Last week I wrote a surprisingly critical review of David Hutchings and James C. Ungureanu’s 2022 book Of Popes and Unicorns: Science, Christianity, and How the Conflict Thesis Fooled the World. It was unfortunate that my opinion of the book ended up being so negative, because I really enjoyed about 70% of it.
Before I wrote that post, I had actually wanted to include a whole deep dive on my own opinions about the conflict between science and religion. After writing it, however, I realized that after tackling the book in so much detail, my own conclusion about this perceived contradiction warranted its own separate post. This is that post.
Even as my content and I have both changed and evolved over the years, I always end up finding my way back to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s teachings on creationism. I was raised in the LCMS and only once I left did I really delve into the details of their beliefs. While it can be frustrating to return to the doctrine of my old church, I think there is something enjoyable in refuting both LCMS doctrine and creationism in general.
The Piltdown Man hoax is the perfect story for the anti-evolutionists at Answers in Genesis to hold up as proof that evolution is false and its proponents are dishonest. The story has everything they need: faked fossils, infighting between scientists, and 40 years of overlooking a grave mistake right under everyone’s noses. Answers in Genesis claims that something like this is the all-too-obvious outcome of the baseless and backward worldview—they even like to call it a religion—of evolution. If only the men involved had had the right starting point, the Word of God, this never would have happened.
The Piltdown Man is one of the most famous human fossils ever discovered, almost as famous as Lucy. But unlike Lucy, the Piltdown Man never lived, at least not 400,000 years ago like the world’s greatest minds in paleoanthropology used to think. These scientists believed from 1912 to 1953 that the Piltdown Man was the missing link of human evolution when in fact he was a human skull found with a modified orangutan jaw by Charles Dawson in Sussex, England.
This week, I stumbled upon a blog post by a pastor at a church from my old denomination, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The pastor, Duncan McLellan, wrote the post a few days after his church had hosted a “Genesis Seminar” in which “several experts in Creation Science and the Old Testament spent three days at the church, teaching and discussing the flaws with the Evolutionary Model and explaining many passages in the Bible that describe the Creation.” This post was particularly fascinating to me, because McLellan definitely did not come to the conclusion that one might think. But his attitude actually revealed to me a pattern in the LCMS’s views towards creationism.
Evolution by natural selection is the amazing, vast, but surprisingly simple mechanism that explains the magnificent diversity of life on Earth. That’s why I love it. But through no fault of their own, so many people absorb misinformation about evolution in daily life, in and out of the classroom. I believe that evolution is a phenomenon which is only not accepted when it’s not understood. Even worse, many of us know it to be true, but don’t know enough about it to be able to defend it against someone who’s been wrongly taught about it.
That’s where this post will help. The good news is that most of the misunderstandings about evolution boil down to a handful of different objections which can be easily corrected with the right context. As you apply this advice in the real world, keep in mind that most people don’t choose to be misinformed. If you are polite and gracious in your explanation, it will go a long way.
Donald Johanson’s book Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind was what first made me fall in love with paleoanthropology. While I have learned about dozens more fossils over the last two years, I still have a special place in my heart for Lucy. So you can imagine how excited I was to defend her from the lies of the young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis! I once might not have known how to debunk their claims, but I now have the knowledge, the books, and a little bit of money needed to find so many errors in their articles.
Four years ago to the day, I wrote a post called “Why I Am Not a Scientist”. I’ve since privated it, because I don’t like the way I spoke about myself and my own intelligence in that post. My main idea was that I was new to being an informed atheist, and I was not confident in my abilities to refute young-earth creationism. I called myself “scientifically challenged” and expressed that I felt that in order to really be confident in my atheist stance, I would have to become much more educated in various fields of science. I said that I was “really bad at science” even as I said that I loved and appreciated how it allows us to learn about the world around us.