I don’t know how the earth was created and how God transformed unorganized matter to the amazing creations and ecosystems we find on planet earth today. If the process took billions of years and numerous mutations interacting with selective forces, I’m OK with that. I don’t believe the Gospel requires believing in a young earth or that dinosaurs were frolicking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But if they were, I’ll be OK with that, too. I’m terribly curious about how the earth came to be, but realize we may have to wait for a lot of details. God will get all the credit as the Creator in my book, even if evolution was a key tool of His in bringing about the majesty of life on earth.
I do have trouble with the theory of evolution, though. Not so much with the facts, extrapolations, interpretations, and guesses that scientists make, but with the applications of evolutionary theory to contemporary human life. When evolutionary theory is used to guide human thought on moral and social issues, the results often are appalling. I just heard the local story of a woman in our part of the world who was told by her husband that it’s morally OK for him to have relationships with other women because his evolutionary purpose in life as a male is to spread his genes around, whereas it was her duty to not leave the house and just take care of the kids. Evolution as a justification for immorality has been a factor in so many cases, always making people less than they were meant to be and bringing sorrow. Many vicious and selfish acts are justified with a smug statement like, “Hey, it’s survival of the fittest, man.” Fidelity, charity, compassion, self-sacrifice, and so much that can be noble about human beings can be dismissed for being out of line with “science.” There is a recognition that caring for children and occasionally even self-sacrifice can be explained as (just) a way to fulfill the drive “to pass one’s genes along.” Ironically, those letting evolutionary thought be their guide are, in my limited experience, more likely to be the ones advocating and practicing abortion on demand and much less likely to be the parents who raise large families. (Yes, there are exceptions, and there are some very loving, wonderful families raised by devout and noble atheists who believe in a purely materialistic, evolutionary existence. I’m talking about trends and averages here.)
When people make decisions that I feel make them more noble and more helpful to the rest of our species–decisions like giving blood, giving a large part of their income or time to a charity, serving on a volunteer mission, or shoveling snow for a widow–it seems to me that they are responding to something within them other than good evolutionary science, even if that’s what they say they look to for intellectual explanations about our purpose in life. When evolutionary science is used to inform decision making, too often, in my opinion, we may get things like eugenics, adultery, and violence. Ugly. There’s just something about evolution as popularly taught and understood that brings out the beast, not the best, in mankind, if it is not tempered with higher perspectives.
For all its incompleteness on the scientific front, I think the Christian perspective is a much better guide for understanding life and making decisions about how to live and deal with others. We need that foundation of knowing that however life evolved or was created, that there is a loving God and that we are His children, immortal spirit beings in mortal clothing who are and will be accountable to Him for how we live and how we treat others. We need to know that we can overcome the temptations of the flesh and have sin removed from our hearts and lives with the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and become born again–new creatures (or, if you must, more highly “evolved”).
Our purpose is not so much to pass our genes along (though still a good thing, within loving family bonds) as it is to pass His love along. In the long run, it is not our physical but our spiritual health that matters most.