The Bible & Evolution
Since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, it has attracted the flack of Bible fundamentalists.
Their concern was that since God created mankind in his own image, then mankind could not have been the result
of a process of natural evolution resulting from mutations and natural selection as proposed by Darwin. So, either
the Bible must be false, and thus all of Judeo-Christianity, or Darwin's theory must be wrong. And since the Bible
is the basis of their most central paradigm, they felt the need to attack the theory with every resource at their
disposal. Perhaps the most famous (and most embarrassing to the fundamentalists) event in this struggle was the
Scopes monkey trial of 1925, in which an aging and senile William Jennings Bryan served as a witness to defend
The Bible describes a sort of a stepwise evolution as indicated by the fossil record. The Bible states that the first form of life to appear on earth was plant life. This was followed by animal life in the oceans, then birds, then mammals, and then humans. (Gen. 1:11-24) The Bible does omit some major phases in the development of life (insects, dinosaurs and other reptiles, and amphibians and so forth) because its purpose is not to provide a geophysical and biological history of the earth, but rather a simple statement of the origin of mankind. When you consider the steps of geophysical development that the Bible accurately describes in front of the steps of life development, it is truly amazing that the sequence, which was written thousands of years before any scientific knowledge of these events, is so precise.
When I was a child it troubled me that the Bible states that man was created in the image of God, while it was clear that people are actually a species of animal. Just look at the similarities between people and other mammals. From a physiological perspective our commonalties are far more significant than our differences. When you compare chimpanzees to humans the similarity is astounding. Furthermore, modern DNA information proves that structurally we are about 99% identical to chimpanzees. There is no question that chimpanzees and humans are very close relatives on the family tree of life. But this is consistent with the Bible's creation account, which states that humans were created in the same way as animals and as a culmination of the development of life. In the original Hebrew, the Bible states that man became a living nephesh, which means "creature". (Gen. 2:7) This is exactly the same term that the Bible uses to describe the creation of birds and mammals. (Gen. 1:20 & 24) The writer of Ecclesiastes also recognized the commonality between humans and animals: "I also thought, 'As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal.'" (Eccl 3:18-19)
The statement that "God created man in his own image" (Gen. 1:27) indicates that man was given special attributes that makes him unique in comparison to his fellow animals. "Image" does not imply that man is a clone of God any more than an image of a man, such as a photo or statue, is the clone of a man. Indeed, according to the Bible, man could not have been created in the physical image of God because, unlike man, God is not a physical animal. Jesus said, "God is spirit." (John 4:24) But man being in the image of God does mean that man was uniquely gifted with some of the characteristics of God, with the potential of developing even more. So, there is no incompatibility between evolution and the Bible.
Commonality of components between different forms of life is a
characteristic that one would expect as a product of intelligent design, just as
in a well-managed product development engineering organization, common design
modules are re-used across multiple systems. However, physicist Stephen
Barr wrote, "Everyone, whether materialist or religious believer, can see that
there is an enormous gulf between the capacities of human beings and animals.
Animals do not spend time wondering about their place in nature or their fate.
They do not write works of philosophy. They do not study chemistry or do
research in astrophysics, compose violin concertos or paint with watercolors.
They do not build ships or airplanes, tell time with calendars or clocks,
cultivate gardens or erect magnificent buildings, adorn their bodies with
jewelry and clothing or their dwellings with works of art. ...The lives of
animals are simple and unvarying, while the list of distinctively human
activities is virtually endless." (Modern Physics and Ancient Faith by Stephen M. Barr, University of Notre
Dame Press, 2003, page 167)
In the mean time while both sides participate in an intellectual slugfest of gargantuan proportions, distorted
information spills out to the general public. Hopefully, most of the distortion is unintentional and caused by
the unqualified conveyers of the information. Because the scientific analysis is not yet conclusive on this subject,
anyone who inflexibly adopts the view of one side or the other at this point without being a well-educated expert
in the natural sciences would have to be doing so in order to fill an emotional need rather than objectively seeking
truth on the matter.
© 2013 William C. Hamer