What Would Jesus Say to Darwin?
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2010 Jul 30
In certain company, Jesus had the rather annoying habit of answering a question with a question.
It had the effect of turning the tables on those who were trying to trip him up, while getting others to think through what was being asked. For example, when a religious leader asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life, Jesus' response—"What is written in the Law?"—pointed the leader to what had already been revealed, to what, in fact, the man already knew.
But what would Jesus have said to someone asking, "Good teacher, you have great wisdom. Tell me, if you would be so kind—how did life begin?"
The scenario is not as far-fetched as you might think.
At the time of Jesus' public ministry, a number of alternatives to the Genesis story were well-known and actively peddled in the marketplace of ideas. One was "atomism," a thoroughly naturalistic explanation of the universe developed in the fifth century B.C.
As the Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus spun it, the universe was made up of indivisible, and infinitesimally small, grains of matter ("atoms") whose chance collisions and combinations over untold eons brought everything into existence—even thinking, sentient beings. Have a familiar jingle?
Like neo-Darwinism, atomism gave intellectual comfort to those inclined toward atheism, while raising honest doubts among those who accepted the Old Testament account. So it is possible - maybe likely—that some seeker or schemer would have asked Jesus to settle the controversy between Moses and the philosophers, or, in today's parlance, between religion and science.
Fast-forward 2,000 years. There are those who say "Controversy? What controversy?" One is Francis Ayala, evolutionary biologist and former Catholic priest.
Ayala, 2010 winner of the Templeton Prize (for his "exceptional contribution affirming life's spiritual dimension"), recently stated that "scientific knowledge, the theory of evolution in particular, is consistent with a religious belief in God..." Well, yeah, since knowledge—true knowledge, scientific or otherwise—is sourced in the Author of truth.
But the knowledge of which Ayala refers is not the "after its kind" microevolution accepted by the religious and non-religious alike; it is the "mud-to-man" macroevolution of neo-Darwinism. Consequently, the Templeton Prize winner went on to exclude "the tenets of creationism and the so-called intelligent design" as knowledge consistent with belief in God.
If Ayala's exclusion sends your head aswirl, Francis Collins' explanation will help right it... Continue reading here.