I may have mentioned before that I used to be a devoutly religious Creationist. I earnestly believed that evolution was a trick Satan used to lead people away from Christ just as I was taught from an early age. I was so convinced that I refused to participate in any conversation that might attempt to change my mind, often resorting to frustrated tears when I could not verbalize why I believed as I did despite the scientific evidence. When pressed, I’d parrot those arguments that I’d heard righteous folk use, for instance, “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” and I’d fall back on my Vacation Bible School education regarding The Missing Link. To my shame, I often resented people who would try to enlighten me. I believed they were agents of Satan trying to persuade me from the path of righteousness. Questioning the true word of God was forbidden. I believed this well into my mid-20s. Allow me, if you will, to tell you a brief but amusing story about this time in my life.
Tony, my first husband, returned home after a trip to our local Jellybean’s with a book he picked out for me. I initially thanked him, then I looked at the title – Evolution Genesis and Revelations by C. Leon Harris. I thought maybe reading this book would give me a little fuel for my argument next time someone tried to talk to me about evolution. It wasn’t until a couple days later when I sat down to read it that I realized I’d misinterpreted the title. On the side of the bright yellow binding were the words, “Evolution: Genesis and Revelations” but earlier I mistakenly read it as though it were punctuated with a comma – “Evolution, Genesis and Revelations.”
Stumped, I flipped the book over to read the back panel. It began thus:
“In this comprehensive history of evolutionism, C. Leon Harris has combined primary source readings with clear, pertinent background information, to provide a solid basic understanding of the ways scientists have arrived at today’s views of evolution.”
Pissed, I marched the book right over to Tony. “Why would you give this to me?!” I demanded to know.
“I thought you might like to read it,” came his reply.
“But it’s about evolution…” I argued.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Why would I want a book about evolution?” I remember being really angry about it.
“I… I don’t know… I guess I just figured you might like to know more about it…” he stammered.
“About EVOLUTION?! I know all I need to know! It’s a lie! You know I am a Christian! This goes against everything I believe in! How could you bring this evil book into our house?”
I reminded him what the Bible said about him being the head of our household and that he was supposed to guide me and our children in the ways of the Lord. I refused to even look at the book. If memory serves, I attempted to throw it away, yet a couple days later, it ended up back on the bookshelf where it sat, untouched.
We eventually divorced in the years that followed, and I went on to find work in Detroit doing graphic design. One day, I had that old familiar argument with a coworker revolving around evidence for evolution. I was sadly uneducated and misinformed about many aspects of science and history, so it was an argument I lost. I went home that evening and decided to do some research with the full intention of going back the next week with some proof for my beliefs, or at least some evidence to refute his claims, which might in turn leave an opening for God to work in a way that would eventually change his mind so that he would not be lost to sin. Needless to say, things didn’t quite happen that way.
My weekend of Internet research became a lengthy quest that would go on for over a decade and would ultimately result in my acceptance of evolution despite my initial vow that nothing would sway me from my Creationist viewpoint. I’ll spare you the details of my personal journey, except to say that my education was a slow and painful process. At first, I rejected anything that was presented from the scientific community if it didn’t coincide with the Bible and kept what was left… it wasn’t much. In fact, even today, one would be hard pressed to find any argument for a young earth sans logical fallacies because they all come back to a matter of faith in the unprovable and untestable. What I did have were a few discussions from Creationists pointing me toward the concept that the widely accepted scientific method for carbon dating was in itself flawed. I researched and clung to this idea for a regrettably long time and would present it when given an opportunity in online forum discussions, only to have it respectfully shot down time and again with evidence – at the time, evidence I refuted because I didn’t fully comprehend. My ignorance was obvious to everyone but me.
In time, I came to accept that I didn’t know enough about the science behind the theory of evolution, and I felt as though God was challenging me to learn more in order to present a valid argument against it – and my prayer was that God would then work through me to win the lost souls of those misguided scientist types. That’s where this book comes back into the picture.
Just now, I walked over and pulled it from the shelf. Much to my chagrin, its bright blue lettering on a nearly neon yellow cover, once hideous in appearance to me, still proclaims: “EVOLUTION Genesis and Revelations” sans punctuation. There are markings inside that tell a story all their own. For instance, if you started at Chapter 1, Prescientific Concepts of the Origin of Species: Genesis, you’d find highlighted or underlined text and arrows that point to phrases and concepts I was prone to agree with at the time. The state of Tennessee prosecuting Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in a public school was given as an example at one point and I remember thinking to myself, “see, I’m not so stupid for believing in Creation!” Underlined!
But then flip the pages a bit further and a pattern emerges. I highlighted text that confused and baffled me. I highlighted text that directly affronted my beliefs! And flip even further in, you’d find places where I noted text that required further study on my behalf. I wasn’t just going to take this guy’s word for it, was I? I didn’t quite like the implications and I didn’t get the technical jargon so early on, reading was laborious but I stuck with it.
Then, around Chapter 4, Born Again: the Revival of Science in the Renaissance, you might notice something truly remarkable… the annotations become fewer and fewer. No, it’s not because I stopped reading the book. It’s because I STARTED reading it! I was learning so much about history! I was coming to have a better understanding of and appreciation for the scientific method! By chapter eight when he goes into Neo-Darwinism, there are only dog-eared pages to mark spots of particular interest, I was too engrossed to care about locating a pen!
This book has been on my shelf for 17 years. I don’t read it, it’s outdated. Something I once considered Satan’s evil tool was merely words on pages explaining something I never before bothered to learn. It opened my mind, now I hunger for more! Over the last 10 years, I’ve applied myself to learning more about the fields of science that interest me and I no longer feel guilt or shame for abandoning those Creationist beliefs from my youth. It’s hard not to feel a tinge of resentment when I think about all those years I spent grasping for answers in the dark, clinging to my security blanket of faith!
I wouldn’t necessarily hold this one book fully accountable for my mindshift, nor would I say that evolution turned me into an atheist – that’s a much more complex story, one I’ll save for another day – but I WILL say that this book is one I’ll keep on the shelf as a gentle reminder to keep an open mind. For me, it symbolizes how people can and do change. I’m living proof. And like Paul Simon says, “Proof is the bottom line for everyone.”