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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. Corie Robe

    He sounds like a belief for a lot of people, regardless of whether or not it's "truth" the Bible is a good thing for people to learn morals from. Or so I hear. I am not from a religious back ground, nor am I religious. But to an extent, it has helped many people. Then again, you get creeps like Shirley Phelps with the Westboro Baptist Church who protest in the "Name of God." To me, God sounds like the opinions of millions of people.
    I choose to believe in living a happy and prosperous life, adventurous, with my family. To not focus on the after life, but what I do with my life and the people I love now. That's what counts.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  2. Jana

    Humans and primates have to consume vitamin C in their diet because they lack the necessary enzymes to produce their own Vitamin C. Enzymes are proteins that are made through transcription and translation of DNA (Biology 101). If a gene is missing for a necessary enzyme or if a mutated version creates a dysfunctional protein, then the human or primate will not be able to produce a normal enzymatic reaction with the desired product (Vitamin C). This is the same for other essential vitamins and fatty acids such as linoleic acid, which we consume in our diet. However, we do produce the majority our own Vitamin D by the reaction of our skin with sunlight. Energy from UV light turns 7-Dehydrocholesterol in our skin into cholecalciferol. This goes through enzymatic reactions in the liver and kidney to produce a final product of Vitamin D. If any of the genes that produce these enzymes are dysfunctional, then the person will have a Vit D deficiency. For anyone who doubts the existence of genes, you can just do a quick google search and research all of this on your own. I happen to know about nutrition and science b/c I was a biology major, have my master's degree in public health, and I'm in medical school. Not only that, but I attend a Catholic medical school and I am Christian. You can definitely love science and be Christian. They are not mutually exclusive.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  3. Andrew

    I am a Christian and I have no doubts about evolution. I attend a pentecostal church 3 times a week in NJ and last Sunday night during bible study I happened to interject and tell a group of 30 people they were wrong. It did not go so well. After having read and studied the evidence for evolution for so long, it is as clear as the day is bright that God did in fact create biological life through the process of evolution. And on a larger scheme, the whole universe through a process of a cosmological evolution. This in no way diminishes my faith in the Lord, if anything, it adds to it as the process itself is brilliant. To all Christians out there: stop denying reality. the universe does not revolve around us. Maybe God made it that way to humble us. Just as I am in awe of the stars at night, I am in awe of God's power through his creation. It's a show like no other.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  4. Rev. Robert Waters

    It should be noted, parenthetically, that Darwinian evolution is, by definition, random. As Darwin formulated it, and as most scientists (especially in academia) advocate it, the theory excludes the possibility of the process being guided by a God. Advocates of theistic evolution should be aware of this before they confuse their beliefs on the subject with Darwin's- or with that of "orthodox" Darwinians!

    April 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • joe

      No, its not. The process of evolution is governed by natural selection, in which organisms evolve new traits or behaviors that better suit them to their enviroment, and pass them on to their offspring. Those offspring therefore have a better chance of surviving (due to the traits that their parents gave them that allow them to be better adapted to their environment.) and of passing those special traits to their offspring, and so the process goes. To quote a previous post here (brian)

      "I can show anyone that evolution exists, by taking fruit flies, andputting them in a negatively pressurized container. Many of the flies will die instantly, but the few that survive, will produce offspring, many of which will also die, but of which a few will live. Over generations, the container will gradually refill with fruit flies that have adapted to live in a negatively-pressurized environment."

      Does that seem random? Or does that seem like a natural response to an enviromental change?

      Creationists always try that argument, that "Oh if its all just random then how did all this happen?" Just like the old "well, i didn't come from a monkey!" Both ideas = WRONG. They're extremely simplified versions of ideas people don't fully understand and are only used to anger their flock. Weak.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Nonimus

      What Joe said. The Theory of Evolution (TOE) is not random. There are random mutations sure, but whether those mutation are beneficial or not is determined by natural selection, in that they reproduce more or less than there non-mutated neighbors.

      And also, I don't think the TOE excludes the possibility of God guiding the process, it just states that God is not necessary. How's that? Well, even though natural selection makes the determination of who is well-adapted in TOE, if God actually intervened and say killed off a particular member of a species that had a very specific mutation, He could prevent any descendants of that mutation, whether it would have been beneficial the the natural world or not. In essence, Divine Selection. I'm guessing that such intervention would not leave any evidence either. Seems a bit cruel of God, but it fits, I think.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  5. Anna2

    Other people are writing nonsense in my name.

    Just ignore everything that sounds stupid. Thanks.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  6. Anna2

    Is this a custom here to flag your opponent's posts so nobody can see it and write nonsense in their name instead? If so, this is a very sad place.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  7. cameron smart

    Its funny to see Atheist because God describes them perfect in the Bible. In a simple phrase, Atheist are blind to the truth. You can not find God before He finds you. So I never argue with Atheist its pointless until they are ready. You must come to God like a child and be reborn. Now if you are a seeker of truth. Pray. Tell God I dont know if you really exist. I have a hard time believing but if you do. Give me wisdom and a sign. Im hurting and I need you. Then shut up and listen.

    God Bless my atheist and seeker brothers and sisters,

    Cameron

    April 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  8. Don Higgins

    The premise of this article demonstrates that the author does not understand Christianity. Jesus would not "believe" in anything, simply because, as God, He knows it. Through Him all things were made. If all things were made through Him, then his knowledge of them would be absolute. Mr. Ph.D., how do you presume to write for Jesus if you don't have the foggiest notion of His nature according to Christianity?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • joe

      dude, you're splitting hairs here. The author is just saying "what would jesus believe" in reference to the popular "what would jesus do" catchphrase. Reread the end of the article.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  9. attentionreader

    "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."

    I haven't read through every comment, so I don't know if this has been addressed. But has it occurred to anyone that perhaps humans' concept of time is vastly different from God's concept of time? I'm by no means a religious person, nor have I read the bible, but I know the general story of Creation. It's something to ponder.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  10. johndrock

    Jesus created the world in Genesis He is the Word spoken, in Gospel of John The Word becomes Flesh which is Jesus. so No reason for Jesus to believe in Evolution when Evolution does not exist and Jesus created the Word and God said it was good.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "...Evolution does not exist..."
      Perhaps Jesus created it

      April 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  11. jayinbk

    what matters is a persons faith....if somoene does have belief in jesus,and all written in the bible,let them live...if u are an aethiest,or agnostic, I really dont care..to each their own... I say, do what works for you.. If you believe in christ,with all your heart, then by all means, believe,and pray,and fast, if not, do what works for you....as a christian man, I do what works for me.. No need for insutling,or bashing....or even cussing....

    April 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • The Truth

      That's cool but the thing is that far too many people who believe in God don't feel as you do but rather they look down on people that don't believe and even take overt action within society against those that don't believe (ex: anti-abortionists). That's the problem.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  12. Brian

    The debate over whether or not evolution exists has been laid to rest, at least within the scientific community, any biologist will tell you that the 'theory' (read: a collection of separate, yet related hypotheses each of which has been proven through multiple, independent empirical studies) of evolution is true, and that it is an ongoing process to this day. A chimpanzee did not wake up one day with a perfectly formed set of vocal cords, the skeletal and muscular frame to support rear-leg ambulation, and a slightly larger, more efficient brain. This process of selective mutation occurred over millions of years, across many generations, and across species. This concept does not de facto disprove the existence of a god or the Christian God. The argument is over biogenesis, or how life itself began, not over whether or not evolution exists. I can show anyone that evolution exists, by taking fruit flies, andputting them in a negatively pressurized container. Many of the flies will die instantly, but the few that survive, will produce offspring, many of which will also die, but of which a few will live. Over generations, the container will gradually refill with fruit flies that have adapted to live in a negatively-pressurized environment.

    The Bible was written long before the scientific method was even conceived, so to suggest that the Bible contains words of scientific truth is like suggesting that Shakespeare's plays make excellent computer manuals.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • kabendro

      After all those generations of fruit flies, and what do you have? More fruit flies. You've proven the evolution of the fruit fly and nothing else.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Perhaps you mean a low-pressure environment. Negatively-pressurized would seem to indicate less pressure than a vacuum.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  13. derp

    What does god sound like?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  14. Anna2

    I bet not many of you has a stalker impersonatorn here on the board but I do. I must have stepped on his/her toes. LOL

    April 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Anna2

      You are a troll! Stop posting as me!

      April 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  15. Frespech

    The fact that mankinds brain is far beyond it's nearest supposed genetic link should give one pause for thought. Do you for one second believe than in 10 billion years todays ape decendants will be flying aircraft. I don't.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  16. joaquindemancha

    Theist arguments on both sides are so trite. What an overrated book club! Check out the dialogue between scientists and the Dalai Lama about the nature of mind instead.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  17. Anna2

    Spaghetti doesn't fly and there's no teapot in an asteroid belt. That's ridiculous. You can't prove they exist so why talk about it?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Anna2

      Just ignore the rambling of my stalker. Too bad there is no registration on this board.

      April 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Anna2

      Stop telling people I'm not me and stop posting as me. If you don't like what I say then don't respond.

      April 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Anna2

      Wow, I have seen creeps like you on other boards. I didn't think a science board would let this happen.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Anna2

      Could you leave me alone? I don't curse, I say my opinion the way I think it and you troll me. What are you afraid of?

      April 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Devonship

      No wonder America is falling behind. Other people in the world accept science as progress but America is becoming like the Arab countries during the Renaissance and stopping progress because it conflicts with religion. It's like arguing the shape of the world with somebody who doesn't have the basic knowledge and skills to understand a satellite photo when they see it. At least you have Jesus.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  18. Robert

    I sometimes question whether their is a god or theism that people should live according to but in my opinion their isn't a being that man is cognizant of. That being said it shouldn't give man the authority to rule without morale and empathy for other human beings. The knowledge of their being a good keeps human in recognizing their actions as being good or bad and if that is needed to keep man in order than humans must know their is a god.

    April 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  19. Anna2

    What are scientists anyway? What's the difference between scientists and theologians? Who has produced more for society? Theologians produce everlasting life for others whereas Scientists produce Ipods and Hummers. Theologians do it for the sake of mankind but why do scientists do what they do?

    April 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • derp

      Theologians produce everlasting life? I thought god did that?

      Ever been to a doctor? Yeah, that kind of sciency stuff is pretty helpful, no?

      April 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Anna2

      Theologians produce everlasting life by studying the bible and telling other people what they think about it. Scientists produce doubt and make people think that there can be other reasons for things than God. I mean, a vitamin C gene? We don't make vitamin C we buy it at the grocery store! What next? We make Vitamin D?

      April 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • The Truth

      Anna2, you are a prime example of someone who REALLY needs to go to godisimaginary and read every page there.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Anna2

      The Truth, tell this to the creep who is using my name.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • HM2

      The afterlife is NOTHING more than childish wishfull thinking. There is absolutely no evidence for consciousness after brain death.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Anna2

      Pay no attention to my troll. Why would I go to a page that says god is imaginary? I'm taking a chemistry class in high school and my teacher was telling me about atoms and how they just developed the technology in the last 70 years to see them. Well god has been around much longer than that! Atoms don't evolve so how can groups of atoms called organisms evolve? It's stupid.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Anna2,
      Not sure if this is feeding, as in "don't feed the trolls," but you seem to be contradicting yourself.

      You question what good are scientists, and then make a statement like,
      "We don't make vitamin C we buy it at the grocery store!" How do you get fruit in winter? Science! Agriculture, ships, trucks, refrigeration, etc. How do you get vitamin pills? Science!

      April 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Devonship

      I am wondering if this is troll feeding too but I know for a fact that we do make Vitamin D....from sunlight.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • CB1111

      Because they love truth. Many love God and actually do it because they love discovering the mysteries of God's creation.

      April 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  20. Anna2

    Word of mouth is a verifiable certifiable use of fact. They use word of mouth in a court of law why not use it in the bible? No, of course I wasn't really there but I've read accounts from people who saw people who heard people who were there or heard people tell tales about being there. That's good enough for me!

    April 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Anna2

      The word of mouth in the bible is nothing like the word of mouth of UFO's or Bigfoot! People saw god or heard voices from god and wrote about it in the bible. They weren't drunk or abducted like Bigfoot-Ufo people.

      April 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Anna2

      I feel like a celebrity. I have a STALKER. LOL

      Must be a school kid. Just ignore it.

      April 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Actually, I think in a court of law word of mouth is called "hearsay" and is not allowed as evidence. I would think that doc.umentation, such as the Bible, would only be useful for facts if it were verified by other sources, or shown to be similar to a recording, such as video, audio, or court reporter transcripts; other source would be hearsay, or presented as state-of-mind evidence, but not facts.
      Although, I am not a lawyer (IANAL) in any sense.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:54 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.