Evolution and Darwinism
The three meanings of evolution.
Awhile ago, I blogged on a short article that I had received from Reasons to Believe, the organization of Dr. Hugh Ross where it was pointed out that yet another study had shown that “junk DNA,” i.e., DNA which for years some scientist and many skeptics believed had no purpose and which was regularly pointed to as evidence for evolution, must have more of a purpose than biologists originally thought. The study was another in a series of recent studies that have been slowly pointing out that even though we don’t always understand the purpose of portions of the DNA, it seems to serve some purpose.
As is not uncommon, an “anonymous” poster (*sigh*) apparently did not dispute the study and its profound implications. Rather, the poster tried to trap me into saying that if God created all things, he must have also created things which we consider harmful, such as the HIV virus. His exact words were: “Which [sic] intelligent designer shaped the genome of the HIV virus? And why does he change it so often to make it so resistant to drugs?” I responded by making an analogy to a car that breaks down by saying: “My car broke down when I failed to give it oil. Which of the car's designers should I blame for that?” The point of my response (as “anonymous” apparently understood) was that I believe that the Bible teaches that much of the problems in this world are the result of the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. I will elaborate on this in a moment.
The response I received was not unexpected. “Anonymous” said: “You mean HIV evolved, and God had nothing to do with it? Proof that evolution can happen please.” Checkmate? Hardly. “Anonymous” either does not understand or is rejecting the fact that a belief in evolution does not require a belief in Darwinism. Allow me to explain.
There are three types of evolution, and I don’t know any Christians who have any difficulty accepting either of the first two. The first type of evolution is “change over time.” We often use this type of evolution to speak of someone’s ideas changing, e.g., “His view of abortion evolved over time.” We also use it to talk about how a town “evolved” in a particular way. Certainly, we see the earth as evolving in this sense, including the life on the planet. This type of understanding of evolution is widely accepted even in conservative Christian circles.
The second type of evolution is micro-evolution. This is the type of evolution where changes are made within species. As in the on-line article “What is the Theory of Evolution?” no one disputes this type of evolution.
“Micro-evolution or speciation refers to populational and species change through time. There are many published examples of speciation, if by the development of a new 'species' we mean the development of a new population of individuals which will not breed with the original population to produce fertile offspring. Micro-evolution is a scientific fact which no one, including creationists, dispute.”
The third type of evolution is “macro-evolution,” i.e., the “the progression to more complex forms of life.” Macro-evolution takes the known facts of micro-evolution and expands them to fill a greater need: how did the full diversity of species that presently exist on the Earth arise? As noted in the on-line article “Macro v. Micro Evolution”:
"Evolutionists, however, have expanded the model [of macro-evolution] to suggest the origin of the universe, the origin of life from non-life, the origin of amphibians from fishes, the origin of birds from reptiles, and so on. Scientists have many theories of the mechanisms behind macro-evolution, but none of them have any direct evidence. The theories are merely extrapolations from what can be seen on the smaller scale.”
The belief that all the diversity of life on the planet resulted from minute changes to prior species is what is known as Darwinism. It assumes that because we can see evolution on a micro level, it must follow that all life that we have on the planet evolved from earlier lesser complex life. I think that assumption is unjustified.
In my view, micro-evolution (or, at least, the capacity for micro-evolution) was part of God's original design and continues following the fall of mankind. God created the earth and all that is in it so that it was “good” (Genesis 1)—-not perfect, but good. When humanity fell to sin (Genesis 3), the earth fell with them. As stated in James S. Stambaugh in his essay “Death Before Sin?” (available on-line) originally published in Impact, No. 191, May 1989:
”Adam's sin had a tremendous effect on the entire world. We can see this clearly stated in Genesis 3:17,18 and Romans 8:19-21. The Genesis passage states that all creation was cursed by God for man's sake. It seems that God wanted to give the human race an object lesson. The lesson, it would appear, is to make the outer world of man like the inner world of man. Man is now a fallen sinner, and so God shows him what his spiritual state is like when he looks at nature. So when man looks at nature, he can see the glory of God, although it is veiled by the curse of sin. Such a demonstration of the results of sin should drive men back to God for His solution to sin and death.
“The passage in Romans 8:19-21 confirms the thought of Genesis. In fact, these verses are Paul's commentary on Genesis 3:17, 18. Here Paul tells us that the whole of creation has been subjected to 'vanity' by God because of man's sin. The word 'vanity' refers to that which fails to attain its basic goal. This means 'that the non-human creation has been subjected to the frustration of not being able to properly fulfill the purpose of its existence.' The entire creation experienced the same fate that man did when he fell.” (Footnote omitted.)
In other words, because of the sin of Adam and Eve which led to the fall of humanity, nature was also cursed. The order of nature that would have continued had humanity not sinned would not have resulted in the creation of new and deadly viruses. It is probable that but for the fall there would not have been changes to the genome of various viruses that would result in harmful changes to the world and humanity. In other words, if there had been no fall, it seems probable that micro-evolution would have still occurred, but because of the fall not all micro-evolution is positive—it is random. This can result in positive evolution or negative "de-evolution."
Thus, my point to “Anonymous” was that the viruses that harm us have ultimately resulted from our own fall. I would not blame the car manufacturer for my failure to use and preserve the car properly which results in damage to the car (and possibly to me). Likewise, I don’t blame God for the fact that we have caused the fall of nature through our sin which results in the micro-evolutionary changes to sometimes result in negative consequences to us and our environment. Certainly, I don't think God designed the genome of the HIV virus or that God may shape "the genome of the flu virus so that it produces another pandemic like in 1918." Those happened by the process of micro-evolution--a process that has been contaminated by our sin.
Have I admitted that evolution occurs? Yes, but only micro-evolution. Does it follow that because evolution can occur on the micro scale that it best explains the changes that we see on a macro scale? No, not at all, and that is what the continuing debate about Darwinism is all about.