There is a great danger – especially in 2020 – of not understanding the thought and convictions of those you disagree with.
I was taught to refute evolution. It was a cornerstone to evangelical apologetics.
Zebras and their stripes were a primary example used to refute evolution. If the stripes are for camouflaging a herd of zebras from predators … then the first striped offspring would have actually stood out from the heard and thus would have been an easy target.
This is an example of getting ahead of oneself without fully entering into the school of thought one is trying to combat.
We saw this same problem with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s banana conversation [watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfucpGCm5hY].
You can’t simply start with where we are and extrapolate backwards from there [for more on this see the note below].
You have to understand the primary concern:
- Science has a commitment to the process.
- Apologetics has a conviction of the conclusions.
We can’t pretend to honestly engage in asking questions if we begin with the assumption of the answers. That will always result in coming out with twisted conclusions.
Admittedly, scientists have been baffled over the zebra’s stripes for a long time. Recently some strong studies has have shown that the stripes are not about camouflaging herds from large predators but about flies.
The region where zebras dwell has a breed of flies called tsetse that are legendary in their viciousness. Scientists have historically known that flies have an aversion to landing on striped surfaces. The zebra’s striped pattern acts then as a natural deterrent. This leads to greater health with less blood loss and therefore greater vitality which benefits reproduction – passing on those key genetics to offspring.
It turns out that zebras stripes are not primarily about herds camouflaging from large predators but about individuals deterring small pests. This means that the initial zebra ancestor to have that genetic variation would have benefited and thus that attribute would be more likely to be passed on to the next generation.
The apologetics argument I learned is flawed and would not refute the point it is intended to.
That is the first problem with not fully entering into an idea well enough to understand it – there has to be a commitment to the question not just a conviction about the conclusion.
The second problem is that much of the suspicion from creationists about evolutionary thought is based on the hard and cold version of survival of the fittest from a century ago. Many don’t know of newer strains of evolutionary thought that incorporate cooperation, mutuality, and emergence thought (see O is for Open & Relational).
Evolution has evolved in the past 30 years but many creation apologists prefer to takes pot-shots at the straw man caricature of Darwinian schools of the past. They have perfected taking swings at shadows of where the theory used to stand.
As we wrap up the ABC’s series, I wanted to acknowledge that not only has Christian belief evolved and adapted over the centuries but to encourage you to embrace these historic adjustments.
The gospel is itself incarnational and the universe is evolutionary. Those two things go together beautifully. The gospel is good news and is constantly in need to be contextualized to new times and new places. The scriptures are inherently translatable and come into every language and culture. This is one of the unique aspects of the christian religion (K is for Kenosis).
If evolution is true of the universe, christians should have no need to avoid or refute it. We can embrace evolutionary thought wholeheartedly.
Christians should, after all, be people who love truth.
If we want to contest certain aspects of the evolutionary theory, we should at least understand its claims thoroughly so that we can do that well. Christian and atheists do this to each other. Protestants and Catholics do it to each other. Islam and the West do it to each other. We would be served by adopting the debate principle that you have to explain your opponents’ position to their satisfaction before proceeding with yours.
This the problem starting in the middle. You can’t just walk into the way things are, assume the status quo and then make a case for it.
I was camping in a national park with a longtime friend who lives in and loves his ‘red’ state. We were hiking out and enjoying the beauty when he began to tell me about how ridiculous the environmentalists are and how stupid it is to put all these regulations on industry – we are handcuffing these innovators who create jobs for people. His evidence was to point to the trees around us and say “look at all of this amazing space – what are they so worried about? I don’t see why we need to have all these regulations and get so upset at industry.”
I pointed out that if somebody 100 years earlier had not had the foresight to preserve this land, the timber industry would own all this land and would have harvested all these trees. It would look nothing like it did and we would not be walking or hiking there. He had literally never thought about that.
You can’t start in the middle and ignore how things came to be – then present it as evidence of how they should always be!
A fundamentalist pastor said: In the Old Testament God was a King not a Queen – Jesus was man not a woman – and he picked men, not women, to deny him, betray him, doubt him and abandon him. (I added that last part)
It would be like walking into a grocery store, seeing a steak wrapped in saran wrap on a Styrofoam platter and beginning to articulate how perfectly the steak was designed for your grill – how the saran wrap crumples in your hand for ease of disposal in the waste basket – how the steak is the same dimensions in thickness from side to side for consistent grilling. Clearly God designed this steak to go on your grill and for your enjoyment!
If we do not take into account the elaborate set of systems that delivered that perfectly proportioned piece of protein to your plate, we will miss much of the beauty in the process and may falsely be under the impression that the way things are is the way that they have always been and thus the way that they should always be.
So we don’t start in the middle, we can’t get back to the beginning, and shouldn’t start with the conclusions already established. What is left for us to do then? Understand your opponent’s position, explore the history of yours, and account for the ways that your currents position have been adapted or adjusted.
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