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September 26, 2012

A Religious Quandary

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Living in a Muslim country and being a science person, one is often confronted with the dilemma of the eternal question of who created man, God or evolution. Many of my young kampung friends ask me the question; I usually squirm and sputter, not wanting to give an answer.


Across the river from me is my Surau, a small mosque. I am friends with the Imam, a person who announces prayer times. He also leads the services, counsels those with problems and teaches Islamic classes. A fine elderly gentleman, I have had dinner with him, paid him the yearly tithe and arranged to perform traditional ceremonies for my son, Dzul.


It is written in the Qur’an, like the Bible, that God created heaven and earth. This is a wonderful viewpoint and allows us to have a deep belief in a Creator. The earth we walk on, the animals we see, and the plants that feed us are all from a good and loving God whom we worship.


There is nothing wrong in harboring this belief. The moniker “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” promotes a unity among people under a common faith. Like all things, it can be taken to an extreme like the Moslems who attacked an embassy or the Christians who made the film.


Evolution discounts a creator. The theory that humans evolved from apes has been supported by scientific evidence. Nobody can deny the fossils one holds in hand, the foot prints in mud and kilometers of unraveled DNA. “DNA said it, I believe it, that settles it” could also be the mantra of others.


There have been many efforts to combine the two. Some scientists search for an ark, decide evidence relates to the Biblical flood and study the life cycle of various insects to justify the plagues.


The creationists are just as active. They try to use Piltdown man to discredit science. (Piltdown man was a combination of a human skull with the jaw of an orangutan used to demonstrate a step in evolution. It was not until 1953, after 40 years, that the fake was uncovered.)


Creationists also tackled DNA evidence. Most DNAists (my word) agree the chimp is man’s closest relative with a 98% similarity. The people associated with creation studied the evidence and claim there is only an 89% unity. Another attempt to claim science is wrong.


My dilemma is this. I will explain a theory that proposes the orangutan is man’s closest relative and not the chimp. It will be delivered before a mixed group of people of different religions, who are of the Adam and Eve persuasion.


To resolve my predicament, I will begin my talk by stating there are two words. One is the word of God as expounded by religion, and the other is the word of man as related by the theory of evolution. I will ask my audience to keep the two separate in their minds. The word of God one worships, the knowledge of man one accepts, but does not worship. They cannot ever be combined, for how could the word of God be sullied by the word of man? It cannot.


I will then take a banana to represent the orangutan and an apple to represent the fruit of Adam and Eve. I will smash them together. You still have a banana and still have an apple. You will never be able to compare or combine the two. Just as an apple will always be an apple, a banana will always be banana, the word of God will always be the word of God, and the word man will always be the word of man. They will always be separate, cannot be compared and should never be fused together.


…Life is good. . . . .


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