Sunday, May 22, 2016

Why So Invested?

Why am I so invested in the origins issue? This question has been posed to me over many years by a friend with whom I have carried on a longstanding, fascinating discussion concerning the difference between evolutionary theory and creationist belief. There is strong distinction between evolutionary theory and creationist belief because evolution of life forms is a statement of proposals by scientists while creation is primarily a concept promoted by theologians. There is a considerable crossover relationship between the terms evolutionism and creationism, however. Each term has connection to the other if only because their inherent meanings are diametrically opposed. In the past few years the terms have been linked by the introduction of an interesting term: “evolutionary creationism.”

The individual referenced in the opening paragraph defines himself as an evolutionary creationist by virtue of his frequent intonement that “God created all things.” How and when God did this is uncertain, he states. Evolutionary creationists believe in LUCA, the last universal common ancestor from whom all living things, including humanity, have descended. LUCA was most likely a one-celled organism on the primordial earth.   

In theology different forms of the term translated create assume a variety of meanings in biblical Hebrew. They connote the production of a new entity or at least, a different entity. Subtleties of meaning have been discussed by interpreters at length.

We return to evolutionism as it is studied by bioscientists guided by a bedrock tenet of the science profession—methodological naturalism (MN). Philosophers of science have installed MN as an operating principle of all science research and discovery. No scientific conclusions have been advanced without strict adherence to this MN pillar. Figuratively engraved on the pillar is the statement, “Science investigates only natural causes.” Supernatural explanations are excluded.

There is no significant difference between the operation of evolutionary processes in the evolutionary creationist’s view and the naturalistic evolutionist’s view. There is one distinction. The evolutionary creationist envisions evolution as a God-guided process while the naturalistic evolutionist sees evolution as an unguided process. “What is the difference, then?” I inquired. If evolution is guided, does the guiding process demand procedural input from the Creator? If the answer is affirmative, it appears that the Creator’s input provides the signature of an intelligent agent producing an intelligently designed entity.

Theistic evolutionists (aka evolutionary creationists), however, are strongly opposed to the theory of intelligent design (ID). In this way theistic evolutionists embrace an inconsistent and contradictory position. The record of historical geology provides evidence of numerous conversions from one species to a separate, different species. No human was present to document the process, to record the sequence of events, or to detail what actually happened. This stunning process of change from one species to another is called “speciation.” Remarkably, the speciation process left no fossil record of intermediate stages enabling modern evolutionary biologists to provide details of the process of change from one species to a different one. If a series of gradual transitional specimens were evident in the fossil record, the theoretical process of evolution could be credibly explained. Instead, we possess a fossil record appearing graphically as  steps on a stairway rather than a gradual incline. There are no truly transitional steps and no transitional specimens exist. Modern evolutionary biologists share the frustration of missing transitional fossils with Charles Darwin who noticed their absence a century and a half ago. 

Evolutionary creationist friends with whom I have exchanged views for many years have embraced methodological naturalism (MN) as their guiding principle—a heuristic, epistemological protocol, procedure, or method of bio-science professionals. They aver that MN, in excluding the supernatural in their practice of science is of great benefit. MN, they claim, indicates the genius of modern science and is one of the main reasons modern science has produced such fruitful results. Perhaps they fear overuse of the “God-of-the-Gaps” answers sometimes offered as explanations for events in the world of nature: if they fail to understand a given event governed by a natural cause they may proclaim, “God did it miraculously.” Reasonable, thoughtful creationists do not offer this answer. We must not defer to a supernatural cause when a natural explanation is indicated. The Creator has emplaced natural laws to operate in virtually all everyday phenomena. Questions concerning the origin of life and the origins of species, however, are clearly in an elevated realm of reality.

We acknowledge both frequent natural events and rare and unusual supernatural or hypernatural events after the universe began. Natural events governed by Creator-emplaced natural laws at the beginning enable virtually every event in our environment. Modern methods of science are able to discover and explain these phenomena and utilize them for the benefit of all humanity. The wonders of modern technology are not miracles, although older generations may enthusiastically claim them to be. This is the sense in which MN has enabled modern science to produce such fruitful results: God does not need to produce ongoing supernatural miracles either in the technology laboratory or in accounting for the wonders of human bodily function. There appear, however, rare and special events along the timeline of earth history, including the origin of life and speciation, which do not yield to explanation by natural processes. Rather, a supernatural explanation may be in view. Bioscience professionals may be well advised to crack open that door of possibility when they encounter the many unknowns of the speciation process.        

I am so invested in the origins issue because it would be a serious error to examine the origin of life or the origin of species and fail to recognize and acknowledge strong evidence for historic supernatural acts of creation. In our view, evidence for supernatural action in life origins issues is powerful. At the very least bio-scientists, including the community of evolutionary creationists, should leave the question open in view of the baffling and constant need for revision and repair of evolutionary theory. The trade secret of bioscience is that evolution is still presented to the public as a proven scientific theory notwithstanding the demise of mutation and natural selection as solid principles of evolutionary theory and the emergence of other troubling questions. Evolution is emphatically not a slow accumulation of random changes.

My friends have pronounced my critique of evolution as “not science, but rather a blend of science and biblical and natural theology.” To this accusation we plead “guilty as charged.”