Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Evolution: Science Beyond Its Boundaries

There is much talk these days about accommodating the Bible to the supposed "fact" of evolution, whether it is possible to retain belief in a literal Adam and Eve, how God could have used evolutionary processes to create, etc. You've probably seen it somewhere (since it seems to be everywhere), so I won't give examples.

The problem I see in this whole discussion is . . . too many Evangelicals are taking the current state of scientific theory as unassailable and unalterable "fact". Scientific theory by its very nature is constantly changing and always subject to refutation as more evidence is discovered. Today's evolutionary theories are quite a bit different from those that existed 10 years ago, and 50 years ago, and 100 years ago (most evolutionary "theory" is actually hypothesis, despite what they claim). The idea of evolution is itself evolving! I doubt it is reaching a higher form, however.

The reason theories and hypotheses change so much is that scientists can only build them from the tiny slice of empirical facts they presently have available (tiny in comparison to all of the facts that exist, or even all of the facts relevant to the subject). As they discover more facts, they are forced to adapt - or even revoke - their theories and hypotheses. Sometimes newly discovered empirical facts will totally overthrow a long accepted theory. It's happened over and over, that is what science is all about. What science can establish as empirical fact is very useful, but what is hypothesized/theorized is never absolutely certain.
Care for a scientific theory? Just ignore the artificial colors, flavors and assumptions.
Now, place that bowl of jello next to the rock solid Truth of the Word of God. Which One do you trust more?

Any attempt to accommodate our view of Scripture to the current prevailing theories will likely force us to adjust further and further as the theories get adjusted - and we could potentially have 
our views totally destroyed as further empirical data is discovered. We could waste our time writing large volumes attempting to accommodate eternal and infallible Scripture to whirling bits of hypothesis that only last 100 years or less! Often much less. I do not doubt that if scientists were given, by fiat, ALL of the pertinent facts, they would logically be forced to become literal 6 day creationists.

Who actually possesses all of the empirical facts regarding the origins of life and the universe? More to the point, who has ALL of the empirical facts that exist, period? The same One who also knows ALL of the history of our universe. When He gives an account of what He did, I think it wise to simply accept what He has said, and believe that he has the facts to back it up – whether we have uncovered those facts yet or not. This is the difference between science and revelation.

Really, the hubris of a puny man giving us very firm dates for this or that event in the remote past, millions and billions of years ago. It’s simply absurd for him to do it, but it might be even more absurd for us to take him seriously.

Isaiah 40 gives us some idea of what God thinks about such temporary and fading human pride.

6 A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

9 Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.


  1. "Today's evolutionary theories are quite a bit different from those that existed 10 years ago, and 50 years ago, and 100 years ago (most evolutionary "theory" is actually hypothesis, despite what they claim). The idea of evolution is itself evolving! I doubt it is reaching a higher form, however." Right on point!

    I was in Arizona all last week and enjoyed a Grand Canyon hike with some friends. Along the way, I heard a very loud tour guide confidently explaining how modern man has "only been around about 250,000 years or so." *sigh* Oh, and of course the Vishnu schist rock at the bottom of the canyon is as old as the earth itself. All of this is touted as "bedrock" fact with no wiggle room for any other opinion or discussion.

  2. Blaine,

    That sounds like a great time (minus the loudly proclaimed assumptions of an overconfident evolutionist). I have seen most of the famous places in America, but not the Canyon. Gotta take my family there someday.

    I'm sure you've heard that radiometric dating places some lower strata in the canyon at a younger age than higher strata. That's rather funny and telling.

    Somewhere there's a video that talks about the rapid formation of large canyons - like the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale - just after the explosion of Mt. St. Helens.

    Just found an updated version of it here:

    Fascinating stuff! He calls it "the Little Grand Canyon."


  3. Excellent! Watching the vid right now. I'll mention another story from our Canyon trip, kind of on the other side of the spectrum. I had a short conversation with a woman who was marvelling at the scenery as well. She said "I prefer to think that God was just up there (here she moves her finger through the air) carving it all out." Well that's a lovely thought, but I told her, "I kinda think this is all good evidence of a catastrophic flow of water after Noah's flood." Her response was like a light going on: "Oh yeah!"

  4. I am a Biologist that believes in evolution as well as a Christian.

    Evolution does not try to explain how things got started but rather explains how new species evolve through genetic mutation over time.

    Natural selection is the process where, when there are several mutated aleles, one will enhance the survival of that type because it is better adapted to the environment.

    I will admit that these are theories and hypothesis testing involves adaptation of theory as one does research but I find no conflict between my work as a Biologist and my faith in God as a Christian.

    My experience as a Christian are based upon my faith in the goodness of God and His promises that have been codified in the Bible.

    My experience as a scientist are evidence-based.

    Faith-based science is an oxymoron and evidence-based faith is a contridiction of terms.


  5. Hi, Debra - It's not my blog, but I don't think Derek would disagree with you regarding natural selection, and neither do I :). This is, as you say, a process that we see all around us in the natural world taking place within species. The problem comes when the claim is made that one species evolved from another. This has never been proven, and makes no sense biologically.

  6. Debra,

    Thanks for taking time to consider this post and share your thoughts.

    I am aware that there are many Christians who believe in evolution. My main point in the post is that science, strictly speaking, cannot make definitive statements about unobserved events that are shrouded in the distant past. I don't want fellow believers to assume that it is a closed book, from either a Biblical or scientific standpoint.

    I view evolution more as an attempt to explain history (or pre-history) than a study of the verifiable scientific "facts". Evolutionary theory is one way of explaining how the world got from its origin to the present state we observe. And, naturally, scientists are going to ask, "How did it get this way?" However, in light of all the alternatives, I don't think evolution is the most viable, consistent or believable answer. Yes, my belief in Scripture is part of the reason. But my (admittedly limited) study of science is also part of it.

    I have to disagree strongly with your final thought. If Christianity is true, then all of the facts we can discover scientifically have to comport with it. Thus faith and evidence should be in harmony and not contradictory to one another. I also can't imagine any science that is not faith-based in some sense, because every scientist has a faith of some sort. Even the most ruggedly materialistic of thinkers holds presuppositions regarding logic and God and the nature of reality. So they are interpreting the evidence through their faith lens. Nobody is truly objective.

    Although I'm disagreeing with you, I do want to welcome you and thank you for taking the time to interact.

    Grace & peace,

  7. Thank you for the kind and gracious welcome.

    Of course, you are discussing two of my favorite subjects so I am as a moth to the flame.


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