Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Evolution Definitions

Few issues generate as much discussion and posturing as evolution. The term is bandied about relentlessly by many members of the science profession. It is their philosophical underpinning. They are convinced that nothing in bioscience makes sense except in the light of evolution. Various definitions of "evolution" all connote the idea of change. The word's origin in the 17th century preceded the meaning it acquired in the mid-19th as a result of work by Charles Darwin. Today its most common usage refers to the theory that all creatures alive today trace their origins to earlier, different species. More formally, all living organisms descended from LUCA, a "last universal common ancestor" somewhere about 3.9 billion years ago. Darwin called this process "descent with modification." Darwinian evolution is also associated with the proposal of natural selection as cause of all the changes.

Modern biology is predicated on evolution as described above. Virtually all biology textbooks and most scholarly articles in the field of bioscience are permeated by the term, as if to fortify the concept by its mere mention. In 1973 evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky made a statement in an essay which has become gospel in the field of evolutionary biology. He said "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Naturalistic evolutionists see the process as totally unguided because they do not believe in the existence of God. In their view, atoms and molecules self-organized and produced the biodiversity we see today. On the other hand, theistic evolutionists believe God was the Creator of all things at the beginning and endowed matter with the ability to evolve into the many complex living creatures present today. Theistic evolutionists might say God originally "wound the watch," then stepped aside to let it run, knowing in advance what would happen. Neither naturalistic nor theistic evolution allows for the possibility of episodes of sudden, supernatural introductions of new life forms. The secular science community lives by the guideline that only natural explanations are ever allowed in science -- NO supernatural allowed -- not even discussion of that possibility. This principle is an unmovable cornerstone in their concept of science.

What's a Christian to do? May he pick and choose? Did God "wind the watch" of life and then step aside to listen to its ticking? Future posts will address these complex questions. Evidence, authority, philosophy, and worldview blend to factor into this question perhaps more than any hot-button issue discussed today.