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Jaw, jaw: Can you spot the design defect? 

Can one believe in evolution and God? Some people of faith and some scientists agree: "No." They are wrong. The theory of evolution says that organisms are related by descent from common ancestors. Over time, organisms change and diversify as they adapt to different environments. Species that share a recent common ancestor are more similar to each other than species whose last common ancestor is more remote. Thus, humans and chimpanzees are, in configuration and genetic make-up, more similar to each other than they are to baboons, elephants or kangaroos.

If humans came about by evolution, then the Bible isn't wrong when it says that humans were created in the image of God.

Science has many other theories besides evolution. The heliocentric theory says that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. The atomic theory says that all matter is made up of atoms. And astronomy teaches us that the galaxies expand in space and that stars and planets form over time. Scientists agree that the evolutionary origin of plants and animals is a scientific conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. They place it beside such established notions as the roundness of the earth, its revolution around the sun and the atomic composition of matter. That evolution has occurred is, in ordinary language, a fact, not just a theory.

Many Biblical scholars have rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible as untenable because it contains mutually incompatible statements, if they are taken as scientific. The beginning of Genesis presents two different creation stories. Extending through chapter one and the first verses of chapter two is the six-day narrative, in which God creates human beings — both "male and female" — in His own image on the sixth day, after creating light, earth, firmament, fish, fowl and cattle.

In Genesis 2:4, a different narrative starts: God first creates a male human, then plants a garden and creates the animals and only then proceeds to take a rib from the man to make a woman. Which one of the two narratives is correct and which one is in error? Neither contradicts the other, if we understand the two narratives as conveying the same message, that the world was created by God and that humans are His creatures.

There are numerous inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. For example, in the description of the return from Egypt to the promised land by the chosen people of Israel, not to mention erroneous factual statements about the sun circling the earth and the like. Is the Bible "wrong"?

Biblical scholars hold that the Bible is inerrant regarding religious truth, not in matters that are of no significance to salvation. St Augustine, one of the greatest Christian authors of all time, wrote: "In the matter of the shape of heaven, the sacred writers did not wish to teach men facts that could be of no avail to their salvation."

He is saying that Genesis is not a book of astronomy. He also noted that in Genesis's narrative of creation, God created light on the first day but did not create the sun until the fourth day, concluding that "light" and "days" in Genesis made no literal sense. The Bible is about religion. It isn't the purpose of its authors to settle scientific questions.

Other religious scholars and authorities have made similar statements. In 1981, Pope John Paul II asserted that the Bible "speaks to us of the origins of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven."

If evolution is true, it does not follow that humans were not created by God. Science and faith speak about different aspects of reality. An individual human develops from a single cell in the mother's womb, is born, grows into an adult and eventually dies. A person of faith can accept these natural processes and still believe a human to be a creature of God.

The scholarly Protestant theologian A. H. Strong wrote in 1885: "We grant the principle of evolution, but we regard it as only the method of divine intelligence." He explained that the brutish ancestry of humans was not incompatible with their excelling status as creatures in the image of God. Yes, one can believe in both evolution and God. Evolution is a well-confirmed scientific theory. Christians and other people of faith need not see evolution as a threat to their beliefs. Like Strong, many theologians see evolution as the process by which God creates the wonderful diversity of plants, animals and other living beings.

Science and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters. Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: the composition of matter, the expansion of the galaxies and the origin and diversity of organisms. Religion concerns the proper relation of people to their creator and to each other, the meaning and purpose of human life and of the world and how to live a virtuous life.

Science and religion can be, for people of faith, mutually motivating and inspiring. Science may inspire religious beliefs and religious behaviour, as we respond with awe to the immensity of the universe, the wondrous diversity of organisms, and the marvels of the human brain and the human mind.

Religion promotes reverence for the creation, for humankind as well as the environment. Religion may be a motivating force and source of inspiration for scientific research and may move scientists to investigate the marvellous world of the creation and to solve the puzzles with which it confronts us.

The natural world abounds in catastrophic disasters, imperfections, dysfunctions, suffering and cruelty: tsunamis bring destruction and death; volcanic eruptions erased Pompeii and Herculaneum, killing all their citizens; and floods and droughts bring ruin to farmers.

The human jaw is poorly designed, so that the wisdom teeth need to be extracted and the other teeth benefit from being straightened; lions devour their prey; malaria parasites kill millions of humans every year and make 500 million sick.

The scientific revolution, ushered in by Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, provided a natural explanation of the calamities of the physical world: tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur as a result of natural processes. They need not be attributed to specific actions of the Creator directed to punish some humans and reward others.

Similarly, the theory of evolution, ushered in by Darwin's revolution, accounts for the imperfections, dysfunctions and cruelties of the living world. They are a consequence of the clumsy ways of the evolutionary process.

Evolution is not the enemy of religion but, rather, it can be its friend, because it accounts for disease, death, and the dysfunctions and cruelties of living organisms as the result of natural processes, not as the specific design of God. The God of revelation and of faith is a God of love and mercy, and of wisdom.

Darwin's theory of evolution is a gift to science — and to religion as well.

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November 17th, 2010
2:11 PM
@SHOAIB: If we think quran or any other religious scriptures as practiced are flawless then I would urge you to read "Satyarth Prakash" written by Swami Dayanand (in hindi)in late 18th century or read its english translation "The Light of Truth". After reading it I am assured no one who practices religion based on myths and beliefs not without logical inspection and introspection could say what he is practicing is absolutely flawless. This are not my words but many scholars of different religions of that era said about the critical study of different religions made by Swami Dayanand.

November 1st, 2010
7:11 AM

Piyush Chandan
October 29th, 2010
7:10 AM
The author had related the three most debatable words: evolution, science and religion. Since time immemorial, generations are trying to quest the relation between religion,evolution and science and nobody can even surmise that how long the quest would undergo.

October 22nd, 2010
4:10 AM
Author dint wanted to get into a trouble... played a safe strategy....

Shoaib Khan
October 21st, 2010
4:10 PM
i dont know why people are so eager to call themselves monkeys or for that matter any other creature. If according to this passage Bible has many factual errors, or contradictory statements, then why don't the writer takes references from Qur'an, which is flawless, and nobody till date has been able to find out a single error in it. And above all it is completely compatible with the present scientific discoveries. And as far as evolution is concerned, i'm afraid it is just a theory not a confirmed law, and can never be...because its the biggest lie (as per Soren Luvtrup) mankind/science has ever believed in. Btw, for interested people, plz refer the book 'Atlas of Creation (by Harun Yahya)' to shatter the myth of evolution.

October 6th, 2010
5:10 PM
i am convinced wid d thought of d writer.evolution is indeed a gift 2 religion as well as science. science and religion works in close proximity .they are not mutually exclusive but mutually discovers d marvels of d world and give theory for its existence while religion gives us vision to revere those marvels as gifts of god.evolution as a theory is indeed acceptable but who started this process of evolution can be duly answered by the religion.

June 22nd, 2010
7:06 PM
should have taken it well, to think of more.. its just does not raise a level of argument..

David M
June 15th, 2010
1:06 PM
As Anon said, this does not even rise to the level of argument. It is self-evident that evolution and *God* can co-exist. After all, the existence of God does not imply the truth of any arbitrarily chosen creation myth. But if your belief in God necessarily leads to the belief that his presence must be literally (not just metaphorically) felt everywhere, then you are led to making stupid points like "many theologians see evolution as the process by which God creates the wonderful diversity of plants, animals and other living beings." No, no, no. The very *point* of evolution is that it does not require any sort of divine intervention whatsoever! You can believe that God set off the Big Bang, or created the circumstances in which it would occur, but you simply cannot believe that God has any role in evolution if your understanding of natural selection is genuine. God works as a metaphor, as a symbol of the mystery and elegance of the universe, and this is the sense in which Einstein spoke of God. But there is no valuable sense in which God actually operates alongside science. If he created the universe, that's all he did.

John Dickinson
June 11th, 2010
3:06 PM
Fundamentalist Christians have a huge emotional investment in going to Heaven and living forever. “Eternal life in Jesus Christ.” But this is dependent upon the existence of the soul. And if we have evolved, when did this soul begin? If I meet my ancestors in Heaven, will they be knuckle-walking? This, I believe, is the mental block which makes belief in evolution impossible for such doctrinaire Christians.

June 2nd, 2010
8:06 PM
This is a very poor argument. In fact, it does not even rise to the level of an argument. Mr. Ayala you have wasted my time.

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