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The Science of Resurrection

Do you believe in resurrection? I do.

In fact, I’m going to go spend three hours today to worship someone who lived about two millennia ago, give or take, and then died when he was thirty-three years old when he was crucified by the ancient Roman government. Not to worry, though – he didn’t stay dead. That’s right! Crazy as it may sound, He came back to life, along with hundreds of others, all of whom came out of their graves and appeared to their loved ones. The fact that He came back to life is a promise that all of us will do the same. Best of all, once we come back to life, we’re never going to die again. So every Sunday, I spend a good chunk of the day pondering this fact, discussing it with like-minded people, and celebrating this wonderful news with family and friends.

Here’s the problem, though. The science is in, and it’s not encouraging.

It’s even worse than that. All scientific evidence suggests that once something dies, it stays dead. Forever. In fact, it rots away until there’s nothing left of it. In a few decades or so, it’s pretty much as if the thing never lived in the first place. There have been a number of empirical case studies on the subject, and each reaches the same unequivocal conclusion: death is forever. Most anecdotal evidence points in this direction, too.

Resurrection is bad science. And it is magnificent religion.

“Reconciling” science and religion is an ultimately pointless exercise. Science provides no theological context, It observes; it reports, and it cheerfully changes conclusions with the appearance of new data. Think Pluto, for instance. When I grew up, it was a planet. Now it isn’t. Pluto hasn’t changed, but our understanding of it has, so science has reached a new conclusion.

With regard to resurrection, all science can tell you is that no such resurrections have ever been observed, and that no current scientific principle can explain how such a thing could happen. But if there were a resurrection – and I believe there will be oodles of them – science could then examine the new data and reach a new conclusion. And that wouldn’t mean science has been in conflict with the religion of resurrection prior to that new conclusion. Rather, it would only mean science was offering its best explanation of the observable facts, which is what science is supposed to do.

My children are now reaching the age where they are taking science classes in public schools. I haul my children along with me to the Sunday classes where they’re taught that a resurrection will take place. Yet, to date, not a single one of them has reported a discussion of resurrection in their science classes. I personally can recall no such discussion in my own public education. Even more strangely, I can’t recall a single protest throughout the nation wherein religious fundamentalists decry the teaching of unresurrectioned death in our public classrooms. With regard to resurrection, people seem to recognize the clear distinction between religion and science and are more than happy to allow each their proper place.

Not so with evolution. And, strangely, those who seem to be wandering out of their jurisdiction here are the scientists, not the pious zealots.

Witness, for instance, the publication of a slew of books by evolutionary biologists insisting the theory of evolution proves there is no God. In his book The God Delusion, prominent scientist Richard Dawkins does precisely that, proclaiming that all those who disagree are clearly deluded.

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

– Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Well, I studied evolutionary biology in school, too. I must have missed the part where they proved God doesn’t exist. In my mind, evolution was simply a compilation of observable facts, and it had as much theological weight to it as, say, the theory of gravity. Does evolution tell you either how or why life began? No. Does it tell you why life exists? No. Does it provide a moral framework in which to live your life? No. Does it preclude the possibility of divine purpose or order? No.

How, then, can Dawkins reach such a sweeping religious conclusion based solely on scientific observation?

I raise this issue on the basis of this editorial cartoon which appeared in today’s paper.

Suddenly, as it is every four years, evolution is now not only a religious issue; it’s political, too. Jon Huntsman, the most elitist candidate running this cycle, has made his belief in evolution his primary campaign platform. And Oliphant and others are making hay about Rick Perry’s supposedly ludicrous assertion that evolutionary theory has gaps* in it. Over and over again, Republicans are asked if they believe in evolution.** Why aren’t they asked if they believe in resurrection? (They all do, by the way.) Isn’t resurrection a more ludicrous scientific postulation than creationism?

The shrieking about evolution every four years presupposes that we are only inches away from a theocracy, where biology teachers hurl all Darwin out of their textbooks and replace it with a semester studying the first chapter of Genesis and how the earth was created on October 26, 4004 BC in six twenty-four hour periods. Even if Rick Perry believes that, and – yikes – he becomes president, there is absolutely no chance of that happening. The obsession with evolution, therefore, comes solely from those who are confusing the scientific and religious principles, and, in the case of this particular theory, it’s the atheistic Left that’s confused.

When they’re resurrected, they’ll finally figure it out.


* I don’t want this to be the focus of this piece as I’ve discussed the content of evolutionary theory several times previously in this blog. Still, of course evolutionary theory has gaps in it. So does every other comprehensive theory.To eliminate all gaps, and even the possibility of gaps, one would have to have a complete knowledge of all possible facts. No such knowledge exists. That doesn’t mean that the theory is unworthy of study; it means that theory is simply science, which never reaches permanent conclusions, because it never stops seeking new information.


** What does this mean, anyway, “do you believe in evolution?” It is not a single, objective fact, like the color of the sky. It is thousands upon thousands of facts and theories, some of which are in flux. For instance, biologists have largely abandoned the idea of gradual, Darwinian evolution as it was first explained in The Origin of Species and moved to ideas that suggest what they call “punctuated equilibrium,” with far quicker advances in evolution than Darwin originally anticipated. So when you ask, “do you believe in evolution,” are you asking about those early ideas or the later ones? Are you considering the possibility that evolutionary theory is, as yet, inadequate to explain complex systems like DNA, cellular structure, and the eye? Is asking those questions a sign of religious heresy, despite the fact that there is no solid scientific answer for them?

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