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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I know that some Bible-believing Christians who read this blog are strong believers in evolution. When I have spoken with these individuals they explain that they believe that God created the universe, but they are willing to accept what science teaches on the Theory of Evolution. The way they make these two views work together is to adopt a type of Theistic Evolution, i.e., theistic creation via evolution.

There is something to be said for adopting Theistic Evolution: it really does away with the conflict (to the extent it is scientific) between the Theory of Evolution and the Biblical account of Creation. It does so by saying that God is wise enough and all-powerful enough that he could create the initial conditions of the universe in a way the would ultimately lead to the rise of life -- including human life. Thus, whenever a new scientific discovery speculates about how life arose or how it came to be what it is, a person who adopts Theistic Evolution can say, "No problem because that's completely consistent with my view."

Moreover, the people who adopt this viewpoint largely believe that they have removed a stumbling block to belief in Christianity. As noted on the website Perspectives on Theistic Evolution on a webpage entitled Credibility of Christianity at Risk:

The intellectual credibility of Christianity has been placed at risk due to the perceived naivete of Christians by the non-Christian intellectual and scientific communities. The Creationists have yet to surrender, despite the ever-increasing mound of scientific and theological evidence that disputes their claims. Yet, many Christians continue to filter out scientific evidence and methods when the result sets fail to meet their pre-conceived ideas on creation.

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The continual refuting by the scientific community of the scientific claims of the Creationists is damaging to Christianity. The Creationist scientists do not submit their scientific theories to scientific journals where their scientific peers can review their methods and results. Instead, the Creationist scientists rely on publishing their work in books targeted for Christians. This is not proper communication for scientific research. Such tactics are commonly referred to as propaganda and are frowned upon in the academic community. Even worse is when such tactics are deemed as deceptive, an attribute that is not considered representative of Christianity.

Of course, accepting the Theory of Evolution as the mechanism for God's creation leads to its own stumbling block. Specifically, I have often encountered individuals who use the belief in Theistic Evolution as the defensive position that is taken to avoid the brutal fact that the Bible is wrong about how the universe was created. In other words, they see Christians falling back to Theistic Evolution as saying, "We don't really have any facts to support our view that God created, so we are going to say that He is the one who wound up the universe as a way to explain that we have no way to show He is really there." In other words, non-Christians can see God in the Theistic Evolution view like the Wizard of Oz -- supposedly hiding behind the screen pretending like he is the all great and powerful when he really has nothing to do with it.

The interesting thing is that I find myself walking a position that is not accepted by the Young Earth Creationists (I have been called a heretic in my own home by a person who is a strong advocate of that viewpoint), but certainly finds that the Theistic Evolution position gives too much away. You see, I think that the scientific evidence supports the view that God created the universe and life when you take into account that scientists regularly make grandiose claims to keep evolution in line with the scientists' naturalistic framework which are really not, in fact, supported by science.

The position I am staking here is quite similar to the position I took in my last post entitled Is Everything that Scientists say about the Unborn Scientific? There, I pointed out that scientists in a report about the facial movements of unborn children assumed that these facial movements were not really expressions of emotions, rather they were "practice" facial expressions for when the children actually feel sadness or joy. The claim that the expressions were only practice and not reflections of actual feelings or emotions by the unborn children was stated as a bald assertion with only the barest support (which really didn't support the statement at all). It appeared to me that the scientists in question were making a broad assertion in the report that was not based on fact but was based on a presupposition.

The same regularly happens in the claims by scientists concerning the Theory of Evolution. The circular reasoning at the heart of the issue goes something like this: The Theory of Evolution is true and creation is false because life forms arose from purely naturalistic mechanisms. We know that they arose from purely naturalistic mechanisms because we see evolution consistent with the evolution of species in nature. The fact that we see support for a purely naturalistic cause for evolution in nature proves that it was natural evolution and not creation. Don't you see?

No, I don't see. The evidence that evolutionists point out equally supports the idea of Old Earth Creationism and it always has. It is only when you thrown in the philosophical presupposition that it becomes proof of purely natural mechanisms giving rise to life and the species.

Take the origin of life. Exactly how did life evolve from non-life? In the 150 or so years since Mr. Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, there has been no answer to this most basic of questions of how life arose. Laboratory tests have all but established that the early ideas that combining primordial goo with electricity is not even close to sufficient to give rise to life. No self-organizing principles have been found to explain how the non-organic could form into something that would become organic. In fact, despite all of our research, knowledge, and creativity, scientists haven't even come up with a viable theory as to how it might have happened. The advancement of science has clearly demonstrated that the simplest organisms are so incredibly complex that mathematics have predicted the arising of life by chance to be all but impossible.

"Without conceding the point", say the evolutionists, "we still have strong proof that once life arose it evolved into higher and higher life forms." Really? I agree that there is an appearance of that happening since it appears that less complex (we cannot call them "simple") life forms were on earth before more complex life forms. But we are back to the same problem of how this occurred. How is it that single-celled organisms came to be symbiotic and then create mutually helpful structures where they can exist as a single multi-cellular organism?

Am I the only one asking this question? No. Consider the words of Marcelo Gleiser, theoretical physicist at Dartmouth, in an NPR Commentary entitled The Goldilocks Enigma: Is The Universe Fit For Life? Obviously supporting the idea that the universe is both fit for life (using that circular reasoning I described above Dr. Gleisner reasons that it is obvious our universe must be fit fit for life because our universe is a naturalistic system and there is life in it) and the supposedly obvious fact that it must have been Darwinian Evolution behind the arising of life, Dr. Gleisner notes:

A very clear distinction must be made between simple, unicellular life and more complex life forms. It's hard not to doubt that Earth is the only planet where life took hold. After all, we have seen how resilient it is here, with extremophiles defying our previously held assumptions of where life can thrive. However, there is a huge difference between simple life and complex life. Contrary to what many believe, evolution doesn't lead to complex life forms: evolution leads to well-adapted life forms.

We had unicellular algae here for about 2.5 billion years and nothing more. The jumps from simple to complex life are many and still poorly understood. For example, on Earth simple prokaryotic cells had to incorporate outside structures to become eukaryotic cells -- with nuclei protected by bags; life then had to go from single-celled to multicellular creatures; it had to somehow develop differentiated organs that were nevertheless integrated by functionality; it had to adapt to water, air and land, and to multiple environmental cataclysms; finally, it evolved creatures capable of higher brain functions.

Let me give you a hint: "still poorly understood" means "we don't know how it happened. We have some ideas, but nothing has been proven." In other words even if we grant that life arose from some natural process and even if we agree that life on Earth over time began with less complex unicellular organisms which were joined by even more complex (excuse me, more "well-adapted") multicellular organisms, we have no real understanding as to how it happened.

As noted in Evolution News and Views: Privileged Planet: Dartmouth Physicist on the Surprising Fact of Complex Life, on Earth or Anywhere (where I first read the quote):

This interestingly turns Steve Meyer's argument in Signature in the Cell on its head. Let's assume we get the first, simple life as a free gift. Gleiser says it's everything that happens after that that is the real enigma.

Once again, scientists confirm my belief that there is nothing in science that disproves creation. It is merely the naturalistic starting point of these scientists that leads to the conclusion that evolution must have happened.

2 comments:

BK,
Laboratory tests have all but established that the early ideas that combining primordial goo with electricity is not even close to sufficient to give rise to life. No self-organizing principles have been found to explain how the non-organic could form into something that would become organic. In fact, despite all of our research, knowledge, and creativity, scientists haven't even come up with a viable theory as to how it might have happened.

I wouldn't go that far. Have you read Nick Lane's book, Life Ascending? I assumed pretty much as you, that scientists weren't even close to a viable hypothesis, let alone theory, for origin of life.

But his chapter on the field is really fascinating. And he's getting involved in some experiments now that are in a far different direction from primordial goo. So this is a field of research worth keeping an eye on.

BTW, as I recall, Aquinas was quite comfortable with life spontaneously emerging from non-living matter.

Good post.

You see, I think that the scientific evidence supports the view that God created the universe and life when you take into account that scientists regularly make grandiose claims to keep evolution in line with the scientists' naturalistic framework which are really not, in fact, supported by science.

I agree with you. And I'd agree with you that many, even most, theistic evolutionists ignore that. But I actually don't think theistic evolution has to "give much away". In fact, TE can be subsumed under the heading of Intelligent Design.

The difference comes down to this: Viewing evolution as fundamentally unplanned and purposeful, and viewing it as fundamentally planned and purposeful. You won't "give too much away" with a position like that. You will be taking a lot away from atheists.

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