Creation and evolution—that hot potato. Congratulations for following the link here: you’re braver than most.
As Christians, which side do we take? If we’ve lingered in the majesty of Genesis 1, our instinct of course says creation. If we’ve conversed with the science-minded, it seems unthinkable to deny evolution.
In the characteristically blunt, but helpfully clear words of well-known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”
evolution n. the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.
So science has settled it: God must have created using evolution. Phew, that was an easy dodge. Science, theology and reputation intact. Right? Not so fast.
Remember the naturalists from my previous post—the ones who, before conducting their science, made the philosophical leap of faith that everything in the world arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural explanations are excluded? The ones who said, “even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic”?
They are evolution’s loudest proponents. And Christian, they find the phrase “God created using evolution” just as absurd, laughable and offensive with or without those two magical words on the end. If you’re hoping to impress them, it’s not working.* It can’t—they’re naturalists, remember?
Naturalism n. the philosophical belief that everything in the world arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural explanations are excluded.
That being the case, why not give yourself permission to consider “the impossible”: that they might be wrong not only about the universe’s first cause, but also about the course of its development.
Could it be that their prior commitment to a Godless universe—before a lab coat was even donned—left them with no choice but slow changes and vast eons to explain life’s origin and diversity? That these ideas don’t represent the findings of science, but rather the findings of naturalism? That in the words of geologist and close friend of Darwin, Charles Lyell, scientists advocating evolution in those heady days (and God forbid, in our day too) were in fact looking to “free science from Moses”?
No coincidence that it’s naturalists also leading the charge that “evolution is science while creation is religion”. I’m convinced this dichotomy is as cooked-up as the one that insists God retreats as science advances. For two reasons:
FIRST, “evolution is science while creation is religion” rests on a false division of science. That division looks like this:
In this reckoning, science is logical, dealing with reality—while anti-science is illogical and deals with superstitious nonsense. Science is interested in things such as the study of gravity and the biochemistry of cells, whereas anti-science is interested in the Easter bunny and the fairies at the bottom of the garden. Science delivers smartphones and the space shuttle: anti-science gives us belief in a flat-earth and a return to the dark ages. The intent of this false division is of course to paint creation as a farce and its proponents as buffoons. Little wonder you ducked for cover.
A more honest division of science, as it pertains to evolution and creation, looks like this:
Operational science deals with observed, repeatable experiments in the present, while historical science is dealing with unique, unobserved, unrepeatable events from the past—think CSI. It is in fact observational science that is interested in things such as the study of gravity and the biochemistry of cells, while historical science is interested in things like the relatedness of organic life and the formation of stars and planets. Observational science alone delivers smartphones and the space shuttle: historical science delivers hypotheses about the origins of the universe, earth, life and humans.
When a childish and manipulative division is replaced with a practical and realistic alternative, what we in fact see is that both creation and evolution are as scientific as one another. But they are a special breed of science, one bound to speculation (or revelation, in the case of Genesis) about singular, unrepeatable events of the distant past. If creation is dismissed as unscientific, by definition, evolution must be also. If evolution is scientific, so too creation. They stand or fall together. Let that sink in.
SECOND, “evolution is science while creation is religion” conceals the enormous scientific impossibilities of evolutionary theory. While theories of creation have their obstacles to overcome—such as how light can be seen from stars that are millions of lightyears away, and why radiometric dating gives vast ages for rocks and fossils—it is also time for evolutionary theory to have a long, hard look at itself.
“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology.”—Stephen Jay Gould
The chance origin of the DNA code, novel biochemical pathways, sex, and even life itself are a complete mystery. Not in the sense that science is yet to discover them, but in the sense that the scientific data already available makes such ideas jaw-droppingly untenable. I know you mean well, but “God did it” can’t rescue the theory. Consider the following:
// The evolutionary family trees that adorn textbooks are based on imagination, not fossil evidence. The expected countless millions of transitional fossils, acknowledged by Charles Darwin as a significant weakness of his theory, still remain “missing” today. All we have, even after a century and a half of fossil digs, is an embarrassingly small handful of highly disputed candidates. Famous evolutionist, Stephen Jay Gould, wrote, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology”.
// “Living fossils” are a major evolutionary problem. Fossil ostracodes (“seed shrimp”) that have been dated at 425 million years old look identical to ostracodes alive today. In the same period of time, all land plants are supposed to have evolved, and some form of worm is said to have developed into all the species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals (including us) alive today. Examples of such “living fossils” abound and have evolutionists scratching their heads.
// Dinosaurs are said to have lived and died out tens of millions of years before humans existed; yet ancient cave paintings and carvings of them have been discovered in diverse parts of the world. Dozens of cultures give independent accounts of uncannily dinosaur-like “dragons”—the book of Job being such an example. And more recently, blood vessels, blood cells and soft tissue have been found in Tyrannosaurus Rex bones that “should” have turned to stone long, long ago.
// Diamonds are found so deep in earth’s rock layers that they’re said to have taken billions of years to form. Yet radiocarbon, an isotope able to survive 50,000 years at most, has been found in many diamond samples. Not to mention the fact that diamonds, identical to these, can now be made in the lab in as little as twelve hours.
The scientific data already available makes the chance origin of the DNA code, novel biochemical pathways, sex, and even life itself jaw-droppingly untenable.
The claim that “evolution is science while creation is religion” might be effective in silencing dissent, but like the “Science vs Religion” concoction, it simply doesn’t align with reality. Not only is creation just as scientific as evolution; evolution is just as religious as creation. In the minds of the committed, it’s an unquestionable dogma that no evidence can overturn. Science philosopher Karl Popper acknowledged that “Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme.” Michael Ruse, evolutionist and science philosopher conceded that “Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”
With good intent, Christians who want to honour the broad brush strokes of Scripture and the claims of the scientific consensus affirm evolution and acknowledge God as its cause. But not only does this position fail to make us any more sophisticated in the eyes of evolution’s most zealous defenders, the naturalists: it unquestioningly adopts a theory, 150 years young, that has become riddled with insurmountable problems.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We all agree. But maybe, just maybe, the rest of the chapter and its six “evening and morning” days is worth another look.