Evolution And Creationism: A Personal Side To The Debate
The question of origins, how human beings came to have their current form, is a hotly debated one. This is no surprise: how a person sees human beginnings has everything to do with how they understand the world and humanity’s place in it. Are we uniquely created by God in much our present form? Did we evolve from the primordial soup? Are homo sapiens recent additions to this planet, or were we present from the creation, and uniquely charged with the care of this world and all other creatures in it? Did we evolve slowly, but watched over by God until we developed enough to have a conscience, and could then be said to be in His image? How you answer these questions deeply affects your identity.
Rather than come at this from a scientific angle, I’m going to get personal here. I think this question is more philosophical than scientific. I see people falling on one side or the other not based on the academic arguments, but for deeper reasons. Though I also think they don’t realize this, and most say their position is the most “logical.”
So here is my story, about both evolution, which is one of my intellectual interests, and Genesis, which is a fascination of my heart, and a narrative that guides me through life.
Evolution from clues in human DNA
Vaster Than Empires, and More Slow
Evolution fascinates me. It’s about origins, where we came from, who we are. The story is murky and shifting, with voices adamant they have the truth, while new pieces to the puzzle are quietly, steadily unearthed.
Recently research on the Neanderthal genome revealed that homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred after all, a point of much speculation, and some laying down of the law. Interestingly, only Caucasians and Asians carry the Neanderthal genes, not Africans. Perhaps Neanderthals lived in areas accessible only to those homo sapiens who then populated Europe and Asia. Neanderthal remains, after all, have been found only in Europe and parts of Asia.
Maybe Neanderthals weren’t as primitive as most assumed. Looking at the ratio of brain size to body size, Neanderthals had slightly larger brains on average than homo sapiens. Their brains also have a distinctly different shape, though no one knows what that means in terms of brain function. Were Neanderthals capable of speech? My college anatomy professor said no, but the view of the Neanderthal is changing. A few years ago in a library I came across a magazine article about a Neanderthal skeleton which included a hyoid bone. The hyoid bone perches in the human throat, and without it speech would be impossible. The Neanderthal hyoid opened the door of speculation to the language capability of these extinct hominids. It also, at least to me, opened all sorts of questions about Neanderthal culture. Today we see even animals capable of societies of a type, even if we don’t exactly call them cultures. With the spoken word, the possibilities explode. Add family ties to Homo sapiens, who are the Neanderthals now?
The history of the theory of evolution is its own tale, from its racist, classist, sexist beginnings, to its politically correct present. Early evolutionists thought whites were more evolved than blacks, men more evolved than women. Evolution is about identity, more than most realize. It is about what makes us human, and that determines how we see the rest of the world. I find people amazingly self revealing when they talk or write about evolution. They think they talk about science, but they dig down into core beliefs about humanity. I think this is why evolution produces such emotion, such conflict. We don’t just disagree about where we came from; we disagree about who we are.
I find the adaptability of the human body to environment amazing. But on a gut level, evolution just seems to me too, well…slow. I’m on the side of poet Andrew Marvell, who said, “Were there but world enough and time.” No less a person than Dr Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, is on my side. Though it isn’t much talked about, Dr. Crick has opined that DNA is too complex to have evolved, and perhaps came to Earth from somewhere else. I’m a better poet than I am a scientist, and since scientists fall on both sides of the argument anyway, I stick with my gut response.
In the Beginning God Created the Heavens and the Earth
Creationism, developed by fundamentalist Christian PhDs to do battle with evolutionary thought, is fascinating in its own right. Creationist theory attempts to explain such things as who did Adam and Eve’s children marry, and how could early generations in human history get away with marrying siblings without dangerous genetic problems. It gives science based answers to such questions as why did the early people of Genesis live such oddly long lives, eight or nine hundred years some of them? And Creationists love dinosaurs. If a picture of Adam and Eve illustrates a Creationist book, a dinosaur stands among the animals of Eden: in Creationist renderings of Noah’s Ark a long dinosaur neck invariably stretches out a window.
But am I a Creationist? I don’t know about that. Whether the earth is 6,000 or 1 billion years old matters little to me, and in general Creationists are passionate about such things.
I don’t know enough about science to argue with the PhDs who disagree with each other. But the bible’s origin stories operate in me on a deeper level than evolution ever will. When I’m somewhere beautiful, I am homesick for Eden. Last summer I went to a river in the woods with my friends and their kids, and my son and one of the girls spent the afternoon climbing around on the banks, appearing in glimpses through the leaves, wading and swimming together. They looked like a young unfallen Adam and Eve. And I thought of what we all lost. I thought some too of what we stood to regain when Jesus finally sets all things right.
When I fell in love with my husband I felt like Eve. Perhaps because my own mother gave me no guidance for experiencing love with a man, some distant memory from my earliest mother awoke inside me. I didn’t plan or will the experience: it graced me of its own accord. The first time he held me close I leaned into his ribs, and the overwhelming feeling that I had once been a part of him and was now reconnecting washed over me. I was my own person, I had a whole history, my own mind, will and emotions, but I knew in that moment we could merge our lives. Perhaps it was Eve, or perhaps it was the eternally existing Jesus, present at the creation of this world, who reassured me that although I had seen little but cruelty and self service in marriages that something better could happen, that male and female reconciled was the order of things.
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” But I also seem to carry a race memory of our lost paradise. C.S. Lewis called this “The inconsolable wound that every man is born with.” Author John Eldridge named the mourning for a lost perfect state “The miseries of a dethroned monarch.”
How do I reconcile my fascination with evolutionary theories with my internal sense of humanity’s history? I don’t know that I do. I don’t think the scientists on either side have reconciled all the evidence. I also think the very definitions science uses are limited at best. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, but if Homo sapiens and Neanderthals produced fertile offspring, they are not separate species, but just different populations. Again, the worldview of the person determines how they interpret the evidence. Think about where scientific knowledge was a hundred years ago. That process is only accelerating. That’s why I have little confidence in one piece or another of scientific data. But I do have confidence in God, and confidence in what He has put in my heart.
An evocative novel of Eden narrated by Eve
- Evolution - Creationists Right and Darwin Wrong ??!!
A hub suporting evolution, with very good information and links.
- The Institute for Creation Research
One of the leading Creationist groups, founded and continued by science PhDs.
- The Bible's Place In My Spiritual Life
My history with the Bible.