“Change” is not Evolution; and: Could so many Israelites have crossed the Red Sea?
Published: 3 October 2009 (GMT+10)
Josh D., of the USA, was prompted to write by our Feedback article New genetic information claim rebutted; and goo-to-you terminology defended. Here is his letter in its entirety:
I found Don Batten’s postscript to be incredibly interesting. I (being unfamiliar with this particular website) was very surprised to see him concede that natural selection can cause variations in species, however minor, while asserting that they do not prove evolution’s existence. I’d agree with him on all points.
However, I’m not sure how it disproves evolution, either. If we establish that microscopic (ie "small") changes can occur, given enough time as we have, then does it not follow that with more time, these changes could build upon themselves and create more significant modifications? If we accept this as well, then it seems to me the debate becomes not evolution versus creation, but rather two independent topics:
a) what existed before any changes took place; that is, what is/are the origin(s) of life, or, for that matter, the universe, and
b) how did this/these origin(s) themselves come into being; specifically, was there a creator involved?
Now, strictly scientifically, there’s no way to answer the former question without actually mapping out every single change from the origins to their modern decedents, which is obviously impossible. We can only try to fill in as many wholes in the map as we can. The latter question is purely theological and thus cannot and should not be discussed in a scientific setting. I want to be very clear, this does not devalue the question in any way. I would not expect to get a lecture on the atomic structure of DNA from my pastor, either.
Having now established that evolution and creationism aren’t really mutually exclusive, I’d propose that it’s possible that God created a single origin organism, as well as the laws that govern natural selection, and turned the proverbial switch. Is there any reason this is not a possible scenario? More importantly, aside from quelling our curiosities, does it really even matter when or what the origin or origins was or were? These are the questions I leave to you.
P.S. I would also like to point out that the scientific community as a whole has never claimed it could "prove" evolution. Many individuals have, and they are incorrect. As I have discussed, it is impossible to prove or disprove the theory of evolution due to its sheer scope. This is the reason it is called a theory, as opposed to a law.
CMI’s Dr Don Batten responds:
Thanks for your feedback.
It does indeed appear that you are, as you said, “unfamiliar with this particular website” (might I add “very”?).
As explained in all three of the linked articles in the postscript you refer to, but particularly the last one, the sorts of changes we see in living things are the wrong kind to give any sort of support to the belief that the natural processes of mutations and natural selection (which are real) changed microbes into mankind (and all other living things). For example, to change a minimal free-living reproducing microbe into a human entails adding complex coded DNA information equivalent to nearly a 1,000 books of 500 pages each. The sorts of changes we see are downhill or at best sideways, not the uphill changes needed. In fact the natural changes are wrecking us, not creating us, as Cornell University genetics professor Dr John Sanford recognized (see: Plant geneticist: “Darwinian evolution is impossible”). So it is not a case of micro-changes adding up to make the macro changes believable; they are the wrong sorts of changes. The train is going in the wrong direction. The last article of the three linked makes this point forcibly. I can only conclude you did not read any of the linked articles (just click on the blue font parts to open the articles and read them).
I’m glad you appreciate the difference between evidence and proof, but we put the words in quotes because prominent evolutionists themselves use such terminology. Indeed Richard Dawkins has said of his new book that it “proves” evolution is true (it does nothing of the sort; keep an eye out for our detailed response). For now, see Creation: “where’s the proof?”.
As for a supposed clear demarcation between science and theology, I’m afraid such a view is philosophically naïve, although the argument has been used by both materialists/atheists and religionists. The former use it to abolish Christianity from the marketplace of ideas (such as Bertrand Russell who said that only scientific ideas were worth entertaining—note that Russell’s idea is self-refuting since it’s not itself a scientific idea!); the latter use it to foolishly try to quarantine “faith” from critical analysis. The late atheist Stephen Jay Gould’s NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) is an example of the former and a former Roman Catholic Pope’s “Two magisteria” is an example of the latter). See:
See also the articles under Science Q&A. There is a valid distinction between historical science and operational science in the way they operate and the comparative importance of philosophical assumptions, as the articles in the first section under this Q&A page point out.
As for it not mattering when or how God created (such as using an evolutionary process) it is true that this is a “possible scenario”, but only if you depreciate the history recorded in the Bible to meaningless mythology. Such an approach destroys everything that the Bible teaches, or at least everything that makes it worth believing. In other words you can manufacture your own religious beliefs that are compatible with evolution, but let’s not pretend that this is Christianity as revealed in the Bible. Please see: Creation: Why It Matters Q&A and Darwin’s Real Message—Have you Missed It?
Josh, I hope you will honour my effort in responding to you by making the effort to read the articles I have recommended. I recommend that you browse the other Q&A pages for articles that catch your interest. I hope they are helpful in understanding why we take the stand that we do.
Perhaps as an overview, this article might be helpful: What is this about?
With kindest regards,
David E., a correspondent from Queensland, Australia, asked if we could defend the account of the number of Israelites crossing the Red Sea during the Exodus from Egypt:
Firstly, let me thank you all for your work in defending the historicity and reliability of the Bible — you have been a great help to me! My question concerns the Exodus, specifically the number of Hebrews who left Egypt. I was at a conference where Professor1 ________ spoke against the Biblical account and claimed that the “six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” (Ex 12:37, NIV) equated to about 2 million people, a row that, at 10 abreast, stretched for 250 miles and would have caused Moses to hold the Red Sea at bay for 9 days while the whole row crossed. I have been unable to find anything on your website about this issue and was wondering if you could shed any light on the accuracy of his estimates? Thanks again for your great work!
CMI’s Lita Sanders responds:
The professor’s numbers seemed odd, so I did some calculation of my own, and the professor’s numbers allow 6.6 feet per row, 10 abreast. If we allow for the sake of argument that there were 10 abreast with only a yard for each row, then the line would stretch 200 km, not as long as the professor’s line, but still longer than is probable.
But, why assume they were already in military formation? Much of this organization takes place in Numbers, long after that. If we assume that they were walking, say, 50 abreast with a yard for each row, the line would stretch 40 km. If they were walking 100 abreast, the line would only stretch 20 km, which could easily cross the Red Sea within a day, especially if they were hurried up by having the Egyptian army on their heels! I’ve included my calculations below so you can see how I arrived at these numbers.
250 miles= ~402 kilometres
2 million people/ 10 abreast= 200,000 rows
402,000 metres/ 200,000 rows= 2.1 metres (~6 feet) per row
If we give only one metre per row: 200 km (113 miles) if 10 abreast
50 abreast= 40 km (22.7 miles)
100 abreast= 20 km (11.3 miles)
We don’t know exactly what formation the Hebrew people were in at this point, so all we can do is speculate. What we do know is that the Bible records the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry land, which could have plausibly happened if they were going, as is likely, in broader or more compact rows.
- Correspondent David E. provided the conference speaker’s name; but is withheld here to protect the professor’s privacy. Return to text.