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.”