I frequently encounter self-described agnostics and atheists who point to evolution as “the scientific alternative” to Christianity. They yammer on about the “indisputable” evidence for common descent and examples of “evolution in action,” using it all to make a case against the viability of Christianity. These are the same types that sometimes stick those Darwin fish symbols on the rear of their car, in direct mockery of that particular faith. (It’s interesting to note that they have yet to come out with a Darwin car ornament that mocks Islam, another faith that believes divine agency is responsible for life…Oh yeah, that wouldn’t be politically correct. My bad.)
Christianity doesn’t stand or fall on biology.
This really should be common knowledge, since there are high-profile Christian scientists who endorse various versions of evolutionary theory. One example would be Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who heads the NIH (National Institute of Health), directs the Human Genome Project, and authored the NY Times bestseller, The Language of God. Dr. Collins would describe himself as an advocate of Theistic Evolution (TE), which is a scientific and theological position taken by some members of the evangelical Christian community. TE proponents believe that Scripture is completely compatible with their scientific stance. Others disagree, arguing for a more literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2.
Whatever Christians’ views happen to be about the mechanism responsible for the complexity and diversity of life (and admittedly, there is heated debate among some concerning proper interpretation of scripture), all would agree that one’s status as an authentic Christian doesn’t hinge upon a denial of biological evolution.
So, the Origins-thumping evangelists of atheism will probably continue to accuse Intelligent Design (ID) proponents of being nothing more than religiously-motivated science heretics, but they fail to understand that Christianity doesn’t require that the theory of evolution (common descent via random mutations + natural selection + time) be false.
Here’s another thing that some may find surprising: there are actually ID proponents who accept common descent. Dr. Michael Behe, a major figure in ID, has said he is comfortable with common descent (though not dogmatic about it). What separates Dr. Behe from the TE camp is his scientific conviction that the origin of some molecular-level biological systems cannot be explained by a step-by-step formation process. Click here to read an interesting response Dr. Behe wrote to one of the TE proponents over at BioLogos (founded by Dr. Francis Collins) who criticized his book, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.
Just for clarification, I am an ID proponent, but I don’t give the theory of common descent as much credit as Dr. Behe does; the sudden appearance–>stasis–>extinction pattern in the fossil record (which hard-core evolutionists such as Stephen Jay Gould have acknowledged) has me convinced that common ancestry is much more limited in scope.
Christians, don’t be intimidated by the subject of evolution. For the materialists, you need to recognize that arguing for evolution doesn’t automatically argue against Christianity, it only disputes certain interpretations of the biblical creation narrative–and I doubt you’re all that interested in correcting someone’s hermeneutics.
Ammendment to this post:
There’s a new collection of essays edited by Jay Richards in a volume entitled God and Evolution. The essential argument is that evolution (understood as chance variations accummulating over time to cause dramatic change) is incompatible with theism. This poses a problem for some versions of Theistic Evolution. I’m intrigued. Stay tuned for a review of the book!