Evolution

Far too many people imagine that evolutionary science is incompatible with the Jesus Story. It isn't. However, the metaphysical framework of many of its practitioners is 1 . The real question is one of purpose. Could evolution be purposeful? Of course it could! Whether or not there is purpose is not a scientific question but a philosophical one. There is no "purpose-meter" -- no scientific measure of purpose 2 . And "chance" has no causal powers. Chance is a description of our (lack of) knowledge -- an epistemological rather than ontological category 3

​​But it is interesting just how compatible the Genesis account is with modern biology. To appreciate this, it is necessary to understand the difference between two of the Hebrew verbs in its first chapter: בָּרָא ("create") and עָשָׂה ("make"). The second verb is the one we might use to "make a salad" -- we take existing material, and rearrange it, yielding a new form. Of course, God could well have accomplished his "making" by what we now call evolution -- i.e., the rearrangement of genetic material to yield new forms.

The verb בָּרָא, on the other hand, is more interesting. It shows up only three times: right at the beginning: "God created the heavens and the earth", at the creation is life itself, and at the creation of humankind. And, sure enough, these three events are well-represented on lists of science's biggest mysteries 4 , 5
Of these three scientific puzzles, the first two are uncontroversial: both the origin of the universe and the origin of life itself 6 are beyond our present understanding. The challenge, however, shows up with the third one: human beings, we are told, are nothing but animals.

​But according to current estimates, the evolutionary divergence eventually yielding humans and chimpanzees took place around six million years ago 7 , in a population of roughly thirty thousand. With a ten-year generation, this means that roughly 18 billion opportunities for mutation were in play for that transition (involving approximately 150 million base-pair modifications 8 ). 

But there have been approximately 108 billion homo sapiens in recent history 9 . That means six times the opportunity for mutation in modern humans as required to effect human/chimpanzee divergence. But intra-species genomic variance is less than 2% of the inter-species divergence. Under current evolutionary assumptions, that simply can't be right (i.e., there is something wrong with the existing model).

One intriguing option is that homo sapiens represents an "evolutionary end-point." But that implies that the point occupied by human beings in the evolutionary space was built into in the very nature of matter -- i.e., that humanity is special indeed!