Did human beings live during the age of dinosaurs? They did according to Ken Ham's $27 million Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 in Boone County, Kentucky. In this book, one of the nation's most prominent biologists, Professor Francisco J. Ayala, seeks to assure conservative Christians that faith is compatible with science. He also explains in layman's terms why "the theory of biological evolution is the central organizing concept of modern biology."
His explanation is succinct, comprehensible, and clears up misconceptions about evolution. His assurances to those who believe the earth is 10,000 years old will no doubt fall on deaf ears. For an explanation of why human beings simply cling tighter to their opinions when challenged instead of adjusting their views in light of the evidence, see my Amazon review of Mistakes Were Made, (But Not By Me) by Tavris and Aronson.
This is a useful book for those of us who haven't studied the subject in many decades, and who have questions about it. The main questions Ayala answers are these:
* Am I a monkey?
* Why is Evolution a Theory?
* Is there fossil evidence of transitional organisms?
* Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?
* How did life begin?
* Can One Believe in Evolution and God?
This review won't repeat Ayala's answer to those questions, but will recap the essence of Darwinism.
* The theory of evolution asserts facts about three related issues:
1. That organisms are related by common descent, which is the one established with "utmost certainty."
2. Evolutionary history
3. The mechanisms by which evolutionary change occurs
* Darwin gathered much evidence in its support, but evidence has accumulated continuously ever since, derived from all biological disciplines. Darwin's theory explains scientifically the diversity of organisms, and accounts for their similarities and differences. It accounts for the appearance of humans and reveals our biological connections with other living beings. It provides understanding of constantly evolving bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and enables the development of effective ways to protect ourselves. Knowledge of evolution has made possible advances in agriculture, medicine and biotechnology.
* "It is beyond reasonable doubt that organisms, including humans, have evolved from ancestors that were very different from them. The evolution of organisms is accepted by scientists with the same degree of confidence as they accept other well-confirmed scientific theories, such as the revolution of the earth around the sun, the expansion of galaxies, the atomic theory, or the genetic theory of biological inheritance."
"Science and religion need not be in contradiction. Indeed, if they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because they concern different matters. A scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete. Matters of values and meaning are outside science's scope. In order to understand the purpose and meaning of life...we need to look elsewhere."
IS BELIEF IN EVOLUTION A REJECTION OF GOD?
Most Christians believe in both evolution and God, so it's not a given that evolution must be seen as a threat to religious beliefs.
"Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: how planets move, the composition of matter, and the origin and adaptation of organisms. Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of life, the proper relation of people to the Creator and to each other, the moral values that inspire and govern people's lives. Apparent contradictions only emerge when either science or belief, or often both, cross over their boundaries and wrongfully encroach upon one another's subject matter. Science is a way of knowing, but it is not the only way. Science may inspire religious belief as we respond with awe to the immensity of the universe."
Pope Pius XII asserted in a 1950 encyclical that evolution was compatible with the Christian faith. Mainstream Protestantism (e.g. Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc) agree with the Catholics. The Clergy Letter Project signed by more than 12,000 US Christian clergy contends that the "discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist with timeless truths of the Bible. We believe the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth. To reject this truth or to treat it as `one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We ask that science and religion... remain two very different, but complementary, forms of truth."
Most Christians do not embrace a literal interpretation of the Bible. Genesis presents two incompatible versions of creation: Chapter 1 gives the familiar six days of creation, with God creating human beings, both "male and female," in His own image on the 6th day, after creating fish and animals. In Chapter 2:4, however, a different narrative starts. God creates a male human. Then God plants a garden and creates the animals. Only then does he take a rib from the man to make a woman. An honest literal reading recognizes a contradiction, while a broader view sees the world created by God and humans as His creatures.
St. Augustine noted that per Genesis, God created light on day one and the sun on day four; the theologian concluded that Bible is about religion, not science. In 1981, Pope John Paul II asserted that the Bible itself "speaks to us of the origins of the universe...not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God...Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God...Any other teaching about the origin and makeup of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven."
In sum, for those open to learning, this is a valuable little book. For those who view the Bible as a science text, this book will be seen as a threat to their faith. ###