home
RSS
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. Glen

    All Scientists who believe in Evolution are in denial.

    The TRUTH is that the 2nd LAW of Thermal Dynamics disproves the Theory of Evolution. Period!

    Stop wasting our time with your silly nonsense. Also you can not date the age of the earth. Carbon dating is so inaccurate that it should not even be used as a scientific tool. Plus all the missing links are still MISSING!

    April 11, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • derp

      "Plus all the missing links are still MISSING!"

      Ding!!! we have a winner!!

      Idiot comment of the day. The missing links are called missing links until they are found. Then they are just called links. You can't call something missing if it is no longer missing.

      Duh!

      April 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  2. Chris Echols

    If you truly believe in God — by faith know him and love him — do not permit the reality of such an experience to be in any way lessened or detracted from by the doubting insinuations of science, the caviling of logic, the postulates of philosophy, or the clever suggestions of well-meaning souls who would create a religion without God. Religion without faith is a contradiction; without God, a philosophic inconsistency and an intellectual absurdity.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  3. RFBJR

    I believe what Jesus said was "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Perhaps those arguing should ponder that statement. While you are discussing where you came from, perhaps you can take a moment to think about what is going to happen when your life on this earth comes to an end. No matter how brilliant man is, he is still a slave to death. Perhaps you think he will unlock the key to life here in this world someday? No more death by the advancement of science?

    April 11, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • NL

      RFBJR-
      "I believe what Jesus said was "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Perhaps those arguing should ponder that statement."

      No offense, but what does that statement have to do with evolution? Did Jesus ever say anything against evolution?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  4. NL

    STBV-
    "I really feel bad for you guys. . . . .Good luck with your "science"."
    You're using a computer, bud. They don't exactly grow in the wild on a tree, you know. Take any flu shots or had any vaccinations in your life? Think the scientists who made those could have did it without putting what they learned of evolution to use? Sorry, but only an Amish can denounce science without being a hypocrite.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  5. Xander

    @STBV: I feel really bad for you. . . . .Good luck with your "existence".

    April 11, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  6. Nicholas Voss

    Basically this author is suggesting that we understand the truth by studying the words of scientists instead of the words of Scripture. If the truth of Scripture disagree with what the Men in White have told us, then we should choose the "truth" of the latter.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • NL

      Nicholas Voss-
      "Basically this author is suggesting that we understand the truth by studying the words of scientists instead of the words of Scripture. If the truth of Scripture disagree with what the Men in White have told us, then we should choose the "truth" of the latter."

      But you forget that scripture was still written by men. So it's actually a choice between accepting as accurate what ancient men believed about how the world worked, or what modern people (men and women) are discovering today, right? That means being suspect of EVERY discovery and invention since the advent of modern science, about three hundred years ago, because they are all products of the same science that has given us evolution. Even then, if you chose to accept that what the ancients thought is superior, then you also have to find reason to chose one ancient creation story over the hundreds of others, each with an equal lack of proof to back them up.

      April 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  7. nimitta

    The premise underlying this article is so dismaying. Is it really possible that so many Americans believe the earth was created within the last 10,000 years? Or doubt the undeniable story of evolution encoded in our DNA? If you are a doubter reading this, haven't you noticed that every single one of this thread's theological arguments ultimately reduces to a single theme: the [holy book] SAYS so? If you're a Christian who has no problem refuting the Koran, or a Muslim who has no problem refuting the Bible, why is it so difficult to apply that critical thinking to the transparently anachronistic claims of your own 'holy book'?

    If you are religious and wish to discuss morality, fine, although don't expect to be given a free pass when others point out that the Bible and Koran are both laden with moral advice ranging from the disgusting (kill unbelievers and disobedient children) to the inane (don't eat shellfish). When you get into the domain of the origins of the universe or the nature of life on earth, though, the peoples of ancient times are as unreliable an authority as today's average three year old. In fact, I have a three year old friend who understands some things about how the universe actually works that would have gone WAY over the head of guys like Moses, Abraham, and Mohammed, all of whom likely believed the earth was flat.

    Or do you believe that as well?

    April 11, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  8. Dean

    S101, I respect your position, as many people just accept the historical Jesus without checking him out first. Here are some non-Biblical references to Jesus that I am aware of: Josephus – Jewish Historian; Tacitus – Roman Historian; Lucian – Greek Author; Pliny the Younger – Governor in Asia Minor. Agnostic, Josh McDowell, while in college put together a fairly thorough analysis in order to disprove the historical Jesus; his findings can be found in 'Evidence that Demands a Verdict' which is where you can find most of the historians mentioned above. However, it is fairly academic and I was not able to finish it but use it as a reference on occasion. If you are in academia, it may be up your ally. Another option which I found easier to read was a similar take, when an atheist reporter from the Chicago Trib investigated the same topic. His findings are found in ‘The Case for Christ’ (Lee Strobel). My favorite author was CS Lewis, an atheist as well. His 'Mere Christianity' deals less with biblical textual analysis and more with the existence of God. These may save you some time if you are interested in further study…..any books that you can recommend for me would be cool....

    April 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  9. Anna2

    Sorry people, the evolutionists turned into rigid defenders of their cause. When people resort to contorted explanations to make themselves feel they are right, we know something is wrong AND IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE. Science as it is today, with its worm holes, big bangs and dark matters, turned into a fairy tale. The more they are trying to explain things, the less sense they make.
    (By the way, remember that anybody can impersonate me. If you read a complete nonsense, that has NOT bee written by me, if you read something that makes you feel uncomfortable as an evolutionists, because you know no answer to it, THAT IS ME). Intelligent people can differentiate between the two 🙂

    April 11, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • NL

      Anna2-
      "Science as it is today, with its worm holes, big bangs and dark matters, turned into a fairy tale. The more they are trying to explain things, the less sense they make."
      Don't feel too bad. Most people reach a certain plateau in their ability to follow along within a complicated field. I personally got lost in mathematics after my third year university courses, but I never once imagined that being able to understand that material was not possible for anyone. That would be egotistic, right? So, rest as.sured, even if you personally can't get the science behind the big bang, or evolution there are plenty who still do and, even if you're afraid to accept the knowledge they are willing to share with you, you can still benefit from the way their discoveries are applied in technology and medicine.

      if you read something that makes you feel uncomfortable as an evolutionists, because you know no answer to it, THAT IS ME). Intelligent people can differentiate between the two."
      Well, since I answered your statement, what does that say about who you actually are? Oh, the ego involved in thinking that you personally hold some great mystic truth not even found in the Bible!

      April 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  10. RLA

    I have a scientific mind and approach to things. My father being an engineer, I probably learned/inherited my views from him.
    For me, there is a God. One God, one power creating all in His own way, time, style. In my lifetime, I've watched the growing volume of, and increasingly vicious efforts to ridicule any believer in God, and the quest to explain away anything Jesus or God related as being born of ignorant imagination, alien encounters, or just plain stupidity. It simply comes down to believing or not. Science and God aren't separate...and yes, if one believes as this one does, the ways of God are not our ways and are far above ours. The very combativeness and effort to paint believers as uneducated blind crazies fits right in with the words of 2,000 years ago when this very approach to negate the existing of God and the truth of Jesus was spoken by Jesus Himself, that those who believed in Him would be ridiculed, even persecuted because of that very belief. But, as nothing can dissuade a non-believer from his or her beliefs or their intent to go after those who do, it comes down to individual faith, belief, and trust in something greater than "me" or "I". This one spec in the Universe chooses to believe.
    At least...at the very least, respect that without labeling or attacking. However, I doubt, that in this age of so little respect for anything, that any comment relating to a belief in God can go without attack. Love exists. But try to put that in your hand and show it to someone (not a card or object or gift but love itself). Yet, I find myself even now trying to explain the unexplainable to those who will not hear. Enjoy science. But if that's all you've got, something great is indeed missing in your life.

    Enjoy your day all!

    April 11, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  11. Face

    @ Anna
    "If I don't see something happen I don't understand it and if I don't understand it then it couldn't have happened. That's why I believe in Jesus"
    Wow if only EVERYONE used your "Mensa" logic!!
    ROFL
    you are my FAIL OF THE DAY!!

    April 11, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Anna2

      @Face, that nonsense has been written by somebody who has been ticked off at my previous questions. But I know how some people feel about Mensa members, so feel free to attack me if it makes you feel better.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  12. SHRIKE

    I'd rather be related to a monkey than be a christian. Monkeys are more friendly, likable and generally less willing to attack you for not believing in their gibbering.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  13. The Dude

    Going by the conditions of some of his "flock" I would say he would be praying for it.

    April 11, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  14. Jay

    I think it is funny that there are 2,658 responses to this all in theological argument. The Truth will reveal itself in due time.
    EVERY KNEE will bow, and EVERY TONGUE confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Watch and pray, for the time is coming soon.

    Philippians 2:8-11
    "he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
    9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
    10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

    April 11, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • G Michael Muller

      Right on Jay. Evolution is nothing but a fairy tale for grownup intellectuals. I know, that's a pretty tired statement! I do believe in the end, and hopefully sooner that will happen. These intellectual twits of today ought to look back at some of our grreatest scientists and read about what they thought about Biblical Creation. Yes, every knee WILL bow. Amen!

      April 11, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • RFBJR

      Amen. People can believe whatever they want to believe. Isn't freewill awesome? The truth will be revealed in due time. For all the holes that the evolutionists say creation has, there are as many, if not more holes in the evolution theory. With all their knowledge and all the money in the world, you can put the top 100 scientific minds in a state of the art facility and they couldn't even produce one blade of grass unless they went outside and stole it. I'm just sayin'.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • NL

      RFBJR-
      "For all the holes that the evolutionists say creation has, there are as many, if not more holes in the evolution theory."
      The problem with that idea is that science is filling in the 'holes' you say are in evolution at a regular, if not increasing pace, whereas theology hasn't done anything to fill in creation's holes. No, all theology has done is cover over the holes in their territory while erecting a fence of threatened hellfire against believers wishing to take the safer path through the scientific world.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  15. Vulpes

    Would leprechauns believe in quantum mechanics?

    April 11, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • The Dude

      LOL

      April 11, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • derp

      Do wookies believe in astrophsiycs

      April 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  16. TruthSeeker

    So much of this is nonsense! Ok, let's think about something for a second. If the Christian god is all-powerful then why would it take him a week to create everything? This implies that god is not beyond time and since we know that time is a relative dimension then that would relegate god to something that is less powerful than the laws of physics!
    Existence itself is god. It has no beginning or end, and religions try to take away from that infinite beauty by defining it as a big bearded man in the sky.
    Face it, the bible, and any religious text for that matter, is nothing more than literary fiction just like Harry Potter.
    I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade but it is embarrassing that in 2011 so many people still believe in fairy tales.
    I am not an atheist, I simply see that god is so much more than any of these books could ever describe.
    Think you understand life? Try explaining the intricacies of a color to a blind man.

    April 11, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Gabby

      Truth Seeker, you didn't rain on my parade...you are right, God is indescribable and the fact that you haven't read the bible-but perhaps the beginning, tells me why you don't understand who he is or if HE even exists. History doesn't tell you this but I will... EVERY scientist who was on a quest to figure out if the so called "GOD" was real came to find that history is in accordance with the rulers presented in the Bible. ALL became firm believers iin Christ. Not a religion but a direct relationship where you can wake up and say to God whatever it is that's on your mind instead of doing 10,000 sacrifices to come before the presence of God such as what the Isrealites had to for many many many years. Jesus gave us direct access to contact God through his death we have freedom and salvation. Today I, a sinner as well as the rest of this world, pray to that merciful God who gave his life to reach out to you and I so that we could be saved that the GOD you don't think exists puts a special favor on your life and makes you realize that he is REAL and AMAZING. I ask that he gives you all the desires of your heart according to his purpose...God bless you brother and may you find the truth!! Bible says "Seek and you shall find...."

      April 11, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  17. Anna2

    Half the nonsense written here in my name is fake. I am not religious. What I did was was asking a few questions evolutionists could not answer and they attacked me like a bunch of sharks 🙂 Yes, I am a member of Mensa and because of that I notice weak spots in an argument and I want to clarify, so I ask. Unfortunately, the Evolutionists turned into just as rigid fanatics as the creationists used to be in Darwin's time.

    April 11, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • dtboco3

      I have read through a couple of your posts. Thanks for the entertainment. One question though. Why try to lie about being a MENSA member when you clearly have the intellect of a 10 year old? Also, I would suggest you brush up on your facts about ancient human history before you try to chime in on the subject.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Anna2

      dtboco3, you must be really dumb. You'd rather assume a Mensa member is dumb than admit that there is something wrong with your pet theory.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Anna2

      dtboco3, BTW, what you mistaken for the "intellect of a 10 year old" is the honest simplicity really intelligent people have, who are trying to find out the truth and are not concerned about how they sound to posers like yourself.

      Just watch how very smart famous people sound (not the ones with a lot of lexical knowledge, but the real geniuses), and see that they all sound like curious children. Well, it takes one to know one, I know.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Alan Meyer

      Anna,

      Looking through your postings I see that you asked "how do you know that is a vitamin C gene? What does it do exactly? How do you know what it does? What makes you so sure you understand its function?"

      The are different ways that the function of a gene can be established. The most important is to "knockout" the gene, i.e., damage it, and see what the effect is. For example, if the effect of damaging the gene in an otherwise healthy organism is that the organism ceases to produce vitamin C, then we have direct evidence of a link.

      There are other ways to corroborate that. It is possible to develop a line of organisms (we're of course talking about simple organisms here – not humans) that is missing a gene or has a damaged copy. It's not producing vitamin C. Then you insert the functioning gene into a cell of the organism and it suddenly starts producing vitamin C.

      Oftentimes these experiments can be done using human genes implanted in much simpler organisms such as yeast cells or even bacteria. The amazing commonality of the genetic machinery in all living organisms makes this possible.

      In addition to this kind of evidence, it is now also possible to decode the DNA sequence of any gene and to derive from it the exact sequence of amino acids in a protein that is translated from the gene. The protein can then be further analyzed, for example using bioassays or by chemical means, or by comparison to a database of genes with similar functional groups, or even by computer modeling of electrochemical surfaces of the protein, to determine it's function. I don't know anything about the specific gene that Dr. Gilberson was referring to, but I assume it codes either for an enzyme in a biochemical pathway that required for the production of vitamin C, or else it functions as a "promoter" or "suppressor" protein in controlling the expression of another gene needed in that pathway.

      With something as important and well studied as vitamin C, I imagine that by this time the specialists in this area have some pretty solid knowledge of what they're talking about when they say that a particular gene is involved in vitamin C synthesis.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Anna2

      Alan Meyer, thanks for the explanation, it's been very interesting. The question before was: Could a "broken" vitamin C gene prove that two species are related, as implied in the article. I think it is not necessarily a proof, unless we can exclude every other possible cause.

      Looks like I need to study a little more of the subject. Thanks again 🙂

      April 11, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  18. john

    i was feeling good about being part of God's great plan and intelligent design. but now you tell me He broke one of my genes . Perhapes it whas 5pm on Friday ,His mind was on weekend no time to fix it now, ect. ect. But aren't the ones with the better genes supposed to be the big winners in the evolution scheme/world view?In the end I belive God & sience will agree, if we could overcome all these broken genes and limited knowledge,Lord please help us!

    April 11, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  19. Ryan L

    How Long Is a Genesis “Day”?
    4 Many consider the word “day” used in Genesis chapter 1 to mean 24 hours. However, in Genesis 1:5 God himself is said to divide day into a smaller period of time, calling just the light portion “day.” In Genesis 2:4 all the creative periods are called one “day”: “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day [all six creative periods] that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.”
    5 The Hebrew word yohm, translated “day,” can mean different lengths of time. Among the meanings possible, William Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies includes the following: “A day; it is frequently put for time in general, or for a long time; a whole period under consideration . . . Day is also put for a particular season or time when any extraordinary event happens.”1 This last sentence appears to fit the creative “days,” for certainly they were periods when extraordinary events were described as happening. It also allows for periods much longer than 24 hours.
    6 Genesis chapter 1 uses the expressions “evening” and “morning” relative to the creative periods. Does this not indicate that they were 24 hours long? Not necessarily. In some places people often refer to a man’s lifetime as his “day.” They speak of “my father’s day” or “in Shakespeare’s day.” They may divide up that lifetime “day,” saying “in the morning [or dawn] of his life” or “in the evening [or twilight] of his life.” So ‘evening and morning’ in Genesis chapter 1 does not limit the meaning to a literal 24 hours.
    7 “Day” as used in the Bible can include summer and winter, the passing of seasons. (Zechariah 14:8) “The day of harvest” involves many days. (Compare Proverbs 25:13 and Genesis 30:14.) A thousand years are likened to a day. (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8, 10) “Judgment Day” covers many years. (Matthew 10:15; 11:22-24) It would seem reasonable that the “days” of Genesis could likewise have embraced long periods of time—millenniums. What, then, took place during those creative eras? Is the Bible’s account of them scientific? Following is a review of these “days” as expressed in Genesis.

    April 11, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  20. Greg

    We know that the Universe is a least 13 billion years old.. We know that for hundreds of millions of years, millions of different creatures (animals) have lived on our little rock that shared a remarkable number of similar characteristics with us (2 eyes, 2 arms, 2 legs, a tailbone – some with tail attached, skin, hearts, lungs, BRAINS!)... We know that there are 200+ billion stars just in our little galaxy and that there are hundreds of billions of galaxy's.. And yet some of you think there is a Divine being, a GOD out there who cares about little old you and what you do in your day to day business.. GET OVER YOURSELF> YOU ARE NOT THAT SPECIAL.

    April 11, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Jay

      We don't think....We know!

      April 11, 2011 at 11:50 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61
Advertisement
About this blog

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.