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. Tova

    I believe in G-d. But I also very strongly believe in evolution (I'm actually taking a class on Human Evolution right now - it's fascinating). I'm growing very tired on the literal fundamentalists who give people who just happen to be religious/spiritual a bad name.

    April 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Tuba

      Honestly, your comment made me dizzy.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  2. Anna2

    How do we even know that we share 96% of our genome with Chimps? Scientists just tell us something and we swallow it whole. My preacher told me that today and I laughed because he's always right.

    April 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  3. Yarah

    Not even old Charlie Darwin would believe in the "Theory" of evolution if he were alive today. But I bet he believes in God today.

    April 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  4. Hiwayman

    Bilology: The only scienceable to defy the laws of thermaodynamics

    April 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  5. Alex Stonin

    Religion is the escape from reality, it is for people who do not want to face the reality. It does not matter how much proof one brings for evolution, -there will always be people who want to take the easy way out by 'believing' in some story. Every culture (Hindus, Mayas, Jews, .. and their pagan throwbacks, the Catholics) have some story. Humans want to believe in a story. Science is hard, its scary and confusing. It takes too much brain-work 🙂 Religion is easy. But stupid.

    April 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  6. brent hanson

    Everything Jesus did gave proof of the Creator. The theory of evolution is lies based on lies based on lies.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  7. Al

    Jesus quoted Genesis more than any other book in the Bible. He clearly believed it. To imply that Jesus just didn't know enough about things to really understand displays the author's already-low regard for Jesus. Additionally, the author does not seem to understand young earth creationism very well considering none of the examples he gives support the most important scientific sticking points of evolution (e.g., how non-life became life, how small changes within a gene pool–which creationists don't even dispute–changes one creature in an actual new type of creature, etc.).

    April 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  8. Yarah

    Not even old Charlie Darwin would believe in the "Theory" of evolution if he were alive today.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • myklds

      Yeah..even Science itself is NOT fully convinced about it, that's why it has yet become a law and remaineth a "THEORY"..forever & ever.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  9. LWoods

    "The Case for a Creator" – Lee Strobel. That is if any other you monkey-people have evolved to read. LOL. This article is hilarious in the fact that people have been horribly misled about "evidence" proving (lol) evolution.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  10. ben

    I have never posted a comment on the internet before, but this article was so stupid I felt compelled. Jesus was alive in an age when most people were illiterate. The Gospels and Paul's letters make it very difficult to know what Jesus thought about Judaism, much less evolution. If we can't know for sure what Jesus meant by "the Kingdom of Heaven," which is something he supposedly spoke about on numerous occasions, how can we know what he would think about modern conceptions of evolution? More importantly, why does it matter? If you think it matters because it might affect how willing Catholic Church is to embrace the theory of evolution, you're wrong. The Church considers itself a vessel of Christ. Catholic dogma dictates that the Pope is the final interpreter of the Bible and has the discretion to decide what is and is not canonical. If the Pope came out tomorrow and said "the Church embraces evolution and believes the Lord induces species to evolve." then Catholics would be obligated to follow that doctrine. No Pope would base such a statement on what Jesus might have thought. They believe Jesus is in Heaven now, waiting for the time to come back and bring forth the Kingdom. The fact that CNN would post this academically useless article astounds me.

    CNN is just as bad as Fox News. The only difference is the people who work for CNN are much more smug and sure of themselves.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Googliano

      "Jesus was alive in an age when most people were illiterate."

      I'm sorry but, how do you know this? more bull

      April 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Robert

      Kingdom of Heaven is within you. Repeat, Jesus said, Kingdom of Heaven is within you. Do not look for God or Heaven outside of you, look within. God created man in His image, so you are as good as God.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  11. Peter Hassen

    This is simply bashing the great work of that Kentucky Museum. If anything the genes clearly show support for creation. The field of genetics is a slap in the face of evolution. This article is written by a poorly trained scientist and definitely he reads a different Bible then Jesus did. Alas! he is still using the name of Jesus to sell his story.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • AuthorIsLikeSatan

      Yes Peter..he grossly dit it in deceitful manner.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  12. Yarah

    No, because He was the one who created the world. I know what God did in my life and what He can do in yours if you want Him to. Yarah

    April 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  13. ItSOnLyME

    Considering Jesus was nothing more than an enlightened guy living in the world, there's no reason to think he wouldn't have believed in science where science is proven fact. Just like the Dalai Lama, who has said that given a choice between science and religion to explain the universe, he'll come down on the side of science just about every time where science has proven things to be a certain way. There will always be things science can't explain (at least I hope so), so those are left to each individual to explain or not.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  14. Dean

    Since I was not present for the origins of our species, I am not going to attempt to answer the unanswerable (a great definition of insanity BTW), which seems to be the nature of this discussion. However, the question of the article presupposes that Jesus was a great man, that he may not know, neither the origins of life nor its subsequent development. My questions then are about Jesus: 1) What kind of man goes around telling people that he gives them eternal life? Sounds like Manson to me; 2) What kind a man goes around encouraging people to eat his flesh? Sounds like a member of the Donner Party to me; 3) What kind of man goes around teaching that the flesh is nothing, but that the Spiritual is everything? Sounds like a Dharma bum to me. Well a man that says things like that (as the Apostle John describes in his Gospel 6:51-63), is quack OR he must be the real deal. If he is a quack, then of course he wouldn’t know anything about the origins, but if he is the real deal, then he would absolutely know. The Apostle John states as much in the first chapter of the same Gospel, “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The flaw in the article’s question is more telling that the question itself, the author presupposes that Jesus is not the Son of God. When Jesus says that “I AM” the truth, he is making a couple of assertions: One, that he is God, (“I AM” in the OT refers to Jehovah) and secondly, that he does not simply say that He knows the truth, but that He IS the truth. The point being, knowledge does not set me free, but the Truth can.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Oh god you're stupid

      Hey "Dean". I KNOW the truth too, mkay? Follow me because I AM the path to heaven. Praise ME. Nutjob.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • S101

      Is there the same hard evidence to prove the existence of Jesus as there is existence for evolution? Very doubtful indeed.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Simple Facts

      Truth is nothing without knowledge. If you have knowledge, then you know the facts. If the facts do not support your "truth," then your truth is wrong. You can't ignore the facts and still claim you know the truth. Galileo was called a heretic because he looked at the moon and saw craters. However, the "truth" at that time was that the moon was in heaven, and all things in heaven must be perfect. OMG, Galileo is saying that the moon isn't a perfect sphere! Heretic! Evolution is no different. It is THE TRUTH.
      You are confusing faith and science. Faith is "the belief in the something that is not based on proof." Truth, however, "is based on proof." If you truly have faith, then you should not expect your beliefs to be proven true. The mere fact that Creationists try to do this–try to prove their belief is true by distorting the facts–demonstrates that they, in fact, lack faith. Science–not faith–is the ONLY basis of truth.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • To be Honest

      You really are much more stupid than your moniker!

      April 11, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Dean

      SIMPLE FACTS: I am not sure what defines a Creationist nor an Evolutionist....can't argue much along those lines. However the Creator chose to begin and proliferate the earth is an interesting topic but I don't have the capacity to determine either way. I would agree with you that scientific knowledge is a moving target, hence the many revisions that textbooks are given every couple of years (or it may be a scam by professors to sell new books 🙂 ). Personally, I would hesitate to apply truth to something that is so variable. What is a known fact in one generation may not be knowledge in another era (ie. Newton's understanding of gravity was taken as absolute for so many years, until technology and understanding in other areas helped Eistein to formulate a different understanding). Anything that man determines is an observation from the inside of the system which can change over the centuries. Anything that a Creator determines (if one exists) is from outside of the system. By definition, the Creator would be in position of the truth, while the created would be in the position of a learner of facts that may change as more is known. I don't think our differences are within science, but whether there was a Creator or not. With that said, we cannot really debate because our frames of references are not the same. You may be right in your frame, while I find that I may be right in my frame. Best Regards.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • T202

      Please evolve and get a brain.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  15. Chris

    I can't believe people actually make a living writing about this stuff. I haven't stooped to the level of being a "faith" writer...yet.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  16. Justin Observation

    From what I read in the bible, if he existed Jesus seemed to be pretty intelligent for his time, not so stuck in the ancient religious dogma of his predecessors, so he would most likely accept modern evidence if he was around today. Some of his followers however, seem to think it's not okay to gain new understandings or accept new discoveries, as if nothing that was discovered in the last two thousand years is real, but many figured out how to drive a car, use a toilet, and make a phone call, so there's hope...

    April 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  17. Kevin Baker

    So many idiots. So little time.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Jeus Is Lord

    Jesus believes that you need Him. He said that He is the ONLY way to the Father in Heaven. ALL other paths lead to hell. God loves you. He sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die for your sins. Call upon the name of Jesus – He is ready to answer you.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Robert

      Jesus is Guru for the Christians. As Hindus and Buddhists believe in the Guru, it is the Guru who brings the believers salvation, so the Christians believe that Jesus will bring them Salvation.
      If anyone really wants to know the truth, they should study and personally meet with the disciples of some of the Gurus. There are millions of such Americans in all big cities. That would enlighten you about Christianity and Jesus.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Oh god you're stupid

      What a complete nutcase. Yeah god sent his son to die (but not really) for us. Ok? Prove it. Good luck.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      First of all "Jeus Is Lord" you can't even spell.

      Secondly, you would have had fun from about 1100 AD onwards, when Catholics were murdering "heretics", "heathens", Muslims, Jews, and anyone else who looked different. Then along came the Protestants, and the Protestants and Catholics were murdering each other in the name of Christ. Don't forget Protestants killed other kinds of Protestants, and so on, and so on – all in the name of Jesus.

      Maybe you aren't worshiping Jesus – maybe you're really worshiping the guy with the horns, hooves, and red suit? And I don't mean Santa Claus.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  19. Sean T

    Jesus probably wouldnt have believed in airplanes either, does that mean they no longer exist? The deline of CNN continues.

    April 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  20. JAMnorth45

    Mr. Giberson, Have you heard the expression "preaching in the desert" that comes from the so-called "holy books" ? Well, it should become clear by reading the comments posted to this article by many readers that unfortunately this the result achieved by this article.

    It's extremely difficult to change a person's belief system when he or she has been so heavily brainwashed since early childhood, even in the presence of overwhelming every day proof. Too many people would rather believe fables than the solid evidence they can literally find at their feet. After over three centuries of solid concrete evidence for evolution, there are still way too many "educated" people who choose to believe in fairy tales.

    If Jesus were alive today, not only would he believe on evolution but he would be stunned at the turn his messages had taken over the centuries. Ah, ignorance is truly bliss!

    April 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Googliano

      I don't believe in God either, but who are you to say what other people can believe in? You seem so upset by other people's thoughts. Sorry but you have no choice but to deal with it.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • myklds

      Googliano..The best I mean the BEST! comment I've ever read from a non-believer so far.

      Should all Non-believers have the same view as yours, it would be that easy of Believers and Non-believers alike to get along and have a civil, healthy and fruitful conversation.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:43 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.