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S5:E28 Are All Christians Anti-Evolution?

S5:E28 Are All Christians Anti-Evolution?

Not all evangelicals or fundamentalists are against evolution

In the 1600s, an Irish Archbishop named James Ussher did a bunch of math. The Bible is full of numbers and genealogies. He sat down and calculated that, in his opinion, the Bible dated creation at 4004 BC. According to Ussher, that is when God created man. That number has really stuck around!

I gathered my small group together to explore the Adams Synchronological Chart. It is a 23-foot-long timeline of human history, beginning in 4004 BC and ending in 1900. There it was! The 4004 BC number! Which brings up an interesting question, right? What did Christians really believe about evolution just before it became a linchpin battle for fundamentalists?

Why did fundamentalists fight against evolution in the Scopes trial?

I turned to Edward Larson for answers. He’s a professor at Pepperdine University and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Summer for the Gods”. The book chronicles the Scopes “Monkey” trial that we’ll be covering in the next two episodes. But it also gives us a great introductory look at what Christians believed about evolution in the build-up to the trial.

It turns out that evangelical Christians and even fundamentalists were all over the place when it came to ideas of evolution. Many Christians, like William Jennings Bryan, believed in an old earth and even some forms of evolution. But they thought that it was God who caused that evolution. Charles Darwin, though, said that evolution was a matter of chance adaptations, thus cutting God out of the equation. Fundamentalists like Bryan were determined to stop the spread of Darwinian evolution for that very reason. They believed that if young people were taught that they were the result of grand mistakes then what reason did they have to treat each other with respect? To be good citizens?

Helpful Sources

  • “Summer for the Gods” by Edward Larson
  • “A Godly Hero” by Michael Kazin
  • “The Birth of a Nation” on YouTube
  • Article about James Ussher and his burial in Westminster Abbey
  • Helpful article about Lamarck
  • “The Evangelicals” by Francis Fitzgerald
  • More about Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism
  • An interesting article about “The Birth of a Nation”

Discussion Questions:

  • How did Cuvier and Lamarck differ in their ideas about evolution?
  • Do you believe in a young or old earth?
  • Do you believe in some evolution, macro-evolution, or no evolution at all?
  • What is the best way to oppose an idea?
  • When should we propose laws to combat ideas we don’t like and when should we allow others to believe what they like?
  • Do you think the fundamentalists were right to combat teaching evolution in schools?
  • Now that you know about Bryan’s failure to call out the KKK, what do you think of him?
  • “Birth of a Nation” shaped American views about black people. Are there more modern films and series that have shaped society in similar ways? Or changed public opinion in other ways?
S5:E27 Eugenics

S5:E27 Eugenics

The history of eugenics and Buck v. Bell

Eugenics. It’s one of those words that gets thrown around these days, often by people accusing “the other side” of wrongdoing. But what is eugenics?

I invited law professor Paul Lombardo, author of “Three Generations, No Imbeciles”, to join me to try to answer that very question. It turns out that that question is harder to answer than you’d think. In the early 1900s, the word “eugenic” was often used to mean “pure” or to imply that a product was healthy for babies. But that word also extended into segregating certain populations from society and forced sterilizations.

It is important to understand the history of eugenics because some Christians use the fear of eugenics as a lens to understand the Scopes “Monkey” trial. I think that is an accurate connection, but we really should understand it. Did William Jennings Bryan support eugenics? Can Christians support eugenics? Many did. There were even competitions that rewarded pastors for writing pro-eugenics sermons. That was especially true for liberal pastors.

In this episode, we attempt to answer some tough questions. I hope you enjoy it!

Helpful Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • What is eugenics?
  • How did the term “eugenics” differ in the early 1900s from today?
  • Are you in favor of eugenics? Why or why not?
  • How is eugenics tied to evolution? How is it not?
  • Do Christians have a responsibility to play when it comes to protecting people with special needs?
  • What can we do to help those with special needs?