Friday, February 7, 2014

Evolution and Religion

A war that has been fought since 1859, the year "On the Origin of Species"by Charles Darwin was published, continues to be fought. This war is not fought with bombs, missiles, and guns, but rather with ideas. It is a war that all are involved and that all takes sides upon. It is war that to some extent is over in Europe, but somehow continues to rage in the United States of America. What war do I speak of? It is the war between Evolution and Religion.

This week, a major battle was fought in this war in the great state of Kentucky. Commanding the side of science and evidence was William Sanford Nye (known popularly as Bill Nye the Science Guy). On the side of fiction and fantasy was Creation Museum head and young Earth creationist Ken Ham. They debated for over two hours, with Bill citing evidence that mankind can see and that scientists world wide agree on (whether religious or secular), while Ken Ham presented arguments only from the Bible, treating the creation drama and scenes from Bible stories literally. If you want to watch the debate itself, here is the link.

As a religious person, I am here to add my own voice to the fray. And I must be frank when I say this: Evolution as taught by Charles Darwin is a fact, it is not a "theory". When the word theory is used in science, it has a much different context than when we use it in the non-scientific way. This is the definition of theory as used in Science, according to the Oxford Dictionary :A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation. This means that the scientific method has been used, that it has been looked at over and over again, and that all scientists (or a least a large majority) agree on it. Perhaps the science world should drop the word "theory" to stop confusing people.

When we usually use the word "theory" we are thinking of this definition : a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained: 

Notice the difference between the two. Scientific theories are tested over and over again until there is little or no doubt on the problem. A theory in the non-scientific sense does not need to be tested out and anyone can make one. Another evidence of fact vs. fantasy.

If recent polls are to be trusted, more people in this country doubt Darwin's theory of Evolution than any of the most modernized, industrial nations with Turkey being the lone exception. About 40% of people in this country believe in evolution, while 78% believe the Bible to be the word of God, with a little over 40% believe that it is to be taken literally.

So let's get this straight. 78% of people in this country believe God created the world in six days, in a talking snake, that a senior citizen built an ark and gathered literally two of every animal, that man and dinosaurs co-existed, that a man walked on water, that a man was born of a virgin, and a host of other hard to believe ideas. But they think that those who believe that men and apes have a common ancestor are out of their minds. Wow, no wonder this country is in bad shape.

I want to be a help, not a hinderance, to reason and rationality. Contrary to popular belief, one can believe fully in Charles Darwin and in Jesus of Nazareth. I do, Francis Collins (world renowned scientist and head of the human genome project) does, Henry Eyring (world-renowned physicist) did also.

But how can one believe that man and ape have a common ancestor and that the Bible (and in my case The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price) is the word of God? Let's start out by defining our terms.

When I usually ask people, especially the religious, "Do you believe in evolution?" I usually hear this response "No, I don't believe I came from a monkey." From this response, we can see that most people do not even know what evolution really is, so of course they cannot truly believe in it.

Here is the Oxford Dictionary definition of Evolution: The process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the Earth. In other words, over time Man has adapted and changed over time according to his surroundings, as have plants and animals. Another large part of this equation is Natural Selection ; the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. The theory of its action was first fully expounded by Charles Darwin and is now believed to be the main process that brings about evolution, and Survival of the Fittest; the continued existence of organisms that are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others, as a concept in the Darwinian theory of evolution.

Notice that none of these say anything about Man being a descendant of the ape, the fish, the whale, or any other animal. Contrary to popular belief, evolutionists believe man has always been a Man, but that his state today is not his state 10,000 years ago.

Allow me to illustrate an example of all these concepts. Natural Selection allows us to be our best selfs, and contrary to popular belief, is not random. If it were random, we would have eyes in different places, and all of our organs would not work. But natural selection allows all of our vitals to be exactly where they need to be, unless there is a mutation. A survival of the fittest example can come from my own church. After having left Nauvoo, the Saints crossed the plains to the great basin. The strongest of them survived, the weaker died off. Apply that principle to the entire animal kingdom and that is why some species have survived and others have died off.

Ok, but how do you rationalize the Bible with that? Simple. We read the text, and no where in the text of the Bible does it claim anything about the age of the Earth, or how long it took for species to develop, or that God created the Earth out of nothing. These are things that people have read into the text. In the Genesis creation drama, water and materials were already clearly around before the creation itself started (Genesis 1:2-3). Also, time as we know it did not exist until the fourth day, since that is when God created the Sun the other stars, which man has always used to count time (Genesis 1:14-19). So no one can use the Bible text to tell how old the Earth is, and the idea that it is 6,000 years old is ludicrous.  If someone believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, it is equivalent to believing that the width of the United States is 8 yards, since the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That is the scale of the error.

Believers of the Bible must understand that the creation drama was given to men before man knew what an atom or a germ was, where the Sun went at night, or knew that the Earth was round. In other words, God explained to Moses that he had created the Earth, but he did not tell Moses the particulars and the origin of species because they were far beyond Moses' understanding. Had God explained to Charles Darwin the Origin of the Earth, it would be much different than the Genesis text.

Another fact that needs to be pointed out is the difference in what science and religion want to accomplish. Science seeks to know and understand the natural world, does not claim to know more than it does know, and is willing to change with current evidence. Religion ultimately is to do ones duty to the creator. These two need not be be in such conflict and turmoil.

For those who have not read "On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin, they need to read it as soon as possible. It will not take away belief in God, it will amplify your belief and make you appreciate more the grandeur of God. It will also show our non-believing friends that believers of God are not disbelievers in science and reason. One will find that there really is no conflict between modern science and religion, because science is neutral and is not concerned with the same things as religion. 

At any rate, religious people must have a new enlightenment. We must leave behind astrology for astronomy, fundamentalism for philosophy, and use revelation along with reason. We must use our minds and not simply believe the words of men who had no idea in the early days of the Earth what was really going on. We now know what was and is going on, and we need to improve life with what we now know.

Religion is starting to become an enemy to civilization, and we must stop it while it can be stopped. We must allow true science such as evolution to be openly taught in the classroom by itself, without letting religious ideas such as intelligent design interfere. We must allow those who know science to teach it, and not listen to pseudo-scientists. We must leave the creation myths in the past and embrace the scientific truths of the present and future. We can do it, I know we can.


  1. Tarik, I agree with you. I've never had a problem correlating science and religion. A few years ago, as I was cruising the backwaters of Lake Mead after spending a week floating the Grand Canyon, with all of its geological history laid bare for all to see, I told our trip captain - who was clearly agnostic, if not atheist, that, "Religion tells what God did and why. Science tells us how."

  2. Tarik, after too long I have finally gotten to your blog. This is my first response, I found your 10 people very very interesting and will try and comment about that later. I will try and get all my thoughts down, so hopefully this will not be too long.

    I really enjoyed your break down of the "war" between evolution and religion. It reminds me of a quote from Hugh B. Brown, "There are two stories of the creation. One is written in the Earth, and one is written in the Bible. Both have the same author." Of course we add the additional creation stories from our LDS sources. However, Elder Brown gives the gist of it. Science and religious teachings should eventually come together. Joseph Smith taught that it took 2.555 billion years to create the earth.

    When it comes to all other species on this planet (other than ourselves) I too believe in the process of evolution, I do not see why not. Seeing how all things were put here for our development and progression time was needed for anything to happen (fossil fuels are a perfect example).

    When it comes to us however, I follow the thoughts of Brigham Young who taught that Adam was placed here. As the progeny of Deity, perhaps there is a different process, but I can't truly say.

    On a side note, your blog does paint the picture of the "great professor" in that there is a purity to science. Literary example are seen in Indiana Jones and the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov. Yet, science is never truly pure, much like everything else. There always the question of income source. No scientist will willfully publish evidence that is truly contradictory to those who put food on their tables. Additionally, the scientific community is incredibly aggressive toward ideas that are contradictory to the current pervading paradigm.

    Lastly there can never been scientific truths, only facts. A truth implies absoluteness, while the scientific method teaches there must ALWAYS be room for error. A scientist may teach evolution but must always be ready to discard it if there is sufficient evidence that it is false. Science tends to blur this line and cling to certain, current understandings, in much the same way that religions cling to dogma. When this happens science becomes religious, when, as you said, it is science's responsibility to stay neutral, and find facts. The What, Where, When (assuming time exists), and How, but never the Why.