Hebrews 11:1-3 on Six-Day Creation

This article, by Rev. Williamson, is reblogged with permission from The Aquila Report.

*********************

Hebrews 11:1 gives us an inspired definition of true (saving) faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” According to this definition true faith (faith as God has defined it) is concerned with two categories of things:Hebrews 11 on 6 day

  1. “things hoped for” and
  2. “things not seen.”

Furthermore, according to this definition, faith is the source of assurance and conviction concerning both of these categories of things.

THINGS HOPED FOR

What, then, are some of the “things hoped for” in our Christian faith? To name a few:

  1. The visible bodily return (parousia) of Jesus Christ.
  2. The bodily resurrection of the dead.
  3. The judgment of the whole human race.

Since God alone knows the future it is obvious that three these things (and any other future things) can be known by us in only one way. That way is by God telling us in words what is going to happen in the future. The most brilliant scientist cannot know anything at all about any of these three things in any other way than the way you and I can know them. Therefore he cannot speak with any more authority on these things than you or I can as Bible believing people

THINGS NOT SEEN

Parallel to “the things hoped for” which can only be known by faith, are “things not seen.” One such thing of great importance is the creation of the universe. Creation was not “seen” by human eyes. Adam was created last, on the sixth day, so even he wasn’t an eye-witness of these acts of creating. Therefore Adam himself — and all the rest of the human race — could only have reliable knowledge about God’s work of creation if he revealed such information to them in words.

He has revealed them to us in Genesis 1-2.

The most brilliant scientist has no access to information about creation beyond what God has said in the Bible. That is why Hebrews 11:3 says “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

In other words, in both instances — with respect to future things and past things unseen by human observers — there is only one source of knowledge or understanding. That source is what God says in words in the Bible.

The most brilliant scientist is therefore brought down to the same humble level as any other person when it comes to assured knowledge of creation.

TWO THINGS TO REJECT

Since the truth about creation is found in the Bible alone, two things that are often said to stand in the way of believing in six-day creation must be firmly rejected. One is the claim that scientific evidence in the world itself proves that it is old (meaning that it took a long time to make it). The other claim is that one can hold on to biblical faith and yet allow for evolution.

1) We must reject claims that the world is old

When something is created instantly it has the appearance of age. This clearly seen in two of the miracles of Jesus: creating wine at the wedding feast at Cana, and creating food to feed the 5,000.

If it were possible to go in one of our imaginary ‘time machines’ to visit that wedding feast in Cana, and if a sample of that newly made wine could be taken and whisked back to the famous FBI forensic lab in Washington D.C., those world-renowned scientists would surely say that ‘it took at least 100 years to make wine of this quality.’

And they would be right if they were thinking it was wine made by the usual process! But that is just the point: this wine was not made by ‘the usual process’—it was made by the supernatural power of Jesus, with the appearance of age.

2) We must reject that evolution and the Bible are compatible

Evolution teaches us to believe that the things we see in the world today have evolved out of other things. It teaches that one thing can evolve out of another thing. But God says “that which is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

When Paul stood on Mars Hill in Athens he knew he was facing a people who had once known the true God, but he also knew they did not like the God they originally knew. So they became foolish: turning away from God to worship and serve the creature instead of the creator (Rom. 1:25).

The Greeks had once honored a supreme God whom they called Zeus. But, as Aristophanes put it, “vortex drove out Zeus and came to reign in his place.” Vortex was a Greek name for ever-swirling change. I also read somewhere of a later Greek Philosopher who already said—2,000 years ago—that “the worm, striving to become man, mounts up through all the spires of form” (the equivalent of the modern idea of evolution). How true the wise words of Solomon who said “there is nothing new under the sun!” (Eccles. 1:9) What we face today, in our American culture, is the very same God-denying apostasy, in principle, that Paul faced on Mars Hill.

What we need today in Presbyterian and Reformed Churches is a new surge of faith as God himself has defined it—faith created in us by the word of the wonder-working God of creation as well as redemption.

Is this not the message of Psalm 33?

Let all the earth Jehovah fear
Let all that dwell both far and near
In awe before him stand.

For, lo, he spoke and it was done
And all, with sovereign power begun,
Stood fast at his command.

Conclusion: there is no good reason to abandon—or to qualify by ingenious means so as to water down or weaken—the straight-forward confession of the Westminster divines who said in the Westminster Confession of Faith 4:1, Larger Catechism Q/A 15, and Shorter Catechism Q/A 9, that God “created all things of nothing, in the space of six days, and all very good.”

G. I. Williamson is a retired minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, living in the Orange City, Iowa area. He is the author of study guides on the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Is Evolution Unfalsified?

reblogged from bylogos, the site of Dr. John Byl

In  a previous post (The Myth of the Merely Hypothetical) I noted that several Canadian Reformed supporters of the Reformed Academic blog claim that evolution is “as yet unfalsified.” This reflects the widely held notion that evolution has all the evidence in its favour, and none against. Allegedly,  evolution gives a powerful explanation–the only valid explanation–of biological facts, and is essential to understanding the life sciences.
Is this really the case?

First, let’s be clear that evolution here refers to large-scale biological evolution from one kind of animal to another (i.e., macro-evolution). Small changes within kinds (i.e., so-called micro-evolution) are not at issue; these can be observed to happen in the laboratory.

How well established is evolution, particularly the evolution of humans from apes?

1. Evolution versus Biblical facts
A scientific theory is falsified if it contradicts known facts. To Bible-believing Christians, facts include also those historical facts recorded in the Bible. The plain reading of Genesis teaches that creatures were all made “according to their kinds,” over a span of a few days (Gen.1). In particular, Adam, the first man was created from the dust, and Eve, the first woman, from Adam’s rib (Gen.2). These Biblical facts falsify evolution in general, and human evolution in particular.

2. Evolution versus experiment
No plausible process has yet been found that could produce even the simplest cell (which is amazingly complex). Scientists are as far as ever from creating life in the laboratory. It seems impossible that life ever got started via random physical interactions.

Moreover, macro-evolution has never been observed to happen. Biologist Richard Lenski has an ongoing experiment on the Escherichia coli (E. coli). This is a simple single-celled bacterium, with a generation time of only 17 minutes. Starting in 1988, Lenski observed over 60,000 generations of E. coli. He noted some changes in cell size, genetic makeup, and adaptations. But nothing substantially different was ever produced−E. coli cells always remained E. coli cells [J.W. Fox, R.E. Lenski, “From Here to Eternity—The Theory and Practice of a Really Long Experiment,” PLoS Biol 13(6): e1002185 (2015)].

3. Evolution versus useful application
According to evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, evolution has little commercial application:

Truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all. [Jerry Coyne, “Selling Darwin: Does it matter whether evolution has any commercial applications?,” Nature, vol 442:983-984 (August 31, 2006)].

The evolution that might be applicable is merely the uncontentious micro-evolution.

Consequently, Dr Coyne places evolution’s value not in its commercial application, but in its explanatory power. It is often claimed that evolution is the essential unifying principle in the life sciences, particularly biology.

However, this is disputed by Dr Jerry Bergman (An Evaluation of the Myth That “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” [2012]). He finds that most university textbooks for the life sciences make little substantial mention of macro-evolution, especially not for experimental biology, or practical applications, such as in medicine. A similar assessment was made by Dr Philip Skell (Why Do We Invoke Darwin? The Scientist, Aug. 29, 2005) who finds that most biologists do their work without referring to evolution, and that evolution provides no substantial guidance for experimental biology.

4. Evolution versus explanation
Evolution was constructed to give a naturalistic explanation of how the diversity of life came to be. However, there still remain huge gaps in evolutionary explanations. For example, Casey Luskin (What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution?) lists the following shortcomings:

1. The lack of a viable mechanism for producing high levels of complex and specified information.
2. The failure of the fossil record to provide support for Darwinian evolution.
3. The failure of molecular biology to provide evidence for a grand “tree of life.”
4. Natural selection is an extremely inefficient method of spreading traits in populations, unless a trait has an extremely high selection coefficient.
5. Convergent evolution appears rampant — at both the genetic and morphological levels, even though under Darwinian theory this is highly unlikely.
6. The failure of chemistry to explain the origin of the genetic code.
7. The failure of developmental biology to explain why vertebrate embryos diverge from the beginning of development.
8. The failure of neo-Darwinian evolution to explain the biogeographical distribution of many species.
9. A long history of inaccurate predictions inspired by neo-Darwinism regarding vestigial organs or so-called “junk” DNA.
10. Humans show many behavioral and cognitive traits and abilities that offer no apparent survival advantage (e.g. music, art, religion, ability to ponder the nature of the universe).

In the ensuing comments, readers suggested also:
11. The problem of the evolution of sex.
12. The problem of accounting for consciousness.

A major problem is that the presumed evolutionary past is no longer directly observable. The well-known evolutionist Ernst Mayr acknowledged:

Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.

Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb comments:

Darwin’s essential method was neither observing nor the more prosaic mode of scientific reasoning, but a peculiarly imaginative, inventive mode of argument. It was this that Whewell objected to in the Origin: “For it is assumed that the mere possibility of imagining a series of steps of transition from one condition of organs to another, is to be accepted as a reason for believing that such transition has taken place. And next, that such a possibility being thus imagined, we may assume an unlimited number of generations for the transition to take place in, and that this indefinite time may extinguish all doubt that the transitions really have taken place” [Himmelfarb, Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (New York: Anchor Books, 1962, 333-335)].

Indeed, many evolutionary explanations are little more than “just-so” stories, hypothetical scenarios that can be concocted to explain almost anything.

5. Evolution versus predictions
According to philosopher Karl Popper, the essence of science is that its theories should be potentially falsifiable. A scientific theory should make clear predictions that can be tested:

In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality [Popper, The Two Fundamental Problems of the Theory of Knowledge (2014 edition)].

The theory of evolution has made numerous predictions, many of which have been falsified. A sample of these can be found at Cornelius Hunter’s site Darwin’s Predictions. Dr Hunter lists 22 fundamental false predictions of evolutionary theory. They cover a wide spectrum of evolutionary theory, reflecting major tenets of evolutionary thought. They were widely held by the consensus. Each prediction was a natural expectation of the theory of evolution, and constituted mainstream evolutionary science.  For example, the following predictions were all found to be false:

● The DNA code is not unique
● Mutations are random to an organism’s needs, not adaptive
● Competition is greatest between neighbours
● The molecular clock keeps evolutionary time
● Similar species share similar genes
● The species should form an evolutionary tree
●Complex structures evolve from simpler structures
● Structures don’t evolve before there is a need for them
● Functionally unconstrained DNA is not conserved
● Nature does not make leaps

6. Is Evolution falsifiable?
The false predictions did not cause mainstream scientists to reject evolution. They merely revised the theory to accommodate the new data. However, these modifications caused evolutionary theory to become much more cumbersome, so that evolution is no longer elegant nor simple.

Evolutionists brush aside evolution’s false predictions because they consider evolution to be the only game in town. They are committed to naturalistic explanations of how life arose and diversified. Supernatural explanations and divine revelation are rejected from the start. Evolution is presumed to be true; it is only the precise method that is up for discussion. Hence, in practice, the basic notion of evolution is not falsifiable because it is driven by a deep metaphysical agenda.

Evolution, the origin myth of our secularized society, is the antithesis of Biblical creation. No wonder therefore that, in the worldview war for human minds–and hearts–evolution is strongly promoted wherever possible in public media, education, and academia. Evolution, the only permissible view, is presented as a proven fact that no rational person would dispute.

Conclusion
To sum up, evolution contradicts Biblical facts, has not been experimentally observed, has few useful applications, fails to adequately explain the origin and diversity of life, and has made many false predictions. In particular, the claim evolution is as yet unfalsified is true only because mainstream science protects evolution from falsification. Whenever evolution is falsified the theory itself evolves, by ad hoc modifications, so as to accommodate any new facts that contradict earlier versions of evolution.

WORLD: A Tale of Two Museums

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 10.40.01 AMThe latest copy of WORLD magazine arrived today. As usual: excellent reporting, and again holding the line on creation in a positive and enjoyable way.

For those not familiar with this fabulous magazine, think the style and appearance of Time (if you’re American) or Macleans (if you’re Canadian), but with content from a biblical worldview.

WORLD offers hard-hitting, truth-telling, uniquely Christian worldview reporting that stands in stark contrast to the mainstream media in these confusing, chaotic days. Our website and magazine feature national and international news; newsmaker profiles and interviews; movie, book, and music reviews; political cartoons; commentary on current issues; and more.

WORLD’s mission statement is, “To report, interpret, and illustrate the news in a timely, accurate, enjoyable, and arresting fashion from a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.” Its name derives from Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and those who dwell therein.” Thereby the magazine wishes to make a worldview statement: this world is rightfully God’s, every square inch of it belongs to Christ—whether the biological, geological, rational, emotional, academic, business, religious, ecclesiastical, or any other realm.

WORLD is one of my two favourite popular-level magazines; the other is Reformed Perspective. Thankfully both magazines are holding the line on the biblical teaching of creation. Great writers and editors provide tons of good material in each one! Considering the budget these magazines work with, this is all the more remarkable.

This time editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky recounts his visits to two famous American museums, the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He introduces his reporting as follows:

 A natural history museum in Washington offers Darwinism with no room for doubts, but one in New York offers a dose of refreshing honesty on what science cannot tell us about the past. Could that lead to bigger strides in intellectual honesty later?

 Whereas the Smithsonian welcomes visitors with the words (among others), “Evolution is at the heart of this museum,” and states that there is no controversy about evolution’s truth and power to explain life, the AMNH admits that scientists have made mistakes, need to use imagination to fill in the gaps, and don’t all agree. Olasky provides many interesting examples.

He also makes the point that when a museum is willing to make visitors aware of the many gaps and questions in the theory of evolution, they are making room for further questions. Jane Goodall, world expert on chimpanzees and Darwin devotee, as a child spent hours and hours in a British museum where she was essentially raised on the theory of Darwinian evolution. After noting this, Olasky asks whether a child in her shoes would be better equipped to ask critical questions and see the flaws in the theory of evolution if the museums she visited were at least honest.

A sidebar to the article invites readers to follow an investigation similar to Olasky’s as they spend time in museums, and to share pictures of the results with WORLD.

You can read the article online here, and if you subscribe to WORLD or to Reformed Perspective, you’ll enjoy a regular feast of solid analysis from a biblical worldview.

Embracing Evolution: But Which Model?

By Mark JonesScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 10.13.33 PM

Contrary to popular opinion, Charles Darwin did not invent the theory of biological evolution. But his famous work, The Origin of Species, certainly gave impetus to an idea that would quickly become orthodoxy in the scientific establishment. In his work he made several significant points that have had profound consequences for how scientists understand the natural world. Darwin did not merely suggest that change takes place over time, which, technically speaking, may be called evolution (though many would prefer to use the word “adaptation,” as opposed to “evolution,” to describe changes within a given species). Rather, he questioned the concept that species are immutable (i.e., cannot change).

The idea that change takes place within a species is, of course, not controversial. But Darwin went much further than that. He suggested that new species have evolved over the course of history by a process termed “descent with modification.” On this model, all life forms have descended from a common ancestor. Somewhere, at some time, the inorganic (non-living) became organic (living), and from that microscopic ancestor we now have fish, land animals, birds, and human beings.

For this to happen, Darwin popularized the idea that this took place through natural selection, or what has commonly been termed “survival of the fittest.” Darwin’s most significant contribution to the theory of evolution was formulating the mechanism that explained the process whereby a single cell produced the variety of life found in the world today. This understanding of evolution is best described as “fully naturalistic evolution,” which is how the scientific community generally understands biological evolution.

The prominent American biologist, Douglas Futuyma provides a helpful explanation of the significance of Darwin’s theory:

By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism – of much of science, in short – that has since been the stage of most Western thought (Evolutionary Biology, 2).

Futuyma draws attention to an important implication of Darwinian evolution, namely, that theological explanations for origins of life, which includes special creation, are unnecessary because the Darwinian model does not simply content itself with changes within a species, but instead explains how all species came into being in the first place.

A Christian can and should affirm that in the beginning God created basic kinds of animals, which over the years subsequently diversified. The term microevolution has been used to describe this process. So, in an example that Darwin used, a group of finches happened to migrate to an island. On the island a combination of mutation, inbreeding, and natural selection caused these finches to develop different characteristics from the ancestral population on the mainland, which is known as microevolution. Even among humans microevolution occurs. God created Adam and Eve, but from this ancestral pair we see a fair amount of diversity today.

Understood in this way evolution is not controversial. As Jonathan Wells has argued, Darwinists respond to their critics by claiming that evolution means change over time. “But,” says Wells, “this is clearly an evasion. No rational person denies the reality of change, and we did not need Charles Darwin to convince us of it. If ‘evolution’ meant only this, it would be utterly uncontroversial” (Icons of Evolution, 5). But does microevolution provide an explanation for the processes responsible for creating life in the world as we see it today?

Darwinists answer that the creative force that produced complex animals, for example, from a single-celled predecessor over billions of years is in general the same mechanism that produces variation within animal and plant species that we witness today.

Critics of Darwinism, as well as Darwinists themselves, typically distinguish between microevolution and macroevolution, though both sides understand the magnitude of the distinction differently. Simply put, microevolution explains change within a species, but macroevolution explains the changes that occur above the level of species. Macroevolution explains how a species splits into two (i.e., speciation). One of the best-known Darwinists, Ernst Mayr, remarked that macroevolution (i.e., transspecific evolution) is an extrapolation of the events that take place within populations and species at the microevolutionary level. Thus, according to Darwinists the difference between micro- and macroevolution ought not to be exaggerated. The same processes that cause within-species evolution (microevolution) are responsible for above-species evolution (macroevolution). When the idea of speciation is added to Darwin’s view of natural selection the resulting theory is seen as a sufficient explanation for the rise and diversity of life.

Natural selection occurs in order to maintain and increase the genetic fitness of a population. Individual animals with genetic defects generally do not survive to produce offspring. Darwinists use this fact to build their theory that natural selection not only maintains the genetic fitness of a population, but also provides an explanation for how a single cell – or many different cells? – produced over the course of billions of years the variety of living organisms that we see today. The mutations that sometimes take place among species are almost always harmful. However, according to Darwinists, in rare cases a mutation will prove to be an advantage and thus improve the organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. If the favorable mutation spreads throughout the species it may possibly provide the basis for further improvements in succeeding generations. Speciation, via favorable mutations, can be broken down into small steps over millions of years. These steps were purposeless natural processes that did not require the belief in special creation. In Stephen Jay Gould’s much-acclaimed book, Wonderful Life (New York: Norton, 1990), he suggests that evolution could not be expected to produce the same outcome. Humans may not necessarily result a second time because evolution is a purposeless/directionless force that relies on random mutations. Richard Dawkins refers to this process of natural selection as “the blind watchmaker.”

The transitional or intermediate forms of life needed to accomplish the process of natural selection required, in Darwin’s own words, the “accumulation of infinitesimally small inherited modifications, each profitable to the preserved being” (The Origin of the Species, 74). The fossil record did not, however, provide the empirical support that Darwin wished for. He attributed the paucity of evidence to the incompleteness of the fossil record, but hoped that later discoveries would vindicate his theory.

Unfortunately for Darwin, the fossil record did not provide the evidence to support his theory, which led Stephen Jay Gould to admit that “All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt. Gradualists usually extract themselves from this dilemma by invoking the extreme imperfection of the fossil record” (The Panda’s Thumb, 189). Gradualism, while not supported by the fossil record, nevertheless remains the best explanation for the majority of evolutionists because they cannot think of a more plausible alternative. However, not entirely satisfied with the fossil record, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed a new theory for explaining both the fossil record and the present diversity of life called “punctuated equilibria/equilibrium.” This theory provided these paleontologists with an explanation for the patterns found in the fossil record.

The theory of punctuated equilibrium, coming from such eminent evolutionists, such as Gould (who often appeared on the television show, “The Simpsons”) and Eldredge, provides perhaps the most significant reason why Reformed theologians can affirm natural selection, but not natural selection in the Darwinian sense. After all, Darwin could not provide significant examples of natural selection that could be empirically tested, and so he relied on his argument by analogy. Darwinists insist that micromutations account for variability within a certain population of animals. In connection with this premise, natural selection directs evolutionary change. Ernst Mayr recognized that the Neo-Darwinian (synthetic) theory has not received universal approval from scientists. He writes:

A well-informed minority […] including such outstanding authorities as the geneticists Goldschmidt, the paleontologist Schindewolf, and the zoologists Jeannel, Cuénot, and Cannon, maintained until the 1950’s that neither evolution within species nor geographic speciation could explain the phenomena of “macroevolution,” or, as it is better called, transpecific evolution. These authors contended that the origin of new “types” and of new organs could not be explained by the known facts of genetics and systematics. As alternatives they advanced two explanations, both in conflict with the synthetic theory: saltations (the sudden origin of new types) and intrinsic (orthogenetic) trends. (Populations, Species, and Evolution, 351).

Mayr provides insight into a debate among evolutionists that maybe provides the most compelling reason why Reformed theologians, who have had little or no scientific training, should refrain from embracing the Neo-Darwinian version of origins.

Darwin’s gradualist model led him to confess, “if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (Origin of the Species, 142). Darwin was absolutely correct, and that explains why various prominent evolutionists have received a great deal of criticism, and at times ridicule, for suggesting that Darwin’s theory of phyletic gradualism cannot explain complex structures and organisms (such as mammalian hair). The Berkeley geneticist, Richard Goldschmidt, argued that Darwin’s gradualist model could only explain variation within the species boundary. Far from abandoning evolution altogether, Goldschmidt claimed speciation must have occurred through large-scale jumps called macromutations, otherwise known as “quantum evolution.” This idea provided the answer to the bridgeless gap separating micro- and macroevolution. In his book, The Material Basis for Evolution, he argued for a type of “hopeful monster,” a new species with the capacity to survive and propagate. Goldschmidt’s theory was initially greeted with ridicule, but Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge took up his cause with their own theory of punctuated equilibrium. Eldredge describes the problem that Goldschmidt tried to address:

No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seemed to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change — over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution (Reinventing Darwin, 95).

In other words, Eldredge and Gould noticed two features in the fossil record that were inconsistent with Darwinian gradualism. First, most species show no directional change; and, second, new species abruptly appear in the fossil record. Natural selection cannot account for these peculiarities, argued Eldredge and Gould.

In light of these problems with the modern Darwinian synthesis, Gould asked in the title of his now (in)famous article, “Is a New and General Theory of Evolution Emerging?” In this article Gould writes:

I well remember how the synthetic theory beguiled me with its unifying power when I was a graduate student in the mid-1960’s. Since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution. The molecular assault came first, followed quickly by renewed attention to unorthodox theories of speciation and by challenges at the level of macroevolution itself. I have been reluctant to admit it – since beguiling is often forever – but if Mayr’s characterization of the synthetic theory is accurate, then that theory, as a general proposition, is effectively dead, despite its persistence as text-book orthodoxy (p. 120).

As in the case of Goldschmidt, this proposal was met with a good deal of criticism. Gradualists responded that adaptive macromutations are impossible and have nothing to do with evolution. Thus, gradualists like Dawkins, who are not persuaded by the theory of punctuated equilibria, retained their belief that evolution by micromutation is the only viable alternative. Slow, gradual evolution by a combination of mutations (not “macromutations”) acting concurrently with natural selection provides the best explanation for the natural world according to the majority of Darwinists.

Punctuated equilibrium, with its claim of stasis, represents a significant departure from the standard gradualistic model that Darwin pioneered. Some scientists, even Dawkins himself, have been careful to downplay the significance of this debate. Dawkins called it a “minor dispute” that “has been blown up to give the impression that Darwinism’s foundations are quivering” (A Devil’s Chaplain, 199). But Dawkins is clearly downplaying the significance of this debate so that creationists will have one less weapon in their arsenal. Indeed, the debate warranted a book by philosopher of science, Kim Sterelny, titled Dawkins Vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest (Cambridge: Icon Books, 2001). The very emergence of punctuated equilibrium (evolution by “jerks”) in opposition to phyletic gradualism (evolution by “creeps”) suggests that the Neo-Darwinian synthesis is far from proven.

Some Reformed theologians have perhaps been a little too eager to accept the claims of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis without understanding properly the lively debate among evolutionists on the actual mechanism of fully naturalistic evolution. Before we try to synthesize our theology with Darwinian evolution, we should at least understand the various models that we’re faced with, if we insist on making a choice between the two major schools of thought.

For my part, the contrasting models above fail to persuade me that I need to baptize Darwinian evolution with certain Christian truths that are non-negotiable…because, after all, what is negotiable and non-negotiable is a slippery slope, if history tells us anything.

DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Spectacular introduction to evolution’s fatal flaws

Evolution’s Achille’s Heels
Documentary
2014 / 96 minutesAchilles
Rating: 10/10

I’ve watched this at least 5 times now, and many sections many more times than that. This is the best, most succinct, most content-dense, anti-evolution presentation I’ve ever seen!

That said, my first go-through didn’t leave me all that impressed. I was watching it while doing some paperwork, not giving it my full attention, and what I saw just seemed to be a bunch of interviews, lots of talking heads. It didn’t seem all that interesting.

But when I gave it another go and actually paid attention…. Whoah!

What the folks at Creation Ministries International have done here is, in one hour and a half presentation, boiled down all their very best arguments into the shortest possible form. That’s why I’ve watched it so many times already – I had to keep stopping, rewinding, and then listening to sections again, because so much of what these interviewees say in just a sentence or two is something that others have written articles and even whole books on.

For example, here’s a line from Dr. Donald Batten: “The survival of the fittest does not explain the arrival of the fittest.”

At first listen, this struck me as a great turn of a phrase, and it certainly is. But let’s hit the pause button and just think about all that’s being said here in just this one line. Survival of the fittest (AKA natural selection) is supposed to explain how species adapt and change: those with advantageous mutations will prosper, while those without will eventually die off. But survival of the fittest is a selective process – it picks the best out of the group. How then, does it work before there is a group to pick the best and brightest from? Natural selection is a key mechanism for evolution, but it doesn’t offer any explanation for how animals come to be in the first place! This one, short, ever so quotable line, points out a gigantic problem with evolutionary theory.

In addition to Dr. Batten, the documentary features 14 other PhD scientists, and together they highlight, as the title puts it, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. They cover a wide range of problems, grouped under categories that include:

  • the Fossil Record,
  • Genetics,
  • Natural Selection,
  • Cosmology
  • Radiometric Dating
  • the Origin of life
  • the Geologic Column
  • Ethics

I really can’t say enough nice things about it: from beginning to end this is brilliant, and as good an introduction to the problems with Evolutionary theory as you will ever find. The Dove foundation said, “If we could award Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels more than five Doves, our best rating, we would!” and I echo the sentiment.

You can rent it for online viewing at just $5 by clicking here or buy it on DVD or Blu-ray at Creation.com. There is also a book, of the same title, that would be of interest to anyone who wants to dig further into this material – you can find that at Creation.com too.

Did Adam have a belly button?

Why we need to clarify Article 14 of the Belgic Confession

AdamIn the fourth century a big battle was fought over a one-letter difference. The Church professed that Christ was homoousios – “of the same substance” – as God the Father, while the Arians argued that Christ was homoiousios, or merely “of a similar substance.” The two Greek terms used differed by only a single iota (the Greek “i”) but what was at stake couldn’t have been bigger: the Arians said Christ was like God but was actually a creature.

Today we’re contending with an issue that seems quiet small: our battle is over a belly button. On the side are those that profess Adam had no belly button, because he had no mother and because he was never born. As the Belgic Confession Article 14 puts it:

…God created man of the dust from the ground…

On the other side or those who say Adam may well have had a belly button and a mom, and ancestors, and may have shared one of those ancestors with the chimpanzees.

So this belly button battle quickly shows itself to be about matters much more important. It comes down to whether Adam brought death into the world through the Fall into sin, or whether God used death – millions of years of creatures evolving up from the primordial slime – to bring about Adam. The issue here is every bit as big as Christ’s nature: it’s about the character of God.

That’s why Hamilton’s Providence Canadian Reformed Church has proposed amending Article 14 of the Belgic Confession to clarify that Adam has no ancestors. They propose that the Article begin with these two new lines:

We believe that God created the human race by making and forming Adam from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21-22). They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans. There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid.

Their addition would add about 40 words to the confession, and remove any doubt as to what should be believed.

But is the change needed? Is there really anyone in our church circles that’s confused about Adam’s origins? Yes, and yes. Not only is there confusion in our churches, this same confusion exists in other Reformed churches including the OPC. Continue reading