The REAL Rules of Science and the Origins Debate.
In This New Evolution 2.0 Publication, You’ll Learn:
- Why Christians feel marginalized and aren’t making headway in the Creationism v. Evolution debate.
- How Perry’s brother went from being a missionary in China to an almost atheist in 4 years, BECAUSE of the fracture between Science & Faith.
- What exactly has gone wrong with the creation/evolution conversation, and HOW we can set it right.
- How Atheists have turned their purposeless version of Evolution into a pop religion and have thrown out real science in exchange for advocacy.
- How Creationists have also made up their own false version of science in exchange for advocacy.
- What’s happening inside the current “Protestant Reformation of Evolutionary Biology”?
- How Science & Faith have actually been perfect allies far longer than they’ve been enemies.
- Why we can’t use God of the Gaps arguments to solve the “Well where did DNA come from?” dilemma, and what we can do instead.
- What is Evolution 2.0 and how does it bridge the gap between Darwin & Design without settling to junk science?
- The rules of the DMZ (demilitarized zone), where people can start having honest conversations so we can let the truth prevail – instead of just pushing an agenda from either side.
High-Quality Video Transcript:
Sam: Hello, my name is Sam Bart. I’m project manager for Evolution 2.0. This is Perry Marshall, author of the world’s #1 best-selling book on internet advertising, The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, and also the author of Evolution 2.0. We want to talk to you today about why do Christians get stomped on, spit out, and chewed up when they’re in a debate with atheists about evolution, creationism, and all that kind of stuff.
I want to start the conversation off by asking Perry, why do you think Christians are in such a deadlock and they can never seem to make any progress in conversations with people that are dead set on Darwinism, evolution, atheism, and all that kind of stuff?
Perry: There really is a problem here. Christians usually feel marginalized and they feel like they have a view of the world like there’s a transcendent element in the world, like you go to the Grand Canyon or you see a rainbow or you stand at the ocean and you just have this overwhelming sense of something bigger than you.
There’s always this feeling like secular science just scrubs all the beauty and mystery out of it. “It’s just molecules. It’s just matter. It’s nothing but this, it’s nothing but that.” There’s sort of this dehumanizing approach to life itself. So you have this mystery and you have this kind of awe and wonder on this side, and then you have this kind of empty materialistic view on the other side, and sometimes it seems puzzling. Why would all those people even want to embrace a view like that? What’s the appeal? What’s the matter with God?
I don’t like this kind of approach anyway. It seems empty and kind of devoid of meaning, so I don’t like that. Then on top of that, it kind of leads to dehumanizing views on life and people and humanity in general. It’s certainly led to some pretty awful things in history, so I want nothing to do with it. So that’s a very common thing.
Then on top of that, when you get in academia, in science, or in universities, if you have a more spiritual view of things you can stop right there. You don’t even need to come in. We don’t want you. We don’t want that. We’re not listening to that. We don’t tolerate scientists who look at the world that way. So here you are, and it’s very frustrating.
There are a lot of people that have tried to approach this a lot of different ways, and for the most part it hasn’t really worked, so I thought today we should talk about why that is and how I kind of stumbled into this 15 years ago. I think by the time we’re done here we’ll have sliced the problem in a very different way that I’ve found is much more productive to having a good conversation about science.
Sam: Absolutely. My next question is how did you even get interested in this topic at all? What got you down this path?
Perry: For a long time the only particular interest I had in origins was really just peripheral. I’ve had several careers – engineer, CEO, consultant, business strategist, entrepreneur. When I was in engineering we would get this engineering magazine called Sensors magazine, and it would be about all these different ways that you could capture information about the environment, whether it was temperature or vibration or optics or whatever, and turn it into an electrical signal. I was always intrigued at the degree to which these things tended to mimic nature and the human body even, like a camera has an awful lot in common with an eye.
I always saw design in nature. When people would argue about evolution, I knew that the details of that conversation were something I had never delved into, and I was a little bit nervous about even trying to go there, but I knew as an engineer I had this intuitive instinctive sense of something very purposeful.
I saw engineering in the hand at the end of my arm. I saw engineering in my eyes and my circulatory system and my heart and everything, and I just thought it was marvelous. So by default, without even questioning, it was like, “I see something very purposeful and designed here.”
Then my brother moved to China after getting a seminary degree, and he’s a missionary, and four years later he’s almost an atheist. For two years we had been arguing about all this stuff. At one point I went to visit him and I realized when I got there to China that he had thrown faith out the window. He was done. I was kind of shocked. It was like, “Wow, really? You’re just done?”
So we were having yet another argument where I’m really feeling like I’ve lost my traction with him completely. I go, “Bryan, look at the hand at the end of your arm. This is a nice piece of engineering. You don’t think this is a random accident, do you?”
He goes, “Hold on!” and he just comes right back to me with, “Look, you don’t need a designer. All you need is millions of years, mutations, natural selections, the refining process of survival of the fittest, occasional copying errors that might be better once in a while, and you don’t need an engineer.”
Of course I had heard this before, but I’d never heard it from my own brother. Really quickly I thought, “Without going any further, I know most biologists would actually agree with him, not me,” and I figured they might know something I don’t know. What if they do? I really thought about this very hard.
I did 5-1/2 years of electrical engineering school, and I’ve been building things for about 20 years, and never in any of my engineering education have I ever encountered – you take something, you run it through a Darwinian process, mindless, purposeless, accidental – and if you make enough millions of copies of mutant software programs, one of them is going to be better and there you go. I’d never seen this.
I said, “Okay, if the biologists are right – and maybe they are – there might be something that I don’t know. This is going to completely change my idea of engineering.” So I said, “I’m going to put on my engineering hat. I’m going to take all this religious stuff and I’m going to set it on the side, because that is frankly very troubling right now.” I’d already been arguing with Bryan about that for two years and we haven’t been getting anywhere. “I’m just going to make this an engineering problem and here we go,” so that’s what happened.
I had no idea how many layers I was going to discover as I went into this problem, and the result was basically 11 years later a book called Evolution 2.0 came out, along with a technology prize which at the moment is $5 million dollars. It’s an Origin of Life prize.
I really have gotten somewhere with this thing, but I sliced it very differently than most people approach this problem. I ended up rejecting most of the approaches that I found, most of the common approaches. I found that they’ll only get you gridlocked and unable to get anywhere in a conversation if a person has a sufficiently different view of things than you, so it just becomes this dialogue of the deaf where everybody shouts at each other.
Evolution is pretty much the same as gun control, gay rights, immigration, or abortion. It’s just ugly. Most people just know, “Dude, don’t even go there. If this conversation goes down that road, our dinner or beers or whatever is over.” On the internet, you go anyplace where there’s dialogue about this and it’s just people calling each other names. We have to do better than this, so that’s what we’re here to talk about.
This book has sold more than 10,000 copies. My Evolution 2.0 prize was announced at Arizona State University at the request of Paul Davies, a very famous physicist. I have judges from Harvard, Oxford, and MIT on my judging panel. There isn’t any serious criticism of this book by anybody real serious out there. There are people that don’t like it, there are people arguing about it, but there’s nobody saying that I’ve gotten my basic facts wrong. Nobody’s really saying that. I think this has actually been quite productive.
Sam, I think what you and I can talk about here is what has gone wrong with the whole creation/evolution conversation, and how do we set it right? It’s kind of a slalom or like threading a needle, but if you thread the needle right you can actually get science and religion talking to each other, being amical, and actually being productive. Actually, religion and science can inspire each other instead of going at each other’s throats. That’s what I hope we can do today.
Sam: Absolutely. I think one of the things that we need to talk about before we get into some of the content of your book, is that it’s really important for Christians to understand, like you said, that nobody is able to say the facts that you present in your book are wrong. There’s nobody that’s been able to challenge it in such a way as to disprove any of the things that you said.
So my question is that in my conversations with people that don’t believe in God, people that are atheists, people that believe in Darwinian evolution, I know in my life I was raised a Christian. I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I’ve had my ups and downs, but one of the things that I’ve known is I’ve never done my own research, and I think most Christians don’t. I don’t think we actually research what the other side has to say and what they believe. I don’t think we actually even really look at what scientists say that are non-biased.
So I’d like to ask you, tell us about your journey of doing that research and what content and what evidence you’ve supported for your beliefs about evolution in the book.
Perry: I remember a point a few months into this, and I remember realizing that I was presented with this question. I was at a fork in the road. I had made some early conclusions that would fall into the camp of intelligent design at that point, and I asked myself the question, “Is it good enough for me to just understand the intelligent design talking points really, really, really well? Or do I actually have to go to the other side and understand that so well that I could even play devil’s advocate and I could pretend to be on that side and I could debate somebody on the intelligent design side, and even win – to know the opposition that well.”
I realized it was like, “Actually the only honest thing is I have to understand the secular view completely,” so I did. If you look at all these books in here, half of them are books that I probably disagree with about all kinds of things.
And here’s another thing, and this is actually really critical. I decided that if science and engineering and all of that really did tell me that you could get life and all that we have through a completely purposeless process, that was going to completely change my intuitions about God and design for sure, and if the evidence led me there I was willing to become an atheist, and I really was.
I remember it was almost like disconnecting a bungee cord that would keep me from going splat, and diving off a cliff. It was kind of like, “I’ve got a parachute and I’m going to disconnect the bungee cord, and if the parachute doesn’t work I’m going to go splat, which means I’m not going to have faith anymore.”
That bungee cord was really like, “Oh no, you’re really not going to actually change your mind about anything, are you Perry? You’re going to have faith and everything,” and I was like, “Actually, I’m going to follow the evidence.” It was absolutely terrifying on a whole bunch of levels.
In fact, I could go on a 15-minute rant about how terrifying it was, but I don’t think I’m going to do that. It would mess with my family. It would mess with my whole entire world. It would mess with my friendships, and it would mess with me internally. I would have to readjust my entire world view.
By the way, I think most atheists have been through that, at least the vocal ones. The vocal ones are almost always people who used to be religious, almost always. They may not tell you this, but they unhooked the bungee cord, they jumped, and the parachute didn’t open and they went splat. Then they got up and they’re like, “Well, I guess I don’t believe in God anymore,” and then they had to put themselves back together. That’s a very painful process and it’s something you kind of have to understand. If you’re having a conversation with somebody like that, you should probably ask them to tell you their story.
If I hadn’t unhooked the bungee cord, I don’t think I would have ever gotten to where the rabbit hole really started going deep. I would have completely missed a whole bunch of stuff. It was actually putting myself in that position that made that possible.
Look, whoever is listening, I’m talking to you. Whatever point of view that you come from in this conversation, whether you’re an atheist or you’re a diehard Christian or you’re a Hindu or a Muslim or whatever you are, there’s a certain part of this where you need to hold it loosely and pursue the truth as best you can, and have a little trust that the truth is discernible.
So I said, “I’ve got to really understand the whole landscape, not just half of it.”
Sam: We believe in God. We’re Christians. The thing is if our faith in God is solid, then looking at the evidence might be scary at first, especially when we don’t come from a background of understanding it, but when you really do the research and understand the evidence, if what we believe as Christians or whatever faith you come from is true, then the evidence we look for will prove that it’s a fact.
Perry: Or it will prove that it’s not a fact and you’ll find out that believing in God is ridiculous.
Look, Christianity is a historical religion. A lot of other religions aren’t. Hinduism isn’t really a historical religion, and Buddhism is not a particularly historical religion, and there are a lot of other pagan myths, but Christianity and Judaism have a long history. They have archeology. If you read the book of Luke or you read Acts, there are all these tiny little details which you can verify in secular books. “Yeah, that guy really was the king, or that city really was there.” There’s a resurrection. If this stuff did not happen, then this is not true.
Where it gets complicated is when you get into Genesis and you go, “So is Genesis true?” That’s the real question on the table. Like I said, I started slicing this a very different way, which brought me to different views and different conclusions. I think the way that I sliced it is actually quite a bit better.
Different people define faith differently. I’m not going to get into specifics, but there are religions where faith is defined such that even facts that you can see will not sway your belief. That is not what faith is in Christianity. The Christian belief system says that if somebody shows up tomorrow with the body of Jesus and proves that it’s Jesus’s body, then we all go do something else, and you have to understand that. That’s just a very important thing to say about faith.
So how do we slice this differently? I think a lot of people ask the question, “Is Genesis literally true?” Even with that, there’s a whole lot of shades of gray with this. I set that question aside, and instead of asking that question I asked the question, “Will a blind purposeless process get me a hand?” That’s what I want to know. Let’s go figure out Genesis later, because as an engineer I knew that I knew that I knew certain things.
Any professional knows this. When you’re a professional and you do things for a living, an engineer knows, “If I do some calculations and I build this kind of circuit, it will work exactly the way that I thought it would.” It tells you that physics is working right and the math is working right. It’s very reassuring, actually. I said, “I’m going to take that kind of thing and I’m going to apply this,” so here’s what I found. I found two things.
First of all, all of life is based on code because every living thing has DNA, and the DNA has digital instructions inside. You know what I figured out? There aren’t any codes that aren’t designed. There’s a million codes and 999,999 of them are designed. We don’t know where DNA comes from and that’s the only code we don’t know where it came from. We have 100% inference design and 0% inference to anything else. So I thought, “Okay, you have it solved.” Not quite.
This is what the evolution prize is all about, by the way. If you can figure out how to get a code without designing one, we want to patent it and buy the patents from you for $5 million dollars because that would be worth a huge amount of money.
It would be really easy to take that and say, “See? It’s designed; therefore, God did it. Intelligent design wins. Yay team!” But hang on. This is where we’re already slicing this thing differently than everybody else is slicing it, because if I say that there’s a problem and here’s what the problem is. There are actually two problems.
Problem #1 says does that mean if somebody figures this out then God is back to not existing? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what would happen if we won this thing and if this was solved, and I think it could be solvable. I’m not sure, but it might be. If it is solved, it will raise a bunch of other questions that we’re not asking right now, and it’s going to keep going.
What I saw is that the scientific process never stops. Science is never done and science never really gets to the bottom of things, but here’s what you can say. What you can say with certainty is that nobody has actually solved the design problem in biology.
Everybody thinks Darwin solved it or they think Richard Dawkins solved it or they think all these famous atheists solved it. No, they didn’t. This doesn’t mean that God designed DNA like some guy typing on a keyboard necessarily. What it does mean is that we don’t know the answer to that question and nobody has solved that question.
Furthermore, and this is where it got really interesting, what I found is there’s all kinds of experiments where organisms and cells evolve literally in the petri dish, literally in real time. They develop new features. They merge. They form new species. They form resistance to antibiotics. I go all into this in Evolution 2.0. They adapt in these incredibly sophisticated ways, and evolution really does happen. There’s a lot of creationist literature that basically says evolution is a hoax. No, it’s not a hoax. There are all kinds of evolutionary events that happen all the time.
Then creationists say, “Well yeah, there’s micro-evolution but there’s no new species.” Yes, there are new species. There’s all kinds of examples about that. Again I talk about that in Evolution 2.0 in great detail. I talk about where these experiments are done and how you do them.
This already pits it as creation versus evolution. That’s the wrong way to slice it. It’s totally wrong. It’s not creation versus evolution. It’s purposeful world versus purposeless world.
Think of it as this big battle and you’ve got this battle line. You have creation over here and you have evolution over here. You have these guys killing each other over what I consider to be a false battle line. It’s not even useful. What happens if we draw the battle line a totally different way? Is it a purposeful world or is it a purposeless world?
This is where artificial intelligence comes in. Everybody knows what it is and what it does and what it doesn’t do. If you have Siri or Alexa you know. Any 6-year-old can figure out in 5 minutes that Alexa is as dumb as a box of rocks. We’ve all played the little games where you ask Alexa all these silly things.
Let’s just understand something. Apple, Amazon, Google and all these huge companies, the big data – this is my field because I’m an internet advertising guy – they’re all trying to get Siri and Alexa to do what biology does. They’re trying to get it to be linguistic. They’re trying to get it to be self-adaptive. That’s what they’re trying to do. You know what? Talk to Siri for 5 minutes and you’ll figure out they haven’t figured out how to do it. It’s very, very hard.
On the other hand, there’s your dog. You know what’s funny? Siri knows exactly what you said and has no idea what you meant. Your dog has no idea what you said, but knows what you meant. Bingo. There you go. That’s the difference between biological intelligence and artificial intelligence right there. Nobody understands what makes biological intelligence tick. We only know that it does. My belief is if somebody solves our prize, they will have found the key to biological intelligence.
If you draw the line between purposeless world and purposeful world – instead of creation versus evolution – you stop pitting science and religion against each other, because life is clearly purposeful. Your eye is for seeing and your heart is for beating and your tongue is for tasting and your nose is for smelling. We do all these things to thrive and to eat and to enjoy life and to have children and everything. The same is true with birds and insects at different levels, so life is purposeful. Now what we’re trying to do is we’re actually trying to solve the real problems.
Here’s a major thing. No person of faith should ever get on the wrong side of this problem, and it’s this. If a scientist were to say, “Where did life come from? Or how does this work? Or how does that work?”
“God did it. That settles it. Let’s go out for a 3-martini lunch.”
You can’t publish that. You can’t get a paycheck for that. You can’t get a grant for that. You can’t build a lab full of graduate students and research with that.
Most people will listen to that and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and I go, “Yeah, but wait a minute.” The way that Christians and even Muslims, Hindus, and various religious people tend to talk about where we came from, they define it in a way that pits it directly against science, like it’s God or science. No!
Let me introduce another thing. One of the guys that endorsed Evolution 2.0 is Andrew Briggs, and he’s a physicist at Oxford, a very accomplished scientist. Andrew wrote a book with a co-author called The Penultimate Curiosity and the sub-title is “How Science Moves in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions.” He goes all the way to literally 100,000 years ago with these cave paintings in France that are sort of religious, and he traces the history of religion and science interacting with each other for literally 100,000 years, all the way to the present. It’s a brilliant book.
The picture that he paints in this book is that science and religion for the most part have not been enemies. It’s been more like religion is always way ahead of science in raising questions. Then science in its sort of slow methodical pace finds answers, but then the answers raise new questions, which then religion has to start dealing with again.
We see this all the time with ethics and stuff. If you say science has now given us the ability to create designer babies and edit their DNA, religion is going to come right back at you and say, “Yeah, okay, and what’s your ethical framework going to be for that?” Once again religion is actually ahead, because science can’t even really answer ethical questions.
He paints this whole different picture where one is chasing the other, but there’s this interactive thing going on, and there’s no reason to make them enemies. You can see this is exactly what I’ve done. What’s the story I just told you? Is the hand at the end of my arm purposeful or purposeless?
I found out when you get down to the bottom line of where did all this code come from, nobody even knows, so science hasn’t answered that question. Maybe it will, but if it does there’s going to be three more questions sitting right behind it that are even deeper, and I celebrate that. This is what scientists are supposed to do.
I think a big part of the problem is that Christians have been pitting science against religion, and it doesn’t work. It never works. I told somebody the other day – we were talking about the God of gaps argument. If I say, “A million codes, 999,999 are designed, we’ve got only one that we don’t know where it’s come from, therefore it’s designed. Therefore I know this.” What I’ve just done is I’ve inserted a “God of gaps” argument. I’ve said, “So God did that.”
I told somebody the other day, “Look, I’ve got the best God of the gaps argument of anybody. I’ve got a $5 million dollar prize and nobody’s won it. Nobody’s even come close to winning it, so I could say, ‘Yay, I win!’ I don’t do that. I refuse to do that. It could be won.”
Here’s one of the major, major things that you always have to be mindful of when you get into these conversations. Never overstate your case, ever. What case have I made by having this prize? The case is that nobody’s solved the design problem in biology, and nobody knows where code came from, but we have a specification for what it would look like if you did solve it. Then furthermore, if you did solve it then what? It would probably be as big of a deal as the invention of the transistor or the discovery of E=mc2, and would that be good? I think it would.
I’m not pitting religion against science, and this is why I have traction in the scientific community. This is why I have professors at UCLA and Oxford and King’s College endorsing my work. This is why I get invited to Penn State or Arizona State. It’s because I don’t go over that dotted line. As soon as you go over that dotted line you’re taking a job away from a scientist.
Sam: It’s their job to find discoverable truths.
Perry: That’s right. And notice also none of this has taken any of the mystery or wonder from standing near the ocean and looking at all that, or watching a whale jump through the water and being amazed by it. In fact, Christians should be amazed by evolution.
This is the thing that really struck me. My car doesn’t evolve and my PC doesn’t evolve and all the programs on my computer don’t evolve. The app store on my cell phone has all these updates, but somebody had to sit at a keyboard and write them all. They didn’t just do it themselves. But bacteria evolve all by themselves, so doesn’t that kind of make God more impressive? If way back at the beginning, God made all this and the universe can develop this way, how is this anti-God? I don’t see what the problem is.
Sam: I think one of the biggest differences is that when most Christians think of evolution, they think of the purposeless version of it where you are just an animal, essentially. That’s what it comes down to feeling like, and that’s why I think most Christians really reject evolution entirely, rather than understanding that Evolution 2.0 – you should look into this. You should get his book because you’re going to understand that evolution really is purposeful and it really is much more majestic than Darwinists actually give it credit for and what Christians give it credit for.
Perry: The atheists have taken this purposeless version of evolution and basically turned it into a pop religion. Really, that’s essentially what people like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne – this is what they’ve done, and they’ve done it by only telling you a third of the story.
If you read their books, they’re not really explaining to you that cells sense hundreds of different inputs from their environment and then edit their DNA to respond to the threats and the problems around them. They don’t tell you that. They don’t tell you how adaptive it is, and they don’t tell you that you can get a new species in literally 24 hours or 24 months maybe. It doesn’t take 100 million years to get a new species, or it doesn’t have to. Sometimes yes, it does. There’s a whole side of the story they’re not telling you.
But then at the same time I found there was a whole side of the story that the Christians weren’t telling you, either. When I was writing my book I was just astounded. If I go buy an intelligent design book or creationism book, they’re not telling you all these things that cells do. That has started to change, but the reason it’s changed is because there’s people like me and others out there, and it’s because really the whole theory of evolution is in a massive, massive re-write right now. It’s in a massive state of flux right now.
We’re in the middle of what you might consider the Protestant reformation of evolutionary biology, and it’s going on right now. There are entire fields that are challenging the old view. One field is called systems biology, and you can go look it up. It’s a much more engineering way of looking at biology. Another one is called the extended synthesis, which is a complete re-write of evolutionary theory with a whole bunch of different viewpoints about, “How should we do this?”
All you have to do is just go look at the issues that are on the table, which is essentially what I talk about in Evolution 2.0, and you’ll see, “Oh my goodness, this is far, far, far from being figured out.” It really is amazing.
Let’s go back to the person who is maybe involved in some of these debates and maybe has gotten punched in the face and maybe has gotten some bruises and not really enjoyed it very much. Let me give you some things to think about.
One is that I think it’s a mistake for people of faith of whatever variety to be afraid of evolution. No, no, no. Evolution itself is proof that life is purposeful. It’s extremely purposeful. In fact, we don’t know how purposeful it is. We don’t know why a cell knows what it knows or knows what to do. We don’t even know.
Then let’s go over to the other side and let’s just put it this way. I think when you ask the question, “How does the Bible and science go together? How does Christianity and science go together? How does Judaism and science go together?” you need to kind of take a deep breath and take a chill pill, because people get real worked up about this.
Sam: They just throw science out completely. They just say, “Oh those scientists blah blah blah.”
Perry: Christians make up their own version of science, frankly. You’ve got to be really careful about that.
Let me introduce a whole other element to this conversation, because I think it’s appropriate here. I imagine quite a few people watching this might be familiar with Jordan Peterson, who just exploded onto the scene. He’s got almost a couple million YouTube followers, and he’s a psychology professor who’s challenging the far left, I would say, especially in academia, and a lot of people really like what he’s doing.
The root of what got Jordan doing what he’s doing, if you go back 30 years, here’s where it started. It started in the 80’s when he was saying to himself, “My goodness, the US and Russia have all these missiles pointed at each other, and both of these countries could literally destroy the entire world. They could nuke us to nothing left but cockroaches, and they’re doing this over ideology. So why is that ideology that important to human beings?”
What he said was, “I don’t think science has any kind of an answer to that question. That seems like it might even be a religious question, but I think the scientific narrative and the religious narrative are completely missing each other.” He said, “I think I need to address this,” so he went super-deep. He literally studied this for 30 years and he came up with his particular synthesis of science and religion, and he did it through psychology.
He’s got a series called “The psychology of the Biblical stories,” which has been hugely popular and they’re really fascinating lectures. He approaches the subject totally different than most Christians would ever approach it, because he comes through the psychology door and then he asks all these questions and he raises all these fascinating parallels and connections.
First of all, he’s not even interested in trying to figure out how literally true these stories are, because in his book they’re psychologically true and that’s actually more important to the function of humanity, like Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel or whatever. These stories first and foremost tell you what to do, and that is much more important than telling you exactly what happened.
I can vouch for that and I’ve got my own two versions of that. One is about 20 years ago I went to church at the biggest church in Chicago called Willow Creek – 20,000 people, it’s like a big university campus, and they had so many things going on over there it was great. The thing I got involved in and that I was fascinated with was called Seeker small groups. A Seeker small group was a Bible study for non-Christians.
The whole idea of Willow Creek was that this is a safe place for people to explore questions. We have this category called Seeker. There’s not two categories – believer and unbeliever. There’s believer, seeker, unbeliever. Man, we like seekers. You can seek as long as you want here and it’s just fine with us, so they really kind of shifted this thing. So I had this Seeker group, and most of the people in this group were not Christians. I mean these were crazy conversations that could just go anywhere. I loved it.
One day we decided, “Why don’t we read the Genesis stories – the creation story, the Adam and Eve story – let’s read these,” and I said, “Okay, that’s great.” So as we go into this and I’m kind of impressed with myself for having the foresight to say this, because I was pretty young and pretty inexperienced, but here’s what I said. I said, “Listen, we’re going to read Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Genesis 3. We’re going to go through it verse-by-verse and we’re just going to take the whole thing apart and we’re going to really look at it.
“You know what? I don’t care if you think it’s literal or figurative or allegorical or history or what. I don’t care. We’re just going to read it and see how it speaks to you, okay?” and everybody was like, “Okay.” We’re not going to get into this whole argument about if there was a literal snake talking to Eve. We’re not going to get into that, so down the rabbit hole we go.
So a month later or six weeks later we’re still only in Chapter 3 or something and everybody’s minds are blown. “This is deep!” It is. It’s even deeper than most Christians realize. Literally in the space of four blog posts they have defined all of the dilemmas of the human condition with such a short, beautiful, elegant story.
They were really kind of reeling from the experience, and there were really deep truths that were getting spoken. I made a lot of progress with those people. Most of them actually did become Christians. What I saw as we went through there was that they were looking at the story, but the story was looking right back at them.
Anybody who has discipled people and been actively engaged as a Christian in life change and growth kind of knows this. It’s like you read it, but it looks right back at you and it’s reading you and there’s this thing going on. I think when we intellectualize this to an excessive degree we kind of short-circuit that conversation. It’s sort of like dissecting a frog until it’s dead.
Look, I’m not saying you don’t study it. I’m not saying you don’t ask the questions or any of that. In fact, there’s an appendix called Genesis 2.0 in the back of my book and I discuss, “Here’s kind of how I read this, and here’s how I put all this together,” and I think you can put it together.
The point is, if you start clutching it with white knuckles, the thing just goes downhill really fast. That experience of putting these stories in front of these people and seeing how people grew in their comprehension and their discernment of even their own lives like, “Wow, we’re all Adam and Eve. We’re all Cain and Abel. We’re all these people.”
Of course, this is exactly what Jordan Peterson would tell you. These are archetypal. These are like the mother patterns of core humanity here. I really think it is possible to integrate all this. You can save yourself an awful lot of bruises and bloody knuckles if you just slice all this a little bit differently.
Sam: You’ve brought up some really good points. Do you want to share any closing last words or any encouragements that you may have for that Christian out there, that person of faith, because they care about the people that they’re talking to. It’s not that they just want to win an argument. They care about those people.
Perry: I do. I have a parting thought and it’s about the DMZ – the demilitarized zone. When I announced the evolution prize at Arizona State I said, “This conversation has gotten way too polarized and it’s not productive. We need some rules for having the conversation.”
The demilitarized zone in North and South Korea is the border between the two countries where nobody gets to shoot anybody and where they can just talk, and that’s what we need. We need that in the evolution conversation and we need it in all the other conversations, and social media and politics too, for that matter.
Here are the rules of the DMZ:
- No hiding behind screen names.
I don’t think you can have an honest conversation about this stuff with an anonymous person. I refuse to have the conversation with anonymous people. By the way, all of these rules of the DMZ are also qualifications for whether you should be talking to this person in the first place. You’re not anonymous, they’re not anonymous. If they won’t agree to that rule, then you should not waste your time. There are lots of people that will just waste your time chewing on philosophical issues, when they have no intention of ever actually learning anything.
- Lay down your weapons.
We’re not going to call each other names. We’re not going to insult each other. We’re going to be gracious. You’re gracious to them and they’re gracious to you. If some troll on the internet is calling you names, you have no obligation whatsoever to engage with that person, and you shouldn’t. You’ve got better things to do.
- Assume positive intent.
This is big. So you violently disagree with somebody about evolution, gay rights, abortion, gun control, immigration or whatever. Let’s start by understanding that 99% of the time that person, even if they believe something that you find totally abhorrent, there is some positive human reason or motivation why they would want to believe that. There’s some good intention behind it, however misguided it may be, and you’re trying to get to the good intention behind it because that’s a point of common ground.
- Get to the truth, not the sale.
That’s a phrase from my friend Ari Galper, who’s a sales trainer. He’s talking about how you go to a car lot and some guy is just trying to sell you a car, and it’s not the right car for you or anything and you know it and he knows it, but he’s ramming it down your throat.
Nobody likes that. What happens if you go to a car lot and the person sincerely tries to figure out, “Do we have a car that would really solve your problem or not?” Is this true or not – whatever is the particular thing we’re talking about right now.
It’s really important that both people in the conversation are trying to find out what’s true, not just push an agenda. That’s true for you and it’s also true of them. So you need to ask the question, “Do you really want to know the truth? Because I really want to know the truth and I’m not sure I know, but how about you?”
You can ask somebody. If somebody had asked me, “Perry, if you find out that there is no purpose in nature and it’s all just blind processes, are you willing to reconsider your conception of God?” I would have said yes and that would have been the truth. Some people would be like, “No, I would never change my view of any of this, no matter what you tell me.” Okay then, let’s not waste any more time talking about this.
I think you need to pick your battles and you need to talk to people that are really seeking, and you need to be really seeking. That’s the only way that this is an honest conversation. There’s always the possibility that you’re going to discover something that you never knew before. It makes it terrifying and it makes it thrilling and exciting all at the same time.
Sam: Seek and ye shall find. That is exactly right.
This has been an amazing conversation, Perry. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing those excellent points with us. Where can people watching this learn more about you and your book?
Perry: Go to evo2.org and you can subscribe to the Evolution 2.0 podcast. There’s links to the book. There’s links to the audiobook. There’s videos. There’s a lot you can look at. There’s links to the prize. It’s all there at evo2.org.
Thanks for talking to me today. It’s been great.
Sam: Absolutely, my pleasure. Thanks folks and hope you have a great rest of your day.