EVOLUTION I: WHAT IT DOES NOT MEAN
What is evolution? People use the term in a lot of different ways. One of the things that will help explain why so many people believe in evolution will be clarify what people mean when they say it. Here are a couple of things it DOESN’T mean:
- Humans evolved from apes. This idea has been curiously offensive and distracting to the real argument. In the
modern evolutionary synthesis, the consensus is that all living things on earth had a common ancestor. Over millions of years, different forms of life developed from that common ancestor. Humans and other primates all diverged from
one another relatively late in this process. But humans didn’t evolve out of monkeys or apes. Rather, humans and other hominids split off from the same “branch” of the “tree (or bush) of life” that monkeys and apes split off from.
- “Darwinism.” A lot of confusion can come from using Darwinism as a synonym for evolution. Those who are trying to
obscure the truth about evolution—some of them merely to profit from the huge market for anti-evolution materials—often confuse the issue by telling audiences that “Darwinism” has been rejected by scientists. That’s true enough, sort of. Darwin’s original ideas about evolution have been tested and challenged vigorously since the publication of Origin of Species in 1859. Some of them have been discarded. Thus, it is easy to find examples of prominent scientists in various decades saying that “Darwinism” is dead. What they mean is that Charles Darwin’s ideas about the mechanism of evolution have been challenged by scientists. They do NOT mean that the fact of organic evolution has been rejected.
- God is a lie.
The fact of evolution doesn’t have a bearing on theology. It does not disprove the Bible. Some of the most famous theologians in history, such as St. Augustine, embraced an evolutionary worldview. And many prominent evolutionists, including Dobzhansky, believe in God. They simply believe that evolution is God’s method. Nor
does the theory of evolution shackle God in some way. Just because there is a mechanism by which species can change and develop does not mean that God has been robbed of power. A tree grows from a seed. That does not imply that God has been locked out of the process. It does not have any bearing on the possibility of miracles or God’s supernatural involvement. It would be fair enough to say, in fact, that a tree developing from a seed is a miracle that requires God’s guiding hand.
I: FURTHER READING
Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution,” The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), pp. 125-129; Edward J. Larson, Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (New York: The Modern Library, 2006).