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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Evolution

Creation not closed system but open: Not yet all it could become

Evolution is a topic frequently in the news. There is ongoing debate about teaching evolutionary and creationist views in public schools. There are best-selling books, TV documentaries and science-oriented movies (March of the Penguins, dealing with evolution and the biology of cooperation, is a good example). Hardly a week goes by without an article or reference in the news to the "evolution-creation debate."

The teaching of evolution often raises fears that this theory is essentially antithetical to Christian faith and values in particular and against religion in general. Such sentiments are only reinforced by the propaganda efforts of a few openly atheist scientists (like Richard Dawkins) and the tough questions evolutionary ideas raise about the origins and roles of values (including faith and morals). Evolution can be seen as unavoidably materialistic or even outright anti-religious.

With the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin introduced a view on evolutionary thinking — more than a theory, it's a bundle of different yet related ideas. The basic one is simple: life on Earth has evolved. Species (plants, animals and bacteria) aren't static organisms but are in states of permanent change. Those changes can be confirmed by the fossil record (historically) and by observation (experimentally).

Organisms struggle for their survival by looking for and securing sustenance and producing offspring. At any given time there is more organic life, more individuals of any and all species, than can survive. Darwin learned (from British scholar Thomas Malthus) that competition for food becomes harder with every generation since organisms produce more offspring than the environment can sustain. In the struggle for life some organisms are better equipped and enjoy advantages that make them better adapted to present conditions.

Darwin said these are "naturally selected" for survival. The Darwinian account for evolution is commonsensical, even though it lacks a concept of design or direction.


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