How I Lost My Christian Faith While Writing a Book on Evolution

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As an engineer who spent forty years as a fundamentalist Christian, I pretty much ignored the problem of human origins and evolution.

The science of radio waves and electronics was very real for me, but so was Genesis: My wife and I had eleven children as a result of following God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. So whenever I came across some article about a million-year-old fossil or the dreaded word “evolution,” I would hastily skip over it.

My upbringing had put up defenses against Darwin, but he managed to sneak into my life anyhow, through my engineering work. It started when I was trying to find an exact combination of values to make things work optimally for a particular engineering problem. Little did I know that the new software tool I came across would put me on the road to rejecting Creationism, walking away from fundamentalism, and finally losing my Christian faith entirely while writing a book about “theistic evolution.”

What I saw working right there on the screen in front of me was evolution by simulatednatural selection. You set up an artificial chromosome with each digital “gene” determining a parameter for some widget you want to design. Then you created a population of individual widgets by running simulations with different sets of randomly chosen parameters, and had the widgets “mate” with each other. You repeated this process over many successive generations, throwing in some mutations along the way. Those widgets that worked best in your simulation had the best shot at having “children” in the next generation.

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