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“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.
“If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
– St. Augustine of Hippo, 5th Century AD (considered by some Protestants to be one of the theological fathers of the Reformation)
2. What Does the Bible Say?
3. How Does Evolution Really Work?
4. Life, Death, and the Tree of Life
5. Terminology and Misconceptions
6. Young Earth Creationism
7. Old Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design
8. Absolute Truth
9. Teach the Controversy?
10. Expelled and The Truth Project
12. Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creationism, BioLogos)
Appendix A. Books
Appendix B. Online Resources
Appendix C. References
Appendix D. Quotations
Within many evangelical Christian communities, faith and science are thought of as two opposing worldviews: God vs. man; the Word vs. the world. Occasionally throughout history, lines have been drawn accusing science of unbiblical results or accusing faith of being ignorant and unaware. I hope to show that these assertions are unfounded and destructive to our Christian walk and witness. Science, by its very definition, is the study of the natural world and the rules that govern it. Therefore, by definition, science is the study of God’s creation and of the rules by which, through His providence, He sustains it. This is a worthwhile endeavor, and when done by Christians in an honest fashion, it glorifies God. Science does not seek to explain things that are outside of nature — that is, the supernatural. Science has no authority to explain the miraculous. For a bona fide miracle, science must yield its ground. I fully accept and rejoice in the miracles described in both the Old and New Testaments. Miracles are used throughout the Bible for instruction and for verifying the authority of those performing them. I will have more to say about this later, as well as misconceptions about science in regard to naturalistic worldviews.
I have no significant problem with anyone who wishes to personally interpret verses of the Bible, and specifically Genesis, to believe that the universe was created in six days or that Adam was literally made by God’s hand from the dust of the ground. After all, it pleased God to allow the ancients to understand the creation in this fashion. If it helps one’s Christian walk, I respect that viewpoint for anyone today who at least recognizes that there may be more to the story that they simply do not desire to investigate, and embraces some degree of humility in place of dogmatism about “literal interpretations.” We know that this dogmatism about a literal interpretation of Genesis has come and gone many times throughout history, and I will show that its most recent teachings can be traced back directly to the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist church. There is no fully consistent “literal interpretation” of the first chapters of Genesis. I think the issue here is not just one of scientific understanding but also one of Biblical understanding, for reasons I will show below. There are many commonly held views about God’s creation which simply do not make sense if you interpret all of the verses in Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3 together using the exegetic method of literal interpretation; therefore we can safely say that the creation account is not a literal description of physical processes. For this reason, I believe that the purpose of the first chapters of Genesis is not to tell us about the “how”, but rather about the “Who”, and this is why I don’t care what anyone chooses to personally believe about the timing and length and process of creation. Which message is more important, and which message lays the foundation for the rest of the Bible, the “how” or the “Who”?
Although I respect any individual’s personal beliefs on these difficult issues, I will make a strong case for the rejection of the concept known as “creation science” and the indoctrination or teaching of this idea in our churches and schools. I will not mince my words here. This movement is using the guise of science to teach falsehoods about God’s creation by crafting explanations that are outright fabrications. Creation science, in its various forms which I will describe, is a false science which has infected our churches, schools, and legislature, and threatens the very fabric of how we run our country. When followed to its conclusion, and especially when used as an apologetic tactic to unbelievers, creation science casts God as a deceiver.
True scientific disciplines are always being refined, but so is our understanding of the Bible, in areas where the Bible is assumed to be describing physical phenomena. If this were not the case, we’d still believe that the Sun orbits a flat Earth. The one invariant is the Word itself, which will always exist as the absolute truth. Two things that do change over time are the body of knowledge about the world and man’s interpretation of some peripheral areas of the Bible. Man’s knowledge of the world is never complete and man’s interpretation and understanding of the Word is never fully satisfactory. If it were, we could write a treatise on the Trinity, proclaim the Gospel and have it be accepted by the world with open arms, and just call it a day. There will be a day when we are finished proclaiming the Gospel. However, that day will not come until our Lord and Savior returns, and the Bible teaches us that will be a day of division and war.
Until that time, it is of utmost importance that we attend to understanding both Scripture and God’s universe with enthusiasm, perseverance, humility, and an earnest desire for the truth, so as not to be deceived about areas where they seem to differ. True science is a rigorous process for determining how the natural world works. Science is not a belief system or something to take on faith. I am wary of the argument which states that when an observation about the world contradicts one person’s understanding of Genesis, the observation must be false or an illusion. In cases where science has revealed something to be true to them beyond any doubt on their own part, and yet is contrary to a literal interpretation of one (or many) verses in the Bible, such as the Earth being fixed on an unmoving foundation, strict literalists somehow rationalize this within their minds and gloss over this. This never ceases to amaze me. But in other cases where they personally cannot experientially prove something to their own satisfaction, some believers feel more comfortable sticking with the view that other peoples’ discoveries about the world are an illusion or are falsehoods rather than go through the trouble of investigating further with due diligence. In order to avoid cognitive dissonance within their minds, they then craft increasingly elaborate schemes to “prove” the falsehood of those observations or they rely on non-scientific sources who have already done so. Yet in fact the answer is right in front of them — their Biblical interpretation has been incorrect.
There are absolute qualities about God’s creation that have been revealed by modern science which could never have been known 5000, 500, or even 50 years ago. It is a fact that because of these types of discoveries, we have later determined that certain verses of the Bible were misinterpreted by theologians during various periods of history. We don’t know why God permitted, and continues to permit this. Perhaps God didn’t want to reveal the full nature of a particular truth until a certain time, in much the same way that we don’t reveal some truths to our children until they are of a certain age. I will not pretend to understand His reasons. However, I will assert that these apparent contradictions, which are usually about the nature of the physical world, are never actually contradictions. I reject the doctrine, prevalent in so many evangelical churches today, that the entire physical universe became corrupt due to Adam’s sin, and I will show why the misinterpretation of a single Greek word in the New Testament led to this belief.
The idea that the entirety of creation is corrupt is a false teaching, and it is dangerously close to gnosticism. God’s creation is not an illusion. It is real, and when he created the universe and everything in it, He saw that it was good. This is stated not once, but seven times in Genesis, and the seventh indicates that God’s creation was very good. I believe that it is impossible for a truth that is revealed in the world (general revelation) to contradict a truth that is revealed in the Bible (special revelation), because truth is an absolute quality. In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul warns Timothy to “turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge (Greek gnosis, sometimes translated as science), which some have professed and in so doing have wandered away from the faith.” Almost every false teaching organization I will describe below ascribes this verse to evolution, the Big Bang, and recently, even global warming! The modern physical and biological sciences did not exist in Paul’s time. Paul is warning Timothy about the influence of gnosticism on the church, and it still refers to ideas which are falsely called science. “Creation science” falls into this category, and I will show that following this teaching will ultimately paint God as a deceiver. This is a gnostic teaching, and believing that the entire universe is corrupt is another fundamental tenet of gnosticism. Gnostics teach that truth and enlightenment can be reached entirely through introspection and thought, and that nothing experienced in the material world is trustworthy. This is precisely what Paul was warning against. Similarly, abusing science to somehow support the idea that there is no God falls under this warning as well.
In the 18th century, pastor and Protestant theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote, “All truth is given by revelation, either general or special, and it must be received by reason. Reason is the God-given means for discovering the truth that God discloses, whether in his world or his Word. While God wants to reach the heart with truth, he does not bypass the mind.” More recently, in his book The Passionate Intellect, the Christian theologian Alister McGrath follows in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis in his approach to the pursuit of knowledge. McGrath writes, “We are called upon to love God with our minds, as well as our hearts and souls (Matthew 22:37). We cannot allow Christ to reign in our hearts if he does not also guide our thinking. The discipleship of the mind is just as important as any other part of the process by which we grow in our faith and commitment.” When the study of the world around us has revealed something beyond a shadow of a doubt, we understand that these results cannot contradict the Word of God. In some cases, it is the Word which has been misunderstood completely in how it pertains to description of the natural world.
The idea that God’s Word cannot contradict a truth revealed by other means is not my own notion, nor is it one of recent origin or one that is restricted to scientists with fresh, new theories seeking some welcome of their discoveries within religious circles. This idea has been held, tested, and shown to be Scripturally sound by Christian theologians throughout nearly 2000 years of history, including many that you may be surprised to hear about. It is not currently in vogue among evangelical churches or among certain political movements, and it has been rejected by many Christian leaders who also held political power. This is something to ponder. The majority of evangelical churches today which trace their roots to Christian Fundamentalism in the early 1900s rail against this viewpoint with rancor and venom, calling into question the faith and even the salvation of those who agree with it. However, I honestly believe that it is correct. Please seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in prayer and give consideration to this viewpoint as I describe how it relates to the Bible. I will then describe the organizations which are the propaganda machines in battle against this view and against the endeavor of science in general. Examine the implications of what they teach about God, as well as how they teach it, and judge for yourself.
There is one final point that I must make. As a Christian in the Reformed (Protestant) tradition, I subscribe to the doctrine of sola scriptura — that the Bible tells us everything necessary for an individual to come to salvation. The Bible also contains every essential, divinely inspired truth that we need to know about how we are to conduct our lives in a manner that glorifies God. We are to worship the Word — but not the words. We can learn from the words. Worshiping the words of the Bible, elevating them to be something they are not, is bibliolatry. Jesus is the Word, and we should focus our effort on knowing Him through what the Bible teaches.
May God bless you daily as you walk with Him in the Word, and may He be glorified in your life.
God provided Genesis as a record, to the Israelites of Moses’ time, that He is the one true God and the Creator of everything. The Israelites were surrounded by other tribal peoples with pagan traditions which included the worship of many gods of varying power and temperament. The Israelites themselves flirted with false deities during their history as recorded in the Bible. The prevailing view of the universe among most people — Israelites and pagans alike — was that the Earth was flat, supported on an unmoving foundation, with an expansive ocean in the sky separated from the Earth by a firmament, or dome. God showed in Genesis: Yes, He created it all; every single thing that the ancients knew about was created by the God of Moses. God used specific language in Genesis to identify the Sun and Moon as the “greater light” and “lesser light” because the commonly used names for the Sun and Moon, at that time, were the names of gods. To have qualified those proper names would have been an abomination. God’s purpose in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 was to explain in no uncertain terms Who was the Creator of everything, Who is in charge, and the nature of the relationship between the Creator and the created. The God who we worship as Christ is not a created being; He is the Creator. He is the one God, He was there from the beginning, and He caused the beginning. And Genesis tells us so much more… but it is not a description of the physical nature of the world. Fast forward 2800 years…
By the 1500s, the prevailing model of the universe was that it was composed of multiple nested “celestial spheres”, perfect and immutable, first described by Aristotle and Ptolemy almost 2000 years earlier. In describing the firmament, Job 37:18 states, “can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” The Earth itself was still the immovable center of the universe fixed upon a solid foundation, for this is clearly stated, in very strong language, in multiple places in the Bible, including 1 Chronicles 16:30, 1 Samuel 2:8, Job 9:6, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and Psalm 104:5. In 1543, the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus announced that the Earth moved around the Sun. Blasphemer! Or so the prevailing leaders of the Church — even the Reformed Church — said. Martin Luther is credited with saying, “People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolved, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon…. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth.”
Even the foremost Reformer of our faith was completely wrong when it came to understanding the natural world through the Bible. How could God in His glory cause the Earth to circle an object that was the subject of so much pagan worship? But now we know that it is true. Most of us, anyway. Many member churches of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod maintained a geocentric view into the beginning of the twentieth century, and some Christian organizations still teach this position today.
In 1572, the astronomer Tycho Brahe observed a bright new star and announced his discovery. Heretic! For all the celestial lights were hung by God in their positions by God on the fourth day, and His creative work was finished. But now we know that this was the death of a star, and new stars are still forming.
Galileo Galilei was a Christian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician. Prior to Galileo’s time, the heavens were thought to contain unchanging, perfectly smooth spheres, for God’s creation in the Heavens could not be anything less than perfect. The markings on the Moon were believed to be a reflection of the Earth, for the Moon was thought to be very close. With his invention of the telescope in 1609, Galileo discovered the changing phases of Venus, the moons of Jupiter, spots on the Sun and craters on the Moon. He also supported the heliocentric model of the solar system. For writing candidly about this against the wishes of the Pope, he was branded a heretic by the Church and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.
We now take all of these discoveries for granted, and over the past 500 years, it has caused Christians to reform their ideas about Genesis chapter 1. John Calvin the Reformer, in his doctrine of accommodation, explains that God accommodated his style of explanation in the Word to match the sensibilities of the people to whom it was written. Calvin explicitly wrote that he did NOT believe there were waters above the firmament, even though this is specifically and literally stated in Genesis 1, because science had clearly revealed by his time that this was simply not true. Some translators now use the word “expanse” implying something other than a solid surface, but the original belief among the ancients was indeed that the sky was a solid object which held up the waters.
Calvin did believe in a literal six days of creation, for there was no evidence to the contrary during his lifetime. Augustine of Hippo, one of the earliest Christian theologians, rejected a literal six-day creation, but he did believe that the Earth was approximately 6000 years old. Like many others throughout early Church history, he calculated this age using only the genealogies of Genesis. However, his many other writings about science and Scripture made it very clear that he would adhere to this belief only if there was no evidence to the contrary. We now have an abundance of evidence to the contrary — solid evidence verified by every branch of scientific investigation.
We also have a tremendous amount of evidence for the evolution of life on Earth. Why is it so important that we accept this and move on? Why not just ignore it? Or why not draw upon whatever resources we can to continue to fight it? If there were really any reasonable chance that an old Earth and evolution were false teachings, I would say of course we should fight it. However, it’s clear that many of my fellow evangelical Christians are tilting at windmills in trying to muster a pseudoscientific battle against evolution. Continuing to do so, at a time when there are so many other battles to be fought, is not just a waste of time and resources; it directly dilutes the effectiveness of our Christian witness to those who most need to hear it. The quote by St. Augustine which opens this text, along with the quotes at the very end speak far more eloquently than I can on this charge.
II. What Does the Bible Say?
“I just don’t like it. I’ll never believe that we came from animals.”
Many Christians today are willing to accept what science tells us about an old universe and an old Earth but they stop short of accepting evolution. To me, this is a rather bewildering position. Genesis 1, if interpreted literally, clearly states that the Earth was created in six days — evenings and mornings. If one person wishes to dispute evolution on the basis of a literal interpretation of Genesis, how can the same person justify an acceptance of the stars, Sun, Moon, and the Earth itself created by physical processes over billions of years? The verses about the Sun and the Moon are interspersed between the verses describing the creation of “kinds” of plants and animals.
There are other problems with a literal interpretation of these verses. How can there be evenings and mornings for three days before the Sun is created? Instead, could it be possible that the term “evening and morning” was an ancient Hebrew idiomatic expression which referred to an arbitrary period of time? Indeed, that phrase appears in only two other places in the Bible, both of which are in Daniel chapter 8. There, the text is talking about a vision that spans years. The same phrase in most English translations of the Bible is translated as “evenings and mornings‚” but if we look at the actual Hebrew words ereb and boqer, we see that they are used in the singular, identical to the way they are in Genesis.
With that understanding, some people subscribe to the day-age interpretation. That is, they suggest that each day in Genesis 1 corresponds to a very long period of time, which is a legitimate approach. In the Bible, the Hebrew word yom is sometimes translated as day, but is also used in many different ways to refer to periods of time. Here are some of the different ways that this word is translated: day, time, year, age, ago, always, season, ever [II-1]. Of course, we can’t just pick whichever one we like, but a study of both God’s Word and of His creation reveals that this is referring to something other than a 24-hour day. Exodus 20:9-11 uses similar language, but understand that God is teaching about the concept of the Sabbath using language and concepts that were easy for the ancients to understand. Note also that the Hebrew Sabbath applied to the seventh year as well as the seventh day. It is the concept that is being taught. Day-age supporters agree with this view, but they say that the Genesis account is otherwise literally historical. One problem with this interpretation is that the plants were created on Day 3, but the Sun was not created until Day 4. How could plants survive for eons before the Sun was created? And how can a literal interpretation of the days be reconciled with the fact that many animal species have arisen in the sea after other animals arose on land? In fact, some species of plants and animals have arisen after the appearance of the first humans. This is in opposition to a literal interpretation of Days 4, 5, and 6. Could it be that the ordering of days is intended to show the functions assigned to created things rather than a literal historical account of how the universe was formed? As Old Testament scholar John Walton describes in The Lost World of Genesis One, the days of Genesis 1 are arranged in pairs describing creation and subsequent function. On days 1 and 4, light is separated from darkness, and light is subsequently assigned a function — to mark days and seasons. Days 2 and 5 describe the creation of the firmament to hold up the waters above the sky, and the seas below, along their subsequent function — to be populated by birds and sea creatures. Days 3 and 6 describe the separation of the land (along with the plants that inhabit it) from the seas, and its subsequent function — to be populated by animals and mankind.
If the creation account were meant to be interpreted literally, how are we to reconcile the two different creation stories in Genesis chapters 1 and 2? In the second chapter the creation story is re-told, but this time the order is completely different. “No shrub had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant had yet sprung up.” (NIV) Man is then created and placed in the Garden in the same day that God made the heavens and the earth. Finally, the animals are created out of the ground. In the first chapter, God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they (plural) may rule” (NIV), and He created them male and female. In the second chapter, God creates Eve only after He saw that Adam needed a helper. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (NIV). Literalists jump through hermeneutical hoops trying to make these two creation accounts fit together.
Understand that these two chapters are describing different aspects of the purpose of God’s creation and were never meant to be taken literally, word for word. If they were, our spacecraft would certainly have hit that dome by now. The first chapter of Genesis is establishing the sovereignty of God, telling us that the entire universe, as understood by the ancients, was His handiwork and rests under His authority — the one true God. The second chapter is describing God’s specific relationship with mankind. An understanding of the poetic nature of Genesis 1 will reveal that the days are literary devices. As we have seen, they are also a tie-in to the introduction of the Sabbath day and the Sabbath year in Exodus, so the choice of six days is certainly no accident.
A question for those who interpret the Genesis creation account as a purely literal description of the process of creation: How do you interpret Psalm 139? Do you believe that from a single fertilized cell, God literally knits every baby together with His hands? If He is knitting, why does it take so long — nine months of knitting! Or is this an allegory, a poetic description of the way God really forms the baby? Is the physical formation of every baby a miracle, or does it occur via natural processes? Isn’t the real miracle the fact that God endows every baby with a soul, making it a unique individual who bears the image and signature of his or her Creator? If the physical formation of every baby were a miracle, what is to distinguish these from the real miracles described in the Bible?
If you were transported to 1000 BC and had to tell people how God creates each of our bodies in the womb in a way that affirms His authority and gives Him glory, yet was easy to remember and recite, how would you do it? Would you talk about embryogenesis, the blastula, gastrula, development of tissues and organs? Or would you use more poetic, inspirational, beautiful language? Now, if you were transported even earlier, say 3000 BC, and had to tell even more primitive people how God created the universe, Earth, and humanity — knowing that the proces was truly incredibly complex and time consuming, how would you describe it to people who have no concept whatsoever of astronomy, geology, chemistry and biology? Remember, you must do it in a way that they could remember and recite to their children. Would you describe the actual physical processed or use an allegory?
For those who accept an old Earth, but deny evolution via natural mechanisms, I ask: Why would God supernaturally create the millions of species that lived at various times in the distant past, only to let them perish over the course of billions of years, if each individual species required a separate, supernatural creative act? What is the Biblical basis for that? Could it be that the actual message of these verses concerns the purpose and function of creating the diversity of life on Earth, and not the physical mechanism that God used to accomplish it?
God created each animal “after its kind,” and He did this through biological evolution. We know that each animal reproduces after its kind, just as Genesis 1:25 states. This is God’s design. You’ll never see a fish giving birth to a frog. The definition of evolution is “change over time”. Biological evolution is defined as “any genetic change in a population that is inherited over several generations”. Evolution occurs slowly, and every creature will give birth to something like it — but not identical to it. Over many successive generations, each population of creatures will be slightly more adapted to its specific environment, food supply, and neighboring creatures which may be competing for the same resources. Over time, these changes add up, and the sum of the changes eventually lead to divergent speciation. There is nothing un-Biblical about this, and we can see speciation occurring today. The more constrained an environment is, and the higher the selective pressures, the faster evolution occurs within a given population.
If we understand the purpose and style of Genesis, we understand that it is not a scientific description of the “how.” Even so, there are some truths to be found about the natural world. The order of progression of animal life on Earth from sea creatures to land animals is in line with the ordering of the days of creation, although we now know that land plants appeared after sea life, and birds appeared much later. And it’s subtly stated that God did not create life directly — verses 11, 20, and 24 show us that God commanded the earth (meaning the ground) and the waters to bring forth plants, fish, birds, and all other animals. It does not say that God brought forth the plants and animals from the earth and the waters, but rather that the earth and the waters brought forth plants and animals under God’s direction. The earth and waters do not have any supernatural powers, for the primary message of Genesis 1 is clear — there is no god of the earth or god of the water. There is only the one true God. Under God’s governance and providence, the earth and waters brought forth all living things, naturally, not supernaturally. If all of these plants and creatures were not created through natural processes, but were instead created fully formed, why bother to identify the earth and the waters as the agency through which God created life?
Even Adam was made from the dust of the earth, but Adam was something special. God could have made Adam’s body out of nothing, or through supernatural means, but there’s nothing in the text that specifically indicates anything supernatural other than the breath of life, which is identified as the source of Adam’s soul, not his body. For Adam’s body, Genesis shows that like the animals, Adam’s body was formed from the earth, but he was not a living soul until he received God’s supernatural breath of life.
Why do we as Christians have such a difficult time with evolution? Aside from years of conditioning by our evangelical churches, it’s something that affects us personally. It’s not about the lights in the sky; it’s about our ancestors. We take it personally. It sounds too messy. But so did a heliocentric solar system, a spotted Sun and pockmarked Moon to the Church leaders at the time of the Reformation. It was messy, it was heretical, and it went against what the Church leaders taught, but it was the truth.
As evangelical Christians, we believe that the Bible is inerrant in its original languages. The verses in the Bible, particularly in Genesis Chapter 1, which would be used to argue against evolution (v. 11-13, 20-27) are interspersed with the very same verses that explain the nature of the firmament (v. 6-8), the Sun and the Moon (v. 14-18), and the waters above the dome (v. 6). However, we have already accepted that there is no dome, and there is not (and never was) any water hovering above such a dome. Common sense tells us that we should use the same Biblical hermeneutic to interpret ALL of these verses together, in the only way that would render ALL of them inerrant. We can’t pick and choose which verses to take literally based on our emotional response to them. If our interpretation of Genesis doesn’t coincide with what is shown to be true, then it is our interpretation and understanding of the Word that is incorrect, not the Word itself. God used a picture of the universe that the ancients were already familiar with, not to instruct them about how the universe was made, but to reinforce the idea that the universe as they knew it was made by God — the God of Moses. As time advances, the Word remains the same, and its original meaning remains the same, but translations and interpretations are fallible. Thus, it is critical that our interpretation of any Biblical text grasps its true purpose.
Was the creation of life accomplished by God over billions of years leading up to the first human with a soul, who He called Adam? Has biological evolution really been shown to be true? The answer is a resounding yes. Time will never reveal to us every single detail of the history of life, and scientists will debate the minutiae forever, just as they do with every branch of science. However, the vast array of evidence found to date paints a consistent picture of the common descent of all life on Earth over billions of years. We have far, far more evidence for evolution than Copernicus and Galileo had for their discoveries.
III. How Does Evolution Really Work?
“How can random chance cause molecules to assemble into anything like a human being? I just can’t believe that could ever happen, no matter how much time you give it.”
There are three stumbling blocks that together form an immense barrier for Christians to overcome if they do not understand evolution and they do not understand what the Bible really has to say about it. The first is the argument from incredulity. The second is a misunderstanding of what role randomness plays in biological evolution. The third problem is a theological one. I will explain each of these, in turn.
We must be very careful not to let our feelings of “it doesn’t make sense” to get in the way. It doesn’t make sense that we’re moving around the Sun at 67,000 miles per hour. It certainly doesn’t feel that way, and there’s very little “obvious” evidence for it. In understanding the world, we should be careful to never use the argument from incredulity. This position entails a rejection of a notion because we cannot personally comprehend it. From a Christian perspective, the argument from incredulity is better known by another term: pride. The argument from incredulity was made famous by the Christian philosopher William Paley and his watchmaker analogy in his book Natural Theology, published in 1802: a pocket watch, with its carefully crafted gears and motions, implies that every detail of its structure must have been designed. If you encounter a pocket watch, you know that somewhere, at some time, there was a watchmaker who designed and built the watch. By the same reasoning, says Paley, if you encounter a complex structure such as the human eye, you understand that there is a Creator who designed this eye. I fail to see how this argument helps our Christian witness. Solely using Paley’s reasoning, who is to say that there isn’t a group of designers, or one designer and one builder? Or who is to say that the designer didn’t finish his business and close shop long ago? Paley’s argument could just as easily be used to support polytheism, gnosticism, deism, or any number of religions. Of course we as Christians know that the Designer and Creator are one and the same, the God of the Bible. We know that God is the designer, but rather than creating our bodily forms instantly as He envisioned them, it is clear that He designed the universe to eventually produce us.
Science is a discipline which has slowly given us an understanding of atoms, quarks, energy, the stars and planets and the very nature of space and time, all of which have required subduing the argument from incredulity. In many cases, a clear understanding of the scientific theories behind a set of phenomena will inevitably lead you to a truth which is incomprehensible to our minds, yet is still true. In the case of the physical sciences as well as biology, we put these theories into practice in our daily lives. The physical sciences and the biological sciences are in complete agreement about evolution, and yet the argument from incredulity is a stumbling block to its acceptance. One major problem is that we simply cannot comprehend the vast time scales and numbers — trillions times trillions of cells over billions of years — that are in play. Another is that we cannot imagine the hundreds of interactions between objects at different scales — at the scale of molecules, cells, and complete living things — that occur each microsecond, every second, every day. However, the evidence of evolution, having now been studied for over 150 years, is clear.
Evolution is frequently called a random, undirected process. This second stumbling block is a fundamental misunderstanding of both Charles Darwin’s theory and of modern evolutionary biology, which incorporates findings from genetics and is known as the modern evolutionary synthesis. Random chance, by itself, has very little to do with evolution. Evolution is a process which combines multiple factors, including mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, descent with modification, and natural selection. In Darwin’s time, the genetic factors were poorly understood; Darwin’s theory focused mostly on natural selection. In the process of biological evolution, randomness dictates only when and where mutations occur. Environmental factors affect the frequency of mutation and natural selection determines which organisms, in the long run, will survive. All of these are natural physical processes and all of them have some statistical component, but only the first is truly random. Natural selection, by itself, is fairly deterministic.
The third major stumbling block for Christians and the “random, undirected” process of evolution is theological in nature. It is easy to equate “undirected” with “without purpose”. This is the crux of the problem for many Christians. How could a random, purposeless process be in any way compatible with faith in a God who formed us in His image? In everyday parlance, evolution is sometimes described as an unguided, purposeless process. Unfortunately, this statement sometimes finds its way into scientific literature. It is important, as a Christian, to not succumb to a knee-jerk reaction to such a statement. Evolution is purposeless only in the sense that there is no detectable cause working to guide it. When studied within the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and biology, we see that evolution is not working toward any goal other than the survival of species and the genes that they carry. As we will explore at length in Chapter XI, God’s hand most certainly is in all of these processes. As Christians, we believe that God has complete sovereignty over every cause and effect in the universe. However, that does not mean that God is actively intervening in such a way that He detectably breaks the physical laws of the universe, except in the case of a miracle. From a theological perspective, there is no reason for us to expect that billions of miracles have occurred, over the span of billions of years, in order for God to achieve the diversity of life on this planet. God is perfectly capable of creating a universe in which this happens according to natural laws, and every evidence we have found so far indicates that this is in fact what has occurred.
Since the early 1900s, we have known that the universe is inherently unpredictable at the quantum level; this is known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The effects of this principle have been tested over years of research and have been shown to be true, and it now forms the foundation of almost everything we know in particle physics. Is this compatible with the Bible? How could a completely sovereign God allow such “random, undirected processes” to form the framework of His entire creation? To argue along these lines would be to fall into the same trap that 16th and 17th century Christians did when they were challenged with a spotted Sun, cratered Moon, and Earth’s true place in the solar system. Even Albert Einstein scoffed when confronted with this new discovery in quantum mechanics, and he famously quipped, “God does not throw dice.” Yet, we now know that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is true. Chaos theory is another branch of science that has been used to mathematically describe many “random, unguided” behaviors in the natural world. It is difficult to reconcile some concepts in science with an understanding of a sovereign God, but this is an area where we have to hold firm to our faith that God is indeed sovereign over every cause, and our faith has been strong enough to carry us through many discoveries about the world. Proverbs 16:33 states, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (NIV) We don’t see Christian organizations rising up against chaos theory and particle physics, and there is no reason for Christians to be ruffled by evolutionary biology, randomness and all.
Do we believe that God exists outside of the universe and that He designed and created the universe to operate by natural laws? Do we believe that God has foreseen the future of every person, every cell, and every atom in the universe? Do we believe that God has complete sovereignty and authority over the motion of every elementary particle? If so, when we see “random, undirected processes” at work in many areas within this universe, we can understand that God is big enough to use these processes to achieve His goals in a way that would be completely undetectable to an observer within, without breaking any of the laws of nature which He ordained at the beginning of time. If every innocuous action within the universe was ascribed to a miracle, what would be distinctive about the real miracles of the Bible?
We are fearfully and wonderfully made. However, we don’t invoke a miraculous act of God every time the action of a set of 46 molecules (our chromosomes) turns a single cell into a baby. That only takes nine months. Deniers of evolution love to quote the Second Law of Thermodynamics, saying how improbable it is for a simple object to give rise to a complex object. If we use solely that line of reasoning, it is far more improbable for a single cell to turn into a baby in nine months than it is for a single cell to turn into a baby over billions of years. And yet, we don’t come up with new theories of “intelligent gestation” to explain miraculous, divinely guided appearance of babies in nine months. It certainly is a miracle that God breathes a living spirit into that first cell, or whenever He chooses to do so. But the baby’s physical development is entirely due to the natural processes of biology and God’s providence which sustains the universe and the laws of nature. Our cells are bags of molecules. The molecules inside each of our cells are driven by the same “random” forces that drive evolution. Amino acids and nucleic acids, the simple and fundamental building blocks of all living things, are sticky, self-organizing chemicals which quickly and easily form complex chains and patterns. It’s not a miracle of God each time a cell divides, yet that involves the orchestration of not just 46 chromosomes but thousands of other supporting molecules. At the level of individual molecules, they’re just “randomly” bumping into one another.
Some intelligent design proponents point to the fact that DNA encodes information in much the same way that a written book encodes information. If the genome of a typical life form can be thought of as a book, then the individual chromosomes are the chapters, genes are the paragraphs, codons are the words, and nucleotides are the letters. Their argument is that this points to an author who must have explicitly written down the code, letter by letter. However, there is a crucial distinction between DNA and any form of human writing. As molecular biologist Jonathan Watts points out, DNA (and RNA) have very specific physical properties which directly affect, and are affected by, the environment around them. Human writing, on the other hand, has no inherent effect on anything around it. It only has meaning to the person reading it [II-2]. Even a short string of RNA, in the presence of simple enzymes and a soup of amino acids, can naturally cause the synthesis of proteins around it [II-3]. DNA and RNA have properties outside of their inherent information content; they have shapes which directly or indirectly affect the concentrations of proteins in the world around them. These changes will eventually come around to affect the DNA and RNA molecules themselves. This gives natural selection the ability to effect change on the system as a whole, favoring concentrations of some molecules over others. The result is a net increase in information.
Does the complexity of our DNA, of man, and of life as a whole, attest to the awesome power and sovereignty of God? Of course it does! However, God did this through natural processes of physics and chemistry which He set up at the beginning of our universe. God is actively and continuously involved in sustaining the universe and bringing about His will, but we know that He works through natural processes as well as supernatural ones. The entire universe attests to God’s power and authority. With regards to the creation of the physical universe, there is every indication that God designed the universe in such a way that He didnt have to “fix” anything after He created it. This would be out of character with the other supernatural events described in the Bible. God’s creation of the universe — the Big Bang — was indeed a supernatural event. The forces of gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces, the appearance of atoms, stars, planets, the Earth, and all living things including us were baked into that original plan, and this was described in Genesis in a way that the ancients could comprehend it. Although the narrative in Genesis accommodated the ancient Israelites’ level of understanding, the message is just as true for us today. What wonderful mechanisms God has created to achieve His purposes! The Earth, over the course of billions of years, brought about the first man and woman who would bear His image and come to know Him personally.
A commonly heard argument is that evolution of microbes to man, or “goo to you,” is less likely to occur than a tornado in a junkyard producing a fully-formed 747 airplane. Known as Hoyle’s Fallacy, this argument sounds convincing, but it’s a strawman argument which completely disregards what evolution by natural selection is all about. Consider the tornado itself. The chances of countless molecules spontaneously forming into a whirlwind is infinitesimally small, yet tornadoes form all the time. This fallacy disregards the fact that tornadoes and evolution both occur by positive-feedback processes. To understand evolution, imagine that you have a trillion tornadoes in a trillion junkyards, representing trillions of collections of the very first lifelike molecules in the primordial seas. You don’t need to form something on the scale of a 747 in one shot. All you need is something a little better than what you started with. Let’s say you just need a piece of paper to get folded into a crude paper airplane, with a weight stuck to the nose end so it can have some success at flight. If one tornado out of the trillion produces something this successful, even once, it reproduces and spreads throughout its environment and into other environments. You now have billions of crude paper airplanes in some subset of these junkyards. With trillions of junkyards, you may end up with many different types of paper airplanes, competing with each other. Some airplanes will be better adapted by picking up new parts, or becoming larger or smaller than their previous generation. Some of them will be better at surviving than others. Now repeat this process across these trillions of junkyards, billions of times. This is the essence of Darwin’s theory.
Of course, paper airplanes don’t reproduce, but microbes can, and they do so easily. Understand that the tornado argument completely falls apart in light of molecular biology. We aren’t dealing with junkyards full of scrap objects, all different, with little chance to combine into anything useful. The basic building blocks of life are organic molecules. There aren’t that many different types of these building blocks. There are 38 amino acids, only 20 of which are used to form the proteins in all living things. There are 5 nucleic acids in DNA and RNA, only 4 of which are needed to encode the genetic information of all living things. Add in some simpler molecules such as water and oxygen, as well as salts and ions, all of which are found in seawater, and you have the building blocks of life. Each molecule of a certain kind is identical to all of the others of that kind. They are interchangeable. Even varieties of the same type of molecules are sometimes interchangeable. God provided those very first microbes with a wealth of usable parts in their junkyards. In DNA or RNA, you can string together nucleic acids in any sequence you like, and they’ll stick. Take a particular sequence of nucleic acids (let’s call it a “gene”) and some protein molecules that are stuck to it. We have seen such pre-cellular collections of molecules called coacervates and protobionts, the latter containing simple genetic material in the form of RNA. If such a combination of molecules manages to reproduce particularly well, it will itself become the basic building block — part of the soup — by which more complex forms can arise.
In a given environment, you’ll have trillions of copies of various globs of biological material, the very first self-reproducing organisms. The beauty of molecular biology is that these molecules cobble together easily — completely unlike scrap metal in a junkyard. They’re not sticky in the sense of Lego blocks, which have to be placed together perfectly in order to fit. At the atomic level, “pretty close” is good enough in most cases. Instead of Lego blocks, think of them as being like bristle blocks which come in a variety of shapes and can be put together at odd angles. Some molecules stick and others repel, depending on how they are charged. They chain together easily, and these chains bend and fold into patterns that form useful functions. There is an entire science devoted to the study of “protein folding” and it forms the basis of nearly all biomedical research done today. These proteins, in turn, line up to form membranes, organelles, and other parts of the cell. Some proteins even envelop and carry around other molecules. This is how cell biology works.
Let’s look at hemoglobin, for example. It’s a complex protein in its own right, but science has revealed some of the steps in its evolution from simpler molecules which performed a similar function, although they didn’t work as well as hemoglobin does in animals. Hemoglobin has just the right shape to cause oxygen molecules to get stuck inside it in an oxygen-rich area, and release those oxygen molecules in an oxygen-poor area. This is how your blood keeps you alive. New discoveries have shown that our cells have little pumps and even motors inside them. You can think of cells as finely tuned machines, but comparing them to machines which exist at the scale of an airplane or a car’s motor is ridiculous. They aren’t “machined” to such precision, and it has already been shown how some of these structures have been pieced together from similar, less complex structures, performing other tasks within our cells. We now have electron micrograph images of our cellular motors. At the atomic level, they are very rough around the edges,pieced together from the soup of free-floating molecules that they swim in. They are indeed complex, but it is a false metaphor to compare them to objects that are manufactured. This isn’t even evolution — this is going every moment in every cell in your body, and it doesn’t require a miraculous (that is, supernatural) act of God to keep each of your cells receiving oxygen, thriving, and reproducing. Was His design and creation of the universe with laws of physics and chemistry that made this all possible a miraculous act in and of itself? You bet.
Now combine this understanding of how life’s buildings blocks work within a single cell with the reality that evolution used this soup of molecules in the primeval oceans, trillions of times across the surface of the Earth, over countless generations, for billions of years. At the macroscopic level, organs and appendages begin simply, through mutations, but evolve whenever there is selective pressure on a population. Biologists have shown how the eye has evolved from a simple layering of cells, to a hollow cavity, to a cavity with a lens. Each of the eye types shown below still exists in organisms today in which their eye has not evolved any further due to lack of selective pressure.
Each time something worked better than what preceded it, it lived and made numerous copies of itself. Each time something wasn’t so good at staying alive, or was outcompeted, it died without reproducing very often. You’ll end up with an evolving set of life forms. As Darwin put it, “endless forms most beautiful.” Can you imagine if God inspired Moses to record in Genesis Chapter 1, not verses 12 and 24, but rather an explicit description of all of the above? He would have lost His audience at the first sentence. God made the animals according to their kinds through evolution, and by the time Adam appeared, there was a rich variety of species in the area of Mesopotamia for him to name. God didn’t say how He actually accomplished this any more than he said how he actually created the stars. Did He describe the creation of the stars and galaxies as condensing spheres of hot hydrogen plasma and include descriptions from what could be a modern-day astronomy textbook?
No, He hung the stars in the sky. Yet we don’t have a problem with that explanation, do we? We accept that the stars aren’t points of light hung on a dome. So what’s the problem with evolution? In each case, God conveyed the message in a way that the ancients could understand. All the Bible says about the creation of life is that God caused the Earth to bring forth living creatures, plants and animals, each of which reproduced after its kind. How is this not consistent with evolution? How does understanding and accepting this not glorify God?
Even outside of molecular biology, the laws of physics and chemistry can produce amazing complexity at the molecular level with very little outside influence. Take, for example, the growth of a snowflake as it drifts silently through alternating warm and cold layers of the atmosphere. Amazing complexity arises from “random” processes throughout God’s universe, even in something as simple as a collection of water molecules falling through the air. The stochastic processes within molecular biology work within similar constraints, but evolution has a vastly larger playing field, with a much richer set of fundamental building blocks, over much longer periods of time, with millions of slightly differing environments in which to allow natural selective pressures to make changes. If we can accept that a single cell has all of the machinery required to grow, repair and rebuild itself into a baby over a few months’ time, through God’s providence but without His supernatural intervention, then we can accept the tremendous amount of evidence that God used natural selection, through the laws of physics and chemistry that He designed, to bring about the final form of our DNA — in Adam and the other first humans — over billions of years.
Newly discovered genes, called Hox genes, are switches that control other genes within the DNA molecule. Hox genes are responsible for the complex morphology (shape) of structures found within all living things. Hox genes were some of the earliest genes to develop, and they are remarkably similar among humans and all other animals; we have many of the same Hox genes that are found in everything from flies to flounders. Simple changes in these genes can account for radically different body structures. A single fertilized human egg cell, over the course of nine months, will go through many of the evolutionary stages of our ancestors, due to the selective expression of old genes that are still in our human DNA, yielding even more evidence for His use of evolution to create man. The study of this process is the new science of evolutionary developmental biology, or evo-devo. Many old genes (which are controlled by Hox genes) vanished from the genome over millions of years, but some old genes have remained, and mutations in Hox genes turn these old genes on again while the embryo is forming. Occasionally, a human is born with a tail, a chicken is born with teeth, or a whale is born with legs. Before gene sequencing, some non-evolutionary explanations were made to sound plausible. However, we now have the complete genome mapped for many species, including man, and the evidence of these old genes is clear. DNA isn’t just a blueprint that God used for each species, it’s a history book. Is this something to fear, or be disgusted by, or refuse to accept out of pride? Or do we accept with humility that this is simply the way God made us?
Some say that we couldn’t possibly be made in God’s image if we evolved from primordial ooze, but I don’t accept this argument. God exists outside of the boundaries of space, time, and causality. At the time of the Big Bang, He set up the universe in precisely the way that would give rise to the created beings that he desired to make in His image. He foretold the future of every single particle and every quantum of energy. Psalm 139 teaches us that God knew the fate of each of us before we were born: “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV) If we believe this, we can believe that God knew how the universe He created would eventually bring us about, without having to “fix” it along the way.
Some say that it’s sacrilegious to say that Jesus’s human body — through half his genes — can trace His ancestry to lesser creatures. I don’t accept this argument either. God is infinitely superior to man than man is to slime. If we try and grasp what infinity means in regard to the difference between God’s perfection and ourselves, it’s clear that whether or not we evolved from slime, we are at precisely the same level as slime from God’s perspective. And yet, God humbled himself and became one of us. It is only our own pride that gets in the way of ourselves accepting how God made us. In 3.5 billion years of evolution, we’ve never gotten any closer to God. But with the birth of one human child in Bethlehem, God bridged the gap instantaneously.
As we look closer, and examine God’s grand design all the way from the motions of stars down to the motions of atoms, physicists are now seeing His handiwork. The fundamental constants of nature — the speed of light, the charge of the electron, the mass of the proton, and so forth — are so finely tuned, that if they varied by more than a fraction of a percent, the universe would have been too hot or too cold for the formation of atoms, much less stars, planets, or anything resembling life as we know it. Scientists call this the anthropic principle. It can never be proven, but to me, this is the hand of God. A well-grounded Christian faith and an honest study of the sciences will lead you to an awesome Creator, the God of the Bible. We can stand in awe of His creation and praise Him for His works. And yet, it would be folly to use the anthropic principle as a “proof” of God’s existence. The multiverse hypothesis, for example, allows for the possibility that God created an infinite number of universes, some of which must exhibit the conditions that are necessary for life. God has made clear many times in His Word that He desires that we come to Him in faith, not to scientifically prove His existence or to ascribe His existence to gaps in our knowledge. Let’s be clear: God created the universe and the laws that govern it; He made man in His image, for His glory alone; He loves us and wants us to know Him. We believe this because the Word teaches it. God’s Word is true and unchanging.
Genesis is not just a story. It reveals the nature and sovereignty of God, not just to people in Moses’ time, but to all people. Its ultimate purpose is to bring us to Christ. We are not to repurpose it for any political agenda or read into it anything that will take us further away from the truth.
IV. Life, Death, and the Tree of Life
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.”
Job 12:7-10 (NIV)
If you ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and study the Word and practice science with honesty and integrity, you will find that there is every reason to reach the conclusion that a 4.6 billion-year-old Earth and biological evolution are true and consistent with what the Bible teaches. Even Michael Behe, a long-time intelligent design proponent and the author of Darwin’s Black Box (1996), accepts the common descent of all species (including humans) as he describes at length in his latest book, The Edge of Evolution (2007) [IV-1]. Michael Denton, who wrote the oft-quoted book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1986) now accepts common descent, as he explains in his more recent Nature’s Destiny (2002). Common descent means that all life on Earth is related, and every life form can trace its ancestry back to a single progenitor. Scientists agree that this very first life form originated sometime early in the Earth’s history, and they refer to it as the Last Universal Common Ancestor, or LUCA. The genealogical history of all life can be shown as a branching tree of species, and many scientists refer to it as the tree of life. The tree of life in Eden was given by God as a gift to Adam and Eve as something good and not to be feared. We should approach this tree of life in the same way.
How did the very first life forms arise? Did they arise through the natural chemical processes designed by God, or did God invoke a miraculous event, superseding His laws of physics and chemistry, to accomplish this? We may never know. The theory concerning the appearance of the very first life on Earth is abiogenesis, which is not to be confused with evolution. The theory of evolution is only concerned with how those first life forms evolved into what we see today.
Many decades ago, chemists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey were able to create organic molecules by sending an electric current (simulating lightning) through a bottle of water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen, all of which are simple, common chemicals. In one week’s time, within a single flask, there appeared numerous amino acids, including all 20 of the amino acids that make up the proteins used in all life on Earth. It doesn’t matter if they precisely simulated the atmosphere of the early Earth. The point is, it’s easy to find fairly complex molecules arising naturally out of a soup of simple ones. More recently, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have created self-replicating molecules from bits of RNA. This is not the creation of life, and even if it were, it would never prove whether this is how the very first life appeared on Earth. We’ll never know the answer to that question, because individual molecules don’t leave fossil evidence, or any lasting evidence in a historical sense. The origin of the very first life at the molecular level will forever remain a theological and philosophical one, even if we somehow manage to do it ourselves. Does it matter? Not really. I personally believe that it occurred naturally, because the Bible says that God spoke and He caused both the earth and the waters to bring forth living creatures. It doesn’t say that He created life directly. I find this fascinating because the most recent theory of abiogenesis suggests that the very first replicating life forms arose in clays at the boundaries of land and water, not entirely on land or in the ocean. The clay material was a catalyst for that very first replication, but the water was necessary for the reactions to take place. For this reason I have no reason to dismiss abiogenesis out of hand. If God created a universe that was sufficient to bring about all of the different chemical elements, stars and nebulas, supernovas and black holes, and planets with beautifully diverse canyons, oceans, and other wonders starting with nothing but hydrogen and helium and the natural laws of physics, why would He have made it such that He then needed a supernatural miracle to bring about the first strands of RNA encased in proteins and lipids? The Bible describes the creation of life by the earth and the waters in the same way that it describes the creation of the heavenly bodies, and most of us accept that they were not created instantaneously. But understand that abiogenesis is a belief; it is not a well-supported scientific theory like evolution by natural selection. It’s barely past the stage of a hypothesis. There is little evidence to support it one way or the other, and it doesn’t matter one iota to how I receive the true message of Genesis.
Claims are sometimes made that the odds of forming even a simple protein enzyme (say, 300 amino acids in length) by the chance arrangement of atoms are so small that it simply could not have occurred during the lifetime of the universe so far. Anyone with a basic understanding of statistics and biology can show that this is simply not true [IV-2]. As discussed earlier with the “tornado in a junkyard” example, this argument ignores the fact that the formation of a complex molecule isn’t done in just one try. The Earth didn’t just take a single shot at throwing together the requisite number of atoms or amino acids to form a single protein. The soup of single amino acids likely covered most of the Earth’s watery surface, giving perhaps trillions of iterations times some astronomical number of individual search spaces. Once the first replicating molecule is achieved, even once, natural selection can start to work on the results, vastly accelerating the process by which new genetic information is formed. We may never know whether the first molecules needed for life arose naturally or whether God created them whole, but the statistical argument is not going to offer any support for the latter, and it is simply not going to be a useful apologetic tool. Let’s say for a moment that the statistical argument against abiogenesis were accurate; what would it prove? All it would show is that there is a god, or gods, or some supernatural entity affecting our world. This is no better than what any of the pagan tribes surrounding the early Israelites already believed. Does it help our Christian witness in any way?
There have been a tremendous number of new discoveries within just the last twenty years, from the discovery of entire series of transitional fossils, observed instances of new species arising in modern times, and the mapping of the complete human genome to the discovery of multiple predecessors of complex cellular structures. The disciplines of physics, chemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, genomics, paleontology, archaeology, geology, and astronomy agree with startling clarity on the age of the Earth and on the progressive evolution, over four billion years, of life on Earth. All of this led up to a man and woman — Adam and Eve — who were the first to receive from their Creator an immortal soul, and who were the first to enjoy a relationship with Him and walk with Him in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve’s sin represents the fallen and depraved state of humanity for which the only solution is Christ’s atonement.
Many Christians teach that the entire world (or universe) was physically different before Adam’s fall from grace, being perfect in every possible way. They are referring to not only the Garden of Eden, which I find plausible, but to the entire universe. They claim that all imperfections, death and decay occurred only afterward, based entirely upon one short passage: Romans 8:20-22. The claim is that before Adam, there was no suffering or animal death. I suppose that if the universe had only existed for five days prior, this would sound reasonable. However, other verses prior to this one make it abundantly clear that the Apostle Paul is talking about man, not all of creation, when he refers to death beginning with Adam’s sin. An earlier chapter in the Bible, Romans 5:12-20 shows this clearly:
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (NIV)
The entire passage is about sin (death) and redemption. When death is being compared to redemption, what kind of death do you think is being discussed, spiritual death or physical death? Paul is clearly talking about sin and spiritual death — separation from God — which is exactly what Adam and Eve suffered immediately after they sinned. Unfortunately, many Bible teachers get fixated on Romans 8:20-22, which states:
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NIV)
However, when we read these verses in context, it is abundantly clear that these Bible expositors who focus solely on those three verses are missing the message!
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (NIV)
Paul was talking about spiritual death, for us, not physical death for every organism that was part of creation. Timothy Martin and Dr. Jeffrey Vaughn explain this clearly in their book, Beyond Creation Science. While I disagree with some other aspects of theology covered in this book, they give a lucid explanation of why many Christian scholars have misread this critically important section of Paul’s letter to the Romans, believing it to mean that the entire world or even the universe became corrupt after Adam’s sin. The Greek word translated into English as creation is ktisis, which can also mean “creature,” and many times in the New Testament, it refers only to people — not to the entire universe. In Mark 16:15 and Colossians 1:23, we are commanded to preach the gospel to all of creation. Are Jesus and Paul instructing us to preach the gospel to animals, rocks, and trees? No, they are referring solely to mankind. Most importantly, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, kaine ktisis is “a new creation” or “a new creature,” referring to the renewal or regeneration of a person upon submitting to Christ. The suffering that we experience now cannot be compared with the glory that will be revealed after we submit to Christ and become a new creation. Of course all of mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike, decay and groan without Christ! That is what Paul is saying in verses 19-22. He is talking about all of mankind. In verse 23, he then specifically talks about “we who have the first fruits of the Spirit” — we who have already accepted Christ. We groan inwardly, but we also eagerly await Christ’s return! The entirety of Romans chapter 8 is about the subject of redemption. Why would Paul sidetrack us into a discussion of how the universe was created? That is not the true meaning of “creation” as used in this chapter. To emphasize even more strongly that a strictly literal interpretation of these verses will lead us astray from the true message, understand that sin did not actually enter the world through one man, as a strictly literal interpretation of Romans 5:12 would lead you to believe. It was Eve who brought sin into the world, not Adam. Eve was the first human to sin. Therefore, we can understand that the true message is that we all, as mankind (“Adam”), have a sin nature which is the cause of our separation from God.
In light of the true meaning of this chapter, the “corruption of the entire universe” interpretation that is widely accepted in evangelical Christian churches is puzzling. Are we to understand that there was no decay in the universe, whatsoever, before Adam and Eve sinned? There’s no mention in Genesis of God changing every physical law of His creation after that sin event. He did curse the ground and cast them out of the Garden in Genesis 3:17-24, indicating that God wasn’t going to make it easy for them anymore. Adam would have to toil for his food all the days of his life. However, this curse didn’t corrupt the nature of the entire physical universe. Such a belief is dangerously close to Gnosticism, and it is frightening to see so many Christian organizations promoting this view. Twisting Romans 8:20 into a commentary on the physical methods of creation will diminish the impact of Paul’s overall message to the Romans. Physical death of animals, or of any of us, is not mentioned and is completely unimportant. The only physical death that had any significance whatsoever in this entire passage was that of Jesus on the cross! If physical death is the result of God’s punishment for Adam’s sin, then all people (including believers) who have lived and died since Adam’s time have paid the price for their own sin. If physical death is even a part of the penalty for sin, then we are still paying a part of the price. This is in complete opposition to the true message of this passage, and ultimately of the entire Gospel message, which is about Christ paying the full price for our sins and saving us from the consequence of sin. Paul is warning us about spiritual death and the need for us to be right with Christ. Just as Christ lives today, we can live. Do not be misled by anyone who re-purposes the message in Romans to suit a “creation science” agenda. Understanding and accepting evolution does nothing to diminish what the book of Genesis and Paul’s letter to the Romans teach us about the reality of sin, the devil, the fall of man, and our need for redemption.
In support of this understanding of the Bible, we have an overwhelming amount of evidence that animal death occurred before the appearance of man. The world has existed for billions of years and death has always been a crucial part of the ecosystem God’s created. Many organisms simply must die in order that others may live, not just for population dynamics, but because of predator-prey relationships. This is the natural order that God has ordained. How can we ignore the entire animal food chain that we see today? Is this the result of Adam and Eve’s sin? Really? Lions and sharks throughout the world, with teeth perfectly adapted for ripping flesh, were actually vegetarians but suddenly started eating other animals because Adam sinned? Isn’t it more likely that there is currently being promulgated a false understanding of what Paul had to say in Romans 8:20-22 based entirely on the interpretation of a single Greek word? A reading of Romans with ktisis interpreted in the same way we interpret it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Mark 16:15 and Colossians 1:23, along with an understanding that that God did not create the entire universe with the intent to deceive us, will reveal the truth.
The first biological humans lived much longer than 6000 years ago. In addition, from what we now know about population genetics, the population of the human species at the point that it diverged from a prior species was never less than a few thousand individuals. This is true even though we all have certain genes which were inherited from specific individuals who lived tens of thousands of years ago and which spread throughout the population. Did God supernaturally create Adam and Eve’s bodies in addition to their souls? Or did they have biological parents, creatures who were biologically human but did not have everlasting souls? We will probably never know for certain. The special creation of their bodies 6000 years ago and having them be the parents of the entire human race sounds good, but the evidence found by science tells us otherwise [IV-3]. Not only do all humans have a shared ancestry with other animals, but the number of alleles in our genes indicate that the human race could not have originated from a single pair of people only 6000 years ago. The DNA evidence is conclusive. Why do some of us feel comfortable enough, as Christians, to advise our governments to use DNA analysis to sentence people to death, and yet we lose trust in the very same DNA analysis performed using the very same equipment when it reveals results about the recent history of humanity that we find distasteful? This is pride and hypocrisy. God could have planted the evidence, but I don’t believe that God, as the author and creator of DNA, is a deceiver.
We can recognize that Adam and Eve existed as individuals, but that other humans existed as well, and they also gave rise to much of the human population. Many Bible study guides show that the Hebrew word adam is translated elsewhere in the Bible as “man” or “mankind”. Indeed, the similar word adamah is translated as “the earth” or “the ground,” indicating man’s origin. Adam existed as an individual, but we can understand that he also represented his species. Genesis chapter 5 states,
“This is the written account of Adam’s family line.
When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female and blessed them.
And he named them ‘Mankind’ when they were created.”
Genesis 5:1-2 (NIV)
In this verse, the Hebrew word that is translated as Mankind is actually adam! Adam’s sin is what caused the fall of mankind. Christ’s atonement paid for the sins of mankind, for those He chose to save. We will see that the Bible draws more parallels between Adam and Christ.
What about Eve? Of course we know that God could have supernaturally created Eve’s body in the way that is literally described in chapter 2, by physically taking a rib out of Adam’s body and reshaping it. But did He create the stars, Sun, Moon, and Earth in the ways that were literally described, by affixing them to a dome? If He did, then we should use a literal interpretation for Eve as well. However, we are still talking about the creation account, and using the same hermeneutic that we use for similar verses of Scripture, we can understand that this also is a metaphor. Eve was made from the same flesh as Adam, meaning that she was a member of the same species. But she was not made from identical flesh; she does not have identical DNA, which would be the case if her cells were literally lifted out of Adam. She was not a clone of Adam, for if she were, she would have been a man! The Bible clearly identifies Eve as a woman. Remember that Adam was asleep when Eve appeared, and that God brought her to him. The word rib is translated from the Hebrew word tsela, which can also mean side [IV-4]. So another literal interpretation could be that God took a side of Adam. The rib can be understood as a metaphor for Adam and Eve being created as equal parts out of the same flesh or species. We also cannot take Genesis 3:20 to indicate that all humans are descended from Eve. The verse states that Adam called his wife “Eve” because “she was the mother of all living” (KJV) or “she would become the mother of all the living” (NIV). If Adam and Eve were the only humans around at that time, who would have this verse been referring to? Why would Adam phrase it in this way? At that time, they had not had any children. Perhaps this verse is referring to all of their children to follow, because Eve would the mother of all of the Hebrew people and of the line which would lead to Christ. A better interpretation of this Scripture, without any preconceived notions and in light of the verses to follow, shows that this verse is referring to all of humanity. Remember, this verse occurs immediately after a series of verses describing God’s curse or punishment upon them. They were about to be cast out of the garden to live a life of toil and suffering outside, just like the rest of mankind lived. Eve, whose name literally means “life,” would be the adoptive mother of all mankind, and the biological mother of the line that leads to Christ.
Again, we see a parallel with Christ. Jesus, on the cross, told one of His disciples (possibly John): “Behold your mother”. Did Mary literally become the mother of this disciple? Of course not. Jesus is talking about an adoptive relationship, not a biological one. Throughout the Old Testament there are instances where biological lineages are ignored in favor of adoptive ones. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:7-8) We see again with Jesus that the biological relationship is of secondary importance. In the gospel of Matthew, the complete genealogy of Jesus is given from Abraham to Joseph, but Joseph is not Jesus’s biological father. For these reasons, we can understand that there is no Scriptural significance to Eve being the biological mother of all mankind.
In Mark 10:6, Jesus says, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” (KJV) Some modern-day evangelical theologians who dismiss evolution use this verse to defend a literal, instantaneous creation of Adam and Eve at the beginning of the universe. If we use a literal, chronological interpretation of Genesis 1, then this interpretation is in direct contradiction to the very first verse of the Bible. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Mankind wasn’t created until the end of creation! Mankind was created on the sixth day and God rested on the seventh. Given that the verse is obviously not referring to the beginning of the creation of the universe, what is it referring to? The literal text is ambiguous, but a consistent interpretation is that Jesus is talking about the beginning of the creation of mankind: Adam and Eve. God created Adam and Eve, and through what evolutionary process He did this is irrelevant to the teaching in Mark chapter 10. God brought them into the Garden and instituted the first marriage. This is, after all, the entire point of Jesus’ message in the beginning of Mark chapter 10! This is a sermon on marriage. Jesus is talking about the creation of mankind as male and female and their purpose: marriage. He is not, after all, talking about the creation of the universe.
If we ignore the genetic evidence and say that Adam was miraculously created as the first biological human and also that the entire human race has descended from only Adam and Eve, where did Cain’s wife come from? And why would Cain fear being murdered when he left his parents in disgrace? Some will come up with all sorts of explanations which they have no Biblical authority to make, including the permissibility of incest. This is an incredibly hypocritical doctrine for an evangelical Christian community professing to promote family values. If incest were truly God’s intent, wouldn’t He have explained this in the genealogy? Elsewhere in the Bible, God explicitly teaches against incest over twenty times, with the same weight that He teaches against other sexual sins. Even though this was before the Levitical law, this was still after the fall, and Adam and Eve had knowledge of good and evil. For this reason, I don’t accept that Cain had sex with his sister. If Adam and Eve were the progenitors of the entire biological human race, Cain or some of his future siblings would have had to have had sex with each other (or with their parents).
Instead of these doctrinally weak notions, it is more straightforward and consistent with what the Bible teaches elsewhere to say that Adam and Eve were simply the first biological humans to receive a soul and be placed by God in the garden of Eden. Plenty of other humans were already on the Earth, but remained outside of the garden of Eden. Adam was the first man created in the complete image of God — body and soul. The Bible is unclear about this, but I would assume that from that point on, all humans had souls, regardless of who their parents were. One thing that we can be certain of, from the Biblical record, is that the houses of Israel can trace their genealogy back to the person of Adam. From the time of Adam onward, all humans had the potential for everlasting life — a soul; from the time of Christ onward, we all have the opportunity of everlasting life with Him. In the same way that gentiles are now grafted into the family of God through Christ, all people were grafted into the possibility of everlasting life through Adam and Eve. The Bible draws more parallels between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21 (as we have seen) and in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, showing that mankind’s spiritual death began with Adam’s sin, and redemption and everlasting life come only through Christ’s atonement. After the judgment for Adam and Eve’s sin, Genesis chapter 3 tells us they were cast out of the garden and they lived a life of toil outside with the rest of humanity. After Christ’s return, Revelation chapter 20 tells us that the faithful will live with Christ in His earthly kingdom for 1000 years (in a sense, returning to the garden for a time) while those who do not accept Christ will remain outside, awaiting the final judgment.
V. Terminology and Misconceptions
As I hope you will see, there is nothing Godless about evolution. Learning about it from a scientific viewpoint does not lead to atheism, materialism, moral relativism, pluralism, fascism, socialism, racism, Naziism, or many of the other “isms” which some deluded opponents of modern science would like to ascribe to it [V-1][V-2][V-3]. Science does observe the practice of methodological naturalism, and the very first scientists were known as naturalists. Science does not require or promote acceptance of philosophical naturalism or scientism — a very important distinction [V-4][V-5]. Methodological naturalism means that a scientific theory does not invoke the supernatural in order to explain observations. It doesn’t mean that the supernatural does not exist.
Philosophical naturalism is a completely different concept that has nothing to do with science. It is a philosophy or worldview which states that the supernatural never interacts with nature, or does not exist at all. As with any group of people, there are scientists who hold this view and scientists who don’t. A large percentage of scientists hold the Christian faith just like anyone else, miracles and all.
Scientism is a recent pejorative term applied to the practice of methodological naturalism when the results it yields are improperly used to support statements that are outside of the realm of science. Understand that it is the rashly made statements that are incorrect, not the methodology of science itself. The most notable example is using the theory of evolution to prove that God does not exist or that the Bible is untrue. This one is a favorite of “evangelical atheist” Richard Dawkins. There are two problems with this: evolution implies neither claim about God or the Bible, and it isn’t the purpose of science to prove anything. If more people — Christians and atheists alike — understood this, our Christian witness to atheists would be much more effective.
Charles Darwin was never a Christian, and died an agnostic. However, his writing does not have an atheistic bent to them, as some would lead you to believe. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species opens with a quote from Sir Francis Bacon:
“To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.”
The book ends with the following sentence, with the words “by the Creator” added in the second and successive editions:
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Some prominent Christian apologetic organizations today demonize any pursuit of knowledge which doesn’t agree with their interpretation of Scripture. In some cases they are correct in their Scriptural conclusions and in other cases they are not. When they find a discrepancy between what science reveals and what they think the Bible is saying, they automatically paint that branch of science or its practitioners as the enemy and do everything they can to discredit or cast doubt on them. Many of them now distrust or reject science outright, invoking the scientism label for nearly every modern field of science, including geology, biology, archaeology,astronomy, and physics. This extreme position truly is born of fear and ignorance. They are happy to enjoy the fruits of science but fail to see the hypocrisy in their complete rejection of the scientific method by which those fruits were made. You can’t have it both ways and expect to be taken seriously.
A favorite thesis of some detractors of evolution is that Adolf Hitler used Darwin’s theory of natural selection to justify the massive human genocide for which he was responsible [V-6]. The 2004 book From Darwin to Hitler and the 2008 documentary film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed promote this view [V-7]. Both were produced by champions of the Discovery Institute, an organization with which we will become more familiar soon. However, their premise is false, and their creators are fabricating an artful, frightening story to support their anti-evolution and anti-science indoctrination. Dozens of Christian books and Web sites have parroted this falsehood. The truth is that Hitler, evil to the extreme, was a proponent of a form of social darwinism, a morally corrupt political ideology which has nothing to do with the evolution of life on Earth [V-8]. His social darwinism was not Charles Darwin’s idea and it has nothing to do with his theory of natural selection. It is unnatural selection to the extreme. Hitler was himself a creationist who denied biological evolution [V-9]. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was on the Nazi banned books list. Hitler believed that his supposed “master race” was superior because they were created that way, by design. There is nothing in the science of evolutionary biology that lends credence to his twisted ideology. His own autobiography states his position on the subject:
“The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. The only difference that can exist within the species must be in the various degrees of structural strength and active power, in the intelligence, efficiency, endurance, etc., with which the individual specimens are endowed.” [V-10]
“For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against God’s Creation and God’s Will.” [V-11]
In February of 1942, Hitler was quoted as saying, “The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator.” [V-12]
In his “Table Talk” recorded monologues, he states explicitly:
“From where do we get the right to believe, that from the very beginning Man was not what he is today? Looking at Nature tells us, that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments happen. But nowhere inside a kind shows such a development as the breadth of the jump, as Man must supposedly have made, if he has developed from an ape-like state to what he is today.” [V-13][V-14]
Hitler was by no means a Christian! By any measure, he was indeed an anti-Christ. However, it’s clear from his own words that (a) he believed in a creator, and (b) he did not accept evolution by natural selection as the mechanism for the creation of species; he believed that each species, including mankind, was created independently and that mankind has existed in its present form “since the very beginning”.
Deniers of evolution also point to Karl Marx’s fascination with Darwin’s ideas, making no distinction between Darwin’s scientific ideas about life and Marx’s own social darwinism. Marx appropriated and misused the idea of selection, natural or otherwise, to further his own socialist goals. He did this in the same way that Hitler misappropriated some tenets of Christianity. Social darwinism says nothing about the biological evolution of life on Earth. The truth is that modern socialism, for decades, denied the science of genetics that is the foundation of our understanding of biological evolution. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Soviet Union under Stalin and Khruschev denounced all research in Mendelian genetics, favoring Lysenkoism, a flawed approach by the scientist Trofim Lysenko whose methodology was disturbingly similar to the approach used by modern creation science proponents — “the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives” [V-15]. In an attack on Darwin’s theory, Lysenko said: “Such sciences as physics and chemistry have freed themselves from chance. That is why they became exact sciences.” [V-16] The scientific study of genetics was made illegal and geneticists were fired or imprisoned. Lysenko’s refusal to accept Mendelian genetics resulted in the steady decline of Soviet agricultural science while the United States rapidly advanced the efficacy of their crops. Lysenko’s agricultural programs were disasters, resulting in food shortages and millions of deaths in the Soviet Union and in China, where his methods were also used. One prominent geneticist who was critical of Lysenko’s work, Nikolai Vavilov, acquired thousands of seeds in an effort to safeguard the genetic diversity of food crops through the Second World War. He died in prison in 1943. Vavilov was finally honored for his service in the late 1960s, but even as late as 1969, another Soviet scientist Zhores Medvedev was imprisoned for advocating Mendelian genetics and criticizing Lysenkoism [V-17]. There is no credence whatsoever to the assertion that accepting the foundations of modern evolutionary biology (natural selection and genetics) implies an acceptance of socialism. Rather, it is an acceptance of a sound scientific theory which makes no political or ideological statement, although it has been both lauded and denigrated by demagogues who do not understand it.
Some say that a person who believes in God and accepts evolution must be a deist. A deist says that God exists and created the universe but was completely hands-off from that point onward, or is at least impersonal. This is not the Christian faith as described in the Bible. As Christians, we believe that God interacted personally with Adam and Eve, sent His Son to redeem the lost, and He continues to interact with His people today. It is completely inaccurate to conflate an acceptance of the Big Bang, evolution or any other scientific theory with either deism or atheism.
Some writers use the term evolutionism to indicate an atheistic worldview, probably in response to certain atheists such as Richard Dawkins who are constantly haranguing them. That term (along with evolutionist), has stuck, and some people use it in a derogatory way while others don’t. I refuse to use these terms (along with Darwinism and Darwinist) because of the confusion they cause. Darwin’s theory of natural selection was only the beginning of modern evolutionary biology. We don’t refer to the modern theory of electromagnetism as Faradayism, ignoring the refinements by Maxwell, Planck, Einstein, and other scientists that have been made since its inception. Similarly, I rarely use the terms creationism or creationist by themselves. I consider myself a creationist because I believe that God created the universe and everything in it, and I also believe that the Genesis account is completely true although generally misunderstood.
In the parlance of Biblical theology, the view that the Biblical texts are authoritative when applied to modern disciplines of thought is known as concordism. I am a theological concordist because I believe that the written Bible (and the Word or Logos, which is Christ) is, always has been, and always will be authoritative on matters of theology. However, I am not ascientific concordist because I believe, as did Augustine and Calvin, that the Bible is not authoritative on matters of science. We can take this position because we understand that was never its purpose. The term for this viewpoint is accomodationalism, because God accommodated the level of understanding of the ancients when He inspired the writing of the various books of the Bible.
Thanks to some of the organizations which I will discuss below, the term creationism is now almost always used by the popular press to denote someone who denies biological evolution, purportedly in defense of their interpretation of Genesis 1. To avoid confusion, it is best to preface the words creationism or creationist with a more descriptive label.
Some will say that evolution is just a theory. In everyday language, a theory is a hunch. However, scientists use the word theory in a way that is completely different from the use of that word in popular culture. In science, everything starts out by observing a phenomenon or a group of phenomena and recording empirical evidence. A scientist then forms a hypothesis to explain that observation. The scientist makes predictions about behaviors that can be tested. Tests are then conducted. Tests can be experiments, but they don’t have to be. They can be observations of additional evidence, sometimes through a different branch of science, to test if they are consistent with the original hypothesis. If anything doesn’t fit, the hypothesis must be updated or scrapped. The hypothesis is then sent for review by other scientists so that they can also test it. If the hypothesis holds up to scrutiny, usually over the course of several years, it becomes a theory.
An established scientific theory is like the Ronald Reagan adage, “Trust, but verify.” Once a scientific explanation about some observed phenomenon has been is elevated to the level of “theory,” we trust that it is true enough to the point that we feel comfortable teaching it. However, we constantly test and verify all scientific theories, and this is done continuously through the scientific method by scientists all over the world.
If verifiable evidence is found that would invalidate a theory, the theory must be updated or scrapped. This has happened with Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity (see the Epilogue, below). Hundreds of years after Newton published his theory, Albert Einstein came up with refinements. However, these refinements only need to be used in very special cases, when objects are traveling near the speed of light. Newton’s original theory still explains the motion of objects well enough that we can use them for everyday life. The effects of Einstein’s special relativity are so miniscule that we ignore them unless we re describing objects that move exceptionally fast. We trust the theory of gravity, but we’re still verifying it! In May of 2011, NASA released the results returned from a recently launched spacecraft, Gravity Probe B. Einstein’s theory, itself a refinement of Newton’s laws of motion, is still true. If there are yet further refinements that remain to be discovered, they are unlikely to turn all of reality as we know it upside-down; they will likely be edge cases that are almost undetectable.
In a similar way, our modern theory of evolution is a refinement of Charles Darwin’s original theory of evolution by natural selection. The modern theory is called the modern evolutionary synthesis, and incorporates findings from genetics which were not available in Darwin’s time. This modern theory is sometimes called neo-Darwinism, although that term is falling into disrepute. Sometimes, we just call the modern theory evolution, but other times, we need to be more precise to avoid confusion. Dr. Michael Behe, for example, accepts much of the theory of biological evolution, but he disputes the mechanism of variation by genetic mutation; he explains that it is too improbable for certain types of mutations to arise (his idea of irreducible complexity). Behe accepts common descent, and even natural selection for the most part. There will undoubtedly be further refinement in the theory of evolution as it stands today, especially as we make advances in cell biology and genomics. However, it is very unlikely that anything will turn the existing theory upside-down in the way that creation scientists says must happen. That is not to say that real scientists aren’t looking. The theory of evolution is constantly being tested; when this is done through the scientific method, the results are trustworthy. Every time a new fossil is found or a genome is sequenced, there is the opportunity to require a significant update or even falsify the theory. All it would take is one fossil of a modern human or any modern animal to be found in the same rock stratum with a T-rex or the discovery of a huge chunk of operative DNA within humans that has no similarity to anything in another animal. Nothing like this has turned up so far.
In science, nothing ever progresses beyond the stage of a theory. We talk about Newton’s laws of motion, but those are all mathematical equations, not the theory itself. A law is something that can be expressed entirely through a mathematical construct, although it can also be expressed in everyday language. Newton’s laws only describes an approximation of reality, and when the motion of three or more objects are being modeled, we even have to use a numerical approximation of the equations themselves to get any meaningful results. Ironically, Newton was not able to solve his own laws with enough precision to completely explain planetary motion. Even when using precise solutions, Newton’s laws are less accurate than Einstein’s theory of general relativity to explain planetary motion.
Evolution is not a fringe theory, like cold fusion, where the data are new enough and the number of researchers is small enough that it is sometimes difficult to ascertain whether biases, ulterior motives, or simple errors have tainted the results. Evolution is one of the most tested and well-supported theories in all of science and it is upheld by the research performed by scientists of many, many different religious and cultural backgrounds and technical specialties over the past 150 years. Since the time of its inception by Darwin, it has survived numerous occasions where entirely new fields of inquiry could have falsified it, including Mendelian genetics, nuclear physics (for verifying ages of rocks and fossils), developmental biology, molecular biology, and now genomics. Instead, these fields provided some of the strongest supporting evidence yet discovered.
If a theory has been accepted for a lengthy period of time, some will call it a fact. This is what some people mean when they say that evolution, in general, is a fact. However, the precise definition of the word fact within science is a piece of empirical data that is based on direct observation. For example, “The frequency of alleles in the genes of this population of mice has changed over time.” Using that fact, we can also say it is a fact that these mice have evolved. A theory is something that is used to explain facts, but it can also be a fact in a larger sense. Gravity and evolution are both facts.
There is no great controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evolution, or conspiracy about hiding evidence that would invalidate it — if you hear otherwise, it is a falsehood propagated by the creation science and intelligent design (ID) movements, a group of organizations with an agenda based on misguided perceptions, money and politics, and the small handful of scientists that they have in their pocket. The conspiracy doesn’t exist, and the controversy exists solely within their minds and within the public sphere to whom they have marketed their pseudoscience. These organizations and their propaganda are ripe with false teaching, both theologically and scientifically. In some cases they come up with wildly inaccurate theories of their own. In others, their mode of operation is to cast doubt on legitimate scientific theories by formulating strawman arguments that are phrased in such a way as to sound convincing to the layman, buttressing their material by quote-mining and generously drawing from the trough of the argument from incredulity. And now they are taking well-meaning Christian organizations, like Focus on the Family, down with them for their gross misrepresentation of evolutionary theory (see The Truth Project, below).
True scientists are by their very nature skeptical, and they frequently discuss and argue about theories, even well-established ones. This, by itself, is a strong refutation of the accusation that scientists have “faith” in evolution or in other theories. Faith has no part in the scientific method. This is not to say that scientists don’t have faith in God. Scientists may wax eloquently about faith as applied to their lives and even to their profession. Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.” However, when scientists practice science, they are practicing reason, not faith. They are doing their job.
Some will point to lists of scientists with degrees in biology, chemistry, and related fields who do not accept evolutionary theory. Most of these people are associated with the various pseudoscience organizations which I will describe below. These scientists are in a tiny minority when compared to the number of scientists who agree with the theory evolution. Many have only honorary degrees, and almost none of them conduct current research in biology or chemistry or related fields.(Some exceptions, like Stephen Meyer, will be discussed below). And yet, their names and titles are paraded about and they often quote one another in a way that makes them seem like experts in their fields. Francis Collins and Karl Giberson discuss this chicanery in their book, The Language of Science and Faith.
In general, the scientists who dissent from the basics of evolutionary theory are driven by ideological goals, usually based on faith, whether or not it is faith in the God of the Bible. In many cases, they do not hide the fact that they use presuppositional logic when formulating their “theories”; that is, they start by selecting their desired outcome and then seek only evidence that supports that outcome. They readily and openly admit that they sift facts through a filter, discarding any facts that do not fit with a literal interpretation of the Bible because they “simply cannot be true.” Presuppositional logic may be fine for understanding some foundational parts of the gospel message. It is of dubious value when used as an apologetic tool. But it fails miserably and completely as a scientific method. Let’s be clear — this is not science. If you seek answers to questions about the natural world using presuppositional logic, you will open yourself up to any number of incorrect answers. This goes a long way toward explaining why the results disseminated by the various “creation science” and “intelligent design” organizations rarely agree with each other! Which “Bible-based” outcome would you like? You can choose from many different ones, simply by believing the results from the various organizations I will describe below. I say “believe” rather than “accept”, because your reception of these results will be based on faith, not reason, nor trust in the practice of reason. Some evangelical Christian educators lambaste the teaching of evolution and “materialistic” science, claiming that it is an example of a heinous relativism that pervades the American educational system. They are encouraging relativism by using presuppositional logic.
Even extremely intelligent persons who are trained in the scientific method, with degrees from prestigious universities, may fall into the trap of thinking that yielding the scientific method to presuppositional logic is acceptable if done under the guise of Christian education. After all, the end justifies the means, right? Author Michael Hawley, in his book Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight, explains the psychology of this trap. In short, people will believe what they want to believe, and when they let this drive their approach to science, they will construct all sorts of flawed arguments to prove it to themselves. In many cases, they simply let themselves submit to the argument from incredulity. The human mind excels at both of these logical failings. Some will turn this around and say that this is exactly why scientists accept evolution and other theories; they want to “believe” in evolution. They completely miss the point of how and why the modern scientific method has been applied since its inception almost 200 years ago. When the scientific method is practiced using deductive and inductive logic with integrity, the impact of individual beliefs and human failings such as confirmation bias is minimized. When over 99% of scientists from different specialties and a variety of backgrounds (including many evangelical Christians) practice the scientific method with integrity and objective reasoning and come to agreement on a theory, you can trust that the theory is a solid one.
Why do we agree about atomic theory — that atoms are composed of electrons, protons, neutrons, and that protons and neutrons are in turn constructed from quarks? Nobody has ever seen these tiny particles. But we trust that the practice of the scientific method has yielded accurate results because of the sheer weight of the evidence in favor of atomic theory. We don’t have all the answers about atomic theory. Scientists are still debating what quarks are made of. Yet, this doesn’t mean that we toss atomic theory in the trash or consider it a “theory in crisis”. It’s extremely unlikely that any new discovery will turn our current understanding of atoms on end. Does science, as it currently stands, have all the answers about evolutionary biology? Of course not. However, all of the basics — mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, common descent, and natural selection — have withstood the test of over 150 years of research, and the evidence from genetics and developmental biology within the last 20 years has provided exceptionally strong support for evolution that is in agreement with what we have seen in the fossil record. The 2010 NOVA documentary, What Darwin Never Knew, is a very approachable explanation of some of this recent research. Still, there are those who refuse to accept this evidence simply on the basis that their interpretation of the Bible (or something else) says it must not be true.
Creation science, also known as scientific creationism, is a pseudoscience (not a true science) that tries to come up with scientific-sounding arguments to “prove” that certain events occurred in a way that is consistent with a specific interpretation of certain verses in the Bible. It generally never occurs to them that their interpretation might be wrong.
One of the creation science proponents’ favorite tools is the art of quote mining, or taking the words of scientists out of context and twisting them to support their view. In many cases, scientists discuss the minutiae and edge cases of different aspects of evolutionary theory. Creation science proponents will search for such statements from prominent biologists and paleontologists, take them out of context, and use them purposely to falsely indicate that these scientists are saying that the entire theory of evolution is somehow flawed when that was never their intent.
Creation science encompasses young-Earth creationism (YEC) and much of old-Earth creationism (OEC), the latter of which is sometimes known as progressive creationism. Young-Earth creationists say that our planet is six to ten thousand years old and they reach that number by adding up the ages of all of the people mentioned in the Biblical genealogies from Adam onwards, and further stating that the universe is five days older than Adam. They believe that the universe was created in six literal days. Old-Earth creationists say that the Earth and universe are much older, consistent with what cosmology, geology, and physics have to say about that subject. However, most people who refer to themselves as old-Earth creationists still deny biological evolution as having any part in God’s creative plan. Those who see no reason to reject the findings of paleontology, archaeology, developmental biology, molecular biology and evolutionary biology are more appropriately described as accepting theistic evolution. Theistic evolution is discussed further below.
Intelligent design (ID) is just a new name for old-Earth creationism and the specific denial of biological evolution, occasionally with some spiritualism or metaphysics thrown in. Understand that I am in full agreement with the concept of intelligent design insofar as God designed the universe and everything in it for His glory. The problem with this term is that it is now used exclusively by pseudoscientific old-Earth creationist organizations who leave no room for those who accept that God used biological evolution to accomplish the creation of the diversity of life. All intelligent design proponents deny biological evolution by natural selection, although you will find some (such as Michael Behe) who accept the common descent portion of evolutionary theory. Behe even accepts natural selection, but only without the benefit of naturally occurring beneficial mutations on which to operate. The distinction between the intelligent design movement as it stands today and the rest of old-Earth creationism is that the intelligent design movement does not specifically identify the creator as the God of the Bible. If you are going to enter this arena of mixing theology with science, get the science wrong, and in addition you do absolutely nothing to get the theology part of it correct, you are at worst encouraging superstition and paganism, and at best you are reinforcing the belief in any number of false gods or new age, pluralistic interpretations of the Bible. How does the intelligent design movement in any way glorify the true God of the Bible?
Creation science in its various forms, including intelligent design, denote viewpoints that completely deny that God used biological evolution to bring about the diversity of life on Earth. To varying degrees, these viewpoints deny the validity of findings of molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, and nuclear physics.
To describe those who accept an old Earth, and additionally accept that God used biological evolution to create the diversity of life on Earth, we use the terms theistic evolution, evolutionary creationism, or BioLogos. Of these terms, BioLogos is the only one that explicitly asserts the tenets of the Christian faith, and it is the term that I prefer; however, it is not yet in widespread use. Those who hold this viewpoint see no need to argue that the Christian faith is at odds with evolutionary biology, any more than it is at odds with meteorology or physics or any other discipline. They state that it is impossible for the truth of the Bible to be at odds with a truth about God’s creation reached by any other means, for truth is an absolute quality, and God is the author of truth and the creator of everything. They recognize that throughout history, there have been cases where Biblical scholars have had to take a step back and admit that our interpretation or understanding of certain verses of the Bible — but not the Bible itself — has been incorrect.
VI. Young-Earth Creationism
If a real scientist were to find a shred of verifiable evidence that invalidates the theory of evolution or common descent, he or she would be on the lecture circuit for life! Who wouldn’t want to be known for a discovery of that magnitude? There has yet to be found a single substantiated fossil of any human or recent animal species found coexisting in the same rock with any kind of dinosaur. And yet, multi-million dollar creation museums around the country now teach our children that dinosaurs and man and all ancient and modern animals lived together, and some show that Noah loaded dinosaurs onto the ark [VI-1][VI-2].
What about the book of Job? Job 40 and 41 describe Behemoth and Leviathan. Behemoth is a huge, fearsome creature that God says “I made along with you” which “lies under the lotus plants, hidden among the reeds of the marsh” and bears a “tail that sways like a cedar”. It “eats grass like an ox”, yet its mouth is “ringed with fearsome teeth.” Its “bones are tubes of bronze” and “its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together.” From the description so far, this certainly sounds like a combination of several large dinosaurs, apart from the bronze bones. It may describe a heretofore unknown species. And yet, this creature is described as having a navel, something that no dinosaur would have. Dinosaurs laid eggs. If God is describing an actual creature, then it is likely that He is describing to Job some other species as an example of His creative power, perhaps after Job saw some dinosaur bones [VI-3][VI-4][VI-5]. In Jewish folklore, Behemoth is a huge, supernatural ox-like creature, of which God created only two [VI-6][VI-7]. And what of Leviathan? Job 41 says that “its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth”. It “makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron”. What are we to make of this? A creature that breathes fire and is so hot that it boils the water in which it swims? This sounds more like a dragon. If we are to take this literally, then this is certainly a supernatural creature. Isaiah 27:1 identifies Leviathan as the creature which will be destroyed by God at the end time, the embodiment of Satan as depicted in Revelation chapter 20. Revelation chapter 12 shows this serpent as having seven heads, and indeed in Psalm 74, Leviathan is identified as having multiple heads. In Sumerian mythology, the dragon Tiamat is identified as having seven heads. [VI-8] Is every dinosaur fossil an embodiment of the devil, but mysteriously missing its extra heads?
If Noah loading dinosaurs onto the ark wasn’t sensational enough, the prominent young-Earth teaching organization Answers in Genesis and their Ark Encounter museum in northern Kentucky now advertise their newest attraction: fire breathing dragons on the ark. [VI-9][VI-10] Their Web site states: “The fact that man and dragons lived together is hard to deny… Therefore, the dragons recorded down through history must have been descendants of dragons aboard Noah’s Ark… Contrary to popular opinion, the average size was only about that of a sheep. It’s the huge ones, however, that we usually think of.” [VI-11] Answers in Genesis provides much of the “research” referenced by Christian home-school science materials. Whether or not you believe that the Behemoth and Leviathan of Job were supernatural creatures, using them to explain that dinosaurs (or dragons!) actually coexisted with man is a weak argument.
In a survey comparing the United States, 32 European countries, and Japan, the United States was second to last in the general public’s acceptance of evolution. The only country that scored lower was Turkey [VI-12]. As of 1997, a Gallup poll showed that 44% of the US population believed that “God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” More recent polls from 2001, 2005, and and 2007 show this percentage decreasing, but only by a few percentage points. It should be noted that “God used evolution by natural selection” or any other description of theistic evolution has never been presented as an option in any of these polls [VI-13]. Even so, a large portion of the US population believes in young-Earth creationism, where the Earth and the entire universe is less than 10,000 years old, and the frightening thing is that many believe there is a scientific basis for this belief. The nation that once challenged itself, and under God’s providence was able to send its citizens to the Moon and bring them back is now teaching its next generation of teachers, civic leaders, scientists, artists, engineers, physicians, lawyers, and writers that the Flintstones really happened.
How on Earth did we get to this point? The very first geologists were actually Christians seeking evidence of Noah’s flood in the late 1600s. By the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the full depth and stratigraphic (layered) nature of the geologic column became apparent, geologists reluctantly admitted that the Earth was much older than what they had been led to believe. They examined rock strata and the fossils embedded therein and developed an understanding of the slow process of sedimentary deposition. They assessed the size of huge coral reefs and measured the rate at which they grew. By these and other means, it became clear that the Earth was at least hundreds of thousands to millions of years old. In 1912, Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift, the predecessor to our modern understanding of plate tectonics, explaining how Earth’s land masses have formed and changed over extremely long periods of time.
Soon thereafter, a great surge of interest in a young Earth, based upon very literal reading of the first two chapters of Genesis, started with the Seventh Day Adventist leader George McCready Price in his book, The Fundamentals of Geology, published in 1915. Price taught that all geologic features that we see today, like the Grand Canyon, were carved by one singular event during Earth’s history: Noah’s flood. His work, completely devoid of scientific merit, derived directly from the teenage founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Ellen White, who claimed in the mid-1800s to see visions of creation and the Noahic flood, including the supposed fossilization of animals beneath the flood. Price’s teaching, amazingly, was adopted by conservative Protestant churches within the then-nascent Fundamentalist movement in the 1920s, not on its own merits, but as a tool to be used to help counter what they saw as a general erosion of belief in Biblical authority. Many Fundamentalists saw the sciences, particularly evolutionary biology, as a threat to their understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture and sought to undermine science and scientists to prevent any further damage. By castigating anyone who believed differently than they did, they could maintain the reins of a large segment of Protestant Christianity. The twelve-volume The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth contained 90 articles which defined the Fundamentalist beliefs. Three contributing authors (Benjamin B. Warfield, George Frederick Wright, and James Orr) actually did accept evolution as a possibility [VI-14]. The modern author David N. Livingstone discusses the views of these men and others with a similar understanding of science in his 1984 book, Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought. James Orr wrote in one of his articles for The Fundamentals, titled Science and Christian Faith:
“‘Evolution,’ in short, is coming to be recognized as but a new name for ‘creation,’ only that the creative power now works from within, instead of, as in the old conception, in an external, plastic fashion. It is, however, creation none the less.”
However, Orr and the few forward-thinking voices like him were drowned out by a cacophony of detractors. Many of the other articles in The Fundamentals (one of which was written anonymously) explicitly denounced evolution. The Rev. Henry H. Beach wrote, in his article Decadence of Darwinism:
“The teaching of Darwinism, as an approved science, to the children and youth of the schools of the world is the most deplorable feature of the whole wretched propaganda.”
In his article The Doctrinal Value of the First Chapters of Genesis, the Rev. Dyson Hague wrote:
“Man was created, not evolved. That is, he did not come from protoplasmic mud-mass, or sea ooze bathybian, or by descent from fish or frog, or horse, or ape; but at once, direct, full made, did man come forth from God. When you read what some writers, professedly religious, say about man and his bestial origin your shoulders unconsciously droop; your head hangs down; your heart feels sick. Your self-respect has received a blow. When you read Genesis, your shoulders straighten, your chest emerges. You feel proud to be that thing that is called man. Up goes your heart, and up goes your head. The Bible stands openly against the evolutionary development of man, and his gradual ascent through indefinite aeons from the animal.”
An anonymous author, identified only as “AN OCCUPANT OF THE PEW,” wrote in the article Evolutionism in the Pulpit:
“In this way the story of creation as given in Genesis was set aside, and the whole book discredited. As Christ could not by any logical possibility be made a product of evolution without an absolute denial of His supernatural birth and His Divine claims, and the new birth, or creation, for man in Him was open to the same objection, these truths were either obscured, minimized, or totally neglected and even denied.”
Outside of the realm of science, The Fundamentals did teach many worthwhile truths concerning the Christian faith. Understand, however, that these books are not the Bible; they are not the inspired Word of God. They are an interpretation of Scripture by a group of Protestant writers, much as the Catechism is to the Catholics. In addition to the general anti-evolution sentiment made explicit in their foundational articles, the Fundamentalist movement as a whole was eager for any supporting “evidence” of a young Earth as a misguided apologetic tactic to promote Biblical inerrancy. Thus, they were also supportive of the indoctrination of churchgoers into George McReady Price’s teaching, and this was the beginning of mainline Christian denominations trying to use pseudoscience to defend the Bible.
The Fundamentalists strict literalism of Genesis was further popularized within the Christian population at large by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb Jr. in the 1960s with their book, The Genesis Flood. These authors drew their inspiration directly from Price’s work on “flood geology”, explaining that all fossils that we see today were animals that died in the Noahic flood [VI-15][VI-16]. At the same time, the space race with the Soviet Union gave rise to an increased focus on science education in the United States which helped to counter these teachings. Since the 1980s, however, science education in the United States has been on a steady decline, with many teachers themselves being unprepared to teach the the breadth and depth of modern science or mathematics [VI-17][VI-18][VI-19]. The denial of evolution has taken on a life of its own, to the point where otherwise rational people will read the Fundamentalist understanding of science and believe that it is critical to their worldview, irrespective of the hundred years of research and discovery that has happened during that time. Modern Fundamentalists maintain that the Bible, and specifically a literal reading of Genesis, is authoritative on matters of science as well as theology. This is deeply flawed. Genesis was given by God, to Moses, to teach the tribal people of Moses’ time about God’s sovereignty and man’s relationship to Him, not about the nature of the physical world and the process by which we should study it.
Like the creation story, the account of Noah is a subject of many misunderstandings within the Christian community. I believe God’s Word that Noah existed, and that he built and used an ark as God commanded, bringing aboard animals from the surrounding countryside. This was the entire world, as far as Noah was concerned. The flood was not global, and it was not particularly deep; the Hebrew word harim can be translated as either mountains or hills, and the King James Bible uses this translation: And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered (Genesis 7:19). From Noah’s viewpoint, this is exactly what he would have seen. Prior to the rise of Seventh Day Adventist-inspired “flood geology”, a local flood interpretation was not uncommon among Christian scholars. In his Systematic Theology, first published in 1886 and now in its 33rd printing, A. H. Strong wrote,
“Hence Scripture uses the phrases of common life rather than scientific terminology. Thus the language of appearance is probably used in Genesis 7:19 “all the high mountains that were under the whole heaven were covered” such would be the appearance, even if the deluge were local instead of universal; in Joshua 10:12,13 “and the sun stood still” such would be the appearance, even if the sun’s rays were merely refracted so as preternaturally to lengthen the day; in Psalm 93:1 “The world also is established, that it cannot be moved” such is the appearance, even though the earth turns on its axis and moves round the sun.”
The word erets in Genesis 7:19 is translated earth, but in many other places in the Bible, erets is translated “land”, “country”, or “ground”. [VI-20] Even when it is translated as “earth”, we understand that it does not refer to the entire planet. After the flood, “the earth was dried” (Genesis 8:14). Again, the word erets is used. If it referred to the planet Earth, the oceans would have dried up! The Bible uses similar language in Exodus when describing the plague of locusts that Moses brought upon Pharaoh’s people: “Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field” (Exodus 10:4-5). Here, we understand that the word erets does not mean “the entire face of the planet Earth”, but rather “the local region”. In verse 15, God continues, “For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt”. Even though the Bible literally states, “the face of the whole earth”, we understand that what is meant is “this country”. The ancients had no concept of “the planet Earth”. As far as they were concerned, Canaan, Egypt and the surrounding nations were the entire world, and everyone Noah knew from the surrounding countryside was indeed killed. Proponents of a global flood interpretation often use 2 Peter 3, verses 5-6 to support their position: “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” (NIV) But notice that Simon Peter specifically used the phrase, “the world of that time”. To Noah and his family, the world of that time was Mesopotamia.
The Bible also gives the height that the flood waters rose, 15 cubits, which was about 23 feet. This would have been measurable by Noah. Those who hold to a worldwide flood interpretation say that this means depth over the top of the tallest mountain on Earth. If you don’t approach these verses with the preconceived notion that erets here means Earth (as in the entire planet), which interpretation makes more sense? Noah knew nothing about the planet Earth. The ark may have come to rest on one of the foothills of one of the mountain ranges to the North, toward the direction of Mt. Ararat, but not on a mountaintop. All Bible translations use the words “mountains of”, not referring to a single mountain; a location within an entire mountain range is being indicated. The entire area to the north of Mesopotamia is a wall of mountains stretching from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. The highest peak in that range is Mt. Ararat, and that is possibly how the ancients would have identified the entire mountain range.
Archaeological evidence shows that there were several major floods during recorded history. One catastrophic flood occurred in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC, and another occurred between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea around 5500 BC. Depending on where and when he lived, either would have destroyed all of the civilizations that Noah was familiar with [VI-21]. However, there were thriving civilizations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas for millenia before Noah’s time, and the descendants of these people groups were not destroyed [VI-22]. Although the houses of Israel can trace their lineage back to Noah and thus to Adam, it is clear that other human populations existed. But we can go even further back than human civilization with fossil evidence around the globe. For example, we have fossil evidence of marsupials in Australia and nearby regions of the globe for millions of years before Noah’s time. Young-Earthers will say that these fossils were created during the flood, showing a complete misunderstanding (or refusal to understand) both sedimentary deposition and the fossilization process. There has been no evidence so far of marsupial species resembling anything like their modern-day counterparts living anywhere near the Middle East. If the flood were global and it wiped out all animal life, how did kangaroos get from Australia (or nearby regions) to the ark before the flood, and then back to Australia after the flood so that we’d find them there today? The same can be said of many other land animals and plants. I accept that God could have miraculously teleported the wombats, penguins, armadillos, and thousands of other improbable animal pairs back and forth, but there is no mention of God doing this in the Bible. The Bible states that the animals came to Noah. This is a probable miracle in and of itself! However, there is no indication that God did anything other than make these animals walk or fly under their own power, so the clearest interpretation is that the only animals on the ark were those that were local to the area.
Genesis 6, verses 1-4 describe a race of people known as the Nephilim, begotten before the flood. After the flood, they are mentioned again, in Numbers 13, verses 32-33. Were these later Nephilim descended from Noah’s family? If not, why were they not wiped out in the flood, if the flood destroyed all life on Earth?
There are unending problems with a global interpretation. If the flood was global, was it saltwater or freshwater? If it was saltwater, how did all the freshwater fishes from lakes and rivers survive? If it was freshwater, how did all the saltwater fishes survive? How are we supposed to account for the thousands of layers of geological strata and the fossils therein? What of the Tigris (Hiddekel) and Euphrates rivers which are mentioned in Genesis 2? These rivers are no more than 50′ deep at any point. If the flood were large and deep enough to cover the tallest mountains of the Earth (almost 6 miles deep) and powerful enough to carve out features like the Grand Canyon on the other side of the planet within a few weeks’ time, would these shallow Mesopotamian rivers which existed before the flood still be intact today? Young-Earth creationists teach that all of the fossils settled into their present positions during this cataclysmic maelstrom. All over the world, we see fossils arranged in a precise order which could never have occurred in a single, tumultuous event. It is absolutely clear that the flood was local, not global. The geologic evidence throughout the crust of the Earth tells a story of millions of years of sedimentary deposition and geologic change, not a single global event over the course of months. The local flood itself may have been a miracle, created through divine intervention, or God may have used natural processes to bring it about. That, we may never know. The Noahic flood was deep enough to cover the high hills, but it was not worldwide; it was likely restricted to the Tigris-Euphrates valley in what is now modern Iraq or to an area nearby.
Genesis is the truth, but the indoctrination into a global flood interpretation by evangelical churches for nearly the past 100 years has been a powerful lie propagated by an unfortunate cascade of pseudoscientific teaching originating ultimately from a teenage “prophet” during the 1800s. The Genesis description of creation was never intended to be a textbook on Advanced Studies in Universe Construction 310 or on Sedimentary Geology 401. God created the Earth, and He saw that it was good. If our study of the Earth clearly, undeniably reveals that there was no global catastrophic flood, we have to either accept that a worldwide flood interpretation is incorrect, or accept that God created the global floodwaters ex nihilo, buried the entire planet in water, and then later destroyed the water and whisked away all evidence that it ever existed outside of Mesopotamia, meanwhile restoring life to the entirety of the Earth just as it existed before the flood. If He did so, wouldn’t the Bible mention this? God is not a deceiver. It is far more likely that the flood was local, which is in agreement with the geological record; understanding this does nothing to dilute the integrity of the message. God destroyed the sinful civilizations surrounding Noah, Noah passed along this lesson verbally to his descendants, and Moses recorded the entire account as the inspired Word of God.
Answers in Genesis / Creation Ministries International (Ken Ham) and the Institute for Creation Research (Henry Morris) are the two foremost organizations which teach young-Earth creationism. The Institute for Creation Research was founded by the very same Henry Morris whose book The Genesis Flood was based on George McReady Price’s earlier Seventh Day Adventist teachings. These multi-million dollar creation science organizations explicitly teach that our planet is no more than six to ten thousand years old, that man walked peacefully with the dinosaurs (and dragons), and that Noah’s flood was responsible for all of the geological strata over the entire Earth and the fossils that they contain… just like the teenage prophet Ellen White said they did. Well-funded by offerings from churches and individual Christians, these companies have splashy Web sites and sell plenty of literature to our churches and Christian educators describing their science. Another organization, Creation Science Evangelism, has a loyal cult-like nationwide following (freehovind.com, kenthovindblog.com) for its creation science videos and materials, as well as for Dinosaur Adventure Land park, even though its founder, “Dr. Dino” Kent Hovind is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for lying — to the IRS [VI-23]. Do you want to know what kind of science he’d like to teach your children? Research The Hovind Theory [VI-24]. Many of the videos and materials in circulation today are from this organization.
Some young-Earth creationists teach that the universe and everything in it was created with the appearance of age. This idea is known as the omphalos hypothesis or omphalism. The Greek word omphalos means “navel”, and omphalism is a reference to the question of whether or not Adam had one. However, this is a trivialization of the real problem. Who cares if Adam had a navel? What’s at stake is the entirety of what we see and experience as the universe — God’s entire creation. Many young-Earth creationists will accept that rocks appear to be billions of years old, and that distant galaxies appear to be billions of light-years away. We know that starlight left those galaxies billions of years ago, and we are seeing that starlight just now. These YEC’ers, having no way to refute our accurate measurements of the speed of light and the many processes by which we measure stellar distances, teach that God created this starlight, already in transit, only 6000 years ago. Our Milky Way galaxy, an immense spiral of stars and dust, is approximately 100,000 light years across. Our Sun and solar system are situated near one edge. If the appearance of age is true, and the universe is 6000 years old, then all stars which appear to be more than 6000 light years away never existed. Only a small chunk of our galaxy is real; the remainder is an illusion. Those distant galaxies? Or the even the other side of our own galaxy? They don’t exist. That supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud whose starlight is just now reaching us after 168,000 years? It never exploded. That long-extinct volcano, now showing signs of erosion? It never erupted in the first place. Wouldn’t these be deceptions on the grandest scale? I don’t think God would deceive us in this way. Some Christian organizations advance the view that the entire universe was corrupted at the time of Adam’s fall or that it was given over to the devil. The belief that the universe is fundamentally evil or an illusion is a tenet of Gnosticism, and it is alarming to see this being promoted by Christian churches. The Bible clearly states that God reveals the truth, not an illusion, in His creation:
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.”
Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV)
Some may argue that because Jesus turned water into wine, that wine had an appearance of age (it was good!), and therefore it’s ok to believe that God created the Earth with an appearance of age. This is an incredible stretch. Jesus miraculously created the wine with an appearance of age for an instructive purpose. It’s perfectly fine that this wine was not created from real grapes grown in a real vineyard, pressed, and fermented. It was a miracle. The distinction is that there was no evidence that the wine was created from real grapes grown in a real vineyard. All we know is that the wine tasted good. Regarding the age of the Earth, we have a tremendous amount of evidence — evidence that if not true, was planted there, and it could only have been planted there by God. Why create everything in the universe, dated through multiple different scientific methods from astronomy and physics to agree with remarkable precision for the beginning of time to be a strange date 14 billion years in the past? Why imbue the oldest rocks on the surface of the Earth, rocks from the Moon, and meteorites with radioactive isotopes that all show ages of 4 to 4.5 billion years for our own solar system [VI-25][VI-26][VI-27]? Why not just create them fresh? Why stick fossils in them in a precise order that shows us the evolution of life over hundreds of millions of years, verified by radiometric dating — a process that uses absolutely the same nuclear physics that we use to generate electricity every day?
To top it off, why imbue our DNA and our bodies with incontrovertible evidence of common descent with other species, as shown by the shared mutations within the same genes in apes and humans, the fusion of chromosome 2, the selective switching of Hox genes during embryological development and errors that result therein, the path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, the evidence of endogenous retroviruses in the genomes of man and other primates, and other similarities that go far beyond what we would expect if DNA was just a shared “blueprint” used by God [VI-28][VI-29][VI-30]? Did God plant all this evidence to mislead us? I find this difficult to accept about our God who, throughout the Bible, teaches against deception. God created the universe, and He saw that it was good. The author of deception is not God; it is the devil. Deception in any form is not part of God’s character, and deception on such a grand scale is simply unthinkable. If we aren’t learning about God’s character from the Bible, what are we learning? Isn’t that the whole point? What does it say about God, and about us, if we teach others that God planted evidence to deceive us — starlight from stars that never existed, volcanoes that never erupted, and fossilized animals that never actually lived and died — on such a scale as the entire universe? This degree of rationalization, an acceptance that this is ok, speaks volumes about the methods that these multi-million dollar creation science organizations and Christian textbook publishers use to inflict their false teachings on a willing audience hungry for God.
The hypocrisy is especially evident when creation science teachers quote-mine not just scientists, but the very theologians they claim to respect and admire, even editing their words to suit their agenda. Charles Spurgeon, the distinguished Baptist preacher and sermon writer of the 19th century, had no problem with “millions of years” and he acknowledged death before sin. Spurgeon is one of the most quoted Christian scholars on the Answers in Genesis Web site. And yet, when he is quoted by Answers in Genesis in a passage concerning a creation of Earth “millions of years before the time of Adam”, they casually excise the phrase from the quoted text. Only when they are caught do they correct themselves, and their correction is only a footnote. [VI-31][VI-32]
Young-Earthers Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have gone so far as to publish and distribute a “very special” version of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This new copy of the book, published on the 150th anniversary of its first printing, leaves out entire chapters from the original book which present the evidence for evolution, and instead includes an introduction arguing for Hitler’s undeniable connection to Darwin’s work [VI-33][VI-34]. How does bearing false witness demonstrate our Christian faith? Cameron and Comfort produce some worthwhile apologetic materials with the Gospel message. However, to this day, they continue to produce anti-evolution materials which contain painfully incorrect science, and in many cases, they interweave a creation science message with their presentation of the gospel. They endorse the Answers in Genesis science curriculum and actively promote Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, making it clear that young-Earth creationism and flood geology are what a “true Christian” believes. Peeling back the veneer of their splashy Web site, it becomes clear that a dismissal of most of the modern sciences is not a peripheral part of their ministry; it is central to their preaching. Their “Intelligent Design vs. Evolution” video is advertised prominently on the front page of their The Way of the Master Web site. Comfort promotes his 2006 and 2008 books, Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution: Letters to an Atheist and Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups as part of his evangelistic message. Comfort and Cameron have also released countless videos on YouTube that display an embarrassingly shallow understanding of evolution, biology, and science in general. They teach that scientists and the scientific method are the enemies of truth, when they themselves sow deceit and confusion time and again. Some people may come to a saving faith through their materials, but it is likely that many more leave bewildered and confused by their presentation of the gospel.
Ray Comfort, and many others, repeatedly use strawman arguments such as the Piltdown Man hoax from 1912 and quote-mining a biologist who indicates that the single 1973 “Lucy” fossil was a not a human ancestor, and claiming that fossils of Neanderthal man simply “don’t exist” based on a single person’s examination of a single specimen from 1958. They completely ignore the process by which science is really done, and the dozens of hominid transitional fossils that have been found and validated, as well as the high degree of consistency between evidence found in fossils, genomes, and developmental biology concerning macroevolution. They love to quote-mine a statement by biologist Stephen Jay Gould in 1977 that scientists wrestle with the rarity of transitional forms. Here is what Dr. Gould has to say about the subject in his book Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History:
“[T]ransitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved transitions are not common — and should not be, according to our understanding of evolution (see next section) but they are not entirely wanting, as creationists often claim. [He then discusses two examples: therapsid intermediaries between reptiles and mammals, and the half-dozen human species - found as of 1981 - that appear in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more modern features.]
“Faced with these facts of evolution and the philosophical bankruptcy of their own position, creationists rely upon distortion and innuendo to buttress their rhetorical claim. If I sound sharp or bitter, indeed I am — for I have become a major target of these practices.
“I count myself among the evolutionists who argue for a jerky, or episodic, rather than a smoothly gradual, pace of change. In 1972 my colleague Niles Eldredge and I developed the theory of punctuated equilibrium. We argued that two outstanding facts of the fossil record — geologically “sudden” origin of new species and failure to change thereafter (stasis) — reflect the predictions of evolutionary theory, not the imperfections of the fossil record. In most theories, small isolated populations are the source of new species, and the process of speciation takes thousands or tens of thousands of years. This amount of time, so long when measured against our lives, is a geological microsecond . . .
“Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists — whether through design or stupidity, I do not know — as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” [VI-35]
Gould made this statement in 1981, and since that time many other transitional fossils have been discovered for the various branches of the tree of life. A brief Google search or an actual study of scientific books and articles will reveal this simple fact. Whether you agree with what these fossils reveal about man’s evolutionary history or not, it’s incredibly duplicitous to say that such fossils simply don’t exist or that they are all hoaxes. Even the old-earth creationists and the intelligent design movement, as we will shortly see, don’t dispute the existence of numerous transitional fossils and their validity as representing distinct species. Their struggle is explaining why God would create so many distinct species in the past and make them look like evolutionary transitions!
What’s ironic is that Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research and some other creation science proponents now argue for evolution as the way that the thousands of pairs of animals from the ark evolved into the millions of distinct species that we see today [VI-36]. You will see this in the most recent Christian homeschooling materials. For example, the hundreds of thousands of modern beetle species diverged from a single breeding pair of beetles on the ark. They refer to this as an example of microevolution (evolution within species), but in reality they are suggesting macroevolution (the origin of new species, also known as speciation). Apparently, evolution is true, but only when it is convenient for them. I find this to be very hypocritical. These “teachers of the law” claim to adhere to a strict Biblical reading due to their dogmatic (and incorrect) insistence on a literal interpretation of the creation text, but they strain out a gnat only to swallow a camel.
The problem is, macroevolution doesn’t happen that fast. And microevolution can’t account for such a rapid rise in the number of alleles (variants of a gene) within individual species over this time period. There are far too many species now, and these species have far too many alleles in their respective gene pools for them to have evolved in the span of 5000 years from any set of thousands of animal pairs that could have fit on the ark. Furthermore, their explanation for the variety of modern species refutes their own assertion that mechanisms such as the bombardier beetle’s chemical defense mechanism could have evolved naturally. You see, young-Earth creationists also teach that animals’ parasitic, predatory, and defense mechanisms only appeared after Adam and Eve’s sin, as they claim that all animals lived peacefully with one another before this event. If we follow this argument to its conclusion, all animal forms such as the bombardier beetle’s chemical spray must have evolved after the fall, or even after the flood — in either case, a time span of only a few thousand years. This is evolution on a far grander scale than anything taught in a science textbook.
Of course, God could have miraculously created these animals or their genes after the flood. But why? This would be considered creation. Is there any Biblical basis for God miraculously creating new animals or their genetic information after the flood? God rested from his creative work on the seventh day, so to speak, before Noah even existed. Whether they attribute the large variety of post-flood animals and plants to an impossibly quick burst of evolution or to another act of special creation, they are trapped in their own artifice. In reality, what they are teaching is bibliolatry, worshiping some of the words of Genesis rather than the Word who is Jesus.
There is at least one young-Earth creationist who freely admits the evidence for evolution. Todd Wood is a professor at the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College who has authored or co-authored about half of the papers published by the Creation Biology Society. Dr. Wood is a six-day creationist who readily admits that evolution is a very strong scientific theory. However, he chooses to reject it based entirely on his faith in the Bible as being scientifically accurate. He doesn’t claim that the evidence for evolution is lacking or that science is faulty, and he calls out the idolatry of many young-Earth creationists in using a denial of evolution as an apologetic tool [VI-37]. Lest I be accused of quote-mining, I encourage you to check the referenced link and read the entirety of his article. Here is Dr. Wood’s statement:
“Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.
“I say these things not because I’m crazy or because I’ve “converted” to evolution. I say these things because they are true. I’m motivated this morning by reading yet another clueless, well-meaning person pompously declaring that evolution is a failure. People who say that are either unacquainted with the inner workings of science or unacquainted with the evidence for evolution. (Technically, they could also be deluded or lying, but that seems rather uncharitable to say. Oops.)
“Creationist students, listen to me very carefully: There is evidence for evolution, and evolution is an extremely successful scientific theory. That doesn’t make it ultimately true, and it doesn’t mean that there could not possibly be viable alternatives. It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution. I am motivated to understand God’s creation from what I believe to be a biblical, creationist perspective. Evolution itself is not flawed or without evidence. Please don’t be duped into thinking that somehow evolution itself is a failure. Please don’t idolize your own ability to reason. Faith is enough. If God said it, that should settle it. Maybe that’s not enough for your scoffing professor or your non-Christian friends, but it should be enough for you.” [VI-38]
This is a stance which I can respect to some degree because it doesn’t lie about the evidence; yet if carried to its conclusion, it still implies that God Himself is a deceiver. Did God create the universe in six days, a few thousand years ago and plant the avowedly ample evidence for an Earth that is billions of years old and the diversification of life through evolution? Which theological position is more troubling, that creation scientists are deceivers or that God is a deceiver?
VII. Old-Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design
Reasons to Believe (Hugh Ross) is an organization which accepts an old universe and old Earth but denies evolution, favoring the approach called old-Earth creationism or progressive creationism. They produce material to support their apologetic proof of God and the truths of the Bible. Dr. Hugh Ross is an evangelical Christian and an astrophysicist who accepts the Big Bang theory and all of the modern physical sciences including cosmology and geology. However, he denies that biological evolution has occurred. He tours the country giving talks about the wonders of the universe and how improbable it is for any of this to occur by chance. As we discussed in Chapter III, using the anthropic principle to argue for (or against) the existence of our God, the God of the Bible, is a weak argument. While his Christian faith is very evident and his ultimate evangelical goal is laudable, his apologetic tactic is of doubtful value, and I find the very name of his organization discomfiting. Do we need scientific reasons to believe in the God of the Bible? There are enough reasons to believe, reasons which are actually described in the Bible, without having to wedge weak scientific explanations into the picture. Throughout the Bible, God asks us to have faith. Faith is one of the central messages of the Bible, a unifying theme weaved through the Old and New Testaments. Does God ever ask us to prove His existence through science? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.” In cases where God affirms a need to do so, He does just fine proving His own authority through the use of miracles. I don’t see a need for humans to try and help in this regard.
All old-Earth creationists generally accept the Big Bang and modern cosmology. They accept that the universe began about 14 billion years ago in a single event, that hydrogen and helium formed shortly thereafter, and that all of the other elements were subsequently created over billions of years inside stars. The Big Bang theory is completely in line with what the Bible teaches about creation: that the universe had a beginning. Prior to the Big Bang theory, this simple fact was not in widespread acceptance. Old-Earth creationists also accept radiometric dating methods and the age of fossils, along with other geologic evidence that thousands or millions of species lived at different times, over the course of 3.5 billion years, the probable age of life on Earth. However, many old-Earth creationists still have a problem with biological evolution. Because we don’t have a well-preserved and complete example of every single transitional species that has ever existed, they claim that all individual species were created separately, and that one never evolved from another. Let’s examine this belief. Are we to understand that, over the course of billions of years, when nobody was around to see, animals miraculously started popping into existence, with individual animals or entire species living out their existence, and then dying? And that this happened millions of individual times over the past 3.5 billion years? Why would God bother to individually create these ancient creatures, including everything from bacteria to plants to dinosaurs? Furthermore, why arrange them all in progressions and in geographical distributions which make it seem like they evolved? It’s certainly possible, and it may have sounded plausible even in Darwin’s era, but we now have the genetic evidence as well. The results are clear: all life forms on Earth are related, and from developmental biology we see that they are related in the way that the fossils indicate. Meanwhile, we are still finding more fossils to fill in the gaps. We now have a wealth of transitional fossils for many different branches in the tree of life, including a fairly complete lineage showing the evolution of all cetaceans (whales) from four-legged creatures which lived on land [VII-1]. As author Donald Prothero painstakingly details in his book, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, paleontologists have found numerous series of transitional fossils clearly showing evolutionary change for hominids, horses and other mammals, birds, fishes, and invertebrates, many discovered within just the past 20 years. Furthermore, genomic evidence supports the fossil record; cetacean DNA is closer to the DNA of the hippo than that of any other animal. How do old-earth creationists deal with this evidence? Apparently, “all these ‘transitional forms’ for whales show up in the fossil record because God likes whales.” [VII-2] Dr. Ross’s argument against whale evolution hinges on his idea that whales have the lowest probability of evolutionary change due to their small population, sensitivity to environmental stress, low number of progeny, and other factors. Apart from small population sizes and long generation times, every fact he states actually supports rapid evolution. The other factors raise the selective pressure, not lower it. And whale populations were large, numbering in the tens of millions, before the twentieth century.
Progressive creationists offer no testable theory of their own, but rely solely on the God of the gaps argument [VII-3]. The entire premise of their movement is, “If there are gaps in our scientific explanations for an observation which seem to conflict with our understanding of the Bible, we must attribute those gaps to miracles of God.” The problem with this premise is that the gaps are growing smaller with every passing year. If Galileo and his peers and all who followed them had subscribed to this worldview, we would today be happily content with our understanding that the Sun goes around the Earth.
The Discovery Institute / Center for Science and Culture (Bruce Chapman, Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, Richard Weikart and others) leads the intelligent design (ID) movement, a political movement that espouses old-Earth creationism and which provides much of the source material for The Truth Project (see below). However, ID distinguishes itself from other categories of creation science by not explicitly stating that the God of the Bible did the creating, and they do not use the word creationism at all. They allege that it could have been space aliens or some other power that created life on Earth, so as not to give their theories a religious bent, as a strategy to get their viewpoint taught in our public schools. Instead of one God, it could have been a group of gods which created life on Earth. How, exactly, does this glorify God? And how is this helpful to our Christian witness? It clearly doesn’t, and isn’t, because it casts Christians as deceitful and hypocritical, as evidenced in the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District trial (see below).
As Kenneth Miller explains so clearly in the final two chapters of his book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, the Discovery Institute’s long-term goal is not just to eliminate the teaching of biological evolution, but to change the entire process whereby all science is done, and has been done, since the 1600s. This goal and the process for achieving it are described in the Discovery Institute’s own “Wedge” strategy document. Whenever there is a perceived difference between their understanding of theology (Biblical or otherwise) and what science reveals, the process of science must simply stop, explore no further, and say “God did it.” Rather than rely on rigorous processes for determining how the natural world operates, they want the scientific method to fall to the wayside and impose presuppositional logic and relative interpretations of all naturally derived data, relying on opinion over facts and reason. Yet we know that most scientific discoveries — from atomic theory to electromagnetism and light, to molecular biology, to nuclear physics, to the modern theory of gravity — could never have been made with this approach. We enjoy the fruits of these sciences every day. This relativism smacks of hypocrisy from an organization that claims that an acceptance of evolution leads to relativism.
I agree completely that the richness of life, the complexity of our DNA, and the universe at large attest to the majesty of our God who created it all. However, true scientific inquiry has shown that God achieved this through the natural processes which He set up at the beginning of the universe. The intelligent design “theory” is that God used supernatural intervention, over the course of billions of years, to create novel little strips of DNA (or some say, the entire living being) every single time that a new species or new bodily form or process appeared. However, the immense amount of genomic evidence now available to us points to the fact that this is simply not the case. In the book, Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins, The Discovery Institute’s Phillip Johnson concedes that evolution may occur at stages up to the phylum level (for example, all vertebrates, including fishes, reptiles, and mammals, including man, are part of the same sub-phylum vertebrata.) However, Johnson “does not attempt to argue the question now, because certain crucial work in progress that bears on common ancestry has yet to be published.” [VII-4]. Mr. Johnson is a lawyer, not a scientist. As I don’t wish to misrepresent his position, I will state clearly that he denies the common descent of all life. But he cannot point to any specific weakness in evolutionary theory for explaining the common descent of genera (groups of species) and several higher taxa. Why stop there? If he’s open to evolution at the class, order, family, genus and species levels, is there some point in making an argument that we aren’t related to jellyfish? Since the time of Johnson’s statement, the difficulty of explaining evolution at the phylum level has collapsed due to the sequencing of Hox genes, comparative genomics and other recent advances in evolutionary developmental biology. His “crucial work” has arrived. The intelligent design proponents’ pseudoscientific and false mathematical arguments fail, time and time again. Intelligent design is not credible as a science. Paul Nelson, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, wrote in 2004:
“Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a fully-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ — but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.” [VII-5]
Intelligent design fails as a science. How strong is their support for the Christian faith? Jonathan Wells is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and has authored such books as Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Wells was a leader within Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church and credits their teachings as inspiration to devote his life to “destroy Darwinism”. Wells was on the board of trustees of the Unification Theological Seminary as late as 1997, after joining the Discovery Institute [VII-6][VII-7][VII-8][VII-9][VII-10][VII-11]. Is this who we are to trust for sound Biblical interpretation?
The intelligent design proponents and other old-Earth creationists are generally derided by those in the young-Earth creation science camp to the point of having their own faith called into question. Much of the propaganda distributed by Answers in Genesis and similar companies is geared toward disputing the validity of scriptural interpretation from the Discovery Institute and Reasons to Believe and vice versa [VII-12]. Hugh Ross strongly refutes the idea of a global flood, much to the chagrin of young-Earth creationists [VII-13]. The YEC organizations have even been suing each other for unethical conduct [VII-14][VII-15]. Each of these evangelical Christian organizations thinks they have the correct Biblical understanding of the world, and yet they come up with wildly different answers.
VIII. Absolute Truth
Does real science glorify God? When practiced with integrity by Christians, yes! We are studying God’s creation. When we attribute to God the wonders of the universe, the Earth, and life which are discovered using a methodology that does not espouse deceit, we are bringing glory to God.
The aforementioned organizations are not studying Scripture with due diligence and integrity with the goal of discerning the absolute truth. Unless God is dictating His thoughts to you, you can’t study the Word in a vacuum and expect everyone to understand every single verse the same way. This much, everyone will agree, for if it were not the case, there wouldn’t be thousands of Christian denominations. However, we know that the Word contains absolute truths; we cannot say that multiple conflicting interpretations are all correct. How do we reach these truths? We must be open to however the Holy Spirit guides us and teaches us. Thankfully, the core message of the Bible, the gospel itself, is clear, and it can be summed up in one verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
For some of the peripheral messages of the Bible, the presentation is not quite so clear as John 3:16, and we need to have some understanding of the language and style used by the inspired Biblical authors, of the human condition and of human history. Most would agree with this also. However, in cases where Biblical explanations seem to be at odds with what we find to be true about the natural world, we know that they must not conflict. God is the author of Truth. If we are to arrive at an understanding of how these explanations do not conflict, we must also have an understanding of God’s creation. In some cases, we may need to update some preconceived notions. We ve already had to do this with the structure of the solar system. Unlike real science, which is self-correcting and refines its theories by incorporating new information, these pseudoscientific organizations have already made up their mind about evolution. Their science is bad and their Biblical exegesis is flawed, but their marketing is brilliant. Are they knowingly taking liberties with both science and Biblical scholarship because their political ends justify their means? Or have they deluded themselves so deeply that they don’t even realize how far they are from the truth? I am sure that in each of these organizations, there is some mixture of both, and for their sake I hope it’s weighted heavily toward the self-delusion end of the scale. No matter, the end result is the same — they are teaching a false interpretation of Scripture.
One test of a scientific model is how well it can be applied. By one count, forty-seven of the past fifty Nobel prizes in medicine or physiology were awarded for medical discoveries or accomplishments which depend on the use of evolutionary biology [VIII-1]. Energy companies base billions of dollars of exploration using the same geological sciences that are used by researchers to date fossils. After all, oil, oil shale, and coal are all fossils! Whose geology do they use? The creation science version of geology put forth by Ken Ham and the ICR, in which thousands of layers of rock strata were laid down over the entire surface of the planet in 40 days by the Noahic flood [VIII-2]? Or the geology that has been tested and refined by the other 99.95% of scientists? And yes, real scientists occasionally make mistakes — they’re human. These mistakes get corrected by themselves or other scientists via the peer review process [VIII-3]. As with any profession, you’ll also find the occasional charlatans, and they get exposed. That’s how science is done. Evolutionary biology, together with all of its related scientific fields, have probably been researched more than any other area, and the supporting evidence for evolution grows stronger with each passing year.
Even now, scientists are hotly debating the discovery, by a NASA biologist, of new microbes in Mono Lake that may use arsenic in their DNA in place of phosphorous. It’s an interesting hypothesis, and the results are still being investigated. If you think real biologists and geologists give “creation scientists” a hard time, look at how closely they’re examining the work Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon [VIII-4]. They’re all working to find the truth.
Tens of millions of dollars are now spent on creation science and intelligent design textbooks and homeschooling materials, and perhaps even more on lobbying. Organizations such as the ICR are churning out pseudoscientific non-peer-reviewed journals and sponsoring research such as RATE [VIII-5]. Many well-meaning Christians unquestioningly accept their research results, as expressed in their children’s homeschooling science textbooks and other materials. I own one of these recent textbooks, The Young Earth [VIII-6], whose chapter on radioisotope dating is largely based on the RATE results. It spends pages detailing how new Carbon-14 dating tests performed by RATE scientists divulge an age of tens of thousands of years for rock formations in various locations across the United States which scientists had previously dated to be tens or hundreds of millions of years old. Any real geologist or physicist will tell you that C-14 is never used to date rocks from those epochs, because C-14 has a relatively short half-life and the process for performing this dating is known to be inaccurate for such long periods of time. An elementary understanding of the physics behind radioisotope dating will reveal why this is the case. C-14 will have a large margin of error when found in samples where the percentage of remaining C-14 is very small, meaning that the sample is too old to produce accurate results using C-14. However, other isotopes will produce highly reproducible results on those same rocks. With an understanding of the physics behind radioisotopic decay, the true age range of a sample can be found. With this knowledge in hand, C-14 is used only to date recent artifacts, those already known to be no more than 60,000 years old, and usually those of biological origin; for those it is very accurate. Isotopes with much longer half-lives (Ar-Ar, I-Xe, and others), are used for dating rocks. Contrary to what creation science textbooks teach, it is not necessary to know the initial concentration of an isotope to use isochron dating. By using multiple dating methods for any given specimen, an accurate age range can be determined [VIII-7][VIII-8][VIII-9].
After receiving their pseudoscientific textbooks and pamphlets, many Christian parents and educators then demand more such materials to bolster their apologetics and to and to give ammunition to their political efforts to subdue the teaching of modern biology, geology, or astronomy in public school classrooms as well, and return us to the fifteenth century. Do we really need to hire organizations to try to prove God, and do it in a way that makes a mockery of true scientific disciplines? Whatever happened to faith? It’s now about the money and about the desire for our elected representatives to support their well-meaning constituents. The intelligent design movement is a disaster for our country [VIII-10]. True science is not a popularity contest. Science is not a belief system or a religion. You will notice that nobody in the scientific press asks their readers to believe in science, the Big Bang, evolution, or anything else. A scientific theory is something you accept or you don’t, based entirely on your acceptance of how well the scientific method has been applied to measured observations and how well those observations support the theory in question. Facts are not subject to popular vote or opinion. The scientific method is a rigorous process for determining how the the natural world operates. If you do not believe that this rigorous process has been applied fairly in terms of evolution, I would ask that you please check the references at the end of this text. Many of them are by evangelical Christian authors.
IX. Teach the Controversy?
So what if creation science doesn’t follow the scientific method? Why not teach both? Teach the controversy, as they say? Proponents of creation science and intelligent design insist that schools and colleges should introduce these ideas into their curriculum under the guise of “critical thinking”. Real science is critical thinking. The entire basis for the scientific method is critical thinking — questioning assumptions and testing assertions. Creation science and intelligent design are not critical thinking. They are based on faith. They presume a truth from the beginning and refuse to question it. If the truth is “Jesus provides the redemption from mankind’s sinful nature,” I can agree with them. There are other truths revealed in the Bible on which I am sure we can also agree.
However, if their so-called truths also include “the Earth is 6000 years old” or “All of the stars and galaxies were created in a literal 24-hour day” or “God did not use biological evolution to achieve the diversity of life on Earth,” I have a problem with this being taught under the guise of “critical thinking.” In each case they have presumed an incorrect truth and then try to apply scientific principles to back it up. This is not science by any definition of the word. By applying the scientific method and using logic and evidence-based reasoning, we know with a great degree of certainty that the Earth is billions of years old, that stars and galaxies form over millions of years via the gravitational interaction of gas and dust, and that humans and other life forms on Earth share a common ancestry that goes back hundreds of millions of years. Creation scientists and ID proponents accuse scientists of making assumptions as well. What they fail to state is that these assumptions are based upon prior demonstrated theories such as the theories of gravity, molecular physics and nuclear physics. There is a long chain of supporting evidence that in the end, rests entirely on basic facts, logic, and mathematics. Scientists will always debate the minutiae of any theory. However, there are no assumptions in the core concepts of the modern theories of star formation and biological evolution that aren’t backed by a strong chain of evidence-based reasoning. Creation science proponents wish to remove reason and objective logic (both deductive and inductive) as cornerstones of the scientific method and replace them with a “solid” foundation of opinion-based Biblical interpretation and presuppositional logic. Intelligent design proponents have a similar goal but they don’t even agree among themselves on basic theologic concepts. In situations where the opinions vary wildly, presuppositional logic will yield wildly differing answers. Both the creation science and intelligent design camps are advocating relativism over absolute truth when it comes to determining how the natural world operates.
There is already a tremendous amount of confusion among the general US population as to what constitutes a true scientific field. If proponents of this idea get their wish and politically maneuver our schools into teaching creation science or ID along with real science, what’s to stop other religious organizations from using that as a political precedent to teach their own science as a vehicle for their own philosophies? Are you ready for Hindu metaphysics? The New Age research of David Wilcock and Rhonda Byrne are gaining tremendous popularity. How about equal time for Buddhist metaphysical concepts of life and rebirth? Why not Dianetics and Scientology, along with their creation story? Scientologists are motivated and very well-funded, and they would jump at the opportunity to get into our schools. Gnosticism is on the rise. Gnostics teach that the universe was created by a lesser deity, or demiurge. Their teaching is fully supported by intelligent design “theory.” So is the Gaia “Earth Goddess” hypothesis, which states that the entire biosphere of our planet is an intelligent, hive-like mind. By teaching creation science, we open the door to even more dangerous pseudoscientific philosophies from other organizations wanting to edumacate our next generation.
We will not accomplish anything productive for our Christian witness by ‘teaching both sides’. Many Christian teachers will go into their science classroom, public or private, with the best of intentions. They see the students as their mission field, and want to witness to them about the Bible and the gospel message. This is wonderful. However, their next step will be to look for church-approved resources and materials to support what they want to teach. Without fail, these resources will come from Christian textbook publishers who use the creation science organizations mentioned above as their sources. They are producing bad science, along with bad Christian theology. These are organizations that aren’t particularly good at either. Should we also teach astrology along with astronomy? Alchemy along with chemistry? Phrenology along with neurology? Homeopathy along with medicine? There are many other alternative sciences which are not science. No, in science class we should teach science — real science — with integrity, and not let a poor substitute weaken our children’s education and water down the efficacy of our Christian witness. I would love it if public schools taught about our Christian faith and the gospel message — even as an elective course. But creation science and intelligent design are bad fruit, and they do not belong in any science classroom, public or private, Christian or otherwise. If anything, they could be covered in a history or philosophy class as an example of medieval church doctrine gone terribly wrong.
Why be so critical of these organizations? After all, they’re Christian, their focus is squarely on the Bible, they’re getting people to talk about God, and in many cases their hearts are in the right place. The problem is that they are driving young people away from the faith in droves. These organizations actively promote a false dichotomy. Either accept their pseudoscientific interpretation of Genesis as correct, or accept modern science. Their message is: if you reject their teachings, you are rejecting God. Belief in creation science and the denouncement of real scientific discoveries are occasionally even presented as a belief that is core to the Christian faith and elevated to the level of the Gospel message and the Trinity. Usually starting around junior high school, and continuing into their college years, most students learn about the massive amount of evidence supporting an old Earth and evolution from all branches of science. In some Christian school settings, this evidence is ignored, downplayed, or put into doubt, but many enterprising students figure it out on their own.
And this is where the false dichotomy rears its ugly head. Once they find through other means that what science teaches us about the “how” of creation is true and that creation “science” is false, and even hypocritical, they call into question everything else in the Bible that was taught to them by the same teachers who promoted creation science. Even when creation science isn’t presented as a cornerstone of the Christian faith, students still see it as a significant element of theology that their Bible teachers — or worse, the Bible itself — got wrong. These students then take a lukewarm approach to the Gospel message, the call for repentance and the goal of leading a Christ-like life. After all, if the Bible was wrong, in the manner that they were taught, about how the world was created, they’ll say it’s probably also wrong about other things. They’ll treat it as a good book , not understanding that it was the presentation of the Word that was incorrect, not the Word itself. This phenomenon doesn’t just occur with students. Many adults have spent their entire lives believing this false dichotomy — literal interpretation, or science, no other choices. Creation science is now so politicized and so prevalent a topic in our schools and our media that it is one of the principal ways in which unreached students are made aware of Christian beliefs. If they are not believers to begin with, it will keep many of them from ever taking the Christian faith seriously. If they are believers and creation science was used as a tool to buttress their faith, once they learn the truth about the age of the Earth and related subjects in science, that faith either erodes slowly or doesn’t mature [IX-1][IX-2]. This story is repeated perhaps millions of times across the United States and the world.
Some creation science proponents will point to the thousands of people who come to a saving faith through ministries like Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master, through individual one-on-one Christian apologetics which, in some cases, use creation science as part of their argument. Many will indeed come to a saving faith, regardless of whether they believe in creation science, because their personal faith in Christ doesn’t actually rest on the creation science part of the argument. But many others will risk having that faith crumble if their faith was fortified largely by these weak arguments and they later discover the truth. But these aren’t even the worst casualties. What of the millions of people who never give the Bible a chance in the first place simply because they associate the gospel message, as a whole, with false scientific teachings? This is the saddest state of affairs for our evangelical communities and it is ultimately the reason why I am writing on this topic. Why do we needlessly place stumbling blocks in unreached people’s path to Christ? How can we be effective at reaching young people in our Christian teaching and in our ministries on pressing issues like the sanctity of life and sexual purity, and ultimately about the Gospel itself, when the world rejects the validity of the pseudoscientific balderdash that is coming out of the other side of our mouths, and rightfully so? Furthermore, is this how we are teaching our own children to defend their faith when they witness to unbelievers and are challenged by them? Creation science ministries are the blind leading the blind down into a hole, sometimes never to return.
Very rarely did Jesus express anger in the Bible. Jesus demonstrated His anger for those who turned the Temple into a money-making opportunity for their own businesses. And Jesus’ harshest recorded words were for the Pharisees, those who politicized their religion for their own glory rather than God’s and who made the written Scriptures their idol. Not all members of the Pharisee sect were bad. But let’s be very clear: many of the Pharisees worshiped the writings rather than the God who inspired those writings, elevating the veneration of the letter of the Law above all else. They studied and memorized the words, holding to a letter-by-letter idolization of Scripture. And yet, when the Word Himself was standing plainly before them, they failed to recognize Him! For all their studying of the words, they failed to know God, because they didn’t discern the true meaning of what they had been studying. They took their love of the literal Scriptural text to their graves. In Matthew 23, Jesus calls them, variously: snakes, brood of vipers, white washed tombs, self-righteous, hypocrites, blind guides, sons of hell. In verse 13, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (NIV) Unlike the Pharisees that Jesus is describing, I am sure that many of today’s creation science proponents are brothers and sisters in Christ, that they know Him as our Lord and Savior. We all share a love God’s Word and keep it in our hearts. However, their bibliolatry, their infatuation with a flawed understanding of some portions of Scripture, is a stumbling block that they have placed before many others who would otherwise come to know Christ.
I don’t agree with the argument that because prominent atheist writers such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett try to use evolution as a tool to construct an argument disproving God, we should not teach about evolution. The entire reason atheists do this is because creation scientists push their view so strongly. There are a number of science blog sites on the Web where you will find articles about new discoveries in astronomy or biology as well as articles debunking claims by creation scientists shared on their own Web sites. As with anywhere, you will find a number of atheists posting on sites like this. You will find the occasional “evangelical” atheist, but most of them have no reason to say anything negative about our Christian faith unless they are affronted with falsehoods in the name of Christ. The harder the creation science proponents fight for their well-intentioned, but false scientific claims, the harder these individuals will push back — for the truth. Wouldn’t it be more fruitful to have Christian organizations reach these atheists by sharing the truths of our faith rather than pseudoscience? If our evangelical Christian communities didn’t teach the false dichotomy, atheists wouldn’t have a leg to stand on… and perhaps they would lend an ear to what the Bible really has to say. Accepting what science teaches us about the age of the Earth and the way species formed is not, by any means, watering down the Bible. It is not a slippery slope. It is the truth. I believe that the Bible teaches absolute truths. There is no such thing as a relative truth. What’s true for one person is true for everyone. So when we teach the Bible, especially in areas where the interpretation is key to its understanding, we had better do our utmost to get those truths correct.
X. Expelled and The Truth Project
If your church is teaching you that evolution is evil, with flashy resources to back it up, check their sources, or their sources’ sources. If you dig deep enough, you will most likely find Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, Creation Science Evangelism, or the Discovery Institute behind it. Take, for example, Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project — an indoctrination into falsehoods by a well-meaning organization, consisting of a set of DVDs and supporting materials that are marketed and sold to evangelical churches [X-1][X-2][X-3][X-4][X-5]. Their scientific references lead directly to the Discovery Institute. I find it interesting that Lesson 5 of the Truth Project references the work of Dr. Michael Behe at Lehigh University. Behe, who is affiliated with the Discovery Institute, discusses the concept of irreducible complexity of cellular structures such as the bacterial flagellum. Yet The Truth Project lesson doesn’t bother to mention that Behe accepts common descent and the evolution of life from microbes to man over billions of years. Behe even accepts natural selection as the means by which nature prunes the evolutionary tree. He simply doesn’t accept that mutations can cause enough genetic variation to explain the variety of features that we see in cells today. It’s ironic that the Discovery Institute and the Truth Project cite Behe’s work as a refutation of “Darwinism,” when in fact he says nothing that contradicts Charles Darwin’s theory of common descent and evolution by natural selection. Darwin himself had no explanation for the cause of genetic variation, since the field of genetics had barely begun. Darwin simply stated that some mechanism exists for creating variation, without identifying genetic mutation as the cause. We now know that there are many different ways that genetic mutations can arise and increase the complexity of the genetic code, such as point mutations, gene duplications, deletions, chromosomal inversions, frameshift mutations, repeat expansions, horizontal gene transfer, endogenous retroviruses, translocations, and others. New information is added to the genome by means of duplications and subsequent divergence in function. In plants, an entire genome duplication can create a new species in a single generation.
I’m amazed that people can come out of The Truth Project, point to Behe’s work, and think it offers any support for interpreting the Genesis creation account literally. In fact, this can be said of many intelligent design materials being distributed in schools and churches today. Similarly, Michael Denton, another often-quoted scientist among anti-evolutionists, has also recanted much of his original anti-evolutionary stance and now accepts the common descent of life on Earth. Like Behe, he has retreated to the fine-tuning of the laws of the universe as “proof” that an intelligent agent must be intervening in order to cause the appearance and diversification of life on Earth. And yet, Denton is still referenced in several articles on the Answers in Genesis site in support of their young-Earth doctrine. At least they acknowledge that Denton isn’t a Christian; he is a self-proclaimed agnostic who makes no claim that the Creator God of the Bible is the agent who is currently guiding the evolution for life. The actual supporting materials authored by Behe and Denton, if anyone bothered to check them, argue for an old Earth and in many cases accept common descent, yet they are wrapped up in surrounding Christian materials that imply that they support some literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account. In every case, someone had to put these materials together. How does this deceptive practice glorify God?
The remainder of The Truth Project’s Lesson 5 then proceeds to quote-mine Charles Darwin along with paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, taking words out of context to support their view [X-6][X-7]. They also cite the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a refutation of biological evolution. A fifth grader could research this on the Internet and disprove this fallacy in seconds [X-8]. How can one argue about the implausibility of an increase in physical complexity arising over billions of years, when it happens to each and every one of us over the course of nine months? Babies, the formations of crystals, and hurricanes refute this easily, and we observe them in everyday life. The irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum has also been shown to be false [X-9][X-10][X-11][X-12]. The fault here lies with the Truth Project as much as much as it does the ID researchers themselves. If you are looking for good apologetics, leave the Truth Project behind, shake the dust off your feet, and read the (nonfiction) writings of C.S. Lewis.
I m sure there are many honest, but misguided, Christians in the creation science and ID movements. However, the tactics used by the leadership of these organizations are deceptive and hypocritical [X-13][X-14][X-15][X-16][X-17][X-18][X-19][X-20][X-21][X-22][X-23][X-24].
If you want more background on the practices used by the ID movement, watch Ben Stein’s deceitful propaganda film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Could it be true? Were these ID scientists really being victimized as portrayed by the movie? Or are they simply conducting bad science and being exposed to the same critical inquiry that all scientists are? Read the National Center for Science Education’s Web site, “Expelled Exposed” or the Wikipedia entry for this film (especially the section titled, “Charles Darwin Quotation Issue”) and then decide whether Ben Stein is anyone to be trusted [X-25]. To prop up his claim that the theory of evolution inspired Nazism, Ben Stein attributes the following statement to Charles Darwin’s book The Descent of Man:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
As stated, this would be a monstrous indictment, making the claim that Darwin is proposing that there is something wrong with a society that preserves its weakest members. The original source, however, reveals that Stein has edited the text past recognition. The original and subsequent paragraphs in Darwin’s book convey the opposite tone and meaning, expressing reverence for the civilized man who cares for the needy, even at great cost:
“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
“The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.” [X-26]
Although the movie is horribly duplicitous, the original fault lies with the Discovery Institute and similar organizations for hiring scientists and placing them in this position by paying for their research to defend an indefensible science that does not work by the scientific method. Any scientist who doesn’t abide by the scientific method — the study of the natural world — is bound to come up with all sorts of supernatural explanations, which may or may not be in harmony with what is revealed to be truly supernatural in the Bible. This is a New Age philosophy, not a science, and they are not doing Christians any favors. The producers of this movie didn’t bother to interview scientists like Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian who heads the National Institutes of Health, whose research led to the decoding of the human genome as well as treatments for cystic fibrosis and gives glory to God for these discoveries. They didn’t bother talking to John Polkinghorne, Alister McGrath, or any number of other scientists who conduct their work with integrity according to the scientific method, and do so in the name of Christ.
In Expelled, an assumption is first presented through one-sided interviews that evolution implies an atheistic worldview, and toward the end it is stated explicitly. Of course — wait for it — they trot out Richard Dawkins and his scathing, anti-Christian vitriol, and portray him as the evolution poster child. Aside from the poor handling of the interviews, this movie is fraught with technical inaccuracies about cell biology, statistics, information theory, and strawman arguments reflecting a misunderstanding of almost every term used in evolutionary biology. We are taken on a tour of Nazi execution chambers, complete with dissection tables, followed up up by a prolonged discussion of eugenics and abortion. Finally, we have a tie-in to the erosion of freedoms in our own country and the implication that the United States will follow the course of Nazi Germany if “evolutionists” are not stopped. All of this is wrapped up in a slick, emotionally engaging, easy to digest format. Research the claims made in this film about these scientists and how they were treated, the doctoring of statements made by Darwin, along with all of the strawman arguments presented by Ben Stein.
You can also read about or watch the NOVA documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, about the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover, Pennsylvania School District trial which dealt a setback to the intelligent design movement [X-27][X-28]. There may be a handful of honest researchers somewhere in the Discovery Institute and similar organizations, but the majority of “science” used by ID is NOT science. It’s a deceptive mockery of true scientific inquiry, it will not produce good fruit, and in the end, it will reflect on Christians in a negative light. The text of Judge Jones’ decision is available online [X-29]. I have read all 139 pages of it, and it lays out his decision very clearly. Judge Jones is a Christian, appointed by George W. Bush, and he sided with the parents (who wanted an honest science education for their children), and against the ID textbook, Of Pandas and People.
Dr. Michael Behe and Dr. Stephen Meyer are two of the tiny handful of actual, practicing researchers in molecular biology who dispute evolution by genetic variation and natural selection. Their research forms much of the basis of the Discovery Institute’s propaganda. Behe, besides being a contributor to The Truth Project, was one of the anti-evolution expert witnesses in the Dover trial. In his 2007 book, The Edge of Evolution, Behe concedes very quickly that evolution is a fact, and so is the common descent of all life on Earth, including humans. What he disputes is the agency of natural selection working solely on natural genetic mutations at the molecular level. Behe argues that God (or some other agent, wink, wink) was miraculously, supernaturally, and personally involved in the manipulation of every complex gene and protein required to create new cell machinery and new species. This occurred either by God creating all of the genetic material for every species, living or extinct, billions of years ago and ‘hiding’ it various animal and plant genomes until they were needed, or in millions of distinct creative events over the past four billion years, for both plants and animals. I find both of these arguments to be scientifically and theologically weak. The former hypothesis casts God as a cosmic charlatan, and it has been disproven by the fact that unused genes naturally erode over time since natural selection does not operate on them. The latter argument sounds more like a Hindu Shaivite philosophy than anything described in Genesis, and also ignores the variety of naturally occurring methods that have been shown to increase genetic information. Behe makes a convoluted argument for God’s non-use of biological evolution as we understand it, and his statistical mathematics don’t hold up to scrutiny [X-30][X-31][X-32][X-33][X-34]. The work of Stephen Meyer has been found to have similar flaws [X-35][X-36][X-37][X-38].
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)
This is one of the most beautiful Psalms in the Bible. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and each of us was formed individually by Him. And yet, the physical process by which this occurs is not a miracle in the sense that Jesus and Moses performed miracles which superseded the laws of physics (those laws which He ordained at the creation of the universe). As we discussed earlier, we grow from a single cell, to a baby, into an adult entirely through natural biological processes. The miracle is that God has given each of us a soul. The psalmist later writes:
“He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.”
Psalm 147:8 (NIV)
We understand that this is also not a miracle every time it occurs. We don’t invoke some pseudoscience based on a literal interpretation of the Bible to craft explanations for these meteorological events that avoid the use of modern scientific explanations. In the book of Job, Eliphaz states:
“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside.”
Job 5:9-10 (NIV)
And yet, every Bible commentary will explain that either verse 9 and verse 10 are talking about two different topics or that Eliphaz is not talking about literal miracles in the way that we understand them elsewhere in the Bible. In fact, the NKJV translates “miracles” as “marvelous things” in this verse.
God is active in the world and in our lives. Sometimes He works in a miraculous way and sometimes He chooses not to. Can he cause events to occur without breaking the laws of physics? Of course! Almost a thousand years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica made the distinction between God acting as a first cause and God working through secondary causes in nature. The primary cause (of everything!) is God. God certainly can invoke a miracle directly as a primary cause. But when God caused the earth and waters to bring forth life in Genesis chapter 1, does the diversification of this life into thousands of species on Earth require the miraculous, sudden appearance of each one? Charles Darwin wrote, “To my mind, it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes.” Even today, I believe that God brings about truly miraculous healings and other events, and that these miracles serve the same purpose that they did in Biblical times — to make known the authority of God. But when God chooses to work through the laws of nature, that action is a secondary cause. God can also bring about a rainstorm, a healing, or a subtle change of events without resorting to a miracle [XI-1]. Some physicists suggest that God accomplishes this in a way that is completely undetectable by working at the quantum level. As Christians, we understand is that God is sovereign over all events. God is not only the primary cause, but also the secondary cause of every natural activity in the universe. This is God’s providence.
I believe that God’s providence sustains the universe, day by day, moment by moment. However, as theologians and astronomy professors Deborah and Loren Haarsma discuss in their book, Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, there is a difference between God’s continual providence and miraculous intervention. The God I worship is big enough to have gotten His laws of physics and chemistry right the first time and let them unfold naturally until He was ready to walk with Adam. I believe that in both the Old and New Testaments, God used miracles specifically for the Gospel message (including the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, the wine at Cana, the feeding of the multitudes, the raising of Lazarus, and many others), for the judgment of sin and for revealing His authority at specific times of instruction, so that those who see will believe. Miracles throughout the Bible follow this pattern, and I have no reason to believe that modern miracles should be exempted from this.
Even in apostolic times, miracles revealed the authenticity of the person performing them. They were for instruction. If evolution explains very clearly how God created animals and the diversity of life we see today, why invoke millions of separate miracles that occurred over a time span of billions of years when nobody was around to see them? In the simplest language possible, for the audience at hand, the Bible records that they were all created by God, but not the details of how they were created. God revealed this in a way that is easy to understand, poetic and easy to remember, and easy to teach to our children. That is the message that the ancients received from Genesis, and that is the message that we should receive from Genesis.
There is one area of the Bible that comes to mind which cannot be reconciled with modern scientific understanding and yet does not seem to call for explicit miracles. How do we explain the ages of the patriarchs before Abraham whom the Bible records as having lifespans in the many hundreds of years? Science can offer no explanation; if their bodies were anything like ours, heart disease, cancer, and any number of other ailments should have prevented this. Some creation “scientists” try to offer explanations such as, “the amount of solar radiation exposure prior to the flood was less than it is now”, or that “human bodies were far closer to perfection prior to the flood than they are now”. This is not science, because there is no credible evidence for either of these statements and there is plenty of evidence that both of these statements are untrue. Some theologians offer that the ages were symbolic; others say that the ages were expressed in months rather than years. Both of these lines of reasoning are somewhat supported by comparing these genealogies to records from non-Biblical texts that were written around the same time in neighboring civilizations. Others state that there were large gaps in the geneologies. However, none of these explanations is completely satisfactory. We are left with God miraculously extending the ages of these individuals. I am not fully satisfied with that explanation either, because there is no indication that any miracles were performed by God to achieve this result. The only miracle I can see concerning these genealogies is that Enoch never died, because “God took him.” The ages, on the other hand, were simply stated. In addition, the Masoretic texts and the Septuagint differ on the ages of the patriarchs at the birth of their sons [XI-2][XI-3]. Some manuscripts of the Septuagint place Methuselah as dying after the Flood, much to the chagrin of global-flood proponents. The Masoretic texts form the basis of the Protestant Biblical canon, yet the Septuagint was quoted by Jesus, so it is difficult to simply discard one or the other. We know that the Bible is inerrant in its original texts, but one explanation is that the original God-breathed recordings of the patriarchal ages were mistranslated, perhaps multiple times after their inception. I hate to state such a notion, but this would explain the differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts in these specific verses. On this subject, I have to say that we don’t yet know the explanation for the numbers that were recorded, and we should be careful in drawing any conclusions. It is certain that these extended ages refer to individuals and not to humanity as a whole. Without any better explanation, there is no harm in concluding that the lifespans of the patriarchs from Adam to Abraham were miraculous, but I would reject any conclusion that we have an absolute certainty that we must interpret the ages literally in the Scripture verses for the genealogies of the patriarchs. Perhaps God will reveal the answer to us in due course.
I believe God will show us miraculous events in grand fashion at the end time. Is He performing miracles now? I sincerely believe He does in many cases, but not for creating species, correcting planetary orbits (as we shall see), or for tinkering or fixing any shortcomings in His design of the laws of the universe.
XII. Theistic Evolution (Evolutionary Creationism, BioLogos)
If we are not to trust the creation science or intelligent design organizations, what approach can we use in understanding the natural world in a way that is faithful to the inerrant Word of God? This approach is theistic evolution, also known as evolutionary creationism (not to be confused with the false teachings of scientific creationism addressed earlier). Evolution isn’t any more “theistic” than electromagnetism or gravity or any other natural process that is a part of God’s universe. Do we talk about “theistic meteorology” because the Bible states in numerous places how God is responsible for the weather? For this reason, some Christian scientists such as Denis Lamoureux refuse to use this term, favoring evolutionary creationism instead. However, theistic evolution is in widespread use and for better or worse, it has stuck. Dr. Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian who heads the National Institutes of Health, has coined his own term for this viewpoint called BioLogos [XII-1]. Unlike theistic evolution as a whole, BioLogos does explicitly assert the doctrine of evangelical Christianity, but this term is not yet widely known. Theistic evolution does not imply deism, and holding this view does not make you a deist or a universalist. Many evangelical Christians, mostly from scientific backgrounds, agree with theistic evolution, although the term itself does not suggest any specific religious affiliation. It simply states that God did not need to use miraculous intervention to accomplish any of His creative work between the creation of the universe to the first appearance of man. You will also find Christian writers who embrace theistic evolution who have strayed into philosophical teachings such as evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd. Do not be led astray by such New Age ideas.
Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory, nor is it a religion or anything to believe or take on faith. Evolution by means of natural selection is a scientific theory. Theistic evolution is simply the concept that God used evolution by natural selection, as described in that theory, to accomplish His creation of the diversity of all life on Earth. It has nothing else to say about our Christian faith or any aspect of our lives.
Theistic evolution is consistent with the understanding that man is created in God’s image. How can that be, if the final result of evolution is not predetermined? Just because it’s not known to anyone within the universe, doesn’t mean it isn’t known to God. We have free will, or at least we believe we have free will; yet God is sovereign and predestined our fate before we were born. This is a great mystery, and we accept it on faith. There is no way to prove it, and no need to. In the same way, God made the universe knowing that we would be born in His image. Some theorists explain that God could have operated at the quantum level to gently shape the course of events without invoking miraculous intervention into His laws of physics. Others say that because God exists outside of the concepts of time and causality that we don’t need to offer an explanation; it simply occurred this way because He willed it. Perhaps both groups are really saying the same thing. We may never comprehend the answer to this mystery, just as we cannot comprehend how God exists in the Trinity. These ideas are central to our faith, and they lie outside of the domain of science.
There may always be some debate about abiogenesis, the appearance of the very first life or self-reproducing molecule. We may never know whether God intervened with a miracle to accomplish that, or whether His laws of physics and chemistry were sufficient to let it occur, just like they were sufficient for the formation of atoms, stars, planets, and all the physical wonders on the Earth. Similarly, there may always be debate about whether or not the bodies of Adam and Eve, as individuals, were created fully-formed through miraculous intervention, even though the human species as a whole has been shown to have evolved from prior hominids. Some also debate about whether Adam and Eve even existed as individuals or were purely representative of the human race. These debates, however, are exegetical rather than scientific. While persons who accept theistic evolution may hold differing viewpoints on these topics, they all accept the common descent of life on Earth, and they agree that that God used natural processes to bring forth the evolution of all individual species, including homo sapiens — the human species. All Christians agree that mankind was made in the image of God. Some Christians hold the viewpoint, as I do, that Adam and Eve may not have been the first biological humans who appeared hundreds of thousands of years ago, but they did exist as persons and they were the first ones into whom God breathed an immortal soul, perhaps 6000 years ago, and that they gave rise to the lineage leading to Jesus. Most Christians who hold the perspective of theistic evolution understand, as I do, that the inspired Biblical canon is inerrant in its original texts. We also recognize that, historically, its man-made translation into English and other languages has been fallible. We recognize that its subsequent interpretation within those languages has also been erroneous in some areas. A disciplined study of Scripture and of God’s creation has revealed that Scripture has sometimes been misinterpreted or misapplied, especially in Genesis.
This is not, by any means, a new perspective; it is a common exegetical method that dates back to the early church and has been reinforced by many prominent Christian theologians throughout history, including Origen of Alexandria, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, B. B. Warfield, Dietrich Boenhoffer, John Stott, C. S. Lewis, Alister McGrath, Bruce Waltke, and Billy Graham. All of these men, being human, have had their own faults and flaws. However, they shared an understanding that God’s Word, which is the Truth, cannot contradict a truth which has been revealed through some other way within God’s own creation. Today, top-ranking Christian colleges such as Wheaton College (Illinois), Baylor University, Chapman University, and Pepperdine University teach the biological sciences using a theistic evolution viewpoint. They refute the “God of the gaps” ideology as both bad science and a poor understanding of the Bible. Christian scientists who hold the theistic evolution viewpoint are generally committed to accuracy and honesty in how they practice science and disseminate their findings. They do not use presuppositional logic with flawed presuppositions, unlike most of those who are in the creation science and intelligent design camps. It is exciting to see that the Assemblies of God, one of the largest evangelical Protestant denominations, is seeking a productive discourse with scientists on theistic evolution [XII-2][XII-3][XII-4].
Over 300 years ago, Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity which describe the attractive force between all objects. Newton’s laws of motion predicted the orbits of the planets around the Sun. Because he used approximations when calculating the forces of the planets upon each other, he came to the conclusion that the orbits are unstable and would decay after thousands of years. Newton suggested that God occasionally intervened with a miracle, by sending a comet or other object with just the right direction, size, and velocity, to gravitationally nudge the planets back into their correct orbits. Years after Newton, Pierre Laplace found better methods to solve Newton’s equations, showing that the planetary orbits are indeed stable. When asked by Napoleon, “Monsieur Laplace, why wasn’t the Creator mentioned in your book on celestial mechanics?”, Laplace replied, “Sir, I have no need for that hypothesis.” Laplace was likely an atheist, but we know that his findings about planetary motion were true. If he were a believer, he could have just as well said, “We don’t need to explicitly invoke God’s miraculous intervention when describing planetary motion.” Two hundred years prior, John Calvin wrote, “If the Lord has willed that we be helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other like disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance. For if we neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloth.” [XIII-1] Sadly, creation science resources don’t even correctly state the known facts about celestial mechanics and the formation of the solar system, citing erroneous conclusions from hundreds of years ago which have since been shown to be false, and which could be corrected with a trivial amount of research [XIII-2].
To this day, Newton’s law of gravity and his equations of planetary motion hold true, but we have a much better understanding of them through Einstein’s special and general relativity, and a much richer understanding of cosmology from hundreds of years of subsequent research, much of which was done by Christians. Interestingly enough, Einstein’s theory was also met with pseudoscientific criticism [XIII-3]. In a 1920 letter to a colleague, Einstein wrote, “This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.” [XIII-4] In much the same way as the theory of gravity, Darwin’s original ideas have been tested, refined, and expanded upon by paleontologists, chemists, and biologists in the 150 years since his publication of On the Origin of Species, with many critical discoveries being made just within the past 20 years, some of which have been made by evangelical Christians. The evidence is overwhelmingly in support of biological evolution as God’s method of causing the waters and the earth to bring forth the diversity of life.
Ironically, the same Catholic Church which condemned Newton’s predecessor Galileo now has a healthy attitude toward science. The 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“159. Faith and science: ‘… methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.’ (Vatican II GS 36:1) 283. The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers…. 284. The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin….” [XIII-5]
And yes, evolution is used as a (flawed) argument for atheism by some prominent scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, the spokespersons for a godless worldview if ever I saw one. Pray for Dawkins, Dennett, and the other atheists, that God’s glory will be revealed to them through His living Word. And refute their atheistic worldview whenever you can! [XIII-6] During and after the Reformation period, the progress of scientific inquiry and discovery in Europe was driven forward by many individuals who were Christians. Why, in the 20th century, did we allow a small handful of atheists give real science such a bad name? Let’s take it back from them!
For a follower of Christ interested in learning more about evolutionary biology, geology, and related topics, some scientifically accurate sources of information written from a solid Christian perspective are listed below.
Appendix A: Books
If you have time to read just one or two books on this subject, I would suggest the first two on the list below, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? by Denis Alexander, and Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, by Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma. For more in-depth study, I can recommend all of the following books written by Christians.
Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?, Denis Alexander. Dr. Alexander, an evangelical Christian, is the Emeritus Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. He is also a molecular biologist. In this book, Dr. Alexander covers the Biblical doctrine of creation, Adam and Eve, and the Fall with great care, drawing from numerous sections of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He examines the history of Christian thought on creation, salvation, and how God acts within the world. Turning to science, he examines the evidence for evolution of life over time, and of the common ancestry of life, including the fossil record and DNA evidence, and makes an excellent case for God having used evolution. He also makes a compelling argument why the Intelligent Design movement is not honest science. Throughout the book, the author gives glory to God for what He has revealed in the Bible and within creation.
Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma. Both authors are professors at Calvin College. The authors use clear, non-confrontational language to describe the many varied positions that Christians have taken on creation over the centuries, along with the history of each approach. For each one, they guide the reader through an examination of his or her own beliefs and whether they are truly founded on what the Bible teaches, or what various schools of Christian religion teach.
The Language of God, Francis Collins. Collins is the Director of the NIH and an evangelical Christian. He led the Human Genome Project and developed a cure for cystic fibrosis. In this book, Collins presents an introduction to the genetic evidence for common descent, as well as his own testimony of conversion from atheism to Christianity.
The Language of Science and Faith, Karl Giberson and Francis Collins. This is probably one of the most easily approachable books on this list, with most chapters arranged in a question-and-answer format. The authors answer many challenging questions about the age of the Earth, the certainty of evolution,the fine-tuning of the universe for life, and changes in how the Bible has been interpreted over time as well as changes in what science has revealed about the world.
Paradigms on Pilgrimage, Stephen J. Godfrey and Christopher R. Smith. Both authors are evangelical Christians who earnestly sought the truth. Godfrey is a paleontologist and Smith is a Baptist pastor. Both describe their difficult journeys from a young-Earth creationist position to one of theistic evolution.
Exploring Science and Belief, Michael Poole. Short and lavishly illustrated, this a very approachable and engaging book for the layman on the subject of harmonizing science and the Christian faith. It is out of print but it is a gem if you can find a copy.
When Faith & Science Collide: A Biblical Approach to Evaluating Evolution and the Age of the Earth, G. R. Davidson. The author examines Scripture and science with Biblically sound principles and an attitude of respect and grace.
Where the Bible Contradicts Creationists, K. Scott Schaeffer. This very short book is written in a conversational, congenial style. It is probably one of the most approachable, non-threatening books on this topic. That doesn’t make it any less insightful. In examining the specific Bible verses used to support the typical fundamentalist view creation, the author speaks the truth and explains his dissenting position very well. He simply exposes the fact that using the Bible to support only a young-Earth creationist position is indefensible. That said, he treads lightly on the history of creationism or the science behind our modern understanding of the world. The book is light on references or citations, so I would suggest some of the other books on this list if you are looking for a deep examination of the theology of creation or the scientific evidence for an old Earth and evolution.
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, Donald R. Prothero. This book is a very detailed look at the fossil evidence by a paleontologist who also happens to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar. However, the author writes as a scientist, with few musings on faith. Don’t confuse him with Stephen Prothero.
Beyond the Firmament, Gordon J. Glover. Glover is a former Navy deep sea diver and engineer who is also an evangelical Christian. In his book, Glover presents the evidence for an old Earth and how it is consistent with Genesis.
Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, Kenneth Miller. Kenneth Miller is a scientist and an outstanding writer who presents a clear, crushing deconstruction of the intelligent design movement and its methods.
Finding Darwin’s God, by Kenneth Miller. In this second book, Miller explains how true scientific inquiry, when conducted with integrity, is not at odds with the Christian faith.
Coming to Peace With Science, Darrell R. Falk. In this book, Dr. Falk starts with a discussion of what Christian theologians throughout history have written about creation, good and evil, and the garden of Eden. Falk presents three possibilities for understanding the creation of life’s diversity: One, that God created each species from scratch, one species at a time. Two, that God miraculously created several broad kinds of organisms, each of which diversified into many species. Three, God created all species by guiding a gradual process of evolution, without specifying a mechanism for God’s guidance. Throughout the remainder of the book, Falk uses several well-illustrated examples to examine the evidence seen in the fossil record and in our genomes to help us understand God’s creative activity leading up to mankind.
Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith Miller. This is a large, well-organized collection of scholarly essays by Christian scientists who articulate the theistic evolution viewpoint very well. It offers a historical background on how Christian scientists have understood the Genesis creation account over the past two hundred years, as well as a thoughtful discussion of much of the evidence of evolution, both past and modern. If you have any interest in the history of the Christian church or the history of science, you will enjoy this book.
The Passionate Intellect, Alister McGrath. In this book, Christian theologian Alister McGrath follows in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis in his approach to knowledge. McGrath explains, “We are called upon to love God with our minds, as well as our hearts and souls (Matthew 22:37). We cannot allow Christ to reign in our hearts if he does not also guide our thinking. The discipleship of the mind is just as important as any other part of the process by which we grow in our faith and commitment.”
The Prism and the Rainbow, Joel W. Martin. This is a very short book which discusses many of the misconceptions that people have about the nature of science and the pursuit of knowledge, and why it is so unnecessary to be forced to choose between scientific discoveries and Biblical truth. The Appendix of this book contains a catalog of major Christian denominations and their positions on creation.
God’s Universe, Owen Gingerich. This is a short philosophical treatise by a professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard. Dr. Gingerich writes eloquently to explain how the universe and everything in it was designed and created by God. He goes on to show why Intelligent Design theorists are “making a serious error of category when they propose that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside the theory of evolution in science classes.”
I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution, Denis O. Lamoureux. Dr. Lamoureux describes the varieties of views on creation within Christian communities and then expounds on the “evolutionary creationism” view. Lamoureux writes in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas who explained that God reveals Himself, in a trustworthy way, in Scripture and in His creation. In the first half of the book he discusses theological and scientific concordism, the creation of man in the image of God, man’s sin, and the progression of ancient ideas about creation. In the second half, he gives a well-illustrated overview of recent scientific evidence for an old Earth and the evolution of life over time.
Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution, Denis. O. Lamoureux. In this much larger volume, Dr. Lamoureux describes in depth the position of evolutionary creationism, with a detailed examination of New Testament references to the Genesis creation account and numerous scientific references.
Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought, David N. Livingstone. This book is “the first systematic investigation of the response of evangelical intellectuals in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to Darwin’s evolutionary theories.”
Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight, Michael Hawley. This author is spot-on with his analysis of why it’s so difficult for many Christians to accept evolution.
The Lost World of Genesis One, John Walton. Walton is a professor of Old Testament theology at Wheaton College and was previously a professor at Moody Bible Institute for 20 years. In this book he describes the “framework interpretation” of the days of Genesis 1. If you have a strong belief in a literal, sequential, six-day creation, you may find this book to be challenging, especially in the beginning chapters where he compares the Genesis creation account to the creation stories of pagan religions. Walton is not trying to undermine the authority of Scripture, but to show God’s purpose in delivering the message of Genesis in the way that He did. Reading this book to completion will be instructive and rewarding, even if you choose to disagree with Walton on some of his specific interpretations.
In the Beginning… We Misunderstood, Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden. As with John Walton’s book, these authors present a strong case for understanding the Genesis creation account in its original context, drawing from a study of the culture of the Israelite people under Egyptian captivity. The authors also address some important questions such as how we can trust the Bible if we don’t read the creation days literally, and the meaning of death and the curse on creation.
Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins, Philip E. Johnson, Denis O. Lamoureux. The two authors put forward the Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Creation views in a series of successive articles, with other authors such as Michael Behe providing commentary. All of the authors and contributors are Christians. What’s interesting about this book is that reviewers from the ID camp and the EC camp each see a different author as the “winner” of the debate.
The Edge of Evolution, Michael Behe. I list this book here because Dr. Behe is one of the most often quoted and referenced scientists in Intelligent Design instructional materials. He is an excellent writer, and while this is a long book, it is worth spending some time to study each chapter in depth. Although I find flaws in his statistical analysis for the probability of beneficial mutations to arise and spread through a population, I have a high regard for the depth in which he examines many aspects of biological evolution and cosmology. Read his book and decide for yourself.
Beyond Creation Science, Timothy P. Martin and Jeffrey L. Vaughn, Ph.D. The authors are old-earth creationists who do not accept the biological evolution of man. Furthermore, I do not share their view of eschatology which is discussed in the latter half of the book — they are preterists. However, in the first few chapters they do cover much of the history of creation science and deconstruct it in much the same way that Michael Hawley and other authors have done in their books. I recommend this book mostly for its explanation of how several passages in Paul’s letter to the Romans have been misunderstood concerning the nature of creation, and I credit them with much of the analysis which I present regarding that topic.
For some further hard-hitting evidence of evolution, you can read the following books. Be aware that these authors are not Christian (or they do not identify their faith), although Glass, Carroll, Fairbanks specifically write about the need to explain scientific concepts in a way that is not offensive to Christians. These authors may not reach the conclusion, as I do, that the God of the Bible is behind it all, but the facts behind evolution are laid bare and they all do a pretty good job of explaining it to the layman.
Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA, Daniel J. Fairbanks
The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, Sean B. Carroll
Exploring Faith and Reason: The Reconciliation of Christianity and Biological Evolution, Bruce Glass
Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo, Sean B. Carroll
Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, Spencer Wells
Appendix B: Online Resources
Here are some Christian Web sites which present a Biblically sound view of scientific discoveries. It will be rewarding to spend some real time reading their articles, not just gloss over the headings:
http://www.biologos.org/about — BioLogos is an organization set up by Dr. Francis Collins, evangelical Christian and Director of the NIH, author of The Language of God.
http://science.drvinson.net/Home — Dr. David Vinson is a medical doctor who writes about science and theology. His site provides an exhaustive collection of easy to understand articles. Be sure to check out his “Books and DVDs” review section.
http://www.theistic-evolution.com — This is another good introductory site, clearly written by a God-fearing Christian.
http://network.asa3.org/– The American Scientific Affiliation is an organization of Christians in science. Founded in 1941, they require members to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a scientific field, adhere to a traditional Christian statement of faith (the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds), and strive to practice science with honesty and integrity.
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Evolution/index.html– The ASA’s page on evolution.
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/humans.htm– The ASA’s page on human origins.
http://asa3online.org/homeschool/657-weighing-in-on-ken-ham-peter-enns-jay-wile/ — Homeschooling science resources from the American Scientific Affiliation.
http://evolvingcreation.com — This is a sister site to the Facebook group, Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection, a fun and respectful group of people with some enlightening and thought-provoking discussion.
http://www.cis.org.uk/ — This is a UK organization of Christians in science.
http://www.csca.ca/ — This is a Canadian organization of Christians in science.
http://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/about/ — Here is an excellent site written by a long-time evangelical Christian who dives deep into the science.
http://www.evolutionstory.com/ — Evolution Story: Ending the Christian Holy War on Science. This site encourages Christians to raise both their scientific and theological standards.
http://www.scientistsincongregations.org — Scientists in Congregations provides a wide variety of resources to begin or continue a conversation on faith and science.
http://theauthoroflife.org/ — Author of Life: Seeing God in Evolution and Creation. This site produces a multimedia science curriculum for Christian high school students.
http://steamdoc.s5.com/sci-nature/ — This is a series of articles that began as the course material for an adult Sunday School class taught by Dr. Allan H. Harvey.
http://www.proof-of-evolution.com — This is another Christian site which is very easy to read.
http://www2.wheaton.edu/ACG/ — “The Affiliation of Christian Geologists is committed to the historic Christian faith and to its meaningful integration with the best available science.”
http://testoffaith.com/resources/ — This is a set of multimedia and printed resources for a small group study on the Christian faith and science.
http://www.faradayschools.com/site-map/about-us/ — Faraday Schools and the LASAR Project provide “curriculum materials and approaches which can support teachers in engaging secondary age pupils in the area of science and religion.”
http://www.chapman.edu/ces/research/evolution.aspx — This is the Evolution Education Research Center at Chapman University, a prominent Christian university in Orange County, California.
http://www.baylor.edu/geology/index.php?id=62340 — Statement on Evolution at Baylor University, a prominent Christian university in Waco, TX.
http://www.theisticevolution.org — This site has links to more resources on theistic evolution.
http://www.blog.beyondthefirmament.com/video-presentations/ — This is the Web site of Gordon J. Glover, author of Beyond the Firmament, containing his blog and some very easy to understand video presentations about how we as Christians should approach science.
http://www.faithaliveonline.org/origins/ — This is the Web site of Deborah and Loren Haarsma, authors of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.
http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/ — This is the Web site of Kenneth R. Miller, a Christian and the author of Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. He has also authored a popular biology textbook for high school students.
http://www.ualberta.ca/%7Edlamoure/ — This is the Web site of Dr. Denis Lamoureux, author of I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution.
http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/evolutionary_creation.pdf — Here is a wonderfully written article by Dr. Denis Lamoureux on evolutionary creationism or theistic evolution.
http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/p43.htm — The Evolution of “Bible-Science,” adapted from the chapter by Robert J. Schadewald in the book, Scientists Confront Creationism
http://exploringevolution.com/ — This is the Web site of Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/nazarenes_exploring_evolution/ — This is a position paper concerning the Church of the Nazarene and evolution.
http://www.gci.org/co/evolution — This is Grace Communion International’s page on Creation and Evolution.
http://www.gci.org/science — This is Grace Communion International’s page on science.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation%20evolution_controversy — This article gives some background on the array of differing views on the subject of creation. Out of those listed, my viewpoint, as you can guess, is theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism.
http://ncse.com/creationism/general/creationevolution-continuum — This page gives an overview of the spectrum of beliefs regarding the creation of the universe: flat-Earthers, geocentrism, young-Earth creationism, gap creationism, day-age creationism, progressive creation, theistic evolution (evolutionary creationism), and atheistic evolution.
http://www.oldearth.org — Here are refutations of a young Earth, with no position taken on evolution. This site was created in response to the misinformation being put forth by answersingenesis.org.
http://geocreationism.com — This is a site which is the author’s “attempt to unite mainstream science with a literal rendering of the scriptures. They are telling the same story, though most people either do not think so, or they compromise one to accept to explain the other”. In particular, the author has a verse-by-verse study of the creation narrative, with detailed, illustrated pages dedicated to each verse. The author does seem to believe that God miraculously intervenes “from time to time” to prune the evolutionary tree of life. This seems to be a position somewhere between intelligent design (in the supernatural, DNA-appearing-out-of-nowhere sense) and the theistic evolution concept of God possibly working through quantum events to gently guide the course of evolution in a non-supernatural fashion.
http://www.searchingfortruthwithabrokenflashlight.com — This is the Web site of Michael Hawley, author of Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight.
http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/evolution/christian_evolutionists.html — This is another Christian evolution resource list.
http://answersincreation.org/theistic_evolution.htm — Here is a short overview of theistic evolution.
http://teachthemscience.org/why — This site specializes in resources for Christian teachers.
http://www.cslewis.org/journal/?p=10 — This is In Pursuit of Truth, a Journal of Christian Scholarship at the C. S. Lewis Foundation.
http://www.cslewis.org/journal/cs-lewis-on-intelligent-design/ — C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design.
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF12-10Peterson.pdf — This is a comprehensive article on C.S. Lewis and his thoughts on science over the years.
The following are blogs of other Christians who understand that there is no conflict between the Bible and what we see in God’s creation. Some of of these writers are scientists who have personally conducted research in biology and related sciences, others are just offering their views.
http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com — This is an individual’s blog, “An Evangelical dialogue on Evolution”.
http://www.thegospelandevolution.com/ — “Blogging the Harmony of Science and the Christian Faith”.
http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com — Quintessence of Dust, another Christian scientist’s blog.
http://cliff-martin.blogspot.com — Outside the Box, another Christian’s blog on science and Christian faith.
http://geochristian.wordpress.com/best-of/ — A blog by Kevin Nelstead, whose objective is to increase science literacy among evangelical Christians.
http://www.rethinkingao.com/?p=116 — One young-Earther’s story of how he became an evolutionary creationist.
http://questioninganswersingenesis.blogspot.com — A blog by a Christian who responds to young-Earth claims made by Answers in Genesis and similar companies.
http://www.solidrocklectures.org — Solid Rock Letures aims to remove stumbling blocks to faith in Christ through education on the scientific and biblical evidence for an ancient creation.
http://evolutionid.wordpress.com — A blog about evolution by a Christian student who is a former creationist.
http://scienceandcreation.blogspot.com — Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist.
http://community.berea.edu/scienceandfaith/essay05.asp — Robert J. Schneider’s essay, “Evolution for Christians.”
http://thenaturalhistorian.com — This is a blog which explores the world as did 17th century natural historian John Ray: scientist and committed Christian.
http://godofevolution.com — Self-described as “a little offbeat”, this site strives to engage readers with a mix of articles and free resources for those who see no conflict between Christianity, the Bible and evolution.
http://palaeobabbler.blogspot.com — The thoughts of a student on evolution, paleontology, creationism and Christianity with occasional randomness and short stories.
General evolution resources are listed below. The following sites are not written from a Christian perspective, but they present clear exposition of the evidence and sound scientific analysis. Some of them also have blogs and debate sections; don’t expect those areas to be well-researched. There will be no injury to your faith if you are well-grounded.
http://phylointelligence.com — PhyloIntelligence is “currently the single most encompassing and organized compilation of the evidence for common descent on the internet.”
http://www.evolutionarymodel.com — This is another well-organized site describing evidence for common descent.
http://www.evolutionfaq.com — This is an excellent site organized as described, as a set of frequently-asked-questions, with references for each answer.
http://www.cassiopeiaproject.com/ — The Cassiopeia Project is an effort to make high definition science education videos available to anyone who wants them.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/evolution-hd/id428601667 — The Cassiopeia Project’s videos are available for free on iTunes U.
http://evolution.berkeley.edu — The University of California at Berkeley has produced this comprehensive site with resources on evolution.
http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/misconceptions_faq.php — This page lists some common misconceptions about evolution.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/ — This is an excellent PBS site on evolution, with videos and articles on a wide variety of topics.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/discuss_01.html — This is a roundtable discussion on science and faith at the PBS site.
http://nationalacademies.org/evolution/FAQ.html — This is the National Academy of Sciences FAQ on evolution.
http://evolution-textbook.org/content/free/notes/ch03_Notes.html — This is a chapter of free online textbook showing some of the evidence for evolution.
http://evolutionevidence.org/ — This site aims to present the evidence for evolution in a way that is easy to understand for a non-scientific audience.
http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/ — Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides educational materials on biology for teachers and students.
http://www.homeschoolrecess.com/topic/evolution — This is a list of homeschooling resources which do not dismiss the theory of evolution.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hox_gene — These are some introductions to Hox genes and the new science of evo-devo — or evolutionary developmental biology.
http://www.talkorigins.org — This is the oldest Web site covering the topic of evolution, but it is kept reasonably up to date.
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section2.html — This is a large compilation of evidence of macroevolution and common descent.
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dating.html — This is a refutation of the common YEC homeschooling textbook ploy that “circular reasoning” is used by geologists to determine the dates of rocks and fossils.
http://www.transitionalfossils.com — This site displays a catalog of “a few” transitional fossils.
http://www.wasdarwinwrong.com — This is a large, well-organized topical collection of articles and links to books.
www.talkdesign.org — This site presents critical analysis of the intelligent design movement.
http://www.pandasthumb.org — This is a blogging site.
http://home.nctv.com/jackjan/ — Jack DeBaun’s Evolution/Creation Dialogues.
http://home.nctv.com/jackjan/item48.htm — Jack DeBaun’s article, “Refuting Three Trendy Myths about Evolution.”
http://www.repealcreationism.com/539/stopmakingstuffup/ — One student fights back for scientific truth and calls for cleaning up the political mess caused by proponents of creation science.
The following sites aim to promote a general understanding of the sciences with a theological perspective:
http://www.ctns.org — The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.
http://www.clergyletterproject.net/ — The Clergy Letter Project, although not a Christian evangelical organization, aims to promote a basic understanding of evolution among Christian denominations as well as other faiths.
The following are some news articles of interest.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/books/review/the-anointed-evangelical-truth-in-a-secular-age-by-randall-j-stephens-and-karl-w-giberson-book-review.html — The New York Times reviews Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens’ book The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, which discusses the current state of evangelical thinking on the sciences and other topics. I don’t agree with all of the points made in their book, but they bring up some good points for reflection.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Darwin-on-Lincoln-and-Lincoln-on-Darwin.html — This is an interesting article on Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/misreading-the-bibles-scientific-accuracy — This is a blog article about evangelical pastor Rick Warren promoting the Bible’s scientific accuracy.
Here are the creation science organizations referenced in this article, along with some others. Who are they preaching to? They don’t host discussion boards inviting unbelievers to hear about the Christian faith. Rather, they are spreading misinformation among our very own brothers and sisters in Christ. Which ones have the truth? Do any of them? They’ll give you wildly different answers about the days of creation, the manner in which God created life, and the flood. Yet these organizations provide the basic “research” for nearly all of the creation science educational materials produced today. Could it be that the entire concept of “creation science” is flawed?
The Discovery Institute, in particular, sponsors numerous other pseudoscience sites on the Web. If you see a pseudoscientific or explicitly anti-science or anti-evolution site not listed here, check its “About” page. It may be produced or sponsored by the Discovery Institute or the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
Appendix C: References
Hebrew word yom:
DNA, RNA, and information:
[II-2] Watts, Jonathan K. “Biological Information, Molecular Structure, and the Origins Debate”. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Volume 63, Number 4, December 2011. pp. 231-239.
Evidence for common descent:
[IV-1] Behe, Michael. The Edge of Evolution. 2007, Free Press. p. 69-72.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics:
Hebrew word tsela:
False claims about evolutionary theory refuted:
[V-3] Collins, Francis, and Giberson, Karl. The Language of Science and Faith. 2011, Green Press. pp. 20-28.
[V-5] Peterson, Michael. “C.S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Volume 62, Number 4, December 2010. p. 257 (http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF12-10Peterson.pdf)
Hitler’s religious views and social darwinism:
Lysenkoism and the Soviet Union’s denial of genetics:
[V-17] Carroll, Sean. The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. 2007, W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 219-227.
Creation museums, young-Earth creationism, dinosaurs and dragons on the Ark:
The Fundamentals, The Fundamentals of Geology, and the 7th Day Adventist origins of flood geology:
[VI-14] Brannan, Daniel K. “The Two Books Metaphor and Churches of Christ”. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Volume 63, Number 3, September 2011. pp. 193-203.
[VI-15] Hawley, Michael. Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight. 2010, Aventine Press. p. 43-51
[VI-16] Prothero, Donald R. (2007). Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Columbia University Press. p. 30-35
Teachers unprepared to teach science:
Evidence for a Mesopotamian flood rather than a global flood:
Dr. Dino Kent Hovind, Dinosaur Adventure Land, and Creation Science Evangelism:
Evidence for common descent:
[VI-28] Gray, Terry M. “Biochemistry and Evolution”. Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. 2003, William B. Erdmans Publishing Company. pp. 256-287.
Bearing false witness by editing the words of Charles Spurgeon and Charles Darwin:
Quote-mining biologist Stephen Jay Gould on transitional forms:
Creation scientists argue for evolution, but only after the flood, and then it happened really fast:
Young-Earth creationist Todd Wood admits the “gobs and gobs of evidence for evolution”, but simply chooses not to believe it:
Evolution of whales:
God likes whales:
God of the gaps argument:
Phillip Johnson cannot deny the possibility of evolution below the phylum level:
[VII-4] Johnson, Phillip E., Lamoureux, Denis O. Darwinism Defeated: The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins. 1999, Regent College Publishing. pp. 49, 118.
The Discovery Institute admits that the Intelligent Design movement has no workable theory:
[VII-5] Miller, Kenneth R. Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. 2008, Penguin Books. p. 178
Jonathan Wells, of the Discovery Institute and Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church:
Creation science organizations arguing with each other:
Practical uses of evolutionary biology and geology:
[VIII-1] Prothero, Donald R. (2007). Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Columbia University Press. pp. 65, 175
Real science is in pursuit of the truth:
An exposé of modern creation science “research” (RATE), and a creation science textbook that uses it:
[VIII-6] Morris, John. The Young Earth. 2009, Master Books. pp. 66-68
Radiometric dating, by Christians who practice good science:
[VIII-7] Glover, Gordon J. Beyond the Firmament. 2008, Watertree Press. pp. 165-165
The disaster that is the intelligent design movement:
Erosion of young people’s faith due to anti-science sentiment within Christian circles:
False teaching in The Truth Project:
[X-7] Prothero, Donald R. (2007). Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Columbia University Press. p. 82
The Second Law of Thermodynamics and other objections to evolution:
Irreducible complexity and the bacterial flagellum:
[X-10] Miller, Kenneth R. Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. 2008. Penguin Books. pp. 57-62.
Deception and hypocrisy in the creation science and intelligent design organizations:
[X-13] Hawley, Michael. Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight. 2010, Aventine Press. p. 166-168
[X-14] Prothero, Donald R. (2007). Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Columbia University Press. p. 349-351
The documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed:
The 2005 Dover School District Trial:
Critical analysis of Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution:
[X-30] Miller, Kenneth R. Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul. 2008, Penguin Books. pp. 66-69.
Christian geneticist David Ussery reviews the works of ID proponents Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer:
Critique of Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell:
[X-36] Venema, Dennis R. Intelligent Design, Abiogenesis, and Learning from History: A Reply to Meyer . Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Volume 63, Number 3, September, 2011. pp. 183-192
[X-38] Watts, Jonathan K. “Biological Information, Molecular Structure, and the Origins Debate”. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. Volume 63, Number 4, December 2011. pp. 231-239.
First and and Secondary Causes, and Providence:
Genealogies of the patriarchs:
Francis Collins and BioLogos:
The Assemblies of God Faith & Science Conference:
Isaac Newton and Pierre Laplace:
[XIII-1] Haarsma, Loren. Does Science Exclude God? Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. 2003, William B. Erdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. pp. 88-94.
Isaac Newton and Pierre Laplace, the creation science version:
Pseudoscientific response to Einstein’s theory:
[XIII-4] Van Dongen, Jeroen. “On Einstein’s Opponents, and Other Crackpots.” Essay review of “Einsteins Gegner. Die offentliche Kontroverse um die Relativitstheorie in den 1920er Jahren” by Milena Wazeck. (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1111.2181)
Catholic Church’s position on science:
How to refute arguments by Richard Dawkins and other atheists:
Appendix D: Quotations
I’ll now leave you with a few more quotes.
“All truth is given by revelation, either general or special, and it must be received by reason. Reason is the God-given means for discovering the truth that God discloses, whether in his world or his Word. While God wants to reach the heart with truth, he does not bypass the mind.”
– Jonathan Edwards
“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man… whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.”
– Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man
“…that man is physically descended from animals, I have no objection.”
“For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends.
“Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past. This new consciousness ruled and illuminated the whole organism, flooding every part of it with light, and was not, like ours, limited to a selection of the movements going on in one part of the organism, namely the brain. Man was then all consciousness.”
– C. S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain
“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual life, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer. But we must not use the Bible (our ancestors too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and read without attention to the whole nature and purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons.”
–C. S. Lewis
“In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.”
– Augustine of Hippo
“In the matter of the shape of heaven, the sacred writers did not want to teach man facts that would be of no avail for their salvation.”
– Augustine of Hippo
“We must be on our guard against giving interpretations which are hazardous or opposed to science, and so exposing the word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.”
– Augustine of Hippo
“If anyone shall set the authority of Holy Writ against clear and manifest reason, he who does this knows not what he has undertaken; for he opposes to the truth not the meaning of the Bible, which is beyond his comprehension, but rather his own interpretation; not what is in the Bible, but what he has found in himself and imagines to be there.”
– Augustine of Hippo
“Some people, in order to discover God, read books.
But there is a great book:
the very appearance of created things.
Look above you! Look below you!
Note it. Read it.
God, whom you want to discover,
never wrote that book with ink.
Instead He set before your eyes
the things that He had made.
Can you ask for a louder voice than that?
Why, heaven and earth shout to you:
‘God made me!’ “
– Augustine of Hippo
“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”
– Origen of Alexandria (one of the earliest Christian scholars, instrumental in forming the Biblical canon)
“The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.”
– Galileo Galilei
“The Holy Spirit had no intention to teach astronomy; and, in proposing instruction meant to be common to the simplest and most uneducated persons, he made use by Moses and the other Prophets of popular language, that none might shelter himself under the pretext of obscurity, as we will see men sometimes very readily pretended an incapacity to understand, when anything deep or recondite is submitted to their notice.”
– John Calvin
“But if you look in the first chapter of Genesis, you will there see more particularly set forth that peculiar operation of power upon the universe which was put forth by the Holy Spirit; you will then discover what was his special work. In the 2d verse of the first chapter of Genesis, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We know not how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, wherein man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator gave up the world to confusion.”
– Charles Spurgeon
“Years ago we thought the beginning of this world was when Adam came upon it; but we have discovered that thousands of years before that God was preparing chaotic matter to make it a fit abode for man, putting races of creatures upon it, who might die and leave behind the marks of his handiwork and marvellous skill, before he tried his hand on man.”
– Charles Spurgeon
“If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man,then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, He were outside time.”
– G. K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy
“There is a Christian conception of evolution, and in light of it, I propose to interpret the fall and the redemption of man. To prevent misunderstanding, I must define what I mean by evolution. Evolution is not a cause but a method. God is the cause. He is in his universe, and he is the source of all its activities with the single exception of the evil activity of the human will. When I speak of evolution as the method of God, I imply that the immanent God works by law; that this is the law of development; that God, and the old the basis of the new, and the new an outgrowth of the old. In all ordinary cases God works from within and not from without. Yet this ordinary method does not confine or limit God. He is transcendent as well as immanent. His is not simply ‘in all’ and ‘through all’ but he is also ‘above all.’ “
– Augustus H. Strong
“It should scarcely be passed without remark that Calvin’s doctrine of creation is, if we have understood it aright, for all except the souls of men, an evolutionary one. The ‘indigested mass,’ including the ‘promise and potency’ of all that was yet to be, was called into being by the simple fiat of God. But all that has come into being since- except the souls of men alone – has arisen as a modification of this original world-stuff by means of the interaction of its intrinsic forces. Not these forces apart from God, of course…”
– Benjamin B. Warfield
“I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution.”
– BenjaminB. Warfield
“There have been many evolutionists who have been and have remained theists and Christians.”
– Benjamin B. Warfield
“‘Evolution,’ in short, is coming to be recognized as but a new name for ‘creation,’ only that the creative power now works fromwithin, instead of, as in the old conception, in anexternal, plastic fashion. It is, however, creation none the less.”
– James Orr
“Not many Christians today find it necessary to defend the concept of a literal six-day creation, for the text does not demand it, and scientific discovery appears to contradict it. The biblical text presents itself not as a scientific treatise but as a highly stylized literary statement (deliberately framed in three pairs, the fourth ‘day’ corresponding to the first, the fifth to the second, and the sixth to the third)…
“It is most unfortunate that some who debate this issue (evolution) begin by assuming that the words ‘creation’ and ‘evolution’ are mutually exclusive. If everything has come into existence through evolution, they say, then biblical creation has been disproved, whereas if God has created all things, then evolution must be false. It is, rather, this naïve alternative which is false. It presupposes a very narrow definition of the two terms, both of which in fact have a wide range of meanings, and both of which are being freshly discussed today…
“But my acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief that several forms of pre-Adamic hominid may have existed for thousands of years previously. These hominids began to advance culturally. They made their cave drawings and buried their dead. It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them. You may call them homo erectus. I think you may even call some of them homo sapiens, for these are arbitrary scientific names. But Adam was the first homo divinus, if I may coin a phrase, the first man to whom may be given the Biblical designation ‘made in the image of God’. Precisely what the divine likeness was, which was stamped upon him, we do not know, for Scripture nowhere tells us. But Scripture seems to suggest that it includes rational, moral, social, and spiritual faculties which make man unlike all other creatures and like God the creator, and on account of which he was given ‘dominion’ over the lower creation.”
– John Stott: Understanding the Bible: Expanded Edition
“Should a priest reject relativity because it contains no authoritative exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity? Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes… The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses.”
– Monsignor Georges Lemaître (Belgian Catholic priest and physicist who first proposed the Big Bang theory)
“Little men, with only a book knowledge of science, have seized upon evolution as an escape from the idea of a God. ‘Evolution!’ a wonderful, mouth-filling word, isn’t it? It covers a world of ignorance. Just say ‘evolution’ and you have explained every phenomenon of Nature and explained away God. It sounds big and wise. Evolution, they say, brought the earth through its glacial periods, caused the snow blanket to recede, and the flower carpet to follow it, raised the forests of the world, developed animal life from the jelly-fish to the thinking man.
“But what caused evolution? There they stick. To my mind, it is inconceivable that a plan that has worked out, through unthinkable millions of years, without one hitch or one mistake, the development of beauty that has made every microscopic particle of matter perform its function in harmony with every other in the universe, that such a plan is the blind product of an unthinking abstraction. No; somewhere, before evolution was, was an Intelligence that laid out the plan, and evolution is the process, not the origin, of the harmony. You may call that Intelligence what you please: I cannot see why so many people object to call it God.”
– John Muir: “Three Days with John Muir,” World’s Work (1909) pp. 11355-56, Doubleday
“It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as one theory among others is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator.”
– Over 12,000 Christian Signers of The Clergy Letter Project
“The phenomenon of ‘creation science’ is the potential source of some of the most dangerous societal, educational, and religious problems of our age. Where the distinction between religious history and science becomes confused in the minds of the average citizen, student, or legislator, there is danger to the quality of education generally, and to that of science, philosophy, and theology specifically. A nation whose high school and college science is mediocre can hardly hope to be a world leader in science and engineering research. A nation whose understanding of theology is so meager that it cannot draw a clear distinction between science and religion is educationally impoverished. Moreover, the confusion on the part of religious fundamentalists and politicians, as has been demonstrated in certain parts of the United States, bodes ill not only for the quality of science education, but also for the good name of religion among thinking people.”
– James Skehan