Evolution a replacement religion?

CC BY-SA 3.0David-Gelernter
Prof David Hillel Gelernter

How scientific evidence gets ignored


Published: 12 January 2021 (GMT+10)
First published in Prayer News, CMI-UK/Europe, October 2020.

Chances are you may not have heard of renowned writer and Yale University professor David Gelernter (School of Engineering and Applied Science). He has been making waves since acknowledging that he now rejects Darwinian evolution. In an interview organised in 2019 by the prestigious Hoover Institution (Stanford University, California), Gelernter lamented the obstruction of free speech experienced by anyone trying to voice alternatives to evolution, such as Intelligent Design. Worse still, he said, some pro-Darwinian academics actually seek to destroy the careers of dissenters:

“It’s a bitter rejection … a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion. I’ve seen that happen again and again. ‘I’m a Darwinist, don’t you say a word against it, or, I don’t wanna hear it, period.’”1

Elsewhere, in his review of Stephen Meyer’s excellent book Darwin’s Doubt (see our review here), Gelernter makes this interesting remark about the passionate defenders of evolution:

“They remind us of the extent to which Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.”2

Everyone knows, of course, that the displaced religion referred to by the good professor is Christianity, more specifically, that which has a high view of Scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God— including the belief in supernatural Creation, resting upon a grammatical-historical understanding of Genesis.

Gelernter has many predecessors (including secular humanists) who have admitted the religious and philosophical nature of Darwinian evolution.3 But surely evolution is science, not “an emergency religion” as Gelernter claims? According to the OED, the word ‘religion’ includes “a pursuit, interest, or movement, followed with great devotion”, and “action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for god, gods, or similar superhuman power”.4 If you substitute ‘god’ for the alleged power of Darwin’s theory (in any of its modern forms) and factor in the zeal and fervour of its adherents, these definitions fit perfectly.

Christians are often despised by secular writers and commentators for their faith-based acceptance of biblical miracles because these cannot be scientifically tested. Yet these same antagonists get very frustrated if their own beliefs are subjected to the same scrutiny! They want an exemption, expecting their own unsupported beliefs (their non-scientific assertions) to be accepted without question or criticism.

Keeping the faith in spite of contrary science

The many research reports from all fields of science provide ample reasons for people to question both neo-Darwinian evolution and deep time. Nevertheless, as the following very recent examples illustrate, many still cling religiously to their naturalistic worldview.

Manifestly mistaken over millions of years

“New research published … in Proceedings of the Royal Society B highlights dozens of amber fossils from the Cretaceous period that still contain evidence of their occupant’s original colours. Bursting in metallic blues, purples, and greens, these ancient insects are both alien and oddly familiar.”5
Clarke et al, 2018, doi:10.3390/d11010001; CC BY 4.0.Acalyptopygus-brevicornis
An example of an insect in amber from Myanmar Burma), the Acalyptopygus brevicornis weevil.

Allegedly this amber from Myanmar is 99 million years old but the entrapped insects look very “familiar” because they’re just like their living counterparts. It’s strong evidence against the ‘dates’ assigned to these exquisitely preserved creatures. No matter what level of fossil preservation is discovered, few scientists think to question their evolutionary worldview, as with the discovery of subcellular structures—nuclei and chromosomes—in a duck-billed dinosaur bone:

“Our data support the hypothesis that calcified cartilage is preserved at the molecular level in this Mesozoic material, and suggest that remnants of once-living chondrocytes [cartilage cells], including their DNA, may preserve for millions of years.”6

This is a denial of the results of scientific experiments that have eliminated even the possibility of such preservation.7 Instead, it is very strong evidence that these dinosaurs lived only thousands of years ago.

Hesitant about hybrids

Scientists who subscribe to biblical creation have long predicted there should be many instances of hybridisation between diverse members of the same created kinds. We now know, for example, that all species of horses, asses, donkeys and zebras (family Equidae) can form hybrids. Six of the eight bear species (family Ursidae) can hybridise, as can 81% of all 149 species of ducks, geese and swans (family Anatidae).8 This confirms that these creatures diversified only during the last few thousand years. In view of this high level of cross-breeding (often with fertile hybrids), claims that they separated millions of years ago are scientific nonsense (see, e.g. the surprising ‘belwhal’). Fish scientists were recently astonished by the unlikely crossbreeding of two very different species:

Daniel Döhne, CC BY-SA 3.0Russian-Sturgeon
Russian Sturgeon
Timothy Knepp, public domainAmerican-Paddlefish
American Paddlefish

The offspring varied in appearance but have all been dubbed ‘sturddlefish’!9 Aquatic ecologist Solomon David exclaimed, “I did a double-take when I saw it. … I just didn’t believe it. I thought, hybridisation between sturgeon and paddlefish? There’s no way.”10

Indeed, the Russian sturgeon and the American paddlefish look very different—evolutionists believe they have been isolated for countless millions of years. But the evidence says no, instead confirming the creationist expectation of great diversity within each created kind.

A replacement religion

Far too often, popular science is reported in a way that portrays evolution as hard science—whether radio, news outlets, social media or magazines. Refreshingly honest admissions among evolutionary writers are few and far between, but there are some. Writing about human racial origins Angela Saini acknowledges:

“It’s impossible to escape our beliefs, our upbringing, our environment, even the pressure of wanting to be correct, when it comes to interpreting the facts. Our stories get in the way.”11

Quite right, and we have seen supporting examples of just how true this is for many who tenaciously hold onto evolution. They seldom question the narrative because it is their substitute origins story. It permits the secular ‘faithful’ to ignore the claims of the Creator (see also Getting behind the evolution façade).

But does this replacement religion offer its devotees answers to the big questions of life:

  • Questions of origins—Where did we come from?
  • Questions of meaning—Why am I here?
  • Questions of destiny—What happens after I die?

Many claim that evolution does answer these questions. While it is fundamentally an alternative theory of origins it is far more than that, as a re-reading of David Gelernter’s earlier-quoted words confirms.1,2 For example, British physicist and TV personality Brian Cox (a confessed humanist) admits:

“… there is self-evidently meaning in the universe because my own existence, the existence of those I love, and the existence of the entire human race means something to me. I think this because I have had the remarkable luxury of spending time in education.”12

Sadly, he rejects the existence of his Creator, the One from whom life emanates and whose revealed scriptures give the only reliable answers about the meaning of human existence and destiny. David Gelernter is surely right in his opinion that “Darwinism is … an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.” But that spiritual craving in human beings can only be satisfied by embracing the undiluted truth of the Creation/Fall/Gospel message of the Bible. Compromises like ‘God used evolution’ will not do.

The truth and nothing but the truth

A. E. Wilder-Smith (1915–1995) was a Swiss-born, British scientist with a brilliant mind and three earned doctorates. His many books presented a strong scientific challenge to evolution, but he also opposed the idea of theistic evolution. He pointed out that such an idea was contrary to Jesus’ healing miracles:

“If God worked by that way, that method [of evolution], then Jesus ought never to have preached the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus is the Creator. All things were made by him and for him, for his glory and enjoyment. Now if he made the world by the process of eliminating the handicapped and the sick, then he ought never to have said, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ … You see, everything which is Christian, everything which is really the mind of Christ, has been cut out if you say that it was done by the mechanism of neo-Darwinian theory; that is, by chance mutation and natural selection sorting out the unfitted from the fit, in order that the race may rise.”13

Wilder-Smith’s point is clear: Jesus constantly healed sick people, but this is diametrically opposed to theistic evolution, for this entails that God created via a process where only the fit survive. Creation by the Word of God (Jesus) reveals His vast wisdom and intelligence, the very antithesis of anything haphazard or accidental. Souls who are troubled by the misery, sickness and suffering of this world are desperate for answers. There is no substitute for the healing, transformative grace of Jesus Christ, the Creator who became the Saviour.

References and notes

  1. Prestigiacomo, A., Renowned Yale Prof Leaves Darwinism, Says Intelligent Design ‘Absolutely Serious’ Theory, dailywire.com, 22 August 2019. Return to text.
  2. Gelernter, D., Giving up Darwin, claremontreviewofbooks.com, Spring 2019. Return to text.
  3. CMI has written many articles about this—simply do a search on creation.com using the words ‘evolution religion’. Return to text.
  4. Oxford English Dictionary, oed.com. Return to text.
  5. Dvorsky, G., Incredible amber fossils reveal the true colours of insects, gizmodo.com, 1 July 2020. Return to text.
  6. Bailleul, A.M. et al, Evidence of proteins, chromosomes and chemical markers of DNA in exceptionally preserved dinosaur cartilage, National Science Review 7(4):815–822, April 2020 | doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwz206. Return to text.
  7. The following paper is just one example, which showed no DNA should survive after 20,000 years at 10°C, and no collagen protein either; Nielssen-Marsch, C., Biomolecules in fossil remains, Multidisciplinary approach to endurance, The Biochemist, June 2002, pp. 12–14. Return to text.
  8. Tyler, S., chapter 9 of: Theistic Evolution: A scientific, philosophical and theological critique, Edited by Moreland J.P., Meyer C., Shaw, S., Gauger, A.K. & Grudem, W., Crossway, Illinois, pp. 309–313, 2017. Return to text.
  9. Sarfati, J., Startling sturdlefish, Creation 43(1):17, January 2021. Return to text.
  10. Cassella, C., Scientists accidentally bred a bizarre hybrid of two endangered fish, sciencealert.com, 19 July 2020. Return to text.
  11. Saini, A., Superior: The Return of Race Science, 4th Estate, London, p. 200, 2019. Return to text.
  12. Cox, B., Human universe, William Collins, London, p. 241, 2014. Return to text.
  13. ‘Arthur Ernest Wilder Smith - Evolution vs Creation’, a recorded lecture from the 1980s, youtube.com; accessed 4 August 2020. The quoted material (1:17:38–1:18:33) is taken from a section at the end of the lecture where he is critiquing theistic evolution. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Does Evolution Explain Everything About Life?
by Philip Bell & 10 Ph.D. scientists
US $10.00
Soft Cover
Evolutionists Say the Oddest Things
by Lita Cosner, editor
US $12.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

David P.
In "A Response to David Gelernter's Attack on Evolution," Patheos, August 26, 2019, Bob Seidensticker writes: "Let's subtitle this story, 'Guy who made his career in not-biology is convinced by other not-biologists that Biology's core theory is wrong.'"[29] Computer scientist and mathematician Jeffrey Shallit wrote: "Gelernter's review was not published in a science journal, but in a politics journal run by a far-right think tank. His review cites no scientific publications at all, and makes claims like 'Many biologists agree' and 'Most biologists think' without giving any supporting citations. So, not surprisingly ... Gelernter makes a fool of himself in his review, which resembles a 'greatest hits' of creationist misconceptions and lies."
Philip Bell
Seriously? So nobody but a biologist can comment on the truth or otherwise of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary claims? If you wish to go down that road you're ruling out a vast number of scientists, historians, philosophers, educationalists and science writers who have written in support of evolution. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Prejudice only confirms people in their blindness to the overwhelming scientific evidence that is entirely contrary to the secular history-tale of evolution. Those who consider themselves open-minded enough to engage with the science rather than hurling elephants are advised to check out the major book and documentary examining fatal flaws in the theory, Evolution's Achilles' Heels. In addition, 10 PhD scientists with creationist convictions respond to audacious claims in the New Scientist book, How Evolution Explains Everything About Life in this short book: Does Evolution Explain Everything About Life?, and they do so in their own fields of expertise.
Patricia B.
The one thing that isessential with any religion is faith. It seems to me that faith is the absolute opposite of science. One should be provable whereas the other is basically a hope ie without proof . Evolution says that all things started in a certain way and a long time ago, no one was there and no one can prove it, but the fact that people keep on trying to prove it means they have faith in their beliefs . Conversely Christianity cannot prove that God exists , it is quite likely that there was a physical person on this earth that the NT attests to but no one can prove that water was turned into wine , or healings happened , similarly no one can prove there is an afterlife. Evidence of which , and one that faith has to be invested in is in the accuracy of a set of ancient documents that are claimed as superior to any other set of ancient documents. I see both "religions" as unprovable and ,for good or bad(?) unable to be challenged with facts, it can only be reasoned with by other faith statements. One bad part of faith are horrible acts committed because "God told me"to do it, the next worse part is where blind faith refuses to discuss its origins saying it is not for negotiation , found in both religions..Christians for example will say that things like the divinity of Christ or the trinity are utterly true and not open for negotiation or discussion, yet the very fact of the persecution of minority groups of believers in the past (ebionites, marcionites etc) who did hold different views, shows it was open for discussion then, but that discussion was eliminated. So both evolutionism and creationism are belief systems that the individual decides which sits more comfortable. However, Christianity carries the worst punishment ever for not accepting it..I wonder why.
Philip Bell
True science and true faith (grounded upon Scripture) are complimentary. On the relationship between faith and science, watch /media-center/youtube/the-relationship-between-faith-and-science-creation-magazine-live-2-08
It is correct that advocates of big-picture evolution or supernatural Creation ultimately hold their positions by faith, i.e. their commitment to their very different overarching world-views. The question is, to what extent does a person's world-view engage with the real world? Does real-world empirical scientific data agree with or refute their beliefs about origins (whether faith-based in the traditional sense, or based upon the accepted paradigm of a largely humanistic scientific establishment)? Of course, much scientific data has nothing to say about ultimate origins, one way or the other.
Regarding the view that it is "quite likely that ... [as] the NT attests" Jesus lived two millennia ago, serious historians today do not risk their reputations by suggesting Jesus never existed; for instance, see Dawkins' ironic hypocrisy.
The truth of falsity of a position, moreover, is not determined by whether its advocates behave badly or not. Rather, when adherents to an ideology or a cause behave abominably, one should ask whether their behaviour is consistent with their views or in contradiction to them. Many articles on creation.com deal with the challenges of alleged evils of Christianity. See for example, What about bad things done by the Church? and ‘Christian’ vs evolutionary atrocities. Certainly, those Christians who live according to the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus Christ only commend their faith to a watching world. Consider:
"I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
"If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39).
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14-15).
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated" (Hebrews 13:1-3).

And many more examples.
Abe M.
... An enterprise like science cannot be left solely to ... a group expelling all intelligence by giving honor for intelligence to blind stupid atoms writing their own coherent software. =).
Gilbert B.
I have noticed over the years that evolutionists usually argue for evolution from what other scientists have said from their studies.
Creationists on the other hand generally argue from what they have personally studied and experimented with.
I had a student taking Hebrew from me who was attending Iowa State University in Ames. One day as we were talking, he explained to me that he believed in creation because the area of biology upon which his Ph.D. study was focused was too specific and complicated to have evolved.
Also I observed a debate in Ankeny, Iowa, between Dr. Duane Gish and a Ph.D. in materials science from Iowa State University. The ISU scientist believed that the Flood of Noah could not be true because he would never have been able to get the pogonophora worms [Siboglinidae] from the mid-Atlantic ridge to come on the Ark to be saved! When I asked him what it would take to convince him that creationism was true, he said in effect: "If creation scientists could get together and pray that God would create a mouse in a sealed bel jar that had d-amino acids for their protein, rather than l-amino acids of normal mice." Of course, he added, "They would need to do this time after time."
Such unusual standards are reflecting that he is (was) willfully ignorant. In his account of his earlier days, he had been taught about the Bible, but seems to have understood it imperfectly.
And, what would such a biochemically created mouse be able to eat and live on? God created a perfect eco-system from the beginning. All was originally good.
Nicholas S.
I'm so glad God made everything through Jesus. There is no way any other man can know how many hairs are on my head nor how my life has panned out in all detail. Only God knows and He knows me better than myself. Thank God He knows how to Save me by His Amazing Power and Grace. If I left it up to man's ideas and worship of evolution, I and billions of others would have been thrown onto the rubbish dump of evolution values, e.g. every one of us has some imperfection in the physical. Some condition not worthy of having evolved to something greater. Evolution ... [teaches that there is nothing after death but oblivion]. What happens to love? Does it just vapourise? Of course not. Evolution religion only dispenses us into nothing, so therefore we must be nothing now and yet we love and are loved, most certainly Loved by God. Love, Justice, Truth, Holy, Righteous, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent God. The Creator and giver of life and Salvation. So much to be thankful for, our prayers barely touch the depth of how much we owe Him even if we prayed every minute of every day, so we are to pray unceasingly, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Evolution: the parable of a king who, by means of his trust in his tailor, had a special garment made. The tailor made the garment out of nothing at all and told the king that, while he couldn't see it, it was because the material was so fine, however everyone looking upon the king could see it. No one dared to invoke the king's displeasure and all agreed that it was a very fine garment indeed. Until one who really loved the king exclaimed he was wearing nothing but undergarments. Thank you CMI, always proclaiming Truth.
Abe M.
Why aren't all the Atheists refuting what's in this article in the comments? Where is all their highly substantiated evidence/facts to contest the factual reality presented here? =).

Oh, that's right! They're at Atheist religious services. Let's not interrupt them, shhhhhhhhh! =).
Bill P.
Good article. It is good to see that The Lord God is knocking on the doors of the hearts of those who believed strongly in evolution, & the many lies of this world in which there is no hope. They started their work in their fields of science, & saw that there was something wrong w/what they were taught in universities they attended. This is the Lord God working on their hearts to reveal to them that there is a Living God who created the heavens & the earth. Even now at this late hour HE still works, looking for lost sheep calling them by name in hopes that they would open the door of their heart & let HIM in, so that HE would sup w/them & they w/HIM [Rev. 3:20], while HE teaches them HIS Word & HIS WAYS. HIS grace & mercy is beyond measure. In Noah's Day HE gave the people of the earth at that time 120 yrs. to repent. They did not. In HIS relationship w/Israel HE always gave them time to repent & return to HIM. (one day soon Israel will at last recognize their Messiah. They will repent, & HE will save them). NOW, HE has given all the nations of the earth 2000 yrs. During this time many have seen the error of the ways in their hearts & called on HIM to be saved & HE has done so. (Thanks be to GOD more than 8 people will be saved this time). Yet sadly many have refused to humble themselves before HIM & repent. In fact there is coming a time here on earth when the earth dwellers will know they are under the judgement of their Creator & they will respond by cursing HIM & shaking their fists at HIM, much like they do even today. (I would not wish their fate even on my worst enemy). GOD has been more than fair to all, [JESUS] spilling HIS own blood on that cross 2000 yrs ago, making a way for people to freely receive eternal life. HE paid the price on our behalf, BUT, time is running out
Seathrún M.
David Gelernter claims, correctly I would say, that evolution is a "replacement religion". However, is the displaced religion always Christianity? Surely, in some cases, it could be any other religion involving belief in a Creator God and - in most cases - high and challenging moral stands as well. In my view, evolution is also a challenge to Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism and, quite possibly, the stricter versions of Islam. (Some years ago, I read that 25 percent of Turkish Muslims promote a form of creationism - often using creationist literature from the West with the verses from the Christian and Jewish scriptures removed!) I would welcome your comment on this.
Philip Bell
You point is taken, but it is Christianity that is in view in the report of a discussion between Gelernter and others in reference 2 (in The Portly Politico).
Alf F.
Thank you for a powerful article. Isn't it great when the penny drops, AND the convert is willing to speak out publicly, and so incisively!
Censorship of the truth is so pervasive now days. We have to take our courage in our hands, starting from a foundation of love, and sensitively but unashamedly hold forth the truth about life, the universe and everything. People's eternal destiny depends on it. So we thank God for David Gelernter, Wilder-Smith and Phillip Bell, and may we go and do likewise.
Gina T.
Excellent article. It clarified for me how Theistic Evolution contradicts Scripture. The TE model involves death, death and more death. God is love. His method of creating life is founded in life and love, not in death, death and more death.

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.