Why I teach evolution

Peter Peregrine

I have taught human evolution to undergraduates for almost 15 years, and I’ve been an active Christian more than twice as long. Some find that puzzling–how can I believe in the Bible and in evolution at the same time? I have two answers. The simple answer is that my faith and denomination don’t require (and in fact oppose) a literal interpretation of the Bible. If one doesn’t take the Bible’s words literally, much of the apparent conflict between creationist and evolutionist views fall away.The more complicated answer is that Christianity, as I have learned and experienced it, is not a religion with simple answers to anything. Jesus didn’t provide pat answers to life’s questions, he offered parables–riddles meant to confuse and challenge us. Why? To make us think. Any teacher can tell you that one learns best by doing, and, in my mind, Jesus was a great teacher not for the lessons he gave but for the parables that have kept us thinking, kept us “doing” Christiantiy, for two thousand years. Creationism, it seems to me, is anathema to this view of the Bible’s teachings.

For me the Bible doesn’t offer clear and obvious answers to life’s questions, but rather riddles and challenges that, by making us examine and contemplate them, lead us to a deeper understanding of the world. Science, and evolution in particular, does the same thing. Each new piece of information gained by science leads to new questions and challenges that, ultimately, lead to new understandings. It is not the received answer delivered after all the hard work is done but the challenge and struggle to arrive at the answer that leads to true knowledge, and that is why I teach evolution.

Peter Peregrine

Professor of Anthropology