In the eighties at high school I had to take biology along with all other sophomores. One day we got to the chapter on evolution. My teacher simply stated that she didn’t believe in evolution, that God created everything, but that we could read the chapter if we wanted. At that time it was legal in Louisiana where I lived to give equal time to both perspectives about the origin of the species. Interestingly, that short discussion is one of the very few things I clearly remember from tenth grade.
I went on to earn a microbiology degree at Louisiana Tech University, so I became thoroughly acquainted with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. One day during a study session, a professor at Tech discovered that I believed in God and laughed mockingly, commenting something to the effect that such a belief was silly. Of course, the conversation happened on government property and during work hours, so the “wall of separation of church and state” lost a few bricks on that exchange and many other ones like it. To his credit, one of my microbiology professors at Tech announced in class one day that Louisiana law required him to say that evolution could have happened either randomly or at the initiative of a Creator. Even though he didn’t believe in a Creator, he said he could see no reason why one couldn’t use evolutionary processes to fill the biosphere with diverse life.
I can clearly remember that day, just like I remember the day from tenth grade. I guess it’s a little more proof this red button issue has a way of leaving a big impression one way or the other on young minds, and why it stubbornly keeps coming up in national conversation. Though the Louisiana law and those like it have been repealed, new laws to “teach the controversy” have been proposed, debated, and fought over in federal courts.
If we dissect this controversy, we can see that it really isn’t about science, it’s about God. The questions, “is evolution true or not” and “does God exist or not”, are irrelevant to one another. You could answer either question either way and they would not contradict. You could say that evolution did not happen, that the earth is only six thousand years old, that humans mysteriously appeared out of no where, and at the same time, it could still be true that God doesn’t exist. Why not just say a super-advanced race of aliens created everything living? At the same time, you could easily say that evolution occurred and God exists, that he simply used natural processes for his purposes. For instance, no modern person believes God sits in the clouds throwing down lightening bolts, but many Christians do believe God is sovereign and controls whether a lightening bolt strikes a house or a tree according to his divine plans. The idea is that he is controlling nature, but in ways imperceptible to our human senses. Darwin’s theories, like Newton’s theories or Pasteur’s theories, must be judged by the scientific method, not theology. Whether right or wrong Darwin didn’t prove or disprove God any more than Newton or Einstein. Also, science can’t judge theology, like the misguided attempt to conclude “we know God doesn’t love us because there is so much suffering in the world.”
This controversy is an age-old disagreement between people who believe in God and people who don’t. A Jewish writer wrote three thousand years ago, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” In reply the atheist states, “the fool says in his heart there is a God.” Who is right? Does a proper understanding of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution settle the issue? To even ask such a question seems absurd, like asking a child who just discovered how to change a light bulb, “So now do you still believe in God?”
If any more legislation should be passed, I suggest that educators be held liable for teaching atheism as a scientific fact or as the most probable explanation for absolute reality. It makes no difference whether an economics teacher says, “Marxist economic theory best explains the bible,” or a psychology professor says, “Freud disproved the God hypothesis,” or a biology teacher says, “Darwinism proves there is no Creator.” To say so exceeds the boundaries of science and law. Whatever the subject matter, state education has no business teaching a religion, in the sense that a religion is a belief system claiming to have the final truth about the existence or non-existence of God.
Ron Coody is a Ph.D. candidate in Intercultural Studies at Concordia Seminary. From 1993-1998, he lived and worked in Kazakstan doing environmental work. Since 2002, Mr. Coody and his family resided in Istanbul, Turkey.