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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. Dr. Michael Peters

    The author led the reader to assume that he believed in Jesus but failed to address the words of Christ where he said that God made them male and female in the beginning. As to the evidence of a broken gene, the only thing he established was that it formed a causal relationship to was scurvy. He asserted that it proved a common ancestor but I could just as easilly assert it proves a common designer. He also introduced the red herring that this debate is about the age of the universe. It isn't. How much time passed doesn't prove anything because time is not an efficience cause of anything. This was just another article by an author who asserts his belief as proof but doesn't offer any proof. And he doesn't face the self evident reasons for not believing in evolution. Evolution cannot offer an explanationfor good and evil, free will or for pleasures that provide no functional advantage. But divine creation does. Have a nice and don't impose your beliefs on ohters.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  2. charbroil

    This is kind of a loaded question. On the short side you could say yes. On the long side you could say no. This whole thing is a matter of semantics. As divided. I watch you run one side up and one side down against each other. Thats nothing new. As I watch you run up the lynch mobs after Gaddafi and his people. Recklessly not caring whats in the way as long as you get him. Of course theres the other side which means dividing people as you so well do.

    So there is some. I said some truth to all of this. Meaning there are some basics that YOU skip over. Basics that form a human being. Leaving out the other fundamentals. Things such as the other components of human that they have that animals never did have. See. Very cute all of this. I causes the trouble that the people that run things so love. The deliberate running at one another of people. That naturally don't like each other to begin with is nothing but mischeif and kind of malicous as far as I am concerned.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  3. That Guy

    The question "What would Jesus Believe About Evolution?" is not very accurate. Jesus was there at the origin of the world. He would not believe what happened ... he would know what happened because he directly observed it. Our problem is that we were not there.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  4. richunix

    The questions is: “Would Jesus believe in evolution”. Based on our modern society, he probably would. The problem is JESUS lived in a time when most people still believed the earth was flat and did not understand the heavens above. Religion has always ruled out of fear of the unknown and what could not be explained by the science of the day was delegated to the religious leader for understanding. The bible is not (nor has it ever been) a scientific journal to base any science fact or theory on.

    1. No one has ever seen any GOD, nor has ANY God ever appeared in front of anyone, other than what our own imagining has brought us.
    2. No one has ever parted any pool, sea or ocean, brought back a human back to life after three day (of death). BAR NONE!
    3. The Bible is full of dream interpenetrations that are consider god like, yet these same dreams would land someone in the “nut house” in modern times.
    4. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, not 7 days. Yes kiddies dinosaurs did exist, as the fossil record shows.

    I could go on for hours. The bottom line is religion was created and maintained out of fear of the unknown and what could not be explained. During the “Age of Enlightenment” (circa 1500CE) it was then we started to realize what religion was really for “Fear and power”. I find it sad that we have created higher learning academies solely based on those same fears and then try to justify the existence of any “god”, when we have so many to choose from.

    Sigh, I do not fear death as it is part of life, we will all die in time. I believe in the enduring feature that make us unique on this planet. For w will evolve, grow and continue until time ends. I see the beauty of life around me and I’m grateful that I can in a positive way touch another human being. For those who believe in, please continue to do so as it give you solace, but please do not attempt to write it off as science fact.

    Stephen F. Roberts' quote:
    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    April 11, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  5. Hmmm

    So these are the arguments from the creationists I have gathered so far.

    "God exists...well he does"
    "God did this, that, and this"
    "Let's be real, god created the earth blaaa blaaa"
    "The bible is the truth"
    "evolution is just a theory"(this one doesn't even deserve a facepalm)
    "evolution isn't true, I came from no monkey. No sir"
    "blaa blaaa blaa, Christianity is right. All other faiths are wrong. Why? Because I was born into a Christian family."(I guess god plays favorites)

    Incredible evidence if you ask me. Just brilliant.

    It's amazing that you people see real beauty right in front of you and yet you dream of greener pastures. You should rejoice in the fact that you are a spark of life in the Universe. But don't fool yourself into thinking that sparks can burn forever.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  6. Brian

    The problem is that the term BELIEF means different things to Scientists and Christians

    SCIENTIFIC BELIEF: The best explanation for a set of FACTS that have been determined by either observation or experimentation. Scientific belief changes through time as new facts are learned. A THEORY is the highest order of SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION it is not and never has been a FACT but is comprised of FACTS.

    CHRISTIAN BELIEF: Is the HOPE and ACCEPTANCE of a body of knowledge based on sacred ancient literature and tradition.

    If you have a Christian belief that the Bible is the LITERAL word of God then you will most likely have a problem with Evolution. If you have a Christian Belief that the Bible is the INSPIRED work of God then you probably won't have a problem with evolution.

    In any case it is the difference in the term BELIEF that has caused most of the headaches in this discussion and if people were more cognoscente of that maybe the discussion would be more fruitful.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • DB

      Brian, you make a good point. However, literature and traditions can only be facts if they hold water. It is my family tradition to eat oranges during New Years Eve, for wealth. Sorry to say that hasn't work much, but I welcome the family tradition, because its something we do "together", which I would say is exactly the true benefit of a tradition,"The unity".

      April 11, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  7. DB

    Folks are not paying attention to the actual reading. It doesn't say that humans came from Apes...etc, it's merely saying that there is a common ancestor.
    "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."

    April 11, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  8. matt

    No, JC would not according to the Bible...however, the Buddha would.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  9. Reb

    OK, then if evolution is REAL then, in theory, I should be able to put all the parts of a clock in a bag and shake it every day for the next 10000 years or so.... and I will eventually find a fully assembled, working clock.

    Please go read Case for a Creator.... our bodies are machines no different than clock parts, just much much smaller. The idea that they found there way together is just ludicrous. I do not dis-believe that there have been mutations, but life was CREATED. Where did the dna, atoms, cells etc. come from before they became life? Where did the stars come from? Back it up and it all boils down to a Creator. Enough said.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • DB

      Reb, I don't think evolutionist are disputing the fact that life was created. They are simply saying that life started a very long time ago. Since then, life has mutated in many shape and form, and have evolved with time...hence the word "evolution". I think folks are misunderstanding the purpose of science. Its not about dispproving that God exist, its about learning about life and its evolution. And MAYBE we can unlock how it was created, instead of just reading the bible that does not dive much into the specifics...

      April 11, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • David

      and who created the creator?

      April 11, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • NJ Bob

      That argument was effectively addressed and shot down long ago. You don't understand how evolution works.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Jared

      That's ridiculous. Humans are nothing like clocks. Humans grow clocks do not. Humans breath clocks do not. Humans eat and drink, clocks do not. If you put a human in a bag in parts, it would also not put its self back together, so I guess they do have that in common. Humans build clocks, clocks do not build humans. Just a horrible metaphor.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • DB

      Jared, I wanted to laugh at him too. We have just witnessed how the lack of education can really make someone BRAIN DEAD!

      April 11, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  10. Easter P. Bunny

    My Take: Santa Claus would believe that the earth is round and so should you

    April 11, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  11. NJ Bob

    Who cares if Jesus believes in evolution? There's far more evidence supporting evolution than Jesus.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  12. Vixter

    This discussion should not even happen....This is Science VS Fiction/Fantasy/Delusion/Ignorance/Backwardness

    April 11, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  13. DB

    "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens move"
    Those words were first used by Galileo and repeated by John Paul II when he exhonerated Galileo in 1979

    April 11, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  14. Bob

    Genesis 2 matches evolution. A different order of the creation story.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  15. EpicurianLogic

    The stupidity of religious people never ceases to amaze me.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  16. Jessie

    Evolution is fact. Species adapt to their surroundings for survival but the entire thing about us coming from africa is still in dispute last I read. Check out the article http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2010/s3103039.htm which talks about 400000 year old remains found in israel.

    Evolution is part of Gods plan for us and our survival. 1 year is unto 1000. so who's to say god didn't create the heavens and the earth in his time.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  17. staveras68

    Guys lets be real!.... God created the Heavens and the earth in six days!.. but think about it... A day is 24 hours according to human. but what is a Day According to God!?... and what was God's intentions in the First book in the Bible! Jesus spoke in Parables, story with a hidden meaning, Dont u think God will speak the same way!... There is more that meets the eye!!!..

    April 11, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • gogogopher

      yes and he kills children with bears.....for making fun of a bald headed prophet. Right.... Jesus loves the little children? Nope... he sent two female bears to maul them to death... 2nd kings, baby.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  18. Tam

    If you believe God created everything, HE created the Big Bang from which everything emanated. No problem.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  19. Mbane

    People here do know that the books contained in the Bible were written by man, and they did so quite some time after Jesus died. And I hope they also know that the books that made it into the Bible were selected at the council of Nicea 325 yars after. The think that the Bible reveals any actual science is ignorance. The Bible is a collection of moral stories written and put tgether by men like you and I. Would Jesus believe in evolution? Well, if he is the son of the creator, than he would.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  20. RB

    Such opposite opinions! Like black and white, good and evil, and (of course) God and Satan. The debate is not so much about evolution and creation, but “is there a God?” Ask YOURSELF the question. I have found that those who disbelieve God are evolutionists. The opposite is true; the believers in God accept creationism.

    Why all the aggressive, offensive language? I guess it’s safer to insult electronically than to do it face-to-face. Ease up! Share your opinion; don’t be rude to those who believe differently.

    On the lighter side: As for all of US that can’t spell or use punctuation correctly, well, I’m not going to make any “monkey” comments. Reread BEFORE submitting. Our English teachers would be so proud.

    Karl W. Giberson – he’s so far off! However, he has every right to express his views, but I don’t think he can persuade anybody to change sides and believe him.

    Let me leave you with this, the Holy Bible tells us how to get to Heaven. Nowhere in those pages does it say that one HAS to go. We all make our own choice. Choose wisely.

    April 11, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Billy

      You are welcome to think all "religious" believe as you do that science and religion is mutually exclusive. I for one seriously disagree, I consider myself a devout catholic AND believer of evolution (although that word just sounds weird, almost like saying believer that most trees are green). Personally believe, as most scientists I have worked with, that my work in genetics and other sciences have only strengthened my belief in god. So touche.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • William Demuth

      Believing extracts a price on society.

      Minor stuff like wars, starvation, hatred and so forth.

      Religion is the greatest source of intolerance the world has ever known, and needs to be purged from out gene pool.

      Do you also believe people should be free to be racist?

      April 11, 2011 at 8:51 am |
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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.