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Is God an Evolutionist?
Some Christians claim God might have used evolution over billions of years to create everything we see today. But that notion just doesn't hold water.
by David N. Menton
On reading Charles Darwin's evolutionary
view in his Origin of Species, a contemporary of Darwin's was said to have
responded, "I hope it's not true, and if it is, that it does not become widely
known." Well, true or not (and I would say not), the Darwinian view of the
origin of everything by random change and natural selection has indeed become
widely known. Surveys, however, at least among Americans, show that Darwinism
may be more widely known than believed.
In a recent poll from Gallup, only 9 percent of the Americans asked said they believe that man has evolved from simpler forms of life by a purely materialistic process extending over millions of years.
In contrast, nearly half (47 percent) believe that God created man in essentially his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.
And a significant minority (38 percent) prefers a compromise view involving some form of divinely guided evolution. This latter view, endorsed by Pope John Paul II in a pronouncement last fall (he called evolution "more than a hypothesis," saying it was "on a pat with the opposite hypothesis"), has become a hotly debated subject among Christians.
The question arises: Should Christians try to "make peace" with Darwin?
Creation and our salvation
Of primary concern to the Bible-believing Christian is whether an evolutionary view of origins is compatible with God's Word as revealed in Scripture.
The Bible speaks of a sovereign, omnipotent and omniscient God endorsed who created out of nothing (ex nihilo) by the power of His Word. Thus, God exists outside of nature (literally supernatural) and is the Creator of all temporal things we call nature. God Himself, however, is not a created being but rather is uniquely eternal.
|It has been said that
whatever we hold to be eternal is our god. Those who deny the existence of an
eternal God must ultimately declare nature itself to be eternal, and thus
nature, in effect, becomes their god. The philosophy that recognizes only the
natural world as "real" is called naturalism.
Christians should be particularly careful how they view Divine Creation because it is foundational to the whole Bible and Christianity. Creation is given a preeminent position in the first chapter of the Bible and is the First Article of belief in the Apostle's Creed (I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth). Throughout Scripture, the God who is real is contrasted with man's false gods by virtue of God's sovereign role as Creator.
At the end of his life, Charles Darwin considered Genesis a "manifestly false history of the world," adding that he "could hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true." Sadly, the widespread rumors of his deathbed repudiation of evolutionism and return to Christianity are unfounded.
Most important, there is an integral
relationship between Creation and our salvation. The first three or so pages of
the Bible reveal both man's accountability to God through His Creation and
mart's subsequent fail into sin and death through his disobedience. All the
remaining pages (about 1,500 in a typical Bible) deal directly or indirectly
with God's solution to man's sin-problem documented in the first three pages.
It should come as no surprise, then, that those who deny human sin and
accountability would also seek to deny God as their sovereign Creator. Sadly,
like Adam and Eve, they try to hide from the very God who could save them.
Still, some Christians have argued that how God created is not that important as long as we credit Him with at least some nonspecific role in the process. They insist that the Bible tells us merely who created while science (or, more accurately, naturalistic scientism) tells us how. After all, they ask, couldn't God have used the process of evolution to create?
But "Divine Darwinism" inevitably leads to either espousing evolution with miracles or creation without miracles. As we shall see, the former is incompatible with Darwinism, while the latter is incompatible with Scripture.
The question of origins
When it comes to the ultimate origin of nature and living things, many contemporary scientists insist that we must ignore even the possibility of intelligent design and confine ourselves to purely naturalistic explanations. To the consistent evolutionist, none of the obvious complexities of living things can be considered as evidence for purpose or design.
The denial of the manifest evidence of the handiwork of God in nature is in direct contradiction to the Biblical claim that nature reveals the glory of God. The Scriptures say that God's "invisible qualities...have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (ROM. 1:20). Indeed, Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that this visible evidence of God's eternal power and majesty in nature is so obvious that man can deny it only by "suppressing the truth."
Many Christians accept the view that science must never appeal to the supernatural to explain natural phenomena. This axiom would seem reasonable if we were speaking of ongoing phenomena that are subject to study by empirical science (more on this term below). Certainly, a scientist can understand something of the structure and function of, say, the human eye in purely physical-chemical terms without considering metaphysical or supernatural principles. The eye, like a camera, appears to be an optical device (though a profoundly complex one) that obeys the fundamental laws and physical properties of nature.
"Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20)
|However, just because an existing biological system (such as the eye), like an existing manmade machine, can be understood in mechanistic terms, it does not necessarily follow that the origin of that system can also be understood in that way. How, for example, would one explain the origin of a modern automatic camera in purely naturalistic terms? Nothing we know about the physical composition of a camera could cause its spontaneous self-assembly with time. Sophisticated cameras come into existence only when intelligent designers and builders impose their design and work on the raw material from which the camera is made. Surely we can assume no less for a vastly more complex optical device like the eye.|
It is further argued that science must
never consider the supernatural (even for origins) because to do so suppresses
further inquiry and is thus fatal to the advancement of science. Some
evolutionists go so far as to insist that Biblical Christianity (and
particularly the doctrine of creation) would, if widely accepted, mean the end
of all modern science and its benefits. This serious accusation bears our
What is true science?
In its broadest sense, the word science merely means knowledge or experience. But when most of us think about the wonderful achievements of science, we are generally thinking of a particular type of science known as empirical science.
Empirical science is the study of nature by means of the so-called scientific method. Powerful though it may be, empirical science does have three important requirements that limit the kind of questions it is best suited to answer.
First, empirical science must deal with objects or phenomena that are observable. Second, the phenomenon under study must be repeatable so it can be reexamined under controlled conditions. Finally, any hypothesis we might propose to explain a phenomenon must be testable by some critical experiment capable of disproving it (in the event the hypothesis is false). Hypotheses that repeatedly withstand tests that could disprove them are called theories.
Because of these limitations, the scientific method is best suited to studying things as they now exist. Empirical science can tell us much about how our existing eyes work, but it is severely limited in telling us how we came to have eyes in the first place. Thus, our attempts to explain origins (which occurred, obviously, long before you and I were around) are not technically scientific theories at all.
The origin of life
Darwin assumed that life itself evolved by chance from simple chemicals in some "warm little pond," but he was unable to provide any specifics. To this day, an evolutionary explanation for the origin of life has proven to be so elusive to rational speculation that many evolutionists now insist it is not even a part of the theory of evolution. In what has become a well-known analogy, the prominent evolutionist Sir Fred Boyle has concluded that the formation of a living organism by chance would be comparable to "a tornado sweeping through a junkyard [and assembling] a Boeing 747 from the materials therein."
Nobel laureate Dr. Francis Crick (co-discoverer of DNA), in his book Life Itself, concedes that the improbability of life's chance origin simply defies calculation. Crick, an atheist, said: "An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle."
Wisely skipping over the most difficult step in evolution, the origin of life, Darwin was primarily interested in how the various plant and animal species came into existence. He proposed four postulates that still constitute the central dogma of evolutionism.
First, he proposed that the variation he observed among the individuals of a species was unlimited. Second, he proposed that more animals of a species are born than can possibly survive, given limited resources, and that this results in a struggle for survival. Third, he proposed that only those animals survive who happen by chance to be the most fit-a process called "natural selection." Finally, he proposed that those organisms that acquire characteristics that permit them to survive in their struggle with the less fit, would pass those characteristics on to their offspring.
Darwin's only observable evidence for "evolution in action" was the great variation that occurs among the individuals of a species. He was especially impressed by the seemingly endless range of variation produced by animals under domestication such as pigeons and dogs. He reasoned that if breeders could produce such a range of variation by selecting for desired traits, nature in time could accomplish even more through "natural selection."
|Darwin, who knew nothing
of genetics, erroneously assumed that there was virtually no limit to this
variation among the individuals of a species.
Today, evolutionists like to refer to the sort of variation we see among individuals of a species as microevolution, implying that this is somehow related to the chance formation of fundamentally
new animals by a process known as
macroevolution. Most evolutionists, however, concede that there is no known
relationship between so-called microevolution and macroevolution. Even so, most
biology textbooks continue to extrapolate the observable but limited variation
among the individuals of a species into the unobservable evolution of
fundamentally new animals.
Consider the remarkable species canis famitiaris, which includes the nearly 150 varieties of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club. It is amazing that animals as different as a 125-pound Great Dane and a 3-pound Chihuahua are at least potentially able to interbreed and are members of the same species! Still, there are limits to what can be achieved by even dog breeders. They can breed for long legs and short legs (within limits), but they cannot breed for flying dogs with wings. The reason for this is that there are no genes in the gene pool of the species canis familiaris that could produce wings or any of the other countless modifications necessary for flight. For this, the evolutionist must look in vain to mutations.
Faith in random mutations
The marvelous ability of all living things to reproduce themselves after their kind is one of the most distinctive properties of life. This reproductive ability depends in part on a vast collection of precise genetic instructions called genes that reside in every cell of each living organism. It is believed that these genes provide encoded instructions necessary not only for the assembly and function of each cell, but also for all the proteins, tissues and organs of the entire body. A complete set of these genes (about 100,000 in humans) is stored in the chromosomes, inside the nucleus of each of the 30 trillion cells that make up our bodies.
The survival of every living species depends on its ability to pass on its precious genetic instructions, from cell to cell and generation to generation, without significant alteration. it is no more likely that the cells of our body might benefit from random changes in their genetic information than our TV sets might benefit from random changes in their circuitry. If a species is to survive, its genetic information must be both duplicated and maintained with great precision. Toward this end, living cells have several error-checking mechanisms that help to ensure the accuracy of their gene duplication. Even so, genetic errors still can occur in cells. We call the random errors that creep into the genetic instructions of a cell, mutations.
Mutations are caused by certain kinds of chemicals, viruses and radiations. Ultraviolet light from the sun, for example, can cause mutations in our skin, resulting in skin cancer. Cancer is so closely associated with mutations that the terms carcinogenic (cancer causing) and mutagenic (mutation causing) are essentially synonymous. Nonetheless, evolutionists insist that some mutations are beneficial and lead to the gradual improvement of a species.
While there are special classes of highly controlled "mutations" that appear to be useful and part of the normal operation of cells, there are very few examples of unquestionably beneficial random mutations. Ironically, the primary textbook example of a "good" mutation is one that causes the disease sickle-cell anemia. This mutation of blood hemoglobin is considered "good" because people who have it (and survive it!) are more resistant to malaria. The symptoms of this "good" mutation include acute attacks of abdominal and joint pain, ulcers on the legs, defective red blood cells, and severe anemia often leading to death. One can only imagine what the bad mutations are like!
Evolutionists admit that mutations arising both in the laboratory and in natural populations typically produce deterioration, disease and monstrosities, yet their faith in random mutation as the ultimate source of all genetic information remains undiminished.
The fossil record
Since evolution is believed to occur far too slowly to be discernible in the timeframe of human observers, fossils must be used to provide the historical evidence whether life has in fact evolved from simple to more complex forms.
Fossilization typically occurs when organisms (either living or dead) are deposited from water into sediment, In some instances, the sediment solidifies, making a cast of the entombed organism. In others, the organic material of the organism itself is replaced by mineral to form a stony replica.
Conditions must be perfect for fossilization to occur, which explains why there is so little evidence of fossils being formed today. Both the burial of the organism in sediment and its subsequent hardening must occur quickly lest the decay process destroy the organism before it is fossilized. Most fossils do indeed give evidence of quick and catastrophic burial.
Evolutionists believe that fossilized organisms were gradually deposited in sequential layers of sediment over hundreds of millions of years. This, they believe, has produced a geologic column comprising many layers of sedimentary rock that give a visual record of at least some of the stages of evolution from the first simple organisms to the most complex. (See Grand Canyon sidebar story below.)
Most creationists, on the other hand, believe that nearly all fossils were deposited over a relatively short time during and after a worldwide deluge, namely, Noah's Flood. Thus, creationists believe the fossil record reveals organisms that were mostly contemporary with one another-not an evolutionary sequence extending over millions of years. These beliefs are sufficiently different that it should be quite easy to determine which is more consistent with the fossil record as it exists today.
To be consistent with evolution, the fossil record should show how organisms slowly transformed one into another through countless intermediate or transitional stages. Evolutionists, for -~ example, claim that it took more than 100 million years for the gradual transformation of invertebrates into vertebrates. If this were true, we would expect that the fossil record should show at least some of the progressive stages of this large-scale transformation.
To be consistent with creation, on the other hand, the fossil record should show no obvious transitional stages between distinctly different kinds of organisms, but rather each kind of organism should appear all at once and fully formed. A growing number of evolutionists concede at least that the fossil record shows few (if any) unambiguous transitional stages in the evolution of an organism into a distinctly different kind of organism. The popular evolutionist Stephen J. Gould has called this "the trade secret of paleontology. " Evolutionists have been aware of these missing transitional forms since the time of Darwin, blaming it on the incompleteness of the fossil record. Some still cling to the hope that the "missing links" which they believe formed a continuous chain of evolution may yet be found. This seems unlikely, however, since most paleontologists believe that the majority of all existing fossilized species of plants and animals (numbering more than 250,000) have already been found and identified.
Even most of the currently living kinds of plants and animals have been found in essentially their present form in the fossil record. David Raup, a paleontologist at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, has proposed that we may even have fewer examples of evolutionary transition today than we had in Darwin's time! This surprising conclusion is based on the fact that some of the classic examples of transitions, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information.
The evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson conceded in his book Major Features of Evolution that most new species, genera and families, and nearly all broader categories of plants and animals, "appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences." Steven J. Gould echoes this point: "In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed. " This, of course, is exactly what creationists would expect to find.
The evidence for Creation
Evolutionists often challenge Creationists to come up with their own scientific explanation for origins. The only explanation the evolutionist will accept, however, is a materialistic one. Since the act of Creation was clearly a miraculous event, there can be no materialistic explanation. Whether or not we find the evidence for Creation compelling depends on our willingness to accept the Biblical revelation of an omnipotent and omniscient. God.
As we've noted, many scientists have great difficulty accepting the idea that. some things may not have a natural explanation. They do not seem to fear the unknown so much as the unknowable. This threatens the pride and sovereignty of natural man, who from the time of the Fall wishes to be as gods, deciding for himself what is right and wrong.
Most of the scientific argument for Creation involves the overwhelming evidence for intelligent design in nature, while demonstrating the utter failure of evolutionary explanations that appeal to chance. We usually have no trouble detecting evidence for intelligent design in a structure (Stonehenge, for example), even if we do not exactly know its builder or purpose.
Let's briefly consider three evidences for special Creation.
(1) Intelligent design: The Bible reminds us of the obvious fact that an intelligent designer and builder is necessary for building anything that is complex, 'for every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God" (Heb. 3:4).
Modern biology has found living things to be far more complex than Darwin could have imagined in his clay. The human brain, for example, consists of approximately 12 billion cells, forming 120 trillion interconnections. The light-sensitive retina of the eye (which is really part of the brain) contains more than 10 million photoreceptor cells. These cells capture the light pattern formed by the lens and convert it into complex electrical signals, which are processed and sent to a special area of the brain where they are transformed into the marvelous sensation we call vision.
Fossils speak - not of the gradual evolution of life on earth over vast ages - but rather of the sudden extinction of life, all over the world, in one age.
|The signal-processing ability of the cells in the retina greatly exceeds the computational power of our most sophisticated super-computers. It has been estimated that in one one-hundredth of a second, the signal processing of a single photoreceptor cell from the retina requires the solution of approximately 500 simultaneous nonlinear differential equations 100 times!|
Considering that there are more than 10
million such cells interacting in complex ways in the retina, it would take
nearly 100 years for the fastest Cray super-computer to simulate what takes
place in our eye many times every second!
(2) All life reproduces after its kind: The Bible tells us that following its original creation, each animal continued to reproduce after its kind (the Hebrew word for kind is mm). "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind.; and it was so" (Gen. 1:24).
This would seem to leave little room for evolution unless the Genesis kind might have represented a higher taxonomic group, like perhaps a class or order. In an effort to accommodate at least some evolution in Creation, it has been proposed that God might have created, for example, a single bird kind from which all the species of birds alive today have evolved. Levitical law, however, defines kind much more narrowly than this. A long list of birds, including the falcon, raven, ostrich, short-eared owl, screech owl, white owl, carrion vulture, stork and heron are each described as being a kind (Lev. 11:14-19).
In his "Table Talks," Martin Luther spoke of the Greek scholar Cicero's proof for the existence of God: "The best argument that there is a God-and it often moved me deeply-is this one that he proves from generation of species: A cow always bears a cow, a horse always bears a horse, etc. No cow gives birth to a horse; no horse gives birth to a. cow; no goldfinch produces a siskin [another kind of finch]. Therefore it is 'necessary to conclude that there is something that directs everything thus."
(3) Dating and the appearance of age: Even among those Christians who seem to agree that God created solely by the power of His Word, there remains disagreement about the age of the earth and, by implication, the duration of the "six days" of Creation.
To creationist Christians, the key to the real understanding of the earth's fossil-bearing sedimentary strata, and to many other questions of geology and paleontology, lies in the worldwide cataclysm known as the Great Flood.
|Certainly, if there were no compelling reasons to believe otherwise, the Bible clearly implies that the six days of creation were six ordinary days. While the Hebrew word for day (yom) can mean a long time, the intent of the author is generally evident in the text. Not only were the days of Creation numbered, as was customary for literal rather than figurative days, but each was described in the Hebrew manner for ordinary days as having an evening and a morning.|
The word yom appears in Scripture more than
100 times in association with "evening and morning," and in every case, it
clearly refers to an ordinary day.
Some Christians are convinced that the scientific evidence of a 4.5 billion-year-old earth is so compelling that Scripture must be interpreted in light of science- no matter what the text may say. Space does not permit a critique of geological dating methods, but suffice it to say they hardly constitute an exact science. Different methods often give different dates for the same rocks. Even different rocks from the same geological formation by give different dates.
When "unacceptable" dates are encountered, geologists often use their evolutionary assumptions about the presumed age of the fossils in the rock layers to date the rock. Since the rock layers in turn are used to date the fossils they contain, this is circular reasoning.
In any event, Christians should be aware that while the earth may appear to some to be vastly older than a literal Biblical chronology would allow, it may still be far, far younger than those people would suggest it is.
Virtually everything that God created (including the wine for the wedding at Cana) must have had the appearance of age and ongoing process at the very moment of its creation. Adam and Eve, for would have to bide His time, example, were presumably created as sexually mature adults. If Eve had been created with hair as long as artists tend to portray it, it would have appeared to be the product of more than 10 years of hair growth (assuming a growth rate of .3 millimeters a day). It would be ludicrous to think, however, that the omnipotent Creator, who was able to instantly create Eve by means of a miracle, would then be obliged to wait several years to "create" a head of hair by natural processes.
Similarly, a Creator who can create the stars by the power of His Word would not then be obliged to wait billions of years for their light to reach the earth to serve man as "signs and seasons."
| The implications of
The Scriptures tell us that "by sin, death came into the world," and that the "the wages of sin is death... " Evolutionists, however, vigorously deny that sin has anything to do with death, but rather that death is natural. Life, they insist, would be impossible without death.
Certainly, evolution would be impossible without death. Death, in fact, has been called the "engine" of evolution. Carl Sagan said: "Only through the deaths of an immense number of slightly maladapted organisms are we, brains and all, here today."
How foolish to think that the almighty and eternal Creator and Sustainer of the universe would have to bide His time, waiting for beams of staarlight to reach the earth.
Evolutionism inevitably breaks the
relationship between sin and death, thus negating the need for a Savior who
would save us from sin, death and the power of the devil.
Finally, when the Lord returns in glory on the Last Day, and the dead are raised from their graves, will scholars attempt one last naturalistic explanation for even this? Or will we finally concede that God does miracles beyond our understanding? Will we finally be still before the throne of God, and let God be God, though every man be found a liar? We will indeed!
| Climbing the "Ladder of Life" in
the Grand Canyon
The walls of the 270-mile-long Grand Canyon in Arizona (photo, right) reveal 21 distinct layers of mostly sedimentary rock-the so-called geologic column. Presumably, or so an evolutionist would say, this pillar of succeeding layers, and the fossils contained therein, should reveal the progressive steps of hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary history. But consider these facts:
- An amazing point: No one has ever found a single fossilized bone of any kind in the canyon. While the footprints of more than 20 species of amphibians and reptiles appear in the Supai, Hermit and Coconino layers of the column, there are no fossilized feet! No fossilized bones at all. One has to go to higher strata-and then not canyon strata at all but strata located several miles from the canyon-to find the bones of the tetrapods (four-legged animals) that could have made these prints.
Those who believe in Noah's Flood might suggest that the common occurrence of footprints in strata below those bearing the bodies themselves says something about how long those tetrapods could climb and tread water before drowning!
- Even more amazing: Those footprints are, in the main, heading hi the same direction-toward higher ground to the north! Are we to believe that for, say, 10 million years, the amphibians and reptiles inhabiting the canyon all walked in the same direction?
- The Kaibab Limestone layer, at the very top of the column, shows the only evidence to be found in the canyon of fossilized sponges! This is embarrassing to evolutionists, because sponges are believed to be the first multicellular organisms to have evolved on earth. If anything, they should be at the bottom, not the top, of things.
In a word, there is no evidence of evolutionary progress in the fossils of the Grand Canyon's geologic column (or any other column, for that matter). Evolutionists are well aware of this fact, though you would never guess it from the evolutionary indoctrination presented in public schools, zoos, museums, science centers and in the popular media.
|Dr. David N. Menton is associate professor of anatomy at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and a member of Faith Lutheran Church, Twin Oaks, Mo.|
Printed by permission The Lutheran Witness, vol. 117, no. 7, 1998.
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