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  • Writer's pictureSean O'Leary

Dinosaurs, Birds & God

There are those who argue that evolution requires only natural selection based upon random mutations. For some atheists, this seems to support the argument that evolution has very little to do with God. However, science affirms that evolution itself is non-random because the direction of evolutionary change is shaped by environmental factors. Therefore, evolution is a dynamic process oriented towards the flourishing of life.

Another point of confusion rests upon the notion that evolution is the source of life or indeed the origin of life. If I asked a visitor to my house, 'how did you get here?', they might answer 'by car'. If I asked them (perhaps rudely) 'why did you come here?' or 'where did you travel from?' - it would be silly if they answered 'by car'. The process of travel does not explain the source or origin of the journey.

Similarly, evolution is a process rather than the answer to every question that we might ask. This is often misrepresented in the public domain. It is assumed that everything can be explained by evolutionary forces.

The beginning of life on earth is poorly understood. How did non-living components give rise to the first living cell over 3.5 billion years ago? Although, this is a question that we have yet to scientifically answer, an important point will always be that natural processes are a part of God's providence.

The following video from the American Museum of Natural History summarises the scientific story of evolution that led to modern day birds.

The best way of thinking about evolution is as a process rather than as a source or origin. This is true for scientific as well as other ways of thinking. For believers, the really interesting question is what does the process of evolution tell us about God?

The naturalist and father of the natural parks in the US, John Muir saw the natural world with its myriad processes or 'Book of Nature' as an important source for understanding God.

He writes on the topic of evolution: “Little men, with only a book knowledge of science, have seized upon evolution as an escape from the idea of a God. ‘Evolution!’ a wonderful, mouth-filling word, isn’t it? It covers a world of ignorance. Just say ‘evolution’ and you have explained every phenomenon of Nature and explained away God. It sounds big and wise. Evolution, they say, brought the earth through its glacial periods, caused the snow blanket to recede, and the flower carpet to follow it, raised the forests of the world, developed animal life from the jelly-fish to the thinking man….“But what caused evolution? There they stick. To my mind, it is inconceivable that a plan that has worked out, through unthinkable millions of years, without one hitch or one mistake, the development of beauty that has made every microscopic particle of matter perform its function in harmony with every other in the universe, that such a plan is the blind product of an unthinking abstraction. No; somewhere, before evolution was, was an Intelligence that laid out the plan, and evolution is the process, not the origin, of the harmony. You may call that Intelligence what you please: I cannot see why so many people object to call it God.”


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