Myths, legends, history and truth

Chaos Monster and Sun God

In my last three posts (plus an earlier post) I have looked at ways that we may see that biological evolution points to God as the creator, perhaps in ways that many would find unexpected.

In all of these ways, I believe science shows that evolution alone is unlikely to lead to the outcomes we actually see, suggesting that God has used evolution to create something more than a smart animal.

So now I want to look at how we may best understand Genesis in the light of evolution.

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DNA – a challenge to believers and unbelievers

Difficult Issues series


I have been researching family history for several years now, and have recently had my DNA tested to identify possible genetic matches – people who are related to me, perhaps as distant as 5th cousins – to try to make some breakthroughs in a difficult search.

This has opened up an interesting new world for me, with some interesting implications for christians.

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youth climate group

We came, we marched, who cares?

So, about 40,000 of us “marched” (I was more like strolling on a warm afternoon!) in Sydney; many, many more around the world.

The march was loosely organised around colour groups – Australia’s first nations peoples at the start, mostly in black, then a large contingent of Pacific Islanders (who are already feeling the effects) in red, many nations and many faiths in purple, youth and future generations in blue, and so on.

It was good fun, colourful, musical, good spirited. Lots of drummers, many colourful and imaginative costumes, an “ecopella” choir, a lone clarinetist, and many more.

So now we’ll see if the Paris talks become global actions, or not.

Reporting the news?

Most news outlets reported the march in Sydney, in Australia, and the world, fairly and as you’d expect – a few colourful photos, a few quotes from marchers and speakers at the pre-march rally, an estimation of the numbers.

But Sydney’s Telegraph, owned by Rupert Murdoch, was predictable (I actually did predict its response beforehand). It rarely provides genuine news these days, but is very selective about what it publishes, always puts a spin on what it does report (often very nasty in its headlines and digitally distorted photos), and has its favourite people and causes to hate. Climate change is one of its big hates, and columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are carefully selected to present the same misinformation. I predicted it would only mention the march briefly, and it would find a way to spin it to attack one of its favourite targets.

And so it proved. Yesterday there was the smallest possible news item, in a little box down the bottom corner of the page, and all it said was that the deputy leader of the opposition had criticised the Prime Minister at a rally in Sydney (the PM is one of the people the Telegraph are trying to undermine). That’s all.

But today there was a report of anarchists in Paris making a protest which resulted in clashes with the police, so of course this received a large spread because it suited the Telegraph‘s ideological purposes.

It is no wonder there is wavering support for the necessary action, when one of only three newspapers in Sydney gets so much misinformation and so little truth.

Morning rituals

Spiritual principles series

Praying or meditating

Every morning, unless something extremely unusual happens, my wife and I spend about half an hour praying together. We pray for each other, for our children, our friends and other relatives, for the ministries we are involved in, and anything else that comes to mind.

Maybe you’re thinking there’s nothing so unusual in that. Christians pray. That’s sort of part of the deal, isn’t it?

We think it is one of the most important aspects of our lives. And it may have even greater benefits than we might think. But I’m not so sure it is part of the deal at all – for many christians.

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Who were the first human beings?

Difficult issues series

Cave painting

Last post (Why the fuss about evolution?) we looked at how the science of biological evolution impacts on christianity. We saw that the DNA evidence indicates that there was never a single Adam and Eve style couple as the ancestors of the human race.

This then raises the interesting question – who were the first human beings?

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Why the fuss about evolution?

Difficult issues series


When Darwin published his On the Origin of Species in 1859 it provoked a range of reactions from christians and from scientists too. Many christians were quite comfortable with the idea of evolution (though many others were not), and it wasn’t until about 60 years later that the more ‘hardline’ christian opposition to evolution began.

That opposition remains, mostly in the US, where it is reported that evolution is rejected by more than 40% of the population.

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Does religion do you harm or good?


Famous atheists have said that religion is harmful to the believer and to society. Religious belief is “poisonous”, making believers “delusional” and anti-social. And internet sceptics have followed them in repeating the allegations until they have some sort of authority.

These accusations may trouble some christians. But the thing is, the scientific evidence shows otherwise.

The science of religion and wellbeing

You may not be aware of it but the study of the neurophysiology, sociology and psychology of religion is a scientific discipline. There have also been many scientific studies of health and wellbeing, including many on the contribution religious belief or attendance makes. These studies make no assumptions about the truth or otherwise of religious belief, but look at how such belief is experienced and how it affects people and society.

I have listed almost 40 studies on religion and wellbeing in Studies of medicine and religion and outlined the conclusions of these studies in The health and wellbeing benefits of active and positive christian belief.

Religion, wellbeing and prosociality

The results are not black and white, sometimes different aspects of religion have different effects, but the overall conclusions are very clear. Religious belief and religious practice are associated with higher than average levels of physical and mental health and wellbeing, and higher levels of prosociality (prosociality is a term for “voluntary behavior intended to benefit another”). Sometimes religion is found to be a significant cause.

So religious belief and or practice has been found to help people under stress, assist recovery from physical and mental illnesses, and reduce the incidence of depression, suicide, substance abuse and anti-social behaviour. Believers are generally happier and more likely to donate to charity and volunteer in the community.

Some summary quotes

  • “our brain-scan research, which we document in our new book, How God Changes Your Brain, led us to the conclusion that faith is the most important thing a person needs to maintain a neurologically healthy brain. Indeed, we believe that faith is more essential than exercise, especially in light of the cumulative research showing how doubt and pessimism can shorten your life by years.” (Neuroscientists Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman.)
  • “the data that religion has social and individual benefits is so overwhelming that saying that religion has no benefits is active science denial.” (Connor Woods, PhD student in Science and Religion.)
  • “the data consistently point to a negative association between religiosity and criminal behavior and a positive association between religiosity and prosocial behavior. Both relations are modest in magnitude and ambiguous with respect to causation.” (Scott O. Lilienfeld and Rachel Ammirati, university researchers and atheists.)
  • “There‚Äôs no shortage of research on religion and health. Most of it suggests that the religious not only live longer, but are also likely to live better.” (Jonathan Morgan on the Science on Religion blog.)

Take-home messages

1. This question can be settled by properly designed medical studies carried out by competent medical and psychological researchers and reported in respected scientific journals.

2. The overwhelming evidence is that religious belief and practice, overall and with many exceptions, lead to better than average health and wellbeing and a higher than average degree of prosociality.

3. The causation and mechanisms are not always clear. Possible explanations have been proposed but in most cases the jury is still out.

4. None of this “proves” God exists, and I haven’t seen any researchers would claim that. But it is consistent with belief in God.

5. This evidence is broadly contrary to the claims of some atheists that religion causes great harm.

6. Christians should not be concerned about scientific studies of religion. Scientists may often treat them as an explanation of religion, but we can just as reasonably see them as how God is experienced by human beings.

Further reading

Photo Credit: realize_photo via Compfight cc