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Evolution has played such a major role in shaping modern society that it is essential for every member of our culture to understand the theory, the evidence for it, and its implications. It is more difficult than one might first expect to discover exactly what the theory of evolution says. One reason is that it has changed drastically over the relatively brief period that it has been the ruling paradigm of Western thought. Changes are not usually broadcast to the general public. (See Arthur S. Lodge's search for a definition.)
When the theory first became popular, following Charles Darwin’s proposal of natural selection as the means to drive the process, it was a simple and very appealing hypothesis. Life was rather simple in those days. Algae, amoebae and such humble creatures were blobs of protoplasm which Darwin postulated might have just happened in some warm little pond by the chance coming together of chemicals. It was rather easy to imagine that a few relatively simple changes in this protoplasm could lead to developmental change, and that natural selection would ensure that better adaptation would be preserved. Changes which led to worse adaptation would die out as poorly adapted creatures would perish in the struggle for existence and fail to leave offspring with their inferior design.
The idea of natural processes bringing complex life forms from simple ones, which themselves came from dead matter, logically leads to the idea of all things having arisen by chance through purely natural processes. This way of looking at the world is reflected in the definition given in Evolution and Genetics by Julian Huxley, one of the most influential evolutionists of all time :-
"Evolution, in the extended sense, can be defined as a directional and essentially irreversible process occurring in time, which in its course gives rise to an increase of variety and an increasingly high level of organization in its products. Our present knowledge indeed forces us to the view that the whole of reality is evolution - a single process of self transformation."
For many years this was the accepted view. It is still the view put forward in popular literature, the media and school text-books.
But in "scientific circles" it has become an embarrassment. It contradicts the best established law in the whole of science. The Law in question is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In language easily understood this law guarantees that any physical system subject only to natural processes follows a downward path to ever lower levels of energy, it becomes more disorganized - it suffers decay.
For many years supporters of the theory attempted to overlook the contradiction between evolution’s requirement (self transformation to ever higher levels of organization), and the Second Law’s exactly opposite requirement, by claiming that the Second Law applies only to "closed systems" in which no energy enters from outside. Few now try to support this discredited position, (see, for example, The Mystery of Life's Origins) and changes in the definition of evolution itself have been brought in to address the problem.
Another difficulty for the theory has come from microbiology. As scientists have learned how to examine life in ever greater detail, Darwin’s picture of organisms consisting of a few simple chemicals has given way to one of mind-boggling complexity even in the most humble of creatures. The lowly E coli bacterium possesses not only miniature electric motors of outstanding efficiency, but also the apparatus to build, repair, maintain and operate them - as well as the electricity-generating system to power them.
As it has become possible to calculate the probabilities of evolution’s mechanisms producing evolution’s supposed results, ever growing numbers of scientists have become convinced that there are problems which the theory is unable to cope with. Many are now seriously considering intelligent design as an alternative.
A more modern text, an Introduction to Evolutionary Biology by Chris Colby shows the enormous change which has taken place in evolutionary thinking in the last century. My annotations are rather full and attempt to show what I see to be the weakness of much of modern evolutionary thinking. I recommend this annotated work as showing the case for and against the modern theory.
The antipathy between evolution and Christianity is sometimes denied. This idea is examined in "Creation, Evolution and the Christian" . The weakness of evolution as a "scientifically" defensible position and the truth that it is largely a religious question is very ably presented by Philip Johnson, professor of law at the University of California, Berkley.
Johnson's position deserves some explanation. The "scientific" press is a tightly controlled unit which does not allow any neutral discussion of evolution, the time scale or Einstein. Any paper questioning orthodoxy, or submitted by a scientist known to be skeptical of orthodoxy, is simply denied publication. Any scientist questioning the orthodoxy is ostracized and outcast. Scientists are then able to set up a vicious circle to exclude debate. Such questions could only be seriously considered if they were discussed in the reputable journals. Any attempt to bring such discussion to the journals is prevented by editorial policy. The situation was brought into the spotlight in the chapter "The Scientific Mafia" in "Velikovski Reconsidered." A recent example can be seen in Persecution of Richard Sternberg.
Philip Johnson is a highly respected professor of law. The secular humanist watchdogs apparently anticipated no danger from this field. They did not, apparently, set up a similar exclusion principle for lawyers. Johnson was able to question Darwinism by comparing the strength of the evidence put forward to support it with that required by a court of law - without the weight of his entire profession descending to crush and stifle him.
His position is expressed very simply in an interview with Citizen Magazine. Johnson's examination of the stand of influential liberal Reformed Christian scientists can be seen in "The Hostage Takers." The internet has many of his articles examples being "What is Darwinism," a well reasoned account of what evolution really is - a philosophical necessity of atheism. "The Church of Darwin" is a look at Darwinists aims for education. "Shouting Heresy in the Temple of Darwin" and "Darwinism's Rules of Reasoning" reinforce his analysis of the way Darwinists operate. Johnson has been involved in may debates -on the subject. An example ("How Did We Get Here?" with Kenneth Miller) reproduced here is typical. Many more of his contributions on the subject can be found on the Internet.
A major contribution to the question of the credibility of evolution was Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box," in which he drew attention to many marvelous micro-biological systems which exhibit what he termed "irreducible complexity." The importance of irreducible complexity is that Darwin had stated that if any case could be brought forward where development could not have been achieved by small successive advances, then his theory would be disproved. Irreducible systems provide that disproof. Evolutionists have fought irreducible complexity fiercely, but many scientists have become convinced that intelligent design is an undeniable feature of living organisms, and a strong "Intelligent Design" group has emerged. Many articles by Behe and the Design group can be found on the internet. Behe explains his stand in Evidence for Intelligent Design. One of his colleagues, William Dembski's "Still Spinning" illustrates the tricky tactics of the opponents of design and how they can be dealt with.
Non-biologists have increasingly entered the evolutionary arena. Examples are given from well know mathematician, and philosopher David Berlinski, ("The Deniable Darwin" and "Keeping an Eye on Darwin" ). Physicist Lee Spetner in A Scientific Critique of Evolution demonstrates an important point for anyone wanting to enter the arena. The claims of the evolutionist are expounded with intimidating authority, and a superior knowledge of the scientific literature is needed to show up their fatuous claims for what they are. Despite the evolutionist's bluster and the total commitment of the scientific establishment to supporting it, I believe most would concede that evolution is in its weakest and most unconvincing state for many years. (See for example, Atheism In Decline Everywhere)
However weak or strong the orthodox evolutionist's position may appear to be though, it would be unwise to be swayed simply by the strongest "scientific" argument. As can be seen by contrasting Darwin and Colby, "science" changes its mind - sometimes very quickly. Whichever side is considered to have the strongest arguments today may find itself discomfited by new arguments tomorrow. The Word of God though remains the same for ever. God is true though all men be liars.
Links on this page and in this section:
01 Arthur S. Lodge's
Search for a Definition
Other related articles:
Creationists Publish in Notable Refereed Journals?