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Is Evolution the Enemy of Christianity?

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

Evangelist T.T. Martin's books against the theory of evolution 
are sold at an outdoor stand in Dayton, Tennessee, 1925, 
scene of the Scopes trial.
Recently it has occurred to me that it makes perfect sense for Christian fundamentalists to oppose the teaching of evolution. After all, properly understood, evolution provides many arguments against belief in a god, or at least the Biblical claim that man was intended to have dominion over the animals.

A comment by the biologist J.B.S. Haldane on god’s inordinate fondness for beetles, in “What is Life,” immediately springs to mind: “The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other, for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known, and perhaps more, as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals.”

If we assume that beetles, through mutation and natural selection, evolved over hundreds of millions of years to fill many, many different niches in nature, in isolation from one another, then the existence of so many different species, while surprising, can be reasonably explained. However, that a god would create so many different species of one type of insect in one day begs the question, “Why?” If, as the Bible implies, the animals were created for the benefit of man, how does the existence of so many species of beetles benefit man?

One might question my assumption that the Bible implies that the animals were created for the benefit of man. Well, let’s look at Genesis 1:26: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’”

If, immediately after they were created, man was given dominion over all the cows and other beasts, doesn’t that imply they were created to be ruled by man for man’s benefit? Of course, the author of this passage does seem curiously unaware that cows do not exist in the wild and thus couldn’t have been created by god. As we now know, man created cows from other species through centuries of selective breeding.

Do we really have dominion over all the animals? What about all those animal species we can seldom if ever control? [...] Malaria, for example, is a parasite spread via mosquito. I recently read a fascinating article about an Alaskan frog species which got me thinking about evolution and god. Scientists have discovered that this frog spends up to seven months of the winter frozen solid. Its heart and brain functions cease, so that by common definitions they are dead. But, they aren’t really dead as some cellular level processes continue while they are frozen, and they thaw out in the spring and continue on their merry way very much alive. Are these frogs so important to us that god would create such an exotic survival mechanism just for them? What’s wrong with plain old-fashioned hibernation, or dormant-seed type survival?

Do we really have dominion over all the animals? What about all those animal species we can seldom if ever control? There are millions of such species, including mice, rats, snakes, cockroaches, mosquitoes, flies, spiders, flatworms, fleas, ticks, lice, etc. Most such animals are a constant irritating impediment to man, if not downright deadly. Malaria, for example, is a parasite spread via mosquito. In 2010 there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, with about 660,000 cases being fatal. How can we be said to “have dominion” over such creatures? A lot of them prey on us for their own survival!

Then there are all those thousands of species which are extremely remote or only very recently discovered, like those deep sea creatures which put on incredible light shows, bacteria living over 2 miles underground, bacteria thriving in acid pools, fish with anti-freeze compounds in their blood in unfished Antarctic waters, and all those thousands of bacterial species on and in our bodies. In fact, because human cells are relatively large, there are more microbial cells in and on our bodies than human cells; and we depend on some of these – some of those in our guts, for instance - for our own survival. How can we be said to rule over such creatures?

It certainly appears that the animal creatures of the earth go their own way, struggling to survive against each other and man, ruled only by their environments, chance, and their own physical and mental abilities. Clearly, man rules over only a very few creatures, like barnyard animals and pet species. The vast majority of the earth’s creatures either never come into contact with man or competes with him for survival. This “dominion” claim just doesn’t square with what we observe so plainly in nature.

Many fundamentalists realize evolution is a serious problem undercutting their basic beliefs and so they reject it. But that leaves them with no sensible alternatives to explain the incredible variety and extraordinary fitness of millions of animal species obviously not under the dominion of man.

Here’s an interesting thought to toy with: if god didn’t give man dominion over the animals, as the Bible states, then maybe he didn’t really create them either, as the Bible also states.