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Evolution, Reason and Faith

February 7, 2007

A little bit of controversy is springing up over the theory of evolution and its effect on religious consciousness. Boniface Adoyo, the leader of Kenya’s evangelical Protestant groups, is calling for a Christian boycott of an upcoming display at the Kenya National Museum that will include the infamous “Turkana Boy”, the most complete skeleton of prehistorical humanity. The skeleton, which stands roughly 5 feet 3 inches tall, is of a 12 year old boy. The plan to place the skeleton on display has prompted fears among Kenya’s Christians that the public display of fossil evidence for evolution may threaten faith.

Adoyo asserts: “I did not evolve from Turkana Boy or anything like it. . . . These sorts of silly views are killing our faith.” CNN reports:

(Adoyo’s) calling on his flock to boycott the exhibition and has demanded the museum relegate the fossil collection to a back room — along with some kind of notice saying evolution is not a fact but merely one of a number of theories.

One may want to ask Adoyo how attempts at religious censorship of scientific evidence, which appear to be out of fear rather than genuine pastoral concern, can inculcate any confidence in his creationist accounts of a 12,000 year old world. What seems to be happening is: 1) an outright dismissal of the sheer possibility that any one of the many theories of evolution may be correct; 2) a suspension or bracketing of reason and its inclination toward discovery of truth of natural phenomena; 3) a contrived faith in a creationism that trumps anything posited by science or reason that may object to certain aspects of that faith.

At the opposite side of the evolution opinion spectrum, Richard Leakey, a fossil hunter, states: “Whether the bishop likes it or not, Turkana Boy is a distant relation of his. . . . The bishop is descended from the apes and these fossils tell how he evolved.” A hyperbolic response tends only toward fissure, not understanding, between parties.

Info on Turkana Boy from TalkOrigins.Org:

Discovered by Kamoya Kimeu in 1984 at Nariokotome near Lake Turkana in Kenya (Brown et al.1985; Leakey and Lewin, 1992; Walker and Leakey, 1993). This is an almost complete skeleton of an 11 or 12 year old boy, the only major omissions being the hands and feet. (Some scientists believe erectus matured faster than modern humans, and that he was really about 9 years old (Leakey and Lewin 1992).) It is the most complete known specimen of H. erectus, and also one of the oldest, at 1.6 million years. The brain size was 880 cc, and it is estimated that it would have been 910 cc at adulthood (a modern human of comparable size would be expected to have a brain size of about 1350 cc). The boy was 160 cm (5’3″) tall, and estimates are that he might have been about 185 cm (6’1″) as an adult. Except for the skull, the skeleton is very similar to that of modern boys, although there are a number of small differences. The most striking is that the holes in his vertebrae, through which the spinal cord goes, have only about half the cross-sectional area found in modern humans. One suggested explanation for this is that the boy lacked the fine motor control we have in the thorax to control speech, implying that he wasn’t nearly as fluent a speaker as modern humans are (Walker and Shipman 1996).

Some earlier posts on evolution:

Scientists Report New Findings in Study of Neanderthals

Suing over Evolution


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