My good friend, Not Very Bright, (whose bloghandle is ironically self-deprecating, since he's one the smartest bloggers around) has a great post about the beliefs of some of our South Carolina legislators regarding evolutionary biology. No surprises here: most of those who responded claim that they believe that the Genesis story is to be understood literally and that humans were made in a single, special act of creation in a Middle Eastern garden, on a Friday afternoon 6,000 years ago. Thank the God of Abraham for Bill Cotty and Mick Mulvaney who express their belief that God is indeed quite capable of designing a universe and populating it with billions of life forms in a graduated process that science calls "evolution." (Rep. Mulvaney is a bit confused about the difference between "deism" and "theistic evolution" but at least the man can think. I promise to spend some time in his office giving him a brief on theological schools of thought...)
The more we discover about the grand design of the universe, the more we see the hand of a Creator in it. (At least I do, you're entitled to be an agnostic or an atheist if you like. At least until such beliefs are listed as threats to national security and we ship you off to Gitmo.) But belief in a Creator in no way presupposes that the Genesis stories (there are two creation stories there, one in chapter 1 and another in 2 and 3) are to be taken as a scientific inquiry into the origin of life. In fact, genetic research has established the basic outlines of Darwin's theory as fact.
The April 13, 2007 issue of Science magazine reveals that the tiny spider macaque, chimpanzees and humans share at least 97.5% of their DNA. This means that only very tiny variations in the genetic code produced the vast diversity of primates and humans. It's wonderful, heady, exciting news. It also strengthens the faith of those who refuse to check their brains at the bright red door of their parish church.
Instead of viewing this news as another scientific validation of theistic biological origins, most creationists either ignore it or deny it. Why? Because it does not fit neatly into their "literal" reading of Genesis. If the events of the Genesis stories are to be understood literally, goes the creationist line, then there was no "fall" and no need for redemption, thus no atonement brought by Jesus' death. No resurrection. No Pentecost. No Second Advent.
In this, the creationists make themselves the unwitting accomplices of the Richard Dawkins band of reactionary atheists who belive that knocking over the straw man of a literal Adam and Eve knocks over the whole basis for Christianity. Unfortunately for both of them, Christianity is dependent, not on a literal reading of Genesis, but on Jesus of Nazareth, the radical Jewish rabbi who came to free people from their enslavement to the traditions of human superstition, including those based on a flawed reading of Genesis or other ancient texts.
And it only takes 2.5% of our DNA to help us figure out that the entire 100% got here in an entirely miraculous process of slow motion creation over 15 billion years. It's the little things that count.