Thursday, April 23, 2009

Evolution and Me

Continuing my line of posts sparked by the debate on evolution in the novel Fossil Hunter...

I first encountered the theory of evolution in the sixth grade, when I did a report on what was at the time deemed the missing link between reptiles and mammals, Cynognathus. (Picture at right is from Wikipedia) Now they only call it a mammal-like reptile (rather than a "missing link").

As a sixth-grader, I thought the notion of things evolving was a brilliant idea. It made perfect sense, and I could not imagine how anyone could believe otherwise. I was actually quite excited about it. It's one of my stronger memories of the sixth grade. (okay, is this proof I'm some kind of science nerd?)

All through high school I continued in this vein. I delighted in biology and worked as the high school biology teacher's aid for a couple of years. I also did volunteer work at a local junior museum amidst a group of fellow tree-hugging, nature-loving environmentalists. Evolution was never questioned. There was no "theory" about it. So far as I was concerned it was accepted fact.

In college I went on to pursue a Bachelor's degree in the double major of Biology and Wildlife Biology. My junior year we had to buy and read the Bible for my class in Humanities. We read the books of John and Job, of all things. I had no clue what they were talking about. It was all gibberish to me. And yet... there was something about the book as a whole that drew me, intrigued me, pulled me into looking further.

I argued ceaselessly with the middle-aged, Christian man who worked in the same office as I did at the Steward Observatory, doing illustration and maps for the publications of the astronomers there. I kept bringing up evolution, asking questions he couldn't answer. I even spent some time trying to align the idea of evolution with the Genesis account and felt quite self-congratulatory and intelligent when I discovered that God had blown it -- he'd made the plants before he made the sun. Ha! How ridiculous. Obviously you have to have the sun before the plants can live. Ha! (I guess I didn't note that He said "Let there be light" before He did any of the rest of it.)

Anyway, I kept pestering this poor man, who finally invited me to his home where I could meet with a friend of his who might be able to better answer my questions. As I've mentioned in the bio on my website, I clearly recall leaving my house the evening of the meeting, thinking smugly that the friend's answers would change nothing. No one could prove which side was right -- evolution or creation -- because no one could go back and see. I find that thought intriguing now, since I stand by it. Evolution is as unprovable as creation. Both must be taken on faith.

In the meeting we didn't talk of evolution at all that I recall, because the Holy Spirit knew that was not the issue. I remember asking a lot of questions, as the man with the answers sent me to scripture after scripture that supposedly answered them. I recall that none of it really made much sense to me, though I nodded and said "Oh, yes, I see..."

Then somehow Jesus came into the conversation (imagine that!) and the next thing I knew, I was overwhelmed with the desire to know Him. I didn't really understand much about sin -- I hadn't committed any of the blatant ones: I didn't drink or smoke or swear, didn't lie or steal or cheat, hadn't slept with my boyfriend or done drugs, I respected authority, was polite and hard-working, got excellent grades... I was goody two shoes. I didn't know then that fear is a sin. As is guilt, complaining, criticizing, anger, judging, self-righteousness, arrogance... No matter, if God said I was a sinner, I would admit it -- I wasn't perfect by a long shot -- and believed that Jesus had died for me on the cross.

Suddenly the scriptures began to make sense, at least in a rudimentary way. I was starving, dying of thirst, couldn't get enough of it. Starting with Lewis Sperry Chafer's Major Bible Themes under the tutelage of the man with the answers who'd led me to the Lord, I began to learn the core doctrines of the faith in the college Sunday school class at the church and also in a private Bible study on Monday nights. We asked questions, memorized verses for the basic doctrines, and learned a lot of theology. I ate it up.

Sometime after that, as I ran around telling everyone about my salvation and how this wonderfully exciting thing had happened to me, one of my old friends from the college hiking club, also a Biology major, asked me how I reconciled the theory of evolution with the Bible's claim that God created everything. By that time I had decided that if I was going to serve God, then His word better be the primary source of my beliefs, and anything man drummed up would have to come second. Into this category went evolution. The Bible said God created the heavens and the earth and that's what I would believe. I might not understand all the details of that, or how evolution fit into it (if, in fact, it did at all), but for the time being that was where I would stand.

Besides, in the big picture evolution didn't really matter. What mattered was "What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?" I was confident that in time I would be able to answer my friend's question, and I believe now that I have a come a long way toward doing that, at least for myself.

If you want to label me (that seems to be the thing that everyone wants to do in this debate, put people in categories -- maybe it's a biologist thing) I am an old earth creationist and I believe that the Gap theory is the most logical explanation of the various relevant Scriptures -- in addition to accomodating some of the observations made of the natural record. In the next few posts I hope to set down some of the reasons why I've come to that conclusion.