II. The characteristics of living things
In our search for things that might be indications that there is a God, we continue on to the consideration of living things.
Most people believe that science has proved there is no God who made living things, including us, and therefore there is no purpose for life. However, many facts about living things indicate that they are the result of intelligent design. Design implies a designer. This means that naturalistic materialism, which denies the existence of a designer, is not supported by science. In fact naturalism is refuted if it cannot account for the origin of living things. They do exist, and did have an origin. If the facts support the conclusion of intelligent design, then there is no objection to faith in religions that teach a concept of creation by a higher being. This need not be a barrier to such faith.
As just explained in sec. I, the currently known evidence indicates that the universe had a beginning, which is called the Big Bang. The source of the power and laws of the Big Bang is not necessarily personal, but a designer is, so this is progress in our quest for guidance from science in the selection of our religious faith. If we have a designer, he or she no doubt has a purpose for his work, which might not be the same as some of our plans. He might still be around, and be concerned about what happens to the things he designed. If so, this is an important consideration in the choice of our philosophy of life and values, in other words our faith.
This reinforces the rejection of atheism and agnosticism indicated by the characteristics of the universe. As for pantheism, a designer is more personal and purposeful than a vague universe-god, and it attaches more importance to the physical universe and our bodies than considering it all a mere illusion. So it is difficult to reconcile pantheism with the evidence for precise and intricate design. Animism in many places contains a creation myth, and a supreme God with whom people at first had a relationship, then lost it, so animism seems at least possibly still compatible with the clues from science. 18th-century deism accepted the creation of living things, but modern-day liberalism prefers to keep this creation very fuzzy and indirect.
Christians sometimes assume that this proves the God of the Bible was the designer, but it does not prove that much. It does not even prove that the cause of the Big Bang is the same as the designer of living things. We must have further information before we can make that conclusion. Sec. III will provide that information.
A. The suitability of the universe and the earth for lifeNot only do the characteristics of the universe indicate a beginning, they also indicate very precise and intelligent design without which our existence would be impossible.
The basic constants of physics, such as the coefficients in the laws of electricity and magnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity, describe all the known properties and interactions of particles and atoms. There are dozens of such constants. But there are also many relationships between them, based on the known laws of physics. According to current analysis, there are seventeen more constants than relationships. This means it is impossible to choose a particular set of seventeen constants and say that they are the basic ones, only that there are seventeen “degrees of freedom” or directions in which the whole interconnected set of constants can be adjusted. There is a special commission whose duty is to collect all measurements of these constants, and combine them with the known laws and produce the best estimate of the values of all the constants.1. The basic constants of physics
If these constants were only slightly different, the universe would be totally different, or probably not exist at all, and the existence of living things of any kind would be impossible. It is impossible to make any meaningful quantitative estimate of the number of combinations of values these constants that would yield a habitable universe, but it is certain that the probability is very small that a random choice of values for these constants would be any such combination. Even if it was up to us to tune them properly, with seventeen adjustments to make all at once we might never find the right combination. Why do these constants “just happen” to be so precisely “just right”? This is called the anthropic principle, that the universe seems somehow required to be suitable for us to be here.
Examples are endless. Here are a few important ones. The constants are just right so that the Big Bang produced hydrogen and helium and a small amount of a few other light elements, as summarized in the previous section. These materials and conditions were suitable for the formation of stars. Stars can form, and all but the largest shine for billions of years. In earlier generations people took the existence of stars for granted, because they did not understand what stars are. Now that we have a fairly accurate understanding of the structure and processes of a star, we realize that it is amazing that they can exist. Nearly all the laws of physics are involved in forming a star: gravity, thermodynamics, nuclear reactions, electromagnetic radiation, gas behavior, static and dynamic balance of forces. It is not easy for a solution of all these equations to exist. If gravity were a little stronger, all stars would simply collapse under their own weight into a black hole never to be seen again. Or if gravity were a little weaker, or nuclear reactions a little stronger, the fusion reaction at the center of a forming star would be explosive and destroy it; there would be no steady state. It is truly remarkable that a stable solution exists which satisfies so many constraints. Don’t take sunshine for granted, nor all those stars at night.
The story continues. The largest stars form heavier elements in their core through fusion reactions, and then explode as supernovae which places these elements in space where they can form future stars and planets. Solid planets can form and keep an atmosphere. One of the more abundant elements collected into these planets is carbon. All forms of life on earth are based on the ability of carbon atoms to form long chains and link to other atoms. Many other elements have special chemical characteristics that serve special purposes in life processes: oxygen, hydrogen, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, nitrogen, etc. The formation of these elements is determined by the nuclear physics of fusion reactions in stars, but the chemical properties are determined by the quantum mechanics and electrodynamics of the electrons circling around the nucleus.
Water is an unusual material, important to our life in many different ways. It makes up most of our body, is an almost universal solvent, and all the chemical reactions that keep us alive occur in water solution. Liquid water has a large specific heat and latent heat, and water vapor in the atmosphere is a strong absorber and emitter of infrared radiation and therefore plays an important role in the greenhouse effect; these characteristics have a major role in stabilizing the global climate. Water expands when it freezes, instead of contracting like almost every other liquid does; this means that oceans and lakes do not freeze solid from the bottom up, but instead an insulating ice cover forms over lakes, rivers, and polar oceans.
We cannot say that water was especially designed for all these roles. All these characteristics are of course determined by the few basic laws of physics. Those laws just “happen” to produce a substance like water, along with all the countless other substances around and in us.
One other number is not a basic constant, but determines the nature of the universe: the initial expansion rate of the Big Bang. It must be exact within at least 1050, or in other words correct to at least 50 digits. Outside of this range, the universe would either quickly re-collapse under its own gravitation, or disperse too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form. This seems to be fine-tuning to an incredible degree. A solution to this problem has been proposed in terms of a period of rapid “inflation” during the early instants of the expansion, due to certain high-energy particle interactions. One result is that the universe may be 10100 times as large as the part that is visible to us. This inflation would guarantee the establishment of the correct expansion rate. If this is correct, it does not refute the evidence for design, only rephrases it: The initial explosion was designed with exactly the right basic laws that produced this type of inflation period.
The basic constants of physics do not determine the particular structure of the earth and the solar system. The earth-moon-sun system in which we live has many characteristics which are necessary for our life: the earth’s surface temperature, surface gravity, length of day, length of year, inclination of axis, tidal force and period of the moon, mass and composition of the atmosphere, composition of the surface, distribution of dry land and water, and many more, including some characteristics of the Sun and other planets in the solar system, our solarsystem’s location in the galaxy, and the galaxy’s environment. All these characteristics must be within fairly narrow limits in order for us to live here.2. The characteristics of the earth-moon-sun system
Hugh Ross, in his book listed below, considers 33 characteristics that are necessary for living things to exist on the earth. Making very optimistic assumptions, he estimates that the probability of all of these being just right by chance is 10-42. The number of planets in the visible universe, up to about 10 billion light years away, is estimated to be at most 1022. This too is extremely optimistic, based on virtually no actual data. It simply assumes that the number of planets is approximately the same as the number of stars, in other words that one every several stars has a system of several planets. Recent (since Hugh Ross made this estimate in 1993) observations of planets of other stars indicate that planets are in fact numerous, but the formation of a stable solar system with an Earth-like planet is exceptional. So is such a system’s long-term survival without disruption by passing stars and massive nebulae. This conclusion will become clearer in the next few years as observation methods continue to improve and more such planets are discovered. Finally, the probability that random chance could produce one planet in the universe suitable for life is very closely approximated by the product of these two numbers, which is 10-20! It is more reasonable to say that it happened by design than by accident.
In recent years, moons of giant planets have also been proposed as habitable sites, but this has many serious shortcomings, and in any case it at best multiplies the odds by a factor between 1 and 10, which is insignificant.
There is some apparent hope for escape from this dilemma. If cosmologists are correct that the universe is 10100 times as big as the part that is visible to us, then that easily overcomes the factor of 10-20. But this number came from consideration of only 33 characteristics. Dr Ross’s more recent material lists nearly 100 factors required for a habitable Earth. The probability of all these factors being correct is of course far lower than the above figure. Progress in this field of research does not make the prospects for life in the universe look more optimistic. The resulting decrease in the probability estimate can easily offset an additional 10100 increase in the number of opportunities. Furthermore, all this is irrelevant to the possibility of extra-terrestrial life anyway because as discussed below, favorable circumstances do not at all guarantee the production of life, and the existence of life does not at all guarantee the appearance of advanced intelligence. The improbabilities involved in that process hopelessly overshadow even this number.
Even if it could be demonstrated that there is a
high probability of the existence of a planet suitable for life and inhabited
by an advanced civilization somewhere in a very vast universe, it still
is ridiculously optimistic to expect to find it in our nearby neighborhood.
But this is precisely what the SETI (Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program hopes for. It was funded by
the US government National Science Foundation for a few years, until deleted
by Congress. One Senator is recorded to have remarked that it is hard enough
to find intelligent life in Washington, DC, let alone outer space! The
program continues on with private funding, the primary promoter being the
The theoretical basis of this program is expressed in the Drake equation, produced by Frank Drake. This equation is an excellent analysis of the factors that determine the likelihood that technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist. I will not write it in symbols, but just describe the factors. The desired answer is the expected number of technologically advanced civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose messages we might be able to detect. We can for now assume that signals from other galaxies would be too weak to detect. This number is the product of the following factors: the rate at which solar-type stars form in the Galaxy (number per year), the fraction of those stars that have planets, the average number of Earth-like (habitable) planets per planetary system, the fraction of habitable planets on which life does in fact appear, the fraction of those planets on which life forms evolve into intelligent species, the fraction of those species that develop the technology to send messages into space and choose to do so, and the average lifetime (in years) of advanced civilizations. Most factors in this equation are interesting subjects for research. The crucial ones are the number of Earth-like planets, and the fractions that produce life and intelligent life. As we have discussed, a good planet is extremely hard to find. In the following sections we will find that given a suitable environment the probability of life appearing by chance is hopelessly infinitesimal, and given a simple life form the probability of randomly evolving into advanced and intelligent forms is far smaller than even that probability. Thus no matter what the other factors in the Drake equation may be, two or three zero factors yield an answer of zero.
The optimistic estimates on which the program was originally based in the 1970s only considered a few characteristics required for habitability, less than 10. They also assumed that given a habitable environment the probability of the appearance of life is not small, in fact almost certain, and so is the evolution of advanced intelligent forms. These estimates were then inserted in the Drake equation, giving the optimistic result that there must be at least a few, perhaps millions, of advanced civilizations in our own Milky Way Galaxy, just waiting for us to notice their signals. One reason that federal funding was discontinued was that more realistic information was provided to the congressmen considering it. But the advocates and especially participants of the SETI program seem to disregard these more realistic estimates. No doubt one factor in this oversight is that doing so would leave them unemployed. But they also express a deep psychological investment in the search, a longing to find that we are not alone in the universe. If only they would accept a relationship with the God Who created them and the universe, this need would be met. But they would still be looking for another job.
Books that discuss this subject include:
The Universe: Plan or Accident?, by Robert
E. D. Clark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1949, revised 1961, republished
1972. The only thing that is out of date in this book is some pre-space-age
speculation about conditions on other planets. The author is a Christian.
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986. This huge book lists many things that must be just right for life to exist. The authors are agnostics, so they do not believe this is a result of intelligent design. They suggest that there must be a large number of universes with different laws of nature.
The Creator and the Cosmos, by Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993. An excellent discussion by a Christian astrophysicist of the origin of the universe and of living things, showing evidence that it was all carefully designed, and the designer was the God of the Bible. It contains the above-mentioned estimate of the number of habitable planets in the known universe.
Rare Earth, by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. New York: Copernicus (Springer-Verlag), 2000. ISBN 0-387-98701-0. The authors firmly believe evolution, but they face the facts that a habitable planet is hard to come by.
B. The information content and complexity of living thingsThere is no such thing as a simple form of life; this phrase is self-contradictory. Apparent simplicity is only an index of our ignorance. In the 16th century people believed that insects had no organs, and the material of plants and animals was just that, material. With the invention of the microscope in the early 17th century, a whole new level of structure was discovered, down to the cell and its constituents, which were of course assumed to be simple. Into the 20th century it was believed that the cell is a simple blob of soup in a bag. With the invention of the electron microscope, x-ray diffraction, etc. in the 20th century, another whole world of structure was discovered, down to the level of molecules and atoms. This is the field of molecular biology. Below this level of structure, it is no longer biology but physics and chemistry. The structure of life has been pursued to its lowest level, and that level is not at all simple. This is the theme of Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box.1. The “simplest” living things
A so-called simple cell is incredibly complex. It contains thousands of different proteins, which are huge molecules made of many thousands of atoms grouped in units called amino acids. Each protein performs a special function, because of its special shape. It is like a tool, or a robot. This shape and function is not determined by the natural laws of reaction of the amino acids in it, just as the nature of iron does not determine the shape of a screwdriver, hammer, wrench, key, etc. This is why chemistry is divided into inorganic and organic chemistry; the interactions between these ultraminiature organic robots must be explained on an entirely different level than the simple forces and energies which are sufficient to account for inorganic reactions. The processes of metabolism and reproduction consist of many processes which are carried out by these complex proteins. If one of them is missing, the entire cell cannot live or reproduce.
All this is interdependent. The DNA in a cell contains the blueprint determining the structure of all the other proteins, including ones called RNA. But RNA contains the code for interpreting and executing the blueprint, including producing more DNA. It is a classic chicken and egg arrangement. Even the simplest imaginable living system would have to be extremely complex, containing a large number of proteins which in turn are extremely complex.
The processes that go on in actual living cells are incredibly complex, and we will probably never finish research to understand them. For example, photosynthesis involves a huge protein and several steps in the physical process of converting energy from sunlight into chemical energy. Vision is also a complex process, converting light into an electrical signal in a nerve cell. The ability of muscles to contract depends on protein molecules which are linear electric stepping motors. And many bacteria actually have reversible rotary electric motors only a few nanometers in diameter (a few dozen atoms), which power their motion.
The simplest known object that can be considered “life” is a virus, which is a single giant protein, and the smallest known virus contains over 1000 amino acid units. Some theorists have estimated that a minimum of 400 units is required to possess the most rudimentary capabilities of reproduction and metabolism. But viruses in the present world are not independent. They survive only by invading and exploiting the vast resources of existing cells. No known truly self-reproducing molecule exists in the real world, only in the imagination of writers of articles and textbooks on the origin of life.
2. Complex systems, which are useless unless completeThe first point introduced the levels of molecules, then cells. But this is only the beginning. Here we go on to the levels of organs, then systems, and finally local and global ecology. Examples are countless.
In a plant or animal, many organs form systems which must work together in order to live and reproduce. A comparatively simple example is a poisonous snake. Its poison gland produces several different complex poisons. This gland, a sac, tube, hollow tooth, control muscles, nerves, and the brain’s ability to operate this system all are necessary for the system to have any use; if any one part were missing it would all be useless, and ifmisconnected it would kill the snake itself. And the snake must not be poisoned itself when it eats the animals it has killed with its poison. A spider has a web gland and knows what to do with it. A mosquito’s bite is a complete tool set, with saws, a suction tube, and a thinner to make blood thin enough to flow up such a tiny tube. Some mosquito species even have a pain killer to keep you from feeling their bite. Butterflies go through their complex process of metamorphosis from egg to adult. Many other insects have similar and even more complex processes. A woodpecker has an unusual long tongue, a sharp beak, and a cushioned brain, all essential in order to drill holes in trees to get insects. Most animals have intricate systems of vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and in fact there are very different forms of these systems in different animals. They cannot all be derived from one very early common ancestor.
Our bodies possess the ability to heal injuries, resist diseases, become conditioned to increased demands, and grow from small to large. These processes are so common that we take them for granted. It seems that living things “just naturally” have these capabilities, because they are essential for the very survival of life. This attitude may be considered a case of “familiarity breeds contempt.” Research shows that each one of these abilities is not merely simple and natural, but is accomplished by an extremely complex and very specific mechanism. Even the researchers seem to forget to wonder at their discoveries, and blithely trust random mutations and selection to be able to produce such marvelous solutions to these problems. Michael Behe is one researcher who has not forgotten the sense of wonder, and expresses it eloquently in his book, Darwin’s Black Box.
Finally, there is the realm of ecology, the interaction and interdependence of all the different living organisms inhabiting this planet. This too contains endless wonders, which fill magazines and TV documentaries.
A bag of loose clock parts does nothing, and shaking the bag is unlikely to assemble them. Even in an infinite time period, it simply will not happen. This is dramatically illustrated by the shy repentant nun in “The Sound of Music” confessing that she has stolen a single wire which immobilized an entire automobile. In our modern technological life we constantly deal with devices disabled by one small malfunctioning part. Similarly, complex biological systems work only if they are complete and precisely assembled. Our bodies are vastly more complex than any man-made device could ever be. Hospitals are filled with people whose bodies are 99% perfectly healthy; in fact so were most of the people who now fill the cemeteries, with the exception of victims of massive injuries or destructive diseases like cancer. Even the lowly proverbial mousetrap is a classic example of a complex system, emphasized in Dr. Michael Behe’s book. Half a mousetrap will not catch half a mouse. He cites this and many other examples of complex systems which cannot be simplified without completely losing their function. He has a chapter each on the chemical reaction involved in vision, the bacterial cilium and flagellum (powered by a two-directional electric motor!), the process of blood clotting, transport proteins within a cell, and the immune system. There is one more chapter on systems which could conceivably be assembled; they are not irreducible. But even these systems would have to survive an insurmountable obstacle course of improbabilities to achieve their current form. He likens this to road kill, like a blind ground hog trying to cross a ten-thousand lane freeway.
All these examples are on the level of molecular biology, so there is no lower level of structure in which simple laws and patterns can explain the complexity higher up. What to Darwin was a “black box,” a mysterious entity whose inner workings were unknown, has now been opened. Darwin assumed there must be something simple inside. It is not.
He calls all this “irreducible complexity,” and reports that he changed from faith to doubt about evolution when he searched the technical literature for proposed solutions to the problem of the origin of such complexity, and found to his amazement that almost no one has even attempted to give one. He specifically searched the Journal of Molecular Evolution, which began in 1971. The very few attempts he did find in that journal and a few books were totally inadequate, and his personal conclusion is that there cannot possibly be any naturalistic solution. Only intelligent design could produce such systems.
Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity, and the scientific community’s failure to account for its origin in terms of Darwinian theory, is a strictly scientific critique of the theory of evolution. Behe is a Roman Catholic, with no religious objection to evolution as the process by which God acted to produce living things. But he concludes that the evidence indicates that there is no such process in action.
All these amazingly complex systems in living things must have an explanation, an origin. They do exist, and they have not always existed. Something happened in the past to produce them. And whatever it was could not have been gradual; a complex system’s function is all or nothing. The simple, obvious conclusion from the existence of such vast complexity should be that it was designed. That is the unquestioned explanation of all such systems in the nonliving realm, from paper cups to supercomputers.
No-one could deny that even something as simple as a paper cup must be a product of design. There is no paper cup tree. Consider a hand holding a paper cup. Which is more complex, the hand or the cup? The hand is, of course. It is the most precise tool in the world, capable of swinging a hammer, playing a piano, painting a picture, making and repairing a watch, calming a baby, or knocking out a heavyweight boxer. If the paper cup is designed, surely the hand is. But as everyone knows, virtually all the scientific world at present rejects that explanation for the hand. Why? Because it is a living thing, living things reproduce “naturally,” and living things are not believed to have come into being by design. Instead, scientists offer the theory of evolution. So we must now discuss evolution in considerable detail, before we can draw our own conclusion on the matter of our origin. Can we believe that the cup was designed but the hand holding it was not? This is the crucial question in the following lengthy discussion.
There are many possible explanations of the origin of living things, but they all fall into one of two categories: those events either did or did not involve intelligent design. Though there are countless variations in detail in theories of origins, this is a watershed criterion which divides them all into two mutually exclusive categories. Only one of them can be correct. The alternative to design is called evolution.3. The theory of evolution
I am not criticizing evolution just for the sake of criticizing evolution, or only because it has a perceived conflict with my belief in the authority of the Bible. We need to understand our origin, because where we came from largely determines why we are here, which in turn determines how we will live in our daily actions, words, and decisions. The two possible explanations, accidental impersonal evolution or intelligent purposeful design, lead to vastly divergent worldviews, and therefore different lifestyles in every facet of daily life. This is not merely an issue for theologians and biologists.
First we must clearly define what evolution is. One definition is that any small change in living things is evolution. This is sometimes more precisely called “micro-evolution.” But a broader definition is an envisioned process in which all living things were produced by natural processes alone, time plus chance, not supernatural activity or intelligent design, only continuous descent and modification from less complex to more complex. These natural processes are the interactions of physics and the reactions of chemistry. This envisioned process is called “macro-evolution,” and it is what is usually meant by the term “evolution.”
The key point for our present discussion is the words “natural processes alone,” specifically excluding any role for intelligent design, planning, or purpose. As stated a few paragraphs above, evolution is the alternative to, and denial of, design. The theory of evolution is in practice an application of the agnostics’ diagram in ch. 5, I, B, the exclusion of any intrusion into the natural world from outside. The National Association of Biology Teachers in the early 90s prepared guidelines for teaching biology. In one point they stated that there is no conflict between science and religion, but in a following point they asserted that the origin of living things was “unsupervised, impersonal,” which is very clearly in conflict with at least some religions, particularly those based on the Bible. The NABT leaders seemed unable to comprehend why this was a problem to anyone, and finally under considerable pressure in October 1997 they deleted the offending words, still not sure what the problem is. It is this: Is our existence fore-ordained for a purpose, or are we an accidental meaningless byproduct of an impersonal process?
According to the naturalistic theory of evolution, it is random mutations, natural selection, environmental changes, and other natural factors that have produced increasingly complex living things, including you and me. If this is true, then we are the direct descendants of a clump of lifeless rocks and mud on the early earth 3 or 4 billion years ago. In discussion of evolution, the focus is often placed on the question of whether humans are descended from monkeys. This is a minor issue; the big question is whether we are descended from a mud puddle.
This theory was first popularized by Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species in 1859. He later published several other books, most notably The Descent of Man in 1871. The Origin made no mention of humans. The laws of heredity, or genetics, had recently been discovered by Mendel but were not yet widely known. Darwin had a copy of the journal containing Mendel’s article in his office, but after his death that journal was found still sealed shut. The modern theory of evolution including genetics and molecular biology was not developed until the 20th century, and is called the neo-Darwinian synthesis.
The proposed sequence of development is told in countless textbooks and television programs, with the certainty of proven fact. We have all heard it countless times, so we only need give a very brief summary:
The earth’s earliest atmosphere was composed mostly of ammonia, methane, water, and carbon dioxide. Organic molecules were produced by reactions in the atmosphere, ocean and/or shore, assisted by energy from some combination of volcanoes, undersea hot-water vents, lightning, solar ultraviolet radiation, and perhaps comet impacts. These molecules randomly combined, producing some amino acids, which randomly combined into larger molecules until one molecule was able to reproduce itself. This first part of the process was molecular evolution which, because it did not involve reproduction, did not involve genetics and natural selection, but proceeded by random chance reactions alone. Thus to call it evolution is really a misnomer.Many outstanding scientists have spent their lives studying living things and writing and speaking about why they believe evolution: from Darwin’s advocate Thomas Huxley, down through several generations to Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, George Gaylord Simpson, Ernst Mayr, Peter Medawar, Stephen Jay Gould, Niles Eldredge, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and many more. Nearly all of these scientists are non-Christian, and they consider the theory of evolution as an important proof that there is no God, or if there is He is irrelevant to our lives. A few profess some form of religious faith, but not a conservative belief in the God of the Bible.
The power of reproduction was a revolutionary breakthrough, allowing new characteristics to arise bymutation and be multiplied almost endless. Natural selection rejected the harmful mutations and retained and accumulated the beneficial ones. These self-reproducing molecules thus rapidly became more plentiful, and combined into larger and larger units, producing viruses and simple cells. Some cells developed the process of photosynthesis, using solar energy to produce growth. Other cells were able to use these cells for food. Some single cells combined into simple organisms. Some of these organisms became increasingly complex. Some became plants, and others became animals. The most complex ones developed bisexual reproduction, which was another revolutionary breakthrough allowing far more interchange and variation in genetic makeup. Some plants and animals became able to live in the tidal area on the shore, and then some became independent of the ocean and able to live on dry land. They began spreading over the land surface. Much later, some plants developed flowers and pollen as their means of reproduction. Some animals developed hard skeletons. Some had these hard parts inside their body (vertebrates), and some had it outside. Early vertebrates were fish. Some fish developed into amphibians, which can live on dry land as adults. Some amphibians developed into reptiles, able to live completely on land. Many invertebrates also became able to live on land. Some reptiles changed into birds with wings and feathers. Others changed into mammals, the most recent and advanced of which are you and me.
They have written several books specifically trying to prove evolution and disprove creation. Stephen Gould has written much. Other books include:
Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism, Philip Kitcher. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1982
Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution, Douglas Futuyma. New York: Pantheon, 1983
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design, Richard Dawkins. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987. 0-393-315703
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. 0-192860925
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Daniel C. Dennett. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995
River Out of Eden, Richard Dawkins. New York, Basic Books, 1995. 0-465016065
Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins. New York: Norton, 1996. 0-393-039307
Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, delusion, and the appetite for wonder, Richard Dawkins. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 0-395883822
The idea that the human race is descended from a primeval mud puddle is by itself preposterous, in the same category with fairy tales about frogs turning into princes. But this is no fairy tale. It is told with all seriousness and erudition by brilliant scientists, and accompanied with a long list of evidences:4. Evidence to support the theory of evolution
These are considered to be proof that different species are descended from a common ancestor. There is no other explanation for all these similarities. Why would a creator create things this way, with such an appearance of descent from a common ancestor?a. Similarities between different species
These are a particular type of similarity. Some animals, including ourselves, have organs that seem useless, but are similar to useful organs in other animals. This is considered as proof that these animals descended from ancestors in whom the organ was useful. The human tailbone is considered a relic from ancestors with tails. Whales have small floating bones similar to leg bones in land mammals. Some fish in dark caves have degenerate, useless remnants of eyes. And so on.b. Vestigial organs and imperfect structure
Imperfect structure is also cited as evidence that the process of formation was one of random chance, not planned design. Stephen Jay Gould named one of his books after the panda’s thumb, which is not a true thumb but a spur of a wrist bone that pandas use to strip bamboo to eat it. Dr. Gould considers this a poorly arranged mechanism, surely not something an intelligent designer would produce. Another example is the human eye, in which light has to pass through the retina to be detected, which seems backwards, and some animal retinas are in fact the other way around.
This is at least another type of similarity. At one time the development of embryos was also interpreted as a replay of the history of evolution, but when the details became better known this interpretation proved to be impossible.c. Embryology
These two phenomena are observed in countless examples in the laboratory and in nature.d. Mutations and natural selection
The study of genetics is very advanced, with theories of population genetics, genetic drift, recombination, adaptability, and variability. The experts have worked long and hard, and express confidence that such principles can account for the vast variety of living things in the world today.
There are cases which are considered as examples of evolution in action. All such observed examples are instances of micro-evolution. European moths turned darker when the Industrial Revolution produced a darker environment in which dark coloring made them less visible. In recent years they have become lighter again as pollution has been reduced. Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, near South America, were a major influence on his thinking. There are many types of finches, with different-shaped beaks adapted to different kinds of food. They must all be descended from a few finches who were blown to the islands long ago. Bacteria and viruses mutate to become able to overcome the immune systems of plants and animals. These immune systems mutate to develop immunity to the new bacteria and viruses. This is why there are flu epidemics every few years. Human breeders also produce hybrid plant types with improved resistance to disease. By mutation insects develop resistance to insecticides, and bacteria and viruses become resistant to antibiotics.e. Many examples
Similar climatic environments in widely separated locations contains widely different collections of plants and animals. This shows that different types of life-forms developed in geographically isolated areas.f. Geographical distribution of living things
Fossils indicate that many species of plants and animals have existed in the past which no longer exist. The order in which these fossils are buried indicates the sequence in which they existed; those buried in lower layers existed earlier than those buried in higher layers. There is a very consistent pattern of earlier species being simpler than later ones.g. Fossils
Some people consider fossils to be the most important evidence for evolution. All other evidences are inferences from the present to the past, but the fossils are an actual record of the past which proves that evolution did happen and tells us a lot about how it happened. The later, more complex species must have descended, and evolved, from the earlier, simpler ones.
These experiments were first done by Stanley Miller in Chicago in the 1950s. They showed that electrical sparks and ultraviolet light in a mixture of methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water vapor (the assumed composition of the early earth’s atmosphere) produce amino acids and other organic compounds. Therefore similar reactions could have happened on the earth long ago, and made possible the origin of life. One reason this composition was assumed is because it is the only one that could possibly produce these reactions, but it is also true that these gases are common in the outer planets of the solar system and in interstellar gas clouds, so it seemed reasonable to Miller to assume that that was the composition of the early Earth’s atmosphere.h. Origin-of-life experiments
These have been detected by radio telescopes, in gas and dust clouds, proving how readily these compounds can form from the simple constituents of methane and so on, and perhaps explaining one source from which they came on the early earth.i. Organic molecules in space
In addition to all these factual arguments, evolutionists often use the argument that creation, or any intelligent intervention in natural events, cannot be proven or tested, is a hindrance to research, is religious, supernatural, miraculous, and unscientific. Evolution has been a fruitful theory, leading to much good research for more than a century. It gives structure to biology, which otherwise would have no structure. Evolution is science, but creationism is religion, and never the twain shall meet.j. Philosophical arguments
Christians react to evolution in two different ways. Some are convinced that evolution does disprove God’s existence and the Bible’s authority if it is true, and so they try to disprove evolution. Other Christians think it is no problem: if evolution is true, then it is the way God made living things. This is called theistic evolution, which is not in itself a threat to belief in the existence of God. If the physical world really does have characteristics which make it capable of producing living things through “natural” processes, then that is one more instance of the marvelous design of the original creation. It only puts intelligent design at an earlier stage, but does not reject it. God is as much glorified by creating a universe that can produce intelligent life, as He is by creating life in the universe by more direct means. So this is not an issue of whether or not there is reason to give God glory for the outcome. One illustration I have seen is a takeoff on the watchmaker parable. It takes as much intelligence, in fact more, to make a machine that can make watches as it does to simply make watches. Howard vanTill is currently one of the leading advocates of this viewpoint, and he even criticizes other Christians who believe in God’s continuing creative activity, for having a deficient concept of God’s creative power and acts.5. Christians’ response
This must, though, still assume some sort of providential guiding of the process so as to reach its goal, people who can become God’s children. If a person is satisfied that this viewpoint resolves any apparent conflict between science and the Bible in this area, I am not anxious to disturb his/her satisfaction immediately. But of course I feel uncomfortable leaving people with an answer that I believe is false, and therefore will sooner or later become a problem to them. So I hope for an appropriate occasion to introduce a different viewpoint which is more satisfactory.
Three separate questions are often scrambled together in this discussion: what God could do, must do, and did do. Frequently a question about one of these is answered with a statement about a different one, which is not progress. There are interesting things to be said about what God could or must do (we will return to this question in ch. 7), but the present subject is what He did do. I am not convinced that the scientific evidence supports evolution. I have not seen convincing (to me) evidence that the physical world is capable of producing life, nor that this is in fact what has happened in the past. I also do not think that fits several details in the Bible’s story of creation. When someone says he/she considers evolution to be in conflict with the Bible and asks me what I think, I will give the reasons why I feel evolution is scientifically unacceptable. These are discussed below.
Christians have written many, many books against evolution and advocating belief in God’s creative activity. Most of them are poorly written, with many factual mistakes and logical weaknesses. Another big problem is that most of them mistakenly connect evolution with the Big Bang and billion-year time-spans, and so they try to oppose both at once (as discussed in detail in ch. 7).
There are a few that are better: (in chronological order)
Why Scientists Accept Evolution, R. T. Clark and James D. Bales. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1966. A collection of statements by leading advocates of evolution, clearly indicating their philosophical presuppositions.
Darwin before and after, an evangelical assessment, Robert E. D. Clark. Exeter, Devon, England: The Paternoster Press, 1966, and Chicago: Moody, 1967
The Case for Creation, An Evaluation of Modern
Evolutionary Thought from a Biblical Perspective, Wayne Frair and P.
William Davis. Chicago: Moody Press, 1967
Evolution: Nature and Scripture in Conflict? by Pattle P. T. Pun. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982
The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, by Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen. New York: Philosophical Library, 1984. This is specifically about the origin of life. The authors are scientists and Christians, but they do not mention anything religious until the appendix. This classic book is considered the beginning of the intelligent design movement.
Biology Through the Eyes of Faith, Richard T. Wright. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-069695-8. Begins with an excellent introduction to the general subject of science and faith, then evolution in particular, accepting more of evolutionary theory than I do.
Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon; Charles Thaxton, Academic Editor. Dallas, Texas: Haughton Publishing Company, 1993. Kenyon was once a leading researcher on the origin of life, and through his research came to the conclusion that it could not have occurred without intelligent intervention. He has been involved in some landmark legal battles over his right to say so in his biology courses at UC Berkeley.
Darwin on Trial, Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993. ISBN 0-89526-535-4. A UC Berkeley law professor turns his critical eye on the logic of evolution.
The Impact of Evolutionary Theory: A Christian View, Russell Maatman. Dordt College, 1993. ISBN 0-932-914-28-4
The Creation Hypothesis, Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer, J. P. Moreland, editor. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1994. ISBN 0-8308-1698-4
Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Michael Behe. New York: The Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 1996. ISBN 0-684-82754-9
Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997. 0-8308-1360-8
Mere Creation, ed. Bill Dembski. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998. 0-8308-1515-5 Proceedings of a conference.
The Design Inference: Eliminating chance through small probabilities, Bill Dembski. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 0-521-62387-1. A massive, expensive, technical presentation of the evidence and reasoning involved in determining the presence or absence of intelligent design.
Intelligent Design: the bridge between science and theology, Bill Dembski. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999. 0-8308-1581-3. The layman’s version of his big book, giving extensive philosophical and logical background.
Creation & Evolution. 4455Torrance Blvd., PMB 259, Torrance, CA 90503: Rose Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-890947-01-6. A laminated fold-out sheet with a remarkably compact and neutral (but obviously not evolutionist) summary of facts and opinions by evolutionists, old-earth and young-earth creationists. The sections are astronomy, geology, paleontology, genetics, biochemistry, and mathematics.
What’s Darwin Got to Do with It? A Friendly Conversation
About Evolution, Robert C. Newman & John L. Wiester, with Janet
and Jonathan Moneymaker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000. 0-8308-2249-6.
Would you believe a comic book from the scholars at IVP?!