Friday, April 03, 2009

Creation by E.O. Wilson

In my opinion and experience, one of the hardest gaps to bridge between environmentalism and faith is the subject of origins. Many hardcore conservationists have science degrees and believe in evolution; many hardcore conservatives believe in creation. There are a lot people in the world who ride that gap, who believe that God created the world and has allowed evolution to ensue from that act of creation.

Then there are people like me, who really don’t like to talk about it and will only do so with those people who we know won’t roll their eyes at us and give us that “You’re a damn fool” look.

When I started my “career” at UIS, I was fortunate enough to take a class called Evolution vs. Creationism, taught by a man who had one degree in evolutionary biology (I forget if it was the MS or PhD thought) and was a non-religious Reform Jew. Obviously, he believed in evolution. But what I liked so much about that class was that Dr. Levin was so open-minded that he taught us the science behind evolution and brought in other people to teach about creation. Throughout the course, we heard from a Catholic priest, a Conservative Rabbi, a Presbyterian minister, and read books by people who believed in Creation Science (which isn’t science, by the way, but I digress). He wasn’t condescending to those of us who believed in creation and went out of his way to make sure he didn’t say anything that would offend us. I took that class six years ago and still look fondly on it. It’s because of that class that I find evolution so fascinating and can participate in a conversation about it – a good thing as I’ve been doing a lot of that the past year.

In Environmental Studies, no one asks if you believe in evolution; they seem to just assume that you do. So very few people understand the internal struggle I have when I have to talk about evolution. Very few people know that I believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It’s not that I intentionally keep quiet about my faith, it’s that it doesn’t ever come up.

My official stance on evolution and creation – the one that curious people get when they ask what I think – is that I believe God created the earth. If He did that in six literal days with one literal day of rest, fine. If He created the earth and set evolution in motion, fine. The important thing to me is that He created it.

Unofficially? I’m a pretty literal Creationist, think God created everything from amoebas to dinosaurs, and I don’t really have any idea if a day in Genesis is defined as a twenty-four hour period or an eon. What is really important to me though is that God created it all, and He called it good.

In The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, Dr. E.O. Wilson invites a Christian pastor into a discussion on the environment. Dr. Wilson wants science to reach out to religion so that the religious could help save the planet. Wilson says,
“I write to you now for your counsel and help. Of course, in doing so, I see no way to avoid the fundamental differences in our respective world views. You are a literalist interpreter of Christian Holy Scripture… I am a secular humanist… Does this difference in worldview separate us in all things? It does not. You and I and every other human being strive for the same imperatives of security, freedom of choice, personal dignity, and a cause to believe in that is much larger than ourselves.
“Let us see then, if you are willing, to meet on the near side of metaphysics in order to deal with the real world we share. I put it this way because you have the power to help solve a great problem about which I care deeply. I hope you have the same concern. I suggest we set aside our difference in order to save the Creation. The defense of living Nature is a universal value. It doesn’t rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma. Rather, it serves without discrimination the interest of all humanity.
Pastor, we need you help. The Creation – living Nature – is in deep trouble” (Wilson 3-4).

In Creation, Dr. Wilson teaches a few of the basics of evolution, but mostly he talks about the wonder and beauty of the natural world, how it works, and why it is so important to us. Why? His stated purpose is “to grasp and discuss on common ground this purpose: because we are part of it, the fate of the Creation is the fate of humanity” (Wilson 14). Don’t believe that we are part of the creation? The second creation account says that God made Adam from the soil and clay. That’s pretty much part of creation right there. Don’t think that the fate of God’s creation determines our own fate? Consider the first creation account. On day one, God made the light. Light is heat and energy. On day two, He separated the sea from the sky. The sea didn’t freeze because there was heat, and the separated sky will allow a breathable atmosphere. On day three, God separated the land from the sea. Now there is a place for plants to grow. Day four, God created vegetation! Trees that fruit, plants that seed. Both hold the soil together and prevent the land from going back into the sea. They also provide food for the creatures God would be creating later. God also created the moon and stars that day. The creation of our sun allowed more light, heat, and energy to reach the earth, allowing plants to grow. On day five, God created the living creatures in the seas and the birds. The seas were alive, the skies were alive, and neither was any longer sterile. On day six, God created the living creatures on the land. And finally, God created man.

Without all that God had created before, man could not survive. Without light and heat, we would freeze. Without land, we would drown. Without sea, we’d die of dehydration. Without soil and vegetation, we’d starve. Without atmosphere, we’d suffocate. We are completely dependent on what God created before He created us.

Since Wilson’s book is filled with a lot a science, I won’t go into many more details about the book itself. What I will tell you is that reading Creation was a lot like Dr. Levin’s class: Wilson does not condescend to the faithful or make them feel silly for being so. Instead, he feels that while science has the method to save the planet, faith and the faithful have the power to change the attitudes of others. Faith is a strong driver for change, and Wilson seems to think that if we are going to save the planet, we need the help of those of us who believe in God.

No comments: