The Magic (Not Science) of Evolution

“Science is fact.  And since fact is superior to your holy book, then science is right and you are wrong.”  How many times has that argument been foisted by people who cannot acknowledge their own biases?  It would be way too simple to think that because it is based in fact, any time science seems to contradict faith then it must mean that faith is wrong.  But the question is in the word “fact,” which has its own set of definitions and connotations that may intentionally mislead even its supporters.

Science is best defined as a careful, disciplined, logical search for knowledge about any and all aspects of the universe, obtained by examination of the best available evidence and always subject to correction and improvement upon discovery of better evidence. What’s left is magic. And it doesn’t work. — James Randi

This statement sounds logical and grounded, but within this very statement lies its fault: “obtained by examination of the best available evidence.”  Some assumptions in this phrase are what we are fed as fact.  If it is the best possible evidence then there may likely be evidence that will either contradict or change the conclusions of science, thus changing the facts of science.  The other assumption that our examination (i.e. our creative imagination that seeks to explain and understand) may not be accurate or misinformed by that best available evidence that may itself be misleading.

When speaking of other aspects of science, one can be very confident that examination can be extremely helpful.  The difference between science in general and scientific study of our origins is that other scientific discovery can be supported by repeated testing of well-thought hypotheses.  However, we cannot replicate all aspects of our origin and even attempts to do so are merely experiments based on a myriad of assumptions that we think we know about our beginnings.

Assessing the Evidence

Scientific evidence for our origins is like the pieces of a tangram.  Archeological digs elicit bones and other structures, which can be studied and theorized about.  But like the tangram, these pieces can be positioned in a variety of patterns and shapes that make very different pictures of what the evidence would teach.  Evolutionary theory is only one such arrangement and because of the utter lack of a scientist’s ability to conduct experiments to test that theory, it remains simply an arrangement of tangram pieces that seems to make sense.

Supporters of the theory of evolution misrepresent their position when they suggest that this it the only way of assessing the evidence.  Granted, it seems to be the best one, but it is not the only one.  Since it is not the only one it cannot contend that it has cornered the market on truth.

Neglect of the Creationist

When presented with physical evidence it is hard to deny its truth.  Unfortunately this is just what the majority of creationists seem to be doing.  Rather than acknowledging the “evidence for evolution” many instead create alternative explanations, beginning with the Bible, and many do not even address the physical evidence at all.  A stark example of this is in the Creation Museum in St. Petersburg, KY.

The curators of the museum do not support a continental drift (only one of several theories on the topic) and so they created their own explanation for how similar animal fossils could have been found in strategic areas of South America and Africa.  They say, with absolutely no evidence even from the Bible, that there were a large number of logs from felled trees after the flood that got caught up in intercontinental currents on which animals rode like rafts across the Atlantic Ocean.  This theory got quite a feature at the museum, but not one mention of “primitive man” other than to say that it is not true that we evolved from lower primates.

My Challenge to the Creationist

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and therefore I believe that the story of creation in the first chapters of Genesis is actually how it all happened.  Yet, I would like to hear someone who is also a supporter of creation take a serious look at the evidence that is used to support evolution and to offer an alternate explanation that is both scientific and can also easily rest within the Biblical narrative of our origin.

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

15 responses to “The Magic (Not Science) of Evolution

  • Boz

    Think of all the scientific theroies that were accepted in the past, but have now been demonsrated to be wrong. For example: Lamarckian evolution, newton’s laws of motion, vitalism, alchemy, the lumineferous aether, etc.

    Scientific theories have been widely accepted as true, and then proven wrong and updated. Then proven wrong again. This is a continual process.

    Based on this history, the current accepted scientific theories are probably wrong too.

  • RBH

    Boz wrote

    Scientific theories have been widely accepted as true, and then proven wrong and updated. Then proven wrong again. This is a continual process.

    That happens often enough that there’s a technical term for it. It’s called “learning.”

    With respect to scientific theories being replaced by new theories as data accumulates, I refer you to Isaac Asimov:

    “[W]hen people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

    In an important sense, science is the effort to become less wrong.

  • Dave

    Check out Science and Faith, by C. John Collins.

  • Jay Miklovic

    Aaron- The question is, did Jesus of Nazareth actually die and raise from the dead? Of course this is not a science question but is a history question. Obviously as a believer I would say the history undoubtedly points to a resurrected Christ.

    Now with that said, because Christ has risen from the dead, proving his divinity, his words become more authoritative than evidence itself. So if Jesus referred to a 7 day creation (and he did), then because of the resurrection we must conclude a 7 day creation.

    I suppose that is a classic presuppositional apologetic, and I know Atheists likely laugh, but IMHO it is the right argument. The resurrection moves the debate out of the scientific realm into the historical realm. If the resurrection is proved true then all of Christs words are trump and everything else is off suit.

  • Boz

    Jay Miklovic, how do you tell the difference between:

    (1) Jesus said “WXYZ”, and someone writes down that Jesus said WXYZ
    (2) Jesus did not say “WXYZ” and someone writes down that Jesus said WXYZ ?

    The outcome is the same for both scenarios.

  • Aaron

    I appreciate the atheist voices affirming my position. Let’s hope some Christian folks will as well.

  • Jay Miklovic

    Boz- the question you raised is appropriate, and you are right that they produce the same outcome, at least in our time, I would not deny that. However look at the immediate surrounding history, contemporaries of Christ died because they would not deny “WXYZ”. Sources antagonistic to Christianity affirm much of the “WXYZ”. The rapid spread of the message, the consistency of that spread message, the willingness of those who walked with him to die for ‘WXYZ’ all point to the reality that he spoke what is written. Of course sans resurrection ‘WXYZ’ is just the words of a man, and albeit interesting ‘WXYZ’ has no bearing on us, or the world in general. However with the resurrection, ‘WXYZ’ is the binding word of God.

    I would agree with every atheist that burden of proof is on the Christian, and not on them. However, the realm of contention is the history of the resurrection, not the science of creation.

    Aaron, where am I wrong? And what as a ‘Christian Folk’ ought I see differently?

    People have been trying to do what your last paragraph suggests for many years, and the atheists can rightly point out that the efforts have been an utter fail. A good example is Kent Hovind. His whole ministry was focused on taking evidence of evolution and commandeering it for the Genesis account, and look at how well that went. Moreover you rightly cite the creation museum for doing the same thing.

    Is your challenge simply to the creationist to do what they are doing, but to do it better?

  • Boz

    thanks for the response, Jay Milkovic. From what I can gather, when someone writes: “jesus said xxxxx”, your method for determing whether jesus actually said this, is that jesus was ressurected, therefore everything written about him is true. Is my understanding correct?

    I think ‘die for a lie’ is a very poor argument, and should stop being used, because the criteria for ‘die for a lie’ cannot be shown to be true. The crieteria are:

    (1)the specific person must have seen the bodily/corporeal/touchable ressurected jesus. (not merely hold the belief that it happened). Not an incorporeal/spiritiual/ethereal body (like a ghost or an angel), and not a vision that occurs in the person’s brain only, with no external sense experience.

    (2) recanting this claim would have saved this specific person’s life.

    And these criteria cannot be demonstrated, so the argument fails. So it should stop being used.

  • Boz

    Oh, I forgot to add, there is an detailed and interesting discussion of ‘die for a lie’ in the comments, on the blog of a professor of apologetics:

    http://www.clayjones.net/2011/01/peter-and-paul-killed-for-proclaiming-jesus-rose

    this is the background to the above link:

    http://www.clayjones.net/2010/09/my-200-word-resurrection-witness/

  • Aaron

    Jay:

    Yes, my challenge is for the creationist not to try to come up with an alternative that attempts to explain the story in Genesis … or to flub it up like Francis Collins … but to simply and scientifically take a look at the evidence and talk about it rather than turn the other way.

    Creationists seem to have good “ideas” about what happened, obviously grounding it in the Genesis account, but it is absolutely laughable in some cases. There are many examples just from the Creation Museum that are not biblical at all, but attempt to explain things that they think are essential to the biblical account… and these explanations are not scientific in any respect. And that is what is most puzzling: if it is not scientific and it is not biblical then what is it?

    I don’t know Kent Hovind…. does he make any mention of artifacts of “primitive man”?

    See, I don’t think that Ken Hamm has done anything like what I am suggesting. I would love to find out that someone has!

    For context, this may also help: http://lunchboxsw.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/creation-among-the-athiests-a-retrospective/

  • RBH

    Jay wrote

    The rapid spread of the message, the consistency of that spread message, the willingness of those who walked with him to die for ‘WXYZ’ all point to the reality that he spoke what is written.

    One can say pretty much the same about Joseph Smith and the Church of Latter Day Saints. Does that validate, say, the LDS notion that Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, or that Christ visited North America before ascending into heaven? People have willingly died for all sorts of notions; self-delusion can be very powerful. What the heck. I’ll mention Jonestown too.

  • Scott Johnson

    Guys … great discussion. I am a Christian and love this apologetics stuff. But the more I read and live life, I see that the evidence to support either side is still incomplete and subject to interpretation. The Bible (although inerrant and true) is not wholly a “science” book and doesn’t pretend to be.

    Now here is a thought out of left field. When Jesus was on the earth He could have easily ended skepticism and revealed the mysteries of the universe then. He could have explained to us how He did it. That wasn’t His focus or even a priority. My question: should we spend so much time and effort trying to prove God and creation? What would–no,did–Jesus do?

  • Kate {The Parchment Girl}

    Interesting discussion… I was just commenting on your latest book review and saw this link in the sidebar. I am only somewhat educated in the various evolutionary theories, but I do think that there may be support (or at least a lack of disagreement) for the big bang/expanding universe theory that is completely consistent with a literal interpretation of Genesis 1:1-5. It starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Then it moves onto the seven-day creation account: “And God said, ‘Let there be light…'” It says that God created light on the first day. It also says that in the beginning he created the heavens and the earth. There is no indication of how much time elapsed between his creation of the earth and the beginning of the seven-day creation of day and night, land, etc. I’m no scholar, but given the strong evidence for the big bang theory and the lack of contrary evidence in Genesis, I would be inclined to believe that God created the universe in a Big Bang and that it expanded over time as it is still doing. What happened after that (evolution) is a separate issue, one which I haven’t studied as much as I would like to. But I think the Evangelical assault on the Big Bang theory is an overreaction.

  • Sandra

    Interesting discussion. I LOVE science, I am a bit of a nerd, and I am also a Christian. I believe that God invented all things scientific… be it the carbon atom that is the basis of life, or the infinite universe that is still being discovered. I also believe that man, being in God’s image, is inherently curious about creation, discovery and our own origins. So, I agree with the original point in Aaron’s article- as an intelligent human, who sees that dinosaur fossils existed, and carbon dating points to millions and billions of years… I would like to see more “creation science” dedicated to looking at the science and understanding it logically, not mythologically . Ultimately, we may never convert an athiest with our logic… but it would be interesting nonetheless. I am not a scholar, but have often had very simple thoughts… such as- if God created Eve from Adam’s rib… would it not be possible to also hypothesize that he used the same building blocks from which he created a fish, to also create a lizard, or a bird… thus leaving evidence that COULD point to a lizard being originated from a fish… if only you take out the belief in God… that would be the only assumption an athiest could make… right? But I know that is a very simplistic statement, and easily shot down…. it’s not intended to be my apologetics, just a sort of drifting thought.
    I found your article randomly, searching for Tangram images for a project I’m working on…. but I love that I found it right after having a similar discussion on this topic with 2 Christian friends (one of whom is studying evolution at university, in order to fully understand the evidence and theories, so he can do exactly what Aaron suggested).
    In the end, I believe that whatever the origin of man, God did it… and the bible didn’t explain any of it scientifically (God scooped up the dust which contained a carbon atom, and then created a pulmonary system that supported the intake of oxygen, and a heart to pump the blood, which consists of millions of molecules of ….) so hearing about evolution does not shake my faith in any way. It DOES all come down to the existence of Christ, his resurrection and my personal relationship. THAT is something I have direct experience with, and something I can explain without making my brain hurt!!! :)

  • Sandra

    I also agree with Kate. If God just made an earth out of NOTHING… wouldn’t it be a little big and bangy??? like all ‘whoosh’ and ‘poof’ and atoms colliding and mountains forming and oceans swirling and stuff? (not to get too technical…lol)

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