One hundred years after Darwin, the creation-evolution controversy has suddenly sparked renewed interest. Why wasn't this question settled long ago?
THE SMOULDERING issue of creation versus evolution assumed by many to be a dead issue has suddenly burst into the headlines. A recent convention in California, of the National Association of Biology Teachers, erupted into heated debate over the renewed controversy. A group of scientists who believe in divine creation confronted the convention with an alternative explanation of the natural world. Their explanation stands in direct contrast to the generally accepted theory of evolution.
What Sparked the Controversy
In 1969, the California State Board of Education adopted certain guidelines for science textbooks. It required the inclusion of the creation theory in sections dealing with the origin of life. A number of board members argued that there is ample scientific evidence for the creation of the universe by a Supreme Being. But scientists who worked on the textbook guidelines were appalled. The controversy swelled and exploded in 1972. The prestigious National Academy of Science entered the fray. It urged that the creation theory be excluded from the proposed new science textbooks because of its religious nature. The whole controversy is, however, much more complex than a simple confrontation between fundamentalist religion and academic science. Creationists those who believe that a Supreme Being created the earth and life upon it are themselves divided as to when creation occurred, how it occurred, and how to interpret the creation account in the biblical book of Genesis. On the other hand, evolutionists are also divided. They are in disagreement as to the "hows" and "whys" of evolution. Some few theistic evolutionists see a divine hand behind the process of evolution. Most evolutionists believe, however, that evolution is a totally natural, biological process requiring no outside or divine guidance. To illustrate the extreme divergence of opinion on the status of the evolutionary theory, consider what Jean-Franηois Revel, well-known editorialist of the French L'Express, published in an article called "The Science of the Magicians." He wrote: "We now learn that the theory of evolution rests strictly on no proof at all. In a word, we are dealing with a religion." Conversely, the Englishman Julian Huxley has charged: "No serious scientist would deny the fact that evolution has occurred, just as he would not deny the fact that the earth goes around the sun" (Issues in Evolution, vol. III, p. 41). Others, however, favor a spirit of compromise. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher-scientist, sought to reconcile biology with creation through theistic evolution the belief that a Supreme Being guided and directed evolution. Who if anyone is right?
History of Controversy
The creation-evolution controversy has its roots buried in the sands of history. For ages, there has been conflict between "logical" thinkers, whom we may call early scientists, and the established priesthood, whom we may consider early theologians. During the Middle Ages, theologians in Europe asserted that the Bible taught that man was created several thousand years ago, that the earth was flat, and that it was the center of the solar system. People believed that such ideas came from the Bible. When Copernicus demonstrated the revolution of the earth around the sun, his discovery was bitterly denounced. When Galileo of Florence, Italy finally proved the truth of the earth's revolution around the sun via telescope and mathematics, he was accused of heresy and was forced to recant. Such historical events, naturally, turned some scientists of that time and especially the new breed of scientists of later times against the religious authority of the age. Scientists, later, began to study the earth in a systematic, scientific manner. As geologists observed the changing landscapes, fossils, the retreat of glaciers, and the cutting of river channels, many concluded that the earth must be much older than the several thousand years the theologians said it was. Meanwhile, theologians did not agree. Some claimed that the "days" of creation mentioned in Genesis 1 were really long periods of time, perhaps thousands of years in length and were not literal days. Others noted that a time gap of unknown duration seemed to exist between the first two verses of Genesis. But early nineteenth century scientists still viewed the earth in terms of the biblical record. When geologists saw evidences on the earth's surface that seemed to bespeak tremendous cataclysm and destruction, they commonly assigned the evidence to the Noachian deluge. Continued study and scientific progress revealed that the early scientists and theologians who ascribed all geological evidences to the Flood were wrong. Careful observation showed that changes in the geology of the earth, as recorded in the strata, necessitate longer periods of time than a mere 6,000 years. Although geologists recognized that catastrophes indeed occurred in the earth's history, they concluded, almost to a man, that it was folly to ascribe most of the earth's geological strata to one event, such as Noah's Flood. Charles Lyell proposed that naturally operating laws of nature best explain what occurred 'in the geologic record. This idea set the stage for Darwin's theory of organic evolution because evolution requires long periods of time in which to operate, according to modem laws of genetics. From that time, it looked as though natural science had all but buried creation and catastrophism, as taught by the established church. It seemed that only a few die-hard fundamentalists could still believe the biblical account of creation.
From One Dogma to Another
Most scientists who believe in the evolutionary theory, as opposed to creation by an act of God, make several philosophical assumptions. First, they assume, without adequate proof, that medieval "Christianity" received its ideas about creation, the solar system, and the age of the earth from the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth! Most of the cosmological concepts of the Middle Ages, though cloaked in biblical phraseology, came from ancient Babylon not from the Bible. Writes Dreyer in "Medieval Cosmology": "When we turn over the pages of some of these Fathers, we might imagine that we were reading the opinions of some Babylonian priest written down some thousands of years before the Christian era; the ideas are exactly the same, the only difference being that the old Babylonian priest had no way of knowing better" (Munitz, Theories of the Universe, From Babylonian Myth to Modern Science, pp. 115-116). After rejecting the superstitions of the Middle Ages, which professed to teach and explain the Bible and which obstructed scientific progress, the world passed to the concepts of the evolutionary theory. Now, evolutionary theory has replaced medieval cosmology and superstition as accepted fact. But Dr. G. A. Kerkut, professor of physiology and biochemistry at the University of Southampton, England, charges that many of the church's "worst features are still left embedded in present-day studies." He observes that the serious student of the previous centuries, brought up on a theological diet, quoted authorities when he was in doubt. "Intelligent understanding was the last thing required. The undergraduate of today is just as bad; he is still the same opinion-swallowing grub.... In this he differs not one bit from the irrational theology student of the bygone age who would mumble his dogma and hurry through his studies in order to reach the peace and plenty of the comfortable living in the world outside. But what is worse, the present-day student claims to be different from his predecessor in that he thinks scientifically and despises dogma..." (Implications of Evolution, p. 3). According to Dr. Kerkut, the modern student accepts evolutionary theory as a fact and "repeats parrot fashion the views of the current Archbishop of Evolution. In fact he would be behaving like certain of those religious students he affects to despise. He would be taking on faith what he could not intellectually understand..." (ibid, p. 5). Has the modern world indeed passed from one superstition to another? Consider: The definition of dogma is "something held as an established opinion." Dogma is "a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds. " Let's examine merely one crucial tenet of evolutionary theory the alleged key to evolutionary progress itself mutations. Mutations are hereditary alterations in an organism which are transmitted from one generation to another. The theory of evolution states that all the present forms of life gradually evolved, via random mutations, from some original cell which had evolved from protein-like substances in nature. But, creationists ask, are mutations really the long sought key to evolutionary progress?
What Mutations Prove
Biologists have demonstrated that random mutations, in combination with other factors, can lead to new hereditary variations among plants and animals. So far, however, both creationists and evolutionists are in agreement. Biblical creationists do not dispute the fact of mutations or the new hereditary variations that they bring into being. Creationists assert that mutations and recombinations of genetic materials have never been demonstrated to bring about new types or forms of organisms. Such changes as have been observed have always been within the limits of known types or forms of organisms. Some biologists, aware of the fact that an accumulation of very slight, "micro" mutations would not be sufficient to cause the tremendous diversity of living things such as exist on the earth today, have opted for a variation of the mutation theory. They theorize that sudden and major mutations, called macromutations, may account for evolutionary progress. Yet this theory is so lacking in evidence that the vast majority of scientists reject it. Any sudden major mutation, for example, in a delicate, finely tuned organ, such as the eye or ear, would most likely result in the loss of eyesight or hearing ability, particularly when we realize that such a change is completely "at random"! Consider: If even the slightest thing went wrong with the eye, if the retina were missing, or the optic nerve were not properly connected, or the lens were too small, too large, or opaque, or if the dimensions of the eye itself were in error, the eye would be useless! How, then, can one imagine that such a complex organ as the eye evolved "suddenly," in a "giant creative leap"? Clearly, the theory of evolution does not rest on a solid, secure foundation. It is a very tenuous theory, built on much speculation, supposition, guesswork, hopeful hypotheses and faith. From the standpoint of probability alone, the chances against a human being "evolving" from ancient scum three billion years ago, from a few chemicals to a 30-trillion-celled organism of incredible complexity with eyes, ears, nose, teeth, limbs, digestive system, skeletal build, circulatory system, and an astonishing brain with a mental capacity that totally sets man apart from every animal or plant on earth simply surpass the estimated number of atoms in the known universe! Why, then, ask creationists, do evolutionists believe their theory is true and only argue about the technical points involved?
The Human Side of Science
Perhaps the best explanation has been pinpointed by the renowned American naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch, who wrote: "Many biologists have moments when they acknowledge the ultimate mystery and wonder of life but often they are too irrevocably committed to mechanistic dogmas and too afraid of the sneers of their fellows not to hedge even when their own logic compels them to admit that the accepted premises are by no means wholly satisfactory" (The Great Chain of Life, p. 163). This famed naturalist saw the fallible, human side of science the side where human nature, prejudice, opinion, and bias run strong. He discerned that scientists have never been given a rational and scientifically reasonable alternative to evolution. Another author, Fritz Kahn, put the question this way: "We are today under the spell of the evolutionary thinking begun 150 years ago by Kant and Laplace in astronomy, by Thomas Vuckle and Herder in history, by Buffon, Lamarck and Darwin in biology." He continues: "We the children of those generations automatically think in terms of evolution... " (Design of the Universe, p. 202). Plainly, the world has substituted evolutionary dogma in place of medieval theological dogma.
An Alternative to Evolutionary Theory
There is an alternative to both the theological errors of many creationists and the belief of evolutionists. The Bible simply states "In the beginning [at some remote, unspecified period of time] God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). That statement is completely in accord with the empirical knowledge amassed by scientists, astronomers, and biologists. Whenever scientists discuss the question of origins, they admit that science hasn't provided an answer that "proves" how or when the universe or life originated. The question of origins goes beyond scientific testing. Why, then, won't many admit that it is entirely logical, plausible, and sound to consider the biblical statement that God created the universe and life? The explanation is that belief in creation has been too often combined with many unscientific features.
The world has traded in one superstition for another. The iron hand of medieval theologians has been replaced by the educated fist of evolutionists.
Many who believe in creation themselves don't fully grasp the biblical revelation about creation. Scientists and theologians assume that the Bible states the heavens and the earth were created 6,000 years ago. Some Bibles even have such a date in their margins, attributed to a chronology devised by Archbishop Ussher. However, the fact remains that theologians and scientists alike have erred in coming to this conclusion. The Bible nowhere pinpoints the time of creation. It simply says, "In the beginning.... "
Fixity of Species
The second major area of misunderstanding involves the controversy over what theologians and scientists have considered to be the proper definition of the animal and plant "kinds" mentioned in Genesis, each of which reproduces "after his kind" (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, etc.). At the recent convention of the National Association of Biology Teachers in California, it was evident that evolutionists assumed that the Genesis "kinds" referred to every last species and variety as being individually created by divine fiat. They branded this concept of biology as preposterous and totally illogical. They said it directly contradicted observations in the natural world. These same evolutionists were surprised to learn that modern creationists do not believe in such "fixity of species" at all. The simple biblical statement, the creationists pointed out, is that each "kind" reproduces after its own "kind." The boundaries between different "kinds" are not specifically defined in the Bible. That is a proper area for biologists to investigate. The geological record itself has failed to yield indisputable evidence of continuous change. After over 100 years of intensive research, the gaps between the basic kinds of plants and animals still exist in the fossil record! But let's go a step further. Simply because each "kind" reproduces after its own kind does not mean there can be no variation within an original Genesis kind. There are many varieties of dogs, horses, and cats. Yet each of these varieties is still a member of the same original kind. A Siamese cat is still a cat; a Clydesdale is still a horse; a Holstein is still a cow; a French poodle is still a dog! These variations are not a proof of organic evolution. Variations are merely new varieties arising within the original Genesis kinds; they do not constitute evolution into entirely new kinds. Variations are due both to mutations and to the hereditary characteristics of plants and animals, and variations are not entirely new forms of life! For example, Genesis states that God created a man and a woman one couple Adam and Eve. It further records that Eve is the "mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20). This means that all the races or varieties of humanity are descended from Adam and Eve and constitute "mankind." Thus there is no conflict between the biblical record and the facts of biology.
A New Religion
Most have never understood the true biblical record. Few have ever looked into the Bible to see what it really says. Many misguided theologians have misinterpreted the Bible, and equally misinformed scientists, seeing that the theologians were wrong, assumed the Bible was also wrong. Consequently, evolutionists rejected religion, but in so doing they invented a new religious faith the dogma of evolution, cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." Belief in evolution fits this definition. The world has traded in one superstition for another. Religious dogma has given way before the onslaught of evolutionary faith. The iron hand of medieval theologians has been replaced by the educated fist of evolutionists. Both the modern religion of evolution and the medieval religion inherited from ancient Babylon are in error. Overlooked and misunderstood by both sides is the simple, factual, logical record of the Bible, which squares with the known facts of science!