Michael Patton has posted a cartoon, and once again I find it troubling. The cartoon asks whether believing in a talking snake (as per Genesis 3) is really that different from believing that what started as a single-celled amoeba became a talking human being.
When I first saw the post on the Parchment and Pen blog, I refrained from commenting. But since Friendly Atheist has chimed in, it seems appropriate to blog about this, so that it is clear that this isn’t a “Christian vs. Atheists” issue but a “people who understand evolution and the evidence for it vs. people who don’t” issue.
- First, the idea that snakes could evolve into beings that could speak is different in very obvious and basic ways from the idea that snakes as we now know them can talk. And so there’s a major different right from the start.
- Second, there are points in the comments section which seem to suggest that Michael may not have grasped that what evolution envisages is gradual change, and not an amoeba suddenly turning into something else. He even says “If you believe a single-celled organism eventually grew a voice box, your ability to accept what is fascinating, bizarre, and non-intuitive is certainly there.” I’ll encourage him to chime in, since we sometimes word our comments in a way that gives a wrong impression of our meaning. But it sounds like evolutionary biology has not been understood. But even more relevant, perhaps is my last point:
- Third, the idea that a single cell from a human male can combine with a single cell from a female and, in a matter of years rather than millions of years, become a talking person – ridiculous, right? Akin to believing that a snake can talk, right?
I don’t believe that a snake has ever talked, and I think that religious believers who have not been trained to switch off their common sense when reading the Bible would recognize that a talking snake is an important clue about genre.
And the evidence for simpler forms of life evolving into complex ones is strong and persuasive.
And so the real issue is whether Christians ought to use a story with a talking snake to try to argue against the conclusions of scientific inquiry based on extensive genetic, paleontological and physiological. I believe the answer is no. I also believe that many of the great theologians of bygone eras would have agreed with me on this point.