This article was published in our regular Science & Critical Thinking Column in the Sunday Times (Malawi) of 13th March 2011. It is unusual in that it was written by a clergyman.
'We should be thankful to Charles Darwin'
QUOTE: Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno. Mark Twain
The Reverend Simon Henning, minister of Ballyblack Presbyterian Church, near Newtownards, Northern Ireland, makes the case for theistic evolution -- the claim that God used the processes of biological evolution to bring about the creation of human beings.
(From a BBC Programme with permission of the Author)
There's an old and apocryphal story that when an old firebrand preacher died people went through his sermon notes, and to their surprise, written in the margins were the words, 'argument weak, shout louder'.
February 12th the world celebrated Darwin Day. Here in Northern Ireland I wasn't aware of any such celebrations, and so you might think that Darwin is considered to be irrelevant in this part of the world, but I think that would be a mistake. You might also be forgiven for thinking there are only two sides to the Evolution debate: the radical New Atheists on the one side and the Young Earth Creationists on the other. But that's not the full story. There are many people of faith who fully embrace evolution as scientific fact - many of whom are involved in biology, and the other sciences. Theistic Evolution allows for the truth of evolution through natural selection while still able to embrace a godly component to it.
But wait, I hear you cry. Isn't evolution only a theory? Shouldn't it be treated as merely hypothetical, simply an idea with very little to back it up? The Theory of Evolution has the same scientific standing as Atomic Theory, the Germ Theory of disease, and the Theory of Gravity. If you think that gravity is simply an idea with very little to back it up, then might I suggest taking your most prized possession to the top of a tall building, shouting out loud "it's only a theory", then throwing it off. Don't forgot to record those results now, won't you?
Some people might also tell you about the mass of scientists who deny evolution and they may even produce lists of them. This looks very impressive, but the truth of the matter is even more impressive. Statistically, there are more historians who deny the Holocaust than biologists who deny evolution.
We should be thankful to Charles Darwin. His pioneering work, coupled with the later evidence of DNA, shows not that we were planted on the Earth, but that we come from the earth. We're chemically related to the rocks, and we're biologically related to plants and animals. We're not separate from creation; we're part of it.
Knowing this should transform how we treat one another, because apart from superficial differences like skin colour and facial features, we are all genetically related - and so the people of China, South America, Indonesia, North Africa, and all points in between really are my brothers and sisters. And it should also transform how we treat other animals as well as the ecosystems they reside in.
But to our shame we don't tend to hear that. What we do tend to hear are the noisy calls from those on the extremes. Argument weak, shout louder.