Communicating truth with grace
Published: 29 September 2013 (GMT+10)
Part of what we do at CMI is answer skeptical enquirers “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). For example, James H. wrote in response to our Evolution vs God review:
All this creationism [profanity deleted] makes my skin crawl. You ask for empirical evidence, but yet provide none of your own.
Evolution is as much a mathematical certainty as it is a theory. Random mutations in DNA and structures in cells cause new parts for organisms. Should these parts be beneficial for gene replication, then they are passed on, and if not are discarded. Over a long enough time scale, probabilities of useful mutations tend to 1. That’s just how probability works. Just because you can’t observe changes between species doesn’t make them not there.
I would certainly not call the theory of evolution “fact”, but the overwhelming amount of evidence for it, and the remarkably underwhelming lack of evidence against says a lot for its credibility. Creationism is a relic clinging on in the hearts and minds of those too misinformed to think logically and follow what observations of our past tell us is true.
Creationists say science can’t test what happened in the past with the same precision and certainty of present event, and this means we can’t be certain about evolution. This is all very true, but in the same sense, we can never know anything beyond our own experience. What we see and hear. So any history, recorded or not, under your argument, cannot be known to be true. For all you know the creation happened the moment of your earliest memory.
In your special little world, the earth and the skies were created just for us. But isn’t that incredibly egotistical. To think all this mystery and splendor was created for our viewing pleasure. We’re far too young and stupid as a species to fully understand where we come from, and that’s okay. But believing some misogynist in the sky magicked us into existence because it makes you feel special is not moving towards the answer.
Lita Cosner responds:
Dear Mr H.,
Thanks for writing in. One of the central arguments against the accumulation of mutations driving evolution is that mutations are the biological equivalent of rust and dings in a car, or typos in a manuscript. This has been referred to as Genetic Entropy and it is a powerful refutation of the “mutation + selection = Darwinian evolution” axiom. Just as rust and dings won’t turn a Beetle into a Porsche, or even a better version of a Beetle, mutations can break a lot of things, but we don’t have any examples of it adding things on the level of giving a sea creature lungs and legs, or any evidence that that’s what happened in the past (see Can mutations create new information?).
You say “over a long enough time scale” there is a near certainty of useful mutations. But I’ll point you to Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, written by Dr John Sanford, who was a Cornell professor for over 25 years (who can certainly not be accused of ignorance in his own area of expertise; he is the inventor of the Gene Gun, after all). It argues precisely the opposite. To summarize:
- Nearly all mutations are deleterious, even if they don’t all have a strong effect.
- Natural selection only works at the level of the organism. Imagine if you had to choose
the best instruction manual for constructing a bicycle, but based only on the bicycles
constructed from the various manuals. Some would be easy to eliminate; they might have the
handlebars on the wrong end, or have a missing chain. But most bicycles would look okay;
you wouldn’t know how many typos the manuals had, or if they included some needless
complications in the construction process; all you can look at is how well the bicycle
The point is, much like that, natural selection can only ‘see’ the organism, not its genome. And new discoveries regarding epigenetics show that there’s much more going on than simply the genes that the organism has. There are so many factors ‘masking’ most mutations that natural selection simply can’t ‘see’ the mutation, unless it’s big enough to kill the organism outright or substantially affect its functioning.
- Since nearly all mutations are deleterious, and since most mutations are having too small an effect to be selected out of the population, that means that there is an unstoppable accumulation of deleterious mutations at the population level.
- Mutations are not causing us to evolve; rather, they will eventually cause the extinction of every single organism if left unchecked, and the more complicated the organism and the slower the reproductive rate the more likely it will go extinct. The only reason we believe humans will not go extinct is we believe that Jesus will return before this is able to happen.
It’s interesting that you would call evolution a mathematical certainty but not a fact; those would almost amount to the same thing, wouldn’t they?
CMI has more creation scientists (with PhDs in real scientific disciplines earned from major universities) than any other Christian ministry we know of; can you point out how they are misinformed or thinking illogically?
Our argument is not that we can never know about a historical event that we have not personally observed; we argue that we can only know about such an event via a trustworthy record. And we would argue that the Bible is such a record.
It would be incredibly egotistical to think that the universe was created ‘just for us’ and ‘for our viewing pleasure’. In fact, the Bible tells us that all things were created through and for Christ (Colossians 1:16). You say we’re far too young and too stupid as a species to understand where we came from—as you lean on scientists’ understanding about where we came from, and use that to repudiate Scripture, which claims to be from a superior Being, God Himself! But if we are so young and stupid, how can we know that we are to a point where our evolved abilities can tell us anything about our history at all? What if we are still too stupid to figure out reality and evolutionary theory is just a trick of our imaginations? For all we know, life could have been seeded on earth at some ‘advanced’ stage by aliens and then allowed to progress/evolve to the point where we actually believe we came from slime. Perhaps it will be millions of years more before we come to the point where we can see that we were created not by random chance but by intelligent design, albeit aliens. Where, exactly, in evolutionary theory does it say that we can understand evolutionary theory?
We believe, in fact, that the answer is that God created us and everything else. We believe that truth is written in the human heart so that we are without excuse if we deny Him (see Romans 1). God created human beings perfect, in a perfect world, with everything we could ever need. But our first parents, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God and sinned, bringing the death sentence on themselves and their descendants—because each one of us rebels against God as well.
We believe we deserve to die and go to Hell because we have sinned against our infinitely holy God. He would have been perfectly justified if He had decided to leave us to that fate. But God is a God of love, and He wanted to open the way for salvation and restoration back to a right relationship with Him. So He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth. He lived a perfectly holy life, obeying every law perfectly and never sinning. Then He took the death penalty in our place. Because He was God, He was able to bear the unimaginable wrath of God against sin. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day; that is proof alone that He is who he said he was–God. Now anyone who repents and trusts in Christ for salvation can be assured of eternal life.
James, I hope this response demonstrates that while you may continue to disagree with us, we are not as unreasoning and gullible as you make us out to be. In fact, this response is far more reasoned and less emotional than your message to us was. I hope at the very least it gives you some ‘food for thought’.
Thanks Lita. Great answer!
I was reading through the comments under your message and thought I'd just make a comment in reply to one other comment. Doug L of the US urges stronger, more forceful language including mocking and ridicule. I would argue (as one who opposed creationism while at Uni) that if anyone is writing messages to CMI then part of them is seeking answers and the method of answering (1Pet3:15) is critical (as it was for me). Thanks Carl Wieland for being gentle and respectful with me! As David R. commented, gentleness and respect (being Christ-like) draws people closer to the truth rather than pushing them away. Who knows the plans God has for those who are currently opposing creationism? Some may become future staff members of CMI!!
To make skin crawl, you must disturb or bother; frighten or disgust. Much as James suggests it is disgust, there is a serious element of fear here. If creation is true, then those who are enemies of Christ have a serious problem. Their entire world is ready to be taken away, not by a fictional zombie apocalypse, but by the sudden wrath of God. It is that vague feeling of paranoia you've had all your life suddenly made real. It's the explanation you never wanted to hear. It's the red pill in the matrix. It's the man with the sandwich board proclaiming the end of the world actually starting to make sense. If your skin is crawling, you really should pause and wonder why ...
James H. has the prerogative to believe in evolution and call himself an evolutionist. But what he can't explain in that context is from whence comes his spirit of anger? Why would he have a spirit of anything? What is 'spirit' in the evolutionary model? His being angry (including expletives in written communication is telling) is irrational. Yet he claims to hold the high ground regards rational explanation. For the life of me, I can't even come up with a rational explanation why evolutionists even write CMI unless they do NOT really believe as they claim. They shouldn't care. An evolutionist, as their prophet Richard Dawkins has noted, should reflect indifference. I agree with Lita that in this sort of exchange we remain calm, even to tell someone they are headed for hell; their belief or unbelief will not change reality nor their accountability. It is true Jesus got in people's faces and spoke harshly on occasion, to self righteous religious people!
I'm still weighing up where I stand on Creationism/theistic evolution (don't hate me), but I LOVE the grace and reasoning applied to this response.
I see so much "debate" on social media that at the end of the day is just "cheerleading". When people take the time to reason a position, whether I agree with them or not, I hugely respect their taking the time to reason with grace, and I might add, I consider their position far more seriously.
Well done, Ms Cosner. I will not make additional comments to try to convince others of my own erudition, nor try to contradict your excellent discourse in response to an unkind critic! Your response was kind, but firm, and abounding in rationality!
Our good friend here seems to be completely oblivious of the elephant in the living room. Because he cannot see it, he has not provided any explanation of its presence. This monstrous animal which fills the room is the brilliant arrangement which makes evolution even remotely possible. In order for evolution to take place at all it requires certain features. There must be a near perfect system of reproduction in place. So perfect that it can reproduce progeny for milleniums but not quite that perfect that it cannot make the odd mistake. This successful reproduction must be driven by a perfect transferable code, a code which can be recorded, read, interpreted, constructed and written again into the next generation. Until this system is in place, in all its phases, the evolutionary process, based on mistakes, cannot even commence. It's like running lotto without a lotto machine, without balls, without numbers on the balls etc. Without any of this gear, any talk of possible winning numbers is superfluous. Evolution can only commence when there are generational copies being made which can make mistakes. No generations, no perfect copies - no mistakes. Evolution builds the stairs only from the first landing up. Any life which haphazardly commences must be able to reproduce itself for only when it does can it begin to evolve between generations. It will simply die out for lack of children.
Well done! Your gracious response to one who "will not endure sound doctrine" (2 Timothy 4: 3) is an excellent example to "be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (vs. 2)
May the ministry of CMI continue to be blessed of God.
I think there is something that everyone - both readers and authors at Creation.com - should keep at the front of their minds.
It's laid down very clearly in Jonathan Sarfati's article http://creation.com/the-authority-of-scripture. It's under point 7.3 of 'Objections refuted, right at the end of the article.
'Creation Ministries International accepts the authority of Scripture as an axiom or presupposition: i.e. as a starting point or assumption that requires no proof, and is the basis for all reasoning.'
Once we accept this then the discussion (at least that aspect of it) between you and James H becomes irrelevant.
When you say:
'We argue that we can only know about such an event via a trustworthy record. And we would argue that the Bible is such a record.'
you are incorrect. You don't argue it; you merely assert it.
I'd suggest readers and writers would save themselves a lot of effort if they understood that CMI is on principle unable to follow any path of thought that denies that the Bible is the true word of God.
While we do assume the Bible as a trustworthy record, that does not mean that we do not have arguments or reasons for believing that it is. For instance, the Bible's history has been shown to be extremely accurate, at the very least on par with other ancient historical records (of course, we believe it to be quite a bit more than that!).
Thanks for your excellent answer to James H's comments. The problem with evolutionists is that they think that evolution is proven by science. I have encountered no such evidence. All that science demonstrates is that creatures reproduce after their own kinds, otherwise Drosophila melanogaster should be a rhinoceros by now. Mutation studies have fallen flat on their faces, eg 50,000 generations in the Lenski E coli experiment, have been resounding failures in providing any evidence that mutations are behind the spectacular biological diversity in nature. The fossil record is no friend to evolution. Over one million fossils are available and not one fulfills the requirements of evolutionary theory that demands change over time via mutation and genetic drift. In addition, dinosaur soft tissues demolish the geological column, since index fossils of dinosaurs, such as T rex or triceratops, have yielded ds-DNA, blood cells and other 'stretchy' tissues that clearly are not 65 million years old. And how about monkeys to man evolution? The Y chromosome MSY of chimp and man are shockingly described as being as dissimilar as chicken and human autosomal cells at 310 million years of separation. Goodness me! That's at supposedly 6 million years of separation, if one were to believe evolutionary dogma. No thanks. The Truth is better and withstands scientific scrutiny.
So, where, other than in wild imaginings and wishful thinking, is the evidence for evolution?
Respectfully and gently is the way to go!
Lita Cosner's reply was good and even though she did cover Mr H's challenge, I think it could have been more succinct and forceful. His initial argument was so flawed that I wanted to see it dealt with directly.
First, DNA point mutations do not "cause new parts" for organisms. They cause flaws in existing parts. So his initial premise is bad, or perhaps in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, “not even wrong.” A “part” with a missing or broken piece does not constitute a new part and that’s all that a point mutation can do: break a piece of a part or cause the piece to be missing.
Second, whether they're passed on or not has nothing to do with gene replication and everything to do with whether the ORGANISM survives and reproduces. Individuals with subtle point mutations in their DNA can and do find mates and reproduce. So the harmful mutations are NOT "discarded", they usually accumulate within the gene pool.
This person was shooting his mouth off without having real knowledge of the subject and not giving it any cogent thought. And this gets to my criticism of using 1 Peter 3:15 in a situation like this. The verse addresses people who ask you for a reason. This is obviously NOT talking about profane individuals whose only motive is to rant, rave, or blaspheme.
Sometimes we need to be more a little more combative. Consider these examples:
a) the Lord’s admonition to not cast our pearls before swine,
b) the proverb which says “answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in own conceits” and,
c) the righteous actions of Elijah on Mount Carmel where he ridiculed the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreh.
There is a time and place to use gentleness and respect but there is also a time and place to use a “slap upside the head.” Mr H needed the figurative slap.
Thanks for these thoughts. Of course, there is a matter of judgment regarding when to "answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" or when to "answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself." There is a common misconception, however, that to be forceful one has to do the former, whereas sometimes a respectful yet firm response has a more powerful effect. But that I chose in this instance to give a gentle answer does not mean that I would never use a more overtly forceful style.
Thank you for this very well written article. On this much debated subject your article is the best with great answers.
Praise the Lord for the truth in your answer!
Praise the Lord for people, saved by His grace, who are prepared to stand up for Truth (thus Jesus) in a public forum such as this!
Praise the Lord for opened eyes, hearts and minds to recognize truth!
Praise the Lord Jesus for His love, mercy and righteousness!
I'd love to know what his reply to this lovely, well-written and gracious response is.
Are you seriously suggesting that rust and dings are the equivalent of mutations? Surely a better analogy would be the addition of tiny improvements in braking systems, or slightly better paint formulations. Those tiny but cumulative improvements have allowed the car to evolve in a relatively short time from rickety rust buckets to reliable, fast and safe machines. Yet in their day the rickety rust buckets were more than fine, and themselves had evolved from earlier technologies (engines, wheels, sources of energy etc), which in turn had arisen on the back of even earlier technology.
You seem to be seriously underplaying the role of natural selection and there is still no clear coherent explanation of what you mean by information other than seeming to suggest that everything needs to be in place straight away, which no scientist would say.
The big error in your comment is that you're very skillfully applying evolutionary metaphor to machines that were quite clearly designed by master engineers. If evolutionary metaphors apply so well to machines which we know were designed, then simply being able to imagine an evolutionary progression in living organisms also does not indicate that they actually evolved.
You comment also fails to take into account modern genetics theory. The fact that nearly all population geneticists accept that most mutations are slightly deleterious is not debatable. Whether are not they are correct is debatable, but you would have to take that up with them. See the following:
You also fail to see that today's non-rust bucket will be tomorrow's rust bucket. Today's rust buckets were not rust buckets when they came out of the factory! It was the rust that 'killed' them, and it will kill today's top of the line car too. Even if you could make a rust-proof plastic car, it will still wear out.
You are also using a naive view of 'car evolution'. When did disk brakes evolve from drum brakes, and what step-wise changes occurred in its evolution? Disk brakes were, of course, a 'leap' caused by tens of thousands of hours of intelligent design work and millions of dollars in capital development. Now what about antilock brakes, airbags, automatic transmissions, and fuel injection? There is no gradual, stepwise evolution in automobile design!
For some information about information, see:
Thank you for this answer. I always learn from your articles and the way you answer people. Having serious Christian scientists is really encouraging. May God bless you indeed.
What a fantastic answer. Very informative. In my own experience I'm seeing that the more evidence points towards creation the more verbally violent and upset people get. The reason for this is because if the beginning of the Bible is literally true, then the end of it must be true as well, and that is what the secular world is trying to deny - a judgement day and the resulting consequences of sin.
God bless you all and thank you so much for this ministry.
Excellent response Lita.
There is none so blind as those who don't want to see.