But Galileo!

I say, "The Bible does not allow evolution." Critics reply: "But Galileo!"

I certainly admit that the Roman Catholic Church erred in condemning Galileo’s view (I have no problem saying that the pope is wrong!), and that they were wrong because they wrongly interpreted the Bible.  I do not believe, however, that this constitutes a valid argument against a biblical rejection of evolution, for the following reasons:

 

I am working on the second installment of my series on the Bible and evolution (see the first here), but in the meantime it would be good to address one of the most frequent arguments in criticism of those who reject evolution.  The argument goes like this: But Galileo!  I say, “The Bible does not allow evolution.”  Critics reply: “But Galileo!”

The point of this criticism is that since the church was wrong in opposing the heliocentric theory of the solar system espoused by Galileo, Christians must also be wrong in opposing evolution.  Galileo taught, following Johannes Kepler, that the earth revolves around the sun, whereas the medieval church insisted that the sun circles around the earth.  The basis for the church’s view was Joshua 10:12-14, where by God’s will “the sun stopped in the midst of heaven” to allow Israel to complete its victory over the southern Canaanites.  Papal authorities in the 17th century branded Galileo a heretic because, they said, anyone who teaches that the earth revolves around the sun is in conflict with this teaching from Holy Scripture.

I certainly admit that the Roman Catholic Church erred in condemning Galileo’s view (I have no problem saying that the pope is wrong!), and that they were wrong because they wrongly interpreted the Bible.  I do not believe, however, that this constitutes a valid argument against a biblical rejection of evolution, for the following reasons:

  • The Galileo incident does not prove that whenever Christians oppose scientific claims from the Bible that the Christians are wrong.  The Romanists condemned Galileo based on a misinterpretation of Scripture.  This does not prove, as is often insinuated, that to pit the Bible against science is inevitably to repeat the mistake against Galileo.

 

  • While it is admitted that the Roman Church misinterpreted the Bible in condemning Galileo’s heliocentric writings, this does not prove that we are similarly misinterpreting the Bible in opposing evolution.

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