For the record, I love Abby Johnson and the work she has done for the prolife movement and I truly appreciate the uphill battle she has waged against the abortion industry. With that said, I still love and appreciate her work...and I truly do respect her. However, as much as I love Abby, I felt that I just had to say something to her after a recent post and comment thread on Facebook...even though it was late and even though I had just gotten home from several hours on the road. I do not wish, in any way, to offend her or denounce her work. I seek only to clarify a few things and encourage more dialogue between religion and science.
It all began when I began scrolling through updates on Facebook. I follow quite a few prolife leaders to keep up with events such as March for Life and many of the prolife/proabortion laws that are proposed, voted on, passed, and pretty much ignored by mainstream media. With that said, I came across this post by Abby Johnson.
I could not resist the urge to check out the comments on the growing thread...and came across one comment that broke my heart. Essentially, in response to a comment...Abby stated that "there is nothing about Darwinian evolution that would bring you to God." I disagree. Wholeheartedly. I know that there are often too many words thrown around with regards to creation, evolution, etc. However, the way I see it, Darwinian evolution is the evolution theory that Darwin proposed. It is not a movement to cancel out religion or promote genocide, euthanasia, abortion, etc. even if it people may attempt to use the theory of evolution to promote these awful things. With that said, I was unable to keep quiet. I have decided to share the letter here because...well...you know how I feel about the whole debate (1, 2, 3, 4).
I am a huge fan of your work and understand where you are coming from with regards to evolution. Yes, the theory of evolution is very often used (improperly) to justify certain beliefs regarding life as well as religion. However, I have to disagree with the statement earlier:
" … there is nothing about Darwinian evolution that would bring you to God."
I am 100% Catholic, 100% prolife… and I have studied and even taught evolution. The way I see it, there is a far richer story to creation than God was able to transmit to the authors of Genesis. The problem is, they could not understand evolution as we do today. Perhaps even the understanding we have today is insufficient to map out everything that is going on in our genes from generation to generation. However, when we look at how and when Genesis was first written…we have to realize that God spoke to his children in words and stories that they could understand. However, God speaks to us a little differently today as science continues to make discoveries. I know because I hear Him speaking to me every time I learn more about how I came to be and every time I meditate upon creation from a scientific perspective.
When I take a look at the beginnings of evolution, I have a greater appreciation for God’s love for us…as well as His plan for us. He loved us and saw great potential in us long before the first homo sapiens. We learn in the bible that God fashioned Adam (from Adamah, meaning earth) from clay. The elements present in clay are the same elements found in our bodies and in the bodies of even the simplest life forms. These same elements are also present in the stars of the universe. I find it humbling and beautiful that God could create so much from so few ingredients. Even more humbling is that he saw it fit to make us in his image and likeness.
Of course, another thing to consider is God’s idea of time and his idea of creation. To throw away the possibility for genetic change over time is to put a limit on God’s creation and it adds restrictions to the time frame of creation and restrictions to the processes He put in motion…the processes which continue to shape the universe today. As humbling as it is to consider that we were created with the same elements as a paramecium, the fact that God’s creation is still so dynamic and mutable simply fills me with awe. It also makes me truly appreciate His vision for human life. If He was willing to take millennia on the creation of Homo sapiens and if He saw so much potential in so little at the beginning…all I can see is love. All I can do is appreciate the role He has for me in this earth. All I can do is appreciate how valuable each life is to Him. This, in turn, brings me closer to Him and helps me love Him even more than I did before I started learning about genetics, etc.
I’ve taken enough science courses (and quite a few of them were based on evolution) and read Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” to understand evolution as a science. I’ve also read the Bible and tried to become as learned in my Catholic faith as possible. To date, I have yet to find a manner in which evolution and creation are incompatible. Unfortunately, evolutionary science seems to be taken hostage by groups and individuals that seek to twist Darwin’s observations and theories into proof for or against ideologies attempting to either attack religion, science, or the value of each and every life on this planet. Evolution simply explains the “how” behind everything we see. It explains the mechanisms, the proteins involved, how changes are passed down over time, etc. It does not, however, explain the “why” behind everything.
That’s where God comes in. That’s where Genesis comes in. That’s where dialogue between scientists and religious institutions come in. Rather than cancel each other out as the more extreme sides of the God/Evolution debate tend to suggest….each compliments the other and adds meaning to the other.
In my own faith journey, it was science that ultimately drew me closer to God. If you could only understand just how many things can go wrong whenever DNA is replicated and passed down from one generation to the next…you would truly begin to appreciate how much God loves us and the rest of creation.
I think it is extremely unfair to throw away the potential for dialogue based on an interpretation of evolution or Genesis that does not appear to agree with your views and hope that you may reconsider such a rigid stance in this debate.
I would be more than welcome to discuss this matter further with you and invite you to check out my blog for more reflections on the God and evolution debate as well as my views as a prolife scientist. May God continue to bless you as you continue your fight to defend the sanctity of life.
I will leave all of you with the following quote...which has helped shape me as both a scientist and a Catholic:
"Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." - Pope John Paul II