Evolution v the reliability of the Bible
Photo by Stephen J. Sullivan, sxc.hu
Vance B. of the USA, a critic with a friendly tone, asks a number of questions about the evidence against evolution, does this imply creation, and why Genesis is important for biblical authority.
Hi! I read with great interest an issue of your magazine, and I liked it very much, even though you may consider me ‘the enemy’, as a classically trained scientist who tends to believe in evolution.
An opponent not an enemy
I noticed the two obvious themes that emerge from the magazine:
1. There is little evidence for evolution;
2. If we cannot take the Genesis account at face value, then we must question other parts of the Bible as well.
Apologies if I missed other themes, but this is all I got from it so far.
There is much more: evidence for design, the Flood and the young universe, interviews with top scientists who believe the Bible, the importance for morality and ethics, and the baneful effects of consistent application of evolution on society and the beneficial effects of Christianity.
And I certainly agree with each of those two points. The trouble is with the implications. Because of (1), creation must be true. That is, let us confuse the absence of evidence with evidence of absence, declare that evolution is not only unproven but also demonstrably false, and then substitute for it creation. As if creation is the only alternative. I cannot at the moment come up with a plausible third possibility, but it is not all that clear to me that we have exhausted all possibilities with just these two.
They are only two alternatives in the broad sense: either we were made or we weren’t! It’s notable that many evolutionists want to abolish the Law of Excluded Middle when it suits them.
They are only two alternatives in the broad sense: either we were made or we weren’t! It’s notable that many evolutionists want to abolish the Law of Excluded Middle when it suits them. However, Evolutionists from Darwin to today have used the same form of argument, i.e., ‘God wouldn’t have done it that way, therefore evolution must explain it.’ It’s notable that Darwin often used pseudo-theological arguments against design rather than direct arguments for evolution. An example is in Rats! A toothless argument for evolution. But this form of argument presupposes the ‘two-model approach’, i.e., that creation and evolution are the only alternatives, so evidence against creation is evidence for evolution. So they can’t complain when creationists do the same.
Also, the argument for creation does not just depend on the falsity of evolution, but is based on analogy, a common scientific procedure. E.g. we observe that a certain feature, IC (irreducible complexity), is possessed by biological features as well as by many human artefacts, for example. We know from the human artefacts that intelligence can cause IC. Furthermore, wherever we know the origin of something from historical eye-witness reports, we know that—without exception—intelligence is responsible for IC.
We do have an eye-witness to the origin of irreducible complexity in biology: the Designer, who has revealed what He did in His Word, the Bible.
So when we see biological systems with IC, even though we didn’t see or witness their origin, it makes good analogical sense that this feature likewise originated from intelligence. (And see my recent response to Who designed the Designer? ).
Moreover, it is even less clear to me that we have proven that evolution cannot be true.
It depends what you mean by ‘proof’. The famous British evolutionist (and Stalinist) J.B.S. Haldane claimed in a debate in 1949 that evolution could never produce ‘various mechanisms, such as the wheel and magnet, which would be useless till fairly perfect.’ However, this falsifiability criterion has been fulfilled. We have found rotary motors (i.e. wheels) in the bacterial flagellum and ATP synthase. Also, turtles, monarch butterflies, migrating birds, and even bacteria use magnetic sensors for navigation and so fulfil Haldane’s other criterion.
But would Haldane have had a change of heart if he had been alive to see these discoveries? Many evolutionists rule out intelligent design a priori, such as Richard Lewontin, so the evidence, overwhelming as it is, would probably have no effect.
Second, because of (2), Genesis must be true. Logically, if A implies B, then not B implies not A (modus tollens).
A false Genesis account (A) implies the falsity of other parts of the Bible (B).
This is somewhat moot, because we at CMI basically use a deductive approach of treating the biblical propositions as axioms, a presuppositional approach. All philosophical systems start with axioms (presuppositions), or unprovable propositions accepted as true, and deduce theorems from them. Therefore Christians should not be faulted for having axioms.
As far as your point is concerned, there is a problem, because the rest of the Bible treats Genesis as real history. This is part of an inductive argument for inerrancy, as are articles such as The authority of Scripture and Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture.
New Testament scholar and inerrantist Dr Daniel Wallace, in his article My Take on Inerrancy, cites the famous 19th century inerrantist B.B. Warfield’s book Inspiration and Authority of the Bible:
Now if this doctrine is to be assailed on critical grounds, it is very clear that, first of all, criticism must be required to proceed against the evidence on which it is based. This evidence, it is obvious, is twofold.
First, there is the exegetical evidence that the doctrine held and taught by the Church is the doctrine held and taught by the Biblical writers themselves.
And secondly, there is the whole mass of evidence—internal and external, objective and subjective, historical and philosophical, human and divine—which goes to show that the Biblical writers are trustworthy as doctrinal guides. If they are trustworthy teachers of doctrine and if they held and taught this doctrine, then this doctrine is true, and is to be accepted and acted upon as true by us all.
We don’t claim that one can’t be a Christian and a biblical errantist (or evolutionist or long-ager). Many people are saved despite ‘blessed inconsistency’—there is no hint in the Bible that the ability to hold mutually contrary thoughts in the same skull is an unforgivable sin.
In that case, any objections brought against the doctrine from other spheres of inquiry are inoperative; it being a settled logical principle that so long as the proper evidence by which a proposition is established remains unrefuted, all so-called objections brought against it pass out of the category of objections to its truth into the category of difficulties to be adjusted to it.
If criticism is to assail this doctrine, therefore, it must proceed against and fairly overcome one or the other element of its proper proof. It must either show that this doctrine is not the doctrine of the Biblical writers, or else it must show that the Biblical writers are not trustworthy as doctrinal guides.
Wallace is thus not so hard on errantist New Testament scholar Dr Bruce Metzger. Metzger thinks the Bible is substantially accurate but not inerrant, because he doesn’t think that the Bible authors taught inerrancy. So he disagrees with Warfield’s first point. But as shown above, the Bible authors really did teach it, and Wallace agrees that a high Christology implies a high bibliology.
Wallace points out that not all those with high Christology make this connection. And although he believes in inerrancy he underplays its importance somewhat compared to CMI.
And we know the rest of the Bible to be true (not B), so therefore we must logically conclude that Genesis must also be true (not A). Missing is any modicum of evidence that the rest of the Bible is true.
This ignores the evidence adduced in the articles under Q&A Bible.
One could argue, in fact, that the part which matters most would be Revelation, or the ultimate weighing in. Strip away the exclusivity and declare that anyone can get into heaven, and then the rest of the Bible becomes fables and history, am I right?
Not sure what the point is here. Exclusivity is in Christ, since He said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). The apostle Peter said, ‘This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ So no one should claim that exclusivity in salvation is unchristian.
It is only because belief in the entire Bible is deemed necessary for salvation that one need take it so seriously.
Note that we don’t claim that one can’t be a Christian and a biblical errantist (or evolutionist or long-ager). Many people are saved despite ‘blessed inconsistency’—there is no hint in the Bible that the ability to hold mutually contrary thoughts in the same skull is an unforgivable sin. People are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Eph. 2:8–9), and the content of this saving faith is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, died for our sins, was buried and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). See also:
- Is it possible to be a Christian and an evolutionist? A leading creationist answers an often-asked question
- The big picture: Being wrong about the six days of creation does not automatically mean someone is not a Christian. But if you think that makes it unimportant, stand back and look at the big picture .
- Do I have to believe in a literal creation to be a Christian?
- Can Christians believe evolution?
Clinton Richard Dawkins
Taken as a premise, Revelations would suggest the truth of the rest of the Bible. But again, is Revelations a premise, or a statement (set of statements) we hold up to scrutiny? And if we do wish to scrutinize it, then how can we do so empirically?
Denominational and eschatological issues are outside our mandate, but see End-times and Early-times.
I’d love to visit both places, above and below, and interview the residents to ask them what got them in. Short of that, I am not clear on what to do. Nor is Pascal’s wager a satisfactory replacement.
Why not? Did you refute the article on this in the current issue (by Russell Steyne, Creation 30(1):49, 2007).
Well, I say all of this not to offend you, but rather to try to clarify the basis for my confusion.
Nobody ever suggested that evolution was exclusively random happenstance. Rather, it is the overlaying of random changes with selection mechanisms that ensure progress towards better designs.
We know perfectly well what evolutionists claim, and why it doesn’t work in the real world. While the evolutionary Apostle of Atheism, Clinton R. Dawkins, has publicized computer programs that supposedly show how cumulative selection can generate new information, there are many flaws pointed out in Weasel, a flexible program for investigating deterministic computer demonstrations of evolution. Dawkins had a target sequence programmed in advance, and also used unrealistically high selection coefficients and mutation rates, and unrealistically tiny genomes and numbers of offspring. When realistic values are programmed into the simulation, the sequence doesn’t converge and instead error catastrophe results.
I read an analogy with a watch (maybe you read this too?). So with that watch mentioned essay, it did form precisely from these chance occurrences that are rejected. Not putting the parts in a bag and shaking it, but rather incremental changes, with sun dials and hour glasses as intermediate steps. The selection improved the design from simplistic to complex over a long time. Intelligent design was part of the process, but it was not intelligent design in the sense of ‘let there be a watch’.
It certainly was not random changes that led to improvement because of ‘buyer selection’, but considerable intelligent input! Evolution is alleged to have occurred without intelligence. If you want to argue the case for organic evolution more strongly, point out that unlike living things, sundials and watches don’t produce little sundials and watches. But this highlights the huge problem of the origin of the first self-reproducing cell, since natural selection can’t operate until there is already reproductive machinery to pass on the selected information.
So far as I know, watches were not always with us, taken onto the ark with the other species. They evolved over time. Of course, intelligent design could have been responsible for the natural selection that resulted in a watch. This could be the mechanism by which He does His work, meaning! that it is not one or the other, but both. Possible?
From Wikipedia. Released under the GFDL.
Not sure what the point is here. While theistic evolutionists exist, theistic evolution is an oxymoron. Evolution says that things made themselves without God, so theistic evolution really says that God made things without God. See also these articles on the logical and biblical flaws of this thinking.
BTW, the Ark passengers comprised the kinds of land vertebrate animals, not ‘species’. See How did the animals fit on Noah’s Ark? and What are the evolution and biblical creation models?
Just to be clear, I am not stating that evolution is emphatically true. I am taking this position with you more as a devil’s advocate, to raise points that you can hopefully address. Were I writing to Professor Dawkins, I would instead be pointing out the inadaquecies of the argument for evolution.
There should be plenty of ammunition on this site.
At the end of the day, all I want is the truth, with no preconceived notion either way (well, I do have preconceived notions, as I mentioned earlier, but I am trying to put them aside and argue from first principles only). Thank you very much.
You might wish to consider whether the ‘first principles’ of atheism can provide a basis for arguing in the first place. The very idea of ‘argument’ presupposes rationality and voluntary thought. But why should natural selection result in rationality, when it only works on reproductive survivability? And if our thoughts are just the motions of atoms obeying the fixed laws of chemistry, how can thought be free?