This is the final installment in this series dealing with questions youth have. The series is in response to a study conducted by Youthworks involving 208 “Scripture kids” between the ages of 11-14. The fourth most common question for these youth was whether or not evolution disproves God. Evolution’s impact on the faith of many cannot be denied, and I believe that in most instances that impact has been negative. But, I must emphasize that this is not true in all cases.
To approach the notion that evolution proves God does not exist, it is important to first note that you cannot “prove” the nonexistence of God. In order to prove that God does not exist would require at least two steps: (1) an idea of what, exactly, you were looking for, so that you could actually identify it in a search; and, (2) an exhaustive search of all that exists.
But, let us move on to the bigger question: does the mechanism of evolution explain away the need for God. Let me begin with a disclaimer: I do not believe in macro-evolution (from goo to you by way of the zoo). I do recognize that micro-evolution does occur (variation within a species), but that these variations have limits.
So, does the mechanism of evolution explain away the need for God? The simple answer is: no. Darwinian evolution, provides an explanation for the variation we see in living things by way of descent with modification and natural selection. So, a certain feature arises in a population (a beneficial genetic mutation) and that allows the mutated creature to excel others in the area of reproduction, making it grow in number and eventually superseding its predecessor or becoming a distinct, yet co-existing population. The process of Darwinian evolution requires great lengths of time for new species to arise.
Now, you may have noticed that something is missing in all of this. The creation of life to begin with. Darwinian evolution does not explain abiogenesis (the rise of life from non-life). And, without an explanation for how life arose to begin with, the process goes nowhere.
Again, I am not an evolutionist, but I also do not believe that it is a show stopper to faith. There are brilliant people that hold to Darwinian evolution that are also evangelical Christians. The most well-known of these would probably be Francis Collins. Another example is Charles Foster, who wrote, The Selfless Gene. While his exact position on the question is not always clear, C.S. Lewis uses language sympathetic to evolution in Mere Christianity. Another prominent Christian who holds to evolution is Alister McGrath, a prolific author with doctorates in both Molecular Biology and Divinity.
For many of these the theory of evolution does not explain everything. For instance, the facts that we are selfless in many instances and have morals that seem inborn to us are not explained by evolutionary mechanisms. There is also the question of how did it all start. For these individuals, they are okay with the process, but God started it by creating the first life forms. For others, there is the idea of evolution being guided. In these cases, it is often suggested that the process does not seem entirely random, but that God is directing the process.
Even though I am not an evolutionist, I feel it is important for people to understand that you do not have to make a choice between the Christian faith and the process of evolution. If you look on my page under “Resources” and then click “Science,” you will find a number of websites that support various positions on the question of science and religion. I am a creationist, which means I believe God is the creator. To me, this is the most consistent position with Scripture, but I am not willing to prevent someone from coming to, or growing in, the Christian faith over this issue. Besides, there are plenty of days ahead when I can be critical of evolution.
I think it is important that people are able to think through these issues. We encounter more problems when we shut children off from the ideas they will come across in the world. It is important that parents do their own homework on the vital issues of the day, but also that we find ways to provide quality information to our children that allows them to think through these matters in an informed manner. The Christian faith is resilient and can withstand challenges. The reason it can do this is simple: it is true.