Posted tagged ‘evolution’

Ida: A Missing Link to Human Evolution?

May 24, 2009

Only if you want it to be.

Much as been made of the discovery of this “Ida”, given the Latin name Darwinius masillae, as a solid missing link between other mammals and humans.  Alex Watts from Sky News Online exclaimed, “The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years—but it was presented to the world today at a special news conference in New York.”

Based upon glowing reports of the finding, we should expect to see an ape-like fossil.  Instead, what we see is this:

 

Ida-the-missing-link-prim-001

 

So, contrary to what some media outlets are reporting, this fossil is not ape-like in any way.  Looking more like a modern day lemur. 

The actual claims of the authors of the study is that Ida is a precursor to the ape. 

The truth is that the evidence is quite underwhelming.  It’s not that big of deal.  But why are the media outlets and scientists making such a fuss over Ida?

  • It’s 95% preserved, which is unheard of as far as fossils go.  Let’s face it, it just looks really good.  It’s about the size of a racoon and even includes fossilized fur! 
  • Ida has opposable thumbs which an ABC news article stated are “similar to humans and unlike those found on other mammals.”
  • The talus bone is described as “the same shape as a humans’ “
  • It’s teeth are more similar to a monkey’s than the modern day lemur.

Is Evolution the Only Explanation?

The part that the media nor the scientists don’t want to talk about is that it looks like a modern day lemur.  The only way you conclude that a lemur-like creature is a missing link to humanity is if you first assume that humans came from lemur-like creatures. 

Ida has opposable thumbs more like humans than other mammals  . . . OK, Ida also has a tail more like other mammals than humans, walks on all fours like other mammals, is the size of a raccoon like other mammals and unlike humans.  The point is that all they want to do is talk about the similarities to humans and monkeys, but not the dis-similar characteristics including the difference in the ankle structure in Ida than in monkeys and humans (J. L. Franzen, et al., “Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology,”).

Similarities are only evidence that two species are similar, not that one evolved from another.  That similarities are evidence of evolution is an unscientific conclusion because we cannot test or falsify that conclusion.  Similarities can be just as accounted for by a Creator who makes certain species similar and Ida’s differences from modern day lemurs can be just as easily accounted for by variation within a created kind.

The Problem with Ida is . . .

The science isn’t very sound.  Let’s forget the unscientific conclusions made by assuming evolution to give evidence of evolution.  Even the evidence that Ida is a evolutionary link to humans is disputed within the scientific community.

You don’t have to listen to me, just other news outlets that are more honestly reporting the story of Ida.

University of Michigan paleontologist Philip Gingerich told the Wall Street Journal: “There was a TV company involved and time pressure. We’ve been pushed to finish the study. It’s not how I like to do science.”

Responding to Professor Gingrich’s comments . . .

“That rings all sorts of warning bells,” University of New England paleoanthropologist Peter Brown cautioned “It’s nice it has fingernails, something we have, as do most primates . . . but they’ve cherry-picked particular character[istics] and they’ve been criticized (by other scientists) for doing that.” (The Australian)

“On the whole I think the evidence is less than convincing,” said Chris Gilbert, a paleoanthropologist at Yale University. “They make an intriguing argument but I would definitely say that the consensus is not in favor of the hypothesis they’re proposing.”

“The PR campaign on this fossil is I think more of a story than the fossil itself,” said anthropologist Matt Cartmill of Duke University in North Carolina. “It’s a very beautiful fossil, but I didn’t see anything in this paper that told me anything decisive that was new.”

“It’s not a missing link, it’s not even a terribly close relative to monkeys, apes and humans, which is the point they’re trying to make,” [Carnegie Museum of Natural History curator of vertebrate paleontology Chris] Beard said.

Those three quotes are from a LiveScience article.

“There is no phylogenetic analysis to support the claims, and the data is cherry-picked,” says paleontologist Richard Kay . . . of Duke University. Callum Ross, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois agrees: “Their claim that this specimen should be classified as haplorhine is unsupportable in light of modern methods of classification.” (ScienceNOW)

In another article by BBC News Chris Beard said:  “I would be absolutely dumbfounded if it turns out to be a potential ancestor to humans.”

Conclusion

It’s clear that even within the scientific community the more sober-minded scientists, unphased by the media hype, remain skeptical and critical of the claims of Ida and the science behind it.  We must also remain skeptical of the arguments employed, assuming evolution to prove evolution, and the unscientific methods of exploring only one option to explain similarities.

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Apparently, Only Atheists Can Argue Theology

March 9, 2009

Awhile ago I saw a post over at Daniel Florien’s Unreasonable Faith that caught my eye.  Daniel was responding to a video of a creation vs. evolution discussion when he made a few interesting comments.

Apparently the proponent of creation admitted to having presupposed beliefs (presuppositions).  These beliefs are admittedly unscientific.  This is how Daniel summarizes his presuppositions:

(1) God exists, (2) that this God is the Christian God, (3) that this God wrote a book, and (4) that book is the Protestant Bible as we have it today.

Whatever discrepancies we can find in Daniel’s summary we’ll ignore because they are besides the point.  The point is Daniel’s reaction to these presuppositions.

Nothing big there — just everyday presuppositions that we all have. Completely rational starting points of a scientific worldview. Ugh.

I believe some explanation may be due here.  What Daniel is saying that the Christian presuppositions are not conducive to a scientific worldview, therefore they are invalid.  A scientific worldview, the worldview that Daniel holds to, is superior because it is scientific and the Christian worldview is inferior because it is not based upon science.  Would we all agree that this is Daniel’s position?

In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the Christian argument is a theological one.  That is, the Christian presuppositions are about what God would do and did do (created the world, wrote a book).  That’s what makes a belief in the Bible unscientific, because it’s about what God did, which, although it may be observable, is unrepeatable by science. 

Negative Theology

To the atheist, the fact that Christians make theological arguments at all disqualifies them from any rational discussion.  After all, the only thing that can be verified is science, right?

Unfortunately, at the end of his article, Daniel inadvertently gives the atheistic “Secrets to Denying God” away.

Just after he finishes chastising the Christian for making a theological argument, Daniel says:

I thought Peter Atkins makes a great point that if evolution is true and God exists, he chose a “particularly nasty” way of going about creating the world.

Oh the hypocrisy!  That God created the world in a “nasty” way is a theological argument as well!  It’s just a negative one.   In fact, the belief that Daniel is displaying is that “If God created the world, then He did a nasty job of it, therefore it’s unlikely that God created the world”.  That’s the definition of negative theology!

But does Daniel chastise Peter Atkins for making a theological argument just as the Christian did?  Of course not. 

Is Atkins theological argument rejected because it is unscientific, just as the Christians’ theological arguments are?  Of course not.

To science, what’s the difference between Atkin’s theological position, and the Christian one?  None except that Daniel agrees with Atkins.

It’s a perfect tactic.  It allows the atheist to make all the negative theological arguments they want, while rejecting any Christian rebuttal on the basis it is “unscientific”, denying the whole time that their original argument was unscientific theology as well.

Apparently, only atheists can make theological arguments.

The Ghost of Darwin

February 12, 2009

 Two hundred years ago, in Shrewsbury England, Charles Darwin was born.  Today is Darwin’s birthday. 

Ken Ham wrote a great article that he posted today on the Answers Magazine website. 

The article is in regards to Darwin’s legacy, the world that he left behind. 

The sad part is that his legacy, Darwin’s ghost, had permeated the Church. 

Hundreds of thousands of churches around the world have adopted Darwinian evolution and reinterpreted the history in Genesis to fit with Darwin’s anti-Christian beliefs. Theistic evolution (the belief that God used evolution) has become a dominant position in much of the church in England and has spread from there around the world.

Darwin’s evolution rejects the plain, literal truth of Genesis.  The compromise the church has made has led to subsequent generations rejecting the truth of the Bible.  And can we blame them?  If we can’t trust the Bible when it comes to Genesis, can we trust it with anything?

Observers note that whereas England’s church attendance before World War II was 40–50 percent, by 2003 “only 7.5 percent of the population went to church on Sundays and that, in the past 10 years—billed by the churches as the ‘Decade of Evangelism’—church attendance dropped by an alarming 22 percent.” (“Church will be dead in 40 years’ time,” The Independent, April 16, 2000.)

The Darwinian worldview can be seen in the textbooks of academia and in the humanist thinking of Western society in general.  As a result, Christian morality has disappeared from the Western mind. 

I can’t put in any better than Ken does:

Christians should pray that the Lord rebuilds the foundations of His house that shifted from the firm ground of His Word and compromised because of the works of a man.

As Christians, did we really think that the knowledge of man would “work better” than the knowledge of God?  If you are a Christian who believes in evolution, if you think that Darwinism is compatible with Christianity, read on.

The house where Darwin wrote his On the Origin of the Species, has become a museum of his life and work.  Above the final exhibit is mounted these words:

Many Christians believed that the world and everything in it, including mankind, had been created by God in the beginning and had remained unaltered ever since … . Darwin’s theory made nonsense of all of this. He said that the world was a constantly changing place and that all living creatures were changing too. Far from being created in God’s own image, Darwin suggested that human life had probably started out as something far more primitive—the story of Adam and Eve was a myth (emphasis added)

This is Darwin’s legacy.  As a church, should we really buy into it?

Darwin wrote, in his Autobiography:

I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.

The Rise of Evolution (Part 3): Evolutionary Metaphysics

February 9, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; using the definition of God handed down to him by the modernists and Victorians to reconcile the problem of natural evil.

As expressed in the previous article, it isn’t whether or not Darwin was right or wrong, only that he used such presuppositions about God to formulate evolution.  Similarly, since Darwin, this definition of God has been used to further the metaphysical argument for evolution. 

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

What is Metaphysics?

There are many different ways to describe metaphysics.  However, I find the simplest to be that metaphysics is merely a method of thought that ponders the state of being of certain things, be it the universe, the world, ourselves or God.  For instance, the modernist definition of God is a metaphysic because it ponders the state of being of God (what God does and does not do). 

For our purposes here, the main point is that since science is only concerned with giving empirical evidence and does not make statements about the state of being, metaphysics are outside the bounds of science.  Put another way, metaphysical ideas and arguments are unscientific. 

The Inherited Modern God

Again the point must be made that Darwin, and the evolutionary thinkers after him, inherited a certain definition of God. 

Goodness is more fundamental than power . . . There is nothing worthy of worship in power as such . . . After all, the object of religious worship is a perfect ideal rather than a perfect power (Edgar Sheffield Brightman).

A less domineering God is not only distanced from evil, but is also more worthy of worship. 

Robert Chamber wrote in Vestiges:

How can we suppose an immediate exertion of this creative power at one time to produce the zoophytes, another time to add a few marine mollusks, another to bring in one or two crustecea . . . This would surely be to take a very mean view of the Creative Power.

In other words, because God would have been forced to be involved in the dirty, mucky trenches of creation, He must not have acted this way.  When considering the issue of God’s divine intervention, the co-founder of evolution, Alfred Wallace, wrote:

As a matter of feeling and religion.  I hold this to be a fair higher conception of the Creator of the Universe, than that which may be called the ‘continual interference hypothesis’

This kind of thinking led to . . .

Religion and Science Are Separate

This is one of the most powerful metaphysical arguments for evolution out there.  Since God doesn’t dabble in nature, and science only studies nature, and religion only studies God, therefore religion and science are of two separate camps.  Though it may be pointless, it’s OK to consider God in religion, but it would never do to insert Him into science.

The Reverend Baden Powell wrote in 1838 (The Connexion of Natural and Divine Truth):

Scientific and revealed truth are of essentially different natures . . . The mistake consists in confounding these two distinct objects together, and imagining that we are persuing science when we introduce the authority of revelation.  They cannot be combined without losing the distinctive character of both

The famous evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould mirrored this sentiment in Rock of Ages:

I do not see, how science and religion could be unified, or even synthesized, under any common scheme of explanation or analysis.

Religion and science are to be kept separate.  Bruce Alberts, when writing for the National Academy of Sciences (Science and Creationism), says:

Scientists, like many others, are touched with awe at the order and complexity of nature.  Indeed, many scientists are deeply religious.  But science and religion occupy two separate realms of human experience.  Demanding that they be combined detracts from the glory of each.

The question becomes, where did Powell get the idea that combining science and religion would lose the distinctive character of both?  Where did Gould get that the combination of science and religion is not unifiable? And how does Alberts know that doing so detracts from the glory of each?  Certainly not from a scientific experiment as such an experiment would be impossible.

So where did they get it?  From their preconcieved idea that God and nature are separate.  Another metaphysical belief untestable by science.  And yet, this argument is used all the time in defense of evolution isn’t it?  Especially when attacking the likes of the Intelligent Design movement.

The Intellectual Necessity of Evolution

Since God was not actively controlling creation, and nature governed by predictable natural laws, scientific inquiry is possible.  If God was constantly changing His creation, how would we be able to tell the difference between the natural law and God’s actions? 

This uniformitarianism that science depends upon is just as presuppositional as religion, and yet, why is it preferred?  For William H. Harvey, it isn’t that evolutionary theory is more true, it’s just that it has more room for advancement.

but . . . they do give you room to reason and reflect at present, and hopes for the future, wheas the old stick-in-the-mud doctrines . . . are all used up.  They are so many stops to further inquiry; if they are admitted as truths, why there is an end of the whole matter, and it is no use hoping ever to get any rational explanation of origin or dispersion of species – so I hate them (quoted in Gillespie, Charles Darwin, emphasis added).

In other words, since evolutionary theory gives us room for further inquiry, it is preferred.  Darwin echoed this sentiment in Origin:

The hopelessness of the attempt has been expressly admitted by Owen in his most interesting work on the “Nature of Limbs.”  On the ordinary view of the independent creation of each being, we can only say that so it is; –that is has please the Creator to construct all the animals and plants in each great class on a uniform plan; but this is not a scientific explanation.

Darwin’s metaphysical extrapolation led him to his ultimate proof against creation.  His main point, that nature fails to show divine design, was now protected from any counter-argument, because any such arguments would be unscientific.  Here, Darwin is able to ignore that he also uses metaphysical arguments to prop-up evolution, just as the design argument does. 

Evolutionists today correctly observe that creation and it’s supporting arguments hinge on one’s concept of God, but conveniently forgot that arguments against creation equally hinge on one’s concept of God.  They find it fair to argue against creation, but not for it.

Since creation cannot be a scientific argument, evolution is the correct scientific theory.  Thus, evolution isn’t proved on it’s scientific merits alone, but by default.

For Niles Eldredge (The Monkey Business.  A Scientist Looks at Creationism) the key responsibility of science is to predict.  This cannot be possible with a capricious God:

But the Creator obviously could have fashioned each species in any way imaginable.  There is no basis for us to make predictions about what we should find when we study animals and plants if we accept the basic creationist position.

Paul Moody also expresses this idea:

Most modern biologists do not find this explanation [that God created the species] satisfying.  For one thing, it is not an explanation at all; it amounts to saying, “Things are this way because they are this way.”  Furthermore, it removes the subject from scientific inquiry (Introduction to Evolution).

Tim Berra (Evolution and the Myth of Creationism) is much more direct in his warning about creation:

Creationism has no explanatory powers, no application for future investigation, no way to advance knowledge, no way to lead to new discoveries.  As far as science is concerned, creationism is a sterile concept

What the evolutionists are saying here, is not so much that creationism is wrong, as it is improper.  Evolution is intellectually necessary because divine creation cannot be investigated and analyzed.  In contrast, Isaac Newton and many of the scientists of his day found the prospect that God created the universe a stimulus to scientific inquiry.  The opposite view it taken by today’s evolutionists.

An Uncritical View of Science

Since creation is seen as being the opposite of science, any attempt to explain phenomena with God is relegated to being a “God-of-the-gaps” type argument.  We are only inserting God where science has yet to find the answer.  The implication here, is that one day science will find the answer.

To hold to the position that one day scientists will find the natural explanation for what we are now filling God with, is to take an uncritical view of science.  The question becomes, how are scientific theories proved, especially to the exclusion of God?  How is such a thing possible?  Where perhaps previous naturalists have been cautious in subscribing to theories that may be true today, and wrong tomorrow, the modern evolutionist has unbridled optimism.

We are told that evolution is fact and this unguarded confidence has simply bolstered the rejection of the God-of-the-gaps argument.  We used to believe that God created life, but now we know that natural phenomena will suffice.  This conclusion hinges on the success of evolution, which in turn hinges on one’s concept of God.  A God who must be distanced from the world and it’s evils was assumed so now we conclude with a God who must not stand in the way of naturalistic explanation.  The original assumption feeds right through and becomes the final conclusion (Hunter, Darwin’s God). 

We may not have all the answers now, but if we just give science time, we will provide a naturalistic story.  Surely, if we look hard enough, we could find a plausible naturalistic explanation for anything.  But that doesn’t make it scientific.

Conclusion

Two powerful metaphysical beliefs are being used to support evolution:  That religion and science are separate and intellectual necessity.  God is properly distanced from creation, and humans are properly motivated to explore creation.  Evolution is true, not because of it’s science, but because the opposing view point isn’t scientific at all.

Evolutionists are blind to their own hypocrisy regarding this:  they are able to use metaphysics to argue against creation, but no one can argue for it.

The point isn’t wether they are right or wrong, the point is that they are using unscientific, metaphysical beliefs to support evolution.

The Rise of Evolution (Part 2): Darwin’s Problem with Evil

February 4, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; attempting to reconcile the problem of natural evil.  Even in this regard, Darwin’s theology was not unique, only his method made him stand out.  In this article, I’ll explain the great influence the problem of evil had upon Darwin’s forming of evolution.

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

The Modern View of God

As was discussed in the previous article in the series, the popular view of God that developed in the two hundred years leading up to Darwin was a God that only acted through natural laws.  God’s actions could be rationally explained and God could be logically verified.  A God that acted through the natural laws, instead of just arbitrarily breaking them at whim, had much more wisdom and power.

However, what was not discussed was the view of God that the pious Victorians held.  This article does not have the space to contain even a sufficient summary of Victorian thought, so a simple statement will have to do.  The consensus among Victorians of the purpose of science in the early 1800’s was to demonstrate “the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation” (Bridgewater Treatises).  The focus is on the clean parts of God, completely to the exclusion of God’s judgement, wrath and use of evil.

Where the apostle Paul saw nature groaning, the Victorians looked only for signs of a pleasant Creator.  

Where David declares that “Our God is a consuming fire”, the Victorians declared that God must be omni-benevolent.

Although Isaiah proclaimed that God creates calamity, the Victorians focused on where Isaiah proclaimed God’s glory.

Darwin, on the other hand, could not reconcile what he saw in nature with this “all-nice” Creator.

Darwin’s Problem with Evil

The general premise of the problem of evil is “if a benevolent God exists, therefore evil shouldn’t exist”. 

Darwin wrote to Asa Gray in 1860:

There seems to me too much misery in the world.  I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent  God would have designedly  created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.

The definition of God that the modernists and Victorians had laid down, the definition of God that Darwin subscribed to, did not fit with what was so easily observable in nature.  Since God had to make rational sense, then why should species cross so easily if they were created separately? Also, seemingly specialized and unique fauna flourished in foreign environments (Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation, Neal C. Gillespie).  It just didn’t follow.

And there were the mal-adapted species; land animals with webbed feet and the marine creatures with non-webbed feet.  Why was there just so much wasted pollen?

Nature seemed to lack precision and economy in design that was “inexplicable on the theory of creation”.  Darwin observed that different species used “an almost infinite diversity of means” to accomplish the same task and that this is inconsistent with the design of independent, special Creation.  Yet, on the other hand, Darwin viewed that different species used similar methods for different tasks.  To Darwin, this too argued against special creation.  (The Origin of the Species, 6th edition).  

What Darwin expected Creation to look like, we’ll never know.  The point is that Darwin was greatly influenced by non-scientific arguments against special creation.  Especially the ones that boil down to “God would not have done it this way”.  He had a specific idea of God, defined by the modernist thinkers and Victorian naturalists, that informed the direction of his thinking.

Paradise Lost

John Milton’s Paradise Lost was one of Darwin’s favorite works (The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin).  Not only was Paradise Lost a favorite of Darwin, but it was supremely popular in Victorian England to the point of being almost church doctrine (God’s Funeral, A.N. Wilson).  The point of Milton’s work was to “Justify the ways of God to man”.  Specifically, in regards to evil, God had to let man choose between good and evil, so that He could separate the good from the bad.  This absolved God of any responsibility of evil, but it also made God passive and somewhat aloof from the events of history.

Obviously, Milton and Darwin were on opposite sides of the spectrum with Darwin leaning farther towards naturalism as his life went on, and Milton having God as the ultimate source of creation.  However, both men were dealing with the problem of evil; Milton with moral evil and Darwin with natural evil.  And both men found solutions that maintained the purity of God but more importantly, both men had similar views of God.

The Evolution Theodicy

A theodicy is a branch of  theology/philosophy concerned with explaining the problem of evil.  Just as Milton’s Paradise Lostwas a theodicy for the problem of moral evil, evolution is a theodicy for the problem of natural evil.  While Milton’s theodicy removed God from the choices of human beings, Darwin’s theodicy removed God from the workings of nature.  If everything could be explained by natural phenomena, and all things could come about through natural processes, then surely God was not responsible for the misery, death and waste that was so obvious to Darwin. 

The added affect of this is that God became unnecessary.  Separating God from creation and it’s evils meant that God could have no direct influence or control over the world.  The gruesome, wasteful and chaotic world – the world observed by naturalists of Darwin’s day – did not fit with the modern definition of God.  Creation was irrational, therefore there was no benevolent Creator, or at least not one who was involved in the world.

In his autobiography, Darwin summarized:

Suffering is quite compatible with the belief in Natural Selection, which is not perfect in its action . . . A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient.  It revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the suffering of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time?

The obvious implication is that suffering is NOT compatible with an all-powerful, all-benevolent God, therefore “all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection” ( Autobiography).  

Darwin summarized his position in his letter to Asa Gray:

I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.

From what Darwin saw in nature, God needed to be absolved of responsibility for the suffering and misery apparent in it.  Evolution allowed Darwin to reconcile his observations with his definition of God.

A Theodicy is Not Empirically Verifiable

The point isn’t whether Darwin was correct or incorrect, logical or illogical in his explanation for natural evil.  The point is that the arguments he found “convincing”, and are still convincing to evolutionist today, are not scientifically testable.  Darwin’s argument, which basically boils down to “God wouldn’t and couldn’t do it this way”, is not only immune to empiricism itself, it is also based upon presuppositions laid down by the modernists and Victorians and how they defined God.  Since God is limited to working only through benevolent means, then surely God is not involved in this world in the slightest.

As we’ll see in the rest of the series, these kind of negative theological arguments are used to support of evolution all the time.  In fact, they’re what give evolutionary evidence it’s power and what brought evolution to where it is now.  Nature doesn’t seem very divine, therefore evolution must be true.

The Rise of Evolution: Darwin’s Modernism

January 27, 2009

This series of articles will consider how evolution got to the place of prominence that it now enjoys.  The story goes that Darwin “discovered” evolution on the isles of Galapagos.   While this is popular, it is also untrue.  Darwin’s path to evolution was not governed by scientific discovery, but by his own brand of theology; attempting to reconcile the problem of natural evil.  Later articles will be dedicated to further developing that argument.  This article will focus on the intellectual environment that allowed Darwin’s theology and theodicy (a branch of philosophy dealing with the problem of evil) to thrive.

These articles were inspired by Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil by Cornelius Hunter. 

The purpose of these articles will be to show that, “at it’s core, evolution is about God, not science” (Cornelius Hunter, Darwin’s God).

Notions About God

In theological thought, all doctrines are built upon the doctrine of God.  Similarly, in secular thought, there is an underlying view of God.  Charles Darwin, his contemporaries and even today’s modern evolutionists make many mentions of the Creator.  Their notions of God are part of their basic reasoning. 

The question becomes:  How did the evolutionary notion of God become so widely accepted that it now needs no justification?  When they mention God, their definition of Him is unexplained and unquestioned.  How did it get like this?  The answer to this lies in. . .

The History of Religious Thought

I obviously can’t get close to specific about this topic, so the basics will have to suffice.

The trend, in the modern age, is to think of God as being comprehensible.  And if a certain aspect of God is incomprehensible, then that part must either be irrelevant or not truly part of God.  God’s acts of creation and intervention are being thought of as things that can be understood, reasoned about and even scientifically modeled.

Centuries before Darwin, thinkers began to scrutinize God according to rules of reason and began seeking to describe creation in accordance with natural law, not just divine intervention.  Since the Middle Ages, nature has been seen as having a certain level of autonomy.  Sure, God may have started it all and arranged things the way they are now, but nature has, since then, operated according to uniform, unchanging laws that need no divine maintenance. 

Descartes (1596 – 1650) is considered, by many, to be the first of these thinkers.  However, many like Thomas Burnet (1635 – 1715), Edmund Halley (1656 – 1742) and William Whiston (1667 – 1752) all added their brand of natural explanations for God’s creation and intervention.  Could God have miraculously started The Flood?  Surely.  However, isn’t it more amazing, and doesn’t it use more wisdom and power, to cause these events to come about by secondary means?  A God who just changes things because He can is certainly less impressive.

Hume’s Attack on Miracles

David Hume’s (1711-1776) argument against miracles is considered by many to be the pinnacle of this line of thinking; that God does not dabble in His creation.  Hume turned the notion of miracles around from being a point of evidence for the believer to being a liability. 

Hume argued that as we observe the natural laws all around us, we must weigh the evidence of the natural law being broken just once, against all the instances of the natural law working just fine.  Since this is the case, the evidence for that single instance of a miracle would have to be compelling indeed.  The report of a miracle becomes a case of “proof against proof”.  Needless to say, Hume looked into history and never found evidence of a miracle to be compelling.

Hume’s Uniformitarianism

Of course, Hume’s argument has a problem.  C.S. Lewis pointed out that Hume argued in a circle because he must presuppose that nature is absolutely uniform to begin with (Beckwith, David Hume’s Argument against Miracles:  A Critical Analysis).  Half of the “proof against proof” statement is the proof of nature’s uniformity.  Yet, this cannot be proven by science, so Hume must assume it. 

The other assumption is that the natural laws do not leave room for any exceptions to the rule.  By attempting to limit exceptions that would make science useless, scientific thought has ruled out exceptions altogether, no matter the cause.  Again, Hume must assume this.

That Hume’s argument fails because of these assumptions is not what we’re concerned with here.  What is important to this article is that Hume’s proof against miracles was widely accepted in his day, and continues to be.  In the vast majority of instances, the presupposition of uniformity and simplicity are transparent or purposefully ignored by practicing scientists. 

Hume’s proof against miracles highlights these unspoken assumptions that are no longer questioned.  That these assumptions are taken for granted as fact, shows just how deeply they have been internalized in the modern scientific mind.

What Affect Did This Have?

Many theologians in the centuries before Darwin used logic, reason, and scientific inquiry to provide arguments for God.  The logical conclusion is that if the existence of God can be argued for in this way, then so can His non-existence.  If God only interacts with His creation through natural laws, why not just describe phenomena according to natural laws?  Why “add” God?

In attempting to rationalize God, modernist thinkers also distanced God from His creation.  Darwin started his work in this theological climate.  His definition of God needed no explanation, because it was already accepted.  Darwin merely pushed God further from His creation, and provided a coherent scientific framework in which to do it.  How and why Darwin was able to do this will be further explored in the future articles in the series.

Should Christians Believe in an Old Earth?

October 24, 2008

Recently, I’ve found myself defending the Bible against fellow Christians who don’t take Genesis naturally.  The general reason for doing this is to show that the Bible and science are compatible.  Right away, I would like to ask the question; should we be attempting to reconcile the Bible to science?  Or should we be reconciling science to the Bible?  As Christians, we believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God.  If this is the case, then every single subject the Bible touches on, it is the absolute authority on that subject. 

Although the Bible is not a scientific textbook (textbooks change every year), that doesn’t mean it doesn’t talk about anything regarding the natural world.  Especially when it comes to natural evidence of the unobservable past, are we going to trust human scientists who weren’t in the past and, compared to God, know very little?  Or will we trust God who is the only One who was in the past and who knows all things?

To explain this point better, I’d like to make a distinction between two types of science. 

Procedural Science vs. Historical Science

Very briefly, procedural science is that which we can observe and test in the natural world.  Historical science is that which attempt to describe the unobservable past through current natural evidence (DNA, geologic column, fossils, tree rings, cosmological phenomena etc.).  Although much more can and should be said on the topic, it will suffice to say here that making scientific conclusions of a historical nature require certain assumptions that procedural science does not.  The two main assumptions of the evolutionary worldview is naturalism and uniformitarianism.

As Christians, is it logical to take the historical science stories which require assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism over the infallible Word of God?

With this in mind, the question then becomes about what Scripture says about the natural world, and in particular, about how God created the Earth.

A Natural Interpretation of Scripture

Since our starting point is that Scripture is the infallible Word of God, and nothing else is, the only way to interpret Scripture is naturally.  What this means is to take historical accounts as historical accounts, poetry as poetry, and parable as parable.  How we decide if a particular passage is which, is by looking at the context;  Scripture interprets Scripture.  Let’s give this treatment to the Genesis account:

As the first chapter is entirely relevant to this discussion, and entirely too long for me to repeat it, I will just link it (Genesis 1), and then refer to specific verses within it.

Yom:  It Means a Literal Day in Genesis

It is true that the Hebrew word for day, yom, does not always refer to a literal twenty-four hour period (it can also mean from sun up to sun down and an indefinite period of time).  But when it doesn’t, the context always makes it clear. 

1:  The context of Genesis uses a literal meaning of yom

In Genesis 1:4-5, yom is defined in it’s two literal senses, the light portion of the day and the whole day.  On the first day, yom is defined for the entire creation account as either the light period or the whole day.  It’s impossible, therefore, to take yom away from the definition laid down at the beginning of the creation account in later verses without ignoring Genesis 1:4-5.

Yom is also used here with “morning” and “evening”.  Everywhere these two words are used in the Old Testament, with yom or without it, the text is referring to a literal evening or morning of a literal day. 

Yom is also used in conjunction with a number; one, two, three etc.  Every other time yom is used with a number, it is in description of literal days.

2:  Exodus 20:9-11 spoils all attempts to interpret millions of years into Genesis 1

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:9-11, quote in NKJV and link in NIV)

Read the above passage again, no really I mean it.  God’s entire reason for the Sabbath, and for the literal Jewish work week, was because of a literal creation week.  If God wanted to say that the Jews should work six literal days, and rest a seventh, because He worked in an indefinite period of time, He could have used any of the other three Hebrew words for “a period of time”, but instead He chose what the Jews would interpret as literal days, the word yom

3.  Jesus is a Young-Earth Creationist

This subject was gone to more detail in here, but Jesus clearly affirms his belief in a literal creation week in Mark 10:6.  Jesus is saying that God created humans “from the beginning of creation”, which would be false if humans came billions of years later as theistic evolution suggests.  So, if Jesus was a young-earth creationist, then how can His faithful followers have any other view?

4.  A belief in millions of years is opposition to the Biblical doctrine of death and the character of God

In Genesis 1, God calls creation “good” six times and when he finished on day six, He called everything “very good”.  Once Adam and Even sinned, God judged all of creation.  Instantly, Adam and Eve died spiritually and began to die physically (which they weren’t doing before).  The serpent and the Earth were changed physically and the ground itself was cursed (Gen 3:14-19).  Now, all of creation groans under bondage to corruption, awaiting the day when God restores His people (Romans 8:19-25). 

How can God call His creation “very good” if there was billions of years of suffering and death in the animal kingdom before humans were created?

This notion also makes God into a bumbling, lying, cruel creator who lacks the power to prevent disease, natural disasters, and extinctions to mar His creative work, without any moral cause, but still calls it all “very good.”

5.  Paul basis his theology of salvation on a literal six day creation

If death and suffering already existed before the first man had a chance to sin, why do we need a savior?  The most important doctrine of Christianity, humanities need for a savior and Jesus’ ability to fill that roll, is based, according to Paul, on Adam’s first sin (Romans 5:16-18). 

Theistic Evolutionist Objections

These are just some of the objections I’ve heard so far from theistic evolutionists that I haven’t mentioned.

1.  In Mark 10:6, Jesus is talking about the beginning of marriage or the beginning of humanity, not the literal beginning of creation.

You can say that all you want, but what Jesus says is, “From the beginning of creation.”  It’s pretty simple.  What is more “in the beginning”, the sixth day of creation or billions of years after creation?

2.  On day three, God creates plants after their kinds, and those plants had descendants which grow.  No plant can have offspring which grow in only one day. 

To make this argument, you first completely ignore the clear evidence I gave above.  Then, you must ignore your own uniformitarian assumption in your interpretation.  You are attempting to argue that God is capable of creating nature, but once created, God is then bound by current rates of growth and reproduction.  The ridiculousness of this argument speaks for itself.

3.  On day six, Adam names all the animals, which must have been thousands of creatures, if not more, so that can’t possibly happen in one day either.

You must assume that he had thousands of names to give, instead of only a few.  Considering that, on day six, Adam is naming kinds, you’re going to have a hard time arguing this.  How long would it take to name a cat, a dog, a cow, a bird, a fish, a deer, etc.  There are not that many kinds.

Conclusion

If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, if we read history as history and poetry as poetry etc, it is obvious what the Bible itself teaches about the beginning of the Earth.  To force uniformitarian and naturalistic assumptions upon the text of the Bible, is to literally take the authority of science over the authority of God’s Word.  What is at stake here is the authority of Scripture, the character of God, the doctrine of death, and the foundation of the Gospel message.

I have a question for all the theistic evolutionists reading this; why only Genesis?  That is, since the reason to interpret Genesis figuratively is because modern science has clearly shown that the Earth was not created in six days, why not interpret the rest of Scripture in the light of modern science?  Modern science tells us that men don’t walk on water, men can’t heal the sick, men don’t rise from dead and men don’t ascend from hilltops.  Why only subject Genesis to the conclusions of modern science, why not give Jesus the same treatment and then be forced to treat the acts of Jesus, including His death on the cross, as figurative?  Why only Genesis?