Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Evolutionism's Flavors

The generic term evolution is defined, according to the Free Online Dictionary, as “a gradual process whereby something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.” Sometimes evolution is simply described as “change over time.”

If we accept astronomical and geological evolution in the production of the cosmos we now observe, including our home on Planet Earth, is it not a small leap to accept biological evolution in the same basket of natural processes? We propose it is a large leap. The Creator established the physical constants and laws of nature at the primordial creation event. He omnisciently foreknew matter would evolve from a plasma of particles to atoms of hydrogen and other simple atoms, and much later produce the heavier elements through star formation and supernovae events. God also knew beforehand that cosmic evolution would produce planetary systems around newly formed stars, a process we observe continuing to this day. The geological evolutionary processes of plate tectonics, weathering, and erosion have brought forth the planet we inhabit.

The notion that biological evolution ought to be in the same league as cosmic and geological evolution from the Big Bang event until the present is appealing on many fronts. Both naturalistic and theistic evolutionists often tacitly make that connection. On the other hand, young earth creationists sometimes fear that belief in an ancient cosmos, ancient earth, and associated evolutionary geological processes is tantamount to believing in biological evolution. The term evolution possesses an enormous range of meanings. As noted in the definition, most often some sort of improvement, advancement, or upgrading is understood. Evolution, therefore, as it is most commonly used in connection with biological evolution, has a pleasing “flavor,” seasoned as it is with the imprimatur of science.

If our cosmos could have evolved eventually to produce the incredible wonder of the habitable planet we call home, why not simple molecules combining to form simple life? And why couldn’t simple life morph into varied, complex, and beautiful life forms? The idea held enormous appeal for Charles Darwin. It has become one of the most popular scientific theories in our modern cultural cook book. The basic recipe for cultural acceptance of biological evolution is really quite simple, but the effort of the bio-science community to foster its acceptance has been intense: (1) Demonstrate that life has changed since it first burst forth on earth, (2) Propose a plausible mechanism whereby this change occurred, and (3) Repeatedly intone the term evolution in the literature of biology as well as in the culture at large.

Curiously, each of the above points is factually accurate. The basic recipe book of evolutionary theory, however, should contain many cautionary warnings. For example, the anomalies of many incredibly sudden appearances of new forms in the fossil record, together with the absence of true intermediates, should trigger honest and open reflection by those who relentlessly promote the theory. Likewise, the lack of real proof that the sequence of mutation and natural selection actually results in the production of a recognized new species, instead of mere microevolution, should be an open issue. But instead, we are bombarded with creative new explanations for the anomalies. These explanations are readily accepted by those already firmly committed to evolutionary theory.

Several bedrock principles of science are overlooked by bio-scientists who embrace evolution and reject creationism. René Descartes originated one principle centuries ago. It is termed the “causal adequacy principle” (CAP). Descartes stated the cause of an object must have at least as much reality as the object itself. Stephen C. Meyer, in Signature in the Cell, extended that idea to state that “Intelligent agents—conscious, rational beings such as ourselves—can produce information-rich systems, including systems containing digitally encoded, functionally specified information.” Such information, Meyer posits, is the product of an intelligent designer. His volume cites the origin of the DNA code as the paramount example. To clarify, even “simple” life demands the input of huge amounts of information, and existing life cannot become more complex without massive amounts of new information.

The evolution of our cosmos and subsequently, the geological features of Planet Earth proceeded with all the necessary information pre-loaded. The physical constants were present from the beginning. No new information was ever needed to make things happen. Quite the opposite, however, in order for life to originate, or even to become substantially more complex, a great amount of new information must be injected into the systems. The appearance and evolution of life forms, therefore, does not occur without a miracle of creation by the acts of a creator. If we wish to call the change in earth’s life forms over eons of time “evolution,” we may do so, but we may only credit a supernatural creator as “causally adequate.” The evolution (change) of our cosmos and the evolution (change) of our earth’s life forms may both be considered evolution. They are, nevertheless, evolution of very different flavors.

Is the proposal of the origin of life, the sudden origin of new species, and the origin of humanity by supernatural acts of creation a scientific proposal? According to nearly the entire modern community of scientists, no, it is not. The question of whether or not a proposal is scientific is sometimes a smokescreen to avoid asking the question of whether or not the proposal is (or may be) true. In our culture many find the question of the existence of God as Creator distressing. They would rather hide behind the definition of science to avoid the question or to deny God’s reality. Others dichotomize the natural world and theological reality.

The topic of origins is not a simple issue, but it is an extremely important one. We must not rest on what we have always believed or refuse to study the issue any further. The body of literature on both sides is daunting. Our worldview is intertwined to a greater degree than we realize. I encourage readers to devote quality time and energy to the quest for truth.