by Andrew Lansdown
Until the nineteenth century most people held the view that life originated by design from God. But in the twentieth century many people adopted the view that life originated by chance from matter. The theory of evolution is responsible for this dramatic shift.
Many people believe evolution is scientific. Some believe it is compatible with creation. Others believe it is consistent with reality. I want to question each of these beliefs.
Is evolution based on science?
The great advantage evolution has over creation is that it is perceived to be scientific. But is it? Certainly, creation is a faith position: it depends on assumptions that cannot be verified by scientific method. But is evolution any different?
To determine whether evolution is based on fact or faith, we must examine its premises to see if they are proven or unproven. A premise is an assumption upon which an argument stands, and the evolutionary theory has two. The first is that life originated from inanimate matter, while the second is that the diverse species originated from a common ancestor.
Evolution’s first fundamental premise is “spontaneous generation”. This term conveys the idea that life generated itself from inorganic substances through a spontaneous process.
The decisive thing about this premise is that science cannot show it to be true. There is no empirical evidence (that is, evidence gained on the basis of experimentation) to verify it. On the contrary, since the time of Louis Pasteur, there is overwhelming empirical evidence against it.
Indeed, the Australian Academy of Science says that “There is no reason to believe that spontaneous generation can occur today”. Yet the Academy encourages people to believe that it did occur in the past. Why? Because “the earth of 5000 million years ago was a very different place from what it is today. One most profound difference, of course, was the absence of consumers seeking food.”2
What curious logic! How does the absence of consumers seeking food help non-living material to become living of its own accord? The reason there were no consumers 5000 million years ago is because there was no life! Yet the Academy would have us believe that the absence of life was a useful condition for the spontaneous generation of life. This is hardly the stuff of science, is it? It is hardly objective, verifiable fact.
Spontaneous generation is a fundamental premise of evolutionary theory. Yet it has not been—nor can it ever be—verified by science. It is simply an unsubstantiated conviction, a blind conjecture. It is not scientific fact. Rather, it is pure faith.
Evolution’s second foundational belief is that diverse species developed from a common ancestor. This premise is inherent in the word “evolution” itself, and involves the idea of living things changing from what they were into something altogether different. Simple organisms are said to have changed by chance into creatures much more sophisticated and complex. Some evolutionists argue that these changes were gradual, while others contend that they were sudden. But either way, evolution rests on the belief that all life has a common origin—that groups and species which are quite separate today (horses and hens, giraffes and glow-worms) originally had the same ancestor.
This premise, too, cannot be verified by science. Evolutionists believe that simple-to-complex species-change happened, and they cite circumstantial evidence to justify their belief—but they cannot prove that it happened, nor can they agree on how it might have happened. And while there is evidence that change can occur within a family (rock pigeons have been bred into racing and show pigeons), there is no verifiable evidence that change can (or did) occur across the families (pigeons have not been bred into parrots, let alone penguins or eagles).
If they are to be accepted at all, the two major premises of evolution must be accepted by faith. Of course, anyone is at liberty to believe that life can or did arise of its own volition from lifeless substances, and that simple organisms changed unaided into complex ones. But no one ought to think that science requires such a belief.
Evolution’s major premises are faith assumptions, unproven and unprovable by science. Consequently, those who accept the evolutionary theory are acting on faith, while those who reject it are not rejecting science.
Is evolution compatible with creation?
Evolution, creation—both are faith positions, depending on premises that cannot be tested by science. So, as there is no conflict between fact and faith, there is no necessity to integrate the two positions. But can evolution and creation be integrated, nonetheless? Are the two faiths compatible or not? Can we believe a combination of both or should we choose one against the other?
Theistic evolutionists maintain that the two are compatible and can be combined. Motivated by the idea that evolution is scientific, and concerned to reconcile religion to science, they maintain that God created through the evolutionary process. There are many variations of this belief. For example, some theistic evolutionists believe that God started things off, then stepped back and allowed them to take their own evolutionary course. Others believe that God actually guided the evolutionary process. Still others postulate that God intervened in the evolutionary process to give man a soul. The common and crucial factor, however, is that evolution is the process by which God created the universe and all life.
Unfortunately, regardless of how it is argued, theistic evolution is a self-contradiction. It defies logic to say that God created through the evolutionary process.
To begin with, evolution is a naturalistic theory, attributing the origin of life to natural causes. By contrast, creation is a supernaturalistic theory, attributing the origin of life to supernatural causes. Naturalism maintains that nothing exists but matter, while supernaturalism maintains that there is also a spiritual component to the universe.
It is impossible to reconcile a view that there is only matter with a view that there is also spirit. Logically, a naturalistic theory cannot admit the supernatural without ceasing to be naturalistic. The evolutionary theory ceases to be a naturalistic theory the moment God is introduced to it. If God started life off, or guided the development of the species, or intervened to give man a soul—if he did anything at all, then the evolutionary theory has failed in its attempt to explain the origin and development of life in purely natural, non-spiritual terms. Regardless of where or how they introduce the supernatural, theistic evolutionists destroy both the foundation and the intention of evolution.
In a similar vein, it is illogical to claim that God created via the evolutionary process because the concepts “God created” and “evolutionary process” cancel each other out. “God created” implies that life originated and/or developed according to the power and purpose of a supreme Being. By contrast, “evolutionary process” implies that life originated and developed according to spontaneous and random events. In short, “God created” involves order and purpose, while “evolutionary process” involves chaos and chance. The two concepts contradict each other utterly.
Also, the evolutionary process, being a natural process, is free from outside (supernatural) interference. It is self-contained. Hence, to say that God created via the evolutionary process is to say that God used a process in which he was not involved. It is to say that he created through a sequence of events that he neither initiated nor directed. This is illogical.
Even if theistic evolution were conceptually plausible, it would not be philosophically acceptable to most evolutionists, because they object to any hint of the supernatural. They value the evolutionary theory precisely because it allows them to explain matters without reference to God. Julian Huxley expressed the essential atheism of evolution when he wrote triumphantly earlier last century: “The time is ripe for the dethronement of gods from their dominant position in our interpretation of destiny, in favour of a naturalistic type of belief-system. The supernatural is being swept out of the universe in the flood of new knowledge of what is natural.”3 Dethroning God and sweeping him out of the universe is evolution’s triumph. Theistic evolutionists will get no thanks for trying to sneak him back in.
Evolution and creation are mutually exclusive worldviews. They cancel one another out at every point. Attempts to combine them arise from ignorance and result in absurdity.
Is evolution consistent with reality?
If evolution and creation are not compatible, then we must choose between them. But which faith is more reasonable? Which one best fits reality as we know it?
Reason favours creation in three significant ways.
The complexity of life is one reason to believe in a Creator. The life of even a single cell is so complicated that it beggars the imagination. One component of a living cell, for example, is protein. A protein molecule contains thousands of atoms arranged in intricate patterns. Sir Fred Hoyle, a British scientist who won the Nobel Prize for astronomy, has claimed that a simple functioning protein molecule is in itself sufficient to prove that evolution, which he once believed, is “nonsense of a high order”. According to Sir Fred Hoyle’s calculations, the odds against a single protein molecule originating by chance are the same as if you filled the solar system shoulder to shoulder with blind people, gave them each a scrambled Rubik’s cube, then expected them all to get the right solution at the same time.4 Yet evolutionists believe that not only proteins but also cells, and not only cells but also organs, and not only organs but also animals, arose by chance. To alleviate the absurdity of this notion, they speak of vast periods of time, as if time in and of itself possessed some life-giving magic. However, with or without billions of years, chance cannot explain the complexity of life. But creation can. A belief that life is the product of design is perfectly in keeping with both reality and reason.
The diversity of life is another reason to believe in a Creator. Living things are remarkably different from one another. Certainly, they are alike in various ways, sometimes notably so. Monkeys, orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and humans, for example, have similar limbs, hands and heads. Evolutionists cite these similarities as proof of a common ancestor. Creationists reply that they point to a common Creator. However, what matters are not the similarities, but the dissimilarities. And evolution has no plausible explanation for these. How can protein molecules and genetic materials be so vastly different from one organism to another? How can their biological structures and instinctual behaviours vary so strikingly? If all living things evolved from one original life-form, who can explain the enormous differences between the gills of a fish and the lungs of a porpoise, the hoof of a sheep and the paw of a dog, the beak of an eagle and the bill of a finch, the nose of a shrew and the trunk of an elephant, the antennae of a moth and the radar of a bat, the fur of a rabbit and the feathers of a dove? Evolutionists consider that tens of thousands of happy coincidences occurred in sequence over time to produce each of these differences. They believe in miracle upon miracle without a God to perform them. Such faith is blind, illogical, irrational. It is much more reasonable to believe that the diversity of living things arises from the fact that almighty God made them “after their kind).”5
The difference between human and animal life is yet another reason to believe in a Creator. There is a non-biological component to human beings that does not exist in other creatures. The magnitude of this difference can be seen, for example, in the relationship between a man and a dog. A man can teach a dog to fetch the newspaper, but he can never teach it to read the news. He can teach it not to bite the postman, but he can never teach it why it is wrong to bite him. He can teach it to howl while he sings, but he can never teach it to see the humour in the situation. He can teach it not to dig up the flowers, but he can never teach it to admire them. He can teach it to round up the sheep, but he can never teach it the purpose behind the round-up. He can teach it to lead a blind person, but he can never teach it to aspire to be a guide dog. Between a man and a dog, as between all humans and all animals, there is a spiritual gap as vast as the universe.
Alone among all earthly creatures, human beings have the ability to reason, talk, philosophise, sympathise, laugh, imagine, initiate, evaluate, admire, aspire, regret, repent, wonder and worship. These abilities have no counterpart in nature. They are spiritual—and therefore inexplicable in naturalistic terms. Consequently, evolutionists attempt to explain them by explaining them away. They deny that humans are more than biological organisms, and insist that there is no significant difference between humans and animals. Creationists, however, have a reasonable explanation for the spiritual nature of human beings—namely, that God made humans in his own likeness, giving them an eternal soul. The unique moral, emotional, intellectual and volitional characteristics and capacities of humans come from, and point to, God.
Evolution is not a reasonable faith. Its explanations for reality as we know it are implausible. Creation, on the other hand, offers sensible explanations for the complexity of life, the diversity of life forms, and the differences between humans and animals.
Is evolution based on science? Is it compatible with creation? Is it consistent with reality? The answer to each of these questions is, No! When people understand this they are freed from the pressure to accommodate the evolutionary theory. Then Christians can have confidence in the creation teaching of the Bible and non-Christians can begin to see their need to entrust themselves to a faithful Creator.
1.Australian Academy of Science, Biological Science: the web of life (Canberra: Australian Academy of Science, 1967; reprinted 1969), p.547. This book was designed for senior students and was my biology text at high school.
3.Julian Huxley, Religion Without Revelation (London: Max Parrish, 1957), p.62.
4.Sir Fred Hoyle, “The Big Bang in Astronomy,” New Scientist, Vol.92, No.1280, 19 November 1981, p.527.
5.The Holy Bible, Genesis 1.
Copyright © Andrew Lansdown 1994, 2005
First published 1994. Revised and reprinted 2005.