Can A Christian Be A Paleo Advocate?

If you’re squeamish about discussions of religion and God, read no further! What follows is controversial and much of it not subject to scientific investigation.

In case you’re wondering, I’m a Christian.  This simply means I believe I was given life by God, that His son Jesus became a man and died for my sins, and that I will have everlasting life in heaven for believing on this.  I strive to live the way God would want me to live, as written in the Holy Bible.  I was brought up in the Catholic faith, even attending parochial school in grades 1-8, but I’m Protestant now.  I went through an agnostic period between the ages of 19 to about 38—I’m glad I made it through that alive!

I’ve been learning more about paleo eating over the last year since it overlaps a fair amount with low-carb eating. (Paleo-style eating is also referred to as ancestral, Old Stone Age, hunter-gatherer, or the caveman diet.) The Paleolithic Era covers about 1.5 to 2 million years of human evolution, admitting that there probably hasn’t been much genetic change over the last 50,000 years (debatable). The cornerstone of paleo eating is that we should eat the things we are evolutionarily adapted to eat. We’ll be healthier that way. We didn’t have corn chips, soda pop, and candy bars 20,000 years ago, so we shouldn’t be eating them now.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Various species of animals thrive on certain foods and not others. My horses eat three meals a day – all hay; you and I couldn’t survive on that.

I have a college degree in Zoology, so I was thoroughly indoctrinated in Charles Darwin‘s evolutionary theory, at least the version current in the mid-1970s. Darwin’s theory requires no God, or didn’t include a role for God or gods. How Darwinians answer the question of Creation, I don’t know.

Many proponents of evolutionary theory seem to be atheist or agnostic. Natural selection determines who lives or dies, not the hand of God. Some brands of Christianity, but not all, reject the idea of human evolution in its entirety. They believe God created us just as we are about 6,000 years ago. So can a Christian be a paleo diet advocate?

(I don’t know where Judaism, Islam, and other major religions stand on evolution.)

Human evolution is central to paleo diet theory. A religious person may reject the idea of human evolution; can he nevertheless participate in the modern “paleo community”?

I believe God made us and the universe. There’s no proof – it’s a matter of faith. I don’t know if He made us 6,000 years ago or two million.  The bulk of the science speaks clearly against 6,000 years ago.

Our bodies are made to thrive on certain foods and not others.  That’s true for all animals.  If you find an injured bird in your yard and hope to nurse it back to health,  you better find out what it eats naturally and provide it, or you’ll fail.  The range of foods humans can thrive on is pretty broad. Whether the optimal way of eating is determined by godless evolutionary processes or by the intelligent design of a Creator doesn’t matter so much if you’re looking at it from a purely nutritional viewpoint.

From an “everlasting life” viewpoint, it matters.  Big time.

The paleo guys might be right about the best way to eat. Science continues to accumulate evidence one way or the other.

Christianity and paleo diet theory are not mutually exclusive. A Christian can ignore the possiblity of a million years of evolution, believing instead that God made our bodies in such a way that we’d be healthier eating certain foods and not others. Those foods may be the components of the paleo diet, whatever that is.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Further reading:

Carl Drews has written extensively on Christianity and Evolution, including his essay on Theistic Evolution.

Phil Porvaznik’s article on theistic evolution and the Roman Catholic Church.

Wikipedia: Catholic Church and Evolution.

Can a Christian follow a paleo low-carb diet? at Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb blog.

A few questions for the atheists.  Where did the universe come from?  Was it created? By whom or what?  What if God exists, and he made us for a reason and wants us to live a certain way?

Consider this excerpt from Walter Isaacson’s book, “Einstein: His Life and Universe”:

One evening in Berlin, [Albert] Einstein and his wife were at a dinner party when a guest expressed a belief in astrology. Einstein ridiculed the notion as pure superstition. Another guest stepped in and similarly disparaged religion. Belief in God, he insisted, was likewise a superstition.

At this point the host tried to silence him by invoking the fact that even Einstein harbored religious beliefs.

“It isn’t possible!” the skeptical guest said, turning to ask Einstein if he was, in fact, religious.

“Yes, you can call it that,” Einstein replied calmly. “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent, I am, in fact, religious.”

16 responses to “Can A Christian Be A Paleo Advocate?

  1. I have a book to recommend to you: The Language of God by Francis Collins. He makes a believer’s case for evolution, which he views as basically incontrovertible, especially in light of microevolution. This is not a diet or eating or Paleo book, but a book on evolution from a believer’s perspective.

    His basic thesis: If God is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful), then He knows the end from the beginning. This is a gross simplification of Collins’ bio-logos theory, but it boils down to this: if God knows the end from the beginning, then He could have set evolution into progress 4.2 billion years ago on earth, knowing that humankind would arise. Then He could walk away and leave it to itself. This preserves a big assumption in evolutionary theory: that evolution is random and unguided.

    Given the vastness of the universe and the unimaginably large number of planets, if God knows everything, then he would know that on this planet in this solar system, humankind would evolve.

    Then you can drop the ridiculous pretense that the earth is just 6,000 years old. It also avoids the “God in the Gaps” problem associated with arguments made by people like Philip Johnson in Darwin on Trial. (Wikipedia gives an adequate explanation of the “God in the Gaps” problem here:

    A problem with Collins’ theory: it cannot justify any particular God (say, the god of the Christians or of the Jewish or of Islam, etc., etc.) and he cannot make the case (and indeed, he does not even try, though he is clearly Christian) that Christianity is the one true religion. But he provides a context in which the believer can reconcile both faith and evolution.

    As a believer, we must all be backed up to the wall of faith, and there make our stand, as we cannot justify our faith through scientific knowledge. Our faith is revealed knowledge, as opposed to scientific knowledge, from an extra-natural source that is immune to the scientific method. Indeed, revealed knowledge is not even a part of the assumptions of the scientific worldview, as it is decidedly not part of the “Natural” world. Revelation from God comes, by definition, from an extra-natural (or “supernatural,” though that word comes with baggage). For example, no naturalistic scientist would even tolerate the notion of an omniscient and omnipotent god who dwelt outside of time, but such a theory does bridge the natural and supernatural theories on the origins of humankind.

  2. “Many proponents of evolutionary theory seem to be atheist or agnostic. Natural selection determines who lives or dies, not the hand of God. ” Outside the United States’ copyrighted obsession with Creationism — most Christians and Christian religions (including the Catholic Church) accept Evolutionary Theory as most scientists do esp biologists. Fact. The USA is an exception. Outside the US penchant for fundamentalism the issue is not much of a debatable point and here , in Australian, all schools , including the Christian ones, teach evolutionary theory within the science syllabus.No dramas. So Darwinism isn’t just for Atheists. So you can believe in a god and still embrace science. That’s what got us out of Feudalism. If Christians or Moslems or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus could not be vigorous scientists we’d be in a right pickle. (And Creationism IS NOT vigorous science. You can purge your god of Adam and Eve and still have a serviceable deity — if that’s your bag. Sure some scientists are keen creationists but they sure dont work in Paleontology. ]

    For instance: Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould

  3. I have no idea whether there is a creator or not, but I’m pretty sure religion hasn’t got it figured out – just have faith – don’t need proof – it’s all man made up fantasy.

  4. A better question is how long did noah have to wait for all the kangaroos to swim over to the middle east and grab a spot on the ark.

  5. In my day the Huxley-Wells popular version of Darwinism was taught along with the Bible in schools (in the UK and NZ) and no-one thought it odd. Atheists and Christians alike laughed about the Scopes Monkey trial and US creationism, because we’d been through all that in the Middle Ages.
    A belief in evolution predates Darwin (Tolstoy mentions man’s ape ancestors in Anna Karenina), Darwin just identified the mechanism.

    God works in mysterious ways.
    For example,

  6. Heather Dreith

    Thanks for this post…as a Christian I’d been wondering about the paleo diet/evolution thing.

  7. Opinion of a modern polytheist: Thing I find interesting is that your God didn’t fill his chosen in on a lot of science. Physics, chemistry, DNA, etc. It just wasn’t necessary at the time, for those people. So why are so many Christians so insistent that the Genesis creation story is SO inviolate… so accurate… so fundamental. Especially considering that the USUAL pattern for pre-literate, oral tradition tribes, WAS fictional story telling as a carrier for information.

    Maybe the point of the story was simply to point out that your god was in control and everything was going according to plan. Maybe the progression of the story simply showed that humans entered the picture as a distinct species later in the picture. But given that the picture might be 13.7 billions years old, with the earth being painted 4 billion years ago, and Homo sapiens created 100 000 years ago… well it just might be that some minor evolutions crept in to account for different human types, and some of the race (I hate that word) food peculiarities.

  8. I’ll second the recommendation for Collins’ “Language of God” book. Collins was head of the Human Genome Project, and was appointed by President Obama to head up the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This caused quite a bit of consternation among radical atheists, as they seem to have an almost religious aversion to anyone of faith.

  9. Jim Jozwiak

    Agricultural communities that eat too much carbohydrate feel either a gulf between themselves and God that must be bridged with “belief”, or else feel that the universe has no one home, so to speak, and these feelings correlate well with communal fasting blood sugar. Go ketogenic without letting the protein get too high and you might find your sins have actually been forgiven, so to speak.

  10. Scott Sterling

    I am convinced that science and God are ultimately in complete agreement, and as Christians and scientists we’ll find that time will bring convergence not divergence.

    Until then, we can all benefit from some humility about our views on this question of Creation and evolution. As Christians we can remember that we “see though a glass darkly”; scientists can remember that there is “so much we do not yet know”.

  11. Scott Sterling

    To clarify, I am a Christian and I believe the Bible. On the subject of Creation and the 6,000 years idea, I find comfort in realizing that it is ok if I don’t claim to understand how to correctly interpret what God says about that subject.

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  13. God may have made the Earth and created life, but he does NOT owe you a detailed explanation as to how He did it.
    He isn’t obliged to surrender all Intellectual Copyright and hand over all his recipes just because someone believes in Him.
    If you are curious you have to study the science, and the method’s the same for believer and non-believer alike. (You could even say that agnostics might have the advantage).

  14. Thanks for sharing this with me, Steve!

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