Ramona Tausz / Collegian
Ramona Tausz / Col­legian

Speakers at an inter­dis­ci­plinary forum on evo­lution Friday offered per­spec­tives on why Christian stu­dents should not scoff at the concept of evo­lution but rather study it within the con­texts of cos­mology, biology, and the­ology.

The Lyceum held a dis­cussion among Assistant Pro­fessor of Biology Silas Johnson, Assistant Pro­fessor of Physics Timothy Dolch, and Assistant Pro­fessor of The­ology Jordan Wales to discuss the cosmos, humanity, and God for its fall liberal arts Friday forum.

“There’s a popular story told that our knowledge of evo­lution is some­thing that should trouble us,” Wales said. “I’d like to suggest that it shouldn’t.”

Dolch spoke on cos­mo­logical evo­lution and the theory of the expanding uni­verse.

“Don’t think of the uni­verse as a stable thing,” he said. “When galaxies interact, they distort each other’s shapes.”

He also debunked several typical assump­tions about the Big Bang Theory. The theory of the expanding uni­verse itself was hypoth­e­sized by astro­physicist George Lemaitre, a Catholic priest. Lemaitre, moreover, didn’t title the theory the “big bang.”

“The Big Bang Theory does not mean there was a bang,” Dolch said. “The term was invented as a mockery.”

Sophomore Jackie Raeff said she appre­ciated the forum for its inter­dis­ci­plinary nature.

“I appre­ciated the merging of the dif­ferent fields,” she said. “Sitting in class, you only get that spe­cific per­spective, and this was a good way to see them blend together.”

She said she par­tic­u­larly enjoyed Johnson’s talk, which focused on bio­logical evo­lution.

Johnson — a virol­ogist, who studies dis­eases — argued that one should study biology to “study and reduce human suf­fering.”

He used the example of how exam­i­nation of the  evo­lution of the HIV virus has led to a massive dropoff in deaths due to AIDS since the 1980s.

Finally, Wales spoke on how a Christian shouldn’t fear the theory of evo­lution but should view it within the context of Christian the­ology. Although many see the theory of evo­lution and the concept of the sur­vival of the fittest as requiring a mech­a­nistic uni­verse and a godless process, this is not nec­es­sarily the case. In scripture, Wales pointed out, God often works through seem­ingly unre­markable and random events — such as Esau’s hunger for a bowl of stew.

“God works with and under the appar­ently natural unfolding of events,” Wales said. “God does not appear usually as a bush or fire or a pillar of smoke. In the Old Tes­tament nar­rative god is usually in the details, not in the sense of one inter­fering but one working within.”

The Christian tra­dition, moreover, has his­tor­i­cally seen the natural world as reflecting the wisdom of God.

“The idea that God writes straight with crooked lines is embedded in this wisdom tra­dition,” Wales said. “If the wisdom of God is man­i­fested in the created order, in its rea­son­ability but also in the history of the people of Israel and human race as a whole and finally man­i­fested in the law that God gives, what we have is a picture of the cosmos and of God’s dealings with the human race in which this great and con­fusing mass of cre­ative output from God is being slowly adjusted to an accord with God.”

According to Wales, this looks very much like the theory of evo­lution.

“There is an analog to the spir­itual life, too,” he said. “As the Christian moves through the spir­itual life, the Christian settles into the groove of divine wisdom, and the soul is slowly reshaped by expe­ri­encing, by that striving, by that sur­vival of the fittest, that war of the pas­sions within oneself that Paul talks about, settles into the groove of divine life and even­tually passes into eternity, bringing with it that evo­lution that has taken place — that fitness for the life of God that has been accom­plished.”