Creation vs. Evolution

One of the oddest facets of the creation/evolution debate is the misplaced priorities. On one hand extreme Darwinism is a philosophy that purports to explain the creation of life without any providential influence. On the other hand extreme creationism claims to explain the same without requiring even the hint of scientific consistency. Either God was completely uninvolved in the process or it was all created through magic hand waving.

Neither approach makes a lot of sense.

Evolutionary Theory has a lot of unanswered questions. We have a lot of educated guesses and assumptions, some of them have a very high probability. What we don’t have is scientific repeatability or what would normally constitute proof in scientific study. Fossil records are often ambiguous and incomplete.

We do know a lot about cells, genetics, and many other topics of interest. We can even speculate on how something as complex as the human eye could evolve. Yet for all that, we don’t know the method for which the eye evolved. The existence of “transitional forms” does not prove a causal link, only provides potential evidence. We can’t say that because we have an eye and we know evolution is true that the exact steps do not matter. This is circular reasoning unless you assume that God could not have participated.

When you know that God does not exist, then evolutionary theory must be true. It can’t not be true, else how would we all be here? If scientific explanation is the only possibility, then it must exist. And you don’t need scientific repeatability either, because there is really no point. It would be kind of interesting to know the exact details, but the accepted theories are more than good enough. There is no reason to demand the highest scrutiny. It doesn’t matter in a metaphysical sense. Discussion and debate are a complete waste of time.

This is why hard core creationists can’t find any common ground with hard core evolutionists. Evolutionists cannot conceive of a scenario where God would be possible. It does not fit their belief system. It could introduce all sorts of unfathomable scenarios and destroy their picture of the world and the way it is.

At the end of the day, denying God is metaphysics. But if God did exist, it could have a major influence on the way life developed. Even if you didn’t know anything about God, He could potentially change any variable in an unexpected way, changing any scientific theory in an instant. It wouldn’t even have to be miraculous. Just place two genetically mutated creatures in the right place so they mate to produce the desired mutated offspring: Just “tweaking the probabilities” to make astronomically low likelihood events happen.* It is roughly analogous to the way that we breed plants and animals now.** There is no metaphysical need for God to make sweeping wand-waving changes, although he could because miracles don’t contradict the laws of science.

But this is not the most shocking scenario. Nature is extremely complex, intricate, delicate, and adaptable, all at the same time. The billions of variables in the right configurations required for life to arrive where it is today are beyond human comprehension and should make statisticians shake. We are like newborn babies trying to drive a race car. And yet the notion that God was powerful enough to set an automated system in place that could do this? That is astounding. It is a masterwork.

And yet this is not God’s most amazing work of creation. We are. The human species is unique in the universe. There has never been anything quite like us. Where did our sentience come from? Where did H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and H. neandertalensis go? Why are we so different? Are we really just a bunch of genes and cells and random mutations? Is our sentience just an elaborate natural simulation?

God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (WEB)

God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7 (WEB)

God set the whole thing in motion for the purpose of creating you and I. He granted us sentience. It didn’t happen by accident, but it did happen. And the more we learn about evolution, the more amazing the consequences.

Atheism and agnosticism are not new concepts, but it is in modern times that spirituality has not been the default truth. The default belief has changed. The burden of proof has shifted. Exclusive belief in science has trumped belief in God. But it is still the case that the more difficult belief is the one that does not involve God. It is not enlightenment to believe that God does not exist: it is arrogance.

Science points directly to God, but many cannot or more likely will not see it.

The heavens declare the glory of God.
  The expanse shows his handiwork.”
Psalm 19:19

Nature is not proof of God. It is not evidence of God. It is a message from God.

* Although popular with creationists, this is the more unlikely scenario. The need for God to intervene directly in nature could indicate a “flaw” in the process. This is not to say that God would not do such things (think the immaculate conception), only that it makes more sense logically that he would not have to.

** It is not chance that humans, created in the image of God, engage in acts of creation. We may not have the same ability as God to craft new species, but look at the vast variation in dog breeds or the development of maize as proof of what capabilities we do have.

Miracles Don’t Contradict the Laws of Science

John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, often uses a particular analogy when discussing the existence of God and miracles. I’m going to adapt it and hopefully lend some insight.

Let’s say that I put a ten dollar bill in the glove compartment of my car. The next day I put another $10 in the glove compartment. A day later, I open the glove compartment to discover zero dollars.

Have the laws of mathematics been violated? Is $10 + $10 = $0? How about the laws of physics? Might the bills have spontaneously disappeared? Or have the laws of the United States been violated?

Of course you immediately know which one of these it is, but how did you arrive at that conclusion? You assumed that the laws of mathematics and physics are valid and that the glove compartment is not a closed system. Therefore, someone must have taken it.

When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, what should he have done? He knew the law of nature that person sinks in water. This was an undeniable fact. But he also knew that the lake was not a closed system. Because the law of nature was not violated¹, an external force must have acted upon it. Is it such a stretch that the creator of water might be able to do such a thing? Of course not!

When the naturalist/materialist atheist rejects miracles, what he is doing is accepting the laws of nature, but rejecting the open system and thus any possibility of a creator. There is no reason besides a personal philosophical presupposition.

Let’s be very clear: belief in a creator is not a violation of any laws of science, it is a choice to treat the universe as an closed system.

When a scientist is faced with an apparent contradiction to the laws of nature, they do have another choice: to claim that the evidence is invalid. The natural consequence therefore is that because the universe is a closed system, then the evidence must be faulty. In this way, the atheist can, quite conveniently, reject all claims of miracles automatically without addressing the evidence at all. This is nothing more than intellectual dishonesty.

If one did not assume a closed system, then miracles could be treated on their own merits as evidence for the creator. And so they are for many people. Alas, the very evidence that an atheist requires to prove God’s existence is the very evidence they cannot consider by their own assumptions.

I don’t expect this to sway anyone, and by all indications it rarely ever has. But hopefully it will help clarify the assumptions and issues at stake and why you see the reactions that you do from those who reject both a creator and miracles.

¹ A law can only be violated if the law applies. If my wife took the money out of the glove compartment, then no criminal laws were broken. Similarly, if the creator intervenes in his creation, no natural law was broken. A law of nature is merely a description or explanation of observations, but there is no scientific requirement that all observations will conform to expectations. On the contrary, this is why experiments are performed over and over again. Laws (and expectations!) sometimes don’t apply or are incomplete and must be amended.