Most people understand that the Materialist worldview that is often associated with science and the Biblical worldview have very different narratives on how the broad diversity of living things came into being. Sadly, the solution for many is to just ignore the problem. Even worse, in my opinion, is to merge these two views on the topic of origins. The result is God using evolution to create the world. This seems like bad theology and bad science.
Let’s step back for a moment and consider why anyone believes in either view. We will start with evolution:
- Creatures can have common or similar body parts (homology). This is both true of the parts and true at the genetic level
- Some DNA seems to be non-functioning. This you might expect from a random process.
- Creatures can be seen to change over time.
Honestly, that is about it. The biggest reason, the real reason, I have left off this list. That is if evolution can be imagined to create all the complexity and diversity of life, then there is no reason to need God.
So how about believing the Genesis account of creation?
- The Bible is seen as revelation from God
- Jesus, who has much more proof of his existence and authority than the book of Genesis, endorses the Genesis account.
- A common creator explains homology as well as or better than evolution explains it.
- The vast complexity of the inner working of the cell would make creation by a random process like evolution mathematically impossible.
- There is no conceivable way the simplest living creature could be formed except by a creator. Evolution could never start, if it works at all in creating new species.
The acceptance of either view depends on faith of sort. To believe a materialist evolutionary view you have to believe that somehow life got started. You also have to believe that little genetic changes can add up to major, workable body plan changes, without proof of it. Finally, you must believe that God’s existence is impossible.
On the flip side, to believe that life is created by the God of the Bible, you must believe that God exists; and you must believe that God gave us the information in the Bible by revelation.
Does evidence force you either way? Not if your faith in either worldview is strong enough.
In his most recent book, Darwin Devolves, Michael Behe, a biochemist and strong advocate for Intelligent Design, presents intriguing evidence for the limitations of evolution by natural selection. Natural selection, the mechanism that supposedly drives all of evolution, depends on mistakes (mutations) that happen in the DNA replication process. Many errors in transcription are neutral. They do not harm us or help us, but can account for differences noticed when comparing DNA. Many others are harmful. They are either repaired by a system that exists for that reason, result in loss of function or in death.
Loss of function is a bad thing if you are hoping for natural selection to evolve you into a higher being. Loss of function devolves you and eventually too much loss of function wipes you out. Strangely, loss of function can in the short term give you an advantage that helps you survive. Examples of loss of function that helps in the short-term are bacterial resistance to anti-biotics and sickle-cell anemia. Both help the person or bacteria survive, but both damage in the long run.
This type of “advantageous loss of function” appears to be much more common than truly advantageous mutations that create higher complexity (if such a thing exists at all). What that means is this: Darwin’s mechanism of evolution by natural selection does make some changes in creatures, but only modest ones. It can create diversity at the species or perhaps genus level, but not higher. In the long run it “devolves” not “evolves” living things.
The Bible refers to creatures made according to their “type”. This language is not from the modern form of biological classification, but I wouldn’t necessarily equate “type” with “species”. With the information above the following scenario seems to fit both revelation and observation. When God created living things they were at their peak of complexity. Since that time genetic mutation and degradation has created more diversity but not more complexity. Eventually, the loss of complexity and the inability to further adapt to changing environments has wiped many species out. Their “type” may still be living in the natural world, however.
Wouldn’t a creator make a better system than that? He did. But the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve’s disobedience and their exposure to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil changed them. It certainly changed their behavior. Did it change anything else?
Surely I have been sinful from birth. Sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5
What are we at conception except a cell with some DNA from our ancestors? The Bible speaks of sinful nature. While it focuses on the results of having sinful nature, it never addresses what exactly sinful nature is. I think it is genetic modifications that produce selfish action, resistance to God, the ability to die and a less than perfectly efficient mechanism of cell division that results in slow devolution of our type.
What about other types? The Bible indicates that this is a watershed moment for creation not just mankind.
God created what was good and perfect. Sin has created a slowly perishing creation that one day will need to renewed.