Saturday, November 08, 2008

Evolution and me: a personal story (part 2)

Part 2: The first sparks of realisation

It was my very first university lecture. I remember it so clearly. It was a bright morning in February 1996, the time was around 8:00AM, and the subject was Zoology.

Like all other first year students, I was a bright eyed and naive, ready to tackle the ivory tower of tertiary education on my first day. As we settled down in the lecture theatre, the lecturer walked in. The students grabbed their newly sharpened pencils and waited for the lecture to begin. There was a moment of silence as the lecturer wiped the blackboard clean, and when he turned around he said, quite loudly (and I kid you not, these were his first words): "Ladies and gentlemen, there is one thing I want to make clear before I start: evolution is a fact." We were caught by surprise, and I remember sensing a few of the students squirming uncomfortably in their seats. He then began his lecture, the first of my university career.

That is how university approached the subject of evolution: uncompromisingly and without apologies. Evolution was taught as a strongly supported theory. As a first year student who was never fully exposed to evolution at school, I battled with it. All my life I had believed that evolution was not true, and that the creation story in the Bible was valid. If I look back now, my beliefs at the time had 'evolved' in high school from young-earth creationism to something that resembled ideas advocated by old-earth creationists like Hugh Ross: that the earth is indeed millions of years old; that humans were created by God separate from other species; that Adam and Eve did indeed exist; and that evolution was false.

But university seemed to put the spanner in the works where these beliefs were concerned. My beliefs regarding origins were starting to shake. As I wrote in my last post, many people who I grew up with considered evolution as an attack on Christianity and their personal faith. As a child I was taught that we as Christians had to constantly be on guard against evolution because it had the power to erode and weaken our faith. So my feelings regarding evolution during my first year at university were feelings of uncertainty and fear.

But the struggle was soon to end. . .

Next post: The golden thread
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CyberKitten said...

This is all very weird & *so* different from my own experience. Evolution was always taught as fact from my very earliest school memories... I honestly could think of it in any other way.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi cyberkitten

Weird, but true. I don't know if evolution has entered the South African school syllabus yet, although last year I read plans by the education department to include it. Amazingly, there is still quite a lot of resistance to include it!

RevRight said...

Kevin - would to God that you had attended a reputable Bible college, where you would not have been exposed to wrong-headed notions about evolution as "fact." Blessings!

Skywirelynx said...

Oh, Reverend Right, let us hide our children from knowledge lest they possibly discover truth in some other corner of the universe than the eternal and unchanging Word of God. It is odd, is it not, that the God of all wisdom and knowledge only gave us one book, and its sections range from 1800 to perhaps 3500 years old, roughly. He's not updated it once since then. That's curious, since no humanly developed encyclopedia worthy of continuing respect would consider its own contents reliable in many areas of knowledge for more that a few years at best. I would expect better than human performance from God. So best we make sure no one looks beyond the ancient borders. We wouldn't want them to be damaged by "all those lies".

I'm curious how you would be able to adequately test the truthfulness or falsehood of an idea without looking beyond the bounds of biblical knowledge. I guess you need to be securely indoctrinated to remain impervious to the lies. I was better indoctrinated than most, but truth still won out.

You know, the bible was once used to prove the earth was flat until someone sailed all the way around it and came back (they didn't fall off the edge). Eventually someone found the verse about God sitting on the circle of the earth and said, oh yeah, the bible does say the earth is round. Guess we shouldn't have killed all those heretics.

Even now some Christians have "cracked" under the weight of the evidence and proposed flimsy schemes such as day-age creationism to allow them to accept the fact of evolution without having to admit the logical point, that the writer of Genesis got it WRONG! Of course, that would really damage the idea of inerrancy, for starters.

(Sorry Kevin. I'll restrain myself in the future if you prefer. But the sort of lofty, ignorant comment left by revright shows such an appalling lack of thoughtfulness and acquaintance with the facts that I find it highly irritating. The poster certainly has the right to believe what he wants, and say what he believes, even if it proves him to be ignorant.)

Connie Gibbs said...

Like you, my Christian experience emphasized vigilance regarding ideas that could "erode or weaken" my faith. But, really, it's such a flawed idea that I'm shocked I ever allowed myself to be enslaved by it. If someone's faith can be eroded doesn't it prove that the eroding factor is more powerful and compelling than what someone has put their faith in? I mean, who ever stopped believing 2+2=4 ~ nothing can "erode or weaken" us from believing that; nobody falls away from math like they do "the faith."

I'm really looking forward to you future posts, Kevin. Thanks

RevRight said...

skywirelynx - I regret that my remarks were irritating to you, and I would be the first to admit that I get a bit carried away when it comes to the wonders of Bible college. It was there that I met my precious wife Velma, who encouraged me to start a short-lived but highly effective puppet ministry. As far as the Bible goes, we'll have to agree to disagree!

Skywirelynx said...

RevRight - Going to a Christian college was one step on my long journey away from Christian faith. Folks there-even the professors-were more liberal than the version of Christianity I grew up with. I'm glad your time in Bible college led to a happy marriage for you.

A lot of Christians are good people, in my experience. Many people seem to benefit, and maybe really do, from the teachings of Christianity. Certainly there are aspects of the religion that give them hope. What I now find untenable is the claim that Christianity, chiefly through the Bible, somehow has a superior claim to truth than any other of the available sources.

All the best to you and Velma.

Lui said...

"Kevin - would to God that you had attended a reputable Bible college, where you would not have been exposed to wrong-headed notions about evolution as "fact." Blessings!"

If that's what "reputable" means, that I'm afraid that Kevin did well to stay away from such colleges. That evolution is a fact is more or less universally accepted by all reputable biologists - the people who are qualified to talk about biology (the subject in question). Whether theologians choose to accept evolution (and most "reputable" ones do) is completely irrelevant.

cipher said...

I'm a little late in the day with this, but, for future reference - Reverend Right is a parody.