"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" Romans 11:33-34
The "E" Word!
If we were watching the game of Jeopardy, and the host was to read from his card, "The one single word that will send a Christian absolutely ballistic," what would be the question? A word that so antagonizes that once "civilized" people suddenly become outraged and hostile. "What is evolution" is the correct response? In the Church I attend, if I were to believe that evolution was true, I would be in "jeopardy" of being asked to step down from the ministry! I doubt that anyone who reads this page would disagree that the "E" word, to many, is both intimidating and offensive. So what I desire to ask here is "what is evolution?" And, "is it as threatening as we have been led to believe?"
I've stated that I am not a scientist and this page is not a scientific critique, I am not qualified for that. Nor do I hold personally to the doctrine of theistic evolution. I believe I would fit under the heading of "progressive creationist." This is simply an attempt to share MY opinions and to try to dispel any prejudice. I have drawn my conclusions by studying the various arguments of numerous learned people from several different professions, scientists, theologians and philosophers. And to all those who have labored for truth, please forgive my prejudice, I was quick to judge you (assuming I had the truth), though I had never listened to you.
The first difficulty we run into is the definition of evolution itself. Christians tend to lump the many aspects of evolution into one package. The theory of evolution is multifaceted. If we divide the theory as it should be, we find that it runs the gambit from "fact" to pure speculation. The most concise definition that evolutionists themselves use is, "the gene pool of a POPULATION changes with time, and these changes are inheritable." By this simple meaning we would say evolution is a fact. The famous examples that creationists love to dwell on (the peppered moth, bacterial resistance etc.) actually meet these criteria. The gene pool of the population did change with time! Of course this is an infinite leap from "one day there was nothing, then it exploded and here we are!" And I have found that evolution has many weaknesses (possibly my own bias), and yet it has many intriguing strengths as well.
One of the strengths of evolution, is the genetic evidence of common descent. As distasteful as it may seem to some, the documentation that man and other primates share a common ancestor is quite compelling. Not only do we share common appearance, we also have very similar DNA. It seems simple to answer this charge by claiming similar appearances should have similar genes, but it's more complicated than that. Through years of copying, many "errors" have accumulated in our genes. Scientists who map out DNA have found similar "errors" in other primates. These "pseudo genes" are also found in the exact locus points on the DNA molecule in both humans and chimpanzees (for instance). It seems the best explanation of this data is that both man and chimps have inherited this "junk" DNA from a common ancestor of the past. It's hard to explain why God would create new "kinds" and leave these errors in place. This evidence is powerful that creatures are genetically linked to some degree. But I have found it a much weaker argument to conclude that all life forms have descended from one or even a handful of predecessors.
There are many other proofs that scientists offer to support evolution (homology, ontogeny, vestigial components etc.), but geographical variation is what most stumps me. Where species have become isolated (e.g., islands) we discover a myriad of unique fauna and plant life. The marsupials of Australia are an excellent example. Kangaroos, and their fossils, are only found in this region. Living species in an isolated local will show variation from the fossils of that same location but even though in another isolated local we find the same evidence, the extant species show much more variation compared to one another than they do to the fossils beneath them and the fossils are more similar to the existing species than they are to the fossils in a different local. (Did I explain that correctly?) It's just tough on the "ole" common sense to think God created the many varieties of life in this manner.
When we look at the fossil record, we see an upward trend of simple to more complex life forms. Not a single line but what appears more like a bush. It is foolish for the Christian community to continue to deny this. The fossil evidence (e.g., hominids) DOES exist! There are large gaps in the record, but the evidence is by far more compelling than any young-earth creationist ever led me to believe. It is also true that we cannot observe macro-evolution in progress, but that is a straw man. Many solid theories in science are not observable, but they are developed by making predictions and by trying to falsify hypotheses. According to evolutionists (the vast majority of scientists), the theory of evolution has withstood these methods and as of this time, no better theory has been offered. Evolution certainly has extraordinary evidence. Yet, with all of this, I am still not convinced. Am I just foolish or something? Maybe not, let's check out (scientifically) the contrary evidence and see what we can discover.
If the evidence of the fossil record was to be taken alone, if the weight of genetics, homology, etc., was not available, I believe the deduction that would be reached would depend on an individual's personal world view, and I also believe their conclusion would be scientifically correct. The picture of the fossil record does not exhibit a gradual, step by step development. Almost always, what we find is the sudden appearance of a particular species followed by "stasis." The species remains virtually unchanged for its tenor on earth. Picture a bush with many branches pointing up. Then picture this bush with virtually none of the branches connected to one another, just 1,000's of vertical branches of different lengths and at different heights. This is the picture of the fossil record. There are species that appear to be "transitional" (e.g., the horse series), but little to no transitional forms (e.g., half wings). All the examples found are fully formed and fully functional! I know the arguments that evolutionists offer, but they just don't seem to hold water. There should be innumerable, step by step fossils available to us by now. We can speculate how such a vast array of life forms could "suddenly" appear in the Cambrian era (for example), but I trust it is our own bias, that there must be a natural explanation, that compels us to read "evolution" into the fossil record.
I personally believe, that the exclusion of God, is the single most important reason why there exists such a huge gap in our understanding and in our conclusions. I fail to understand why scientists are so insistent that God is outside of scientific inquiry. If it were true that life has its origins from an "intelligent being," is it not still good science to examine the data as it is presented? Is it good science to "stretch" for answers simply that we may always conclude purely naturalistic solutions? Maybe I've missed something but this has always disturbed me. I know this is a philosophical argument, but my greatest difficulty in accepting evolution (totally) is the purely naturalistic hypotheses that random mutations and natural selection (no matter how much time is given) can lead to life's many complexities. I have really tried to be open minded on this. I have gone over and over the data, but my mind won't accept this. And I believe that it's not due to "brain washing," it's due to "heart washing." Whichever portions of evolution might be true - "intelligence," has to be injected in somewhere along the line! Grant me, somehow, that whether at the beginning or along the way, "foresight' was involved and I'm sold (maybe). It is arrogant, being a layman, and disputing the findings of an innumerable host of very capable professionals, but I'm sorry, that's where I'm at.
Evolution really means nothing until we explain the origin of life itself. I have found, from evolutionists themselves, that the speculations previously held are eroding and some scientists are beginning to look elsewhere for answers. Evidence is coming in that the atmosphere that would be necessary for the formation of amino acids did in fact not exist. And the more we probe into the living cell, the more complex we find it to be. Why is it that with all of our intelligence, even if we take a dead (but complete) cell, we cannot regenerate "life," yet we believe that purely naturalistic mechanisms, against astronomical odds, can indeed create life? I once was reading a letter where a Christian was being mocked because he made the "foolish" statement, "it takes more faith to believe in abiogeneses than to believe that God is the creator of life." Well, is that so foolish?
Let me not leave the impression that I've concluded anything. I have not and I want to stay open to this. But as of this time, the evidence of both the Bible and science, appears to conclude that special creation AND possibly evolution (though modified) are the truth. The Bible mentions three creative acts in the book of Genesis. The creation of the universe, the creation of Adam and Eve and the creation of primitive sea life. On days three and six, the Bible says: "And God said, 'let the earth bring forth . . . ' " This certainly implies time but could it be evolution as well? But on day five, the text says: "and God created . . . great sea creatures . . . every living and moving thing with which the water teems . . . " If I were to make a prediction from this passage, I would expect to find something unique in the fossil record concerning sea life, something abrupt. How about the Cambrian explosion? When, in a geological instant, more than 100 phyla appear. Every major body plan including eyes, digestive systems, nervous systems, circulatory systems etc. are present! This does not prove that these examples did not evolve, but I believe the evidence is in favor of special creation. I would also hold firm that if evolution is a factor, there is a yet to be discovered mechanism in living cells that can groom DNA specifically to the environmental needs. An inherent "intelligence" that has guided life's complexities. This view was held just prior to Darwin and a handful of scientists today see this as the facts as well.
So to sum this all up, my theory holds to the belief that God created "kinds" throughout the ages. What constitutes a kind? I don't know, there seems to be no consensus on this one. This would explain the sudden appearance of various life forms and the lack of evidence for transition between major groups. God created life with the inherent ability to adapt with time. This would explain the evidence for common ancestry and geographical variation. Young-earth creationists believe in micro-evolution and that there are many more species today than originally deployed from the Ark. My theory is more realistic in that there is just not enough time, since the Flood, to explain all the genetic variability. In order to fine tune this belief, I need to discover-- what is a "kind?" Where should we expect to find gaps and where should we expect to find common descent?
The important thing is to discard our prejudice. I've corresponded with several theistic evolutionists and I am convinced they have a love for Jesus second to none. If evolution is to be proven true one day, we need not fear, the Bible stands firm! And as only one born of the Spirit knows, "let God Be true . . . " God is true, the Bible is His Word and His ways are not our ways . . . "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he CANNOT understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ . . . " 1Cor. 2:14-16