I am an interdisciplinary conversation dork. As an environmental science major with a minor in Bible and religion, I am endlessly fascinated by the connections between science and religion, especially since I didn’t think there were any connections before starting my major. Science and religion seemed like two completely opposite sides of the continuum until I learned about ways to approach subjects from different disciplines, without having to compromise the integrity of either side. It doesn’t help my dorkiness that I am in the Creation and Evolution class where we literally have interdisciplinary conversations all the time. So prepare yourself as I geek out on the practice of finding some sort of connection between science and religion.
In preparation for the Science and Religion conference this weekend, President James Brenneman made a speech in convocation entitled “Apes and Anabaptists: Missing Links Revisited,” in which President Brenneman used science and theological sources to address creation and evolution. In some ways, he addressed our creation and evolution in relation to our origin. He spoke about the Genesis creation story and the Big Bang theory, but from my perspective, didn’t spend much time talking about origin. However, he did talk about creation and evolution in the sense of morality and how that developed in us in comparison to animals.
President Brenneman focused mainly on the morality of animals and what that means for Christian morality. Because both animals and humans have some types of morality, that effects how we are connected as creatures created by God. How I interpreted his final point was that humans need a savior because we developed morality in a greater way than animals did and therefore need some sort of guiding light to help us make moral choices.
The idea of humans coming from animals can be threatening for some who believe in creationism. Insinuating that humans came from animals or are just like animals can be threatening to our uniqueness as humans.
One reason why so many like the idea of creationism is because we were created by God, uniquely. In the Genesis creation story, God breathed into us and made us in his image. We were unique. Not only that, but we are important, higher than the animals and conscious of our moral choices (Thanks Adam and Eve). From a religious perspective, evolution is so random. We aren’t unique, we just came out of a genetic mutation from mere animals. That affects our relationship with God, our purpose on Earth, and all that jazz. From a scientific perspective, it seems so easy to throw out the idea that God created us uniquely in favor for evolution, which is backed up by scientific proof.
There is scientific evidence that suggests animals might have morals just like us, and could evolve someday to be as moral as we are. But science can’t scientifically prove really abstract things like morality or the existence of God. I’m sure every biological evolutionist on campus just put the word ‘yet’ in the previous sentence, but for now, scientists can’t prove anything. Science simply cannot prove that God or any higher being doesn’t exist.
This becomes the main contention in interdisciplinary conversations: neither side can prove that the other side is wrong, but neither of them can prove their point just using their own side. Not only that, but they are asking very different questions that have to be researched, understood, and analyzed at different levels. What I really appreciated about President Brenneman’s speech was how he didn’t try to force any kind of answer from any one perspective. I think he had a balanced argument for his point that animals and humans both have morality and what that means for our relationship with God. His argument was probably more important for those on creationist side who feel their unique connection to God being compromised by evolution, but his point could be beneficial for people on both sides.