Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chapter 4- Human beings: A special creation?

When I read books like these I am always reminded of my very sketchy understanding of contemporary theories on early humans and evolution. Getting into chapter 4 I have felt my understanding of the science inadequate and so have found myself on the internet reading about the “rise of modern humans”. However, with so little background knowledge I am unsure of what is generally agreed upon and what is controversial within the scientific community (although the pages that involve our “extra-terrestrial ancestors” are slightly more identifiable).

If you have found yourself in a similar position I found this student module from the Washington State University helpful. It also has links to the Smithsonian Museum Human Origins Program. http://www.public.wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules/top_longfor/lfopen-index.html

This website is also an example of the need for this book. It is littered with assumptions about science and common “tales” of historical interactions between the church and science. The author constantly comments on how confident we can be about these theories because of evidence that is incomplete at best.

As I read chapter 4 the phrase “jumping to conclusions” came to mind. We know we have some embarrassingly large percentage of DNA in common with fruit flies but as Lennox points out this does not mean we are the same or equally important– life isn’t just chemistry. “Humans are nothing but animals” is an extension of the theory of evolution beyond biology into “philosophical extrapolations and deductions from it” (p69). People are making observations and constructing theories, but then applying these theories to areas well outside the realms of science, making assumptions based on their worldview. I believe this is what lies at the heart of the conflict. In speaking with some people evolution is not so much a scientific theory as a worldview. It shapes the way they make sense of the world and their place in it (often unconsciously). Consequently questioning evolution is not peer review but an attack on their identity. They are highly sceptical of other views (notably Christianity) and when presented with reasonable reasons to question conclusions or evidence or to consider alternatives they are unable to be objective. Their attachment to evolution is deeply personal.

In talking to friends it is perhaps more productive to understand their worldview and help them to question it rather than attacking it by arguing over the validity of various research. For the example of humans being just animals we can show them how they do not treat people the same way as they treat animals. Only in The Lion King is a lion accused of murder. But we all hold humans responsible for their actions. By getting to the point of questioning their worldview our friends will be ready to consider evidence for the alternatives. Our friends need to see that regardless of the mechanism we are wonderfully, beautifully made in the image of God. Unique in creation, but sinful and needing salvation.

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