by Craig Branch – (Introduction to Areopagus Journal Vol. 5 No. 2, March-April 2005)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth [and on the sixth day] God said ‘Let us make man in Our image’…He created him, male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:1, 26
The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. Carl Sagan
Before the rise of postmodern relativism, if the subject of apologetics came up, the two major areas of focus were inerrancy and evolution/creation. But even with the growth of postmodernism in our culture, there are still plenty of modernists around. After two generations of public school and secular college-university indoctrination in scientism and evolution, the creation/evolution debate continues to be a major and relevant apologetics issue. For this reason, we offer you this issue of Areopagus Journal as a resource for engaging our society on this vital topic.
WHAT IS “EVOLUTION”?
Before we proceed any further, it would be a good idea to define what is meant by the term “evolution.” We must start with the common distinction between macroevolution and microevolution. Microevolution refers to relatively small genetic variations within a species which can sometimes cause the formation of new subspecies (think different breeds of dogs). Because of the environment, mutations, and natural selection (“survival of the fittest”), changes can and do occur within a species. Microevolution is uncontroversial. We can correctly state that natural selection selects the most viable and hardy from the preexisting individuals, and perpetuates their gene combination. Yet, as far as we can observe, no new species are created in this process.
Macroevolution refers to the process of change at or above the level of species in which, given enough time, microevolutionary changes within a species allegedly give rise to an entirely new species, even different genera and phyla. Two important features of macroevolution are the increase of complexity of certain organs (like the brain) and the appearance of completely new organs (for example, the transformation of a reptile s two front legs into wings). It is over macroevolution that the controversy rages. The definition of macroevolution provided by the American National Association of Biology Teachers helps us understand why. According to their 1995 official position statement, “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies, and changing environments.”1
In the remainder of this article, the term “evolution” will refer to macroevolution.
THE “WORLDVIEW” OF EVOLUTION
The evolution/creation issue can manifest it self in several dimensions of unbelief. Some see evolution as a fact that nullifies the existence of God (atheism). Some see evolution as a viable explanation of existence apart from God (agnosticism). Most believe that God used evolution as the mechanism of creation (theistic evolution). The latter posit a belief in God but either deny inerrancy or claim the creation account is a symbolic myth. Either way, it creates a very slippery slope toward a culture of death rather than life.
This is an important fact that we dare not miss. Any of those alternatives to the creation account of Scripture and the promotion of macroevolution have severe implications. As biologist William Provine of Cornell University points out, Darwinian evolution would imply that there are “no gods or purposive forces; no life after death, no ultimate foundation for ethics; no ultimate meaning in life; no free will.”2
This underscores the fact that the creation/evolution debate is not primarily about science and the evaluation of empirical data. Rather, it is about philosophy and worldviews. Describing what he calls “materialist mythology”, Phillip Johnson explains that proponent s of evolution claim that
unassisted matter operating only with chance, change, and the principle of natural selection can and did accomplish the creation of biological organisms in all their present complexity and diversity. Part of the cover for this creation story is that it appears to originate in unbiased, scientific investigation. . . .But, the reverse actually is true. While science dominates religion today, the religion of science is, in fact, the materialist myth. The view that “nature is a our creator” exercises as compelling an effect on the interpretation of scientific evidence as any form of religion ever did.3
Elsewhere, Johnson explains that “[a]s a general theory of biological creation, Darwinism is not empirical at all. Rather, it is a necessary implication of a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, which is based on the a priori assumption that God was always absent from the realm of nature.”4 The fact that Darwinian evolution is a philosophical worldview and not simply a scientific theory explains why evolutionists are so vitriolic and dogmatic in their opposition to anything that remotely smacks of creationism and why they insist on keeping debate on the scientific merits of evolution out of public schools. If they allowed a fair debate, evolution would be exposed for what it is: a worldview supported more by religious fervor than scientific data. The history of the debate bears this out.
In America, a significant turning point occurred in 1925 during the Scopes trial in Dayton, TN. John Scopes, a high school teacher, challenged state law by teaching evolution. Ironically, though he lost the case and was fined \$100, the notoriety of the case and the humiliation of William Jennings Bryan (the states fundamentalist prosecutor) by defense attorney Clarence Darrow, gave legitimacy and momentum to the evolutionist s cause. The Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of evolution (and those in other states) was eventually abolished.
Even more ironic is the fact that what Darrow and the Scopes trial fought for-the freedom of thought and exploration of science without state sponsored dogma-has simply given way to a new evolutionist dogma in public education. Federal, state, and local governments have adopted a view that discourages students from thinking for themselves about the evidence regarding creation and evolution, and have mandated methodological naturalism which fosters scientism and naturalistic materialism.
In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a new Louisiana law requiring a balanced treatment of evolution and creation in public schools. In effect the decision rejected the view that a supernatural being created the world, and mandated the philosophical view that humankind was created by purposeless natural processes. Since then, however, the “Santorum Amendment” of the No Child Left Behind Act was passed into law by congress in 2001. The language of the law allows schools to teach about conflicting scientific views on the question of origins.
Also, as Jay Richards, Vice President of the Discovery Institute, noted in our previous Areopagus Journal, the Ohio State Board of Education recently “approved a provision requiring student s to learn scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution.”5 The earlier ill-conceived lawsuits of the 1980s prompted the serious attention of liberal educators and organizations like the A.C.L.U. and Americans for Separation of Church and State to fight this trend. With the passing of the Santorum Amendment, each state must take up the issue by 2007. So we can expect much political and legal activity and opposition in this arena. This is the time for Christians to become informed, articulate, persuasive, and involved in this issue on personal, local, and state levels.
THE ON-GOING DEBATE
An example of the evolutionist s double standard occurred recently when a paper written by a Christian scientist (not to be confused with the cult named Christian Science), Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, appeared in the peer reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The article attempted to show the strengths of Intelligent Design (ID) science over the evolutionary model. The editor of the journal at that time, Dr. Richard Sternberg, a respected evolutionary biologist, came under significant assault from the evolutionary science community for giving credibility to such a position by publishing the article. This points out the duplicity and circular reasoning of evolutionists who frequently critique the Intelligent Design theory by citing the fact that its proponents have never had their studies published in any peer-reviewed scientific journals (which they control). But, when an honest editor did publish a pro-ID paper because it met all the established criteria, they want to claim a priori that it had no scientific merit, so it cannot be accepted. I encourage you to read Dr. Sternbergs attempt to set the record straight about the procedure and the irrational response of his colleagues.6
The arrogance of the evolutionist perspective is seen as well in an article in the popular magazine Scientific American titled “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.” Editor-in-Chief John Rennie sets forth the typical mantra of the “scientific” community when he writes in the introduction,
[T]he massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution s truth beyond reasonable doubt.
Embarrassingly, in the 21stcentury, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationist s can still persuade politicians, judges, and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy . . . Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism.7
Rennie then proceeds to list and respond to fifteen of the common challenges of creationists to the evolutionary theory (which Rennie claims is actually “a well substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate fact s, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses”). Rennie fails to mention the fact that the prevailing theory is normally referred to as neo-Darwinism because even its adherent’s debate and differ significantly among themselves regarding many of the basic element s of the original Darwinian evolutionary theory.
I encourage you to print out two “creationist” responses to John Rennies “15 Errors,” one written by an ID proponent and the other by a “Young Earth” proponent. They are written on a layman’s level and will provide an adequate arsenal to respond to almost any evolutionary proponent.8
As the debate in our culture continues, it is helpful to note that the ID movement is making tremendous headway in strategic ways. A New York Times story reflects this growing influence, depicting ID proponents as “neo-creos” (new creationist s), and as, “no Dogpatch hayseeds.”9 The author points out that leaders in the movement “have Ph.D.s and occupy positions at some of the better universities. The case they make against Darwinism does not rest on the authority of Scripture; rather, it proceeds from premises that are scientific and philosophical, invoking esoteric ideas in molecular biology, information theory, and the logic of hypothesis testing.”
Revealing the speciousness of the evolutionary scientists’ propaganda is a statement produced by the Discovery Institute in response to the PBS propaganda series “Evolution.” A press release concerning the statement remarks that over “100 scientists have declared that they are ‘skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.’”10 The statement honestly reports that, “The number of scientists who question Darwinism is a minority, but is growing fast.” I say “honestly” in contrast to the typical evolutionist claims that Darwinism is “universal” in the ranks of the educated scientific community. The statement goes on to list the signatories of “A Scientific Dissent on Darwinism” many of whom come from throughout the U.S. and several other countries, representing biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, anthropology and other scientific fields, including professors at Princeton, MIT, U. Penn and Yale.
In addition to the ID constituency, there is a recent book titled In Six Days which includes the testimony and comments of fifty young-earth Christian scientists “who have earned doctorates from state-recognized universities in Australia, the United State, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, and Germany . They include university professors, researchers, geologists, zoologists, biologists, botanists, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, medical researchers and engineers”11 The preface also notes that there are “many other scientists” who contributed, but space permitted a limit of fifty.
More of this article and others like it can be found in the Areopagus Journal, Creation or Evolution, Volume 5 Number 2
Craig Branch is director of the Apologetics Resource Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
1 Phillip E. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 15.
2 William Provine, “Evolution and the Foundation of Ethics”, MBL Science 3:1 (1988): 25-29.
3 Phillip E. Johnson, “Is Scientific Naturalism Scientific?” in Science: Christian Perspectives for the New Millennium , eds. Scott B. Luley, Paul Copan, and Stan W. Wallace (Norcross, Ga: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 2003), 88.
4 Phillip E. Johnson, “What Is Darwinism?” in Science: Christian Perspectives for the New Millennium , 34.
5 Jay W. Richards, “Gods Handiwork: How Scientific Evidence Points to Gods Existence”, Areopagus Journal 5:1 (Jan.Feb. 2005): 17.
6 See Sternberg’s statement at www.rsternberg.net.
7 John Rennie, “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” Scientific American (July 2002), posted on the internet at www.sciam.com /print_version.cfm?articleID=000D4FEC7D5B-1D07-8E49809EC588EEDF
8 You can find these responses at www.hyahya.org/750Sciam15-Errors_sci31.php; and https://answersingenesis.org/news/scientific_american.asp.
9 Jim Holt, “Supernatural Selection” The New York Times (April 14,2002).
10 See “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism,” press release by the Discovery Institute at www.s8int.com/nodarwin.html.
11 John Ashton, ed. In Six Days (Breen Forest, AR: Master Books, 2001),6.
12 Ted Cabal, “Evangelicalism and Young Earth Creationism: Necessary Bedfellows?” Unpublished paper presented at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, November 15-17, 2001.
Glossary of Terms
Evolution. Generally, the process by which biological organisms change and develop through random mutations and natural selection. As used in the creation-evolution controversy, the term refers to the view that all biological organisms have developed naturally from non-living matter and/or a common ancestor (also known as macroevolution or Darwinism).
Genus/Genera A taxonomic category ranking below a phylum and above a species and generally consisting of a group of species exhibiting similar characteristics.
Methodological Naturalism A view about the nature of science, namely, that scientific explanations are limited to natural explanations only. That is, a scientific theory cannot appeal to supernatural causes and still be considered a scientific theory.
Morphology The biological and physical form and structure of an organism or one of its parts.
Naturalism (aka scientific naturalism or metaphysical naturalism). The view that all that exist s is the natural, physical world.
Phylum/Phyla A category of taxonomic classification in which animals are grouped together based on similarities in basic body plan or organization. Phyla are higher level classifications than genus or species.
Progressive Creationism (aka Old-Earth Creationism). The view that God created the universe progressively over the course of long ages. Progressive creationists reject biological evolution, but accept the view that the universe is very old. They interpret the six “days” of Genesis 1 non-literally.
Scientism The view that the scientific method is the only (or the most authoritative) source of knowledge.
Species A category of taxonomic classification, ranking below a genus and consisting of related organisms capable of interbreeding.
Theistic Evolution The view that evolution has occurred, but that it was guided or initiated by God.
Young-earth Creationism The view that God created the universe only a few thousand years ago in accordance with a literal reading of the six days of Genesis 1. Young-earth creationists reject biological evolution and believe that the evidence for an apparent old age of the earth is due to catastrophes such as the biblical Flood.