NU professor attends Oxford Round Table © Jan. 4, 2008 Norwich University Office of Communications
Carlos Pinkham has been teaching at Norwich for twenty–seven years, but work on his theory regarding evolution and creation began when he was a student at Northfield High School. And while in high school, he never dreamed that it would result in an invitation to the prestigious Oxford Round Table, an opportunity for discussion of contemporary issues across disciplines.
“At age fifteen, I read Man and the Modern World by Julian Huxley. He went through all the major groups of animals and explained why only the primates had the attributes necessary for the evolution of intelligence,” Pinkham said. “This struck a chord with me because I had been looking at my [Christian] faith…it was enough to make me think that God had used evolution to produce us.”
And that is the crux of Pinkham's beliefs. In his first paper on the subject, which he presented at the 2006 Oxford Round Table, Pinkham wrote, “Both cosmological and biological evolution follow an identical pattern and that pattern is strongly suggestive of a Creator. Information contained in properties dependent upon the laws, constants, and forces of the universe make it not only possible, but certain, for intelligence to arise.”
During his time in high school, and his years at Norwich as a student, these ideas were simmering in the back of Pinkham’s mind. When it came time for him to graduate from college, he decided to attend graduate school. Choosing only one of three schools in the country to offer graduate studies programs in evolution, Pinkham said, “when I went to the University of Illinois, my focus was to learn evolution.”
After graduating with a doctorate in evolution, Pinkham served in the medical service corps of the Army for four years and the Reserves for 33 years, all the while pondering the idea that humans were a product of God and of evolution.
In 1982, Pinkham and his wife moved back to Northfield without jobs or a place to live. “We took a leap of faith,” Pinkham said. Fortunately, he found a job teaching summer anatomy and physiology courses at Norwich. “It got me on campus and eventually I weaseled my way in,” he said. This happenstance assignment at Norwich also informed his theory.
“Because this was always in the back of my mind,” Pinkham said, “I kept seeing pieces of the puzzle that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.” He began keeping notes on how, seen in retrospect, it looks as if the universe was made to create humans through evolution.
All the while Pinkham knew that he was not going about things scientifically. In explaining the evolution of humans as a possible purpose of creation, he said, “I realize that I am going out on thin ice, but there is enough evidence to look at.” In his paper, carbon serves as one of those examples. “It looks as if the universe is poised to form carbon,” he said. “It is a clear example of this kind of thinking.”
I am getting people at an important age, and I want to be able to inform their faith.
~ Prof. Carlos Pinkham
While reconciling evolution and creation is not new to the scientific community, his ideas are a bit different than those of others. Scott Page, an associate professor of biology at Norwich, says Pinkham’s theory is indeed different from the theories of others working in the field of evolution, but it is in line with concepts that have a fair amount of traction.
“Carl's ideas are…along the lines of the so-called Weak Anthropic Principle, wherein the universe is finely tuned for life, but not necessarily for us,” Page said. “Both ideas, as well as Carl's take on it, have produced speculation on just who or what is responsible for the fine tuning.”
And that traction has garnered Pinkham recognition for his ideas in a broader community, one that was well represented at the Oxford Round Table. Invited as a presenter at the 2006 session entitled Science and Faith: The Great Matter, held at Saint Anne’s College at the University of Oxford, Pinkham presented his ideas to 44 scientists, university professors, and other scholars. “My plan was to retire and pull this all together. In 2005, I got a letter inviting me to the Round Table,” he said. “I have no idea how they got my name.”
The opportunity afforded Pinkham the chance to introduce his ideas in an esteemed forum. “We have so many notable participants in Round Tables,“ said Karen Price, assistant coordinator for the Round Table. “Our aim is not to exclude anyone, but to get diverse people to come together and examine a topic.”
Pinkham will retire in a year and a half, and plans to expand his research into creation and evolution going hand in hand. Along with that, he will continue teaching on an adjunct basis.
“I will finally get to teach what I want to teach — astrobiology,” Pinkham said. “There are many Christians who don’t understand enough about science. They look at the conflict between science and faith and see no hope for reconciliation. I am getting people at an important age, and I want to be able to inform their faith.”