Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Irony of Evolution: Miss USA

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void since there was no YouTube nor any beauty contestants to set the record straight.  But now...

The above video unlocks the mysteries of the universe.  Actually, it shows all 51 contestants in the recent Miss USA pageant and their answers to the question of whether evolution should be taught in schools.  While the video is 15 minutes long, the good stuff begins at the 40 second mark and is worth viewing to see at least a few of the responses.

Beauty pageants, like everything else, have become extremely competitive affairs.  The young women who compete are trained to be able to discuss a wide range of topics and have developed opinions on many of society's problems.  It is pretty clear in this video that most of them were NOT prepared to answer this question.  As a result, it is painful watching these ladies as they try to at least speak in complete sentences as their minds are racing to come up with something that will appeal to the masses while maintaining their controlled, spokesmodel exterior.

As much as I enjoy some good post-pageant analysis, that's not why I am writing this blog post.  I want to talk about evolution.  Until I saw this video, I had no idea that evolution was still a touchy subject.  Frankly, I have no problem with evolution as it encapsulates the current thinking of the majority of the world's most brilliant scientists.

What do I know about evolution?  Nothing, really.  I only know what I have been taught and what I have read on the subject.  It appears that there is enough evidence to support the theory, while acknowledging there is much that is still unknown (for example, recent studies have challenged the longstanding notion that evolution occurs through random mutation and genetic drift).

Yes, you heard me correctly.  I have no beef with evolution.  It is a well-conceived explanation for a great many observable parts of the universe in which we live.  I do, however, question some of the conclusions that are drawn as a result of evolution.  That's because I feel like there are many scientists who can't help but overstep their area of expertise and think they know more than they really do about the subject they are passionate about.  I believe that many Christians do the same, especially when it comes to their views on science in general, and evolution in particular.  The Miss USA pageant video is a perfect example of this.

My take on this is that much of Christendom (at least here in America) has developed an irrational mistrust of science since many of the popular scientists of the last century have been outspoken in their agnostic or atheistic beliefs.  Even more problematic, though, is the view that the first two chapters of Genesis are a literal, scientific description of how the world came into existence.  I understand why some people hold that view, but I think the appropriate response when shown credible evidence to the contrary is not to summarily dismiss any alternative explanation or interpretation.  Instead, I would submit that one should do what the Apostle Paul encourages the Thessalonians to do when he tells them to "test all things."  (I Thessalonians 5:21)

I would submit that scientific discovery should be embraced as it helps us better understand not only God and the universe He has created, but also the very words of the Bible.  I would encourage you to look into these things with an open mind and an open heart.  For those of you who believe in God as I do, you should agree with me that God, in His infinite power and wisdom, could have created the universe and everything in it instantly.  He instead chose to create things over time.

Here is what I currently believe on this subject:
  1. I believe that the Bible is inerrant.
  2. I believe in the Big Bang.
  3. I believe that the planet Earth is approximately 5 billion years old.
  4. I believe that God has created all things and that He was pleased with His creation.
  5. I believe that God has ordained natural forces and processes such as evolution to populate our planet with life.
  6. I believe these things from studying scripture and studying scientific discoveries in the areas of geology, biology, anthropology and astronomy.

Back to the original question that was presented to the Miss USA contestants: Should evolution be taught in schools?

Sure!  Why not?

I find it to be a strong scientific theory with as much supporting evidence as just about everything else that is taught in school these days.  Until a better explanation comes along, I have no problem with evolution being taught in schools.  Perhaps if I was prettier and looked good in a bikini, I might think differently.

Bibliography: Acquiring Genomes; The Genesis Question; Finding Darwin's God; The Language of God


  1. God's methods in creating us will never be completely least until we are in Heaven with Him and He reveals it.
    I think the beef that Christians have with evolution being taught in schools is that it's the ONLY thing taught, and alternative theories are not presented. As parents, we should make sure that our children are aware of the alternatives, but not all children will be afforded the benefit of good parenting, so then it becomes a matter of the school indoctrinating students.
    Man, that's quite a can of worms you opened up...all swimming in the mud puddles I guess :)

  2. I went to a Christian college where evolution was a dirty word. So, I spent many hours as a PhD student at Mizzou in the department of ecology, evolution and biology studying what I believed to be the truth. And, I think you speak it. God created the universe. Who's to say how? But you know what? It doesn't really matter. What does? Jesus (who doesn't say much about it). Jesus died for us to redeem us and allow us a seat in heaven. That is where I think we'll learn the truth. And by then we won't care. See you there, friend.

  3. What scientists know and understand about the past is interesting. Several years ago we were in Yellowstone National Park listing to a park ranger talk about details that had happened millions of years ago. I ask the simple question about who had lived here prior to European discovery and they did not KNOW conclusively anything about the prior four hundred years. I remember thinking that was odd. They can know without the shadow of any doubt details about millions of years ago, but not a single detail about a couple of hundred years. Hmmm. Bev Boyd

  4. Carbon dating, a theory that is accepted as fact has an assumption that they start with. They assume the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has been constant for billions of years. Assuming the atmospheric condition to be constant, they then relate the amount of radioactive carbon in a living being to be the same as the atmosphere until that living organism dies. Once it dies, the radioactive carbon in its remains will reduce based on its half-life and as they measure the difference in the percentage of radioactive carbon in its remains with the percentage in the atmosphere, you can calculate the age. This method has been proven over a short time span of 100 years. But they then extrapolate the theory to billions of years, how on earth they think their assumption is accurate I will never know. Climate change scientists argue the planet is going to warm because the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere is changing. Sources of carbon dioxide include volcanic eruptions. The thermal features in Yellowstone Park were created by a massive volcano, one thousands of times larger than anything active on the planet right now.

    I think you have been swept up in our current culture to accept things as fact because experts say so. If you look at carbon dating, and the assumption that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been constant, and then look at climate change where they argue it is changing you might come to the conclusion that they can't have their cake and eat it too.

    Experts are sinners too. Just like me and theologians, even your favorite one. And as such, we are all fallible, me included, even as I debate this issue.

    But just to go on the record, I think evolution is a preposterous theory, and is emotionally believed in order to avoid thinking of the alternative. If in fact, evolution were fact, somewhere in our fossil record, there would be a continuous change from one species to another. But the fossil record is completely absent in documenting such a movement. That alone causes me to be skeptical.

    So with regards to evolution and carbon dating, I trust neither theory, based upon my training as a chemical engineer.

  5. Great comments from all. As always, thank you for reading and providing your knowledge and/or opinion to the discussion. Once I have a little more time, I hope to respond to each of you. Blessings.

  6. Here are my two cents worth...One of you scientists out there might be able to blow me out of the water on this one. After all, I am definitely not a scientist and don't even play one on TV. I didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. In fact, I only needed to take 8 hours of "science" courses to get my bachelor's degree, and two psychology courses somehow managed to take care of that requisite (still not quite sure how that worked).

    All that being said, it seems to me that an important distinction to be made is that between micro-evolution (evolution within a species)and macro-evolution (evolution across various species). Without question, moths have become spotted to better blend in with environments. We can point to this in history. But to my knowledge, any evolution across species is (necessarily because of the great amounts of time required) purely a matter of conjecture. Well-informed conjecture, perhaps. Best-guess conjecture, quite possibly. But conjecture nonetheless.

    It seems to me that to say that a lower case "a" somehow evolved into a capital "A" is a very different thing than saying an "A" evolved into a "B" which evolved into a "C"...finally becoming a "Z". So it is one thing to say that people have become bigger, stronger, faster, and we hope smarter (though the jury is decidedly still out on the last one), and quite a different thing to suggest that random junk evolved into coordinated junk...eventually evolving into monkeys on the way to becoming human. I'm not saying that it's not true that this happened (though that is what I believe), I am only saying that it is important for us not to conflate categories in this (or any other) area of scientific understanding.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Brett.

  7. There are some great thoughts here in the comments worth addressing. I'll try my best to hit them all.

    Thanks for getting a little "muddy". Alternative theories in any discipline rarely get any attention in education (and rightfully so, I would argue...there's just not enough time.) I agree that parents should be proactive in the training of their children.

    "It doesn't really matter." ------Exactly! I want to extend the hand of fellowship to all, regardless of what they may think about how life originated. Like you, I started from a Young-Earth Creationist view and studied old earth theories and evolution so that I could at least discuss the matter with those people who reject the Bible due to it being "anti-science". I'm glad I did.

    A couple of things -- (1) science is about making sense out of what is observed; (2) we can't dictate what is able to be observed (for example, an intact fossil stratum is going to provide some information about some things while being completely silent about others) and (3) just because there may be gaps in what is known about something, there is still much to learn from what information is available.

    "I think you have been swept up in our current culture to accept things as fact because experts say so."
    While that might be the case, I've never thought of myself as being someone who gets swept up by the current culture. (But there is a first time for everything.) My take is that I'm not just deferring to the experts in these matters ("test all things"), but I am at least listening to what they have to say and looking into why they say what they do.
    I agree that we are all fallen which is why I'm sharing the muddiness in my own mind that I might continue to grow in truth.

    The micro/macro distinction is a good one and has never been explained to my full satisfaction and ultimately has to rely on millions of years and a who knows what can happen over such a long period of time attitude from proponents of evolution.

    To everyone,
    One of the intended results of this post was to highlight that two competing sides both fall into the trap of thinking they know more about something than perhaps they should. Evolutionists see an old age in the universe and then claim that evolution is fact and God is now moot. Bible readers think that only an absolute literal interpretation of Genesis is the way to read the Creation account. My hope is that these two can come together to help each other see the Truth.

    Further thoughts?