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Leaving Conflict Behind: An Interview with Karl Giberson
Can you say more about what it means to be made in the image of God?
The image of God is a much-discussed part of theology. But, despite all that discussion, there is no agreement on what it means! Some people, without thinking about it too much, say things like "I am made in the image of God and not the image of a monkey," implying that God's image is our physical appearance. For me, I think we "Image" God when we are at our best expression of his nature, which is love.
If our origins are a natural evolution of what God began, what implications might this have for our destiny? Are we "going" somewhere evolutionarily speaking?
This is hard to say. There is no evidence that humans are evolving in any meaningful direction. And the conditions are not right for us to be evolving. Evolution occurs primarily when there are major challenges to reproduction that reward certain traits and not others. If, for example, tall people could find mates and have kids but short people could not, then the human race would become taller. But the number of kids most people have is based on other factors—careers, religious beliefs, etc.
How receptive are evangelicals to BioLogos?
The reception is selective. We have received a lot of hostile responses from three camps: 1) The young earth creationists, like Ken Ham, think we are pulling the church into apostasy; 2) the Intelligent Design Movement, which seems very threatened by us as a credible option for thinking Christians, has been hostile and said almost nothing nice about BioLogos. Of course, we have been critical of them, because we think they are misleading Christians about the viability of their anti-evolutionary ideas; 3) theistic evolutionists who are insistent that Adam be a historical figure, rather than a symbol. This latter group has been the greatest challenge, in some ways. We expected that the young earthers and the ID folk would attack us. But we were hoping that evangelicals who were okay with evolution might be able to see how hard it is to keep a historical Adam and Eve in natural history. We got a lot of grief about that suggestion.
If we work with the Kuhnian concept of scientific paradigm shifts, can you imagine any that lead to a significant revision of evolution?
Yes. I think that "survival of the fittest" with its vision of "nature red in tooth and claw" could give way to a view that recognized the importance of cooperation. A lot of evolutionary success has come via cooperation over the millennia and this has not gotten the same level of emphasis as competition.
Is there still such a thing as the "missing link"?
There are no missing links in any meaningful sense. In particular, on the human evolutionary tree, there are many, many transitional fossils that link us to our ancient ancestors. In the big picture, of course, there are lots of gaps in the fossil record. Fossilization is rare—so rare that there are some species living today with no fossils of their prior existence! We are aware of many intermediate species that must have existed based on comparing genomes. The phrase "missing link" no longer has any meaning and should be discarded.
What kind of further evidence do you think Christians might want that would enable them to fully accept the theory of evolution?
I think the evidence is so compelling that Christians merely need to be made aware of it. Most Christian biologists think that evolution is just as much a fact as the motion of the earth about the sun. The problem is the terrible misinformation spread in the anti-evolutionary books that are so popular with evangelicals. It amazes me that Henry Morris's book, The Genesis Flood, is still being sold after fifty years with no updating. It is filled with scientific errors, many of which Morris acknowledged as he became aware. But the book is not updated and is still misleading Christians. And there are the books put out by the Discover Institute and Answers in Genesis, that consistently make claims that just don't fit with what we know from science.
Kathleen Mulhern is managing editor of Patheos. She teaches in the areas of Church History and Spiritual Formation at Denver Seminary and blogs at Dry Bones.