Aim to reconcile creation and evolution
Is there a middle ground between ‘fundamentalist’ Christians, who believe the Bible is literally true and God makes everything in the universe happen, and ‘fundamentalist’ scientists, who believe everything in the universe is the result of chance?
Rev David Bell believes so and he has written a book for teenagers that attempts to reconcile Biblical versions of creation with evolutionary thought.
The book is A Young Person’s Guide to Adam and Eve and Evolution, and David says his experience developing it with his East Coast Bays congregation makes him think it will lead young people to get more interested in both science and the Bible.
“The book is written in a scientific spirit. It is open-minded, asks questions, and is prepared to shift ground,” David says.
“Evolution is a fact. The species are not fixed and unchanging. They have evolved and are still evolving. However, scientists are not agreed on how this happens, and there is an even bigger debate on why it happens.
“Rather than tackle evolution as a biologist, chemist, or geologist and stop at the level of description, it is important to go ask what its significance is. Science has uncovered the double helix that contains the barcodes of information in DNA but what does it signify? There are worlds of meaning beyond scientific description.”
Some of that meaning is found in the creation stories of Genesis, David believes. Genesis describes not the creation of human beings but the emergence of self-awareness.
Adam is the Hebrew word for mankind and Eve is Hebrew for mother of all living things. They were, David says, the original archetypal pair who came to self-understanding.
“The Bible faithfully records the emergence of someone who first saw the pattern of God in himself and in the world around him. It honours the discovery that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are no different than and we are part of evolutionary processes.
“This understanding occurred at the same time civilisation was evolving in the Middle East – in Mesopotamia, northern Iraq, and eastern Turkey. This is faithfully recorded in the Bible and other epic material.”
Unlike the scientists he calls neo Darwinists, David does not believe this development is the outcome solely of random events. He says life has meaning, it moves towards a goal, and it has a teleology.
“We are the universe observing itself. What we have become was contained in the primordial big bang. But it is difficult to prescribe all this just to chance. Physicists, cosmologists, and mathematicians are now saying to neo Darwinists that they have got it wrong.
“They say to get the universe we’ve got and have life on Earth is not tenable purely as a result of chance. If you take their view you may not end up with a conventional vision of God but you will end up with some view of God.”
David worked with artist Melissa Martyn to prepare the book. She has created images that resemble woodcuts to illustrate such concepts as DNA and water as the source of life.
The East Coast Bays Methodist Church’s publishing enterprise AIM has published the book, and an Australian religious publisher is also interested in it.
As he prepared the book David presented material from it in sermons, study groups, and talks with children. He says people of all ages responded by saying that it showed them things they did not know about the Bible or about evolution. David hopes the book creates a “contagious method” to get people more interested in both.