Al Gore wrote a book, Earth in the Balance, which often sounds like an evolutionist manifesto. Humans go back to a “species of tree-dwelling ape,” says Gore. He sees evolution as a key to understanding all manner of things: child development, environmental responsibility, even baptism.
Regarding child development, Gore says, “Human evolution, of course, is responsible for our very long period of childhood… Evolution encouraged the development of larger and larger human brains, but our origins in the primate family placed a limit on the ability of the birth canal to accommodate babies with ever-larger heads. Nature’s solution was to encourage an extremely long period of dependence on the nurturing parent during infancy and childhood, allowing both mind and body to continue developing in an almost gestational way long after birth.”
Speaking of the environment, Gore says, “Evolution helped to shape the complex interrelationship of all living and nonliving things.” To him this is not only a scientific fact but also a spiritual marvel. He says it “evokes awe, wonder, a sense of mystery—a spiritual response when one reflects on its deeper meaning.” Al Gore says that all living things, including humans, trace back to original life forms that emerged in the ocean. “Our blood,” he says, “even contains roughly the same percentage of salt as the ocean, where the first life forms evolved. They eventually brought onto the land a self-contained store of the sea water to which we are still connected chemically and biologically. Little wonder, then, that water carries such great spiritual significance in most religions, from the water of Christian baptism to Hinduism’s sacred water of life.”
According to the Bible, baptism is a sign and seal of being washed in Jesus’ blood, saved from sin by his death, and raised with him to eternal life. Baptism means union with Christ through the Holy Spirit, not union with sea water through eons of evolution. Someone in a Buddhist temple or Hindu ashram or New Age commune might feel religiously uplifted by the idea of evolutionary oneness with sea water, but this has nothing to do with baptism in the Christian church.
For Al Gore, however, evolution is so all-embracing that almost nothing can be explained apart from it, whether holy baptism or human violence. Gore told CNN’s Larry King, “I think that violence has that capacity because of our evolutionary heritage, because of the laws of nature—tooth and fang. And we have with our power of conscience, with our beliefs in God, if we have those … we have the ability to overcome those impulses with higher ones… But I think that heritage is always present with us. It was for most of humankind’s existence part of our way of surviving. And so I think it has a primitive appeal.”
Gore has it backward. Our original ancestors did not start out bad and gradually become better. Our first parents started out good and became bad. If kids in school shoot other students, it’s not because they have nasty instincts left over from violent primate ancestors trying to survive in a kill-or-be-killed world. It’s because of sin. Humanity rebelled against God. But the fact remains that the Lord originally created humanity very good, in God’s own image. According to Genesis, on day six of creation,
God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:26-28
What’s your view of human origins? Are we creation’s crown or evolution’s accident? Are we God’s image or nothing special?
Ideas Have Consequences
Decades before Al Gore proclaimed evolution, another powerful American applied evolution to public life. Oliver Wendell Holmes served on the Supreme Court for 30 years, from 1902 to 1932, and his influence on the Supreme Court and on legal theory remains to this day. Holmes taught that laws have nothing to do with God’s justice. He told students in law school to put aside any moral view of law and to see law as the science of political force. Law, he said, “is the majority vote of that nation that can lick all others.” In short, might makes right. Holmes the evolutionist declared, “I see no reason for attributing to man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand.”
Al Gore links humanity with ape-men and sea water; Holmes equated people with baboons and sand. Theologian Herman Bavinck was right when he said, “The theory of the animal ancestry of humans violates the image of God in man and degrades the human into an image of the orangutan and chimpanzee.”
Contrary to the idea that man evolved from lower forms of life, Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Contrary to the degrading lies of evolution, the Bible says “God created man in his own image” and “crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5)
A person’s ideas about the origin of humanity shape his approach to many things, including public policy. It’s no surprise that an evolutionist politician or judge would oppose any mention of creation in public school science classes, oppose school vouchers, and insist that all taxpayer money must go to the evolutionist public school monopoly. It’s no surprise that an evolutionist would base his economic views on the assumption of scarcity and make worldwide population control a top priority, since Darwinism says we have too many organisms competing to survive in a world with too few resources.
It’s also no surprise that an evolutionist would have no objection to abortion. He has a great desire for population control and little regard for unborn babies. Even if he says he believes in God, he doesn’t believe that humans bear God’s image from the moment they are conceived. The nine months in the womb are often thought to parallel the millions of years of evolution: the unborn organism is evolving from a lower stage to a higher stage. Until it reaches that higher stage, it is a lesser life form and does not merit full protection.
Astronomer Carl Sagan wrote a pro-abortion article in which he described human embryo development this way: “By the third week… it looks a little like a segmented worm… By the end of the fourth week … something like the gill-arches of a fish or amphibian have become conspicuous … It looks something like a newt or a tadpole… By the sixth week … reptilian face … By the end of the seventh week … the face is mammalian, but somewhat piglike … By the end of the eighth week, the face resembles a primate, but is still not quite human.” “Not quite human”—the point being that babies in the womb don’t deserve the same protection as fully-evolved, full-fledged humans.
Benjamin Spock sold millions of books on child-rearing. In Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, he wrote, “Each child as he develops is retracing the whole history of mankind, physically and spiritually, step by step. A baby starts off in the womb as a single tiny cell, just the way the first living thing appeared in the ocean. Weeks later, as he lies in the amniotic fluid of the womb, he has gills like a fish,” etc. etc. Spock and Sagan talked alike and persuaded many. But neither knew much biology. They were just repeating a myth which real biologists dumped long ago.
The idea that unborn babies ever have gills like a fish or go through stages that resemble reptiles or pigs, originated with Ernst Haeckel, a German Darwinist who, in his heyday, was revered as one of Europe’s top scientists. Haeckel popularized the saying “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” a fancy phrase meaning that a human in the womb retraces evolution from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal to primate to man. Haeckel supposedly “proved” this through some drawings comparing human embryos to animal embryos. The drawings convinced many people, but they were phony. Haeckel purposely drew embryos to look much more similar than they were, simply to support his theory. Eventually Haeckel’s fraud was exposed—one journalist labeled him “the embryo liar.”
Today no knowledgeable biologist believes the discredited myth of embryo evolution, but many non-biologists still do. It remains in many people’s minds, and it still appears in some books and encyclopedias. The myth continues to shape social policy, influence child-rearing, and justify abortion.
Just as Haeckel’s views about embryo evolution have been used to deny the full humanity of unborn babies, so Haeckel himself used evolutionary thinking to deny the full humanity of entire people groups. Haeckel said, “At the lowest stage of human mental development are the Australian [aborigines], some tribes of the Polynesians, and the Bushmen, Hottentots, and some of the Negro tribes.” “They have barely risen above the lowest stage of transition from man-like apes to ape-like man.” Haeckel happily quoted someone who said, “I consider the negro to be a lower species of man, and cannot make up my mind to look upon him as ‘a man and a brother,’ for the gorilla would then also have to be admitted into the family.” These “savages,” Haeckel agreed, “have to be classed with the animals.” What disgusting nonsense!
But this was consistent with Darwin’s own thought. In fairness to Darwin, he personally disliked slavery and cruelty toward tribal peoples, and many evolutionists today, to their credit, oppose racism. But whatever the personal feelings of Darwin or his followers, Darwin’s theory meant that subjection or destruction of other races is natural and to be expected. This is evident in the very title of Darwin’s landmark book. The full title is Origin of the Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. If the favored races are preserved in the struggle, what about less favored races? Darwin declared, “The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races.”
A politician who based public policy on evolution said, “We must understand and cooperate with science.” “A higher race subjects to itself a lower race …a right which we see in nature and which can be regarded as the sole conceivable right.” The politician’s name? Adolph Hitler. Hitler’s henchman Rudolf Hess declared, “Nazism is applied biology.”
Hitler tried to build a superior race by eliminating inferior races, and by sterilizing or killing people with mental or physical disabilities. This was grounded in eugenics, the supposedly scientific effort to propagate the best genes and eliminate the poorer ones. Who coined the word eugenics and made the idea popular? Darwin’s own cousin, Francis Galton.
Darwin himself, in The Descent of Man, wrote of how society gives help to the insane, the sick, and the poor, and of how medicine saves the lives of many people of “weak constitution” who would otherwise have died. Weaklings were thus able to survive and propagate their kind. “This,” Darwin said, “must be highly injurious to the race of man.” Nobody who raises animals “is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.” Trying to aid the helpless is “mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy,” said Darwin. This is ingrained in the way higher humans have evolved, so sympathy for the helpless would probably continue. Still, Darwin bemoaned “the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind.”
Hitler decided to be scientific instead of sympathetic. Even before he began killing Jews, Hitler first eliminated more than a quarter million people who were considered “sub-human” because of physical or mental defects. The Nazis then began to kill people on the basis of race. Most people today rightly think Hitler was horrible. But his ideas about eugenics were shared by prominent Americans whose names are still revered by many today.
Take evolutionist Oliver Wendell Holmes. Only a few years before Hitler came to power, Justice Holmes wrote the Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision, upholding the forced sterilization of a supposedly “feeble-minded” woman. Holmes declared, “It is better for all the world, if … society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind… Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” At one time or another, 33 states had laws which resulted in more than untold thousands of Americans being sterilized against their will. Many were poor, black, or considered unfit for other reasons, so their government made it impossible for them to have babies.
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, ardently supported eugenics. She complained that giving food and medicine to needy people merely created “a deadweight of human waste.” A better approach, said Sanger, would be “decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world.” People with bad genes should be given their choice: “segregation or sterilization.” In 1933, Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review featured an article entitled “Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need.” The author? Ernst Rudin, Hitler’s Director of Genetic Sterilization. Nevertheless, Margaret Sanger remains a hero to many.
Planned Parenthood, the organization she started, aborts babies and sterilizes women, especially among poor and ethnic groups. Meanwhile, doctors are required by law to offer pregnant women prenatal testing, mainly to detect and abort any child who is considered defective. This is evolutionary eugenics in action.
But what if Genesis is right? What if humans did not evolve but are distinct from all other creatures? What if every human life matters to God? What if unborn babies and people with disabilities are the image of God as much as anyone else? What if no race of people is inferior but all are creation’s crown? What if new babies and a growing population are not a curse but God’s blessing of fruitfulness? The Bible teaches the truth that our first parents were made in God’s image and that all humans, whatever their differences, have the same blood (Acts 17:26) and image the same Creator. We must repent of racial prejudice and affirm our unity with every people group. We must repent of contempt for the disabled and value them as persons. We must repent of abortion and treasure the tiniest humans. We must repent of anti-child population policies and welcome children, of whatever race or ability, as multiplied blessings from God.
Evolution Versus the Gospel
Darwin’s theory of human origins contradicts the Bible, and behavior based on evolutionary beliefs clashes with God’s will. Even so, evolutionism has found supporters in the church. Darwin was praised in his own lifetime by many church officials, and when he died, he was buried with great pomp in Britain’s Westminster Abbey. But Darwin was not a Christian and did not pretend to be. He described himself as “agnostic” and said, “I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, and therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.” Church officials who tried to blend evolution and Christianity by burying Darwin under their church were really burying their church under Darwin.
One of the first preachers to believe Darwin was Charles Kingsley. He was renowned as a social activist, author, Cambridge professor, chaplain to the queen, and canon of Westminster. Kingsley said he was in awe of Darwin’s theory, even though it meant, as he put it, “I must give up much that I have believed.” He tried to blend Darwinism with his own version of Anglicanism, known as “muscular Christianity.” Kingsley taught that humans evolved from apes and later received a divine spark, which enables us to keep making more and more progress toward God’s pattern of perfection.
But what if some people groups did not evolve as far as others, had no divine spark, and couldn’t grasp the gospel of progress? “The Black People of Australia, exactly the same race as the African Negro, cannot take in the Gospel,” said Kingsley. “All attempts to bring them to a knowledge of the true God have as yet failed utterly … Poor brutes in human shape … they must perish off the face of the earth like brute beasts.”
Those racist words upset John Paton. Unlike Kingsley, Paton was not a powerful figure in society. He was just a humble, godly missionary who knew his Bible and personally knew people whom Kingsley had labeled “poor brutes in human shape.” What Paton saw among these people, he said, would “shatter to pieces everything that the famous preacher had proclaimed.” Paton told how thousands of cannibals were transformed into wise, loving people by believing the Bible’s message of salvation through faith in Jesus. Many went on to become preachers and teachers.
Why had they formerly been barbaric and murderous? Not because they hadn’t evolved far enough beyond apes, but because they were sinners who did not trust or obey their Creator. They didn’t need to be dismissed as animals. They just needed Jesus and the Bible. They needed to know that they had been created in God’s image, that sin had marred God’s image in them, and that Jesus Christ had come to save them from their sin and make God’s image shine in them again. If preachers like Kingsley hadn’t been blinded by Darwin, they could have seen the true humanity of other races and brought them the good news of Jesus. “Had Christ been brought in the same way,” Paton said, “equally blessed results would as surely have followed, for He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”
Ironically, today’s barbarians who seem least able to accept the gospel have white skin. Throughout Britain, Western Europe, and among North America’s intellectual elite, a superstitious faith in evolution blinds many to gospel. Meanwhile, throughout the world, people with darker skin pigment—far from being too primitive to grasp the gospel—are flocking to Christ by the millions. The apostle Peter was right when he said, “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). It is not race or class, but faith and obedience that matter most.
The gospel is the same for all. The gospel begins with the fact that all humans have the same origin: we are descendants of Adam and Eve, created to image God and rule creation on God’s behalf. Our spiritual dimension, our mental ability, our emotions, our capacity for relationships, our position as the crown of creation, even our bodies, are all part of what it means to be human and to image God. Herman Bavinck summarizes the biblical teaching when he says, “Among creatures human nature is the supreme and most perfect revelation of God.”
We all have the same origin, and, says the gospel, we all have the same problem: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). With Adam and Eve, we have rebelled against God, we have defiled and defaced his image in us, and we have despised and degraded others whom God created in his image.
The gospel then presents us all with the same solution: faith in the perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel embraces rich and poor, geniuses and mentally disabled, infants and elderly, male and female, of every nation or shade of skin. Scripture says that we all have in our veins the blood of one man, Adam, and that we all must be saved through the blood of one man, Jesus Christ, the man who perfectly images God and is himself divine. With his blood, he “purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation … and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9,10).
Finally, the gospel says that anyone who trusts in the crucified and risen Christ has the same future: becoming exactly like Christ, who “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and ruling with him over his new creation. By God’s Holy Spirit, each believer is born again with a “new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10). Believe this gospel, and you may be sure that the God who first created humanity in his image will perfect his image in you, that you may glorify him and enjoy him forever.
Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live
Herman Bavinck, In the Beginning
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.