Creation

This article on PJ Media is entitled: “4 Reasons Christians Can Believe in Evolution” and carries the subtitle buried within “and 2 reasons why you might not want to.”

It’s not terrible, though it presents a distorted view of evolutionary theory. It lists three ideas about what evolution is:

  1. Change over time, meaning very small-scale changes among groups of animals over time. This is called “microevolution,” and the best example is how darker moths survive and lighter moths die when trees in an area become covered in soot.

  2. The theory of universal common descent, that all living beings are descended from one common single-celled organism.

  3. The idea that a completely undirected, unguided process known as natural selection caused universal common descent, and while there is an appearance of design, there is no actual design behind life.

 

The difficulty with #3 is a subtlety about how science works: We cannot prove that the process was unguided and undirected — but we can demonstrate that guidance and direction were not necessary for it to work. These are similar, but not the same assertion.

Google “analogy”

Perhaps an analogy will help. Google’s current driverless cars still have a driver’s seat and controls. Evolutionary science demonstrates that the vehicle’s technology could have made a specific trip completely on its own. Old Earth Creationists insist that a driver was there, guiding it every step of the way. And Young Earth Creationists say that the car came into existence already at its destination.

Yes, in this analogy, the car was created by humans, so that even in navigating itself, it was still using human created and guided technology. But this is like saying that the universe was created with universal laws in place that guide all processes. Evolutionary science doesn’t extend into this area, but cosmology does, and cosmologists would not disagree with this. So if you insist that God created the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, it is not necessarily in conflict with cosmology. But cosmologists still wonder, “exactly how was it done?” and continue to pursue this and related questions.

Basically, the Theory of Evolution does not insist “there is no God” — instead, it merely demonstrates that “God is not necessary and there is no evidence for His involvement in natural selection; it would and does work on its own.” In fact, a guided process could have run through all the organisms of the last four billion years in a tiny fraction of that time, just as human guided evolution is creating an amazing panoply of creatures we still call “dogs” from a rather generic starter stock in a matter of a few thousand years, and really a few hundred in many cases.

The Fittest?

We are bending the evolutionary path of this group of organisms to our notions of aesthetics and our odd perceptions of “fitness.” The phrase “survival of the fittest” never meant the strongest; it was merely referring to the organism most adapted to its particular environmental niche. A more “fit” creature might actually be weaker than one less fit, if that weakness was part of a package that helped it survive.

But that “survival of the fittest” is not a guaranteed outcome, only a tendency over time. Oddballs come into existence (though most mutations are fatal), and by mere luck manages to survive and reproduce. We can look around at nature and see some very strange creatures (and plants) that seemed to have needed a lot of such luck.

No Crisis

The article describes evolutionary science as being in “a crisis” that will be resolved by a big meeting this this year to pick a new evolutionary theory in order to survive:

Meyer argued that while Christians can believe in evolution, they may not want to. The scientific theory has faced some huge challenges, and a conference later this year will attempt to resolve them by creating a new theory of evolution.

This is nonsense. Creationists are seemingly always ready to imagine “huge challenges” to evolution, none of which are. There is no conference to create a “new theory of evolution.”

Unanticipated Support from Microbiology

At the time of Darwin’s working out the heritability of traits — why offspring generally look like their parents — he had no idea how it worked. At the same time, Gregor Mendel was working out the mathematics of that inheritance of traits, but he didn’t know how it happened either. Then, about halfway through the 20th century, we discovered the structure of DNA and that it could, and did, contain coded information rather like a data tape.

This discovery of coded data being passed from parent to offspring exploded into the new science of microbiology, and that provided an extremely good confirmation of relationships we had determined by their gross physical anatomies: These also shared close DNA relationships. There were a few surprises, but not many, and microbiology deepened our understanding of the evolution illuminated by Darwin (and Wallace).

But DNA from the nucleus isn’t the only thing passed to offspring. For almost all life, mitochondria are contained in cells and have their own DNA, still retained when they were captured (but indigestible) bacteria. And we frequently use this much smaller, simpler code chain to look at close relationships, such as among tribes and families of humans. We’re now gaining greater understanding of this contribution to inheritance of characteristics. This is no “huge challenge,” it’s a new wrinkle that answers some questions on the periphery of the theory.

Mysterious Assertions

Again, science (of all types) does not insist that “there is no God.” The most it can do is note mildly that “if there is a God, He has not made Himself visible by tinkering with the results of experiments to show His existence.” Does that rule out His existence? No. It just suggests that, if He exists, He is playing a long game for obscure reasons. But Christians have that covered: “God moves in mysterious ways.” (The phrase is from William Cowper’s 18-century poem that starts “God moves in a mysterious way” and seems to be derived from Isaiah 55:

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite 20th century theologian . In Siren of Titan the central character gets spread across space and time in a chronosynclastic infundibulum and learns the truth : There is a God , but it is utterly indifferent to an insignificant little planet like the Earth .

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