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Evolution

  • What is evolution?

  • Did humans evolve?

  • If we evolved does that mean God didn’t make us?

  • Who were Adam and Eve?

  • Did we evolve from monkeys? (If so, why are there still monkeys?)

  • If we evolved like all other animals, what makes us special?

  • Scientists

  • More Questions?

  • What is evolution?

    Evolution is the term that scientists use to describe how living things become more and more different over time.

    We’re not talking about changes during the life of an individual living thing, but the differences we see over many, many generations. Every living thing is a little bit different to its parents. That means every living thing is a little bit different to everything else that has ever lived. Sometimes, the small changes that make a creature different can help it to get lots of food and have lots of babies, so those helpful changes are passed on to the next generation. Over many generations, these little changes add up to bigger changes, making new shapes, sizes, colours and even (eventually) whole new species.

    The amazing thing about the process of evolution is that over nearly 4 billion years, those little tiny changes have led to enormous diversity of life on earth throughout its history and today, from dinosaurs to dodos, oak trees to ostriches and mushrooms to manta rays, even the duck-billed platypus! Evolution is a wonderful process.

  • Did humans evolve?

    Yes! Just like you are related to your mum, dad, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandads, and great-grandparents, you are also related to every other living thing on planet earth!

    Nearly 4 billion years ago, life first started on Earth. The first living things were microscopic, too tiny to see, and quite simple compared to lots of things around now. But every new living thing was a tiny bit different to everything else that had ever lived. So very slowly, through the processes of evolution, these small differences have added up to make big differences like new shapes, sizes, colours and even new types of creature, including humans! There are some living things we are quite closely related to, like chimpanzees: our closest living animal cousins. Others are much more distant relatives, like squid, strawberries or sea cucumbers!

    The more we study and explore, the more we discover about the wonderful ways in which the features, abilities and behaviours of each type of living thing have developed through evolution. This can help us find out about our own history, and also about the other amazing living things with which we share the planet. Every living thing on Earth is different and special and we all share the same great-great-great-great-great-(and so on!)-grandparent, so we’re all really one big, giant family!

  • If we evolved does that mean God didn’t make us?

    No, it definitely doesn’t mean that!

    Lots of people believe in a God who made us. For example, the Bible (the holy book that Christians read) refers to God as the creator and sustainer of the whole universe and everything in it. That includes planet Earth, and all the amazing plants and animals that live here. The Bible also encourages people to explore everything God has made and find out about it, saying that that is part of how we can worship and know him. That’s what scientists do! They explore, research and discover more and more about the physical world around us and how it all came to be the way it is.

    Lots of people see science as revealing the processes God uses to create. This includes how wind and water shape the landscape, how elements are forged in the heat of stars, how babies are formed in the womb and how living things change and develop over time through the process of evolution. In other words, we can see religious faith as teaching about who made everything and why, and science as helping us to learn more about how it happened.

  • Who were Adam and Eve?

    Adam and Eve are the central characters of some of the stories in the Bible (the holy book that Christians read) that talk about God making people.

    (Bonus section) How do we read the Bible?

    The Bible is a collection of books written by many different people over thousands of years. It is full of different types of writing: songs, poems and stories. Christians believe that these were written to help us understand who God is and how much he loves everything and everyone he has made. Some of these stories talk about real, historical events, others are more like poems or metaphors, communicating things that Christians believe are true, but are otherwise hard to understand.

    It’s always important to think about the context of each part of the Bible, asking: who wrote it, why, when, what type of writing it is, and for what audience. This can help us to better understand the meaning of what we’re reading. Since the Bible was written a long time ago, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between the different types of writing. But there are lots of clues to help us work this out. Importantly, even when we’re not sure if a section is an historical account, a metaphorical story, a song, or something totally different, Christians agree that we should expect the central message of each passage to contain important truth, and remain consistent with the overall message of the Bible. Adam and Eve provide a great example of the challenges of interpreting parts of the Bible.

    So what about Adam and Eve?

    Most of the stories about Adam and Eve are in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. There are lots of clues which show that the early chapters of Genesis were written to teach about who God is, rather than to teach us science or tell us how God made things. For example, these chapters are full of important theological metaphors, used to try to explain the mind-blowing claims about God’s power, authority and love in a way which could be understood by the civilisations of the ancient world and to which people can still relate today.

    Other clues we can pick up are things like the names used. In Hebrew, ‘adam’ means ‘human’ or ‘of the earth’ and ‘eve’ means ‘life’. It seems like these words were used as names to highlight important points of the story – that people are made like everything else on Earth and created or ‘given life’ by God. These clues, and others, lead lots of people to think that Adam and Eve might be example characters, used to represent humankind rather than a reference to actual people. Others think they were real people, not necessarily the first ever humans, but perhaps the first humans to be able to choose to have a relationship with God, but that the stories told about them are theological metaphors rather than historical accounts. Still others think they were real and that this story describes the way things actually happened.

    There are any number of different ideas about who Adam and Eve were, whether or not they were real people and how much of the stories told about them might be historical or metaphorical. But most Christians agree that, historical or metaphorical, the stories about Adam and Eve teach that God loves people very much; that he made us to be in relationship with him and to look after everything else he made; and that we need to take responsibility for our decisions within those opportunities. These themes echo throughout the Bible and ring true regardless of whether or not Adam and Eve were two real people.

    The Bible also encourages people to explore and discover the world that God made. That includes finding out about the wonderful way in which humans have developed through evolution to become the people we are today. These scientific ideas of how humans developed do not contradict what the Bible says about God creating people, we could see them as telling us how he seems to have done it. There are, however, exciting and interesting discussions to have about where and how Adam and Eve fit within the  steady development of humanity over time.

  • Did we evolve from monkeys? (If so, why are there still monkeys?)

    Scientists don’t say that we evolved from the monkeys and apes that are around today, but we are part of the same family.

    Humans are one of 5 living species of ‘great ape’, the others are orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. These apes, and the other monkeys and apes you might see around today are our distant cousins. Just like you and your cousins share the same grandparents, we share the same great-great-great-great-great-(and so on) grandparents (common ancestors) with today’s monkeys and apes.

    Those common ancestors lived a long time ago, and didn’t look much like us, or like today’s monkeys and apes. Over the years, through the processes of evolution, all kinds of different monkeys, apes and hominins (human-like species), each with different features and abilities, have developed from those same ancestors.

    If you watch some monkeys or apes for a while you’ll quickly notice the similarities and differences between us, in the way they look, act and respond to different situations. It’s easy to see how we’re part of one big family!

  • If we evolved like all other animals, what makes us special?

    Throughout history, it seems that all people have been searching for what makes us special or different from the rest of the living world.

    The truth is, in many ways, we are not that different to other animals. Whether you consider the evolutionary processes through which we have developed, or the things we are capable of doing, it’s not immediately obvious how we stand out. But one of the important things to remember about the process of evolution is that it’s driven by little tiny changes, leading to big differences over time, which means that all individual living things, and all groups of living things, are different and special in their own way.

    It’s fun to see the things that make us similar and different to other animals. We can climb trees, but not as well as monkeys; we can swim, but not as well as sharks; we can sing, but not like birds – and we can’t fly at all (without building a plane first)!

    But there are a few things which only humans seem able to do. We have amazing brains and bodies which let us paint pictures, build hospitals, do science, tell stories, control fire, run marathons, believe in God, cook amazing food, ask deep questions, build rockets to fly to the moon, learn all about the things we find interesting and much more. It’s hard to tell quite what other animals are thinking but lots of people think that humans are also the only animals who wonder about the universe around us and seek to find answers to our questions about the meaning of it all.

    Another thing that lots of people think is uniquely human is our sense of morality - what is right and wrong. The idea that some things are right, and some are wrong, and the ability to choose which of those to do has been very important in every human society we know about. It’s also worth remembering that we are also the only species of animals who have fought wars, created devastating weapons and been responsible for the extinction of so many other species. This raises some important questions for us about the moral decisions we make.

    The Bible (the holy book that Christians read) teaches that humans are particularly special because God has chosen us to have a particularly close relationship with him, and also to care for everything he has made. This means that Christians think it is important to search for meaning and to think carefully about what is right or wrong. The Bible says that knowing God helps people find answers to these kinds of questions, and that asking them is part of our special relationship with him. 

  • AM

    April Maskiewicz Cordero

    BN

    Bill Newsome

    BS

    Bob Sluka

    BW

    Bob White

    CW

    Cara Wall-Scheffler

    FC

    Francis Collins

    DA

    Denis Alexander

    JB

    John Bryant

    SB

    Sarah Bodbyl Roels

    SC

    Simon Conway Morris

    SR

    Steve Roels

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