But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. — II Peter 3:8, KJV
And he said, “Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth; But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.” — Mark 4:30-32, KJV
The last lecture in this season’s Science and Religion series featured evolution and the processes of God.
Sarah MacDonald, assistant professor of Biology and Botany, said evolution, in its simplest definition, is “genetic change over time in a population.”
Evolution is not “just a theory,” MacDonald said, adding that the term “theory” in some people’s minds mean speculation. MacDonald said, “In science, a theory is something heavily tested and researched.”
MacDonald said that when scientist Charles Darwin published his book “The Origins of the Species” in 1859, he had no knowledge of DNA but figured out the science from the study of anatomy and “biogeography.”
All living organisms on Earth use the same genetic code, MacDonald said. That uniformity links common relationship within nature.
MacDonald said the Human Genome Project, started in 1990 and completed in 2000, has mapped human DNA.
Each cell contains chromosomes in humans, animals, and plants. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, MacDonald said, while the great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans), the animals with the closest DNA to humans, have 24 pairs of chromosomes. She said that scientists believe one of the human chromosomes fused together within the course of natural history.
Though a mouse may look like a rat, MacDonald said that rats and mice are more different from each other than humans and monkeys, according to their DNA genomes.
Some students found it interesting that on a “tree” chart of DNA-related organisms, which MacDonald presented in a slide show, dolphins are closely related to cows.
MacDonald said that evolution is a process and that biblical scriptures and stories are often about process. “God uses long processes,” she said.
“Evolution is consistent with long processes in the Bible,” she said. “Over and over in scriptures, thre is a theme of process.” She said the Bible is a collection of documents by many authors at many different time periods, using narratives, poetry, apocalyptic description, and other forms of writing.
God didn’t create Jesus in an instant as a fully-developed man, MacDonald said, adding that Jesus went through the normal human process of birth, childhood, and adulthood.
MacDonald said that she didn’t think there is conflict between God and science, despite what “some people want to make of it.”
In the question-and-answer time, a student asked about the story of Adam and Eve. MacDonald said the presence of a talking snake and the later presence of Cain’s wife have always been perplexing details of the story. She said that there are lots of interpretations for the Adam and Eve story, which could be more symbolic than literal. “Perhaps, the apple represents sin,” she said.
For her presentation, MacDonald used research information from Nature magazine as recently as two weeks ago, and she recommended the PBS film “What Darwin Never Knew” and the website biologos.org.
MacDonald was one of four presenters for the Science and Religion lecture series in October. Others included Stephen Patton, Chemistry professor and seminar organizer; and John McLean and Loren Gruber, both English professors.