Jesus christ accepts the theory of evolution
RACHEL Yes, we’re ready…. Are we on the air now? Friends, behind me rise the golden walls of Jerusalem, and with us we have our special guest, Jesus Christ. In my last interview, Jesus, I mentioned to you the theory of evolution, and I’d like to ask you now do you know anything about evolution?
JESUS No, Rachel, I don’t.
RACHEL Well, let me explain to you that in 1859 the English scientist Charles Darwin, who was in fact a very religious man, discovered the mystery of life.
JESUS And what was that mystery?
RACHEL Charles Darwin demonstrated that all living beings, all animals and plants, everything alive, belongs to the same family. Everything living spring from a common trunk.
JESUS Could you please explain that a little more clearly, Rachel?
RACHEL Through natural selection, by a process of trial and error, living creatures keep adapting to their environment. They keep changing little by little.
JESUS The book of Job speaks of the eagle, the wild ass, the seahorse, all master works of God.
RACHEL Well, all those animals, according to Darwin, are descended from a single origin. They evolved over eons, starting from a first seed.
JESUS And who planted that seed?
RACHEL Let’s say that God sowed the tree of life, and the tree grew and sprouted a thousand different branches. On each branch, in the course of millions of years, there appeared the most diverse forms of life, all the different species.
JESUS That seems to me to be a very beautiful explanation.
RACHEL But the Bible says something else. The Bible says that God created first the plants, then the birds, then the fish, then the cattle. It says that in just seven days God created all the living beings, one after another.
JESUS Well, if you really think about it, drawing a thousand different creatures out of a single seed seems a much greater feat than sowing a thousand seeds, one for each creature. What you’re saying proclaims God’s glory with even greater force.
RACHEL In case you’re not aware, let me tell you that there’s a terrible conflict between those who defend the Bible’s version of creation and those who defend evolution as taught by Darwin. What do you say? Should we believe faith or science?
JESUS Faith is not contained in any book, Rachel. And neither is the firmament contained in any science. Who could be so arrogant as to think he knows everything?
RACHEL But then what do we go with, creation or evolution?
JESUS Rachel, if I understood you well, wasn’t it God who created evolution? Didn’t God sow the first seed?
RACHEL There’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet, something that scandalizes many people. According to Darwin’s theory we human beings are also a branch on that immense tree of life.
JESUS And what’s scandalous about that?
RACHEL Do you know who are first cousins are, our closest relatives on that tree?
JESUS Tell me who.
RACHEL The monkeys!
JESUS The monkeys?
RACHEL But, … what are you laughing about?
JESUS I find that funny. That really is a good joke on God’s part — so that we don’t take on airs, so that we become more humble. We’re cousins to the monkeys!
RACHEL For many people that kind of relation is an insult.
JESUS I don’t understand why. Isn’t it the same God who created us and the monkeys and everything that lives on earth? So? We are all born from God’s hands. The truth is, I didn’t know what you’ve just told me, Rachel, but …
RACHEL And now that you know, what do you think of Charles Darwin’s theory?
JESUS King Solomon was a great sage, but what that man said contains more wisdom than can be found in Solomon.
RACHEL And you, dear listeners, what do you think? Do you side with Darwin or with the Bible? Or with both of them, as Jesus Christ himself says? We await your calls. This is Rachel Perez for Emisoras Latinas, in Jerusalem.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
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Charles Darwin (1809-82) was the British biologist who devised and explained the theory of evolution. He presented it to the scientific community in a book titled The Origin of Species. His discovery, his intuitions and his explanations brought about revolutionary changes in our understanding of life.
Darwin’s main idea is that all living organisms have a common origin and that for eons they have been evolving through a very slow process of “natural selection.” This process is affected by the external conditions of the environment, such as the abundance or lack of resources, climate, geological changes, arrival of new species to a place, etc. These conditions keep introducing changes and producing different features in living organisms, and in the course of time the changes are passed on to the offspring.
In 1871 Darwin published his book The Origin of Man, in which he also includes human beings in the single, unique process of the evolution of life. Darwin stated that the ancestors of human beings were animals similar to monkeys. This provoked a great religious controversy, which continues up to the present day, as Rachel explains to Jesus.
The five-year scientific expedition that Darwin undertook in 1831 on the HMS Beagle put him on the trail of the theory of evolution. Darwin examined the diversity of the fauna and flora in very different places, and he came to understand that geographic distances and diversity of environments created the conditions which produced the variations in species.
He was especially helped by the observations he made on the Galapagos Islands, where he studied the colonies of finches, birds with common characteristics but with notable minor differences, depending on the islands where they lived. He theorized that a single species, the ancestral finch, had “evolved” to produce six new species (cactus finch, ground finch, tree finch, woodpecker finch, mangrove finch, warbler finch), according on the environment to which they had to adapt.
Let us listen to how Darwin himself explains natural selection, the key to the theory of evolution; he writes in the careful, delicate style with which he communicated all his revolutionary findings:
As man is able to produce great results in his domestic plants and animals by the accumulation of individual differences in a certain direction, in the same way natural selection would be able to do so, but much more easily, since it has an incomparably greater amount of time for its work. … Since man is able to produce, and certainly has produced, great results by means of methodical, inadvertent selection, what will natural selection not bring about? … How transient are the desires and efforts of man; how short his time, and consequently how poor will be his accomplishments compared with those that nature has accumulated during entire geological epochs! … It may be said metaphorically that natural selection is daily, and even hourly, carrying out in all the world an examination of even the smallest variations; discarding those that do not work, it preserves and accumulates those that do; it works imperceptibly and quietly wherever and whenever an opportunity to improve an organic being presents itself, in relation to the organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these small changes that are in progress until the hand of time has put on them the seal of ages, and even then so imperfect is our vision into the remote geological epochs that the only thing we discern is that today’s life forms are not what they were in other times.
Darwin ends his book The Origin of the Species, which changed scientific ideas forever, with the following words: There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
An ingenious and revolutionary idea
Despite the great variety of animal species, someone like Aristotle, who philosophized about everything he observed, never saw any possible relationship in that variety. When Europeans came to know the fauna of the New World, many were quite disturbed. How could the animals there be so different from the ones known in the Old World? But nobody reflected on the reasons for the differences. During the Renaissance the discoveries of the first fossils also provoked concern, but nobody then thought in terms of evolution. It was the French scientist Jean Baptiste Lamarck who, some fifty years before Darwin, had the first insights about how the similarities and differences of the species could be explained scientifically through a kind of evolution.
Darwin succeeded in structuring these insights and forming them into a rigorous, coherent theory. Modern-day scientists even now are amazed at his discovery. His fellow Briton, Richard Dawkins, a convinced and enthusiastic evolutionist, states: Living organisms have existed on earth for more than three billion years without knowing why they existed, until the truth was finally understood by one of them – by a man named Charles Darwin.
And Dawkins takes delight in writing: On one planet, and possibly on just one planet in the whole universe, molecules that normally would not produce anything more complicated than a piece of stone joined themselves together into pieces of stone-sized matter, organized in such an amazingly complex form that they are capable of running, jumping, swimming, flying, seeing, hearing, and capturing and eating other animated pieces of complex matter. We know now basically how such a trick was done, but we’ve only known it since 1859. Before that date everythingl seemed very, very strange. Now, thanks to Darwin, it is simply very strange.
And he concludes that natural selection, the central concept in the theory of evolution, is the most revolutionary notion in the history of biology, and I would even entertain the idea of substituting “science” for “biology”.
A colossal scandal
Darwin was a man with profound religious sentiment and solid Christian formation – at one time he even wanted to become a clergyman. He knew that his theory would cause confusion among believers, even though he was convinced that the common origin of all living being was something “ennobling” for all. He recognized the scandal caused by his book The Origin of Species: I feel that the basic conclusion arrived at in this book, that is, that man is descended from an inferiorly organized form, is for many people highly disagreeable.
The scandal is logical. In proving our animal origins, Darwin not only put us humans “in our place” but also deduced that there was no “purpose” in the evolutionary process. He stated it thus: There appears to be no more purpose in the variability of living beings and in the action of natural selection than there is in the direction in which the wind blows. This idea of chance in evolution contradicted the biblical idea of a linear ordering of all created beings toward the appearance on earth of human beings; it was thus judged contrary to the idea of a divine plan, and it seemed to deny God’s providence as the guiding force of the universe and history.
Why such anxiety and rejection?
The astrophysicist Carl Sagan gives a good explanation of the scandal provoked by Darwin with his theory of evolution: Darwin’s supremely democratic perspective connects us with our long-forgotten ancestors and with the multitude of our relatives, the millions of other species with which we share the earth. But the price we have paid has been high, and there are still some who refuse to pay it, for reasons that are very understandable.
Evolution suggests that if God exists, he likes secondary causes and autonomous processes. God set the universe in motion, established the laws of nature, and then left the scene. Apparently there is no executive working on the job: all the power has been delegated. Evolution suggests that God will not intervene, whether we beg him to or not, to save us from ourselves. Evolution suggests that we are alone and that, if there is a God, that God must be far away. That is enough to explain a large part of the anxiety and the rejection that the theory of evolution has produced. We would like to think that someone is at the helm.
There exists an evolutionary theology, which is rooted in a mystique that rejects dualisms, a mystique which finds different expressions in all religions, spiritualities and civilizations. Such a mystical evolutionary theology is formulated thus: God is not the initiator of evolution. This would mean that evolution functions outside of God. Evolution is God unfolding himself. And since a crucial element in evolution is the appearance of life, the evolutionary mystics affirm that the name “Life” befits God: Life is an appropriate concept for designating that reality we call God, because Life also exceeds our comprehension.
Creationism vs. evolutionism
Since Darwin revolutionized science with his speaking and writing, he was subject to all kinds of criticism, ridicule and dismissal. Nevertheless, from the start his theory won space in the minds of scientists throughout the world. The theory convinced, impassioned, explained and revealed.
In more recent times “evolutionism” has been challenged by “creationism,” which is based on the story of creation that appears in Genesis. Its defenders insist on the direct creation of every living organism by God, and most especially on the direct creation by God of the human species.
The intellectual battles between the two theories have been constant, as have the legal battles. One of the most famous was the so-called “Monkey Trial”, which took place in Dayton, Ohio (U.S.A.), in 1925. In that trial the science professor John Thomas Scopes was accused of teaching evolution and thus of breaking a law of the southern state of Tennessee that prohibited teaching in the public schools any theory that negated the story of man’s divine creation as it is taught in the Bible, and that taught instead that man is descended for a lesser order of animals. Scopes won the trial. This interesting story was made into a movie called “Inherit the Wind” (1960) by director Stanley Kramer.
From creationism to intelligent design
As science developed, evolutionism gained more ground, and creationism became ever more indefensible. In the 1990s, however, biblical fundamentalism also made advances, among both Catholics and Protestants, and the defenders of creationism decided on a new strategy, which is called “intelligent design”. This new form of creationism, which presents itself as a scientific proposal, states that the origin and the evolution of the universe, of life and of human beings are the result of rational actions deliberately implemented by an intelligent agent with predetermined objectives.
The intelligent design movement appeared first in the United States and is strongest there. The growing influence of the evangelical churches, which promote biblical literalism and religious fanaticism, has steadily extended the movement to other countries. In the Catholic Church as well, there have been pronouncements that seem to favor some of the postulates of this quite unscientific theory.
The virtual encyclopedia Wikipedia offers a very complete summary of the differences between the theory of evolution and the ideas behind intelligent design.
The risk of creationism
In addition to the diffusion of the “scientific” proposal of intelligent design, creationism remains alive and well, especially in the United States, and its proponents still seek to communicate it to the younger generations. In the year 2007 only 26% of the U.S. population accepted the theory of evolution, while 65% thought that biblical creationism should be taught in the schools, on the same level as evolution. Belief in creationism or intelligent design has extremely serious political consequences, for only one-third of the people in the U.S. think that the government should take action to slow down climatic change. They think this way because they believe that all affairs at the planetary level are be left solely in the hands of the God the Creator, the Intelligent Designer.
Evolution: “more than a hypothesis”
After a century of belligerent church activism against the theory of evolution, including censures and anathemas against Catholics who defended it, Pope Pius XII finally, in 1950, issued the encyclical “Humani Generis”. Pope John Paul II explained the contents of this encyclical thus:
Taking into account the state of scientific investigations of that epoch and also the requirements specific to theology, the encyclical considered the doctrine of “evolutionism” as a serious hypothesis, just as worthy of profound investigation and reflection as the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two conditions of a methodological nature: that this opinion not be adopted as if it were a certain and demonstrated doctrine or as if it were possible to abstract totally from revelation with regard to the questions that this doctrine treats.
At last, on October 23rd, 1996, Pope John Paul II formally announced to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences that new knowledge leads us to recognize that the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis. In fact, it is remarkable how this theory has been gradually imposed on the spirit of the researchers, because of a series of discoveries made in different disciplines. The convergence, in no way sought or provoked, of the results of works undertaken independently of one another constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory. On this occasion the Pope declared that creation and evolution could live together without conflict. But he still reserved a space for control: they could live together as long as we continued to believe that only God creates the human soul.
The “heresy” of evolution
The Catholic Church rejected the theory of evolution for a hundred years, and many evangelical churches continue to reject it even today. They do so out of ignorance, as well as out of fundamentalism and a biblical literalism based on arrogance. Indeed, if they were to accept this scientific evidence, they would have to accept that human beings are not the “kings and queens” of nature and that nature does not belong to us, but that we belong to nature. We would have to be more humble, recognizing that we have no right to dominate other beings, since we are part of a highly complex, intricate vital network.
The theory of evolution is heresy for those who r