By Mike Pearson
(Mike Pearson is a Christadelphian, NOT an Ex-Christadelphian)
Dear Brethren Greetings in Jesus’ name.
I’m writing in regard to the article entitled “Evolution, Education and the Believer” in the May edition of The Christadelphian magazine.
I can appreciate that this is a controversial and sensitive topic, and I can also understand the dilemma faced by those teachers in our community who are feeling confronted by having to teach something that is contrary to their conscience.
However, I think it is important that if we are going to make a stand on a matter, we need to ensure our facts are accurate. If we do not do this, are we not guilty of false witness?
For those who do accept evolution as a creative process, the issue is not that they have been seduced by worldly thinking. The issue is that they have been convinced by evidence that our community has not been able to refute. With respect to the article I would like to lay out 5 points for your consideration, and use the article as a means of demonstrating why I say our community’s response to this issue is inadequate.
First: Emotive language.
The problem with emotive language is that it works both ways. For example, the statement that “we need to remember that being in a minority does not, automatically, mean that we are wrong…” could apply equally to those in our community who have chosen to understand evolution and are themselves a minority in community that largely opposes the issue.
Likewise, the comment “standing up for the things of the Truth in the face of [opposition] can seem quite daunting, but it gets easier with experience”, is certainly applicable to those in our community who have accepted evolution. So whilst these points attempt to convey a David-versus-Goliath struggle, they certainly don’t deal with the issue, as those on both sides of the debate all feel this way.
Second: Manipulative language.
I couldn’t help but notice the header at the top of page 214, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come …” (Luke 9:26). I certainly hope this is not trying to imply that those of our community who have accepted evolution have done so because they are ashamed of Jesus’ words, because that would be a rather judgemental accusation? Those who accept evolution and seek to find a balance, often have to endure pressure from both sides, I.e. From those in their community that reject their evolutionary position, and from a professional community that rejects their faith.
Third: Unsubstantiated suggestions
The article states, “It is worth noting that many “examples of evolution” in standard textbooks have been shown to be erroneous despite being taught as fact…” An example of this would be most useful, because much of the problem of the way our community has acted to this issue, is based on suggestions of this nature - which are never really substantiated.
Fourth: Poor knowledge of the problem space
Perhaps one of most egregious errors when discussing this topic is to adopt positions based on poor/false understandings of the subject matter.
The article states, “Somewhat disingenuously, the word ‘theory' is often omitted when evolution is taught and a number of things are therefore falsely implied…” As per point 3 and unsubstantiated claims, it is hard to know the exact context to which this is referring, but anyone with a basic background in Science understands the use of the word ‘Theory’. Even when something has been solidly proven, it is still referred to as a theory of the body of knowledge around it. I invite readers to Google “theory of…” and notice all the topics that arise.
Those who deal with evolutionary science on a daily basis understand that there are certain aspects which are beyond debate - and there are parts of it which are ‘theory’ (as we understand the word). The article gets this partly right with this point: “One relatively recent example of this is the so-called saltatory evolution theory which suggests that evolution of a new species from an older one may occur by a large jump rather than by gradual accumulation of small steps – yet another theory trying to present evolution as fact!” Evolutionary biologists do hypothesise about aspects of evolution, for example whether the progression was gradual, or whether it was stepped (known as ‘punctuated equilibrium’). But those who do, understand that these matters are still hypothetical and therefore not going to present them as “fact”.
Fifth: Actual Evidence.
The points raised above reflect the author’s opinion, are emotive and reflect limited knowledge of the subject of evolution. As a result, they offer little insight or guidance to deal with the real matters concerning the issue. Those who have accepted evolution have been confronted with arguments very different to those above. For example, at these links below are papers describing detailed research that has been conducted. If our community was serious about proving evolution to be false, and we genuinely believed we could, we would be able to address these issues with ease:
http://tinyurl.com/k4kmf2r : This paper describes how researchers used mitochondrial genome sequences from ten securely dated ancient modern humans spanning 40,000 years as calibration points for the mitochondrial clock.
http://tinyurl.com/o8bw4al : This paper describes how a draft genome sequence has been completed for a 24,000 year old human specimen.
http://tinyurl.com/mftdvtf : This paper describes how a human fossil femur was found in 2008 in western Siberia, and was in a good enough condition to be reliably dated to about 40,000 years old.
The fact of the matter is that those of us who work in scientific fields are confronted with these realities on a daily basis. The matters discussed in these papers have been solidly researched and subject to rigorous peer-review. The data they contain are derived from robust methods that are not subject to assumption or interpretation.
This is why those of us who do accept evolution as a valid biological process feel compelled to be honest about our beliefs. The arguments our community teach in public lectures and in our printed and online media are not keeping up with the times, and as a result are terribly out of touch with the real issues.
As someone who believes the validity of evolution, I will echo the article’s sentiment and ask, “How should we, in a Christlike and non-confrontational manner, counteract such teaching if challenged about our beliefs?”
If our community is serious about addressing this issue, then we need to get serious about our review of the subject matter. We need to stop resorting to emotive, unsubstantiated, and poorly researched opinion-pieces, and deal with the evidence as it is presented by the scientific community. There are enough highly qualified brothers and sisters working in scientific careers who could be utilised to form Science Committees or similar to help our community navigate these issues.
If the opportunity arose to present “the other side of the story” - I (and others I am sure) would be grateful and willing to contribute submissions to this end.
Thank you for your time.
Your brother by Grace