Friday, September 18, 2009

Christianity and Evolution

So, I’m just wondering, do we as Christians lie to our children?

Let me explain…
As Christians, we teach out children about the biblical creation. Six days… garden of Eden… Adam made from the dust… Eve from his rib… Serpent… Apple… Sin… Death… And according to the bible, this all happened some 6000 odd years ago.
Then… we take our children to a museum, or show them a book about dinosaurs… died out some 64 million years ago, or we take them fossil hunting to find trilobites that lived during the Cambrian (about 550 million years ago).
6000 years vs. 550 million years… which is it? Kids can sometimes compartmentalize things like this for a while… (I did until I was about 10) and then eventually, you can’t. For a while I dealt with it by shrugging my shoulders and figuring… I’ll find out the answer after I die. It wasn’t a perfect solution because I knew that I’d have to deal with it eventually. It’s kind of like the power bill that you know is just to high to pay this month, and so you bury it under other bills and you try not to worry about it… right up until the power gets turned off.
Well, my power got turned off at University, while sitting in a paleoanthropology class, and holding the skull of Australopithecus afarensis… well it was a reproduction, but a reproduction so perfect that it can be studied by scientists… a critter that lived some 3.9 to 2.9 million years ago. It walked upright with a human hip and foot… but had a clearly ape-like skull. And suddenly all of the thoughts I’d had about creation and evolution came flooding out of the little mental pile I had built inside my head.

“How does this creature fit into Genesis? How could this critter have lived and died 2.9 million years ago, if death did not come into the world until 6000 years ago? Was there really an Adam? Is the Bible just a fiction of elaborate stories? Or if the bible is to be taken litteraly, where did all the fossils come from? Were they put there by God to decieve us and test our faith? If so… he’s not that holy of a God then is he, because I can’t believe that a perfect God could do such a decietful thing. And if they were just leftovers from other worlds that he had created and destroyed… then why would they still be there? Because he though it would be funny? Because he’s a decietful liar? And as the scriptures say… he made the world from “matter unorganized,” well… isn’t a skull “organized?” What is truth and what is a lie… or can they both be true?”

So to answer my own first question… do we as Christians lie to our children? The answer is… Yes. We’re telling them one thing on Sunday and at Family Home Evening, and an entirely different thing on every other day of the week. It might even be that we teach them both things in the space of one evening… if we happen to go to the Natural History Museum on Family Home Evening.

So what are we to do then?

I actually know someone who said to me… staight faced… that there never has been, nor will there ever be any such things as dinosaurs. When I asked him what the bones were that paleontologists were pulling out of the ground and what made the huge tracks that we find in rocks, he said, “I don’t know, but they sure weren’t animals.” I guess that’s one way of dealing with the problem. If you can suspend all reason and intellegence in hopes that it will all go away.
Or… and here I’m going to get pounded by all the bible thumpers out there… maybe evolution is all a part of God’s plan. Maybe, just maybe the book of Genesis can’t be taken exactly litteral… as a history book. Maybe Genesis chapter’s 1 and 2 are allegory. A story ment to teach us more about God’s plan for us than it was to teach us how the Earth was made and how people and animals were placed upon it.
“In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” The Big-Bang? Science has shown us that the heavens were created by, what we call, the Big-Bang (Inaccurate, but we’ll go with it). If God is all powerful, as I believe him to be, why would he have to be a part of our universe. If he is the creator of our world, why could he not be the creator of our universe as well. The Jews refer to God as “The Master of the Universe” would that not emply that he created it as well?

And if he could create our Universe, why could he not have had Humans in mind, when he created the first single celled organism, so many eons ago, and set it on its way to live, to reproduce, to divide into other forms based on it’s needs as its offspring spread across the whole earth. Why could he not have encouraged those early organisms, to leave the water and to move across the dry land? Why could he have not directed the changes that occurred? I say he did. It was He that directed the early primates to take to the trees, and develop grasping hands, and eyes that see in color and in stereoscopics. And when those, and other changes were complete, he directed those primates down out of the trees, to loose their tails (even though we still have them), and to walk upright and to run from tree to tree instead of swing. Why couldn’t he have commanded those changes? We have so much of the evidence of those changes in our own bodies. The appendix, wisdom teeth, even our own DNA bears witness that we are genetic cousins to other primates.

I don’t even know why I’m writing or posting this, except to put something that’s been rattling around in my head for decades out into the world so that the rest of the Christianity can condemn me to Hell for even thinking such thoughts.

What do you think?


Stacie said... is my uneducated opinion.
I believe that sometimes we put too much trust in "the arm of flesh" I've always wondered over and over, how scientists can come up with all of these dates. Such and such lived 5.5 million years ago, the dinosaurs were here 6000 years ago. The ice age was....years ago. I know that these things happened on the earth. But really, other than comparing things they find in the earth to 'other' things they find in the earth to determine their age doesn't really work for me. I know that there are 'layers' of earth that are uncovered to determine age, but really...were those scientists here? no...they are only trusting the scientists before them to be accurate in their guesses and taking them as law.
I attended a lecture once at BYU about evolution, and they presented one of those skulls that you said that you saw. They actually had a series of skulls that literally transformed from that that looked like an ape, to that that looked human. If you think about it, Adam and Eve would have not looked like us. They didn't have forks and knives and meat tenderizer. I'm not saying that they were truly 'caveman esk' but at the same time, I believe they were. Man did have a larger jaw, and a smaller brain cavity. As time has transformed and things have become easier for us, our bodies have changed to accomodate that, just like any other creature has. Just like the pioneers were shorter smaller people than we were (and that change has only taken place over the last 200 years).
It may not be the most accurate account. But I really believe that Scientists like to make things look way more exciting than they are. They are only putting their trust in that arm of flesh that studied before them.
I don't believe that God has lied to us, and I don't lie to my children. When we go to a history museum that explains evolution, I explain that that is the belief of some theorists, but it is not what we believe.
I know when you have a scientific mind, it doesn't always match with religious beliefs. But I think that is what God talked about, when he said not to put your trust in the arm of flesh. I wish I had the scripture handy, but it says something to the effect, of the arm of flesh always fails you, but that the arm of God doesn't. I'll have to find it.

John said...

You might want to read "Earth: In the Beginning" by Eric Skousen. He takes the accounts of Genesis, Pearl of Great Price and the temple ceremony and explains all this including the dinosaurs.

Murph said...

Dating techniques are based in decay rates of radioactive isotopes. In the case of the pre-human I talked about was found between two layers of volcanic ash that were dated using the Potassium- Argon technique. The dates are beyond questioning… I’m afraid the Bible is not, nether is BYU...
I’ve read Skousen and I find him to be a quack.
Sorry guys... I'll keep looking.

Stacie said...

Well, I still don't believe dating to be accurate. I find it amusing though that the U is correct, but BYU is not. hmmm.
But, I guess it comes down to your belief in God. If you believe in God then you understand that he will explain it to you in the after life. If you don't believe in God. Then good luck to you!
Again, I choose to put my trust in the arm of God. He hasn't failed me yet. But, Man sure has. :-)

Murph said...

I don’t believe Genesis to be literal, and therefore I don’t believe in God? That makes no sense.
C. S. Lewis… probably one of the most well known of Christian writers said in his book The Problem with Pain:
“For long centuries, God perfected the animal for which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed in this state for ages before it became man.”
James E. Talmage called these pre-human ancestors “pre-Adamites.”
I also find it interesting that some things given to us by science (Television, airplanes, the Internet, vaccinations, Medical Advances, et al.), are praised by Christians as given to us by God for the advancement of his work, but anything that may question or cause doubt, or cause us to look at the natural world (ie. God’s creation) in a different way are all condemned as the devils work. Even the Church recognized the work of archaeologists when they changed the wording of the Book of Mormon’s intro concerning the Native Americans. Even they recognized that not all Native Americans are Lamanites.

Angela said...

Alright Mike...I will bite.

The answer to your question doesn't matter.

There are two very specific truths that I know.

First, I am a scientist, and scientists have no freaking clue. I am not disputing the testing and dating. To disregard that data is unthinkable to me. But, in the end, all the scientists in the world cannot explain how the world came to be. It is conjecture. Pure and simple. We are guessing. Best guessing, but guessing none the less. For most things it is a flip of the coin, so much so that many of the dinosaurs I was taught about when I was a child are no longer considered to have existed. They have learned more and realized that they configured the bones wrong. Poor pluto is no longer a planet! Theory is guessing...point blank. It remains the best guess until a new, better guess comes along.

Second, we are taught that we are not given all of the information from a religious stand point. We are given the knowledge needed to gain the ability to learn how it all works. But, only if we prove ourselves able to handle the responsibility that comes with the power of knowing. Until then, we are to be like little children. I take that very literaly. Especially when comparing science and religion.

We are little children and we are learning like little children. The information we are given, both religious and scientific, are limited by our ability to understand and handle the knowledge.

In my opinion, both the scientific and religious aspects are correct. They are grossly incomplete...on purpose. I can accept that.

All of this...In my humble opinion... is here to teach you to learn, to think, to question, to balance, to strive and to long for exaltation so that you can ultimately KNOW.

And in the does not matter.

Murph said...

Oh, Mei Mei…
You of all people should know that what you just described is an Hypothesis, not a Theory. Scientists guess at a likely outcome and then test the hypothesis to see if their guess was correct… most hypotheses don’t amount to anything, but hopefully the scientist learns something in the process. Over a long period of time and countless hypotheses, a pattern… a certain predictability may begin to appear, if this happens, a Theory can then be proclaimed. It’s not carved in stone because science is dynamic… the theory is refined as new hypotheses are tested… a theory is Hardly a raw, pull it out of your butt, guess as many Christians would have you believe. After all, Gravity is “just a theory,” but I’m sure we can all agree that if you trip, you will hit the ground and most likely skin your knee.
And yes… evolution is a theory, one that science is refining all the time, and yes, we did loose the poor Brontosaurus… it was absorbed into the Genus Apatosaurus… but sometimes that’s the price we pay to find the truth.

But what’s being lost in all these preriferal arguements is this: the LIE we tell our children… the one that caused SO many problems in my life is this:

*left hand* 550 million years ago = dead sea critters and 65 million years ago = dead dinos and 2.6 million years ago = dead apes with human-like characteristics.

*right hand* 6000 years ago = Adam, Eve, Serpent, Apple: Death enters world (according to scripture).

No matter how much you want to say or how much you want to believe that Radiometric Dating techniques are off… that we don’t really know what the decay rates of isotopes are… which we do… 550 million years can NEVER be mistaken for 6000 years… ever!

We teach our kids one thing on Sunday and we teach them, or allow them to be taught, the other on every other day of the week… all of us are guilty of that… including myself.

And yes, I agree with you that both Evolution and Creationism can coexist (as they do in my skull)… IF… Christians are willing to accept that the SYMBOLIC creation story in Genesis is meant to teach us about God’s plan for us… NOT teach us history.

Angela said...

Wait wait wait...if you remember right...I was the one who suggested to you in the first place that I believed the 6000 years in the bible is figurative...not literal.

That was 9 years ago.

I told you I felt it was a model for us to pattern our time spent here on earth. Christ taught in parables, stories, allegories...all the time. I do not for even one minute believe this earth is literally 6000 years old.

That is what I meant by being taught as little children. We are given models that are purposefully made very simple for the least of us. He cannot, and will not give us all of the details, because the vast majority of us cannot handle that information. We have to earn the right to gain that information...if you will.

Yes I completely understand the difference between theory and hypothesis. And you are right, many are testable with and verifiable. And many are a flip of the coin. I have sat in chemistry, biochemistry, even physics classes where my teachers told me point blank that we still don't know exactly if the models they are presenting are correct. They just don't. It is the best information at the time.

All of that carbon dating, all of those test tell us the age of the material they are testing. That is testable, verifiable fact. But where did the material come from? How was it formed? What is the big picture? How did it all come together? *flips a coin*

They have all of these fantastic, factual pieces to a very large puzzle...but they have NO idea how to assemble it. Any scientist you talk to will tell you that. That my fact. That is why the theories change.

It is not a lie to admit that we just don't know. We understand what God has told us, but we also know quite distinctly, that he has left very large portions of the story out. We also understand what scientists tell us. And what they teach us is also true. But just as incomplete.

And by the way...God is a scientist. You want to know how he created the world and all things in it???

He did Science to it!

It is just a science that we are not advanced enough to understand.

Murph said...

All right, all right, all right...

But you can't carbon date a fossil... you have to use another technique called Potassium- Argon.

But I'm board with this...


Angela said...

Yes...sushi would be fantastic.

Terri said...

Wow I can't believe I just read your blog and all these comments and my head hasn't exploded yet. TOO MUCH INFO for my little brain. I'd like to take the faith approach and pray for peace in the things I don't know. I will live the best way I can to get to the highest kingdom and learn the answers for myself although I do hope somehow my ressurected brain might actually get all this stuff.
Concerning lieing to my children well I wil say, "Evolution is a natural law Heavenly Father uses to create life. Time lines in the bible may not be exact or as we see time today."
Most importantly all this learning is for the after life and I'm just trying to get through today.

Murph said...

Well said My Love.

Witness said...

Maybe some insight can come from the explanation of Joseph Smith Jr. He stated the following:
"Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 350
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, "Doesn't the Bible say He created the world?" And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos--chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end."

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