Created: September 9, 2015
Revised:Synopsis Sept 2017  

The Creation Narrative of Science and the Bible
 

Dr. David C. Bossard

Dr. David C. Bossard
Biographical Information



Evolution:
What is Natural Evolution?


With a suddenness which to many seemed catastrophic Darwin's hypothesis of natural selection changed the whole aspect of the problem.
Lawrence J. Henderson (1913)M.01

Evolution is the modification of an existing set of plans by natural processes. Secular evolution is  evolution from an empty set of plans (as a mathematician would say it)—or, if you prefer, from a set of plans that consists only of natural laws: no designs, blueprints or established protocol.M.02 Secular evolution is evolution by purely natural means.

Many modern day "evolutionists" are secular evolutionists, and atheists are necessarily secular evolutionists. Darwin was an evolutionist but not a secular evolutionist: he did not claim that life itself arose by purely natural means, calling such speculation "mere rubbish"M.03

All evidence from the natural world points to the fact that science and nature and even the outlines of the development of life itself are exceedingly complex and intricately designed—which implies a Creator.M.04 This still leaves a lot of room for evolution: how much of the variation in the basic plans is the result of natural variation and adaptation; that is, represents evolution from the basic plans?M.05  That question, to me, is a fascinating area of research, and is the proper place for scientific nvestigation. No subject is off-limits—even the possibility of secular evolution is worthy of legitimate investigation. The sad fact, though, is that atheists cannot approach that investigation, or follow the empirical facts, with the same unbiased mind that entertaining the possibility of a Creator can. An open inquiry is ruled out.

Needless to say, I believe that the facts point irresistibly to a "set of plans", leaving only the fascinating question of how extensive those plans are—i.e. to what level the Creator altered the natural (undirected) course of events.M.06 As a Christian, I believe that "by Him all things consist"M.07 means that God has absolute control, but whether this is because of His "engineering skills" in making a perfect design that requires no meddling, or the opposite, I cannot say, and leave that as an exciting query for scientific investigation.


[*fn]M.01 Lawrence J. Henderson The Fitness of the Environment: An Inquiry into the Biological Significance of the Properties of Matter (1913) Lowell Lectures at Harvard College, p. 4. The "problem" was the hypothesis of purpose in nature. "Until the middle of the nineteenth century the countless adaptations of organisms to the environment and the manifest fitness of nature for the activities of living things seemed to many biologists only explicable as the result of some directing force." ibid., p. 3

[*fn]M.02 The modern trend in science is to go a step further, and assert that the  natural laws themselves are randomly determined with no plan or design. This is a reaction to the exquisite precision of the physical constants that are needed for life to exist, which goes under the label Anthropic Principle. Clearly physical constants cannot "evolve", and so the answer is to postulate the concept of "multiverses" in which there are approximately an infinity of universes (!), each based on a random selection of physical laws and constants, of which the vast majority self-destruct, and the vast majority of the others would have no observers, because they lacked the essential parameters needed for advanced life to exist.


[*fn]M.03 "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." Charles Darwin (ltr, 1863) quoted in Merz, History of European Thought, II, p406, n1. It is not known, even at this time, whether Darwin was an atheist—I would think, probably not. But it is hard to say because in most corners of England, at least, true atheism ran against the cultural and even academic mores of the day, and would be expressed, if at all, in muted tones. Lawrence J. Henderson in The Order of Nature (1917), he wrote (p.117), "In spite of Darwin' great labors, we remain largely in ignorance... [W]e still have but the vaguest ideas concerning the development of living things as products of nature. And regarding their origin we have no ideas at all."

[*fn]M.04 In particular, the natural world gives strong indications of purposeful development and design. See the Freeman Dyson quote (Ch. 1, note 14), and Michael J. Denton, Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (1998), and his earlier book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985). A sequel to this last book is Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016).

[*fn]M.05 In this spirit, Darwin's book Origin of Species (1859) asserts that all species naturally evolved from the first living species, but does not assert, or even provide a plausible mechanism for, how that first life came about. His closest acolytes, such as Thomas Huxley and Ernst Haeckel, boldly advanced such notions, but were soon embarrassed when the true complexity of life began to be understood more fully in the late 1800s. Today, that perception of complexity is multiplied a million-fold.

[*fn]M.06 The following Notes give examples of the vast complexity and sudden appearance of life itself, the quantum leap in complexity of the first eukaryotes, the Cambrian Explosion of the basic animal body plans, and the "Magnates walk first" principle expressed by the early geologist Hugh Miller.

[*fn]M.07 Colossians 1:17—or "hold together". Christian doctrine states that Jesus Christ was the Creator in his pre-incarnate state. The word translated "consist" or "hold together"—συνέστηκεν—has a large range of possible meaning, which does not at all constrain scientific investigation or even pre-judge whether any given aspect may have evolved (possibly by random chance or by an as-yet unknown natural law). It even allows (implausibly, I would say) for a stand-offish Creator who just set the ball rolling, so to speak. See Gerhard Kittel, Ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1971) on συνίστημι, which gives five senses of meaning: "the use is most varied".


M.08 [*fn]M.08 Note for M.08

M.09 [*fn]M.09 Note for M.09

M.10 [*fn]M.10 Note for M.10




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