Apologetics, In the News

Eclipses, False Prophets, and Intelligent Design

I would be remiss if I did not mention today (August 21, 2017) being the quintessential day with respect to the solar system. The United States experiences this perfect solar eclipse that is visible from Oregon to South Carolina. It is like a seventy-mile-wide belt hugging the nation’s midriff. What I find interesting about this is a lot of things, but I have seen modern-day prophecy pundit using this as some kind of a portent, some kind of an omen, a stellar event to be imposed on a biblical passage. Listen — this is not about exegesis; it is about eisegesis. It is about taking something and imposing it on Scripture. I often talk about this as the this-is-that fallacy. This in the stellar universe is that in the Scripture.

You know it is always the secular news agencies that have to call us to account and, in the process, rightly marginalize Christianity or at least a caricature of Christianity. Newsweek, for example, observed “various evangelical groups in the U.S.” viewing Monday’s eclipse “as a link to something biblical.” What is that something biblical? It is Joel 2:31. Remember that famous passage in Joel? “The sun will be turned to darkness…before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (NIV).

Well, obviously the New Testament writers — we always put the magnifying glass in the hands of those writers — they make plain that Joel 2:31 was fulfilled during Pentecost (Acts 2:20; cf. v. 1). This is apocalyptic language. Judgment language ultimately having nothing whatsoever to do with astronomical events in the skies. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, the heavenly bodies will be shaken, the sky will roll up like a scroll. This is all judgment language. How do we know this? We know that by reading Scripture in light of Scripture.

My point is precisely this: the prophecy pundits seem to be helping Christianity in reverse. Instead of showcasing the Grand Designer in today’s total eclipse of the sun, what they are doing is marginalizing Christianity through their sophistry, their sensationalism, and their Scriptorture.

The real message in today’s solar eclipse is one of Intelligent Design. Think about it. Imagine the probability of a sun four-hundred times the size of the moon, and four-hundred times further away such that it can be perfectly eclipsed by the moon. Now, there are certainly some like Bill Nye the Science Guy who think this to be a function of pure chance, and render Earth a mere insignificant speck of soil adrift in a meaningless universe. I have that sort of imbedded in my psyche. I could not believe what he was saying. He went through this whole thing, “Everything is meaningless,” and as a result, he comes to the conclusion, “I suck.” “I” being Bill Nye. He was talking about himself. “I suck.” I am not going to debate him on that point.

The fact is, the truth we ought to be communicating is that Earth is a singularly privileged planet that is designed for discovery. Why not remember that the Earth is situated between two arms in a flattened spiral galaxy — I’m talking about the Milky Way — it is not too close to the core to be exposed to lethal radiation, or comet collisions, or light pollution that would obscure observation. Not only that, but the atmosphere of our privileged planet is both oxygen rich for survival, and transparent for discovery.

Here you have a moon the perfect size and distance from Earth to stabilize rotation and to facilitate human habitability. Not only that but the moon and the sun’s relative size and distances from the Earth provide perfect solar eclipses. By the way, they happen all the time; we just do not see them. This plays a vital role in the development of modern science. For example, perfect solar eclipses played an essential role in the determination of the nature of stars and, interestingly enough, confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. To understand more on this, check out The Privileged Planet DVD. This is the perfect time to get it because now people are talking about stellar events and often in the Christian context improperly. So, this is the perfect time to watch The Privileged Planet. When you do, you will come away with a new appreciation for the universe in which we live and the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence.

The bottom line: “The more we learn and see about the universe, the more we come to realize,” as Guy Gardner once put it, “that the most ideally suited place for life within the entire solar system is the planet we call home.” If you think about the temperatures on this planet: closer to the sun, we fry; farther away, we freeze. Think about ocean tides; they are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, and they play a crucial role in our survival. If you have a moon that is significantly larger with a stronger gravitational pull, you have devastating tidal waves that would submerge large areas of land. Conversely, if the moon is smaller, tidal motion would cease, and then the oceans would stagnate then die. If you look at the temperatures and the tides, or even tap water, the Earth becomes testimony to the one who spoke, the uncaused first cause, who has revealed Himself in time and space through the Incarnation.

We never take Handel’s Messiah or Da Vinci’s Last Supper and pawn them off as the result of blind evolutionary processes. If that is true, we should never, ever do that with the planet we call home.

One of the most astonishing discoveries of the twentieth century is that the universe is fined tuned to support intelligent life. It is balanced, as it were, on the fine edge of a razor. Just think about gravity for a moment. If it were stronger or weaker, the universe would not and could not support intelligent life. Again, this cannot be attributed to chance because of the infinitesimally small range of values that are involved. Chance is infinitely more likely to a life prohibiting universe than a life-sustaining universe. The only plausible source of the fine tuning of the universe is an external transcendent incalculably powerful intelligent personal mind. That mind we call God. He is the uncaused first cause.

The more we learn about our universe, the more we say with David, “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. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4).

Why this point on this program today? It is simply because we as Christians have an opportunity to point to a privileged planet as a way of pointing directly to God. Instead, we are doing the inverse, at least the people who have the biggest megaphones in the Christian world today. I am talking about the this-is-that fallacy. Who calls them to account? Well, it happens to be the secular world who is convinced that we have Christians who are mining the subjunctive, cultivating the seed of threat buried in each unrealized instance such that they can say, “Look, this portends to be the end of the world” or “This portends to be judgment of God.”

Well, would God judge those who are disobedient? Yes, but we are not the ones calling the shots, nor are we the ones that can say how and when God’s judgment falls. The Old Testament prophets could do that. You know what is interesting about the Old Testament prophets? They used to do that pointing the finger at the false prophets. The false prophets “who prophesy lies in my name” says the Lord. The false prophets “who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’” The false prophets “who prophesy false dreams” (Jer. 23:25, 31, 32 NIV). The false prophets who, well, essentially want to sell their books to an unsuspecting, gullible public. Then there are those who are on the fence about ready to consider the claims of Christianity and then they realize, “Wow, this is just a bunch of nonsense.” They kind of fall out the back doors of the auditoriums where they were seekers, and they write off the Christian faith or as Jeremiah speaking for the Lord says they “‘lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:32 NIV).

We have an opportunity to use a stellar event as a witness. Let us not tarnish it by Scriptorture, sophistry, and sloppy journalism. We have an opportunity to use an event that everyone is talking about as a springboard or an opportunity to share the fact that God created the universe, that we are the crowning jewels of His creation, and that we have been created for something more, a universe restored, our bodies restored, and a new heaven and new earth where indwells righteousness. All of this is not a trivial matter, because we will be held to account on Judgment Day. We will be held to account by the very one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. Instead of just passing time, let us make time. Let us not just be men of our time; let us be men that make our time.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the August 21, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Luck and Chance: Can they Account for the Origin of Life?

cri-blog-nelson-paul-origin-evidence-beliefHow does a guy like Richard Dawkins, who probably is the most famous scientific materialist on the planet today, how does he get away with saying such things as “the universe could so easily have remained lifeless, it’s an astonishing stroke of luck that we’re here”?

I think if you imagine the logic tree where at the top is a single cell, and Dawkins is well aware of the complexity of single cells. You work your way down that logic tree, and you end up at a bifurcation where one alternative is design and the other alternative is chance. For all kinds of reasons Dawkins does not want to turn off on that branch that goes to design. The only thing remaining to him is what he calls luck.

Years ago when I was working in England with Bill Dembski and Steve Meyer on intelligent design, we realized that ultimately anyone who wants to can leap into the arms of mother chance. She’s always there waiting with her irrational arms wide open. Frankly, I think in the mystery of faith and in the mystery of the human will, there are plenty of people, very bright people included, Richard Dawkins is no dummy, who will opt for chance when confronted with design. They will say, “Look, we just got lucky, and we’re here.” This is a case of not listening to reason, and in fact turning your back on her, turning your back on wisdom, and saying, “I’m going to choose luck, if the alternative is I have to acknowledge that there was a designer or creator of this universe.”

There is a great scene at the end of C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, book number seven in The Chronicles of Narnia series. There is a circle of dwarves. They are sitting and arguing amongst themselves. Aslan is trying to persuade them to listen to him to keep going up into heaven. Finally, Aslan says to the children I cannot do it, their will, I cannot override their will and their will is so strong that they will not listen to me. It was a terrifying scene when I read it as a kid because I realized that even confronted with Aslan himself, the perversity of the human will can choose something like chance.

It is a puzzle to me because I want to say science ought to be open to all the possibilities no matter what the consequences. Luck is not an explanation. You cannot teach luck in a biology class. Write the word on the blackboard, the class is over.

In essence what you are saying Paul is this: It is not that you cannot believe, it is that many people simply will not believe. I’m reminded of Blaise Pascal who said that God dwells in enough obscurities that if you do not want to find Him you will not, and He dwells in enough light that if you want to find Him you will (Pensees, 7.430).

That’s right. For me one of the most sobering lessons in the New Testament is to look in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the Gospel of John at how the Pharisees responded to the miracles that they saw right in front of them. You could not ask for better sense data, better evidence that Jesus Himself healing people or casting out demons. But, between what they saw, their heart, and their mind, for the Pharisees, for many of whom there was a disconnect. They would say illogical things like he cast out demons by Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). Right? Even the direct witness of one of God’s miracles in the person of Jesus healing someone was unable to persuade those Pharisees that this man was who He claimed to be.

I think there is a mystery to faith and there is a mystery on how we respond to evidence. I think scientific evidence is very powerful. It is very compelling. Ultimately, the nature of the human will enter in. I will tell you, after three decades of working in this field, my devotional life matters a lot more to me, because much of the relevant action persuading somebody occurs where we cannot see it. Out of sight in their heart. I love giving people evidence but ultimately I realize there is a lot more to it than just evidence.

—Paul Nelson

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV)

Learn more on the evidence supporting intelligent design in Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth by Illustra Media.

This blog adapted from the November 7, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Are Earthlings Really Extraterrestrials?

 

cri-blog-nelson-paul-panspermia_1

Most chemists believe, as do I, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth.

How? I have no idea.

—George Whitesides, professor of chemistry Harvard University

Is there anything in chemistry that scientists hope will actually account for life apart from design?

Well, they are looking. They have been looking for well over a hundred years. But, the point of looking, the point of investigating, is to listen to nature. If I can personify her, to listen to what she is telling us. I think that the clear message from cell biology over the past several decades is this: If you want a cell at all, you need a cell to produce it. All life comes from life is the most reliable generalization that biology offers us.

Really the program of origin of life research is predicated or rests not so much on the evidence because I think the evidence points completely in the other direction, but predicated on the assumption of materialism, or what the film (Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth) calls “scientific materialism,” which is the view that to explain anything in biology you can only use natural processes and chance. It is that underlying philosophy that drives origin of life research, and the signal from nature herself is saying, “Hey, maybe it didn’t happen that way.”

One of the things that Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth deals with is the whole idea of panspermia. It is dispensed in different varieties the basic notion being that life came to earth via aliens or meteorites. Richard Dawkins considers the notion an intriguing possibility but panspermia—literally seeds everywhere—does little to solve the naturalistic conundrum concerning the origin of life, which were dealing with in the film. While Dawkins is moving in the right direction by entertaining intelligent design, he has not yet arrived at an answer for the origin of life nor can he and this seems like quite a stretch. Your perspective?

In 1981 Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize with James Watson, for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, Crick published a book called Life Itself (Touchstone) that I recommend. It is a beautifully written not very long serious sober proposal that life on earth did not originate here but was rather sent here by an alien intelligence.

Now Crick was an atheist. In fact, he was motivated to go into science by his atheism. Although I think he was a far better biologist than he was an atheist.

The thesis of Life Itself is this planet was not hospitable and was never hospitable for the formation of the first cell and maybe there was a planet elsewhere in the galaxy that had better geological or geochemical circumstances. But, portions of that book could have been written by an intelligent design advocate. Crick recognized that the origin of life was a deep puzzle for his materialist worldview but he was unwilling to let go of that materialist worldview, so he looked for what appeared to be a kind of solution strictly within physical universe having life start somewhere else and be sent here looked like it could do that.

This does not really solve the problem at all. Let us go to that other planet and all the same problems crop up again. You still have to explain the origin of information, you still have to explain how all these proteins got together, hundreds of them to get a cell up and running. It is a solution that ultimately is really no solution at all.

—Paul Nelson

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, NIV).

For further related study, please see the following equip.org resources:

Can Aliens Account for the Origin of Life? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Would Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Spell Doom for Christianity? (Guillermo Gonzalez)

Did Ancient Extraterrestrials Visit Earth? (Robert Velarde)

Learn more on the evidence supporting intelligent design in Origin: Design, Chance, and the First Life on Earth by Illustra Media.

This blog adapted from the November 7, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics, In the News

Unproven Assumptions with the Story about the Universe Teeming with Life

Hanegraaff-Hank-Universe-Teaming-with-Life-Story

I wrote the forward to Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design by Thomas Woodward. In the forward, I point out that it was Thomas Kuhn, who was the philosopher of science that popularized the concept of paradigms. A paradigm is a way of seeing reality. What Kuhn showed is that dominant paradigms, prevailing metanarratives, or master stories, appear to possess infallibility in their fields. The difficulty whether for scientist, philosophers, theologians or laypeople is that we do not think about our paradigms nearly as much as we think with our paradigms. In subtle, powerful, and almost always unconscious ways our paradigms filter and frame our perceptions, and that ends up blinding us to disconfirming data.

Imagine in this context the audacity of Michael Denton, who was the founder of what became known as the Intelligent Design Movement. He dared to attack Darwinian dogma as an empirically empty shell propped up by the sociological forces of a paradigm. The reality is this: neither pf the two fundamental axioms of Charles Darwin’s macroevolutionary theory—the concept of the continuity of nature and the belief that all of the adaptive design of life has resulted from a blind random process—neither have been validated by one single empirical discovery since 1859, the time of Darwin.

I say all of that because I was reading a guest blog in Scientific American. It was titled “Maybe Life in the Cosmos is Rare After All.” It got my attention because the narrative you read not only in academic journals but also in popular media is that life is teeming in the cosmos. But this piece written by Paul Davies, a theoretical physicists at Arizona State University, specializing in applied quantum physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and astrobiology, points out as the title of the article indicates that maybe life in the cosmos is rare after all. The conclusion being that the universe is teeming with biology only on the basis of theory and unproven assumptions. He is an agnostic, concerning the existence of God, he has no qualms whatsoever about Darwinian Evolution, once life begins, but he’s questioning how life can begin in the first place. He thinks that is a significant obstacle. He writes,

When I was a student in the 1960s almost all scientists believed we are alone in the universe. The search for intelligent life beyond Earth was ridiculed; one might as well have professed an interest in looking for fairies. The focus of skepticism concerned the origin of life, which was widely assumed to have been a chemical fluke of such incredibly low probability it would never have happened twice. “The origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle,” was the way Francis Crick described it, “so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Jacques Monod concurred; in his 1976 book Chance and Necessity he wrote, “Man knows at last that he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the universe, whence which he has emerged by chance.”

Today the pendulum has swung decisively the other way. Many distinguished scientists proclaim that the universe is teeming with life, at least some of it intelligent. The biologist Christian de Duve went so far as to call life “a cosmic imperative.” Yet the science has hardly changed. We are almost as much in the dark today about the pathway from non-life to life as Darwin was when he wrote, “It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter.”

A common argument is that the universe is so vast that there just has to be life out there somewhere. But that argument is dwarfed by the odds against forming even simple organic molecules by random chance alone. “If the pathway from chemistry to biology is long and complicated it may well be less than one-in a trillion trillion planets ever spawns life,” thus concludes theoretical physicists Paul Davies, “If life really does pop up readily, as [Carl] Sagan suggested, then it should have started many times on our home planet” and “It would take the discovery of just a single “alien” microbe to settle the matter.” But, we don’t have that.

I salute Scientific American for publishing this guest blog by Paul Davies. It’s honest, forthright, and really calls into question the evolutionary paradigm. That’s one of the reasons we offer Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design because Intelligent Design as a movement wants truth to lead wherever it will.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please consider the following:

Ten Urgent Questions and Answers about Origins (Hank Hanegraaff)

JAF9351 – Would Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life Spell Doom for Christianity? (Guillermo Gonzalez)

Thinking Clearly About God and Evolution (Jay Richards)

Objections Overruled: Responding to the Top Ten Objections against Intelligent Design (William A. Dembski & Sean McDowell)

Unlocking the DNA Enigma (Stephen C. Meyer)

Darwin’s Doubt and the Case for Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer)

God and the “Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics” (William Lane Craig)

See also these recommended e-store items:

The Creation Answer Book (Hank Hanegraaff)

Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer)

Darwin’s Dilemma DVD (Illustra Media)

The Privileged Planet DVD (Illustra Media)

Unlocking The Mystery Of Life DVD (Illustra Media)

Icons of Evolution DVD (Illustra Media)

This blog was adapted from Hank Hanegraaff’s monologue on the May 27, 2016 edition of the Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Evidence Leading to Doubts about Darwinism

Hanegraaff, Hank-Intervies Thomas Woodward-Doubts Darwinism

Hank Hanegraaff invited Thomas Woodward onto the May 3, 2016 edition of the Bible Answer Man broadcast. The following is a highlight from their discussion.

Hank Hanegraaff: Life and truth matter indeed, and when truth is vanquished, there are dramatic consequences. Think about this. Other than the Bible, Darwin’s magnum opus, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection could well be said to be the most significant literary work in the annals of recorded history. I remember Sir Julian Huxley calling the evolutionary dogma the most powerful  the most comprehensive idea that has ever arisen upon the earth, the most fundamental of all intellectual revolutions, and the father of the intelligent design movement, Michael Denton, saying that the twentieth century could not be comprehended apart from the intellectual revolution that the theory produced. The far reaching consequences of that cosmogenic myth are felt in virtually every field, in every discipline of study, every level of education, and every area of practice. I think the most significant consequence is that it undermines the very foundations of the Christian faith, because if indeed macroevolution is reflective of the laws of science, then Genesis must be reflective of the flaws of Scripture, or so it is thought. If the foundation of Christianity is flawed, then the superstructure is designed to fall.

Now all of that is just prologue to something that I want to impress you with, and that is a book by Thomas Woodward. It is titled Doubts about Darwin. It’s a history of the intelligent design movement, a movement that allows truth to lead wherever it will. This book ought to be one of the great classics of literature, and CRI has republished this book because we have a deep and abiding confidence that this book can make a dramatic paradigm shift in the way people think about Darwinian evolution.

If you think I am excited about this subject, I always have been. From the very beginning, I’ve said how one views their origins will ultimately determine how they live their life. So we’re not talking about an apologetic issue here, we’re talking about the apologetic issue. The author of Doubt’s about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design, Thomas Woodward joins me now. Hi Tom!  

Thomas Woodward: Hi, great to be with you, thank you so much for that very warm welcome…

Hank: You know, I am so delighted that we’ve had the opportunity to republish this book because I do think it is a classic. You’re a professor at Trinity College in Florida, you teach history of science, communication, systematic theology, and the significance of systematic theology, you’re a founder and director of the C.S. Lewis Society, and you lecture in universities around the world, but this book, I think, could be a lasting legacy, because it pointing the finger squarely at doubts about Darwin and why we ought to have them.

Thomas: I think that your opening there is so on target. I mean talk about hitting the nail on the head. This is where the departure from truth hinges. It kind of sprouts from here and heads everywhere. One of the main theorist today has described Darwin’s theory is like a universal acid. It eats through any preexisting major paradigm, theory, concept, worldview, partial or in full, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview, which has at its core this new god substitute—Darwin’s meandering blind process. You know, of course, natural selection we can go into the details, but I think that what really struck me is when I presented some of the accounts of the challengers of Neo-Darwinism to my agnostic professors, at the University of South Florida here in Tampa Bay, they were engaged. Here were scientists, here was a law professor Philip Johnson at Berkley, here were top biochemists who were challenging the theory, and my agnostic professors saying this is really interesting, give us more. They were not theists, they were not interested in, you know, in any kind of defense for the Bible. They were saying, this is genuine, there is something new under the sun, give us more. And they egged me on to write the history. So that’s kind of a strange background but I thank my, you know, kind of secular, skeptical, and agnostic professors for lighting the fire that allowed this book to be written.

Hank: I think what’s important at the very outset to talk about is the terrible price that is paid when you try to counter what is thought of in academia as settled science. You’re telling people look put on a different pair of glasses and what you see will be entirely different as well. So, one of the things that I love about this book and I really commend you for is that you have underscored and underlined and emphasized the people who have taken a hit professionally and personally to follow truth wherever it leads.

Thomas: Well that’s been my focus I would say from the get go as I began to hang out with some of these amazing, spectacular, researchers, and thinkers, many of them scientists, some of the professors at elite universities. They have stuck their neck out. I mean, you talk about the apostles. I’m not saying I’m going to put them in the rank of Peter, Paul and others in the Book of Acts, but these guys in their own way have as you said paid the price. Michael Behe at Lehigh University, you know kind of a quasi-Ivy League school, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Behe has suffered the ongoing shock or dismay, you might say, of having a disclaimer on his own biology department web site or webpage saying we do not subscribe to Michael Behe’s views, they are religious. Of course, that is so painfully and mistakenly absurd because he doesn’t use one religious argument in his book Darwin’s Black Box; it’s all empirically driven, but he labors on and others with him. I mean it’s really a moment of marvel for me to see the courage of these gentlemen.

Hank: I want to quote something that you have written Tom, and have you comment. You say the cultural stakes of the Darwinian design debate are high. The debaters are contending over the fundamental cultural story of human kind, and those who succeed at crafting and telling the most convincing story of origins, hold in their hands supreme cultural authority. If any group, religious or scientific, gains the authority to present its own story, as uniquely true, and then label other stories as mythological, that group functions as the high priesthood of our time. That I think is a powerful statement.

Thomas: That’s where I think so many people do not realize that if they subscribe to Neo-Darwinism and all its trappings and all its variations, they are embracing, something that has never really since Darwin’s day been supported by empirical evidence, a powerful idea. I can say the same thing about many powerful ideas that can be traced all the way back to Epicurus, Lucretius before Christ. The ideas of evolution has been floating in the air, have been floating in the air for twenty, or twenty-twenty-two centuries  before Darwin came along and came up with this new mechanism. He even admitted, you know, I cannot offer any direct evidence, but I can reasonably extend from what we see going on with animal breeders. Wow, now that’s quite a leap. Animal breeders make minor tweaking. They back and forth, you know, variations of the size, or shape or color of some organ, some wing, some fur on a sheep, but they do not fundamentally change those animals, and yet that’s what Darwin’s theory has to account for. It’s been struggling. It’s been a theory in search of evidence. I like to use that phrase. I got it from Philip Johnson, our common friend. A theory in search of evidence ever since it came out in 1859 and now defenders are turning really, how shall I put it, brittle and defensive and almost vindictive, ferocious at times, if you dare to question their theory, when Darwin himself was really welcoming those kinds of responses or critiques.

Hank: Let me pick up on that because this is one of the points that you make that doubts about Darwin are not relegated to those who doubt Darwin but Darwin himself had doubts about his own theory. In other words, he was open to evidence to the contrary.

Thomas: Yes and I have to qualify that, I think that doubts about—he’s wondering why is the evidence so terrible in so many areas where I want it to be splendid? So in that sense they were bracketed, you know, doubts here doubts there, why is the evidence not supporting me. Of course, the most blatant example is the fossil record, which was dead set against Darwin. He admitted it in his chapter on problems with my theory, admitted it again in his discussion of the geological record, and I think we would say today it is ten to a hundred times worsts than it was in Darwin’s day. The evidence, and we can go into this in more detail, for the expectation of Darwinism verses what we see in the fossil record is an overwhelming loud embarrassment. Darwin said if it could be presented, any complex organ’s existence, this is a quote from his book, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications; my theory would absolutely break down. And of course that’s quite a statement. He is opening up himself for testing. I would say based on what we see now in the micro-machinery of a cell, his theory has again overwhelmingly broken down. We can credit that, of course, to Michael Behe, and before him, Michael Denton, and Phil Johnson brought out those points, but this was even evident in Darwin’s day. There were contrary evidence and he was receiving letters all the time from scientists. Well that’s part of the story that’s never told.

Hank: What I’d like you to do is to just take a minute or so and explain the transcendent importance of this particular topic.

Thomas: I would be delighted to tackle that exciting opportunity. Darwin’s theory is the reigning paradigm. It’s not just a theory. It’s a whole worldview. It’s like a broad structured thought that sort of links everybody together looking that the same issues raising the same possibility, but excluding certain possibilities ahead of time, and that’s a betrayal of science. So what we’re dealing with in the Neo-Darwinism period—if there’s an opportunity at some point today or another day I can share about some huge cracks that have opened up in the edifice in the last two or three weeks—but Darwin’s theory is now the reigning like determination of what is to be admitted within the scientific community. If it’s not materialistic, if it deals with intelligent causation, it’s ruled out ahead of time. Well, that’s not scientific at all. Darwin’s theory is the tip of a very bleak kind of situation where science has come under the control primarily of a worldview. A worldview that goes by a couple of different names but naturalism, the worldview of naturalism is probably the most common label. It means that you rule out ahead of time that anything non-material exists such as souls, spirits, God and certainly anything above the universe. As we see this triumphant theory aging and cracking it’s quite an exciting time of history.

Thomas E. Woodward is a research professor and department chair of the theology department at Trinity College of Florida. He is also the founder and director of the C.S. Lewis Society and lectures in universities on scientific apologetics and religious topics. Doubts about Darwin is one of the most significant works of Woodward for out times.

To get your copy Doubts about Darwin of click here.

Apologetics

Fat Chance: The Failure of Evolution to Account for the Miracle of Life

Hanegraaff, Hank-Eye

This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 21, number 1 (1998). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org 


SYNOPSIS

No rational person looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper would suggest that this masterpiece came into being through blind chance. Incredibly, however, many blindly believe that chance operating through natural processes can account for the masterful precision and design of the universe in which we live. The eye, the egg, and the earth are but three examples of organized complexity that can not be accounted for apart from the existence of an omniscient designer. As the science of statistical probability demonstrates, forming even a protein molecule by random processes is not only improbable; it is indeed impossible.


One of the primary dilemmas of naturalistic evolutionary theory is that it forces scientists to conclude that the cosmos in all of its complexity was created by chance. As biologist Jacques Monod, a Nobel prize winner, puts it, “Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, [is] at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution” (emphasis in original).2 Noted theologian R. C. Sproul explains, for the materialist chance is the “magic wand to make not only rabbits but entire universes appear out of nothing.”3 Sproul also warns that “if chance exists in any size, shape, or form, God cannot exist. The two are mutually exclusive. If chance existed, it would destroy God’s sovereignty. If God is not sovereign, he is not God. If he is not God, he simply is not. If chance is, God is not. If God is, chance is not” (emphasis in original).4

THE COMPLEXITY OF LIFE

Chance in this sense refers to that which happens without cause.5 Thus, chance implies the absence of both a design and a designer. Reflect for a moment on the absurdity of such a notion. Imagine suggesting that Christopher Wren had nothing whatsoever to do with the design of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Imagine asserting that the majestic Messiah composed itself apart from Handel. Or imagine claiming thatthe Last Supper painted itself without Leonardo da Vinci.

Now consider an even more egregious and absurd assertion — that an eye, an egg, and the earth, each in its vast complexity, are merely functions of random chance.6 Ironically, Darwin himself found it hard to accept the notion that the eye could be the product of blind evolutionary chance, conceding that the intricacies of the human eye gave him “cold shudders.”7

Eye

In his landmark publication, The Origin of Species, Darwin avowed, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree possible.”8 He called this dilemma the problem of “organs of extreme perfection and complication.”9

Consider for a moment the incredible complexity of the human eye. It consists of a ball with a lens on one side and a light sensitive retina made up of rods and cones inside the other. The lens itself has a sturdy protective covering called a cornea and sits over an iris designed to protect the eye from excessive light. The eye contains a fantastic watery substance that is replaced every four hours, while tear glands continuously flush the outside clean. In addition, an eyelid sweeps secretions over the cornea to keep it moist, and eyelashes protect it from dust.10

It is one thing to stretch credulity by suggesting that the complexities of the eye evolved by chance; it is quite another to surmise that the eye could have evolved in concert with myriad other coordinated functions. As a case in point, extraordinarily tuned muscles surround the eye for precision motility and shape the lens for the function of focus.11

Additionally, consider the fact that as you read this article, a vast number of impulses are traveling from your eyes through millions of nerve fibers that transmit information to a complex “computer center” in the brain called the visual cortex. Linking the visual information from the eyes to motor centers in the brain is crucial in coordinating a vast number of bodily and mental functions that are part and parcel to the very process of daily living. Without the coordinated development of the eye and the brain in a synergistic fashion the isolated developments themselves become meaningless and counterproductive.12

In Darwin’s Black Box, biochemist Michael Behe points out that what happens when a photon of light hits a human eye was beyond nineteenth‐century science. Thus, to Darwin, vision was an unopened black box.13 In the twentieth century, however, the black box of vision has been opened, and it is no longer enough to consider the anatomical structure of the eye. We now know that “each of the anatomical steps and structures that Darwin thought were so simple actually involves staggeringly complicated biochemical processes” that demand explanation.14

Behe goes on to demonstrate that one cannot explain the origin of vision without first accounting for the origin of the enormously complex system of molecular mechanisms that make it work.15 Phillip Johnson, author of Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, has aptly summarized Darwin’s dilemma regarding the eye: “Evolutionary biologists have been able to pretend to know how complex biological systems originated only because they treated them as black boxes. Now that biochemists have opened the black boxes and seen what is inside, they know the Darwinian theory is just a story, not a scientific explanation.”16

Egg

In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe further notes that there are black boxes within black boxes. As science advances, more and more of these black boxes are being opened, revealing an “unanticipated Lilliputian world” of enormous complexity that has pushed the theory of evolution beyond the breaking point.17

Evolution cannot account for the astonishingly complex synchronization process needed for, say, the shell of a developing egg to form from the calcium that is stored inside the bones of a bird’s body.18 This shell not only provides a protective covering for the egg but also provides a source of calcium for the developing embryo and a membrane through which it can breathe.19

Furthermore, evolution cannot account for the complex synchronization process needed to produce life from a single fertilized human egg. “The tapestry of life begins with a single thread.”20 Through a process of incredible precision, a microscopic egg in one human being is fertilized by a sperm cell from another. This process not only marks the beginning of a new life but also marks the genetic future of that life.21 A single fertilized egg (zygote), the size of a pinhead, contains chemical instructions that would fill more than 500,000 printed pages.22 The genetic information contained in this “encyclopedia” determines the potential physical aspect of the developing human from height to hair color. In time, the fertilized egg divides into the 30 trillion cells that make up the human body, including 12 billion brain cells, which form over 120 trillion connections.23

In Darwin’s day, a human egg was thought to be quite simple—for all practical purposes, little more than a microscopic blob of gelatin. Today we know that a fertilized egg is among the most organized, complex structures in the universe. In an age of scientific enlightenment, it is incredible to think that people are willing to maintain that something so vastly complex arose by chance. As Dr. James Coppedge, an expert on the science of statistical probability, puts it, “Chance requires ten billion tries on the average in order to count to ten.”24

In an experiment using 10 similar coins numbered one through 10, chance will succeed on the average only once in 10 billion attempts to get the number one followed in order by all the rest. Coppedge explains that if a person could draw and record one coin every five seconds day and night, it would still take over 1,500 years for chance, on average, to succeed just once in counting to 10.25 He goes on to demonstrate the difference intelligence makes by documenting that a child can do in minutes what chance would take a millennium to do. “Chance doesn’t have a chance when compared to the intelligent purpose of even a child.”26 Even more revealing is the fact that a child playing with the party game Scrabble can easily spell the phrase, “the theory of evolution,” while chance requires five million times the assumed age of the earth to accomplish the same feat.27

Earth

Like an egg or an eye, the earth is a masterpiece of precision and design that could not have come into existence by chance. Astronaut Guy Gardner, who has seen the earth from the perspective of the moon, points out that “the more we learn and see about our universe the more we come to realize that the most ideally suited place for life within the entire solar system is the planet we call home.”28 King David said it best:

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.

There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world. (Ps. 19:1‐4)

Let’s take a few minutes to explore the miracles that demonstrate life on earth, which a benevolent Creator designed and which could not be directed by blind chance. First, consider plain old tap water. The solid state of most substances is denser than their liquid state, but the opposite is true for H20, which explains why ice floats rather than sinks. If water were like virtually any other liquid, it would freeze from the bottom up rather than from the top down, killing aquatic life, destroying the oxygen supply, and making earth uninhabitable.29 Furthermore, ocean tides, which are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, play a crucial role in our survival. If the moon were significantly larger, thereby increasing its gravitational pull, devastating tidal waves would submerge large areas of land. If the moon were smaller, tidal motion would cease and the oceans would stagnate and die.30 Finally, consider the ideal temperatures on planet earth — not duplicated on any other known planet in the universe. If we were closer to the sun, we would fry. If we were farther away, we would freeze.31

From the tap water to the tides and temperatures that we so easily take for granted, the earth is an unparalleled planetary masterpiece. Like Handel’s Messiah or da Vinci’s Last Supper, it should never be carelessly devalued as the result of blind evolutionary processes. Yet, tragically, in an age of high technology and supposed scientific enlightenment, many are doing just that. Consider the following introduction to “The Miracle of Life,” an Emmy‐award‐winning PBS NOVA broadcast on evolution:

Four and a half billion years ago, the young planet Earth was a mass of cosmic dust and particles. It was almost completely engulfed by the shallow primordial seas. Powerful winds gathered random molecules from the atmosphere. Some were deposited in the seas. Tides and currents swept the molecules together.

And somewhere in this ancient ocean the miracle of life began….The first organized form of primitive life was a tiny protozoan [a one‐celled animal]. Millions of protozoa populated the ancient seas. These early organisms were completely self‐sufficient in their sea‐water world. They moved about their aquatic environment feeding on bacteria and other organisms….From these one‐celled organisms evolved all life on earth. (emphases added)32

CHANCE DOESN’T HAVE A CHANCE

The real miracle of life is how so many people could stand for such nonsense in the twentieth century. First, how could the protozoa be the first form of primitive life if there were already organisms such as bacteria in existence? Molecular biology has demonstrated empirically that bacteria are incredibly complex. In the words of Michael Denton, “Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10‐12 gms, each is in effect a veritable micro‐miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the nonliving world.”33

Furthermore, far from being primitive, the protozoa that were thought to be simple in Darwin’s day have been shown by science to be enormously complex. Molecular biology has demonstrated that there is no such thing as a “primitive” cell. To quote Denton again, “No living system can be thought of as being primitive or ancestral with respect to any other system, nor is there the slightest empirical hint of an evolutionary sequence among all the incredibly diverse cells on earth.”34 Finally, as Coppedge documents, giving evolutionists every possible concession, postulating a primordial sea with every single component necessary, and speeding up the rate of bonding a trillion times: “The probability of a single protein35 molecule being arranged by chance is 1 in 10161 using all atoms on earth and allowing all the time since the world began…..For a minimum set of the required 239 protein molecules for the smallest theoretical life, the probability is 1 in 10119,879. It would take 10119,841 years on the average to get a set of such proteins. That is 10119,831 times the assumed age of the earth and is a figure with 119, 831 zeroes.”+

To provide a perspective on how enormous a one followed by a hundred and sixty one zeros is, Coppedge uses the illustration of an amoeba (a microscopic one‐celled animal) that sets out to move the entire universe (including every person, the earth, the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, millions of other galaxies, etc.) over the width of one universe, atom by atom, at the slowest possible speed. (The universe is 30 billion light‐years in diameter — to calculate the number of miles multiply 30 billion by 5.9 trillion.) The amoeba is going to move one angstrom unit (the width of a hydrogen atom — the smallest known atom) every 15 billion years (the supposed age of the universe). Obviously the amoeba would have to move zillions of times before the naked eye could detect that it had moved at all. At this rate the amoeba travels 30 billion light years and puts an atom down one universe over. It then travels back at the same rate of speed and takes another atom from your body and moves it one universe over. Once it has moved you over, it moves over the next person until it has moved over all five billion or so people on planet earth. It then moves over all the houses and cars, the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and the millions of other galaxies that exist in the known universe.

In the time that it took to do all that, we would not get remotely close to forming one protein molecule by random chance.37 If, however, a protein molecule is eventually formed by chance, forming the second one would be infinitely more difficult. As you can see, the science of statistical probability demonstrates conclusively that forming a protein molecule by random processes is not merely improbable but impossible. And forming a living cell is beyond illustration. As King David poignantly put it, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1).

Finally, it should be noted that philosophical naturalism—the world view undergirding evolutionism—can provide only three explanations for the existence of the universe in which we live. One: The universe is merely an illusion. This notion carries little weight in an age of scientific enlightenment. As has been aptly put, “Even the full‐blown solipsist looks both ways before crossing the street.” Two: The universe sprang from nothing. This proposition flies in the face of both the law of cause and effect and the law of energy conservation. It has been well said, there simply are no free lunches. The conditions that hold true in this  universe prevent any possibility of matter springing out of nothing.38 Three: The universe eternally existed. This hypothesis is devastated by the law of entropy that predicates that a universe which has eternally existed would have died an “eternity ago” of a heat‐loss death.39

There is, however, one other possibility. It is found in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In an age of empirical science, as in any age, nothing could be more certain, clear, or correct.

NOTES

  1. This article is taken from Hank Hanegraaff’s forthcoming book, The FACE (Word Publishing), which uses the acronym F‐A‐CE to reveal the farce of evolution (the “C” in FACE represents Chance).
  2. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 112–13, as quoted in John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Darwin’s Leap of Faith (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1998), 21.
  3. R. C. Sproul, Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 9.
  4. Ibid., 3.
  5. Chance as an ontological entity does not exist. So, when it is appealed to as an agency of cause, it is utterly impotent and meaningless. This sense of chance as a causal agency is what one gropes for in order to assert that universes appear out of nothing. On the other hand, chance can quite usefully refer to formal mathematical probabilities, not at all signifying something that happens without a cause. In common parlance, when we say something has happened by chance, we don’t mean that the event had no cause, but that the actual cause is unknown to us. (See Sproul.)
  6. Perhaps we should be generous and give evolutionists the benefit of the doubt at this point by assuming that when they refer to chance they do not mean an ontological causal agency (referring to the illogical notion of uncaused effects). Instead, we can assume that chance is used as the formal term for mathematical probabilities. The evolutionist presupposes the existence of the material universe with its attending properties and suggests that atoms randomly bumping into one another produce (cause) living things. As we will see, life cannot be accounted for in this way either.
  7. James F. Coppedge, Evolution: Possible or Impossible? (Northridge, CA: Probability Research in Molecular Biology, 1993), 218.
  8. Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, chap. 6, “Difficulties of the Theory,” sect. “Organs of Extreme Perfection and Complication,” in Robert Maynard Hutchins, ed., Great Books of the Western World, vol. 49, Darwin (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), 85.
  9. Ibid. Of course, Darwin’s life work intended to show that all biological organisms, with their attending “organs of extreme perfection and complication,” were indeed formed through natural selection.
  10. Eye description adapted from Gordon Rattray Taylor, The Great Evolution Mystery (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 101–2.
  11. See ibid., 98–103.
  12. See Coppedge, 218–20; Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler, 1985), 332–33.
  13. Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 18. “Black box” is Behe’s term for a device that accomplishes a purpose but whose inner workings remain mysterious. For the average person, computers are a good example of a black box (p. 6).
  14. Ibid., 22 (see 15–22).
  15. In ibid., 18–21, Behe describes the biochemistry of vision.
  16. Phillip E. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 77.
  17. Behe, 8–9.
  18. Coppedge, 216, citing T. G. Taylor, “How an Eggshell Is Made,” Scientific American, 19 March 1970, 89–94.
  19. Christopher Perrins, Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 1979), 118–19.
  20. The Wonders of God’s Creation: Human Life, vol. 3 (Chicago: Moody Institute of Science, 1993); videotape.
  21. Ibid.
  22. A. E. Wilder‐Smith, The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution (Costa Mesa, CA: T. W. F. T. Publishers, 1981), 82.
  23. A. E. Wilder‐Smith, The Origin of Life, vol. 3 (Gilbert, AZ: Eden Communications, 1983); videotape.
  24. Coppedge, 50–51.
  25. Ibid., 51.
  26. Ibid., 53.
  27. Ibid., 52. Coppedge explains the problem of trying to produce such a phrase by chance. The phrase, “the theory of evolution,” contains 23 ordered letters and spaces. Thus, we need to randomly pick in an ordered sequence 23 specific objects out of a set of 26 letters of the alphabet and one “space.” That means for the first “t” in our phrase there is a one out of 27 chance of drawing it. The same holds for all the other letters in our phrase – each has a one in 27 chance of being drawn at any given time. But since we need the letters and spaces to come in a sequential order, we must multiply their separate probabilities. Since there are 23 letters and spaces to pick, and each has an individual probability of one out of 27, we must multiply 27 by itself 23 times (i.e., 2723), which means we would expect to succeed in spelling our phrase by chance only one time in over eight hundred million trillion trillion draws. Now, suppose we use a super computer to produce a billion draws per second. At this incredible rate we could expect to find only one successful spelling of our phrase in 26,000,000,000,000,000 years. This number of years is five million times as long as natural science estimates the earth to have existed. (Adapted from Coppedge, 52.) If chance is so unproductive at producing such a simple phrase as “the theory of evolution,” it is just inconceivable to think that chance could have produced something as organized and complex as a single cell, let alone the unfathomable, organized complexity of the human brain.
Apologetics, Journal Topics

Thinking Clearly About God and Evolution

Christianity Today recently had a cover story reporting on Christians who claim that human beings could not all have descended from a single human couple. That story was a symptom of a current trend: more and more Christians, even self-identified evangelicals, claim that Christians must make their peace with evolutionary theory. In recent years, scientists such as Francis Collins, Karl Giberson, Ken Miller, Darrell Falk, and others have written books defending theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism.
            The historical reality of Adam and Eve is obviously central to historic Christianity; but it is just one of many issues that, as Christians, we must consider when exploring the broader debate over God and evolution. Unfortunately, the debate is often marred by confusion and ambiguity. Though we can’t discuss every related issue here, let’s see what we can do to think more clearly about the subject.

CAN WE GET A DEFINITION?

I am often asked questions such as, “Can you believe in God and evolution?” and “Isn’t evolution just God’s way of creating?” I always respond: “That depends. What do you mean by ‘God’ and what do you mean by ‘evolution’?” That might seem like a dodge, but everything hinges on the definitions.
            Presumably, a theistic evolutionist claims that both theism in some sense and evolution in some sense are true, that both God and evolution somehow work together in explaining the world. But of course, all the real interest is hidden behind the phrase “in some sense.” So we have to get more specific.

“THEISM”

A theist believes that a transcendent God created the world and continues to conserve and interact in and with it. God can act directly in nature or indirectly through so-called secondary causes, such as physical laws or the actions of human beings. At all times, however, God oversees and providentially superintends His entire creation, even as He allows His creatures the freedom appropriate to their station. Nothing happens as the result of a purposeless process.
            This is a minimal definition of theism. If someone believes a transcendent God created the world but denies that God can and does act within nature, then at best, he’s a deist.

“EVOLUTION”

It’s a lot easier to define theism than to define evolution. It’s been called the ultimate weasel word. In an illuminating article called “The Meanings of Evolution,” Stephen Meyer and Michael Keas attempt to catch the weasel by distinguishing six different ways in which “evolution” is commonly used:

  1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature.
  2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population.
  3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.
  4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.
  5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.
  6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.1

The first meaning is uncontroversial-even trivial. The most convinced young earth creationist agrees that things change over time-that the universe has a history.2 Populations of animals wax and wane depending on changes in climate and the environment. At one time, certain flora and fauna prospered on the earth, but they later disappeared, leaving mere impressions in the rocks to mark their existence for future generations.
            There’s also cosmic “evolution,” the idea that the early universe started in a hot, dense state, and over billions of years, cooled off and spread out, formed stars, galaxies, planets, and so forth. This includes the idea of cosmic nucleosynthesis, which describes the production of heavy elements (everything heavier than helium) in the universe through a process of star birth, growth, and death. These events involve change over time, but they refer to the history of the inanimate physical universe rather than the history of life. Parts of this picture of cosmic evolution contradict young earth creationism, but the generic idea that one form of matter gives rise, under the influence of various natural laws and processes, to other forms of matter, does not contradict theism. Surely God could directly guide such a process in innumerable ways, could set up a series of secondary natural processes that could do the job, or could do some combination of both.
            In fact, to make a long story short, virtually no one denies the truth of “evolution” in senses 1, 2, or 3. And, pretty much everyone agrees that natural selection and mutations explain some things in biology (number 4).
            What about the fifth sense of evolution, universal common ancestry? This is the claim that all organisms on earth are descended from a single common ancestor that lived sometime in the distant past. Note that this is not the same as the mechanism of change. Universal common ancestry is compatible with all sorts of different mechanisms or sources for change, though the most popular mechanism is the broadly Darwinian one.
            It’s hard to square universal common descent with the biblical texts; nevertheless, it is logically compatible with theism. If God could turn dirt into a man, or a man’s rib into a woman, then presumably He could, if He so chose, turn a bacterium into a bonobo or a dinosaur into a deer. An unbroken evolutionary tree of life guided and intended by God, in which every organism descends from some original organism, sounds like a logical possibility.3
            Besides the six senses mentioned by Meyer and Keas, there is also the metaphorical sense of evolution, in which Darwinian theory is used as a template to explain things other than nature, like the rise and fall of civilizations or sports careers.
            Finally, there’s evolution in the sense of progress or growth. Natural evolution has often been understood in this way, so that cosmic history is interpreted as a purposeful movement toward greater perfection, complexity, mind, or spirit. A pre-Darwinian understanding of evolution was the idea of a slow unfolding of something that existed in nascent form from the beginning, like an acorn slowly becoming a great oak tree. If anything, this sense of evolution tends toward theism rather than away from it, since it suggests a purposive plan. That’s why Darwin didn’t even use the word in early editions of his Origin of Species. It’s also why many contemporary evolutionists (such as the late Stephen Jay Gould) go out of their way to deny that evolution is progressive, and argue instead that cosmic history is not going anywhere in particular.
            It should now be clear that theism is compatible with many senses of evolution. In fact, for most of the senses of evolution we’ve considered, there’s little hint of contradiction. Of course, this is a logical point. It doesn’t tell us what is true-only what could be true.

SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE

But there’s one clear exception-the blind watchmaker thesis. Of all the senses of evolution, this one seems to fit with theism like oil with water. According to the blind watchmaker thesis, all the apparent design in life is just that-apparent. It’s really the result of natural selection working on random genetic mutations. (Darwin proposed “variation.” Neo-Darwinism attributes new variations to genetic mutations.)
            The word “random” in the blind watchmaker thesis carries a lot of metaphysical baggage. In Neo-Darwinian theory, random doesn’t mean uncaused; it means that the changes aren’t directed-they don’t happen for any purpose. Moreover, they aren’t predictable, like gravity, and don’t occur for the benefit of individual organisms, species, or eco-systems, even if, under the guidance of natural selection, an occasional mutation might enhance a species’ odds of survival.
            The blind watchmaker thesis is more or less the same as Neo-Darwinism as its leading advocates understand it. It is usually wedded to some materialistic origin of life scenario, which isn’t about biological evolution per se. This so-called chemical evolution is often combined with biological evolution as two parts of a single narrative.
            Unfortunately, the blind watchmaker thesis isn’t an eccentric definition of the word evolution. It’s textbook orthodoxy.4 For instance, Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson explained evolution by saying, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”5 Darwin himself understood his theory this way: “There seems to be no more design,” he wrote, “in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the winds blow.”6
            And here’s how the late Darwinist Ernst Mayr put it: “The real core of Darwinism, however, is the theory of natural selection. This theory is so important for the Darwinian because it permits the explanation of adaptation, the ‘design’ of the natural theologian, by natural means, instead of by divine intervention.”7
            Notice that Mayr says, “instead of.”
            These are representative quotes from the literature. From the time of Darwin to the present, Darwinists have always contrasted their idea with the claim that biological forms are designed or created. That’s the whole point of the theory.
            Theists claim that the world, including the biological world, exists for a purpose; that it is, in some sense, designed. The blind watchmaker thesis denies this. So anyone wanting to reconcile strict Darwinian evolution with theism has a Grade A dilemma on his hands.

RESOLVING THE DILEMMA, SORT OF

One way out is to redefine the theistic part. For instance, one could defend deism, with God getting things started at the beginning but not knowing or superintending nature after that. Dissolving a dilemma, however, is not the same as resolving it. If the adjective theistic in theistic evolution is not to be a misnomer, it should include a theistic view of God.
            What about redefining it in the other direction? A theistic evolutionist could maintain that God sets up and guides nature so that it gives rise to everything from stars to starfish through a slowly developing process. Organisms perhaps share a common ancestor but reach their goal as intended by God. God works in nature, perhaps through cosmic initial conditions, physical laws, secondary processes, discrete acts, or some combination, to bring about His intended results, rather than creating everything from scratch. Whatever the details, on this view, the process of change and adaptation wouldn’t be random or purposeless. It would implement a plan, and would reflect God’s purposes. This would be a teleological version of evolution, and so would flatly reject the Darwinian blind watchmaker thesis.
            This was the view of some early theistic evolutionists such as Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the concept of natural selection. Here the word evolution is being used in the pre-Darwinian, even anti-Darwinian sense. History is the unfolding of a purposeful plan. This is a logically possible view; it is not, however, the view of many of today’s theistic evolutionists, such as Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller. They seek to reconcile Christian theism with Darwinian evolution. They may affirm design in some broad sense at the cosmic level, but not in biology.
            How should we respond? There’s not much use in looking for evidence for this brand of theistic evolution, for the simple reason that it can’t be true. It’s not logically possible. It makes no sense to talk about a purposeful process that is nevertheless purposeless, or to talk about God directing an undirected process. To the degree that a view is Darwinian (as Darwinists understand it), it will not be theistic. And to the degree that it is theistic, it will not be Darwinian.
            If you understand that basic point, you’ll be much better equipped to navigate the current debate over theistic evolution.

—Jay Richards

Jay W. Richards, Ph.D., is the author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne, 2009). His article “Think Clearly about God and Evolution” appears in the Volume 35, No. 1 special origins issue of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL. This special issue also includes a sneak peek at Hank Hanegraaff’s forthcoming The Creation Answer Book where he answers questions like: Did Adam and Eve really exist? Is animal suffering a consequence of Adam’s sin? Can the Big Bang be harmonized with Genesis? When was the universe created? This special origins issue available by donation only.

NOTES:

  1. In Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, ed. John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2004).
  2. See the explanation for the meaning of “evolution” from the BioLogos Foundation, which seeks to give a Christian defense of evolution. The explanation begins with “change over time,” then goes on to fill out the definition with common descent and the Darwinian mechanism. But it quickly slips from defining the term to presenting the details as if they were uncontested facts. At: http://biologos.org/questions/what-is-evolution/.
  3. I’m not saying this is true. I’m merely dealing with the logic of the ideas here. Since design is logically compatible with universal common descent, one could, strictly speaking, endorse both intelligent design and theistic evolution. Nevertheless, these days, ID and theistic evolution often describe people with different positions. See discussion of this point in the comments of Thomas Cudworth, “Olive Branch from Karl Giberson,” Uncommon Descent (April 15, 2010), at: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/olive-branch-from-karl-giberson/#more-13010.
  4. For discussion, see Casey Luskin, “Smelling Blood in the Water: Why Theistic Evolution Won’t Appease the Atheists,” in God and Evolution, ed. Jay W. Richards (Seattle: Discovery Institute, 2010).
  5. G. G. Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of Its Significance for Man, rev. ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967), 345.
  6. Francis Darwin, Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. 1 (New York: Appleton, 1887), 280, 283-84, 278-79.
  7. Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversy, with a foreword by Ernst Mayr (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1982), xi-xii. Quoted in ibid.

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This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 1 (2012).  For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org

Journal Topics

Of Butterflies, Peacock Tails and Poppycock

To his credit, Charles Darwin recognized there were instances of extravagant beauty in the living world that could not be explained by his original theory of evolution by natural selection, so in The Descent of Man he developed his theory of sexual selection to fill the explanatory gap. There he argued, in essence, that the butterfly has extravagantly colored wings, the better to attract a mate, reproduce and pass its beauty pageant qualities on to future generations.

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection is brought in to explain problems like the peacock’s tail. While Brad Pitt’s good looks might have no survival-of-the-fittest downside, a peacock’s pride and glory can get him killed. His enormous tail slows him down, making it easier for predators to catch him. So why would nature select for bigger and bigger peacock tails? Because, according to Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, pea hens are attracted to them.

The theory has a superficial plausibility, but a problem emerges if you scrutinize it long enough. Imagine you have a population of pea fowl. Most of the peahens select their mates in the standard natural-selection way—according to how fast the peacocks can take off, by how well they can handle themselves in a fight with other peacocks, that sort of thing. But over a serious of generations a line of peahens develop with a pronounced artistic streak, leading them to start sidling up to peacocks with bigger, brighter tail feathers. So far, so good. We now have peahens selecting for big, bright tail feathers, which presumably will tend to lead to bigger and brighter peacock tails in future generations. But the question is: Why would natural selection prefer these pea hens with their impractical disposition over pea hens with survival-oriented selection criteria? In other words, why would these artistically inclined peahens evolve in the first place? Darwin’s theory of sexual selection doesn’t give us an answer. It moves, rather than solves, the problem of the impractical peacock tail.

Common reason would urge a person to at least consider the possibility that a great artist lay behind the many instances of extravagant beauty that we find in the living world, but for many Darwinists, common reason has been ruled out of court ahead of the evidence.

Questions:

1. Often times the more attractive animal is the healthier, fitter animal. And certainly these animals will generally have an easier time finding mates and reproducing. How is this age-old insight different from what Darwin was claiming with his twin theories of natural selection and sexual selection?

2. Socio-biologist Edward O. Wilson emphasizes that even the works of artistic genius need to be explained in purely evolutionary terms. How might this view transform the way people think about great art, music and literature?

3. The investigative rule known as methodological materialism insists that scientists only consider natural causes for natural phenomena, never intelligent design. Is this more reasonable or less reasonable than being willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if the evidence points to intelligent design?

— Jonathan Witt

Jonathan Witt, Ph.D., is a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and co-author of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (IVP Academic, 2006) and Intelligent Design Uncensored (IVP Books, 2010).

Listen to Hank Hanegraaff’s interview with Jonathan Witt on the design and genius of nature featured on the September 20, 2011 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

CRI also recommends: Jonathan Witt, “Darwin vs. Beauty: Explaining away the Butterfly,” Christian Research Journal, 34, 5 [2011]: 42-43. (This issue is forthcoming). CRI also offers United States and Canadian residents a 1 year (6 issues) subscription to the Journal for $39.50 US. A 1 year (6 issues) foreign subscription is also available for $79.00 US. Click here to subscribe.