Monday, April 13, 2009

Why I do not believe in macro-evolution

  • Macro-evolution does not adequately account for genetic differences among species. Different species have very different DNA coding and the assumption that a fish became a lizard does not seem tenable. The plethora of DNA evolution theories testifies to the validity of the issue. Such complex and specific changes in DNA seem more magical than anything theology has come up with.
  • Atheistic macro-evolution does not adequately account for the impossibility of spontaneous generation . How did the primordial ooze become life? Scientists have run laboratory experiments in which they "create" amino acids from some ooze, but these very experiments provide evidence for intelligent design, for the scientists are the intelligent designers of the newly created amino acids.
  • If the Scripture is an accurate record of God's ways with his people and his creation, then our perceived timeline should not start at zero. Atheistic macro-evolutionists claim that Scripture does not make adequate sense of the data for the data show that the earth is millions of years old. I would offer that if we were able to travel back in time, to the garden and do tests on Adam and Eve, we would find that the tests "proved" them to be in their mid-twenties, despite the fact that they were mere days/hours old. Just as God created adult humans, animals, and plants, he also created an adult earth, stars, and universe. I happen to be a crazy young-earther , but I hold that with very open hands. I hold this position because I believe it makes the best sense of the biblical and scientific data. If one is a theist and believes God has the capacity to create, then frankly it makes no sense for that same person to discount God's capacity to create.
  • Theologically, the presence of human death is directly connected to the entrance of sin. If death only entered after the entrance of sin, then it is impossible for there to have been death before that. Without death and a succession of generations, there is no way for human evolution to have occurred. Therefore, if one is to take Genesis seriously and not merely literally, then, however else micro-evolution fits into the picture, macro-evolution is theologically impossible.
In sum, these scientific and theological reasons compel me to reject macro-evolution and support intelligent design, for ID makes the best sense of the scientific and theological data. In addition, I hold that a young earth is both theologically and scientifically possible. I believe it is even likely, but I am unwilling to die on that hill.

What do you say?

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Next week: What does this have to do with Who in the World Are We?
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21 comments:

  1. You don't accept the science of evolutionary biology because you're an uneducated hick.

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  2. bob, I'd love to have a conversation, if you'd like to offer arguments for your position, rather than engaging in name calling.

    Name calling is unacceptable.

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  3. Hi Laura,

    I'm interested by your statement:

    "I hold this position because I believe it makes the best sense of the biblical and scientific data."

    Biblical data maybe, but scientific data shows that the Earth is over 4 billion years old and that humans have been around in their current form for over 100,000 years.

    That doesn't match up with the biblical story at all.

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  4. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for

    I agree that the earth appears to be "over 4 billion years old and that humans have been around in their current form for over 100,000 years." I am disputing the interpretation of that data.

    Somewhat like a counterfeiter of ancient artifacts (and some will need to excuse this analogy--I am not saying God is a counterfeiter), God created an aged earth and an aged humanity. This perfectly fits with the biblical data and offers a reasonable interpretation of the available scientific data. As I said in the body of my post:

    "I would offer that if we were able to travel back in time, to the garden and do tests on Adam and Eve, we would find that the tests 'proved' them to be in their mid-twenties, despite the fact that they were mere days/hours old. Just as God created adult humans, animals, and plants, he also created an adult earth, stars, and universe."

    I also fully realize that if one interprets the data under a canopy that keeps divinity out of the picture, then macro-evolution is a reasonable explanation of the available data. This is why, in my early college years, I believed evolution to be true.

    (Oddly, a course in biology helped change me from an evolutionist to a creationist: I could not get macro-evolution past genetics and spontaneous generation--and just to be clear, this course was taken at a local community college and the professor did not teach creation; he taught evolution.)

    As for the biblical story not containing the desired data, this is not surprising, for the Bible is not scientific literature. It does not give creation from a scientific perspective, but from a faith perspective; it gives the reader a picture of God, not a picture of creation.

    My interpretation of Scripture and the data admits that Scripture leaves out the part about God creating an adult universe; this must be inferred from other texts. But, since I hold the Bible to be the Word of God (I realize not all hold this), the Bible must not only be included in the database, but must be considered the primary element. This does not mean we ignore the scientific data--something that would be unwise and dishonest--rather, we take all the available data--scientific and biblical--and make an interpretation that best fits.

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  5. I suppose somebody has to ask the obvious question of to what end or purpose you think god created Earth and the universe "aged".

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  6. Hi Laura,

    To me, the evidence that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old is clear evidence that the Genesis story is just a myth.

    That's actually the 'interpretation that best fits'. It's simple, concise, and takes into account every single piece of known data.

    I have a question for you though Laura, which is something I've often wondered about YEC arguments:

    Why do you use any scientific information at all to support your position?

    If the scientific evidence can be rejected out of hand (like your argument that God created an 'aged Earth') then what support can scientific evidence be expected to give? Surely that evidence could just be rejected too.

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  7. Matt,

    First, a clarification is in order: when I said I am a "crazy young-earther," I should have qualified that. I do not believe the earth is merely 6000 years old, but rather tens of thousands. (Which, I am sure offers little mitigation to my claims in the eyes of old-earthers and macro-evolutionists...ah well.)

    On to your questions.

    "Why do you use any scientific information at all to support your position?"

    Because I live in the real world, where science is just as important as other sources of knowledge. Further, if God made the material world, as I believe he did, then science is from God and is a form of worship. Science and religion are not opposites, despite what many in each camp claim.

    "If the scientific evidence can be rejected out of hand (like your argument that God created an 'aged Earth') then what support can scientific evidence be expected to give? Surely that evidence could just be rejected too."

    I disagree with your assessment of my handling of the data (something of which you should not be surprised). I have not dismissed the evidence out of hand, but have interpreted the data (and ALL data must be interpreted) in light of several sources of knowledge: trust in God as ultimate, reason, observation, expertise of others, etc.

    In my thinking, if God is powerful enough to create by merely speaking, then he is powerful enough to forego or speed up millions of years of natural processes (which he created anyway) and make a universe that is a mature whole. I fully admit that this is a theological conclusion, but, then again, so is the interpretation that says everything came into existence without God.

    The difference is which ultimate we trust--reason/materiality/science or the Sovereign Creator. I trust the Sovereign Creator as the ultimate and that trust shapes my interpretations. Others trust reason/materiality/science and that trust shapes their interpretations.

    Until data are interpreted, they are not information.

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  8. Great arguments Laura and interesting discussions. I hold to a very similar conclusion after much research and a few great science classes at both Christian and secular colleges. There are many scientists who are beginning to reject original Evolutionary theory for ID. It is an interesting new paradigm for our science community.

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  9. While I certainly believe God could have spoken the earth into existence in an instant, I think it is also possible that He used evolution. Sort of like directing a symphony (the picture C.S. Lewis used in one of his books of Aslan singing and as he sang things grew as if in response to his voice.) There's a book called "Coming to Peace with Science" written by a Point Loma Nazarene biology professor that explains how science holds irrefutable evidence of evolution. Personally I think God could have created things through evolution or in an evolved state so I'm undecided.

    Either way Intelligent design makes the most sense. If you're walking down the beach and see a heart drawn in the beach with a couple names in it you don't wonder how long it took for that "formation to evolve" you wonder "who wrote that." Why? because there is information there, just as the DNA in all living matter holds information (infinitely more so than a heart with a couple names in it on a beach) and so must have been put there by someone. "

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  10. Murray,

    I agree that God could have used evolution, but I still cannot get past the theological problem of death before sin and the scientific problems of genetic mutation and spontaneous generation.

    I fully admit that I do not understand the full evolutionary argument, nor do I have even a near-complete grasp of the data. After all, I am a theologian, not a scientist; my expertise lies in trying, however feebly, to understand God and his ways. Further, my assumptions inform my interpretations (as does everyone's); as I said to Matt, "I trust the Sovereign Creator as the ultimate and that trust shapes my interpretations."

    Kirsch,

    I'd love to hear more about scientists who are turning to ID.

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  11. Hi Laura,

    As you say you are a theologian (every respect for that!) and not a scientist. How then do claim a position where you are selective in accepting some scientific results and not others?

    In your young earth model what is the explanation for the aged geological structure of the earth's crust and for the fossil record in that crust?

    (Thanks for the discussion. :) )

    Andrew B

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  12. Quick Joe,

    You asked, "...to what end or purpose you think god created Earth and the universe 'aged'."

    I offer these related reasons:

    1. God created for his own glory, not to display natural processes. In Ps 19:1-5 and Romans 1:19-20, we see that the general purpose of God creating the universe is his own glory. God did not need to start from scratch, no more than Michelangelo did when sculpting his David. Michelangelo took the raw materials and sculpted a complete David. Therefore, part of the reason for the mature earth is the artist’s intention. If God is a divine being with at least enough power to create everything, then natural processes do not limit him, for he created them as well. God is not required to submit to natural processes; he is the sculptor, sculpting the adult David.

    2. God created as an outpouring of his love. Genesis 1-2 give the biblical account of the origin of the universe and of life and the most prominent issue in that discussion, by far, is humanity and God’s relationship with humanity. The rest of creation seems to be mentioned almost in passing, though still called “very good.” If the universe is created for God’s glory and as a dwelling place for humanity (whom he made like himself ), then it is unnecessary for God to have started with a primordial universe, moving through a process that took millions of years.

    If I am wrong, though do not believe I am, and God created a primordial universe, then what is the theological purpose for his starting at zero and “growing” the universe?

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  13. Andrew,

    See my response to Quick Joe (2:27) for a theological account of the geologic structure.

    Thanks. I may make a few tweaks to the style, but I'm liking it.

    Hoping for continued discussion--iron sharpens iron!

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  14. Actually, my question was more aimed at why he created the universe with all indications of great age (billions of years) instead of its actual age (thousands or tens-of-thousands, according to YEC) when this would only cause increasing skepticism towards Biblical accuracy in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

    It would be a conscious decision to create the Earth and the universe to appear much older than it really is, and I cannot think of any advantage to doing it this way.

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  15. Quick Joe,

    Sorry for misunderstanding your question--your actual question is much harder and I admit to no easy answer (this is, I expect, a critical hole in my model).

    I shall do some reading and pondering and get back to you.

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  16. I look forward to it.

    As an aside, I appreciate your refreshing honesty. It's a rare commodity in online discourse.

    The answers I most commonly hear to that question are:

    * God is testing our faith.
    * God works in mysterious ways.
    * God wants to confound the wise.
    * God's ways are not our ways.
    * God can do whatever he likes.
    * Our dating methods are flawed and we only think the world/universe are older than 6-12,000 years.

    These may or may not be helpful starting points.

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  17. Laura,

    I think this discussion would benefit from making a distinction between two kinds of knowledge (or maybe two ways of knowing). (What follows is an extract of most of a recent blog post of mine on the topic of 'Evolution and Genesis'.)

    Scientific knowledgeSince the Scientific Revolution our knowledge of the universe has been exploding through application of the scientific method, logic, reasoning and mathematics. So we can explain more and more about how the universe works and we have applied that knowledge to the development of all kinds of technologies that have been both improving and destroying the way of life of millions of people.

    I am not a scientist. But I have a basic understanding of how this approach is applied to do research, gain knowledge and apply that knowledge. Related approaches to gaining knowledge are also applied in the study of history, human culture, language and many other fields.

    I have no reason to doubt the knowledge that has been gained and validated by scientists and scholars over the years. So I believe planet Earth is approximately spherical and it is in a orbit around the sun. I believe the Romans invaded the part of Europe where I now live about 2,000 years ago and they spoke and wrote Latin. I believe my computer is formed of chips manufactured by etching minute electrical circuits into layers of semiconducting silicon and it is communicating with other computers in the wide world by means of TCP/IP.

    So, when the same system of scientific research shows that Earth is many millions of years old and during that period life forms have been changing according to a system of evolution, why should I doubt this information? Of course, I understand that knowledge is not complete in this area. Just as when I have symptoms of some kind of disease, I understand that the doctors may not be able to give me a complete explanation of what is wrong with me and why. And they may not have a treatment that will provide a certain cure, because medical knowledge is not complete. But that is no reason for me not to place reliance on the advice of my doctor.

    Theological knowledge(I am also not a theologian!)

    Belief and faith are matters of the spirit. For Christians the Bible is an authoritative collection of documents. When reading the Bible we have to distinguish between the different types of documents of which it is comprised.

    The New Testament texts are among the most reliable texts from that period of history. We know who wrote them and when and why. They are verifiable historical documents. Genesis and other books of the Pentateuch are different. It is much older than the NT. Tradition teaches that it was written by Moses, but we cannot substantiate that. Textual analysis seems to show that it is a merger of more than one document.

    Genesis tells about many things:

    * the nature of God
    * His relationship with His creation
    * His intention
    * the position of man in relation to God and in relation to the rest of creation

    These are all things in the realm of the spirit and the realm of faith. They are truths beyond the realm of science. And I believe them in my spirit and use them in my rational mind to relate them to other biblical truths.

    ConclusionI know there are many Christians who take the view that we should believe that Genesis provides a literal account of the creation of the universe by God and that such a position is incompatible with evolution theory. Then, as part of their defence of that position they attack the validity of the scientific account of evolution. (That is what you seem to be doing.) I think it makes no sense to do that. Science has its logical methods of investigating and validating the truths within its scope. If science says evolution is the way lifeforms change over long periods of time, then there is no point in trying to argue against that from a spiritual or theological position. The only way to approach it is the way the scientific method approaches validation of theories - with good evidence and good logic.

    I also hear the challenge that I am 'picking and choosing' among which parts of the Bible I hold to be true. I believe we have to approach the interpretation of the books of the Bible recognising the differences among them and using all the relevant data about the texts. I also think it is not possible to pick and choose among the parts of scientific knowledge that we accept.

    Andrew B

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  18. Hi Laura,

    Andrew notified me of the recent discussion, so here I am! :) I have earlier blogged about a similar topic which you can read here: A Layman’s Brief Guide to Evolution

    I am of different view from Andrew. Where the Scripture is clearly silent I agree that there can be allowance made for differences in views, so long as those views are not contrary to other revealed biblical truths.

    But where the Scripture is clear, then the onus is on those who say otherwise to explain why the Bible is unclear. For example, did God not tell us how long a day was in Genesis 1? He did, no less than 6 times! He defined the word "day" with a number and the phrase "evening and morning". If that does not mean an ordinary day, then what does that mean?

    In addition, in Exodus 20 God wrote with His own finger, "For in SIX days...." clearly revealing to Moses that in the space of 6 ordinary days as Moses would have understood it to mean, God created the heavens and the earth.

    Elvin

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  19. Andrew,

    A few thoughts on your thoughts.

    “I have no reason to doubt the knowledge that has been gained and validated by scientists and scholars over the years.”

    I am not doubting the data, for I have neither capacity nor credentials to do so. I am doubting the interpretation of circumstantial, un-testable data, especially interpretations that insist on a closed universe operating only with material substances and processes.

    “life forms have been changing according to a system of evolution”

    I fully believe that life forms have been changing and have no issues with variation by means of adaptation. I only have issues with kind-to-kind transformation (as in fish to reptile). I have issues with this because there seems to be a bit of circular reasoning. I am currently reading Evolution: A Very Short Introduction, by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth (my thoughts on this will show up in a later post), and I have already seen circular reasoning in the discussion of intermediary forms: structural changes appearing to place a fossil between two known forms identify a particular fossil as intermediary, then the presence of structural changes is used to prove the presence of intermediary forms. So, it is not the fact of genetic variation—this can be directly observed: e.g., house cats; it is, rather, the claim of kind-to-kind change that seems ill-supported by the available data.

    “Textual analysis seems to show that it is a merger of more than one document.”

    Textual analysis says nothing about authorship; Moses may well have used source material (just as I did in my thesis).

    “These are all things in the realm of the spirit and the realm of faith.”

    In the list just before this statement, you mention creation twice; because God and humanity are in relationship with creation, theological knowledge has a place at the table when discussing creation. This does not mean we discount science—may it never be. But we also must not discount theology, for if theology is true, then it is as true in the material world as it is in the spiritual world, for God is God of both.

    “I know there are many Christians who take the view that we should believe that Genesis provides a literal account of the creation of the universe by God and that such a position is incompatible with evolution theory.”

    First, I prefer the phrase, “accurate account” rather than literal. Literal is too easily misunderstood, for too many miss the features of genre. But, honestly, I just being picky here.

    Second, unlike some creationists, I have problems only with kind-to-kind transformation. I have no reason to doubt that variation by adaptation is a natural process, created by God, to enable his creatures to thrive on his earth. My biggest problem is with the related issue of the origin of life by abiogenesis (life springing from the primordial ooze)—more on that next Monday.

    “Science has its logical methods of investigating and validating the truths within its scope.”

    True, but like all forms of knowledge, science operates according to assumptions. One such assumption is that the universe is a closed system of material substance and processes. This assumption shapes the interpretation of the available data. I have a dispute with assumptions such as this one; I have no dispute with the scientific method and scientific reasoning.

    “If science says evolution is the way lifeforms change over long periods of time, then there is no point in trying to argue against that from a spiritual or theological position.”

    I have no problem with variation by adaptation. I do believe that Genesis 1-2 is incompatible with kind-to-kind transformation (which, as stated above, seems to have logical reasoning issues as well).

    “I believe we have to approach the interpretation of the books of the Bible recognising the differences among them and using all the relevant data about the texts.”

    Agreed. Genre, culture, authorial intent, historical setting, and a host of other factors must accompany our interpretation of biblical data. Similarly, a clear understanding of the difference between circumstantial/non-repeatable evidence and experimental/repeatable evidence must accompany the interpretation of scientific data.

    It is not a matter of picking and choosing; it is a matter of distinguishing that which must be distinguished. This is a piece I think many scientists miss/neglect/ignore—especially in their communications with those outside of the scientific world.

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  20. Elvin,

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    (I'll be reading your post in the next few days; thanks for the link.)

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