates enough genetic divergence and it becomes unable to interbred with the species it originated from (if that origin species still exists) it becomes a new species. You are 100% wrong about loss being the only observation. It seems as though you are parroting something you read without knowing the mechanics behind it. Evolution is similar to the change in language over time. New words, accents, phrases are presented subtly over time, while other words and phrases slowly disappear. We can tell that 17th century English is a precursor to modern English, and yet no one speaks it anymore. The change from a parent to a child in this regard is nearly unnoticeable, yet several generations later, it is difficult to understand completely and becomes something new – English instead of Olde English. Similarly, we have many English speakers globally and the language diverges in local populations for the same reason, much like we have close but different genetic ancestors.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Joe

      Your mind is small.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  16. Joan J

    The point is being missed. Read Genesis and you will see there are at least two versions. Some see a third. In one, Adam and Eve are created together. In the other God uses one of Adam's rib to summon an Eve. However both stories have God creating the earth (some of the lesser orders change,) from what was considered at the time to be the simple to the complex–The firmament (rocks?) to the ultimate, a complex Man and even more complex Woman itmight seem.. That sounds a little like Darwin's Theory of Evolution....at least to me. What say you?

    April 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • airwx

      to Joan.. It would take 3 days of typing to answer your question fully. I would suggest the following instead; Sit down at a table with you Bible and a Strong's concordence that is aligned with that version Ie king James to king James etc. Look up each word in each verse. Then write down ALL of the variant meanings on paper in order. Yes this takes time and effort. If there is a primative root listed write that down also. Then go back and read the results with each variant meaning inserted. You will start to see things open up in a new way for you!

      April 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • DB

      Here is what you can do. See how the story of Adam relates to the terms of "hermaphrodite" or "androgynous". To me, that is scientifically more proof of who he was, if existed, and what he was prior to being split to a MAN and WOMAN"

      April 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  17. Robert Hagedorn

    Allegory can reflect as much truth as literalism. For example, pet stores don't sell live snakes that speak human language. And grocery stores don't sell knowledge of good and evil fruit. So is the story of Adam and Eve nonsense, or is there meaning beyond their disobedience? Do a search: The First Scandal. Then click twice.

    April 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  18. DB

    Some folks just don't have the capacity to separate FACT from FICTION. Or they are just too LAZY to read! The whole goal is to build knowledge. Once you satisfy your knowledge, you won't question the facts you've acquired. Just like no one will convince you that 1+1 does not equal 2. I give respect to those religious folks, especially priest, pastors...etc, who get educated in science. The goal is to connect the dots to prove that God exist, by means of science. Many of the things that are in the bible can be proven or elaborated by science. But you have these tunnel-vision folks who refuse to use the intelligent part of their brain to connect the dots. Their excuse is "just have faith". What a waste of brain power that God gave you. you won't even use it to understand how He made you! So how can you believe in Him if you don't know how He or you exist?

    April 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • airwx

      Agreed with the addition that I will never have enough knowledge and will never stop asking not only how but why...

      April 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • DB

      I agree with you airwx. Knowledge is infinite. And we have folks still stuck at level 1. They don't even have faith in there own ability to learn the facts. That is an amazing phenomena.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • DeLeon

      Please use that wonderful intelligence to view a believer's point on faith; while driving an automobile, we do NOT stop and inspect a bridge before crossing it, we have confidence (faith) that the designer and builder knew what they were doing. In like fashion, there are adaptations within a species, so a turkey does not "evolve" into an eagle.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Joe

      No, we do not have faith. We have engineers that study science and bridges that are inspected. If I saw a wooden bridge I would definitely think twice before driving my car over it. Then again, I'm not a lemming.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • DB

      DeLeon, I will indulge you in your analogy of a bridge. You are totally aware and can touch a bridge. You have much facts of a bridge that you know difference from a bridge that exist or doesn't exist. What I am simply asking is how do you prove that God exist, without simply saying you have faith. As simple as our understanding of a bridge is the mere fact that the bridge is there. I am not saying that YOU cannot provide facts of Gods existence. All I am saying is the same knowledge (tools) you used to prove the bridge is there, prove God is there.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  19. Ale

    Ancient Greek Humor I like:

    Mortal: What is a million years like to you?
    Zeus: Like one second.
    Mortal: What is a million dollars like to you?
    Zeus: Like one penny.
    ...Mortal: Can I have a penny?
    Zeus: Just a second...

    April 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Joan J

      THANK YOU FOR THAT LAUGH OUT LOUD SECOND, OR TWO.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  20. viki04

    Ya'll are stupid...why would the Creator of the Universe believe in a theory that denies the creation of a universe by a larger power....Christ Lord our God and Loving Father created the universe and all of us...the least we can do is try and serve him.

    April 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • DB

      Is that what you tell your children? Just serve you! Or do you teach them or do you encourage them to learn how to live by starting with the basics like (reading, math, walking...etc) You think God is a slave master?

      April 10, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • johnborg

      Many, if not most, Christians believe in theistic evolution. This means that they believe evolution has and is occuring and that God is present in the process. This means evolution is a good thing! In fact, the Christians who had a problem with evolution around the turn of the 20th century (the Scopes "Monkey" Trials) had a problem with social darwinism (which Darwin did not support; funny how his name got involved in that mess) not evolution, per se. We now know that their are theoretical paradigmns in science (as in religion). Evolution is actually about mutual aid if you look at the broader ecologically picture. Therefore, creation is good not Hobbesian. Plus, evolution is so much more creative than just putting people some where. That would be a very boring creation. Evolution is full of suprises. On the other hand, the creation stories in the Bible are myth. For example, part of it is a near direct copy of the Babylonian creation account. The Bible is a narrative filled with meanings. It is not a history or science textbook. It was never meant to be.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      Beyond having absolutely no evidence whatsoever for the claims of your God's existence, why would you assume that absolutely all knowledge of the world's creation would be passed on to man through a book that originated in Bronze Age Palestine? If that were the case, and we would know everything God did and how, what is the difference between the idea of God and man? "Y'all are stupid.." Tell me, how much do you know about how the Bible came to be, when it was written, who wrote it, and what concepts were dominant in their culture that led to their oral and later written traditions? Part of humility is knowing what you do not know.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Bernard

      Oh god is this what they teach in Sunday school? That Darwinism teaches that there is no such thing as metaphysics?

      1) There is nothing in the bible that indicates that god is a simple creature who can't comprehend genetics in the long term.

      2) There is nothing in evolution that indicates that god doesn't exist, nor that "humans came from monkeys" as you ironic troglodytes constantly claim.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • smitvict

      He sure did. By putting in place EVOLUTION!

      April 10, 2011 at 7:36 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.