Evolution vs. God

Earle Fox
 

[NOTE:  The article below was inspired by a piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Intelligent Design.  It afforded me the opportunity to put together some ideas in one place that have been floating around in my mind for some time.  

The two sides contending for our souls contend also for our education, politics, commerce, and everything else there is.   God owns it all, and Satan wants to.  Or, since he cannot, he does want to persuade us that he, Satan, does, or at least that God does not. 

If he can do the latter, he has pretty much won the battle.  Either God owns it all, or He is not God.  We Christians have allowed ourselves to be bamboozled by secularism, which rides largely on the foundation of some form of evolution theory.  That is partly because Christians have not really developed the Biblical doctrine of creation as we should have.  Had we done that, evolution could never have replaced creation as the explanation of why things are the way they are. 

We must develop our metaphysical and worldview skills, a subject ridiculed by most philosophers today -- at their peril.    

See article on definition of 'religio' and "Humanism is a religion"

Before touting the Bible as the word of God, we must first show that we live in the kind of world in which it would make sense to believe in a Creator God who communicates with His people.  Most Christians sitting in pews are no longer very convinced of that notion, unaware that there is a Biblical worldview exactly opposed to everything the secular/pagan worldview represents.  So we have little conviction in responding to the wave of secularism/paganism which has swept over the 19th and 20th centuries, and now into the 21st. 

But , we are in a winnable battle, and things are changing.  See also, Faith vs. Reason: How We Know What We Know Intelligent Design & Christian Intellectual Credibility,  and the ID Library.   

(A shorter version was sent as an oped reply to the article below, but it was not printed.)  E. Fox] 

Introduction

In his article, Intelligent Discussion, Scott LaFee (San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/8/05) interviews professional scientists about the burgeoning Intelligent Design (ID) movement challenging the contrary theory of evolution as the ultimate explanation of why things are the way they are.

The stakes are as high as they can get because the two theories give us exactly contrary answers about the most important questions of life: meaning, morality, religion, politics, family life, etc. And each theory provides the basic grounding for its own worldview.  So each side MUST hold onto its basic foundations.  If we live in a world of evolution, then the Bible is absolutely irrelevant, and we are fools for believing it.  If we live in a world created by a personal God, then the Bible has a good shot at being reasonably considered a message from God, and the fools are the ones who say there is no God.

From the Biblical point of view, the secular/pagan version is the worldview of the Fall, leading always to death, and thus not a legitimate worldview.

From the secular point of view, the Biblical attempt has no intellectual credibility, and thus undermines the search for truth.

The contest is for keeps, winner take all, so it is important that we get the truth of the matter. Finding that truth requires an attitude of: "If I am wrong, I want to know."

Unfortunately, LaFee interviewed no supporters of ID, and those he interviewed showed only scant familiarity with it.
 

1. Background

The article, typically, sees the opponents as irrational faith vs. reasonable science. That false impression is understandable because Christians themselves have often given God the reputation for being arbitrary, unreasonable, and hardly scientific -- a fact He can hardly appreciate. That is not the picture of God in the Bible, nor does it square with how science in fact developed.

In Scripture, reason is given only the highest respect. And, of all the world's sacred writings, the Bible alone pictures the cosmos as orderly, shows an interest in historical fact, and makes truth-seeking and truth-speaking of the very highest priority.

The secular world-view tells us that the world is orderly, but it cannot logically support that contention because it begins (just like the pagans) with an inherently chaotic worldview, and has to sneak in principles which it inherited from the Biblical view to keep up the semblance. 

God invites, "Come, let us reason together..." (Isaiah 1:18). He calls His people into a freewill covenant, which logically requires reasonably persuading, not coercing or brainwashing. God never violates the reasonable freewill of His people. Jesus is called the "Logos", the Word, the Reason of God.

Elijah on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18) appeals to logic, "How long will you go limping on two opinions...", and then proposes an up-or-down empirical test to see whether Baal or the Lord is the true God. This appeal to logic and empirical evidence took place some four centuries prior to the High Hellenic beginnings of philosophy with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Rough and ready, but science nevertheless.

On the other hand, no ancient pagan worldview proclaimed that the cosmos was an orderly affair. The cosmos was universally pictured as ultimately opaque to human reason, and generally chaotic, disorderly, not human-friendly. Not the sort of place one would look for scientific order. And pagan deities, all evolving out of the original pagan Great Mother, were infamously untrustworthy.

One might read Gilbert Murray's book, The Five Stages of Greek Religion, for a picture of what happened to the High Hellenic era of philosophy and art. It did not slide into the Hellenistic lowlands for lack of brilliance or effort. Hellenic philosophy and aesthetics was grounded in the same Great Mother source of all being as the pagan mythologies, a foundation which will always, in the end, be world-denying, not friendly to science -- the secular/pagan worldview.

The Bible alone pictured the world as good and orderly, and God as trustworthy and human-friendly. That is still the case. Nothing has change from then to the present.

Science, as a community-supported systematic quest for truth based on fact and logic, appeared in only one place -- late medieval Europe after a millennium of marinating in Biblical (Judeo-Christian) life and thought. What we have as science today emerged out of the medieval universities, all of which were Christian.

Modern science did not emerge in ancient China, Greece, Egypt, or Rome, although they all had sufficient technology to spark such a revolution. What they lacked was a view of the cosmos which said that the world of time and space, the here and now, is both orderly and good -- the kind of place in which one might expect to find laws of nature.
 

2. What is "Science" & What does it "Say"?

We have a science when we have a set of rules of evidence, rules for assessing fact and logic, which are publicly useable, neutrally (even-handedly) applied to all viewpoints, and which are understood to lead to the truth of some given field.  The aim is to create an open, honest contest of viewpoints and ideas, with a level playing field.  That is the principle of classical (Jeffersonian) liberalism. 

Physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, theology, economics, morality, etc., will all have differing sets of rules because of the differing subject matter.

One asks whether we live in the kind of cosmos in which it would make sense, or even be possible, to develop such rules. Would it be more likely in the Biblical or the secular/pagan worldview?

Secular scientists, as illustrated by those LaFee interviewed, almost universally want to define science as secular, and thus to exclude believers in God from being legitimate scientists. That is wrong, illogical, and unscientific. Believers can do the same scientific experiments and reason just as well as their secular counterparts. The question is simply, Which worldview is more compatible with developing the required rules of evidence? not, Which belief do you have?

One hears... "science says... <E=MC2> or <Water freezes at 32 degrees f.>". The statement is almost always wrong. "Science" says no such thing. Science does not tell us at which temperature water freezes or what "E" equals. Rather, science tells us how to go about finding out these matters.

Science does not say "Water freezes at 32." But scientists say such things, and rightfully so if they have disciplined themselves to the truth of the matter -- to the rules of evidence in their field.

(In the same way, a rule book on football does not tell you which is the best team in the league.  You can read the rulebook frontwards and backwards, but it will not tell you which is best.  It will, however, tell you how to find out -- put two teams in the field using these rules.) 

The moral commitment to the self-discipline of truth-seeking is of the fabric of science -- without which no society should give the scientific community authority over itself.

It is also part of the fabric of any honest religion -- without which no society should accept religious authority over itself.  Theology, that is to say, should be an honest science.

In any event, science does not "say" that it is itself antithetical to Biblical religion. But, if we can get over our "meta-phobia", the science of metaphysics might help us decide whether science is more compatible with the Biblical or the secular/pagan view.

Science is a tool for finding the truth about a matter which can be used by any honest person. It is irrelevant whether you are an atheist, a Jew, a Hindu, a Christian, or a pagan witch doctor -- if you are honest. What is relevant to the ID discussion is the kind of cosmos we in fact inhabit, not our religious commitments.
 

3. The Two "Metaphysical" Choices

At the end of the day, we have only two choices about Ultimate Reality. Either (1) the cosmos evolved out of a primal substance of some sort (e.g., the pagan "Great Mother") to its present state of affairs (the secular/pagan view), or, (2) the cosmos was given existence by a pre-existing creator (the Biblical, Judeo-Christian view).

In the secular/pagan choice, the pre-existing substance is the simplest, least personal, least formed stuff imaginable. It also always turns out to be beyond intellect or imagination -- ineffable, opaque to the human mind. Every non-Biblical cosmos, from ancient pagan myths to modern secular evolution, pictures some form of that process.

Biblically, the source of all being is the precise opposite: the fullness of personhood, already and eternally complete and existing, and, because reasonable and self-revealing, therefore knowable.

Two metaphysical questions arise to be addressed to those two worldview options:

(1) Why is there a contingent (i.e., not necessary) world at all? and (2) Why is there an order (in, of all places, a contingent world) which is reasonable and which is built on extraordinary levels of information, not on noise (random chance)?

Which of the two worldview options provides the most intelligent, reasonable, rational response to these questions?

Our world of experience could well have been different, so it does not explain itself. An ultimate explanation, then that must lie outside of the empirical world.

"Metaphysical" means "beyond" (meta-) the physical, empirical realm. The metaphysical realm is whatever is logically presupposed by the very existence and nature of the empirical realm of time and space enabling us to make sense of that empirical realm. Our metaphysical view and response to the two questions will be either Biblical or secular/pagan.
 

4. Inductive Reasoning

Secular scientists tend to reject metaphysics as "unscientific" because it implies that there is something significant beyond the empirical world, and want to define 'science' as inherently secular, thereby sidestepping the metaphysical issues. They are wrong.

Inductive reasoning is a foundation of empirical science. It is reasoning from a set of particular experiments, such as finding the temperature at which certain samples of water freeze, to a general conclusion, that all water freezes at that temperature.

But that very act of inductive reasoning (from a few particulars to a vast generalization) presupposes things about the cosmos that one cannot empirically view or prove, namely that there is an order, a connection between the particular events viewed in one's particular water experiments and all those other innumerable examples around the cosmos of water freezing which one can never view.

The assumption of such an order and unity, that laws of nature are consistent over even unexamined time and space, is empirically unprovable because we can examine only a teensy-weensy portion of all of time and space. So all scientific generalizations (laws) and predictions are made on the basis of vast metaphysical assumptions -- which we must make if we are to have science at all.

Most evolutionists presuppose, without proof, an already existing cosmos with a natural order, not a beginning out of noise, disorder, and chaos, so they dodge their basic disability (a disorderly cosmos). But that is an invalid assumption if the cosmos is contingent. Secularists as well as Christians must face up to their metaphysical assumptions.
 

5. Information vs. Noise

The Biblical worldview begins with an Intelligent Designer, God the Creator of heaven and earth, and thus with information. Both creation and revelation are about conveying information -- the intelligent designs of God.

The secular/pagan view begins with some form of evolution -- which is by definition random noise. The boundaries are well posted: "No intelligent design allowed!"

Hamlet is information.  Noise has no meaning. It is just sound, or impressions, or whatever -- a landslide, tornado, earthquake, or static.  Informationally speaking, they are all noise.  They mean nothing.  Nevertheless, if you set a billion monkeys all noisily typing for a long time, you just might find Hamlet typed out somewhere in an otherwise long string of noise.

But the distinction between noise and information requires an intelligent mind to both create and to discern the difference. There has to be an intelligent mind to put meaning into the signals, and another intelligent mind to whom the signals are meaningful.

The monkeys' production could thus be only accidental noise that looked like Hamlet. It could not be Hamlet because being Hamlet requires conscious intention from the signal-maker to be producing Hamlet. That is the nature of communication. It takes two to tango, intelligent senders and receivers.

Anthropologists look for signs of intelligent activity. They know that certain things, like straight lines (pyramids) and circles (chariot wheels), almost never occur in nature, and that their occurrence is a sign of deliberate, intelligent activity. The SETI project to find intelligent life in the outer cosmos understood the same, looking for strings of information in the midst of the cosmic noise. If you heard a concerto in the middle of an earthquake, you would not think, "Oh! a musical earthquake!" You would look for the source of the music.  (I heard an earthquake recently here in Southern Cal.  It rumbles like a freight train...  Just noise.) 

The human DNA code turns out to be a huge string of information, not random noise. Which worldview can explain such a thing? We all seem to understand that distinction between noise and information -- until we get to metaphysics, creation, and evolution.

Then, suddenly (dare one say, miraculously?), noise is supposed to generate information, order, and meaning out of itself?
 

6. Irreducible Complexity

The respondents in Mr. LaFee's article misunderstood "irreducible complexity" to mean an enormously-complex-something that could not happen by chance. But irreducibility has nothing to do with the size of the complexity. It is rather the requirement for all the complexity being in place -- to work at all. Because the complexity cannot be reduced without failing, it thus cannot evolve incrementally into being.

A simple mouse trap, for example, will not catch a few mice with just a board. And then if you add a spring, catch a few more, and then a cheese holder, catching a few more, and finally with the cheese, catching lots of mice. If you do not have the whole thing, you catch no mice at all. So the mouse trap could not "evolve" incrementally by its growing success (survival) rate.

The spinning flagellum used to locomote the bacterium pictured in the article has the same problem. The flagellum is as complex as an electric motor. In fact it is a little electric motor, with armature and rotor spinning at an astonishing speed. Bacteria are miniature electrically-powered submarines.

You cannot evolve a working flagellum by sticking a tail on a bacterium, and then later getting it to rotate. The tail alone would provide no survival advantage, only get in the way. You have to have the whole extraordinary mechanism in place or it would be counterproductive, not survival-friendly -- thus strongly implying intelligent design.

We think that the Industrial Revolution began in the 1900's. Not so. The Industrial Revolution began (at least) with the first cell. Inside the teeny cell is a whole factory of parts and machinery. Anthony Flew, well-known atheist with whose writings I contended in the 1960's, recently changed his mind about Intelligent Design partly because he could not fathom how, without an intelligent designer, a single teeny cell could get into itself more information than is contained in the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.

The better question is how it could find or generate any information at all in an unintelligent, random, chance world.
 

7. An Infinite Number of Trials...

We are told that the improbable becomes reasonably probable if space and time are infinite and there are thus an infinite number of possibilities being generated. In such a case, even the very improbable can happen. And, true enough, that is a logical possibility -- sort of. We might find our monkeys typing out the present day cosmos, so to speak.

But that would do nothing to over come the absence of information, it would do nothing to explain the transition from unintelligence to intelligence, from absolute impersonality to persons with intelligence and meaning. It could be, again, only accidental noise that looked like our present day world.

There is no way around the metaphysical issues.
 

8. Explanation: Getting to Here from "There"

One might thus pose the metaphysical question by asking: Which view explains how to get to here, where we are now, from that particular origin? Can our reasonable cosmos in which science makes sense be explained better from a Biblical or from a pagan/secular model? Does an Intelligent Designer, such as Yahweh, do more to explain the existence of order and law in the cosmos than an unformed, non-particular, impersonal, unknowable "stuff"? Or the other way around?

Is it reasonable to suppose that an original nothing explains something, nowhere explains somewhere, no one explain someone, chaos explain order, chance explains existence, and noise explains meaning?

Accomplishing the above, as someone said, sounds like "steady work".

Some of us would assert that the very possibility of science at all is a major part of the evidence for the Biblical view.
 

9. Hypotheses to be Tested

Critics say that ID writers have not placed articles in refereed journals to be tried and tested by their peers. I do not know whether that is the case. Refereed journals are a good discipline, but they are not the final definer of truth. Humanly speaking, the public will be the final referee. And beyond that, the truth and the Lord of truth will speak for themselves.

Critics also report that ID people have not come up with hypotheses which can be tested, no predictions from the theory which can turn out to be true or false. Wrong again.  They did not see the forest for the trees.

A prediction one might make on the Biblical view is that science itself would occur, that the inhabitants of such a cosmos would discover order in the cosmos and begin to study it.

A corollary prediction might be that: Inhabitants of the random selection cosmos would be unlikely to do so.

Both common sense and history bear out the truth of these predictions.

It might be pointed out that as we in the West trash our Biblical heritage, we are also (just by the way) trashing our scientific heritage. American students are notoriously lacking in their appreciation for truth at all, let alone for the hard discipline of science. And so the West is losing its scientific edge to the developing nations -- many of whom threaten to use it in a very unGodly way.  

Boston in the 1830's had over a 90% literacy rate, not at all uncommon in America at the time, which fueled our own modern Industrial Revolution.  Our up-to-date, sophisticated, (yes, government-educated) America today has dropped to about 50% literacy.

No wonder we are out-sourcing our industry, compromising our national sovereignty, and transmogrifying our limited-government constitution.  We have become illiterate, are too stupid to run our own businesses, and need our Government Nanny. 

That, too, is historically and logically linked to a Biblical worldview -- and to another hypothesis to be tested:  A people which believes that God speaks to us intelligently and by a written word will want to be able to read, and hence be able to govern themselves.  

And its corollary: people raised on the random chance view will not have the same drive toward either truth, literacy, science -- or (therefore) freedom.  

The ball is back in the evolutionists' court.

Earle Fox received his doctorate from Oxford University in 1964 on the relation between science and theology. He is an Episcopal priest who writes in the area of Christian apologetics in Vista, CA.

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