By Evangeline Ciupek
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. He is most notably recognized for his theory of evolution—also called Darwinism—which states that life evolved from single-celled organisms to plants and animals through random natural selection.
Evolution is still debated today just as it was in Darwin’s time, especially in Christian circles.
Chairperson of the department of biology, Dr. Kathleen Wood, said the subject is important to science.
“You will find Darwin’s theory of evolution in practically every biology textbook. For anyone who enjoys watching nature shows on TV, (the) evolutionary theory is quite prominent.”
The Darwin Day Celebration (DDC), a nonprofit corporation run by the American Humanist Association, said its mission “is to promote the public education about science, and to encourage the celebration of science and humanity.”
According to the DDC, Darwin Day is celebrated in 713 separate events in 45 different countries.
Wood has wrestled with the questions of the origin of life from an early age.
“I still remember a graduate enzymology course … when I innocently asked the speaker how he knew that insulin had evolved the way he (told) us it had. He got quite angry and accused me of being an anti-evolution religious nut …. It very quickly became clear to me that it was dangerous to question evolution,” Wood said.
University president, Dr. Jerry Bawcom, said evolution and creationism are both taught on campus.
“If one is to seek advanced studies in the sciences, one must understand this theory, because (it) is the primary focus in nearly all grad schools,” Bawcom said. “Clearly being a Christian college we believe in what is presented in the Bible. No one can tell, though, if God’s day is our day, or (if) is day is really a thousand years or much more.”
Wood tries to balance her teaching.
“I personally do not agree with the theory of evolution, but … I believe my students absolutely must understand and know the basis of this theory. I teach the basics of the theory and then I also bring up arguments of respected scientists against (evolution) and specific scientific examples that do not seem to support evolution. I want my students to think (and) to question things … even from the experts,’” Wood said.
Professor of Hebrew, archaeology and Old Testament, Dr. Stephen Von Wyrick, said, “Evolution is on my list to ask … when I visit with Jesus.”
He said interpretations, not truths, are the cause of conflict.
“Science and scripture are not contradictory,” he said. “My interpretation of scripture may need to be modified … based on new discoveries.”
Scientific findings do not undermine biblical truths, Wyrick said.
“Regardless of how God brought us into being … we are made in the image of God, male and female.”
University Chaplain, Dr. George Loutherback, does not see truth in Darwin’s theory.
“I think evolution definitely leaves out the Genesis perspective of God’s creation, which is something I strongly believe,” he said. “I think there is a progression that takes place over time, but it’s a progression related to climate and geographical changes. Adaptation must take place for survival for certain species. I do not see man evolving out of some other creature.”
He acknowledges God’s supremacy as creator.
“I believe (life) began because God decided to begin it. I don’t think you have to have a scientific explanation for everything. If God is God, he can do what he wants to do when he wants to do it.”
Based on a Feb. 11 Gallup Poll, 39 percent of Americans said they believe the theory of evolution. Of that percentage, most are non-churchgoers, postgraduates and 18-34-year-olds.
In another Gallup Poll conducted in 2008, people were asked how they believe humanity began. Forty-four percent said God created humans in present form, 36 percent said God guided the development of man, while 14 percent said God had nothing to do with it.
Wyrick said education, science, evolution and religion don’t have to be enemies.
“If God chose to create the world in seven seconds, seven days, seven months, seven years, seven billion years, that’s God’s choice.”