Saturday, October 5, 2013

Philosophy of Origins

The subject of evolution occupies a prominent position in secular bioscience education for our students from middle school through college. As a creationist making use of the many wonderful advanced bioscience resources, I have wondered how the educational impact of biology would be diluted without the incessant mention of the paradigm of evolution. I have concluded bioscience textbooks could present a fully adequate account of fundamental knowledge of bioscience for students, notwithstanding the popular utterances by Theodosius Dobzhansky and other evolutionary scientists. In 1973 Dobzhansky famously stated, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Modern textbooks and instructors commonly discuss principles of philosophy supporting and enriching their course subject matter. Sometimes these discussions serve to stimulate student interest at an introductory level. Insightful historical snippets may be skillfully woven into the coursework fabric. Subject matter in other science disciplines such as chemistry or physics is enhanced as talented teachers incorporate a historical flavor within their instruction. Subject matter and philosophy in some scientific disciplines, however, often becomes heavily intertwined. Bioscience is such a scientific discipline.

The naturalistic origin of life and the evolutionary, common ancestor theory of the origins of species are fundamental tenets of evolution. Theistic evolutionists, lately assuming the label “evolutionary creationists,” in effect join with secular evolutionists in pronouncing the new label’s emphasis is on evolution, not on creationism or the Creator. National Center for Science Education (NCSE) executive director Eugenie Scott states that it is a type of evolution rather than creationism, despite its name. Many secular scientists agree that the emphasis of the phrase is on “evolution.”

Reading almost any secular biology textbook, one comes away with unquestioned accounts of naturalistic evolution, presented with confident certainty and bathed in the imprimatur of “science.” The questions and problems raised by creationists are not even worth asking according to those who confidently assert “Evolution is true.” The paradigm of evolution is embraced and published as proven, notwithstanding the many overarching questions about (1) sudden appearances, (2) lack of legitimate antecedents, (3) missing transitional species, and (4) stasis of existing species. Hidden among and extending beyond such lists of fundamental points are overwhelming questions concerning the highly unlikely and complex process of speciation.

As a general academic discipline, philosophers study the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. More specifically, we could describe the “philosophy of science accordingly: “Philosophers of science typically understand the epistemological and philosophical dimensions of science--presuppositions, values, what kinds of knowledge claims are being made and how they are justified.” As we examine the terms and phrases of our definition, many issues come to mind.

Presuppositions are “tacit beforehand assumptions prior to argument or action.” Evolutionists presuppose naturalistic processes to explain origins. Theistic (supernatural) explanatory causes are ruled out. Creationists, on the other hand, presuppose theistic action in the origin and sustenance of our existence, past and present.

Values are those traits found to be useful, important, worthwhile, or deserving. This category is difficult to assign with respect to our discussion. Both evolutionists and creationists judge their beliefs to be useful, important, worthwhile, and deserving.

What kinds of knowledge claims are being made sharply distinguishes the evolutionist from the creationist. Evolutionists maintain God did not initiate new species of life following the naturalistic appearance of the primal common ancestor. Perhaps, they maintain, life self-assembled, later to incorporate itself into an early life form which became the common ancestor of all living things, including man. Creationists propose the scripture’s use of create in multiple Bible passages describes the true reality of origins. God created new forms of life which did not previously exist. This includes humanity.

How knowledge claims are justified also sharply distinguishes the evolutionist from the creationist. Evolutionist belief relies heavily on the force of complex evolutionary theory and the overwhelming power of inference. For example, they infer that genetic molecular similarity among living things points to a common evolutionary origin. The creationist does not rely heavily on complex theory to justify his belief. Creation is a supernatural process producing a previously non-existent entity. Creationists also rely heavily on inference. For example, in the absence of satisfactory explanatory power that naturalistic processes are adequate to generate the multiplicity and complexity of the incredibly beautiful life forms on Planet Earth, the creationist intuitively infers the scriptures are true. God created! Our Judeo-Christian Bible is a creationist text!

Creationists of all stripes in America far outnumber evolutionists in spite of the heavy drumbeat of philosophical lobbying. Secular instructors in life science strongly affirm evolution. Secular textbooks lean heavily toward evolution, touting it even when it serves no subject matter value. Perhaps our young people have become more indoctrinated toward evolution while many of their parents still retain their creationist leanings. It is surprising that the creationist population in the United States outnumbers evolutionists in view of the pressure exerted by vocal evolutionists championed by our media.

Many verses in Isaiah (chapters 40-48) contain creation passages. We would do well to use these passages for devotional reading. We may compare how inspired creationist scriptures of the prophet Isaiah eight centuries before Christ compare with the philosophy of origins coming to the fore in the last 1½ centuries of our increasingly secular age.