October 21, 2008
How Biography Informs Biology
Another lively exchange in the origins debate.
For those invested in the evolving origins debate, Beliefnet's Blogalogue today features a lively letter exchange between Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis USA, which opened the Creation Museum last spring, and Karl Giberson, director of the forum on faith and science at Gordon College, and author most recently of Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.
Of particular interest is how autobiography has in no small way shaped each scientist's convictions. Ham's family was one of few Christians in rural Australia. His father, a school principal, showed a deep commitment to studying Scripture and defending its authority, which Ham likewise sees as part of his mission. Giberson also grew up in a Bible-believing church, in rural New Brunswick, Canada. But he faced something of a crisis of faith upon attending Eastern Nazarene University, whose science and religion faculty did not teach creationism. Giberson eventually embraced theistic evolution, or the view that God creates via natural processes over billions of years.
Both Giberson and Ham have become somewhat predictable go-to men for the sound bites necessary to write origins-related news stories, but their letter exchange nonetheless provides fresh insight:
Karl Giberson on genetics [from "Why I Am Not a Creationist"]:
Recent discoveries in genetics reveal that humans share almost all their genes with primates and other animals. If these genes were all functional and did something meaningful--like make blood clot, or give us two lungs--we could suppose that God used common genetic tools to make different species. But many of these genes are completely nonfunctional and do nothing. Some of them, called pseudogenes, are mutated copies of functioning genes.
They sit irrelevantly beside functioning genes, not needed because their neighbors are doing all the work. There are so many different possibilities for pseudogenes that we would never expect, from a statistical point of view, for different species to have identical pseudogenes, unless they inherited them from a common ancestor. The distribution of these and other genes in different species strongly suggests that these species are related and were not created independently. Why does genetic research point so strongly toward common ancestry if common ancestry is not true?
The evidence from genetics is compelling and trustworthy. We have confidence in genetics to establish biological kinship in legal cases, such as paternity suits; that same genetics now indicates biological kinship among species and we should accept that as well.
Ken Ham on Jesus' interpretation of Genesis [from "The Bible Teaches Creationism"]:
[I]f Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) is a revelation to us from an infinite God, it must be self attesting and self authenticating--and Scripture must interpret Scripture. I checked out the New Testament. Jesus (the Son of God--the Truth--the Word) quoted from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19: 4-6 when discussing the doctrine of marriage. Obviously Jesus (and Paul in Ephesians 5) referred to Genesis as literal history in building the doctrine of marriage being one man and one woman (and the whole understanding of one flesh--Eve came from Adam, as it also states in 1 Corinthians 11:8). . . .
As a Christian, my father had also shown me that the gospel message (the good news of salvation in Christ) was founded on the literal history in Genesis--as Paul in the New Testament makes obvious in passages such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. I therefore saw the importance of standing on the authority of God's Word and determined there was a problem with what I was being taught at school--even if at that time I couldn't resolve it back then. I needed to search for answers--and I did. It began a journey that has led me to where I am today.
See more of Christianity Today's science-related coverage here.