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Evolution and the Bible

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Evolution is incompatible with both the specific details in the biblical account of how the world, life, etc. began As evolution also denies the existence of design and purpose in nature, it is incompatible even with compromise views such as theistic evolution. As such, belief in evolution has numerous implications for belief in the Bible, up to and including making atheists of people.

Contents

Differences

Evolution is incompatible with the biblical account, undermines biblical teaching, and has other anti-biblical implications.

Evolution is incompatible with the Biblical account

Evolution deviates from the biblical account of creation in several important aspects:

  • Evolution has a single genesis from which all life on earth descends, as opposed to the biblical account of plants and animals being created on different days and each animal kind being created separately.
  • Man has a common ancestor with other primates, as opposed to the biblical account that man was created from dust in the likeness of God.
  • Evolution, from a single common ancestor to the current number of species, requires an elapse of time that exceeds that of a straightforward Biblical chronology.
  • Evolution requires death to clear the way for new generations. Paul attests that death entered the world as a consequence of human sin.
  • Evolution is said to occur over many millions of years, whereas the Bible says that the entire history of the universe until the appearance of mankind is no more than six days.[1]
  • The order of evolution and creation differ in numerous details, such as whether the Earth or the sun came first, whether or not reptiles came before birds, and whether or not land mammals came before marine mammals.[2]

Design versus chance

An inescapable implication of the biblical account is that God not only created, but also designed creation. The idea of creation being designed, i.e. having order, is so linked to the idea of a Creator that naturalistic scientists reject the concept of Intelligent Design, which deliberately doesn't identify the designer, because they believe that it cannot be divorced from a Creator (although, in principle, the designer could be an advance alien). Well before the Intelligent Design movement began, design in nature was being used as evidence of the existence of God. Most famously, William Paley used the argument from design in his book Natural Theology, published in 1802, which included the famous "watchmaker" analogy.

One of Charles Darwin's goals was to explain the apparent design in nature without a designer. This was not just to show that a designer was unnecessary, but that there was no room for a designer. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica,

Darwin did two things: He showed that evolution was a fact contradicting literal interpretations of Scriptural legends of creation and that its cause, natural selection, was automatic with no room for divine guidance or design.[3]

William Provine spells out the implications:

...if natural selection explained adaptations, and evolution by descent were true, then the argument from design was dead and all that went with it, namely: 1) the existence of a personal God, 2) free will, 3) life after death, 4) immutable moral laws, and 5) ultimate meaning in life.[4]

But without a designer, the only other cause was chance.

... it necessarily follows that chance alone is at the source of every innovation.... Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution.[5]]

This, however, produces a quandary; if we are the result of a series of chance events, by what reasoning can we believe that we are able to determine this? As C. S. Lewis explained it:

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.[6]

Agnostic[7] microbiologist Michael Denton wrote:

As far as Christianity was concerned, the advent of the theory of evolution and the elimination of traditional teleological thinking was catastrophic. The suggestion that life and man are the result of chance is incompatible with the biblical assertion of their being the direct result of intelligent creative activity. Despite the attempt by liberal theology to disguise the point, the fact is that no biblically derived religion can really be compromised with the fundamental assertion of Darwinian theory. Chance and design are antithetical concepts, and the decline in religious belief can probably be attributed more to the propagation and advocacy by the intellectual and scientific community of the Darwinian version of evolution than to any other single factor.[8]

Purpose?

If God created, He did so with a purpose, and every part of his designs had a purpose (as with human designs). Many leading evolutionists, however, deny that there is any purpose in nature nor evolution.

There is only one physically possible process that builds and operates purposive systems in nature: natural selection. What it does is build and operate systems that look to us purposive, goal directed, teleological. There really are not any purposes in nature and no purposive processes ether.[9]

Evolution undermines biblical teaching

Both atheists and Christians have explained how evolution undermines the Bible's theology.

I confess I soon lose my way when I try to follow those who walk delicately among “types” and allegories. A certain passion for clearness forces me to ask, bluntly, whether the writer means to say that Jesus did not believe the stories in question, or that he did? When Jesus spoke, as of a matter of fact, that “the Flood came and destroyed them all,” did he believe that the Deluge really took, place, or not?[10]

If Adam may be held to be no more real a personage than Prometheus, and if the story of the Fall is merely an instructive “type,” … what value has Paul's dialectic.[11]

If all the animals and man had been evolved in this ascendant manner, then there had been no first parents, no Eden, and no Fall. And if there had been no fall, then the entire historical fabric of Christianity, the story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement, upon which the current teaching based Christian emotion and morality, collapsed like a house of cards.[12]

  • Richard Bozarth:

Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.[13]

  • Frank Zindler:

The most devastating thing though that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation there is no need of a saviour. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.[14]

Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual. Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad![15]

I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they’re deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there really is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity …[16]

Charles Darwin ... destroyed the primary myth by which we had told the Jesus story for centuries. That myth suggested that there was a finished creation from which we human beings had fallen into sin, and therefore needed a rescuing divine presence to lift us back to what God had originally created us to be. But Charles Darwin says that there was no perfect creation because it is not yet finished. ... there was rather a single cell that emerged slowly over 4½ to 5 billion years, into increasingly complexity, into increasing consciousness.
And so the story of Jesus who comes to rescue us from the fall becomes a nonsensical story. So how can we tell the Jesus story with integrity and with power, against the background of a humanity that is not fallen but is simply unfinished?[17]

The starting point for Christianity is not Matthew 1:1, but Genesis 1:1. Tamper with the Book of Genesis and you undermine the very foundation of Christianity. You cannot treat Genesis 1 as a fable or a mere poetic saga without severe implications to the rest of Scripture. The creation account is where God starts His account of history. It is impossible to alter the beginning without impacting the rest of the story—not to mention the ending. If Genesis 1 is not accurate, then there is no way to be certain that the rest of Scripture tells the truth.[18]

The theory of evolution is no mere nuisance - it represents one of the greatest challenges to Christian faith and faithfulness in our times.[19]

… naturalistic evolution is the great intellectual rival to Christianity in the Western world. It is the creation myth of the secular elites and their intellectual weapon of choice in public debate.[20]

Evolution has anti-biblical implications

And other atheists and evolutionists point out that evolution has implications for what we believe.

  • William Provine:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.[21]

  • Sir Julian Huxley:

In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created: it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion.[22]

...makes no distinction of race or of color; it seeks to break down all racial barriers. In this respect the hand of Christianity is against that of Nature, for are not the races of mankind the evolutionary harvest which Nature has toiled through long ages to produce? May we not say, then, that Christianity is anti-evolutionary in its aim?[23]

  • Phil Currie:

...science started off as a branch of philosophy, and it was much more integrated at that time in the way people thought and approached things, and particularly in Darwin's case, because of course he was coming up with something that was taking things in a totally new direction, something that was anti-religion in essence.[24]

...the standard scientific theory [is] that "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."[25]

Effects of evolution on Christian views

Many people have related that evolutionary teaching has turned them from believing in God. Atheists Richard Dawkins[26][note 1][27] and John W. Loftus,[28][29] Australian playwright David Williamson[30], popular author Dan Brown,[31] evolutionary entomologist and sociobiologist E.O. Wilson[32], University of Minnesota associate professor of biology P. Z. Myers[33] and Professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University, William Provine[33] are a few examples. Provine wrote, "belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism."[34]

Sherwood Taylor wrote that "… I myself have little doubt that in England it was geology and the theory of evolution that changed us from a Christian to a pagan nation."[35]

Evolution resulted in one of the most popular evangelists turning his back on God. Canadian Charles Templeton was a contemporary and associate of the then equally-famous Billy Graham, with up to 30,000 people a night attending his meetings. But one day he said to Billy Graham, "But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s demonstrable fact.". Templeton ended up not only leaving the ministry, but rejecting God altogether.[36][37] Similar occurred with Brian Baker, founder of what became one of the largest churches in Australia. His book, From Faith to Reason, records his change from Christianity to atheism, and documents his acceptance of evolution and its timescale.[38]

Researcher Tom Frame, Director of St Mark's National Theological College in Canberra, was asked about why Australians are less religious than in other countries. He replied in part,

...I certainly find a lot of people who say to me that since Charles Darwin wrote Origin 150 years ago that the basis of religion has been undercut, therefore it's untenable.[39]

Professor of Religion at Syracuse University Huston Smith agrees with religion writer Martin Lings that evolution is devastating for Christianity.

One reason education undoes belief is its teaching of evolution; Darwin’s own drift from orthodoxy to agnosticism was symptomatic. 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.”[40]

Studies into the relationship between belief in evolution and "strength of religious commitment" have found that there is a negative relationship,[41] however it is not clear if the relationship is causal or reflective of other factors such as upbringing or reasoning skills. Certainly amongst "greater" scientists (members of the National Academies of Science) there is an almost universal lack of "religious" belief[42][note 2] however biologists show no increased propensity towards lack of belief compared to other scientific disciplines.[43] A factor that makes research on the issue difficult is the high level of reported acceptance of evolution amongst scientists of any persuasion.[44]

Compromise positions

Various attempts have been made to reconcile the biblical account with secular views, usually by reinterpreting the biblical account. However, virtually all such attempts fail both linguistically and theologically.

The Bible teaches that that God created the world as a place without death and suffering, but that this was spoiled by sin. Genesis 1:31 says that God observed that His creation was "very good", and 1 Corinthians 15:26 describes death as an "enemy" which will eventually be destroyed.[45]

This lack of death and suffering extends to the animal kingdom. The animals were originally created as herbivores (plant eaters)[46], and Jesus indicated that God even cares about what happens to sparrows[47].

Yet the compromise views all include millions upon millions of years of death and suffering before Adam sinned.

Theistic evolution

For more information, see Theistic evolution.

Theistic evolution attempts to reconcile the Bible with evolution simply by rejecting the historicity of the creation and flood accounts and accepting evolution and long ages completely, but proposing God as the ultimate cause.

Some versions do allow for an actual Adam and Eve, being a pair of humanoids given a soul by God and thereby the ancestors of mankind. However, this is usually at a much earlier time than allowed for by a biblical chronology, so fails to accommodate the chronogenealogies in the Bible.

Other versions consider Adam and Eve to be symbolic representatives of mankind, and thus not actual people.

Gap Theory

For more information, see Gap theory.

The Gap Theory proposes that the world is as old as the secular view holds and the fossil record is a record of the evolution of life on Earth. However, it also proposes that the world was destroyed by a global flood, which it calls Lucifer's Flood, and that God recreated the world over a period of six days about 6,000 years ago, per the biblical account.

This view does not get around the problem of death and suffering existing before Adam sinned, and also fails to adequately accommodate the secular view in proposing a complete break between the original creation and the creation we inhabit now.

Notes

  1. In the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Dawkins said, "If they called me as a witness, and a lawyer said 'Dr. Dawkins, has your belief in evolution—has your study of evolution turned you towards atheism?', I would have to say 'yes'.
  2. The survey questions involved "a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind” and in “personal immortality", which are only relevant to particular religions.

References

  1. Exodus 20:11
  2. Manthei, Dan, Two worldviews in conflict Creation 20(4):26–27, September 1998.
  3. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition, "The Theory of Evolution," 1986, Vol. 18, p. 996., quoted by Morris, John D.
  4. William Provine, in First Things, ("Responses to Phillip Johnson's article, `Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism,'" October 1990), p. 23, quoted by Morris, John D.
  5. Monod, Jacques, Chance and Necessity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), pp. 112-113, quoted by Morris, John D., "Natural" Selection versus "Supernatural" Design
  6. Lewis, C. S., The Business of Heaven, Fount Paperbacks, U.K., 1984, p. 97, quoted in Accidental angle, Creation 21(2):47, March 1999.
  7. Mario Seiglie, DNA: The Tiny Code That's Toppling Evolution The Good News, May/June 2005.
  8. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, First U.S. edition, Adler & Adler, 1986, p. 66. ISBN 0-917561-05-8.
  9. Alex Rosenberg, How Jerry Fodor slid down the slippery slope to Anti-Darwinism, and how we can avoid the same fate, European Journal for Philosophy of Science May, 2012.
  10. Huxley, Thomas, Science And Hebrew Tradition Essays, 1897, pp. 207, 208, quoted in Smith, Calvin, Genesis: History … or Mystery? 16 April, 2008 (Creation Ministries International)
  11. Huxley, 1897, p.236, quoted in Calvin, 2008
  12. Wells, H. G., The outline of history, being a plain history of life and mankind The Macmillan Company, 1921 p.954.
  13. G. Richard Bozarth, ‘The Meaning of Evolution’, American Atheist, p. 30. 20 September 1979.(Quoted on the Creation Ministries International web-site)
  14. Zindler, Frank, in a debate with William Lane Craig, Atheism vs Christianity video, Zondervan, 1996, quoted by Batten, Don, A Who’s Who of evolutionists, Creation 20(1):32, December 1997.
  15. Richard Dawkins, The root of all evil? broadcast on Channel 4, 16 January 2006, quoted in Calvin, 2008.
  16. Richard Dawkins, in an interview with Howard Conder, Revelation TV Interview Richard Dawkins March 2011.
  17. Geraldine Doogue, Compass Interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong, Compass, ABC, 8 July 2001
  18. MacArthur, John, The Battle for the Beginning, W Publishing, 2001, p.44. ISBN 0-8499-1625-9.
  19. Mohler, R. Albert Jr., Why the Creation-Evolution Debate is So Important, The Christian Post, 20 January 2011.
  20. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Creation vs. Evolution — The New Shape of the Debate, 1 February 2011.
  21. Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994.(Quoted on the Creation Ministries International web-site.)
  22. Huxley, J., Essays of a Humanist, Chatto & Windus, London, UK, p. 78, 1964. (Quoted in Catchpoole, David, Evolution—the ultimate antidote to spirituality, Creation 30(3):48–49, June 2008.)
  23. Keith, A., Evolution and Ethics, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1947, p. 72.
  24. Currie, Phil, in The Voyage that Shook the World.
  25. Michael Shermer, The Gradual Illumination of Mind, Scientific American, February 2002
  26. Catchpoole, David, Is Richard Dawkins weakening? 3 August 2007 (Creation Ministries International)
  27. Richard Dawkins, in an interview with Howard Conder, Revelation TV Interview Richard Dawkins March 2011.
  28. Why I became an atheist, part 1, Unbelievable?, 5 April 2008.
  29. My Conversion/Deconversion Story, Debunking Christianity, 19 February 2006.
  30. Catchpoole, David, and Sarfati, Jonathan, Playwright just plain wrong (Creation Ministries International)
  31. James Kaplan, Life After 'The Da Vinci Code', Parade magazine, 30 September 2009.
  32. Sarfati, Jonathan, Evolution & creation, science & religion, facts & bias, Chapter 1 of Refuting Evolution.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
  34. Provine, W.B., ‘No free will’ in Catching up with the Vision, Margaret W Rossiter (Ed.), Chicago University Press, 1999, p. S123, quoted in What’s this all about? (Creation Ministries International).
  35. Taylor, Sherwood F., ‘Geology changes the outlook’, in Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians, Sylvan Press Ltd, London, p. 195, 1949, quoted by Batten, Don, U.S. News and World Report joins in the evolution onslaught
  36. Ham, Ken, and Byers, Stacia, The slippery slide to unbelief, Creation 22(3):8–13, June 2000.
  37. Wieland, Carl, Death of an apostate, Creation 25(1):6, December 2002.
  38. Wieland, Carl, Justifying apostasy, 8 April 2010.
  39. Frame, Tom, Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia, Late Night Live (with Phillip Adams), ABC Radio National, Australia, 5 October 2000
  40. Smith, Huston, Evolution and Evolutionism, The Christian Century 99(23):755, 1982, quoted in Creation 22(3):53, June 2000. Martin Ling's quote is from his book review of The Transformist Illusion by Douglas Dewar in Studies in Comparative Religion, 4(1), Winter, 1970.
  41. Anton E. Lawson and William A. Worsnop, Learning about evolution and rejecting a belief in special creation: Effects of reflective reasoning skill, prior knowledge, prior belief and religious commitment, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Volume 29, Issue 2, pages 143–166, February 1992.
  42. Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, Leading Scientists still reject God, Nature, vol 394, Thu. 23rd July, 1998Thu. July 23rd, 1998, p.313.
  43. David Masci, Scientists and Belief, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
  44. Jason R. Wiles, Overwhelming Scientific Confidence in Evolution and its Centrality in Science Education--And the Public Disconnect, Science Education Review, 9(1), 2010, p. 18
  45. Ham, Ken, Sarfati, Jonathan, Why is there death and suffering?
  46. Genesis 1:30
  47. Matthew 10:29
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