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. joe wilson

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFXmlH85Sb0&w=480&h=390%5D

    April 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  2. tonyII

    I find most religious Americans are happy seeing and believing that Atomic Power stations work. But the same Atomic theories show that the light we see each other by today, was formed in the center of the Sun several million years ago.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  3. Mike

    What God and Jesus teaches us, in the Holy Bible, is the complete opposite of evolution or theory. I don't quite understand this editorial or commentary on what Jesus would believe concerning evolution. Throughout the Holy Bible, it is made perfectly clear, that everything was made by God.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Mattmchugh

      Sure. But "how" is the question of science. Faith is all about the "why.". Very different questions, with very different approaches.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  4. George

    Are you talking about Macro-Evolution? If so, there is a lot of debate over the possibility that Macro ever happened. Even Stephen J. Gould said it was impossible and told of his Punctuated Equilibrium ideas.
    If you are talking about Micro-evolution then I agree. Change within a kind in happening all around us.
    However, can the change we see in micro explain what is needed to have macro?
    Evolution Under Fire, Science Vol. 210, 21 November 1980: "The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlining Micro-evolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of Macro-Evolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, NO!"
    As one who has a science degree from a secular university, I say it is still a very clear NO!

    April 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Chad

      Glad to see the reference to micro-evolution. That is what Darwin proved the bulk of his research was on relations of birds on the Galapogos Islands that he only studied for a few months.

      People also fail to recite the full name of Darwin's work "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" ....yeah read it and see what he was all about. Not meaning to play the race card but hey that is what Darwin believed and used some of his writings to infer that South American and African natives were on a lower rung of his evolution scale to be educated ...that is contrary to Christ's view of different races of people as all being God's Children.

      I've read both "On the Origin of the Species...." and the "Bible". Of which I would say it takes greater faith to take what Darwin says and believe it as a foundation for macro-evolution than to follow the Bible. I'm not a "religious" person but say that Intelligent Design is very clear and even gaining much more support in academia as evolution fails to answer many questions.

      Questions like the creation of the first cell, even a simple amino acid? From a muck of goo?

      April 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  5. Hurley

    In another 100 years religions will adjust their doctrine to include evolution. The catholic church is already headed this way. At some point you just have to face facts (like how the Universe doesn't revolve around the Earth). Don't worry, you guys will find something else to deny in the face of the obvious.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  6. RealityDoesntGoAway

    A terrible premise for an article. Why don't you ask a question that indicates a better understanding of evolution, that it isn't "believed" in anymore than Germ Theory or Gravitational Theory?

    "Would Jesus try to understand evolution?"

    Although I doubt Jesus would try to understand gravity, since it would then disprove his ascent to "Heaven"

    April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  7. AtheistSteve

    By Thor's Hammer if I hear one more uneducated simpleton spout "but evolution is just a theory" I'm gonna gouge out my own eyeballs. Try to wrap your head around the idea that in science the word "theory" means "model". Weathermen use climate models to predict tomorrows weather and compared to evolution the climate models are far, far more chaotic and unpredictable. Millions of pieces of evidence and data from a dozen different scientific disciplines conform exactly to what the theory of evolution predicts and to deny it's validity is pure lunacy. Evolution did happen, mankind is decendant from a common ape ancestor and despite what you may believe the evidence is everywhere you look. Take for example EVERY single vertabrate creature on the planet(everything with a spine) whether it's a salmander, fish, mouse, bird, turtle, deer, giraffe, ape, buffalo or elephant EVERY last one is bi-laterally symetrical with 2 eyes, a nose, a mouth, 4 limbs and a tail. Some snakes have vestigal limb bones, some whales have vestigal hip bones and we have a remnant tail bone(which are in themselves perfect examples of adaptation by evolution). Not a single deviation from the same body pattern. That alone speaks to a common ancestor. If God had truly made each creature in it's "kind" then why aren't there many varieties of body pattern such as 1 or 3 eyes, 6 or 8 limbs(if someone tries to mention bugs here remember that I'm talking only about vertabrates) or any other physical characteristic that doesn't fit this pattern. You can't find even one....because it doesn't exist.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Martin

      The real problem is not the uneducated simpletons that spout this its the religious leaders and people spreading the word. It is people spreading this lie so as people keep buying the literature and keeping these creationists in jobs with big salaries.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  8. James the Just

    Man's worst problem is elevating himself to GOD'S level. If one reads closely in Genesis it confirms what science has found; man came from the dirt. A radical point of view for a particular religion but it matches perfectly with the "we are all star dust" reality of man's mineral make up (calcium, iron, and so on). GOD created light early in Genesis and then created the sun, moon and stars latter on in Genesis 1. What was the "first" Light created by GOD? The WORD, spirit, soul, a means of understanding knowledge and a means of understanding GOD. The Light is the LAWs of GOD. The simple story of creation in Genesis is far more complicated than scholars and science gives it credit for and evangelical Christians take the simple route because most of them simply DO NOT understand the scripture. http://www.yahwehyeshua.com

    April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  9. Mr. Wilkins

    Just for you guys, I'll stop the apocalypse. Matthew 24:36 eh? Well I know that the end is tomorrow. But if it doesn't happen tomorrow then it will happen the next day. If not, then the next. So on and so forth into infinity. There, you're welcome, now the apocalypse will never come.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  10. Rob

    I personally think that it's offensive to God to deny something that's obviously true. Evolution happens. The jury is in. How does it benefit your faith to deny the patently obvious?

    April 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • George

      Are you talking about Micro or Macro evolution. Micro, yes I agree it is happening everywhere. (Change within a kind) Macro, no. (change from one kind to another) Stephen J. Gould doubted Marco and said it was instead Punctuated Equilibrium, which I doubt.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Sigmund

      Evolution is real. It happens all the time: for example, when we overuse antibiotics and cause bacteria to evolve resistance to them. The burden of proof is on the evolution denialists to explain what magical mechanism they believe has stopped creatures from evolving, as they would naturally do based on everything we know about biology.

      There is no distinction between "micro" and "macro" evolution. A "species" is a particular interbreeding population of organisms in a particular habitat at a particular time... but there are no bright lines between species. We know that many closely related species can interbreed (horses and donkeys, lions and tigers, etc.). This is because they are cousins, evolutionarily speaking, with common ancestry.

      Evolution denialists have a kind of Platonic concept of species as eternal and unchanging. But the fossil record and DNA evidence make it abundantly clear that species do change. As time goes by, the evidence for evolution just gets better and better.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  11. Stsa

    The author incorrectly writes that science began in17th century. Much of scientific knowledge of that time was transferred from Muslims in Spain.
    There is another reasonable explanation for the similarity of genes between humans and other animals. They were all created by the same God. This is a proof of the existence of God who designed everything in the similar design.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • tffl

      Similar _broken_ design? Seems like a pretty silly argument...

      April 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Martin

      God is infallible according to Christian writings and the bible. If so why are there so many totally screwed up genes in animals causing great pain and death. And No it had nothing to do with one little piece of fruit and a talking serpent.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  12. The Jackdaw

    Man created God, not the other way around.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  13. Nate

    We all lack perspective. Just take a few steps back. We humans inhabit one 1 out of 8 planets revolving around 1 star out of billions in our galaxy, of which billions exist just like it. Those facts are inarguable. If you truly think that you, or all of us are "chosen" or put here for a reason, step back, and look at the bigger picture. If at that point you don't say "...wow...", then you are close-minded and choose which facts to believe in.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Martin

      well said

      April 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  14. alpharowe3

    Its not about "believing" in evolution its about acknowledging it as a sound and currently best and only theory explaining how biology works.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • bucricket

      But it is a theory and not a law so this whole idea that evolution is truth is weakening science. If assumptions of science are based on evolution, which is a theory, I believe it a very dangerous and damaging idea to science. That all said I don't believe that we could even prove evolution to be absolute truth no more than you can prove that God created all things at his command. Therefore science at its present state takes faith, in fact more faith than believing in a creator.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Rob

      Walking on water wasn't built in a day.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  15. tony

    Believe what you want to believe. I have never seen a book written by evolutionists that was full of only Good. Take the bible and just the commandments, If you try and live by them I promise you will be a better person wether you are in Heaven or just dirt.

    April 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • tonyII

      "I am jealous God . . ", Jealous of What???

      April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • one and a half tony

      tony II...Quit stalking tony and refrain from shoving your unbelief down his throat!

      April 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Martin

      Living by a code of common decency means you can live with most of the 10 commandments. But working of the Sunday is not going to get you killed

      April 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  16. tonyII

    If the religious would only keep their faith to themselves, Earth would be a much happier and better place. You don't see atheists trying to exert control over others by going around knocking on doors, building houses of disbelief, or begging for money so their leaders don't have to work. A pox on all your houses!!!

    April 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • joe wilson

      their houses of disbelief are public schools! DO YOU NOT SEE THAT THE HERETICS HAVE TAKEN AWAY OUR SCHOOLS FROM GOD???

      April 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  17. Alex

    Jesus is our God and he created us
    Jesus or God are the same thing,around 5500 years,he created us

    April 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Tommy2

      Blind Faith is bad for your health.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Martin

      Look up Delusional Alex and apply it to your self. The only people believing the earth is not old are creationists, a cult of the wider Christian religion. People like Ken Ham are not interested in what folk believe, they just want you dollars to have a good life. Science is the way forward, embrace it and come out of the bronze age way of thinking

      April 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  18. Mattmchugh

    The Bible says the Earth is flat and the Heavens fixed objects in the dome of the Firmament. All but most virulently delusional of Fundmentalist Christians accept that is a metaphorical rather than a literal description of reality. The origin of life by long process, rather than rapid creation, is a observable truth as plain as a heliocentric cosmos. It's just a matter of time before the faith-matrix of the holdouts readjusts to accommodate that. You can still believe God created the world. You just need to grasp that He went about a little differently than the old stories suggest. That's all.

    Scientists aren't trying to take away your faith. They're just trying to help you let go of your childish focus on literalism. They're trying help you grow up.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Neverdothis

      um scripture reference for the earth being flat please?

      April 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Brian

      Mattmchugh, Actually the bible never said that the earth was flat, but that idea came from the ancient Greeks and Roman, and later adopted by the early church. In the book of Isaiah chapter 40 verse 22, it describes the earth as a circle or Sphere, in other words, the old testament never describe the earth as being flat. Trust me, I am not a bible tumper, by all means.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • ArtInChicago

      I went to Jesuit schools that believe in education as well as theology and not once did we interpret any Scripture that said the earth was flat. What are you referencing?

      April 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Mattmchugh

      CNN still has my reply "awaiting moderation" ... so I must have tripped their word filter somehow. Anyway, Genesis 1:1-17 pretty clear describes the Earth as a flat plane with the division of night and day passing in an arc above - very much a description of the world through the eyes of ancient desert nomads. If you want to argue the Bible suggests a spherical world (which is not what I get from that bit of Isaiah), you certainly can't claim it postulates anything that could be construed as heliocentric. In the Bible, the sun goes around the Earth. Period. That is scientifically inaccurate. Period. So this leaves you wondering what else in there is scientifically inaccurate - or, as most Biblical scholars have concluded, the Bible was composed to convey spiritual ideas, not naturalistic facts.

      April 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  19. Hurley

    There are dozens if not hundreds of religions. Everyone of them "knows" that they are right and everyone else is wrong based off no evidence whatsoever, but rather faith. People from one faith are more than happy to assume the "sacred texts" of someone else's faith was written by man, but for some reason -their- sacred texts are the divine word of whatever God they believe in. All you have to do to believe in evolution is look at religion itself. All of today's religions EVOLVED from earlier versions. Christianity and Islam both evolved directly from Judaism, and neither one is the same as it was when they were formed. They are ever changing – evolving. And Judaism has evolved over a much longer period, but even it sprung from more primitive worship alongside religions that died, like the worship of Baal. Unfortunately most professed "religious" people have no clue where their religions came from or WHY it is they think their version (one among hundreds) is RIGHT. They simply spout off whatever they are told to. Sad.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  20. Sitnalta

    "When science began in the 17th century, Christians eagerly applied the new knowledge to alleviate suffering and improve living conditions."

    Uhhhh...... WHAT? Science didn't begin in the 17th century! It's been around for thousands of years. Greece and the Middle East were powerhouses of science long before Europe caught on. This isn't due diligence, this is a GOOGLE SEARCH.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Mattmchugh

      True enough... though the author here is talking about the modern paradigm of the scientic method (observe, hypothesize, test, re-adjust hypothesis, re- test, etc.). That really does not formally emerge until the Renaissance, though you could argue that thousands of years of refining technology amounts to a pratical implementation of the method.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Matt

      I think he means the beginning of modern science.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • meeps

      lmao, you're forgetting the irony of the claim that in general christians had progressive and open minded views on science. last i checked, the history of the church has been about clouding people in ignorance, spreading fear, making people feel shameful...all in the name of money and power. as you can likely tell, i'm not a religious person

      April 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Rob

      Galileo, who is regarded as the "father of modern science", did not fare to well in the 17th century. When he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the center of the solar system as opposed to the earth, he was met with bitter opposition from the church for being "false and contrary to Scripture".

      Modern theologians no longer can claim the earth as being at the center of the solar system without getting laughed at because the evidence is, well, quite evident to the contrary... And the same will one day be true of evolution... but until then, they will hang on to their scripture as fact until it becomes laughable once more.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • colinsux

      modern science

      April 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
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