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Web letter by Albert C. (Al) Kuelling: Skull discovery shows how science, faith can peacefully co-exist

The widely reported discovery of 1.8 million-year-old hominid skulls in Eastern Europe’s Georgia portrays science in the magnificent splendor of how science works. It does so in a topic rife with misunderstandings of the essential mechanisms of science.

Whatever the topic, science welcomes testable evidence either to support or contradict existing understandings. The skulls, in this case, strongly support the universally accepted concept (in scientific circles) of biological evolution – that all species, large or small, that have ever existed evolved from some other specie, rather than being created instantly by a supernatural power. In the century and a half since Darwin published his seminal book on evolution every piece of testable evidence that has ever been presented supports the concept of evolution rather than divine fiat. The fact that details of precisely how, when and where evolution occurred are not fully understood in no way detracts from the overwhelming multidisciplinary evidence supporting the evolution of species.

The rub amongst some folk is that because supernatural explanations (God did it, etc.) are not testable, they are not accepted. It was when scientists discarded supernatural explanations several centuries ago that the scientific explosion still in progress today started and was in fact enabled.

The new skull discoveries reveal to the world that while the basic concept of evolution is not in question, interpretations of how, when and where evolution in hominids occurred is open for discussion – there just isn’t enough testable evidence at this point to nail down the how, when, and where of this particular phase of evolution.

After all, it is abundantly clear that evolution of hominids has occurred since the first hominids. Evolution is simply that inheritable change has happened. It is also abundantly clear that much testable evidence exists to show what the possible mechanisms of those changes might be. Not included is the possibility that some supernatural power zapped modifications (new species) into existence.

So where does this leave the crowd that prefers supernatural explanations? It leaves those who expect God to fill the gaps in human understanding of objective truths about the natural world with yet another gap answered by scientific reasoning, and their God’s importance thus once again diminished a little further. Just like happened with the earth as the center of the solar system concept.

My God is not a “god of the gaps” (intentional lower-case g). My God gives guidance on how to live my life. My God teaches relationships and responsibilities. My God leaves filling in the gaps of human knowledge about the natural world up to science. My religious denomination accepts the findings of science, including evolution and human-induced global warming.

One’s God doesn’t have to be a “god of the gaps” for that person to be religious. Just look at the many scientists who are religious.


Fort Wayne