Although there are probably several intertwined reasons (including those mentioned above) behind the denial of evolution, it may be that people are sensing – and fearing – what evolution has to say about the theodicy question.
Evolution tells us that when suffering exists in nature, a response arises that demands change. Few things are guaranteed except the constant rebalancing of ecosystems to maintain what might be called “a buffered state.” Hierarchies and status exist, but only in limited ways, and never with the destructive force of human hierarchies.
Evolution seems to be saying that God is okay with adaptive change, the kind of positive change that emerges from our struggle with pain and suffering. I’m sure there are many people on this board who have gone through deeply personal experiences of transformation as a result of this struggle. I know I have. The loss of my young son to cancer many years ago forced me to ask questions about God I wouldn’t otherwise have asked.
The theology that arises from evolution is in conflict – or appears to be in conflict – with the theology that arises from salvific doctrines. And this, I think, is what frightens people.
It’s not that Genesis 1 is inherently in conflict with evolution. Heck, everything happens in the right order, as if the author knew, for instance, that birds predated most of the mammals we know on the planet today. But Genesis 1 shows us an orderly and good creation, a place where suffering doesn’t seem to exist until Adam and Eve come along in the second narrative and wreck everything.
A lot of theology, and a lot of human authority, rests on our assumption that pain is always a bad thing and always a sign of our separation from God.
But doesn’t the life and death of Jesus tell us something very different? Especially about what it means to be made in the image of God?