Scripture and Science In Conflict by Prof. Philip Stott — Introduction

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Zoology: Comments on Villee, Walker, and Barnes

To get a glimpse of the kind of anti-Christian stand which has become the norm in science today I present a section from a popular University text-book, General Zoology by Villee, Walker and Barnes; "Early Evolutionary Ideas" (pages 402 to 403) from Chapter 17 "The Concept of Evolution."

My comments follow the article.

Early Evolutionary Ideas

"Although Darwin made the concept of evolution credible, evolutionary ideas are very old and antedate Darwin by many years. Ever since the evolution of our unique mental capacities, our ancestors have probably wondered about their origins, their place in nature, and their destiny. Burial sites of stone age people include tools and other artifacts that the deceased might need for a trip into the hereafter. As different races and cultures developed, various ideas about creation emerged. Plato (428-348 B.C.) visualized a creator making the world from chaos and then creating the gods who, in turn, made men. Women and other animals arose through the reincarnation of men’s souls. The more flawed the soul, the more lowly the reincarnate. Aristotle (384 - 322 B.C.) was a keen observer of nature and saw much evidence of design and purpose. He arranged all organisms in one "scale of nature" extending from the simple to the complex. Existing organisms were seen to be imperfect but moving toward a more perfect state. This is sometimes interpreted as an evolutionary idea, but Aristotle is very vague on the nature of the movement. It may have been a closer and closer approach to the creator’s ideal for each particular species. Aristotle certainly did not articulate a notion of the transmutation of species.

As these ideas were emerging in ancient Greece, ancient myths were being assimilated and developed by the Hebrews. According to these, God created the world and all therein in seven days, and later a great deluge was survived only by Noah and the inhabitants of the ark. These and other familiar stories became incorporated in the Book of Genesis. These Hebrew ideas of origin were adopted by the early Christians and spread with Christianity through the Roman world. Judeo-Christian ethics, and religious and biblical authorities thus came to dominate early western culture.

During the Renaissance there were increasing challenges to the authority of the church of Rome that culminated in the Reformation. These were accompanied by an increased interest in the study of nature and a movement away from reliance on interpretations of Aristotle and early authorities. In 1543 Copernicus proposed, and soon thereafter Galileo showed quite convincingly, that the sun and not the earth was the center for the rotation of the planets. Modern scientific thought tied to observations, experiments, and rigorous inductive and deductive logic emerged in the seventeenth century with the work of such luminaries as Francis Bacon, William Harvey, Isaac Newton, and Rene Descartes.

It was not, however, until the 18th century that the new mechanistic science began to have much effect upon interpretations of the biological world. The wondrous adaptations of organisms appeared to be far removed from materialism and to be indisputable evidence of divine design and purpose. But the discovery of many new species as new continents were explored, the discovery of many more fossils, which previously had been interpreted as poor sinners drowned in the great deluge, and increasing awareness of the numerous structural similarities between organisms gradually led many to believe that the organic, as well as physical, world might be guided by natural laws rather than by direct divine intervention.

The Frenchman Pierre-Louis de Maupertius suggested in 1745 that some races might begin as chance departures from natural design. Cautious evolutionary ideas were later advanced by Denis Diderot (1746), Gorges Louis LeClerc, comte de Buffon (1779), Erasmus Darwin (1794), who was Charles Darwin’s grandfather, and others.

The most thoroughly considered preDarwinian view of evolution was proposed by another Frenchman, Jean Baptists de Lamarck, in his Philosophie Zoologique (1809). Like most biologists of his time, Lamarck believed that all living things are endowed with a vital force that controls the development and functioning of their parts and enables them to overcome handicaps in the environment. He believed that any trait acquired by an organism during its lifetime was passed on to succeeding generations - that acquired characters are inherited. Developing the notion that new organs arise in response to the demands of the environment, he postulated that the size of the organ is proportional to its use or disuse. The changes produced by the use or disuse of an organ are transmitted to the offspring, and the process, repeated for many generations, would result in marked alterations of form and function. Lamarck explained the evolution of the giraffe’s long neck by suggesting that some short-necked ancestor of the giraffe took to browsing on the leaves of trees, instead of on grass, and that, in reaching up, it stretched and elongated its neck. The offspring, inheriting the longer neck, stretched still farther, and the process was repeated until the present long neck was achieved.

Lamarck’s ideas did not take root in his time partly because he did not provide supporting evidence of evolutionary change and partly, because they were vigorously opposed by another and more influential French biologist, Baron Georges Cuvier. Cuvier, regarded by many as the father of paleontology, was a keen student of fossils. He was very much aware of the extinction of species and their replacement by new ones. He saw no evidence in the fossil record of transitions between species. He attributed the succession of faunas to a series of catastrophes, of which Noah’s flood was the most recent, followed by new divine creations of species.

Although there have been periodic resurrections of Lamarck’s theory, even in our century, it has not been taken seriously by most biologists because it is not consistent with our knowledge of genetics. Environmentally induced somatic modifications occur. A few may be inherited via the cytoplasm (certain cell organelles), but there is no way that somatic modifications can alter the nuclear genetic material in the germ cells, the eggs and sperm, in a direction appropriate to the environmental stimulus. Moreover, many evolutionary phenomena cannot be explained by use or disuse. An example would be the evolution of worker castes in social insects for they are sterile and cannot perpetuate themselves.

During the early nineteenth century, Charles Lyell developed an earlier view of Hutton’s into the geologic principle of uniformitarianism, which he published in his Principles of Geology (1830 - 1833). Lyell proposed that the mountains and valleys and other physical features of the earth’s surface were not created in their present form, or were not formed by a succession of catastrophes, but were formed by the continuation over long periods of time of the processes of vulcanism, uplift, erosion, glaciation, and so on, that we see going on at the present time. Uniformitarianism was of great importance for the further development of the notion of organic evolution. First, organic evolution is in a sense an application of the principle of uniformitarianism to the organic world, Processes that we see going on today, continued over long periods of time, may account for the origin of species. Second it followed from Lyell’s ideas that the earth was far older than the creation date of 4004 B.C. calculated by Bishop Ussher in 1650 by adding up the genealogies in Genesis. An adequate amount of time was available for the slow organic changes involved in natural selection".

[ General Zoology by Villee, Walker and Barnes. "Early Evolutionary Ideas" from Chapter 17 "The Concept of Evolution" (pages 402 to 403)]

 

This is supposedly just an introduction to the theory of evolution, yet it advances (as proven fact!) the idea that the Hebrews "assimilated" "ancient myths" according to which "God created the world and all therein in seven days" into the Scriptures. No evidence for such a myth  is put forward. As far as I know none exists. The authors appear to be using this supposed introduction to evolution as a platform  to ridicule the Scriptures.

This is a very common position among secular humanist scientists, and the same topics and the same heroes occur repeatedly in their attacks.

The reliance of evolution on Charles Lyell’s principle of uniformitarianism is clearly brought out, and the statement "organic evolution is in a sense an application of the principle of uniformitarianism to the organic world" is very significant.

Charles Lyell, as much as Charles Darwin is a hero to the anti-scripturalist.

But perhaps the most intriguing point made concerns Copernicus and Galileo :- "In 1543 Copernicus proposed, and soon thereafter Galileo showed quite convincingly, that the sun and not the earth was the center for the rotation of the planets." One might be tempted to ask what is the relevance of this to an introduction to the theory of evolution? The statement follows the passage describing the Book of Genesis as an assimilation of ancient myths, and is simply a devious attempt to discredit the Bible and its account of creation. Devious for one thing because the Bible makes no mention of a centre of rotation of the planets - in fact, it makes no mention of the planets at all. The authors are referring to events dear to the heart of all anti-scripturalists, but the events as they actually took place are an embarrassment, and have to be misrepresented. What Copernicus did was to present the ancient Greek idea that the sun, rather than the earth, is the centre of the universe. His justification was the argument "surely it is more reasonable to assume..." Galileo took up Copernicus’s argument and attempted to give a proof that the earth actually moves round the sun - a proof involving the tides. The stand of Copernicus and Galileo is an embarrassment because no scientist today believes their claim that the sun is the central body of the universe and Galileo’s proof is laughable. To hide this fact it is usually claimed that Copernicus and Galileo championed the sun as the centre of the solar system. The "solar system" is a recent concept not referred to by them or anyone else until many years later. It is a concept dependent on a theory of gravity, and could only be proposed after Newton had put forward the first viable one. Why the deception? Why is it necessary to maintain the impression that Copernicus and Galileo discovered the great fundamental truth which enabled science to liberate itself and at last discover the realities of life, the world and the universe? Quite simply the Copernicus/Galileo affair was the event which established in the eyes of the world that the Bible is not inerrant. The clear indications contained in the Bible that the earth is the centre of the created universe had been shown to be wrong. With the Bible wrong on one point, it could be challenged and disregarded on every other point. The way was clear for Lyell to propose his principle of uniformitarianism with its implied vast periods of geological time and the denial of Noah’s flood. In a letter to Darwin Lyell noted that he had "destroyed the Book of Genesis without mentioning the Bible." As Villee Walker and Barnes point out this paved the way for widespread acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The stage was set for the Bible to be seen as nothing more than an assimilation of ancient Hebrew myths.