Our local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, today has an article about local clergy who support evolutionary theory, seeing it as evidence of God at work in the world. (I would link to the article, but the Dispatch has become a pay site, so unless you subscribe you can’t read it.)
I cringe whenever I read this type of article.
It’s a great moral dilemma for me. We must teach gently. We must approach our learners with humility. We must never rise above. But we must also teach truth. And sometimes truth is hard.
When a male gorilla takes over a band from an aging silverback, the first thing the new alpha does is grab all the gorilla babies from their mothers and bash the infants’ heads against the nearest tree until they are dead. Lions also kill the babies when they take over a pride. This behavior is not unusual in the animal world. From the vantage point of Darwin, this action makes horrible good sense. The male gorilla must get his DNA into the next generation, and infanticide is the quickest and surest way. Those silverbacks who did not perform in this way didn’t pass their DNA on. The genes that cause (or at least encourage) this behavior have a selective advantage.
If one sees God in the beauty of a flower, in the elegance of a spiderweb, in the complexity of a rain forest, then surely one must also see God in the selective advantage provided by infanticide. Yet if a human being did such a thing, we would all condemn the murderer and demand justice, or at least protection. If you believe that evolution is “how God did it,” then if I am truly a corageous teacher I must ask you, gently, what do the cruelest aspects of evolution say about the nature of God?
It is a difficult puzzle for me, one I do not know how to solve. How do we teach gently, yet not shy away from unpleasant, jarring, important truths?