Friday, May 20, 2011

What's Missing From the Evolution Debate?

Kyrie refused to draw an evolution picture for me on a sunny day when she could be outside,
 so you'll have to put up with my cartoons.
The Beauty of Evolution

Evolution-as-Science, Evolution-as-Religion, Intelligent Design, Young-Earth-Creationism, Old-Earth-Creationism - the debates around evolution go on and on. What I'd like to present here is something that I don't recall ever seeing in these debates before. I maintain that there is a beauty to the theory of evolution that many of us are missing.1 (The scientifically-inclined among us probably already see the elegance of the theory - I'm talking about a somewhat more theological beauty.)

Men Are Not Angels

The glory of the angels is that they were formed complete in the first moment of their existence. The legend of Athena says that she sprang, a fully-formed adult, from the skull of Zeus, her father. The angels are like this, springing full-grown from the mind of God. They are never children, never need to grow up.

Men are not angels.

Our glory is not to be complete from the start. Our glory is to come into being over time. We begin as a single cell, knowing nothing. We grow; we learn. We move from being self-centered babies to people capable of self-giving love. Mentally, physically, and spiritually, we begin as the tiniest spark and grow, over time, into the fullness of who we are.

As With Men, So With The World

This pattern that we find in multiple aspects of our own lives is repeated over and over again in nature.
  • An adult chicken grows from a small egg.
  • A giant oak grows from a single nut. 
  • The towering sunflower plant begins as a tiny, edible seed.
  • Every living organism begins as a single cell and grows into full reproductive maturity2
  • The human species as a whole began small - with a single Adam3 - and has grown now to our current size of almost seven billion. 
  • The very universe itself began as an infinitesimally small point before expanding rapidly from there4.

Clearly, it's a pattern God likes.


Evolution is merely one more bullet point in the list, right in between "human species" and "the universe". Evolution says that all of life, too, began as a tiny spark and grew continuously to become the large, diverse body that we have now. 

And that's pretty much it.5

1 I was talking with my sister-in-law one day, and she said she didn't believe in evolution. Knowing her to be a very intuitive, beauty-driven soul, rather than a primarily abstract thinker (as I am), I gave her an overview of how I see evolution fitting into God's design of things. I forget how long it took me to do it - ten minutes, maybe - but at the end of it, she said she was convinced. To which my response was along the lines of, "Wait, what? You've completely reversed your position because of something I said? Huh. That's not usually the response I get." Although she has since told me that she's still not completely convinced.

2 Even single-celled creatures require some amount of time and, I think, growth, before they can reproduce themselves by splitting again. But I admit there may be exceptions to that general rule that I am not aware of.

3 Assuming the Bible meant that literally, which it may not have. Although I am rather inclined to think it did. Either way, the human species definitely started off a heck of a lot smaller than it is now.

4 When I hear that scientists have found that the expansion rate of the universe seems to be increasing, I wonder if the universe is going through an adolescent growth spurt.

5 You would be surprised at how many related thoughts and speculations I made myself leave out of this post. Hell; free will; more on the angels; aliens; C.S. Lewis; Christian Scientists; intelligent animals; Limbo and babies.

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