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. UncelM

    Further compelling evidence in these responses that fundie christians are dumber than monkeys. Sadly they're much more dangerous.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  2. Army Grunt

    why do christians take the story of creation literally? trying to discover how awesome and complex God created world doesn't seem like such a bad thing

    April 10, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • JPC

      II agree. I think that the strongest argument for intelligent design is the fact that the universe operates so smoothly, that the original laws of physics gave rise to a Big Bang and an expanding universe wherein complex structures like galaxies, stars and planets would spontaneously form, where complex chemical reactions could occur, eventually leading to the development of life, and that those life forms could evolve over billions of years into intelligent creatures who would someday ponder their own origins.

      The universe envisioned by creationists sounds less like a well-designed machine and more like an old jalopy that you can barely drive off the lot before it breaks down and needs towing, what with all the discussion in their circles about entropy, irreducible complexity, the inability for the laws of physics to do pretty much anything interesting, and an interminable series of fiat miracles required to keep the thing running.

      So, in my opinion (as a profesisonal scientist) I think the creationists and ID advocates are in fact using the argument that most strongly undercuts the conclusion they're trying to support!

      April 10, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • El Kababa

      Let us imagine that our universe was somehow programmed to produce the things that we see around us: galaxies, stars, planets, coyotes, yuccas, gorillas, humans, etc. There is nothing in the concept to suggest that a Hebrew God named Yahweh would be powering and maintaining the universe. Why should we assume that the "intelligence" that you see in the design of the universe should be attributed to Him? Any of humanity's gods would be just as likely a candidate. I would think that the Roman God Jupiter or the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl would be equally likely candidates. Why do you not see THEIR intelligence instead of Yahweh's?

      There is nothing TO the concept of intelligent design that I can see. It is just sophistry. It is an awkward intellectual workaround by which Christians claim to see God in the universe that science has discovered – even though He doesn't seem to be there.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  3. Two Witnesses

    This question is a no-brainer. Evolution is the natural order and selection of all things organic. Humans do not fall under the rules of natural order and selection because we were elevated and illuminated by the Almighty. It tells you these very simple facts right there in the very first Chapter of the Bible. Get a clue.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Q

      How can you possibly believe humans aren't subject to natural selection? We can see the evidence right in our own genomes, from lactose intolerance to sickle-cell to any number of other interesting anomalies...

      April 10, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  4. John White

    If evolution is true then God must be a careless, cruel and unforgiving God. This God that the evolutionist writer believes in puts death before Adam and Eve's original sin which is a heresy. This God cannot get things right the first time. This God requires lesser species to die off so that stronger ones can exist. This God believes that some races are stronger than others….Did not Stalin and Hitler believe in evolution also? Evolution is a dangerous lie and needs to be treated as such. The God I believe in is so powerful that creating a universe and everything in it can be done in 6 days…and HE did not even break a sweat when he did it! Do not try and limit the power of God because HE has no limits!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Edwin

      John White: yes, Stalin and Hitler believed in evolution (to my best of knowledge). Stalin also believed in the right of the Church to exist (simple Wikipedia lookup). If you damn evolution because Stalin believed in it, you must also damn the church by the same logic.

      Even a crazy or evil man can sometimes hold a logical or compassionate thought.

      It is also true that evolution requires the concept of death to have happened before original sin. Evolution generalizes the concept of Adam and Eve, negating the literal Garden of Eden story. The creation of the world through evolution is a far more complicated and dynamic story - it requires God to have complex reasoning power.

      Do not assume God is stupid. He is truly smart enough to use evolutionary paths to create a desired outcome.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  5. Indisbelief

    Since when was the "Theory" of evolution proved? The author of this story seems to act as if this theory is fact which it is not.

    Just another biased report, and from the fring of religion as well.....way to go.....

    April 10, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • Edwin

      Indisbelief: the "Theory" of Evolution, as you put it, is in fact not proven. NO scientific theory is ever PROVEN.

      Gravity is a Theory, and it has not been proven. Yes, the evidence is strong, but there is no PROOF that gravity is the cause. It could be a form of gremlin that lives in most kinds of objects, and the gremlins get lonely sometimes (causing what we mistakenly think is gravity).

      In the same sense, Evolution is not proven. The evidence is very strong (including biological, chemical, and mathematical evidence), but there is no proof. Scientific theories are called theory because they can be supplanted and improved.

      For example, the Theory of Gravity was proven wrong. Several hundred years of research did not take quantum mechanics into consideration (because it was not known) - so Newtonian Mechanics (which described Gravity) was flawed. It is still a useful approximation, but it is not the "truth."

      Darwinian Evolution is likewise wrong. It has been modified over the years - we now know about DNA - and it is the better for it. The modern theory of evolution will likewise be proven "wrong" someday soon - a better understanding in the next few years of protein structures will likely improve upon our current understanding. But the replacement theory will still be evolution - just a more complete version.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  6. douglas

    jesus was the son of god (lol) he would obviously believe in evolution because he would know it to be true.

    fascinating to me that someone who appears to be as intelligent as this author still clings to belief of a mythical creature setting all of this up. if he replaced GOD with another being, this man would be treated for psychosis. USE YOUR BRAIN!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  7. Niall

    If scientific evidence actually supported creationist thinking and the classic story of creation, and more so the resurrection, then that would be direct evidence of a Christian God making need for faith meaningless. Faith would become science. Faith in Christ is the heart of Christianity, so opposing evolution and any other scientific evidence that doesn't support bible stories is actually opposing the idea of faith without evidence, and is an inherently anti-Christian stance.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  8. Joel

    This is such a dumb article. How can a person justify that Jesus would believe in evolution? Do you know how god thinks? Do you know He said my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts? You see when you talk about God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit a person needs to back it up scripturally. The only way to back up God is by his word. By taking a small portion of scripture, which is out of context, and trying to justify God views is heresy. This guy's evidence has nothing to do with the bible. It's all based on his own biased viewpoint of evolution, based on Darwin's theory. By saying that man began in Africa is not correct either because the four rivers that are mentioned in Genesis are centered in present day Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. Also how can he say the Bible doesn't explain the beginning? It may not explain it in a "scientific" way but if you look at the days God created life in Genesis it all fits wonderfully! Believing is seeing! God is wonderful!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  9. Reshapethehumancondition

    Let's for the moment forget the specifics of evolution and look at the picture from a different angle. How would a man of faith explain the bones of human ancestors found by scientists? If God really did create Earth in six days approx. 6,000 years ago then why are there bones of human ancestors that are dated to be much older? My favorite response that I have heard is "The bones were put there by God in order to test mans faith in him."

    April 10, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Philip Boabang

      How do we know the bones were not plat there by scientist themselves, to make gullible like you believe that the bones were 1billions years old? Really a over a millions years old bones still existing on the earth sorry Mr. Reshapethehumancondition you deceive.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  10. Samuel Stack

    Evolution does not contradict the Bible unless you force an unreasonable interpretation on that ancient book.

    And yet just before you said that science says life started in africa millions of years ago and not thousands of years ago in the middle east like genesis says... hmmm....

    April 10, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Edwin

      Samuel: until very recently, christians viewed Genesis not as literal fact but as a parable - a story that informed people about the inherent nature of christianity. The bible has plenty of parts that are not taken literally - why is it so important to you that you take this piece exactly literally?

      If taken figuratively, Genesis talks about creation by God, with a different time frame than a literal seven days. Those "days" could mean anything - only a literalist requires them to be 24 hour periods. Evolution does not preclude the Hand of God.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Samuel Stack


      You completely missed the point. I do take Genesis literally, but that isn't what my statement meant. What I meant was that the author of this article contradicted himself by saying that the Bible doesn't contradict science when earlier in his article, he identified one of the contradictions. The problem with relativism in our society is that people, such as this author, fail to see the fallacies in their own logic.

      April 10, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  11. Dr. T

    I'd like to point out that it was not Galileo who said "The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." Galileo would have agreed with that statement (his letter to the Grand Duchess Christina is essentially a long essay with this as the main point). But that phrase was actually coined by a Catholic Cardinal in Galileo's day. I'm not sure which one, thought it was definitely NOT Roberto Bellarmine, who would eventually press the case for a formal heresy charge against Galileo.

    Also, it is important to realize that Galileo got in trouble with the Church because he pushed for the TRUTH (in an absolute sense) of the heliocentric view. In doing so he was willing to reinterpret Scripture. During the Counterreformation this kind of thing did not go over well with the Catholic Church. I'm not trying to defend the actions of the Church – they clearly overreacted and got themselves into a bad situation (just as Galileo warned they would). But Galileo brought the fight into their territory. It's not like the Church was on a big crusade against heliocentrism, at least not until AFTER Galileo stirred things up.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Sam

      So basically, what you are saying is that just because you have a PhD and write for CNN doesn't mean you have all of your facts right? I'm an academic myself, but it drives me nuts that people don't think for themselves and don't question those who claim to be authorities on a topic.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  12. Dan

    Too many people pushing evolution fail to tell the full story. First of all, Evolution is a "Theory", fabricated by humans to explain their existence, a theory with weak foundations. From the beginning of recorded history we have witnessed that life comes from pre-existing life. To assert that life spontaneously arose from non-living chemicals is ridiculous. Anyone with even a layman's knowledge of deoxyribonucleic/ribonucleic acids and proteins, the foundations of a cell, would know that the probability of their forming by chance is absolutely astronomical, about 1 in 1 million billion, a person would have a better chance of getting to the moon by walking. Which came first, the chicken (proteins) or the egg (RNA)? each one requires the other to function. RNA is needed to make the proteins and the proteins are involved in the production of RNA. Even if, with the extremely insignificant chance that not just one but both appeared by chance, in the exact same place, at the exact same time, how likely would it be that they would cooperate to form a self replicating, self-sustaining type of life? "The probability of this happening by chance (given a random mixture of proteins and RNA) seems astronomically low yet, most researchers seem to assume that if they can make sense of the independent production of proteins and RNA under natural primordial conditions, the coordination will somehow take care of itself" Dr. Carol Cleland at NASA stated. The scriptures state in clear logic that life is the product of an intelligent mind; "Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God" (Hebrews 3:4). And "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom has thou made them all....So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts." – Psalm 104:24, 25. And where do the instructions in DNA to reproduce come from? From undirected chance events? Highly unlikely. King David described this when speaking of God saying “Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing, as regards the days when they were formed and there was not yet one among them.” – Psalm 139:16 Science clearly confirms what is written in the scriptures, life was created by a loving caring creator, whose name translated from the Tetragrammaton to English is Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18; Exodus 6:3; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4) For all those interested in knowing the truth of the matter, the next time the Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking on your door, ask them about the publication “The Origin Of Life – five questions worth asking” which I cite material from in this post. It gives a very clear, scientifically logical explanation.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • FifthApe

      Dan said:

      "First of all, Evolution is a "Theory""

      Yup it sure is. And this statement shows that you could not have made it out of grade 8 science class with a passing grade. You don't even understand how the term Theory is used in science.

      HINT: Its called Atomic Theory and yet we power our houses and build bombs with it.

      Boy are you STUPID.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Q

      Your post is a composite of standard creationist talking points beginning with a "just a theory" and then proceeding into probability incredulity arguments (based on severe misconceptions of the actual state of abiogenesis research).

      "It gives a very clear, scientifically logical explanation." You're clearly in no position to make this assessment...

      April 10, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  13. kap

    Neither side is right, and anybody who believes that we (as a race) even remotely exhibit any of the attributes that can be linked to a society that either seeks, or is governed by “truth” is in total denial of it… which is just about everybody.

    Left to our own intellect, we will be extinct in just a few more generations.

    God help us!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  14. El Kababa

    Jesus was just a man who did not know that bacteria causes disease. He used magic to cure diseases instead of medication. He didn't know what caused tooth decay, epilepsy, mental illness (he cast out demons and sent them into pigs), etc. He gave no clue that he knew that the earth went round the sun instead of the other way around. He told his followers (to the extent that he actually said the things attributed to him in the Gospels) nothing that was unknown in those ignorant days. He said nothing that revealed any of the truths of nature to his followers.

    He was just a guy. His philoslophy was unremarkable. On the other hand, the philosophy invented by the philosophers and scholars of the early Catholic Church was quite remarkable. They expanded Christianity far beyond the narrow vision of Jesus, who only wanted to expel the Romans from Israel. Jesus gave no indication that he anticipated Christianity. If Jesus were alive today, he'd be a Jew, not a Christian. He would be fighting against Palestinian settlements and trying to get Muslims out of Jerusalem.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • I had to laugh

      It made me laugh out loud that you can believe Jesus was just a man (i.e discounting the possibility of divinity), yet believe he could perform magic. I'd say that's like me saying "Cats can fly, but only green ones", and you're only issue would be that there are no green cats.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • ttwp

      From what I read in the Gospels Christ clearly indicates that he came to give his life for our sins. I see nothing about kicking the Romans out of Jersusalem. Where did you get that idea from?

      April 10, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • FistedSister

      @ I had to laugh, I see that you're looking for a logical fallacy, for some reason, but I'm not sure you understand that magic is just an illusion that produces some sort of believable looking results. In fact, it's readily performed exclusively by mortals. I think it was implied that Jesus was a sort of ancient magician.
      Magic: "the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc"

      April 10, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  15. Joel Jackson

    Why does CNN always have stories "attacking" fundamental Christian beliefs? CNN never offers editorials from conservative Christian thinkers. They always print stories from people attacking fundamental Christian beliefs or those from "liberal" Christians that always suggest that there is something wrong with the conclusions of conservative Christians. CNN is less "fair and balanced' then even NPR.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Edwin

      Joel: how is disbelief in evolution fundamental to christianity? I thought the fundamentals concerned Jesus' relationship with humanity, not nitpicking interpretations of the Bible.

      But to address your complaint more directly: this is CNN's "Belief Blog" - where they question beliefs. They have had writers before who argued in favor of Creationism before, so why do you think it is somehow unfair when one argues in favor of Evolution? Your idea of fair seems to be to only allow one side to speak - or are you simply ignorant of all the other articles posted by CNN?

      April 10, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  16. Roger

    I always love reading the comments here it really highlights how stupid most Americans are when it comes to science, well among the faithful anyway. With a statement like "No one can re-create the big bang in the science lab or much of anything else that evolutionists believe. Therefore evolution is not a science." How can anyone with even a basic elementary school education not facepalm at that. But since the universities refuse to "Lower themselves" and give credibility to Creationists they are free to spread their propaganda, but It is sill a minority I think so I guess for the time being i will still view it as what it is, popcorn chuckles.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Aloysius

      What about the Jesuit priest that first postulated the big bang?

      April 10, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Ryan

      The theory of evolution is not the same as the Big Bang Theory. Just thought you would like to know, Please educate yourself before you post on here for other people to see and pass judgement on yourself

      April 10, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  17. mbzarl

    It's important to remember that Christianity isn't single-minded on this one. The Catholic Church supports evolution.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Wings of a Dove

      Amen! John Paul II in Fides et Ratio stressed that faith and reason are like two wings of a dove – a symbiotic relationship producing flight. If God didn't want us to use reason and science, why would he have created us to be thinking creatures? He wants us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves – two winged doves of course!

      I encourage everyone who lumps all of Christianity under the Creationist banner to investigate the Catholic Church, which traditionally (despite the fiasco fo Galileo, which is really the only thing people are ever able to point out – when in fact Galileo was chastised by the Church for what they thought was bad science, not bad theology) embraced scientific truths with open arms and reads the Bible with an open mind about what God is telling us, not with clunky literal eyes – especially in the past century.

      Truth is never contradictory! Jesus wouldn't believe in evolution, he IS evolution – the Logos (rationality, Word) through which his creation flourishes!

      April 10, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  18. knower of all things

    you are all going to hell for believing in science!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  19. Frank S

    Finally, a religious approach that does not promote Creationism. How refreshing. BTW, as far as what car would Jesus drive, I think it would either be a bullet-proof Cadillac to protect from jihadists, or a Prius.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |
  20. Dawn Castle

    I think jesus would not care one way or another.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Philip Boabang

      I am sorry it take more faith to believe in evolution than to believe in creation. I believe the article above was written by you, I hope you did not stick your laptop or desktop in a dynamite, blew it up an lo and behold this article was generated. First of all, Evolution has not been proven to be true it just a theory, point out one person who has observe evolution and i will be a believer. You see, Modern Scholar try to use unfounded theory such as evolution to dispute the Bible , The central premise of the Bible is not that is factual but it is true, One Bible Scholar said, "Bible embodies some of the deepest and the most profound truth of the human condition, what it is to be in the wilderness, what it is to hope for a promise land what to escape slavery(sin) and to be be both bewildered and exhilarated by the prospect of freedom. " You see the story in the Bible is sacred and inspired by God, Please do not use science to dispute God and his creation if anything use science to study his creation, for God's invisible attributes are seen through all creations.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Frank S

      Phillip, Phillip, Phillip. I realize it is pointless to argue with you because religious zealotry is not about logic, it is about blind faith. So Congratulations, dude! You want your kids to be raised in a school system or more likely home-schooled so they will be Creationists, that should be your problem. The problem is, generally, the Creationists want to make it official to screw up all the schools in the country with that cr*p. Keep Creationism in the church, where it belongs.

      April 10, 2011 at 11:22 am |
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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.