Thursday, April 17, 2008


As our comprehension of the universe grows with the expansion of knowledge on the frontiers of science, new discoveries sometimes call into question conventional wisdom. Normally, we call this progress, but what do we call it when the convention being challenged has been understood for centuries as “eternal truth”?

Arguably, the most troublesome of these conflicts blossomed in 1859 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, and continues unabated into the 21st Century. It concerns the idea (accompanied by a growing body of evidence) that life on earth, including our own, has undergone change; that in fact it continues to change, to evolve.

At first glance, this simple idea may seem highly inconsequential.

Yet humans, in general, seem to loathe change. We find comfort in routine, and stubbornly cling to our traditions. Especially those traditions that spring from the scriptural canon.

Two, in particular, confront us at the beginning of the Bible.

The first begins on the fifth day of Creation, where we read that God “made the beast of the earth after his kind”, and “created man in his own image”.

The second, and perhaps most significant, is inferred from the 3rd chapter of Genesis, where, we are told, Adam and Eve experienced The Fall.

If God made the beasts after their kind, and God made man after his own image, how then could either have evolved over time?

And if death was introduced to the world by The Fall of Adam, isn’t it a foregone conclusion that nothing could have changed, much less died, prior to that event?

And yet we find the earth’s sedimentary crust full of fossil evidence that life has been flourishing here for billions of years. There are abundant remains of creatures (animal and vegetable) that lived and died and, over time, changed, long before Adam and Eve emerged from the Garden of Eden. Some of them have long since become extinct; others continue to swim in our oceans today. Many had sharp claws and teeth – predators – killing to feed and survive, again, well before Adam’s transgression introduced death into the world.

What, then, are we to conclude?

How on earth are we to reconcile this seemingly insurmountable conundrum, pitting one of the oldest and most established of Christian doctrines – The Fall – against the mountains and museums and laboratories of emerging evidence from virtually every branch of scientific inquiry, backing what has been called the foundation of modern biology; the science of organic evolution?

How, indeed?