Editorial

ID #5396

On the Bible, Charles Darwin and the Evolution of Species, Alan McIver, South Africa.

Serious scientists view their work as synonymous with the pursuit of truth and do not feel their endeavours are in conflict with God’s will. Indeed many (e.g. Einstein) believed deeply in God but not necessarily in a particular religion. I share such beliefs. 

However I have become concerned by strident church sermons in this regard, in which the argument goes as follows: Firstly, I believe in God. Further, I believe that the Bible is literally the word of God. Thirdly, it is stated in Genesis that God made the world in six days and on the seventh day he rested. Similarly, if one calculates the time since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, one arrives at a figure of say 10000 years. Yet scientists are saying that man was created and has existed for millions of years. It follows that recent scientific discoveries about how the earth and its wonderful diversity of creatures were created must be wrong. Ergo, scientists who advocate such ideas do not believe in God. Alternatively: “If you are not with us you are against us”.

The latter conclusion is both dangerous and flawed. Dangerous because it is bigoted, leading to polarization both within and without the church. It confuses the people of God, driving away those who seek solace within its confines. It is flawed for reasons mentioned below.

The former argument is based on facts while the latter is based on belief. How to reconcile such perspectives? The answer lies in one’s interpretation of the Bible. Let us start at the beginning. Firstly I believe in God, the creator of all things. Alternatively God is omnipotent and able to do whatever he pleases. If he chooses to turn a day into a year, a million years, a billion years, so be it. If he chooses to produce mankind from primeval ooze, so be it. If he chooses to allow species to evolve in a manner consistent with the Theory of Evolution, so be it. If he chooses to take many millions of years to do so, so be it. In other words, if he chooses to use metaphors in the Bible to enable us puny humans to better undestand his intentions, so be it. 

Incidentally there is a wonderful anecdote about a debate between Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr, the discoverer of quantum physics, which is relevant here. Bohr observed that light has two properties, wave and quanta. On one occasion they discussed the Schroedinger Wave Equation. Einstein rejected its underlying principles, stating that “God does not play dice”. Bohr reacted by retorting:”Stop telling God what to do”. I have a mental picture of the two old nerds giggling at this intellectual riposte.

Their debate illustrates what I believe. If certain facts are shown to be true but are apparently in conflict with the Bible, it does not follow that the Bible is wrong. More probably our interpretation of the Bible is incorrect. For example, few would argue that, when Jesus said we should be like doves, he meant we should lay eggs. Instead, it seems that God chose to use a metaphor we can all understand – i.e. a day. Secondly, he made all the creatures on earth, including man, in an evolutionary way. I see no conflict between such scientific discoveries and my beliefs. Furthermore, anyone who maintains that such a conflict exists has made the mistake of “telling God what to do”. They would have us believe their interpretation is uniquely correct. It is the mindset of tyrants, dictators and control freaks as well as the Spanish Inquisition. Frighteningly, such arguments imply that they themselves do not believe in God because only God knows everything, including the correct interpretation of the Bible.  

My trust in God is such that I do not fear what science reveals. On the contrary, I rejoice in its many discoveries as vindication of my awe and wonder for the Creator. I submit that this would be a wise position for the church to adopt instead of falling into the trap of seeing every new discovery as a threat. As someone once said: "Some people like to be outraged. It makes them feel important".

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness" : Dalai Lama

Sincerely

Dr Alan McIver, Cape Town, December 2012

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Last update: 2014-03-10 11:27
Author: Alan McIver
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