The Compatibility of Christianity and Evolution: Honest Answers to 5 Pressing Questions

The compatibility of evolution and Christianity continues to be a hot topic, and I get a steady stream of insightful questions from all over the world and Canada asking for my take on some pressing issues. Below are just a few of the questions that have come my way, and, though technical and learned, I hope my answers are helpful.

1. If I accept evolution, is there a chance I might turn into a monkey myself? (D. from Kentucky). D, thank you for your question. There are several schools of thought on this issue, but to date there is no solid genetic evidence for such a process, though I know of experiments being conducted by some creationist groups, with test tubes and such, who are apparently close to a breakthrough. At this point we can only stay tuned.

2. I know some very stupid people, like this time my brother-in-law tried carving a turkey with a chain saw without first lubricating the chain!!  Am I right in thinking that Stanley is just “less evolved” or are there other possible explanations? (L. from Canada). First, L., I get this question a lot, so know that you are not alone. Remember that there are always alternate explanations, so don’t rush to slap the evolutionary label on something just because it seems to make sense. Though, in this case, it seems to make sense.

3. I see that you’ve written a book about evolution. I’ve also heard you also harm small animals. Why do you do that? (A. from MIT). Wow, A., that’s really crossing the line. What I do on my day off is my business. And stop trying to discredit the truth through ad hominem attacks on my character and believing rumors spread by trespassers. Plus, just because someone has to hypothetically let off some steam now and then in a way not everyone understands doesn’t mean it’s “wrong,” and even if it is, that’s got nothing to do with someone’s professional life. I also think your imprecise use of “harm” or “small” makes it hard to understand what you’re even asking.

4. Since the Bible is the word of God, it would help me if there was a verse in the Bible about evolution so I would know it’s OK to believe in it. Is there a verse like that? (P. from Greenland). I don’t know the Bible well enough to say, P., but I did ask that question once of a scientist at a conference in the Q&A after he gave a paper on primate nicotine addiction. He said, “Yes, there is a verse that tells you it’s OK to believe in evolution. It’s right next to the verse that tells you about gravity, penicillin, and that there is a western hemisphere.” I haven’t yet found those verses, and I’ll keep looking as time allows, but I’m beginning to wonder if he has no idea what he’s talking about.

5. I heard that every person alive today can trace his or her ancestry to a single gene pool in Africa about 100,000 or so years ago. I don’t mean to come off as racist, but what actually is a gene pool and does this mean that, in some real sense, I am related to Tim McCarver, Dick Vitale, and the hosts of The View? According to the Wikipedia article, which I skimmed, a gene pool is not a literal body of water but a metaphor–a turn of phrase, if you will–for genetic information shared in a given population. Keeping in mind that no one has ever actually seen a “gene” and no one really knows what they “do,” according to “gene pool theory,” Tim McCarver, Dick Vitale, and the “hosts” of The View (along with the Gilbert Gottfried and Phillies’ fans) actually make up their private own gene “pool,” as it were. So you are safe. Just avoid exchanges in bodily fluids.

This post originally appeared in March of this year. Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental and a product of your own imagination.

preeeetty sure my version of Christianity is right and yours is wrong
superamazing major announcement!!
Here’s something new: Genesis is in “crisis” and if you don’t see that you’re “syncretistic”
10th anniversary edition of Inspiration and Incarnation coming this summer
  • Bilbo

    Suppose we could track down all the mutations that have occurred in the evolutionary history leading up to human beings. Even if they looked random (no obvious specified complexity, for example), how would we know they were actually random, and that God hadn’t been cheating?

    But let’s assume that God allows the universe to play dice and the odds of getting human beings are too small for one universe to win. It seems all God would need to do is create many universes. Eventually one of them will win.

    • Chaprich 56

      There is a hypothesis that posits more than one universe. If that is true, there is no universe, but “multiverses” of which our “universe” is one of several.

      • Muff Potter

        Roland of Gilead would agree sai. Mayhap the beams and The Dark Tower hold them all together.

  • Blake

    Some posts really do require a, “do not be drinking coffee while reading”, warning label. Great stuff.

  • Gary in FL

    What should be done about people who pee in the gene pool?

    • Andrew

      That happens so often the best thing to do is just keep swimming . . .

      • mike helbert

        But don’t get any in your mouth!

  • vorjack

    my brother-in-law tried carving a turkey with a chain saw without first lubricating the chain!!

    See, this seems stupid until you realize that he was only trying to keep from getting bar oil in the stuffing.

    • Percival

      But how do you cut through all those feathers without the chain saw?

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    I anticipated reading some great insight into difficult questions on evolution and I got something much better! You made my day!

  • beaglelady

    Q: How do you tell male chromosomes from female chromosomes?
    A: Pull down their genes

  • David

    re: Evolution and Christianity

    Phillip Johnson (Darwin on Trial) says naturalists define words like “evolution” and “science” in such a way that naturalism is true by definition. He said in World magazine: “Evolutionary science is based on naturalism and draws philosophical conclusions to that base. That’s why any theistic evolution is inherently superficial. It leads people into naturalistic thinking, and they don’t realize it.” (Nov. 22, 1997, p.13)

    • AHH

      Johnson’s word twisting is marginally ridiculous in the “laugh to keep from crying” sense, but Pete’s #4 above is funnier.
      Not that it’s a contest or anything.

  • Rick

    OK…..this post was exactly what I needed today.

  • gingoro

    While there may well not be a verse about accepting evolution there is one saying that smoking is ok. When
    Abraham’s steward Eliezer, bringing a wife Rebekah for Isaac from Mesopotamia was met by Isaac it says that “She lit off a camel”.
    PS For those who may not be aware Camel is a brand of cigarettes that was introduced by American company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in the summer of 1913.

  • brambonius

    Now I want to see an investigation about the use of LSD in American Christian academic circles…

  • Steve D

    How do you know it’s not the pool of water which is the metaphor and not the pool of genes? Or how many times can a metaphor be used before it is no longer a metaphor and has become so familiar it is literal. That’s the important question, forget about monkeys; they can’t even use metaphors.

  • Agni Ashwin

    I’m still waiting to find out to whom you attributed the authorship of question #5. My rice is getting cold.

  • the Old Adam

    My wife thought that this thread should be rated X…I said, Y?

  • Theodore Seeber

    I know this is a bit of a joke thread- but the answer to #4 is basically the entire book of Joshua ben Sirach. Way more than one verse, but it was the existence of this book in the Catholic Bible that is the reason why Catholics came up with the scientific method to begin with.

    • Evelyn

      Was that before or after Galileo’s house arrest?

      Seriously, as an historian and a Brit I feel I have to say that most of what we now understand as ‘the scientific method’ was developed in England in the C17th. Fervently anti-Roman at the time.

  • alarm clocks for hearing impaired

    Hi! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where
    I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Leigh Copeland

    6. Will “Peter Enns: rethinking biblical Christianity” still be up and going during the resurrection?
    At first you might think the answer is an obvious “No!”. But what about: “…and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”?

  • Lary9

    This article & web site was a delight…a very pleasant and humorous surprise…very astute in a deceptively funny way. I bookmarked “patheos” for future visits.

  • Paul Bruggink

    Nice follow-up to yesterday’s blog.

  • Bev Mitchell

    I missed this before due to careless reading of a work that deserved better.
    “….questions from all over the world and Canada.” Very clever. We’ll take it as a compliment, L’s brother-in-law notwithstanding. :)

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    I understand that Pauls’ rather long passage supporting evolution was in his lost letter to the Church at Corinth.

  • dangjin

    No one has yet been able to answer the question: Where in the Bible do both God and Jesus give permission to take science (and unbelieving thinking) over their Word?

    I am waiting for book, chapter and verse.

    • Dan

      “The heavens declare the glory of God.” – Psalm 19:1

    • Rick_K

      I’m always surprised by comments like this. It’s as if you think you’ve said something meaningful.

      The Bible is as irrelevant to science as Harry Potter is to auto mechanics. To say otherwise is to revel in the arrogance of ignorance.

    • Susan_G1

      “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matt. 22.37 That last part: ‘all your mind’ includes learning about God’s world through Science.

    • Tyler Francke

      Romans 1:19-20, along with several of the others that have been mentioned here, offer the clear teaching that nature, as a creation of an orderly and holy God, can be studied to reveal qualities of its Creator just as scripture can. I am a Christian, I accept evolution, and I know I, for one, don’t take “science and unbelieving thinking” over the Bible. I do, however, take the confirmed, evidence-based findings of science over your incorrect interpretation of the Bible.

  • Jason