Evolution: How incompatible with Christianity


As much as I should hate to attract a YEC readership, it has recently struck me that the theory of evolution is highly incompatible with, not only the literalist position of Christianity, but the more liberal position that accepts a certain level of biblical errancy. In saying this I presume that all Christians must accept the doctrine of Jesus’ salvation to be half-worthy of the title (naturally, as the term suggests “believers and followers of Christ”).  But when we think of the evolutionism and Christianism collision we often have in mind the Genesis story, and hardly that of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For no matter how liberal a Christian claims to be it is so often if not always the case that he should accept the story of Christ as it stands, even if he should reject certain aspects of foregone OT or even NT theology.  It is a contention I draw from popular belief: that Christianity, as we know it, cannot be reduced further than to the statement that  Jesus did exist and that he did die for our sins. My method of proving the incompatibility will thus, of necessity, involve this irreducible complexity, if I may be excused the pun.

First we remember that evolution in general requires a mechanism of selection. Theistic (as opposed to deistic) evolution would imply that God guided this selective process to ensure the results he intended. Divine selection rather than natural selection would not, however, dispute the fact that the better-equipped for survival are those selected for multiplication, regardless of the being to whom we attribute the selective process. This is an observed fact. We are thus faced with the question as to why God should promote so cruel a condition that the selfish are destined to thrive and survive, whereas Christianity is supposedly a selfless doctrine of the meek! But the general tendency of social evolution was the accommodation of selfless values which, though still egoistic in nature, were somehow beneficial to the society as a whole that it became increasingly advantageous to adopt them. The real conflict occurs when we gauge this history with the doctrine of the “fallen man” so common in Christian theology. Surely the theistic evolutionist cannot hold that man fell from grace, when we think the reverse that man evolved from selfish conditions to become more altruistic and, to an extent, selfless. Rather, to use Christian jargon, man was created without grace so that he may find it in the long course of his maturation. But this, whilst poetic in itself, points to the fact that God created us sinful rather than sinless; so that the whole idea of salvation collapses upon the condition that God created us sinful and demands us to account for this as though it were our own mistake. And just as the urgency of salvation is removed due to this view of life, so we find that its alleged outcome is also made exceptionally doubtful. At which point exactly in the history of our evolution was this thing called the “soul” breathed into us? If we did evolve from soulless states then again the case can be argued that the soul was breathed into a mechanism  inherently prone to sinful acts. If the soul had been there from the start then we may begin to entertain the possibility that the fall of man was, in fact, the fall of a multicellular organism who “chose” to selfishly divide and conquer at the expense of the well-being of his other multicellular neighbours in the Primordial Soup of Eden.

The authors of the Bible were wise to insist caution against “false knowledge”. I daresay it is more rational for a Christian to deny evolution altogether than to half-arsedly accept it. At least then, you wouldn’t have to pretend that there is no jarring conflict between your preferred ‘theory’ of talking snakes and floating zoos against the scientific theory of “descent with modification”, more succinctly known as “the nonrandom survival of randomly varying hereditary instructions for embryonic construction”.

Addendum. As it has been called to my attention, the actual procession of social evolution is at best scientific conjecture. For now, let us presume the alternative that man was created altruistic and have over the course of evolution deteriorated into egoism and selfishness. I can think of a few problems with this hypothesis, but all are conditional upon the fact that the selective criteria were altered after the “fall of man”. I feel that history is unkind to this perspective (eg. what of the trilobites?). The question is whether evolution has made us psychological altruists as opposed to egoists, and if our departure from that somehow corresponds with the Christian view of “the fall”? Or can it not be argued that the benefits of altruism are by necessity self-regardant? Even that does not remove the argument that natural/divine selection tends to the vicious process of elimination. Consider the absurdity that the Creator would hold us accountable for being offensive players rather than altruistic ones in the “game of life” which favours the fittest players or, more correctly, those most adaptable to change. Had the “fall from grace” been less comparable with the “fall into conformity with the actual and harsh conditions of nature” we may feel more responsible for taking a sword to an evolutionary arms race. But all this is not unthinkable and does pose problems for my current argumentation. Perhaps some of my readers will be able to contribute a few thoughts on this matter. For more on altruism see the following webpage.

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