Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Science Vs Christian Faith

by Ann LaJuan Stewart
(Biological Sciences PhD Student)
I once read an article that fascinated me. It stated that in the future there will be a universal religion that will be lead by science, & it will combine all of Earths largest religions, such as Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, & Muslim, and this religion will be Anti-Christ. How many of you believe that is possible?
My name is Ann LaJuan Bohannon-Stewart. I’m a PhD Biological Sciences student at Tennessee State University, but I grew up as the daughter of Evangelical Pentecostal Minster named Jethery E. Bohannon, who I love and adore very much. When I was child I was taught the Bible deeply. I learned every story in the Bible and I believed. Now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been taught or shown other things that question my faith in the Bible and the way l learned it as a child. I am only writing this article to help others who are like me in the Evangelical world and are trying to understand the contradictory teachings as I am.
For the most part, I see science as a study that goes along with the Bible or supports Biblical teachings, but there are times when it conflicts in literal translations of the Bible, and I want to teach both of these areas when I graduate with my PhD in Biological Sciences. I also want it understood what I believe about the Bible. I believe the Bible is a book of faith and history, and it was written in a time when man didn’t have the technology that we have today. It wasn’t meant to be a book of science. I believe it is in often times symbolic and although it is highly supported by a lot of scientific findings we study today, it is a book that was meant to give people hope, inspiration, faith, and the belief of right and wrong or good and evil and every word of it is true. There is nothing in science that contradicts the real meaning and real purpose of the Bible, at least not in my opinion.
The parts of the Bible that are challenged the most by science, is usually in the literal interpretation of Genesis. The scientific theories of the Big Bang and Evolution are the two theories that challenge the book of Genesis the most, and understand that I believe that God is so great and so vast that we can’t really explain what God is in our human words, or what he has done in creation. We may not even be able to comprehend what God is in our simple human minds, but in order to get closer to God we have to try to understand him. Because most religions believe in a higher power, which is something that governs this world, we all should seek the truth.
I have been reading statistics on which religious faiths believe in evolution and which ones do not, and I have found that over 80% of Hindus, and Buddhists believe in evolution. This is the highest believing group of evolutionist on the planet, and many Jews are in this group of evolution believers as well. The lowest group is Christians. There are less Christians on the planet that believe in Evolution than any other religion on the planet, and let me tell you what I believe is the reason why. Christians see Evolution as a religion itself and believe that is being used by atheists to disprove the Bible. I’m not here to dispute that. I’m here to tell you the different theories of our creation. What you believe personally about creation is totally up to you, but I am going to give the evidence that supports evolution and the evidence that defies it as well as showing you the evidence of where the Bible is supported by science.
There are probably hundreds of different creation stories among the world's religions that account for the diversity of life forms on Earth. All of the stories are different. A literal reading of the book of Genesis illustrates creation as being done in 7 days and 7 nights by God, when it is interpreted in English. Many people believe this literal interpretation and most believe that this happened less than 10,000 years ago, and that God created all of the species of life along with the world itself, and that the planet earth and our universe is very young. Naturalistic evolution believers have a belief that the universe originated about 14 billion years ago; the earth coalesced about 4.5 billion years ago; life subsequently began, probably as bacteria deep in rocks, and has been evolving ever since. The process of evolution has been driven by purely natural forces, without input from a God or multiple deities. Than there is the belief of Theistic evolution which believe in naturalistic evolution, except that God used evolution as a tool to guide the development of the different species from the simplest to most complex forms that man is today.
Also a debate exists within conservative Christianity over the length of each "day" in Genesis. This debate is whether the word "day" means an interval of 24 hours, or an era of indeterminate duration. Some theologians believe that the Hebrew word "yom" has multiple meanings in various locations in Genesis. A number of other theories of time intervals have been formulated by Christian creation scientists in an attempt to harmonize Genesis and the fossil record, and the carbon dating of earth’s rocks, which is part of scientific evidence of the earth being over 4 billion years old.
For the last few decades Christian Creationist have been using the words microevolution and macroevolution and claiming that microevolution is proven and macroevolution is still an unproven theory. Biologists or scientists usually don’t see a difference in the words microevolution and macroevolution. Most scientists believe that the same results of diversity in species happen when the gene pool of a species is changed.
Now let me define these terms microevolution and macroevolution. These terms “microevolution” and “macroevolution” are often used by creationists in their attempts to explain their belief on the evolutionary theory. Microevolution is used to refer to changes in the gene pool of a population over time which result in relatively small changes to the organisms in the population. Macroevolution, in contrast, is used to refer to changes in organisms which are significant enough that, over a period of time, the newer organisms would be considered an entirely new species. In other words, the new organisms would be unable to mate with their original ancestor species, assuming we were able to bring them together. Biologists also call this process speciation.
You can frequently hear creationists argue that they accept microevolution but not macroevolution; an easier way to understand this is to say that dogs may change to become bigger or smaller, but they never become cats. Therefore, microevolution may occur within the dog species, but macroevolution never will, but if a dog becomes so small or large that it can’t interbreed with other kinds of dogs a scientist may look at this as a form of speciation or a part of becoming another species. Understand also that wolves, dogs and coyotes all were from a common ancestor, but they are so different now in size, shapes, and chromosome numbers that some of them can’t be called the same species anymore.
For biologists, there is no relevant difference between microevolution and macroevolution. Both happen in the same way and for the same reasons, so there is no real reason to differentiate them, but many creationists seem to have the need to believe in microevolution and not macroevolution.
I personally believe that macroevolution is real, and it’s undeniably happening all over our great planet earth. Let me give some examples of macroevolution that have occurred over the last few 1000 years in our earthly planets and animals. The different dog breeds gives strong evidence of macroevolution. Man is partly responsible for the big evolutionary changes in dogs, by taking in wild wolves and domesticating them into our best friends that we call them today. Dogs haven’t just changed in physical form, their number of chromosomes have changed as well. The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is generally considered as a sub-species of the wolf (Canis lupus). Members of the dog genus (Canis) wolves, dogs both common dogs or also called dingoes, coyotes, and golden jackals cannot interbreed with members of the wider dog family or Canidae. Canidae is the biological family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals that includes the wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes. The Canidae, such as South American canids, foxes, African Wild dogs, bat-eared foxes, or raccoon dogs don’t interbreed with Canis or if they could, their offspring would be infertile, but members of the genus Canis species can interbreed to produce fertile offspring, with two exceptions: the side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal. Although these two could theoretically interbreed with each other to produce fertile offspring, they cannot hybridize successfully with the rest of the genus Canis.
The reason for this lies in their genetic codes. The wolf, dingo, dog, coyote, and golden jackal have been considered to be diverged fairly recently, around 3 to 4 million years ago, and all have 78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs. This allows them to hybridize freely, but barring size as an issue in breeding, they should be able to produce fertile offspring. The side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal both have 74 chromosomes. Other members of the Canidae are considered to have diverged 7 to 10 million years ago and are less closely related and cannot hybridize with the wolf-like canids: , the red fox has 38 chromosomes, the raccoon dog has 42 chromosomes, and the fennec fox has 64 chromosomes, and the African Wild Dog has 78 chromosomes. To me it’s easy to see that wolves, jackals, dogs, coyotes, foxes all have a past common ancestor and now they are changing into different species and man has watched them make this change. That seriously supports the theory of evolution, but there are also many animals out there that evolution can’t explain and biologist or scientists have still not been able to classify or find their past ancestor or ancestors. I believe ones of those species that scientists are still searching for a past ancestor on is us humans (Homo sapiens)
There are also other scientists who claim that their view of beginnings or evolution can be tested in a laboratory, so evolution is testable. There is a process known as Hybrid Speciation that has been documented a number of times in different plants and animals. For instance, scientists have mutated fruit flies and show speciation observed in today’s scientific labs. Other examples are new species of mosquitoes, seedless watermelons, different kinds of flowering plants and certain kinds of fish that have gone though the hybridization or species change (speciation). These things are proven to be true to many scientists because they see it happening and understand it is cause by chromosome changes. There is nothing in the Bible that states that speciation is not real, but because the Bible states the words “yields according to its own kind.” creationists often refutes macroevolution.

I want to give examples of this phase “yields according to its own kind” in the Bible
“And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” King James Version Genesis 1
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:11,12
So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21
And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:25

Biological science supports these scriptures by teaching, biogenesis. The phrase “according to its own kind” occurs repeatedly, stressing the reproductive integrity of each kind of animal and plant. Today we know this occurs because all of these reproductive systems are programmed by their genetic codes. Now these genetic codes may get altered, but nowhere in the Bible does it state that speciation can’t occur and make other similar forms of life. If anything, this phrase in the Bible “according to their own kind” supports the biology theory of biogenesis. Biogenesis is the theory that living things come only from other living things. In the field of biology, one of the most commonly accepted and widely used laws of science is the law of biogenesis. This law was set forth many years ago to dictate what both theory and experimental evidence showed to be true among living organisms that life comes only from preceding life, and perpetuates itself by reproducing only its own kind or type. The bottom line of this is. It doesn’t matter how hard biologists or scientists have tried to create life from non-living matter, they have never been able to do it. Honestly that is proof to me there is a God. A higher power that is able to make life from the non-living matter and we do reproduce our own kind as the Bible says we do, but nowhere does it state in the Bible that speciation or the changing of life forms can’t occur. In my opinion God made life to evolve, because life is evolving now. We humans cannot create life from non-living matter. We just don’t know how and no matter how far we humans have come in science, we are not as smart as God is or we would be able to create life from non-living matter or dirt, and we just haven’t been able to do that.
So where does life come from? Scientists have tried to recreate old Earth’s conditions when they believe life began and they did this inside of containment units full of non-living matter and they have never been able to create life from non-living matter. There had to be something that started life on this planet. I find it very hard to look at the life on this planet and not see the undeniable signs of God everywhere. Believing in God is a personal journey that all people have in their life. God will put signs in your life that show you he is real. You either chose to overlook the signs of God or you look around you and see this earth truly has to be the work of a higher power.
There are many Christians who except the belief of evolution and still believe in the Bible fully, and there are other Christians who believe if you believe in evolution you can’t possibly be a real Christian, but I believe you can be. Here are some popular theories that are usually understood by people who believe in the teachings of the Bible and science as well. The principles of theistic science usually teach how God creates the world by slow successive degrees, and by successive means, not by instantaneous creation of organisms and persons in all their detail.
Then there is something called Intelligent Design that is a fairly recently religious beginning. Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause or creator, not an undirected process such as natural selection teaches. It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, but one which deliberately avoids specifying the nature or identity of the designer (God). That means many people who study ID believe there is a God, but just may not understand what God is. Intelligent design was started by a group of American creationists who revised their argument in the controversy of creation and evolution.
Intelligent design appears to teach that God has arbitrary power, and can create any design that he likes, and populate the world according to any chosen plan and the Lord does not create immediately, but progressively. He does not create angels immediately, but 'grows' them gradually, beginning with humans on earth. They seem to teach God is involved on earth in all things such as 'growing' processes, but always allows some crucial decisions to be made by man on their own, and sometimes it seems to teach that God does not even create humans immediately, but grows them 'out of the earth', in a way such as the evolution theory describes.

I grew up a Evangelical Christian and still believe in many of teachings but most evangelicals don’t believe in evolution. Here are some comments from some evangelicals on the different theories of creation:
Rev. Jim Harding of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention commented: "We were created by God, we didn't just evolve by accident. It was not a process of moving from one animal form to another, but rather, as Genesis teaches, that each was made in its own order. In fact, [humans and animals] were made on different days." (source from Christianity and Modern Science)
Quote of Famous Evangelical Billy Graham-"I don't think that there's any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we've tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren't meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. ... whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man's relationship to God.”
I tend to see things closer to what Billy Graham states. I don’t know if speciation has happened in man or not. Science hasn’t shown me enough evidence to make me believe in it or not, and I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but maybe that is the way God the creator chose to do it. I honestly can’t tell you, and I’m soon to be a biologist, who’s main study is in the current genetic field, but I honestly have a hard time believing all life on earth is from one single kind of cell, and it doesn’t matter to me what Evolution tells me, I still can’t look at creation and not believe in a God. I see signs of God everywhere and in everything, and for those who don’t believe in God or don’t see his signs in creation. I see them as blind.

Now understand that most conservative Christians especially evangelicals are particularly insistent on the literal truth or words of the creation stories in Genesis. Many of them believe if those passages were shown to be false, then the Garden of Eden story, the fall the Bible teachings and the alienation between God and man would all be in doubt. Some feel that this could negate the need for Jesus' execution and resurrection, and place to many questions in people’s minds about the truth of the Bible. Some believe that the entire conservative Christian message would collapse if evolution is accepted and if Genesis is shown to be a fable.
But on the other hand, Liberal Protestant Churches sometimes go the other way. Many followers in these churches have accepted and sometimes even promoted the theory of evolution for the last few decades. Understanding there is unresolved details about the evolution of species on earth and of the matter and energy in the rest of the universe, scientists have reached a consensus on the broad mechanisms of evolution and they accept it as possible truth and teach it in some churches as well. Many protestant scientists believe that the universe originated at a "Big Bang" some 20 billion years ago, and evolution and all life on earth is still under God the creator.
The Roman Catholics are even farther ahead of the liberal protestants. Statistics show that over 50% of Catholics are reported to be believers in evolution. Even Pope John Paul II has been said to publically embrace the theory of evolution. Also this statement posted below was taken from New Advent. “Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis considered the doctrine of "evolutionism" a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pope Pius XII (The Vatican’s View)

You see I am a Biological Sciences PhD major at Tennessee State University…and I should be a scientist in a few years. I specialize in genetics and I have a need to teach Christian people what I have learned in college. You see I believe there is a God, who is the creator, and I believe in Jesus Christ, and living by the teachings of Jesus Christ, but there are things that are being taught in our schools that make people question our Christian faith because of its comparison to the Bible. Theories such as Evolution, The Big Bang Theory, and many other theories in science put questions in our children’s minds about Christianity. This is the part I want to teach. I want to teach people where science supports Bible teachings, why it sometimes seems to conflict and what they will have to face and learn when they are in school, and let them understand that science isn’t always correct. We are teaching theories in schools and colleges, but we have been teaching these theories in schools since the 1970’s so students are accepting them as facts. There are flaws in the theory of Evolution, and I can teach those flaws in way people can understand them, and I can also teach where the theory of Evolution is supported by evidence. This is one issue that will either hurt Christian faith or help it in the future of our children.
Why I think it is so important for people to read the Bible. Even though it can be difficult to understand, it is the one book of faith that teaches morals that should be lived by, and this is a book that can be trusted and not disproved by science, because many atheists and people of other religious faiths would like the public to believe that science disproves the Bible. I would like to say IT DOES NOT!!!
Even if either the theory of evolution is true or not, it doesn’t disprove the Bible, but I want you to understand that everything in science is just a theory and speciation has not been observed in man. We haven’t seen it happen in front of our eyes like we have with the case of dogs and wolves. Science is always going to find more evidence to provide a clearer understanding of what it made theories on in the past, and science has often disproved itself on many things in the past. Just a wait a few minutes and a new scientific theory may pop up to replace the old one as I promise you it is not an exact science. In other words science is constantly contradicting itself.
Now the main Bible verse that makes evolution look to be unacceptable by Christians “And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” King James Bible Genesis 2.7
This verse is why many Christians don’t except the theory of evolution, but understand that in the study of biology all life is believed to have come from bacteria in rocks or dust, and a person who believes in evolution and the Bible could also interpret this verse as saying “ok all life is from dust, and who knows when God decided to give man a soul? It was when Adam and Eve was in the Garden of Eden, but maybe a Christian Evolutionist could believe at one point and time God took an animal that was very ignorant and intervened in this animal that God made out of dust and gave him a soul and made the animal a human with the ability to learn more and understand more than other animals on the planet. A Christian Evolutionist could also believe that Adam and Eve became a more intelligent animal when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. I have my own personal theory on this one. I study genetics and I know that what we eat changes our gene expression. I believe when Eve and Adam took of the fruit that made humans smarter and much more intelligent than other animals on the planet, and with wisdom comes more responsibility. In my opinion man is the only species on the planet that is responsible to know right from wrong. Other animals are not held responsible as we are. We can lose our soul by doing acts against God’s teachings or wishes. That is why the Bible is so important. It’s the one book that tries to teach us how to live right. Whether we seek to do the right thing or not is up to us, and where our soul ends up, will be up to our actions, and this will also be completely up to God’s judgment based on our life we lived on this earth. It’s my belief that the Bible is the best guide we have for our souls to reach a better place.

About a decade ago scientists mapped the human genome. The Human Genome Project was a big accomplishment in the world of science. Now human DNA is being compared to animal DNA more than ever before. Now biologists, geneticists and other scientist are in a race to see how other mapped genomes of animals compare to humans. Colleges and schools are now changing the way they teach creation theories now in schools. We have gone from the old taxonomy system to a new system. Something scientists call the Tree of Life. This Tree of Life joins species together by a system of branching called cladogram. A cladogram is considered like branches of a tree which shows ancestral relations between organisms, to represent the evolutionary tree of life by joining closely related species. Although traditionally such cladograms were generated largely on the basis of morphological characters in the past, now DNA and RNA sequencing data and computational phylogenetics are very commonly used in the generation of cladograms.This is a new way of teaching in school biology classes and programs, that church teachers and Christian religious leaders or pastors need to know about and teach people, especially children in church. Because people need to understand that the literal words in Genesis state creation was done in 7 days and 7 nights and in schools they are going to be taught that the earth is theoretically over 4 billion years old, and human evolved from a more animal like primate. Children especially need to hear what’s going to be taught to them in school compared to what they are going to read in the book of Genesis. It can cause confusion in their minds, to where they don’t see truth in the Bible at all, and may even question if there is a God. So tell them the different theories of creation and let them know what they will learn in school about creation is a theory.
So what you believe about creation, evolution, and the interpretation of the book of Genesis is totally up to you, but don’t let anyone ever tell you science disproves the Bible, cause that is just not happening. If anything science gives more support to Bible teachings than ever before. It’s just people who don’t believe in the Christian faith don’t want you to believe either.
I want to be able to visit radio stations, churches, and colleges after I graduate and teach them what I have learned…and why evolution made me question Christian faith at one time…and what gave me my personal faith back in God our creator. There are many people who are using the theories of science against our Christian faith…I sincerely want to try to stop that.
Ann LaJuan Bohannon-Stewart PhD Student at Tennessee State University