Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was a prominent paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. Although he was not a man of faith, that didn’t stop him from writing and commenting extensively on the relationship between science and religious belief. In his book, Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, Gould proposed what is known as the “non-overlapping magisteria” philosophy (NOMA). In this model, science and religion address completely separate spheres of knowledge; science cannot comment on religion and religion cannot comment on science. According to Gould, they should happily coexist:
I do not see how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis; but I also do not understand why the two enterprises should experience any conflict. Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world…Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different , realm of human purposes, meanings, and values…
—Gould, Rock of Ages
The NOMA view is becoming increasingly pervasive among Christian believers, often with disregard for (or perhaps ignorance of) the philosophical and theological ramifications. A prime example of this is the human origins debate. Theistic evolutionists promote the scientific consensus of human-ape common ancestry, making the (philosophical and theological) claim that the physical origin of humanity is irrelevant to Christ’s work on the cross as our Redeemer.
Let’s examine that. If God created man by way of an evolutionary process and (as theistic evolutionists claim) man gradually became “spiritually aware” at some point in that process, what do we do with the doctrine of original sin? What we have is a race of hominids whose behavior and mentality evolved based on survival of the fittest, without any awareness of God or morality. Karl Giberson, a well-known theistic evolutionist, says:
“Selfishness… drives the evolutionary process. Unselfish creatures died, and their unselfish genes perished with them. Selfish creatures, who attended to their own needs for food, power, and sex, flourished and passed on these genes to their offspring. After many generations selfishness was so fully programmed in our genomes that it was a significant part of what we now call human nature.”
—Karl Giberson, Saving Darwin
Then one day, though one final neurophysiological mutation or perhaps a supernatural “ensoulment” event, these hominids receive their first moral mandate from God, whom they suddenly recognize. From this point onward, their behavior has life or death consequences. Some of the thoughts and behaviors that the evolutionary process (aka God’s creation process) has instilled within their very nature are now considered sin; moral accountability now applies.
But, what does Scripture tell us about the advent of sin? Consider Ecclesiastes 7:29:
This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes.
The Hebrew word that is translated here as “upright” is yashar, which can also be translated as “righteous” or “straight.” This verse plainly teaches that God’s creative actions produced a righteous man who fell into sin. Paul emphasizes the entrance of sin by one man’s willful rebellion:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
He brings this up again in 1 Corinthians:
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
It is quite evident from these passages that man was created in a good, sinless condition from which he fell through conscious, intentional rebellion against God, bringing sin and its consequences into the world. This doesn’t line up with what an evolutionary emergence of mankind would look like; selfishness, violence, suffering, and death would be inherent and necessary to the process of man’s creation. How does redemption make sense if God’s creative process itself produced sin?
The doctrine of Redemption is only coherent in light of the traditional doctrine of Original Sin.
When we scrutinize the scientific data related to investigating man’s origin, the possibility of a special creation of mankind has not been ruled out, contrary to popular claims. I highly recommend a new book by Dr. Ann Gauger, Dr. Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin entitled, Science and Human Origins.
It examines the evidence from biochemistry, paleoanthropology, and population genetics, demonstrating the scientific feasibility of an original pair of human ancestors. I have read it cover-to-cover and I’ve recently had the privilege of hearing all three authors lecture in person. I have the utmost confidence in the work they’re doing.
I suggest pairing the book with Dr. Fazale Rana’s book, Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man. Rana discusses the molecular anthropology and the paleoanthropology related to human origins. (Incidentally, Rana was my lecturing professor for my grad school course, Advanced Seminar on Human Origins.)
The truth of the matter is that science and Christianity do address some of the same questions about reality. Whenever the two disciplines answer the same questions very differently, there is tension. In these cases, we have to be incredibly discerning, paying close attention to what the scientific data actually says and to what Scripture actually says. The danger is in reading too much or too little into either one. Humility and prayer are vital in our search for truth.
When science (God’s physical revelation) is properly interpreted, it will be in agreement with Scripture (God’s verbal revelation) properly interpreted.
I love the way Dr. Angus Menuge (Professor of Philosophy) says it:
However delicately the matter is put, imperialist ‘science’ is expanding its empire and telling religion what it can have as leftovers…It is not only that science needs to be humbled but also that theology can sometimes be justified in standing firm.
—Menuge, Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science