In your field of work, solve it right now for us, how did we get here? I’m the wrong guy to ask that. Oh, man. Okay, well, wrap it up, guys. Where did we come from and how did we get here? Humans have been debating the origins of the universe since, well, forever. Norse mythology says that the first humans were made out of driftwood found by the gods. The Ethiopian creation story tells of a creator god named Waaq, who created mountains by raining fire on the earth for seven years. And the Christian Bible says God created light on day one, plants and sea on day three, birds and sea animals on day five. Humans came next, and on the seventh day, he rested. Relatable. However, since the 1880s, the scientific community has proven the theory of evolution as a reliable model for how life on earth was and continues to be created. Evolution says that human lineage diverged from apes at least 7 million years ago. So a little different than fish on day five. Personally, I’ve never had an issue accepting evolution as fact, despite being a Christian. However, some people feel differently, really differently. The majority of Americans believe that science and religion are often in conflict. So, I want to look at what fuels this ongoing debate? Does believing in science somehow compromise a person’s faith? And does believing in God prevent someone from engaging in science? Full disclosure, I’ve failed science class multiple times. I mean, I can say this, but these are definitely gay birds. So in preparation for this episode, I needed a crash course in some of the terms being tossed around in this debate. Maybe I’ll start off with a basic. Oh no. What is creationism? Creationism is the belief that the creation story in the Bible is real in that there were six 24 hour days, and we got land animals, sea animals, humans, birds. And then on the seventh day, God rested. He was like, no more. I’m exhausted. And that is creationism. Willie, if you’re gonna get up go around. What’s Darwinism? Darwinism is the belief that we all evolved through natural selection and survival of the fittest. We’re talking about your ancestors. Do you have anything to say? Safe to say I pretty much know all the terms now, so it’s time to talk to some real experts. One of the coolest things here is that sometimes when the dinosaurs went down in the mud, you’d get impressions of their skin. So we know… Oh, that’s insane. What! You know what their skin looked like. Oh, I just got chills, that’s so weird. These are actual imprints of dinosaur skin with a magnifying glass. No! That’s how they know they’re lizard-y type things. Yeah. This is Dr. Jody Martin, the Associate Vice President, Research & Curator of Crustacea here at the museum. What is your view on evolution? It’s a study of how life diversifies over time. It’s a very broad, overreaching part of the biological sciences. And more so than that, it’s really the framework that unites biology. Have you spoken with people who are scientists who also believe in creationism? And how has that conversation gone? I’ve not really run into somebody who is a really active, practicing, publishing scientist who is also a young earth creationist. They have been told, “This is what you should believe.” They have read, “This is what you should believe.” What they are scared about is evolution and anything that to them would threaten their faith. So when did the clash between science and religion in the United States really begin? Time for a State of Grace lightning round. Pre-Industrial Revolution, it was easy to view the world as timeless, eternal, and unchanging. Nobody had phones. There was no promise of tomorrow, and people were living in the now. But the 1800s were all about exploration and scientific discovery, baby. And the gag of the season came when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species and introduced the theory of evolution to the world. The response from the Christian community was largely not great. Darwin’s theory directly contradicted church teachings on creation and challenged God’s sovereignty. So around the turn of the 20th century, a guy named William Jennings Bryan launched a full-fledged crusade against evolution. This famously led to the Scopes Trial, in which a Tennessee teacher, John Scopes, broke what was then state law by teaching evolution in a public school. Scopes lost the ruling, but public opinion turned quickly in favor of evolution. Since then, the evolution versus creationism debate has returned to trial numerous times. The common denominator in all these cases is that teaching evolution somehow undermines the power of God. Despite the legal rulings and scientific evidence supporting evolution, 40% of Americans still believe in creationism. It’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around that statistic, so it’s time to put a face to the numbers. My name is William James Herath. But my friends call me Willie. Yay. You can call me Willie. You gestured to me I’m taking that as– okay good. That’s right. You’re my friend. Willie is a husband, father, evangelist, and author of the book What is Evolution? Which argues that there is no scientifically agreed-upon definition of evolution, making it unlawful to be taught in public schools. I believe that the deep questions in life are extremely important. And one of the biggest ones is how did we get here? How did we get here? Yes. How did we get here? You gotta answer it, I don’t know! What do you think, man? Well, pop culture said that evolution is true and I went to college. I’m no dummy. So I just kind of thought that maybe God kind of used evolution. Until I started getting questions from a lot of my students. So I thought, I need to go on a quest. I need to start reading about this and trying to figure out what it is. I discovered that it is completely undefined, unscientific, and unlawful to be taught in public schools. But there are definitions online, like in preparations for this episode I found many definitions for evolution. Right. Oh, there’s totally definitions for evolution, but they conflict. Every time I would study evolution it’s almost an explanation of saying, “Hey listen, this is how everything came into being in the absence of a creator god.” And so I wasn’t seeing that symmetry that I was hoping for. I was hoping God was in control of this evolutionary fact. But then I started realizing that no, there is no room for God in evolution. It is natural selection. Right? It’s not supernatural selection. Although that would be amazing. That would be cool. That’d be like, unicorns. Evolution can’t tell us how species emerge into existence. Evolution can’t tell us what the origin of life is. Evolution can’t tell us how the universe came into existence. And the only thing that makes sense is that there is something outside of this situation. So what does it look like when a biblical account of human history is treated with greater reverence than scientific discovery? Right now, we are headed to the Creation and Earth History Museum and it is dedicated to the biblical account of earth, science, and history. They asked that we not film and bring cameras, which of course we’re going to respect. It’s weird. It feels a bit like a spy mission. Definitely a difference between our welcome at the Natural History Museum versus this. I am really excited to go, look around, see what sort of information they have to offer. I have no idea what to expect. Ooh. That was… That was a thing. I have a lot to process. I really appreciated the transparency of the museum. You know, you walk in and you immediately know that this is a biblically-based perspective, a literal biblical interpretation of a story of creation. So we got the flood, the Tower of Babel, Adam and Eve, the six-day creation, and it’s all presented there. So in that sense, it’s nice that it’s transparent. You kind of know immediately what you’re getting into. They really hammer home that evolution is not consistent with a Christian belief system. It felt very fear-based, and it was very much about disproving evolution. And I didn’t get the sense, when we were going through the Natural History Museum, at any point in time did they even bring up the creation story. Why would they? They don’t need to because their theory holds up to inspection. Do you think it’s possible to be a Christian and also believe in evolution? I think that it’s possible because I did it. I was a Christian that believed in evolution. I think it is in conflict with Proverbs 13:5 that says that the righteous hate what’s false. Ironically, this same verse might be said by a Christian explaining the validity of evolution. How do you make sense of the creation story in Christianity and then also evolution? A way to rephrase that question is, “Do I interpret the Bible literally?” Yes. And I don’t. Okay. Most theologians don’t. Your faith, your nationality, your gender, your race, this is kind of who you are. Science is more of what you do. So what’s at stake when science and religion are pit against each other? Both sides of the argument seem to clash in the classroom, so I guess it’s time to go back to school. Do you remember learning about evolution? When evolution was brought up, it was either to mock it or to call it evil. But there was never much information given about it. I visited the classroom of Dr. Donna Nofziger, a molecular biologist and Associate Professor of Biology here at Pepperdine University. When did you really start learning about what evolution is? It really was on my own that I started diving deep because I knew I wanted to be a scientist. I said, “Okay, I’m not going to be fearful anymore.” I started reading books and reading books and reading books. But I did it all in secret. Whoa. Because I thought I was a bad Christian. I still remember sitting on the couch and coming to the point in all this study and just feeling the weight of evidence. The evidence I did not want to accept, frankly. It was so overwhelming. What was some of the evidence that stuck out to you? I remember coming to this realization that in order for evolution, this theory of evolution, not to be true or have it to be fraudulent, chemists would have to be wrong, physicists would have to be wrong, biologists would have to be wrong. All these people in disciplines for decades, and decades, and decades, they all have to be wrong. I just remember everything just clicking into place. And then I waited for my faith. And then I would say, oh, I’m still a Christian. I still love Jesus. One of the mottos at my university is “The truth has nothing to fear from inspection.” Once I accepted and started understanding evolution, I understand God’s love for his creation a lot more. I understand grace a lot more. I understand the awesomeness of God’s power a lot more. It is profound and beautiful. Yeah, I feel like you’re blowing my mind right now. So, how did we all get to be on this rock flying through space and what does it all mean? Science offers a lot of explanations and evidence about our creation, but the belief in a divine creator is really an unknown variable. I grew up in a Presbyterian home. I’m a practicing Christian today. I’ve never seen any reason for an incompatibility between science and faith. The boundaries drawn between God and science, or some combination of the two will look different from person to person. But when we allow this debate to shut down conversations, we limit our potential to understand each other and this flying rock we’re on a little more deeply. Thank you for watching Refinery29. For more videos, click here, and to subscribe, click here.