Thursday, September 25, 2008

Could God Have Used Evolution?

Sean McDowell
(The following article is from Christian Worldview Network

“Why couldn’t God have just used evolution as his means of creating the world? Why do many Christians consider it a threat to their faith? What’s the big deal?” This is one of the most commonly asked questions about the origins debate, especially from young people. Many people wonder why Christians don’t simply accept Darwin’s theory as the means through which God created and then get on with it.

This is a question I have wrestled with quite profoundly. I have asked many theologians, scientists, and philosophers the question, Is Darwinian evolution compatible with Christianity? After much thought and research, the conclusion I have come up with is that they are not compatible. To accept Darwinian evolution would be a grave mistake. Let me explain.

Christianity and Darwinian Evolution: An Oxymoron!

The reason the two cannot be wedded together is actually rather simple: Darwinian evolution (as you may recall from 9th grade Biology class) is a blind, undirected, purposelessness process. As Richard Dawkins regularly points out, evolution is a chance process that has no end-goal in mind. On the other hand, when we design something it’s no longer blind and it’s no longer undirected—it’s purposeful. Thus, to say God used evolution is an oxymoron (designed-chance) like “Christian-atheist,” “jumbo-shrimp,” or “Microsoft Works.”

Think about it this way. There are two ways to build a computer (which, by the way, is far less complex than a single human cell). One option is to throw the parts on the ground and let natural processes alone do the work. Maybe with wind, rain, and a big earthquake the computer will be assembled by itself. If so, this would be a chance process. Most reasonable people will recognize that this will never happen, but it does illustrate how something could in principle be constructed by chance (ignoring the question of where the parts came from in the first place!)

But there is another way to build a computer: design. A computer designer makes individual parts and places them in the right arrangement so it will perform certain functions. A computer designer has a purposeful, directed plan for the computer—it is not the result of chance.

Can you see how this relates to evolution? God could either design the world or let it go by chance, but not both. As soon as God guides the process (design) it is no longer natural (chance). It is simply illogical to claim that God used evolution as his means of creating the world, for it would be an oxymoron: designed-chance.

Now, if by “evolution” we simply mean common descent, then sure—God could’ve used common descent. Common descent refers to the idea that all species are derived from a common ancestor millions of years ago (i.e., you are related to your pet snail!). God could have created all organisms with a common ancestor. But here’s the key point: His mechanism would not be natural selection acting on random mutation, for that is an un-designed process.

Consider Corvettes as an example. Corvettes have a common ancestor (the first year they were made). As Corvettes are designed over multiple years, we see similarities and commonalities with each successive model. But, of course, Corvettes were designed. If that’s what we mean by evolution, then sure, God could’ve used it. Many proponents of intelligent design actually believe this (for the record, I don’t).

Can Christians Believe in Evolution?

So, can someone be a Christian and believe in evolution? Sure. You can be a Christian and believe in all sorts of things that are false! But the real question is, Can Christianity be true and Darwinian evolution be true? I don’t think they can.

I think a lot of people want to find a way to reconcile the two because they believe the evidence for Darwinian evolution is so overwhelming that they want to “save room” for their faith by saying maybe God just used evolution. So, they want to maintain their faith without giving it up. But as I write in Understanding Intelligent Design (Harvest House, 2008), you don’t have to! There’s another scientifically and philosophically rigorous theory that is much more compatible with the historic Christian faith. You can check out the first chapter for free at www.seanmcdowell.org.

Distributed by www.ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com
(To see the article on its original website, go HERE

24 comments:

satire and theology said...

His mechanism would not be natural selection acting on random mutation, for that is an un-designed process.

There is design and rules of science (laws) set into place.

bobxxxx said...

Evolution is 'undirected' if you mean there was no god directing it. However, evolution is guided by natural selection. The animals and plants that survive long enough to reproduce pass their genes on to the next generation. The other animals and plants don't pass on their genes. Repeat this process millions of times and very gradually new species will develop. Natural selection is simple to understand and given enough time it can and has produced the diversity of life we see today.

Evolution definitely has major religious implications. Many Christians are so terrified of evolution they refuse to study it. They avoid studying the discoveries of real scientists, preferring to get their information filtered by Liars for Jesus.

If Christians want to continue living in their magic fantasy world, they have a good reason to deny the reality of evolution. Unfortunately the Christian evolution deniers look like uneducated fools. They seem to think their total ignorance of science is equal to the knowledge of the entire scientific community. It should be no surprise that biologists laugh at the Christian creationists.

Christians who want to educate themselves about science often figure out their religion is nothing more than a collection of myths. They become atheists, also known as normal people.

Millions of people think there's a magic fairy hiding in the clouds. A very large number of people have this childish fantasy but that does not make the god belief any less idiotic.

My URL has an interesting and easy to understand explanation of how evolution works and the powerful molecular evidence for evolutionary relationships, including the proven beyond any doubt fact that people and chimps share an ancestor.

The history of life as described by the discoveries of evolutionary biology is extremely interesting. Much more interesting than the childish insane gibberish in the ancient worthless Bible. The uneducated creationists have no idea what they're missing.

Bunc said...

The fact that evolution makes christians feel uncomfortable doe snot make it untrue.

The fact that evolution does not easily fit with the christian notion of God directing things does not make it untrue.

The fact that you clearly don't understand evolution if you think that a good analogy is throwing bits of electronics on the ground and waiting for them to assembly into a computer - does not make the facts of evolution untrue.

Conversely, the fact that you state that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory does not make it so. It is a feeble and ultimately pointless attempt to confuse people who have as yet not learnt how evolution works as a process.

reationsist do this because they are uncomfortable witht the Theory of evolution. But as I said whether you or I are comfortable or not with a scientific theory is not the issue, the issue is whether the theory is supported by and explains the facts with rigour.

On that couunt the theory of evolution wins hands down against yoru creationsist mumbo jumbo.

Bunc said...

doe snot? Sorry that wasnt an attempt at unchristian incivility in my previous comment, merely an interestingly apt typing error.

satire and theology said...

Again there is the use of the ad hominem which does not strengthen one's argument whatsoever. The points Jeff raises need to be answered. Jeff is quoting experts in the field and they cannot be easily dismissed as mumbo, jumbo.

preferring to get their information filtered by Liars for Jesus.

It should be no surprise that biologists laugh at the Christian creationists.

Christians who want to educate themselves about science often figure out their religion is nothing more than a collection of myths. They become atheists, also known as normal people.

Millions of people think there's a magic fairy hiding in the clouds. A very large number of people have this childish fantasy but that does not make the god belief any less idiotic.

Hugh
Ross


Ad hominem

Douglas Walton explains that argumentation ad hominem is an argument against the man. It is a personal attack against an arguer to refute the argument. In the abusive form the character of the arguer is attacked. These arguments are often used to attack an opponent unfairly. Walton (1996: 374). Simon Blackburn explains that ad hominem is attempting to disprove what a person is stating by attacking the person, or less commonly by praising the person. Commonly it is a way of arguing forcefully or not, against a view without advancing the counter argument. Blackburn (1996: 24). This latter concept would be that of arguing against a held perspective without making any reasonable counter-arguments.

ad hominem

Even if Christianity and Biblical revelation was demonstrated to be untrue, atheism would not be the most reasonable worldview to hold to.

first cause

deism

Bunc said...

Satire and theology said" Even if Christianity and Biblical revelation was demonstrated to be untrue, atheism would not be the most reasonable worldview to hold to."

Ok what would then - Paganism? jainism? Buddhism? Islam? theres a thosuand svariations on the mumbo jumbo stuff.

Atheism simply claims that as there is no logical reason to prefer one of these over the other and as they cant all be true because they all make conflicting claims then there is no reason to believe any of them.

Atheists just believe in one less god than you do thats all.

satire and theology said...

I know what atheism reasons. I had to deal with the subject (problem of evil) in MPhil and PhD theses at secular Universities.

Each religious and non-religious view needs to be evaluated with somewhat of an open mind, or one won't generally pass at that level.

Religions do contradict each other at core issues at times, and that is why they cannot all be essentially true.

Neither Jeff or I are supporting all religions.

Atheism is not in my mind the best alternative to Christianity. I pointed to my article on first cause and to an explanation of deism which I think makes more sense than atheism.

Thanks

Jeff said...

bobxxxx,

A very large number of people have this childish fantasy but that does not make the god belief any less idiotic.

And you have hit upon the core reason why Atheists so avidly and angrily defend Darwinian Evolution. Accepting the idea of a Creator means that you are accountable to a superior Being.

Jeff said...

bunc,

Conversely, the fact that you state that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory does not make it so. It is a feeble and ultimately pointless attempt to confuse people who have as yet not learnt how evolution works as a process.

OK, since you have so obviously "learnt" how Darwinian Evolution works as a process, please explain to me where protons, neutrons, electrons and quarks came from. Also please explain to me how life arose from non-life, when spontaneous generation was proven to be false over 100 years ago. Please explain to me why absolutely no transitional fossils have been found in the 149 years since Darwin's "The Origin of Species" was published. Please explain to me why more and more Evolutionary scientists are admitting their frustration that the theory of Evolution is showing more and more evidence, the more that Scientists find out, that it is a failed theory.
Please explain to me why, if natural selection accounts for new species, flounders have both eyes on the same side of its head, or why amoebas and single-celled organisms still exist.

But as I said whether you or I are comfortable or not with a scientific theory is not the issue, the issue is whether the theory is supported by and explains the facts with rigour.

Right. So again, please show me how the theory of Darwinian Evolution 'explains the facts with rigor.' Here is your chance to prove Creationists wrong.

Jeff said...

satire and theology,

Thanks for your support. You are living, breathing proof of someone who is more educated than most, working on both MPhil and PhD theses, and yet believes that God created the universe.

Jeff said...

bunc,

doe snot? Sorry that wasnt an attempt at unchristian incivility in my previous comment, merely an interestingly apt typing error.

Understood.

thekingpin68 said...

Right. So again, please show me how the theory of Darwinian Evolution 'explains the facts with rigor.' Here is your chance to prove Creationists wrong.

Good points, Jeff.

Will this be done without the ad hominem swipes at Christianity and religion that do not assist the evolutionary argument?

The truthfulness of the Christian worldview is an important topic, but the worldview has to first be reasonably understood to properly discuss.

Jeff said...

Thanks, thekingpin68.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks for these posts, Jeff. I've been following the "conversation" on this post and the others and I've been learning a lot. I appreciate your efforts in this area and I pray that He will continue to lead you in your postings and in your interaction with others.

GGM

Jeff said...

Thank you very much, GGM.
A person could be a literal 6-Day Creationist and still go to Hell (if they were not born again/regenerated). Conversely, an Atheist can hardly be expected to believe in a literal 6-day Creation.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

I agree with Jeff's comments above, but just so that others in this conversation understand, to be a Christian doesn't mean that he/she has to hold to a "literal 6-day" creation. I don't know how anyone can claim to be a Christian and believe in Darwinian Evolution for the very fact (Biblically speaking, of course) that human beings are the only creatures designated as bearing in themselves the Image of God. As such, though we may share some genetic similarities with other animals (we were all created with the same "materials"), human beings are distinctly unique among the creatures of the earth.

Anyway, not holding to a literal 6-day creation does not mean a person is not a Christian or that he/she must be an "evolutionist". Personally, I hold to the "frame-work" theory of the creation account. It doesn't affect me one way or another whether or not the earth is millions of years old or only around 8-10 thousands years old. Holding the "frame-work" theory does no damage to the "literal" accounts of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation with which the Scripture is concerned with. Biblical history is true and accurate (as far as I'm concerned) whether or not the heavens and earth were created in 6 literal days or over a longer period of time.

Just wanted to clarify that. Darwinian Evolution proponents can't use the "age of the earth" against Christianity because it really doesn't matter to the message and truthfulness of the Bible.

(though I'm sure I'll have Christians wanting to argue with me over that) :-)

GGM

Anonymous said...

Mind if I join in? Bunc and Satire appear to be atheists. Jeff is a Christian, Googly Moogly appears to believe in God, that's three for two against. I have a question, Christians are all the time asked to prove God exists, can an Atheist prove that he doesn't?

Thanks,
Lee

Jeff said...

Lee,

Thanks for your comment. 'Satire and Theology' is a Christian, not an Atheist. Maybe you were referring to BobXXXX? He is an Atheist.

Jeff said...

Thanks, GGM.

...to be a Christian doesn't mean that he/she has to hold to a "literal 6-day" creation.

I agree.

I have had Christian friends who do not hold to a literal 6-day Creation. Personally, I do hold to that.

The age of the earth is not the primary issue. The existence of God is. Secondarily (largely because it contains the gospel of Jesus Christ), the authority of Scripture is the issue.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Lee,

Why am I only considered to "believe in God" but not necessarily a "Christian"?

Was it something I said (or didn't say)?

Just wondering...:-)

GGM

Anonymous said...

I apologize Jeff told me about your faith and now I feel like a doof. This is the reason for my comment go to

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

There you go sorry about that..

Lee

Frankenstein said...

I have a very different take on this - 'intelligent design' puts faith under the scrutiny of scientists. Faith and science are not compatible because scientists claim only they know the truth.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Lee,

If your latest comment was for me, I accept.

I'm not saying that you are guilty of this, but I know that certain ideas and beliefs are so engrained in "mainstream" Christianity that any deviation can be viewed as heresy. I also know that many "professed" believers who "look" the part (and "speak" the part) will be rudely awakened on that day when Jesus says to them, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."

This is why Christianity is defined by "relationship"--not by doctrine, per say. A Christian is one who has the Spirit of God indwelling him/her--that's it. Now I realize that we must hold to correct doctrine if we are to even know Christ (and therefore have "relationship" with Him through the Spirit); but the question is...which doctrine? I think there is a "fundamental" or "essential" Biblical doctrine of Christ that is necessary for a person to believe and accept in order to have this relationship with Christ--it is how we know Him. And I believe that there are other "doctrines" with which Christians can disagree and yet have fruitful debates and discussions; discussions that enhance one's faith and relationship with Christ.

I was once in a church that believed (even if they didn't outright teach this) that if you didn't believe in the "rapture" you were not a Christian. Is this really what defines a "Christian"? I think not. In fact, I know not. What defines a Christian, as I said earlier, is the presence of the Spirit (as I'm sure you agree).

Having said all that...I'll leave it at that (since the original post really isn't about this:-). If there is a post coming in the future that deals with this issue of what is "essential" doctrine, then maybe we can all have a fruitful discussion.

But until then, if anyone believes in Jesus Christ as the Promised Son of God who came to die on the cross for his/her sins; if he/she places her trust in Him alone for salvation with no regard to his/her "works" or "obedience" to commands (which is the work of the Spirit in sanctification, not soteriology); if he/she freely accepts Christ's atonement on his/her behalf; then I call him/her a "brother" or "sister" of mine in Christ! :-)

GGM

Jeff said...

I have a very different take on this - 'intelligent design' puts faith under the scrutiny of scientists. Faith and science are not compatible because scientists claim only they know the truth.

Thanks, Frankenstein, for dropping by and leaving a comment!

Interestingly, many of the major fields of science were founded by Christians.

1. Johann Kepler (1571-1630) was the founder of physical astronomy. Kepler wrote "Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.

2. Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is credited with being the father of modern chemistry. He also was active in financially supporting the spread of Christianity through missions and Bible translations.

3. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was one of the greatest early mathematicians, laid the foundations for hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, differential calculus, and the theory of probability. To him is attributed the famous Wager of Pascal, paraphrased as follows: "How can anyone lose who chooses to be a Christian? If, when he dies, there turns out to be no God and his faith was in vain, he has lost nothing--in fact, has been happier in life than his non-believing friends. If, however, there is a God and a heaven and hell, then he has gained heaven and his skeptical friends will have lost everything in hell!"

4. John Ray (1627-1705) was the father of English natural history, considered the greatest zoologist and botanist of his day. He also wrote a book, "The wisdom of God Manifested In The Works of Creation."

5. Nicolaus Steno (1631-1686) was the father of Stratigraphy. He believed that fossils were laid down in the strata as a result of the flood of Noah. He also wrote many theological works and late in his life took up religious orders.

6. William Petty (1623-1687) helped found the science of statistics and the modern study of economics. He was an active defender of the Christian faith and wrote many papers sharing evidence of God's design in nature.

7. Isaac Newton (1642-1727) invented calculus, discovered the law of gravity and the three laws of motion, anticipated the law of energy conservation, developed the particle theory of light propagation, and invented the reflecting telescope. He firmly believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior and the Bible as God's word, and wrote many books on these topics.

8. Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the father of biological taxonomy. His system of classification is still in use today. One of his main goals in systematizing the varieties of living creatures was an attempt to delineate the original Genesis "kinds." He firmly believed in the Genesis account as literal history.

9. Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was one of the greatest physicists of all time, developed foundational concepts in electricity and magnetism, invented the electrical generator, and made many contributions to the field of chemistry. He was active in the various ministries of his church, both private and public, and had an abiding faith in the Bible and in prayer.

10. Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was the founder of the science of comparative anatomy and one of the chief architects of paleontology as a separate scientific discipline. He was a firm creationist, participating in some of the important creation/evolution debates of his time.

11. Charles Babbage (1792-1871) was the founder of computer science. He developed information storage and retrieval systems, and used punched cards for instruction sets and data sets in automated industrial controls. He was also a Christian with strong convictions and wrote an important book defending the Bible and miracles.

12. John Dalton (1766-1844) was the father of atomic theory, which revolutionized chemistry. He was an orthodox, Bible-believing Christian.

13. Matthew Maury (1806-1873) was the founder of oceanography. He believed that when Psalm 8:8 in the Bible talked about "paths in the seas," that there must therefore be paths in the seas. He dedicated his life to charting the winds and currents of the Atlantic and was able to confirm that the sea did indeed have paths, just as spoken of in the Bible.

14. James Simpson (1811-1879) discovered chloroform and laid the foundation for anesthesiology. He said his motivation to perform the research leading to this discovery was a fascination in the book of Genesis with Adam's deep sleep during the time in which Eve was fashioned from his side. He said his biggest discovery was finding Jesus Christ as Savior.

15. James Joule (1818-1889) discovered the mechanical equivalent of heat, laying the foundation for the field of thermodynamics. Joule also had a strong Christian faith.

16. Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was the father of glacial geology and a great paleontologist. He believed in God and in His special creation of every kind of organism. When Darwin's Origin began to gain favor, Agassiz spoke out strongly against it.

17. Gregory Mendel (1822-1884) was the father of genetics. He had strong religious convictions and chose the life of a monk. He was a creationist and rejected Darwins's ideas, even though he was familiar with them.

18. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was the father of bacteriology. He established the germ theory of disease. His persistent objections to the theory of spontaneous generation and to Darwinism made him unpopular with the scientific establishment of his day. He was a Christian with extremely strong religious convictions.

19. William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) is considered one of the all-time great physicists. He established thermodynamics on a formal scientific basis, providing a precise statement of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Lord Kelvin was a strong Christian, opposing both Lyellian uniformitarianism and Darwinian evolution. In 1903, shortly before his death, he made the unequivocal statement that, "With regard to the origin of life, science...positively affirms creative power."

20. Joseph Lister (1827-1912) founded antiseptic surgical methods. Lister's contributions have probably led to more lives being saved through modern medicine than the contributions of any one else except Pasteur. Like Pasteur, Lister was also a Christian and wrote, "I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity."

21. Joseph Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) developed a comprehensive theoretical and mathematical framework for electromagnetic field theory. Einstein called Maxwell's contributions "the most profound and most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton." Maxwell rejected the theory of evolution and wrote that God's command to man to subdue the earth, found in the first chapter of the book of Genesis in the Bible, provided the personal motivation to him for pursuing his scientific work. He acknowledged a personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

22. Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866) developed the concept of non-Euclidian geometry, which was used by Einstein in his development of the theory of relativity. Riemann was also a Christian and had hoped to go into the ministry until he got sidetracked by his interest in mathematics. He apparently made several efforts to prove the validity of the book of Genesis using mathematical principles.

23. Joseph Henry Gilbert (1817-1901) was a chemist who developed the use of nitrogen and superphosphate fertilizers for farm crops and co-developed the world's first agricultural experimental station. He thus laid the foundations for the advances in agricultural science which have provided the means for farmers to feed the large populations in the world today. Gilbert is yet another scientist with a strong faith and demonstrated this by signing the Scientist's Declaration, in which he affirmed his faith in the Bible as the Word of God and expressed his disbelief in and opposition to Darwin's theories.

24. Thomas Anderson (1819-1874) was one of the initial workers in the field of organic chemistry, discovering pyridine and other organic bases. Like Gilbert, he also signed the Scientist's Declaration, in which he affirmed his faith in the scientific accuracy of the Bible and the validity of the Christian faith.

25. William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939) was among the greatest of all archeologists. He acquired "liberal" theological beliefs during his days as a university student. However, as he began to make various archaeological discoveries in Asia Minor, he began to see that archaeology confirmed the accuracy of the Bible and as a result he became converted to Christianity.

26. John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945) was the inventor of the Fleming valve which provided the foundation for subsequent advances in electronics. He studied under Maxwell, was a consultant to Thomas Edison, and also for Marconi. He also had very strong Christian beliefs and acted on those beliefs by helping found an organization called the "Evolution Protest Movement." He wrote a major book against the theory of evolution.

27. Werner Von Braun (1912-1977) was the father of space science. He wrote, ."..the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science."

28. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), formulator of the theory of relativity, which is one of the single greatest intellectual accomplishments in the history of man. Einstein was Jewish and thus did not follow in the Christian tradition of Newton or Faraday. He did not believe in a personal God, such as is revealed even in the Jewish Bible. Yet, he was overwhelmed by the order and organization of the universe and believed this demonstrated that there was a Creator.

from:
http://www.gilbertindependentbaptist.org/NoJava/Articles/creation/great_scientists.htm