WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

THE CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION CONTROVERSY: ADDENDUM #5

 

      This will be the final addendum to my original series of essays dealing with the creation/evolution controversy.  I have previously pointed out that Biblical scripture teaches a creator God spoke the creation into existence and the entire Christian theological system is based on this perspective. The Old Covenant Sabbath observance is based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account.  Salvation theology is based on their being a literal Adam and Eve and original sin. Both Jesus and the writers of the New Testament documents allude to the Genesis creation account and the Noachian flood narrative as actual historical events. 

       In recent years various authors have attempted to coordinate evolutionary teaching to the Biblical creation account and the Christian theological system in general. In this final addendum, we will examine several of these attempts to determine if they provide such coordination. 

BOOK REVIEWS:

THANK GOD FOR EVOLUTION:  Michael Dowd (May 2009)

       Christian minister Michael Dowd (MD), in his book entitled Thank God For Evolution, tries to harmonize religious dogma with what he believes is the fact of evolution.  MD does not provide evidence for evolution but comes to his discussion already convinced evolution to be a proven mechanism by which the universe and all life forms came to be.  He appears to believe it is through the Big Bang and neo-Darwinian evolution that the universe and life forms came into existence and this process occurred through directionless, purposeless resident forces found in nature and did not require intelligent design or supernatural involvement. 

       MD does not believe in the existence of a transcendent, cognizant, creator commonly called God, but sees “God” as the “ultimate whole” wherein lesser wholes reside. Therefore, “God” is considered a holy name for Ultimate Reality which is seen as that which includes and yet transcends all other realities (p131).

       MD calls this concept Creatheism and refers to himself as a Creatheist.  This concept appears to be similar to the general concept of Panentheism which sees God as being in everything and everything in God. Under this concept, the universe and all it represents is an expression of divinity.

       MD distinguishes between what he calls public and private revelation.  Public revelation is the gathering of knowledge and understanding based on objective empirical inquiry.  Private revelation is knowledge and understanding based on subjective experience and acceptance of the claims of ancient texts.  MD ties these distinctions to what he calls day and night experience expressed in day language and night language.   Day experience is what is publicly, objectively and verifiably measurable. We talk and write about it in normal everyday discourse which is day language.   Night experience is subjective and talked and written about in metaphors, poetry and imagery which MD calls night language.

       While night experience/language is not objectively real, MD sees it as personally and culturally meaningful as it provides ways of subjectively describing things for which the objective facts may not be available and also provides a means for subjectively celebrating objective reality in metaphoric language.  MD sees problems arise when we “fail to distinguish the factual objective real from the meaningful subjective real – when we mistake our interpretations for what’s so” (p114).

       MD sees evolution as occurring without a creator as the starting point for the evolutionary process and sees all religious dogma associated with origins as subjective night language. He believes when night language becomes understood for what it is, it can be harmonized with the objective reality of day language and evolution (public revelation) and intelligent design/creationism (private revelation) can co-exist in a harmonious relationship. 

       MD sees the Biblical account of origins and all Christian theology based on this account as night language which he defines as subjective perceptions of reality as opposed to the objective reality of day language which can be demonstrated through science.  Therefore, the Genesis creation account, and all that is based on it, is meaningful only as a metaphorical, figurative representation of what can be scientifically demonstrated to be true. 

     Review:

      I personally do not see any value in this approach.  If evolution is an objective fact, I see no need to retain subjective night language to give meaning to this fact.  All that such night language does is muddy the waters and create cognitive dissonance relative to the matter of origins and the development of the physical universe and biological life.  If I were to become convinced that evolution, devoid of an intelligent creator, is a fact, I see no value in retaining religious night language to give meaning to such conviction.  Conviction that evolution, devoid of a Supreme Being who started it all, is an objective fact would negate any need to retain night language.  Why would I continue to use night language to understand a universe where everything has and continues to progress through natural undirected material forces? 

       As already discussed in this series, the Christian theological system is based on the events recorded in Genesis actually happening in some literal sense. Old Covenant theology is based on a literal six day creation account followed by a literal seventh day of rest by the creator. How would the Sabbath command to Israel, which is based on the Genesis account, have any legitimacy if the six day creation account with God resting on the seventh day is bogus?  If the six day creation event is metaphor or poetry (night language) and the events recorded to have taken place didn’t actually take place but in some manner represent millions of years of evolutionary development (day language), then the Old Covenant Sabbath command is based on a non event. How then can it have any theological significance?    

       Salvation theology is based on a literal Adam and Eve being the first humans and their committing sin necessitating the Christ event. Pauline salvation theology is based on what appears to be Paul’s literal belief in the Adam and Eve story.  How could Paul’s use of the Adam and Eve story bring validity to his salvation theology if the Adam and Eve story is bogus?  New Testament scripture shows Jesus believed in a literal God creating literal humans as literal male and female at the beginning recorded in Genesis. Was Jesus unaware that humans and sexual differentiation came about over millions of years of transitional development of life forms?   There are dozens of Biblical passages that reflect a literal belief in a creator God who directly spoke the universe and life into existence and continues to take an active part in what goes on in his creation

       The sayings of Paul, Christ and others appear to reflect a belief in the objective reality of the Genesis creation account and in a Father God who was and is directly involved in establishing the physical universe, our earth and life forms.  These Biblical personalities do not appear to believe the Genesis creation account is subjective (private revelation/night language) and only representative of a greater objective reality (public revelation/day language).  They appear to believe the “night language” to be the real thing.

       If the events described in Genesis are all metaphorical night language having no objective reality in and of themselves, then the Christian theological system is based on metaphor, similes and figures of speech. If this is the case, how can the Christian system be viewed as valid?  If the Genesis creation account is subjective night language having no objective reality in and of itself, why should I believe the theology derived from and based on such subjective language to be objectively true? 

       If I were to arrive at the same position as Michael Dowd has as to “Ultimate Reality,” I would have no reason to continue association with the Christian theological system or any other religious system.  Under the neo-Darwinian evolutionary perspective, life ends at biological death and the elements of the deceased organism recycle into new life forms.  Belief in a strict evolutionary history would appear to negate any evidence for a conscious/cognitive after life.  To believe in neo-Darwinism is to negate the need to believe in a religious system that purports to explain origins, meaningfulness of life and life after physical death.

THE GENESIS ENIGMA: Andrew Parker (October 2009)

       Scientist Andrew Parker (AP), in his book entitled, The Genesis EnigmaWhy The Bible Is Scientifically Accurate, writes that evolution is a fact and attempts to show the Genesis account of creation to be coordinated with the fact of evolution.  He believes the writer of the creation account records a sequence of events which parallels what science has demonstrated to have taken place via the Big Bang and the evolution of life. Since AP believes the author of the creation account could not have known the science of all this, he believes the author was supernaturally provided a metaphorical overview of what science has now identified as the manner in which the universe and life came to be.  This author appears to believe God facilitated the Big Bang and inspired the writer of the Genesis creation account to record the progression of events that followed the Big Bang in the language of his time. 

       Genesis records God first commended there be light. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  AP provides a long explanation of how the Big Bang brought about the creation of stars and planets including our solar system and how our sun developed from rotating hydrogen gas some 5,000 million years ago. AP correlates God’s command that there be light with the development of our sun.

       AP lists God’s second commend from Genesis 1:9: "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear."  AP follows this with a lengthy discussion of how over millions of years, seas and other bodies of water developed along with the geography of the earth with its mountain ranges and many other geologic attributes.  AP correlates this with Genesis 1:9.

       AP proceeds to quote Genesis 1:11. "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." AP relates this to the appearance of the first life forms to develop on planet earth in what would become a multi million year process of evolutionary development. 

       AP then moves to Genesis 1:14. “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.”  AP provides an extensive discussion of how sight developed in the evolutionary process of life and concludes that the introduction of day and night translates, in biological terms, to the evolution of vision.

      Next AP quotes from Genesis 1:20. "Let the water teem with living creatures.” AP believes this command corresponds to the Cambrian Explosion where millions of invertebrate organisms have been identified that are believed to have originated in the water. This is seen as the next step in the evolutionary development of life and AP sees Genesis 1:20 in harmony with this step.

       AP continues by quoting part of Genesis 1:21. “So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds.”  AP equates this passage to the next step in evolutionary development which is the evolution of larger and more complex creatures in the sea and their gradual evolution into land dwelling organisms.  AP then quotes the remainder of Genesis 1:21 where it is recorded that winged birds were created. AP then describes how birds were the next step in evolutionary development and therefore continues the sequence found in the Genesis creation account.

       AP goes no further in comparing the Genesis creation account with what he believes to be the fact of evolution and the Big Bang account of how the universe came to be.  He concludes that since the author of the Genesis account could not have known on his own the sequence of evolutionary events identified by modern day science, the author must have had supernatural guidance in writing the creation account. Therefore, AP appears to give tacit acknowledgement to the existence of a creator God even though he firmly believes this God brought about the universe and all life through the Big Bang and an evolutionary process spanning many millions of years.

     Review:

       It is interesting that AP makes no attempt to coordinate the Genesis account of mans creation with evolutionary theory.  More troubling is AP’s total disregard of the Genesis author seeing the creation in terms of six periods of time involving evenings and mornings all adding up to six days.  What metaphorical meaning could evening and morning time frames contribute to a modern day scientific explanation of creation?

       I feel AP’s disregard for the six day dynamic of the creation account and his lack of attention to other aspects of the Genesis record of origins makes his conclusions quite problematic.  If the dynamics of creation discussed in the six day account recorded in Genesis involved multiple millions of years, surely God knew this and He would have led the writer of the Genesis creation account to write in terms of long time frames and not in terms of a six day time frame.  If God were directing the recording of the creation account and this account was meant to reflect millions of years of gradual evolution, there would be no apparent purpose for the creation account to be set in a context of six evening and morning days.  There would be no need to show the creator resting on the seventh day.

       As has been discussed several times in this series, the Christian theological system is based on a literal view of the events recorded in Genesis. Christ teaches God made humans male and female at the beginning of creation (Mark 10:6).  Luke shows Adam to be a direct creation of God (Luke 3:38). Apostle Paul speaks of Adam being formed first and then Eve (1 Timothy 2:1).  Jude writes about Adam being the starting point for human creation (Jude 1:14).  Paul writes of a literal Eve being deceived (2 Corinthians 11:3).  In Romans 5:14, Paul writes of death beginning with Adam and to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).   Paul does not appear to be thinking in terms of humans dying because they are human but dying because a literal human called Adam began the process of separation from God due to sin which results in death.  We see New Testament writers in agreement with what the Old Testament teaches about who the first humans were.  We see provision for salvation (eternal life) predicated on Christ atoning for the sin that began with Adam and Eve. 

       AP believes the language of the Genesis creation account is figurative and represents present day scientific explanations of how the universe and life came to be.  Figurative language is language that represents something else. If the Genesis creation account is figurative, what is it figurative of for the NT writers?  The NT writers don’t relate to the Genesis account as though it represented something else. They see it as what literally happened. If it didn’t happen in some literal sense, then the Christian theological system is based on metaphor.  If that is the case, the Christian system, including salvation theology becomes very problematic.     

GOD AND EVOLUTION? Daniel Sampson (2006)

       Former Christian church pastor Daniel Sampson (DS) begins his 511 page book by explaining that on October 25th 1996, Pope John Paul 11th, in announcing that Darwin’s theory of evolution was more than a hypothesis, put the Catholic Church on record as accepting evolution as a valid explanation of the development of life on planet earth.  He writes that Episcopalians, Lutherans and some Methodist and Presbyterian groups have done the same (page 306).  DS goes on to explain how he was forced by the evidence to abandon his creationist perspectives and accept the Big Bang and Darwinian evolution as valid explanations of origins.

       DS covers a great deal of material in his book and overall provides a defense of origins that reflects what is presently taught by the majority of the scientific community and in the public sector of our educational system. I recommend reading DS’s book as I feel he does a good job in presenting the issues relevant to the creation/evolution debate. 

       Many of the issues DS addresses I have already discussed in this multi-part series and I will not cover the same ground again.  I will instead select statements from DS’s book that I feel need to be addressed. 

       On page 36, DS writes that “99.9 percent of all life that has ever existed on earth is now extinct.”  He goes on to state that this is evidence of the fact of evolution and not of special creation.  DS then asks: “If God has brought all life into being through a series of special creations with each creation ostensibly perfect and for a specific purpose, then why is the rate of extinction so extreme?”

       My answer to this question is that the Genesis creation account does not discuss a series of creations but one “special” creation event that occurred over a period of six days.  This account does not preclude evolutionary development of the “kinds” created during this six day period. It is evident that millions of organisms have developed through evolutionary processes. There is no question evolution occurs. Our focus in this series, and especially in these addendums, has been to identify how evolution of the Genesis "kinds" occurs and what the overall context for evolutionary development is. We have discussed at length the possible ways in which life forms have developed and I will not repeat that discussion here. 

       The question before us is not whether evolution occurs but how it occurs and when it began. The Genesis account provides a beginning point for the appearance of life forms. The Genesis account shows God creating a number of body types.  There is every reason to believe it is from these basic body types that the multiple millions of both extinct and extant organisms have evolved.      

       The fact that a large percentage of organisms have become extinct is immaterial to this discussion.  The Genesis account shows God created basic body types (kinds) with the genetic ability to reproduce and produce a great variety of related organisms within such kind.  It is recorded God looked upon His creation and pronounced it as being good.  The fact that many organisms that evolved from these original kinds became extinct is not a negative against God but simply reflective of God purposing His creation to perform in the way that it does.

       DS gives considerable space to discussing the evolution of the horse and how its ancestors had three toes and as the animal evolved it came to have one toe which we call a hoof.  I personally have no problem seeing the development of the horse or any other organism over time.  I do have a problem in seeing such development necessitating millions of years in time.  Our discussion of developmental plasticity in addendum #3 clearly shows how rapidly phenotypes can be altered to adapt to changing environment. 

       The Genesis creation account shows God creating groups of organisms which are classified as “kinds.”  These kinds are divided into the broad categories of water dwelling, land dwelling and air dwelling organisms.  Vegetation appears to have been classified in like manner.  The creation account provides us with little information as to the number of “kinds” created. Neo-Darwinian evolution postulates life began spontaneously from the fortuitous activity of amino acids in the primordial past.  As covered in our discussion of intelligent design, it is more scientific to conclude life forms were designed and created through the action of a powerful and intelligent creator. It is these life forms that are the ancestors of all life forms that have evolved according to the mechanisms created to facilitate such evolution.  

       DS would take issue with my use of the word scientific in regard to the Genesis creation account and the idea of intelligence design.  On page 67, DS writes that the term “creation science” is an oxymoron as it is not falsifiable. He draws the same conclusions relative to the concept of “intelligence design.” Falsifiability, sometimes called refutability, is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment. Some feel the primary criterion for something to be called science is that it is subject to falsifiability. DS claims “creation science” and “intelligent design” are not subject to falsifiability because the claims made under these positions cannot be tested.  I submit they can be tested based on what we observe at the human level.

       In addendum #4, I proposed that because intelligent design is ubiquitous in the creation of things at the material level, it is reasonable to conclude intelligent design is a dynamic in the creation of us humans as well.  I also showed how intelligent design meets the requirements of the scientific method and therefore should be considered along side other approaches to origins in our public educational systems. 

       DS quotes philosopher Karl Popper as saying, “Scientific creationism is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase precisely because it cannot be falsified. I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs” (page 69).  

       If Karl Popper can envision observations and experiments that would disprove evolution theory, then evolution is falsifiable and should not be taught in our educational system as a proven fact.

       I submit that all data is subject to potential falsification. All data is subject to testing for truth or falsity based on objective investigation of all the dynamics related to such data.  If there is preponderance of evidence to show a proposition to be false, that proposition has been falsified and it can be concluded the proposition is false. On the other hand, if a preponderance of evidence shows a proposition to be true or very likely to be true, such proposition should be considered true until proven false.

       In this series we have endeavored to determine where the preponderance of evidence lies relative to the creation/evolution debate.  I believe the evidence as to origins is greater for special creation than it is for neo-Darwinian evolution. While falsification has merit as a method of determining truth, we shouldn’t use the ability to falsify as the absolute measure of whether something is to be considered true of false. Preponderance of evidence leading to belief beyond reasonable doubt should be our measure of truth.         

        On page 96, DS makes the blanket statement that the “Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras establish the fact of evolution as found in the fossils, which are always in sequence, but the time periods of each of these eras have also been absolutely established beyond doubt through radiometric dating methods.”

       To make such emphatic statements within a system that by DS’s own admission is seen as subject to falsification is rather surprising. Creationists believe they have falsified these statements by demonstrating that sedimentary strata develops in much shorter time frames and that the age of such strata cannot be adequately established through radiometric dating methods. Creationists also believe they have falsified the belief that fossils found in sedimentary rock were laid down over millions of years.  I have discussed these matters in some detail in this series.

       On page 149, DS writes: “So now we can see what appears to be a gap in the geological column is not really a gap at all.  The modern genetic theory of evolution maintains that adaptation to new environmental conditions proceeds rapidly, so few immediate fossils are likely to be found.  The species has simply changed very quickly and then radiated across landscape.  We have proof of this possibility with the finches on the Galapagos Islands and experiments done with the drosophila fly in the laboratory.  New species have been created by radiation; they are unable to breed with the original parent fly species.  This phenomenon is a problem for fundamentalists, because their definition of a Genesis “kind” is an animal or insect that cannot breed except within its own species.”

       DS apparently subscribes to the “punctuated equilibrium” approach to evolution where it is believed large chunks of evolution took place in short periods of time and therefore gaps (transitional forms) are not likely to be found.  I believe it is more reasonable to conclude that basic body types were designed and created at a point in time and these body types developed (evolved) many variations based on genetic adaptation to changing environment. The Galapagos Island finches are a good example of this.  These finches, however, were not shown to be unable to continue breeding among themselves.  They were shown to develop a variety of phenotypes while still maintaining their basic body type. If some of these finches did become unable to interbreed, this doesn’t mean their basic body types evolved into body types unrecognizable from that of a finch.  

       The same could be said of the experiments with the drosophila fly species being made to develop new species unable to interbreed.  These flies still maintained there identification as flies even through genetic changes took place that prevented interbreeding and also produced some anatomical changes as well.  The fly, along with any number of other flying insects may all have developed from a common created ancestor.  I have no trouble with the evolutionary postulation that life has developed from common ancestors.  I believe the evidence, however, points to a special creation of such ancestors and not their gradual development from the fortuitous mixing of amino acids in some primordial sea. 

       As discussed earlier in this series, the Genesis kinds need to be looked at as broad categories of body types with the genetic potential to develop into a myriad of varieties based on such body types.  This would certainly include changes in genotype leading to changes in phenotype which could include changes in breeding ability as well. This approach allows for the development of a great variety of phenotypes within the Genesis kinds while allowing for the Genesis kinds themselves to be defined in part by reproductive barriers.  Therefore, organisms were created to reproduce and evolve within certain perimeters of design. I do not care to look at the myriad of life forms extinct and extant in terms of micro or macro evolution.  I believe the evidence points to a special creation of basic life forms within specified categories of design and these life forms proceeded to evolve from there.  It’s not a matter of micro versus macro.  It’s a matter of genotypic change leading to phenotypic change within certain pre-established design perimeters and occurring largely in response to environmental triggers as discussed in a previous addendum. 

       Incremental transitional fossils are missing not because evolution didn’t take place but because it took place within kinds and in response to genotypic variation largely generated by environmental triggers. Evolution within kinds would not generate major phenotypic changes such as invertebrates gradually developing, through transitional forms, into vertebrates. Therefore, transitional forms showing gradual transition from one body type to another would not be expected.

       On page 193, DS writes: “once we accept the veracity of the geological column, then the flora and fauna found fossilized in layers is the evidence for evolution.”  I submit that the geologic column with its fossilized layers is not evidence for the gradual evolution of flora and fauna over millions of years but is evidence for catastrophic geological events creating rapid fossilization in rapidly developed sedimentary rock. The evidence for this is that fossilization as seen in the geologic column requires rapid disposition of sedimentary material for the organisms to be preserved long enough for fossilization to occur. The standard evolutionary construct of the gradual development of the geologic column with its fossils doesn’t square with how fossils are usually formed.

       On page 270, DS cites the foramen magnum as evidence for the evolution of man.  The foramen magnum is the hole at the bottom of the skull through which the spinal chord passes.  In apes, this hole is toward the back of the skull because the ape’s head projects forward as it propels its body on the ground by knuckle walking.  DS writes that because of evolutionary adaptation, the foramen magnum moved several inches forward over 5 million years of gradual development culminating in Homo sapiens having this hole directly under the head allowing for fully upright mobility. The fossil record is purported to show the gradual repositioning of the foramen magnum from the back of the skull to the center of the skull.  DS believes this is a major evidence for the evolution of man from lower primates. 

        This conclusion is based on belief that the fossil record reflects millions of years of gradual development.  Since the evolutionist believes the geologic column developed gradually over millions of years the apparent layering of material in the geologic column from simple to complex is seen as a major prove of evolution, including the evolution of where the foramen magnum is positioned. 

       As discussed in this series, fossilization generally occurs through the rapid disposition of sedimentary material where organisms are trapped and their imprints or actual body parts are preserved through rapid hardening of the sedimentary material.  Such rapid disposition of material generally occurs due to catastrophic events usually involving water and sometimes volcanoes. Since sedimentary material layers out according to size of particles, creationists believe this layering reflects the sudden disposition of organisms of different complexities according to their size and mobility.  Therefore, creationists do not see a gradual development of the foramen magnum but see differences in this structure to reflect design differences in the creation of organisms. 

       I personally see greater reason to find the creationist position on this matter more believable because of the understanding that fossils don’t generally form gradually over great periods of time but rather form rapidly due to the sudden disposition of sedimentary material.  This understanding virtually constitutes a falsification of how evolutionists view development of the geological column.     

     Conclusion:

       I added these five addendums to my original series on the creation/evolution controversy to show Neo-Darwinian evolution cannot be made to harmonize, be compatible with or be complementary to the Biblical account of origins.  The Biblical Scriptures provide a creationist perspective. The Biblical view is that God spoke the creation into existence.  Old Covenant theology is based on a literal six day creation account.  New Covenant theology is based on there being a literal Adam and Eve who sinned, necessitating the Christ event.

       If my studies into the dynamics of the creation/evolution debate would have provided me with a preponderance of evidence that the Big Bang and Neo-Darwinian is a valid explanation of origins, I would have been forced to abandon my belief in the Scriptural account of creation and the theology that derives from that account.    

       What I found, however, is that both the Big Bang theory and Neo-Darwinian explanations of origins are problematical and do not provide the level of evidence necessary to override the Biblical presentation of special creation and the theology that derives from that presentation.  While it is certainly apparent biological evolution does occur, such occurrence appears to take place within certain parameters established by a facilitating power and intelligence and is not the result of fortuitous undirected activity.      

       Questions certainly remain. Can Genesis 1:1 be seen as an event separated by millions or billions of years from the account starting in verse two?  Is the observation that it takes star light millions of years to reach earth an absolute proof that such stars are millions of years old and therefore our universe is millions or billions of years old?  Is the Genesis creation account a point in time event facilitated by God to accomplish a specific purpose?  If this can be shown to be the case, the Genesis account may have nothing to do with the origin of the universe or even the origin of life forms?  The Genesis account may only be a record of God inaugurating a specific project among many He has inaugurated throughout eternity.  I feel Christians tend to limit God to what is recorded in Scripture when in actuality there may be a lot more God is doing and has done.   I will continue to explore these issues and report on my findings as time allows.

RETURN TO HOME PAGE