Three Things that Have Nothing to Do with Evolution (that Have Everything to Do with Evolution)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I just don’t care. Not just in a passive, lazy way, but in an aggressive, assertive, in-your-face sense. When it comes to creationism and evolution education, I insist on not caring if people think the earth came from Yahweh 6,000 years ago, a raven in the distant past, or a flying spaghetti monster.

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If we want to make progress in our tired old creation/evolution war, I’m arguing in my new book, we all have to stop caring about those things. We have to stop thinking it is our business if students have the correct religious beliefs about evolutionary theory. So if a conservative evangelical pastor tells me that he can put evangelical theology first and still embrace mainstream evolutionary theory, I’m all for it. Not because his theology is correct, because I don’t care about that.

In this case, the pastor is Todd Wilson. He took to the pages of the BioLogos Forum to explain his method for bridging the angry divide between young-earth creationists and evolutionary creationists. All evangelicals, the Rev. Wilson argues, can agree on some faith basics:

1. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, inspired and authoritative. Therefore whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God’s instruction, without denying that the human authors of Scripture communicate using the cultural conventions of their time. . . .

2. Christians should be well-grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which Evangelicals disagree. . . .

3. Everything in creation finds its source, goal and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What do these ideas have to do with evolutionary theory? Nothing, in one sense. They are all about evangelical theology, not evolutionary science. On the other hand, these ideas might hold the key to evolution education in the United States.

The Rev. Wilson hopes that he can use these points to connect better with different types of evangelical creationists. Young-earth creationists, old-earthers, evolutionary creationists, intelligent designers…all of them disagree with one another, sometimes with great vituperation.

Is his theology correct? I have no idea, and this is where those of us watching these battles from the outside should cultivate an awkward and principled indifference. Speaking in terms of public policy, we just shouldn’t care WHAT people believe about creation. What we should always do is help people develop a thorough and meaningful knowledge about evolutionary theory. What they choose to believe about it is not a question public schools can care about.

It is not—it should not be—the purview of the public schools to encourage or discourage students from having any particular religious beliefs. It IS the goal of public schools to teach students the best of everything.

Combined, those two goals mean we should teach mainstream evolutionary theory to all students. And we should be painfully aware not to step into the regions trod by the Rev. Wilson. If his young-earth creationist congregants want to believe that the Bible is the “inspired and authoritative” Word of God, that’s fine. If they want their children to believe that their religion dictates a belief in a young earth, that’s fine too.

Is Wilson right? Not only don’t we care, we shouldn’t care. We should not involve ourselves in big-picture religious beliefs that touch on questions of speciation and evolutionary theory.

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