In a world where Evolution is considered a “fact” you may have had to blink twice to ensure that you were actually seeing a question such as this!Yet this does illustrate what an important question it is, and why we need to carefully consider its claims in light of what the Bible also has to say.
WHAT IS DARWINIAN EVOLUTION?
Few would not know Charles Darwin, his work and the impact he has had on science and the world. The famous journeys of Darwin to the Galapagos Islands laid the foundation for his best known work, “The Origin of the Species” (1859). From his observations of nature, Darwin proposed the foundation of the Theory of Evolution. Basically he advanced that:
- All species and the diversity of life has come from a common ancestor through small but significant changes over time (descent with modification)
- The process of change driving this is ‘Natural Selection’ or survival of the fittest
Since that time, Darwin’s work has been the foundation for Evolutionary Biology with many extra dimensions and mechanisms added in, combining into a Modern Synthesis (including genetics, morphology, palaeontology, ecology and many other branches). However it is not possible to discuss all of these, our focus is on the main points above.
Science today sees Evolution as a “fact and theory”(1)Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” Discover 2 (May 1981) . It might be good to establish what this means;
- “Fact:an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.” (2)http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/role_of_theory_final.pdf
- “Theory: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” (3)http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/role_of_theory_final.pdf
Because of this it is vital to identify the methodology and reasoning by which science operates. Science is the process of investigating the natural world through natural causes. This is often called ‘Methodological Naturalism’.
A fact in science is seen as “what” happened, based on some form of empirical evidence. A theory then tries to give a reason “how” or “why” that might have happened based on natural mechanisms.
This means that science cannot test supernatural or divine causes. Although science would grind to a halt if they just concluded “God did that”, it cannot test for, confirm or deny God as a cause in anything. This means that science is limited to natural causes ONLY and a supernaturalcause or God creating is “unscientific”.
The basis of this reasoning then means God is not factored into the equation. This has led to such a narrow field of view because evidence will be viewed naturalistically or a theory could be consideredas fact because it is the only scientific explanation to the observations.
THE NATURE OF THE EVIDENCE
What Darwin and many others since have observed in nature maybe true. However some of the conclusions based on that evidence present a clearly different and incompatible view to what God reveals in the Bible.
Some aspects of Evolution are observable or testable and repeatable. For example:
- Speciation – examples of new species forming are well noted, like a new mosquito(4)Byrne K, Nichols RA, 1999. Culexpipiens in London underground tunnels: differentiation between surface and subterranean populations. Heredity 82: 7–15
- Evolution and Adaption – Galapagos Island Finch beaks changed in drought conditions(5)Grant, P. R. and Grant, B. R. 2002.”Unpredictable evolution in a 30-year study of Darwin’s finches.” Science 296: 707-711
- Genetic and Structural similarity – comparative DNA sequences, Homology
- Fossil record – there are many fossils of various life forms throughout the strata of the earth
There is a lot of evidence that is put forward for Evolution like this. But although we can see examples of adaption etc, it is the quantum leap taken by science to extrapolate thisevidence back through time and draw conclusions and “fact” from this.
While some aspects can be observed, tested or repeated today there is a lot that can’t be. We may observe speciation, for example, or have fossil remains but it requires huge amounts of inference from what we observe today to interpret what has happened in the past or to provea connection to a common ancestor. The fact is we were not there to observe it and can we trust in purely naturalistic causes to explain the evidence in the world?
Although there are elements of truth in what Darwin observed, some major issues with his conclusions appear. A simple look at probability will illustrate.
If you had the letters to spell the word “SELECTION” and placed them in a bag, then the probability of choosing an “E” would be 2/9. This is because there are 2 letter E’s out of a total of 9 letters. You could even rearrange the letters, and form words or sentences, for example you could work out the probability of selecting the letters in order to spell “SEEN”. The probability of this occurring is 1/1512.
But what would be the probability of selecting a “V” from the bag? Or being able to spell the word “LOVE”? The answer is clearly ZERO (0). This is because there are no letter V’s to select! This small experiment demonstrates 2 vital facts;
- Selection can only occur from existing options
- Probabilities of events drastically reduce as the number of options increases.
Selection is not a creative process it is merely a choice from already existing materials. Natural Selection requires an already made and operating genetic code (that is extremely complex) on which nature’s forces can operate and the fittest survive. Hence to suppose that Natural Selection is evidence that all life came from a common ancestor is a huge extrapolation at best, and ignoring the obvious implications that a Creator is still needed to established genetic information in the first place.
Breeding and Genetic engineering is a good demonstration of selection in nature. Although Natural selection is not completely random, breeding and genetic engineering is far more deliberate.
Many different breeds of cattle, dog or even plants have been developed through such careful crossing of desired genetic traits. This allows the breeder to eliminate unwanted characteristics and accentuate desired ones.
However what is interesting during this carefully engineered process is that although many different breeds of dogs have been developed, they are still dogs. There is an invisible boundary that places a limit on such variation.
Why? Because selection is a process that works on already existing genetic information. Such a conclusion better supports the Genesis account of creation in “kinds”(Gen 1:12).
GOD MUST BE IN THE PICTURE
The priority then for a Bible student is that God MUST be factored into the equation. God established the natural world; He is NOT bound by it. His supernatural power is without question, and we only need to look at the virgin birth of Jesus, the power of his resurrection or many of the miracles that abound in the Bible to see that natural causes just can’t explain the world(Rom 1:20).
Because science cannot and has not factored God in, there are some conclusions that are incompatible with what God reveals He has done, as well as the doctrines clearly taught in the Bible.
In reality, this incompatibility is no surprise. Spiritual reasoning in based on God’s revelation being a priority, but science’s is not. It is very interesting to note that the very first book of the Bible records the introduction of sin and death into the world because man adopted a way of reasoning that was based purely on observation. From such reasoning it came to the conclusion that “God did not mean what He said” (Gen 3:4). God tells us that “carnal” thinking is not in harmony with His(Rom 8:7).
When we read Genesis 1 we see that God reveals that He was the creator of the “heaven and the earth and all things therein”. The Bible shows that all came from a ‘Common Creator’. A great God who created from common material (the dust of the ground), creating a common feature where each thing could reproduce. Like Genesis 1v12 says of plants “whose seed is in itself”.
Genesis 1 also records that God made things according to their “kinds”(1v11, 21, 24). This word may not have a direct scientific equivalent (as “species” is not an accurate parallel), but it demonstrates that God established an initial series of types within nature (1 Cor 15v38-40), each from the ground.
This means that a lot of the evidence observed in nature can actually be explained another way, when a Creator is factored into the equation.
- Speciation &Adaption – a new species of dog may develop, but it is still a dog. An animal like Darwin’s finches may adapt different sized beaks, but this supports the notion that God created life with a self-replicating mechanism (like Gen 1:12) that can adapt.
- Genetic and Structural similarity – this just supports the notion of a common designer as much as a common ancestor.(6)John C. Lennox, “God’s Undertaker”. Page 120
- Fossil record – do these belong to ages and life forms before our current creation?
Evolution by common descent describes a very different pathway than what the Bible describes. This places a great strain of what we ought to believe from the Bible. Did God, in Genesis 1 and 2, really do what He said?
However another huge difference with Evolution by common descent is the impact that it has on clear Bible doctrines, like the origins of sin and death. The Bible reveals that death came into the world because of sin (Rom 5:12, 1 Cor 15:22). The Bible records death is an “enemy” that is a result of sin (1 Cor 15:23).
The Bible records both the origin of sin and death, but most importantly the means by which God has saved us from ourselves. Jesus Christ came to crush sin, and so conquer death (Heb 2:14), and reversed the consequences man’s sin introduced. Finally there will be no more sin and no more death (Rev 21:4). The Bible is so powerful and its doctrines fit together when we listen to it.
There is a clear difference to the value of the “Truths” we take from Bible as opposed to science:
I. Based on an eye witness account –God was present at Creation, we don’t have to work back from current theories. No extrapolation.
II. Inclusive of both supernatural and natural causes – like miracles. God can use His supernatural power (like in Creation) or natural processes (that He created anyway)
III. A source of Truth that is unchangeable, without error and absolutely certain.“I, Yahweh, speak righteousness, I declare thing that are right”(Isa 45v19)
|Facts and truth ever changing, never final||Absolutely certain, unchanging, without error|
|Limited to natural causes in natural world||Unlimited, God supernatural but can use natural|
|Based on inference & extrapolation||Revelation and eye witness. God at “beginning”!|
If science could find something unknown to it today that could overturn all the current “facts”. What is there is have faith in? But, as the Bible says; “Your word is true from the beginning; and your upright decision is unchanging for ever”(Psa 119:160).
We have a wonderful God who has recorded in His Bible what He has done and what He will do. We can be certain of His work in the future because of the amazing power displayed by His works of the past.
|↑1||Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” Discover 2 (May 1981)|
|↑4||Byrne K, Nichols RA, 1999. Culexpipiens in London underground tunnels: differentiation between surface and subterranean populations. Heredity 82: 7–15|
|↑5||Grant, P. R. and Grant, B. R. 2002.”Unpredictable evolution in a 30-year study of Darwin’s finches.” Science 296: 707-711|
|↑6||John C. Lennox, “God’s Undertaker”. Page 120|