Of Evolution And Creation And The Space Between

Some scientists arrogantly transgress the boundaries of scientific discipline.

Science doesn’t have all the answers. This is no tirade against science. I am grateful to God, and to the men and women of science, for the benefits I and my fellow humans have received from the fruit of science. Neither of my children was crippled by polio, and I don’t know personally any child who has suffered from that once-dreaded disease. For that alone, I have science to thank. Immediately to my mind come hundreds of daily benefits we now take for granted, all of which we enjoy because of the patient research of dedicated scientists.

Science, in fact, is a divine blessing built into the structure of human history from the very first by a benevolent God. In the garden of creation, deity set humankind apart from the animals to become stewards of creation. “Subdue the earth,” God said. “Work” it and “rule” it for the good of all as servants of the Most High. Thus science was born by command of God.

But some scientists are arrogantly transgressing the boundaries of their scientific discipline. They move from description based strictly on observation to explanation spun out of their naturalistic world views. Contemporary Darwinism falls into this trap.

It is no wonder, therefore, that creationists of all sorts have risen to do battle. Evangelicals calling themselves “creation scientists” (holding to a recent earth of 10,000 years or less in age) have taken the lead in this battle. They recognize that Martin Lings is probably right in saying that “more cases of loss of religious faith are to be traced to the theory of evolution … than to anything else.”

Reasonable explanations of how the world got where it is do not present us with many alternatives. Since the days of Louis Pasteur, spontaneous generation has had little vogue. Creation of any sort introduces the concept of sheer miracle, with a divine being “interfering” in the processes of nature to create effects, guide, and control. The very thought of such a deus ex machina is revolting to many scientists. Agnosticism is not very satisfying intellectually. Therefore, what is left on the current smorgasbord regarding the origin of things but evolution?

The New Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that “evolution is accepted by all biologists, and natural selection is recognized as its cause.… Objections … have come from theological and, for a time, from political standpoints.” Later, the encyclopedia affirms that natural selection “was automatic with no room for divine guidance or design.” We agree with the response of Syracuse University professor Huston Smith to this unwarranted, unscientific dogmatism. In his book Beyond the Post-modern Mind (Crossroad Press, 1982) he comments:

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“Who would suspect from this that biologists of the stature of Ludwig von Bertalanffy have been writing: ‘I think the fact that a theory so vague, so insufficiently verifiable, and so far from the criteria otherwise applied in “hard” science, has become a dogma, can only be explained on sociological grounds’? Or that Arthur Koestler’s investigation of the subject led him to conclude that neo-Darwinism is a citadel in ruins? (Koestler compares Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity to Custer’s Last Stand.) Or that recently the “Nova” program on PBS raised the question, ‘Did Darwin Get It Wrong?’ with the announcement reading, ‘The Origin of the Species is challenged with new facts and new emotion?’ ”

Darwinian evolution is built on the twin foundations of natural selection and chance mutation. Smith sums up the case: “Natural selection … argues that the pressure of populations on environments results in the survival of the fittest. But as no criterion for ‘fittest’ has been found to be workable other than ‘that which survives,’ the theory is circular. As the late Professor Waddington wrote, ‘Survival … denotes nothing more than leaving most offspring. The general principle of natural selection … merely amounts to the statement that the individuals which leave most offspring are those which leave most offspring. It is a tautology.’ ”

Chance mutations add nothing to the explanation. Again Huston Smith notes: “Chance is the opposite of having a cause; something that happens by chance admits to no reason or purpose for its occurrence. In using the word, it is politically important for scientists to reinforce this popular understanding, for if this is in any way a purposive universe, that aspect of it is beyond science’s ken.… Let me quote Jacques Monod: ‘The cornerstone of scientific method is … the systematic denial that “true” knowledge can be got at by interpreting phenomena in terms of … purpose.’ The determination with which evolutionists insist that chance be read as the opposite of purpose can be seen in the way they speak of ‘blind’ and ‘pure’ chance.…

“But evolutionary theory then faces the statistical improbabilities that pepper life’s ascent. It used to be argued that geological ages are so interminable as to allow time for anything and everything to happen. The notion required getting used to, but as long as it was thought of in single numbers, analogous to the number 26, say, turning up on a roulette wheel exactly when it was needed in a given evolutionary thrust, it could be accepted. We now see, though, that significant organic changes require that innumerable component developments occur simultaneously and independently, in bones, nerves, muscles, arteries, and the like. This escalated the demand on probability theory astronomically, like having 26 come up simultaneously on 10 or 15 tables in the same casino, followed by all the tables reporting 27, 28, and 29 in lock-step progression. The number of generations through which a large number of immediately disadvantageous variations would have had to persist to turn reptiles into birds, say—scales into feathers, solid bones into hollow tubes, the dispersion of air sacs into various parts of the body, the development of the shoulder muscles and bones to athletic proportions, to say nothing of conversion to a totally different biochemistry of elimination and the changeover from coldblooded to warm—makes the notion of raw chance preposterous.

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“As Professor Pierre Grassé, who for 30 years held the chair for evolution at the Sorbonne, has written: ‘The probability of dust carried by the wind reproducing Dürer’s “Melancholia” is less infinitesimal than the probability of copy errors in the DNA molecules leading to the formation of the eye; besides, these errors had no relationship whatsoever with the function that the eye would have to perform or was starting to perform. There is no law against daydreaming, but science must not indulge in it.’

“If we want to stay with chance, obviously something is going to have to intervene to reduce it to conceivable bounds.… It is now conceded that the ‘missing links’ between most species will not be found. It happened too fast. Most change has taken place so rapidly and in such confined geographic areas that it is simply not documented by our imperfect fossil record.”

Creationists are on the right track. The creation scientists who defend a recent earth may well be carrying on the battle at too broad a front. It is not essential to firm commitment to an infallible or inerrant Bible that one must also deny the validity of the entire geological timetable. Or insist that the universe is of recent origin. Or defend the fixity of Linnean species. But surely those creation scientists and all other Bible-believing creationists are right on the main points:

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(1) Darwinian evolution has not made its case, and those who so dogmatically assert it to be “one of the assured results of modern science” are only courting intellectual disaster. (2) It is not really a science but a science plus a philosophy of religion. By insisting on establishing itself as uniquely privileged to dominate science instruction in our public schools, it is violating the constitutional rights of all those American citizens who believe the Bible.

Others Say

All Television Teaches Something

All television is educational television. The only question is, What is it teaching?” (Nicholas Johnson, former U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner, cited in Liebert, Neal, and Davidson, 1972, p. 170). Johnson’s frequently quoted statement is jarring because it makes us realize that so little of television’s content was meant to be educational. Furthermore, if viewers learn from all programming, television is not just harmless entertainment. This should not be received as news. In describing the results of their study of the inception of television in England more than 20 years ago, Himmelweit, Oppenheim and Vince (1958) said, “Any division into programmes designed to instruct and those designed to entertain is unjustified.… The division between instruction and entertainment should disappear altogether: the distinction should rather be in terms of the topic to be covered. All programmes, if successful, entertain; and all programmes provide the child with some information” (p. 44). More recently, Slaby and Quarforth (1980) stated: “The question is no longer whether children learn from television: rather, the question is how and what they learn.”

Tannis Macbeth Williams, Human Communications Research.

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