November 19, 2017

Mike the Geologist: Science and the Bible (Lesson 9)

9580542326_1bb00e8cf5_k (1)

Science and the Bible – Lesson 9
By Michael McCann

Thus far we have looked at the phenotypic evidence for evolution.  This system of classification was first formulated in the 19th century based on:

1. Comparative anatomy

2. Biogeography – distribution of species around the world

3. The fossil record

But beginning with the Watson and Crick discovery of the DNA structure in 1953; science can now study genetics at the molecular level.  And has since sequenced the structure of the genomes of various organisms including man.

image1

The science of modern comparative genomics could have completely overturned the evolutionary structure of taxonomy.  There is no reason why a family tree constructed by molecular genetics would have to match that family tree constructed by: 1. comparative anatomy, 2. biogeography, and 3. the fossil record.  What I am about to summarize is presented here and here.

The gist of the argument:

1. Ubiquitous genes: There are certain genes that all living organisms have because they perform very basic life functions; these genes are called ubiquitous (universal) genes.

2. Ubiquitous genes are uncorrelated with species-specific phenotypes: Ubiquitous genes have no relationship with the specific functions of different species. For example, it doesn’t matter whether you are a bacterium, a human, a frog, a whale, a hummingbird, a slug, a fungus, or a sea anemone – you have these ubiquitous genes, and they all perform the same basic biological function no matter what you are.

3. Molecular sequences of ubiquitous genes are functionally redundant: Any given ubiquitous protein has an extremely large number of different functionally equivalent forms (i.e. protein sequences which can perform the same biochemical function).

4. Specific ubiquitous genes are unnecessary in any given species: Obviously, there is no a priori reason why every organism should have the same sequence or even similar sequences. No specific sequence is functionally necessary in any organism – all that is necessary is one of the large number of functionally equivalent forms of a given ubiquitous gene or protein.

5. Heredity correlates sequences, even in the absence of functional necessity: There is one, and only one, observed mechanism which causes two different organisms to have ubiquitous proteins with similar sequences (aside from the extreme improbability of pure chance, of course). That mechanism is heredity.

CONCLUSION: Thus, similar ubiquitous genes indicate genealogical relationship: It follows that organisms which have similar sequences for ubiquitous proteins are genealogically related. Roughly, the more similar the sequences, the closer the genealogical relationship.  An example:

image2

Cytochrome c is an essential and ubiquitous protein found in all organisms, including bacteria.  It is a necessary part of a universal common metabolic process all cells with mitochondria need to synthesize energy used by the cell. The oxygen we breathe is used to generate energy in this process.

image3

Cytochrome c is absolutely essential for life – organisms that lack it cannot live. It has been shown that the human cytochrome c protein works in yeast (a unicellular organism) that has had its own native cytochrome c gene deleted, and human cytochrome c inserted, even though yeast cytochrome c differs from human cytochrome c over 40% of the protein.  Using a ubiquitous gene such as cytochrome c, there is no reason to assume that two different organisms should have the same protein sequence or even similar protein sequences, unless the two organisms are genealogically related.

Hubert Yockey has done a careful study in which he calculated that there are a minimum of 2.3 x 1093 possible functional cytochrome c protein sequences, based on genetic mutational analyses.  For perspective, the number 1093 is about one billion times larger than the number of atoms in the visible universe. Thus, functional cytochrome c sequences are virtually unlimited in number, and there is no a priori reason for two different species to have the same, or even mildly similar, cytochrome c protein sequences.

From the theory of common descent and the standard phylogenetic tree we surmise that humans and chimpanzees are quite closely related. It is therefore predicted, in spite of the odds, that human and chimpanzee cytochrome c sequences should be much more similar than, say, human and yeast cytochrome c — simply due to inheritance.  This has been confirmed: Humans and chimpanzees have the exact same cytochrome c protein sequence. In the absence of common descent, the chance of this occurrence is conservatively less than 10-93 (1 out of 1093).

Thus, the high degree of similarity in these proteins is a spectacular corroboration of the theory of common descent. Furthermore, human and chimpanzee cytochrome c proteins differ by about 10 amino acids from all other mammals. The chance of this occurring in the absence of a hereditary mechanism is less than 10-29.

Further, bat cytochrome c is much more similar to human cytochrome c than to hummingbird cytochrome c.  Porpoise cytochrome c is much more similar to human cytochrome c than to shark cytochrome c.

image4

The phylogenetic tree constructed from the cytochrome c data fairly well repeats the relationships of major taxa as determined by the completely independent morphological data.  It appears to be a nested hierarchy of phenotype and genotype that match each other.

Why would two organisms have such similar ubiquitous proteins when the odds are astronomically against it?  We know of only one reason for why two organisms would have two similar protein sequences in the absence of functional necessity: heredity.  Thus, in such cases we can confidently deduce that the two organisms are genealogically related.  It is the same mechanism we deduce paternity from DNA tests.  Let that sink in for a minute, dear evangelical reader.

Evidence from Chromosomes

All members of Hominidae except humans have 24 pairs of chromosomes. Humans have only 23 pairs of chromosomes. Human chromosome 2 is widely accepted to be a result of an end-to-end fusion of two ancestral chromosomes.

image5

The evidence for this includes: 1. The correspondence of chromosome 2 to two ape chromosomes. The closest human relative, the chimpanzee, has near-identical DNA sequences to human chromosome 2, but they are found in two separate chromosomes. The same is true of the more distant gorilla and orangutan.  2. The presence of a vestigial centromere. Normally a chromosome has just one centromere, but in chromosome 2 there are remnants of a second centromere.  3. The presence of vestigial telomeres. These are normally found only at the ends of a chromosome, but in chromosome 2 there are additional telomere sequences in the middle.

image6

Evidence from Endogenous Retroviruses

Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs) are lingering remnants of failed viral infection, which occurred in an ancestor’s sex cell and got propagated in its offspring. The viral insertion site is completely random and finding one in the same location in two individuals indicates they each had that same ancestor. There are at least sixteen different known instances of common retrogene insertions between chimps and humans. The Odds of 16 in the exact same place are not possible except as explained by hereditary mechanisms.

Genomic Archaeology: Evidence from Pseudogenes (inactive genes)

The human genome contains the mutated remains of a gene devoted to egg yolk formation in egg-laying vertebrates at the precise location predicted by common ancestry.  The human genome contains the inactive gene for tails (complex structures which have muscle, blood vessels, occasional vertebrae and cartilage, can move and contract).  The master or controller (HOX) genes suppress this gene’s expression, but medical literature records cases where the gene is expressed.  Yes, dear evangelical reader, you read that right, we have the gene for TAILS.  Google images for “human bony tails”; prepare to be shocked.  God surely has a sense of humor.

Conclusion

Well, dear readers, we have come to the end of this series.

1. You are the result of natural physical-chemical-biologic processes over a long period of time (billions of years).  These processes, as best as science can determine, are stochastic (randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely).

2. You are a creation of God, made in His image.  Your life has purpose and meaning.  Your life culminates in meaning and purpose as fulfilled in relationship with him through Christ and other people.  There is no chance to the matter, in fact:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-29 NIV).

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world and in him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:4,11 NIV).

So the question is; does the proximate truth of number 1 invalidate the teleological truth of number 2?  Or, as our YEC friends would have it; does the ultimate revelation of #2 form a basis to judge the scientific merits of #1?

And your answer to the question depends on your conception and buy-in to different categories of truth.  If you believe that all truth is a variant or subset of empirical knowledge then science is the hands-down best method to evaluate truth claims.  In which case your logic leads you to INEXORABLY exclude all supernatural truth claims and conclude there are no ultimate answers to transcendent questions.  So the #2 statement is mere epiphenomenon.

BUT

If you are a believer in Jesus you know that #1 CANNOT invalidate #2.  My main thrust in giving this series is to help evangelical believers deal with the science of an old earth and evolutionary origins without resorting to pseudo-science or, of course, jettisoning their faith.

Obviously, I haven’t answered all the difficult questions; but I think I have given reasonable arguments for:

1. All truth is God’s truth.  If it is true in reality then we, as Christians, must accept the truth.

2. It isn’t necessary or even desirable to reconcile the Bible with modern science.  The Bible is a collection of writings of ultimate truth not proximate explanations.   The Galileo/Copernicus episode should serve as the template; we (the church) have been through this before, let’s not repeat the same mistakes again.  It’s not even desirable to reconcile the Bible with modern science; to do so makes the Bible into a magic book; ultimately dishonoring sacred scripture instead of defending it.  The scriptures are God-breathed; if you receive them as truth, God breathes life into your being by revealing Jesus to you.

3.  It’s not about the authority of the Bible, it’s about hermeneutics.  As Pete Enns puts it:

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment.

So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.”

The Bible is not just “there.” It has to be interpreted. The issue is which interpretations are more defensible than others. Hence, appealing to biblical authority does not tell us how to interpret the Bible. That requires a lot more work. It always has.

4. We modern Christians have to think our way through this.  It is one thing to rely on church tradition but the church has never before had to deal with the mounting scientific evidence for old earth and evolution.  But we modern Christians do; we cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend these issues are going away.  They are not; in fact they will intensify.  And so WE ARE the church and we will set the tradition for future generations to deal with this question.  Can we look to past traditions for help?  See Galileo/Copernicus template again.

Overall, I’m optimistic.  We’ll come to terms with it just like we came to terms with geocentrism.  It isn’t an issue anymore; except for a tiny minority of…  ummm… how to put this… nut jobs, whack-a-doodles… fanatics… extreme believers; well you pick.  In fact, to a lot of young Christians now it is fading as a major issue.  In a couple of more generations the evolution issue will be like the earth revolving the sun; we’ll wonder what the big deal ever was.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    I think the complexities of evolution honor God as Creator. You can’t see the complexity of Creation and not be affected by ‘awe’, which I think is that part of us that responds without words to that for which there are no words.

    • Itgel. A says:

      Quote “1. You are the result of natural physical-chemical-biologic processes over a long period of time (billions of years). These processes, as best as science can determine, are stochastic (randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely). ”
      Question: Do you think “…the complexities of evolution honor God as Creator” ?!

  2. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing. My wife and I recently had our DNA tested, using a kit from a genealogy website that we won as a door prize at a local history event. This simple test (far less complex that what science is capable of) identifies our ethic ancestry and, perhaps most remarkably to this layman, our cousins in their database (hundreds of them, some as distant as 6-8th cousins). All from a little spit in a tube. Every conclusion from the test that we are able to independently verify is accurate.

    Now that common descent from other species, the randomness of evolution, etc. are conclusively established, it seems foolish to me to continue denying the compatibility of those facts with our faith. Instead, now that these amazing truths are known to us, it seems to me we need to appreciate them of further evidence of the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. The ultimate interrelatedness of all things, especially all living things, is a richly profound subject deserving of deep theological reflection, it seems to me. We might even say that refusal to appreciate these discoveries is a form of ingratitude to God. As John Wesley put it, we should look on nothing as separate from God, and that to do is a form of practical atheism.

    Thanks again for sharing this.

  3. Robert F says:

    It seems to me that part of randomness is absence of intentionality. Natural processes are not only stochastic, but unintended by any directing intelligence, and no intelligence is assumed to be involved in the causal chains of natural processes. This is part of the “methodological atheism” with which scientific method approaches phenomena.

    How then does science account for the intentionality of living things, and more specifically, the intentionality of the scientific project? Is the intentionality that we experience motivating the scientific project itself just an epiphenomenon, a kind of illusion? What would this say about the scientific project itself?

    • Robert F: I’m a C.S. Lewis disciple in these matters:

      “In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.”
      ? C.S. Lewis, Miracles

      Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.
      “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
      ? C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

      “Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldone: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my believes are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” (Possible Worlds, p.209) (Quoted by CS Lewis in Miracles on p. 22)

      The FACT we are reasoning, thinking beings is prima facie evidence that it is not mere epiphenomena. We are attending to these questions; so they must mean something. This is so obvious it is why I think it is frequently overlooked. It is too obvious and simple to just be true. But I think it is true.

      When I was an undergraduate in the 70s at Indiana University, B.F. Skinner was very influential. I remember him saying something like: I am talking… blah blah blah.. you are talking blah… blah … blah but there is no meaning to what either of us are saying. I remember at the time thinking; well dude, why do you bother, why don’t just use that PhD of your as toilet paper.

      I’ve never bought into that idea that thinking is an illusion and I never will. If it were an illusion, as Lewis says, we would never know it. NO, a thousand times NO… the FACT we are thinking is PROOF we are made in God’s image. Yes, I said the “P” word. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      • Robert F says:

        I actually agree with you entirely. If thinking is an epiphenomenon, and thus an illusion, then so is science, along with every other humanly reasoned endeavor. That argument is self-defeating for science; but I do wonder what a hard-boiled scientific materialist (I fully recognize that not all scientists are such) would have to say in reply to this argument, and I wonder if you’ve had any personal encounter with one in which this issue was broached.

        • Yes, I have. Back when Jeff Clinton had “The Dawn Treader” blog I engaged an atheist friend of his on these very issues. He tried to brazen it out and insist our thinking was mere epiphenomenon. And I kept saying then why are you trying so hard to convince me to your point of view if it is as meaningless as mine. And of course he really did THINK his arguments had merit, and reason, and logic and… duh, duh, duh, duhhhhh!!! SCIENCE behind it. Humans are gloriously inconsistent. To try and move him off his absolute empiricism I asked him to prove scientifically his wife loved him. He hemmed and hawed around and said his wife, who ironically was a Christian, loved him despite all his flaws. I said MAN, the TRUTH stares you in the face every morning. He replied, seriously, “I don’t know what you are talking about”.

      • Christiane says:

        This, I love:
        ““In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.”
        (C.S. Lewis, Miracles)

      • Itgel. A says:

        Quote: “You are the result of natural physical-chemical-biologic processes over a long period of time (billions of years)” Question: How do you know “You are the result of natural…long period of time (billions of years)”, and Who can prove that “…it took billions of years”?!

  4. An excellent series. Evolution is incontrovertible then, although many foolish people are still prepared to deny the evidence of their own senses.

    So let me state as clearly and succinctly as possible the problem as I see it, the idea that haunts me.

    How an we reconcile the loving Abba of the New Testament with the brutal reality of the actual processes of evolution? What kind of god (who presumably can do as he pleases) would use the process of evolution to create?

    Look at the actual processes of evolution: the appalling waste, the millions of years of perpetual suffering and death. Life is a rapacious maw, that thing which exists by literally consuming itself. Where is the god who numbers the hairs and considers the fall of the sparrows in all this? And though humans are certainly capable of great evil you can’t pin this one on us. These factors are inherent in the process from the beginning long before humankind came on the scene.

    We can find ourselves trying to reconcile the facts of evolution with Christianity by blithely asserting that evolution is just the way god chose to create life on earth but have we really thought about the implications of that assertion? Can we finish a discussion of the reality of evolution without also discussing what that reality implies?

    I have thought about it and it troubles me greatly. I doubt I am alone.

    • Indeed, Stephen, it haunts me too. There are no easy answers.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        How is this a substantively a different objection than to an objection to what is recorded **IN THE TEXT** of the Old Testament? Pillage, murder, rape, animal sacrifice, etc… Some of which reads as sanctioned cruelty, or at least cruelty to which no rebuttal or remuneration is offered.

    • I thought the same thing as Stephen, and I think nature is sometimes horrifying. In one species, baby spiders eat their mother. Male lions kill cubs from their rivals. Some baby birds kill their siblings. Chimpanzees go to war and kill other chimpanzees. Stuff like these examples have been happening for millions of years, and then humans appeared at some point. We have moral laws that set us apart from animals, but I wonder how God can design nature like that.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > We have moral laws that set us apart from animals

        We also use intelligence to slaughter other humans – and animals – on an industrial scale.

        > set us apart from animals

        Perhaps not as far apart as we’d like to think.

        > I wonder how God can design nature **like that**

        I suspect to honestly approach that question we first need a solid notion of “how God can design nature”… before we can tack further qualifiers onto the end.

        • Christiane says:

          The mystery of God and suffering. The Book of Job.
          I went with my daughter to see ‘The Tree of Life’ and this strange movie addressed so many of my own concerns over ‘why, God?’
          I found a video by Robert Barron which addresses this film to be helpful. You have to click on the Analysis: The Tree of Life, by Bishop Barron.

          If we had the answers, would we understand? We have enough trouble comprehending Christ Crucified. Maybe the answer to the whole mystery of suffering is somehow related to the Crucifixion?
          And ALSO to the Resurrection?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4Y4YcRbSDQ

    • How an we reconcile the loving Abba of the New Testament with the brutal reality of the actual processes of evolution?

      I don’t know if I can. Especially if the NT Abba is supposed to be the literal same God as the OT God. I cannot reconcile the two. The only thing I can do is de-english the language of the OT, look at all the names of the various godS, see how they conflict, look at which one apparently won, and see how that relates to Jesus’ Abba God. Evolution may be brutal, but humanity transcends that.

      In the end tho, who flipping cares. Love wins. Jesus made it very clear.

    • You’re not alone in those thoughts Stephen.

    • “…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time.”

    • I have long wrestled with the Problem of Evil and have never come to any satisfactory conclusion. While it’s possible to imagine a solution to the problem of moral evil, which is at least plausible, I cannot imagine any solution to the problem of natural evil that preserves the all of the traditional attributes of God. So in my case I cannot reconcile the problem with the traditional understanding of divine omnipotence. Perhaps we need to reconsider omnipotence.

      I’m intrigued by the Anthropic Principle. The existence of conditions allowing for life on earth required overcoming mindboggling odds. Eight billion years ago the universe was composed entirely of hydrogen and helium. No reasonable observer could have concluded that such a universe was capable of supporting life. Yet it seems the universe (on this planet at least) is disposed toward life and increasing complexity. Maybe we need to understand God’s favor and the divine plan as extending not merely to humanity, but rather to the entire biotic community as a whole, rather than to individual organisms (or maybe even to the entire universe–living or not).

      And of course biological evolution hasn’t stopped. We don’t know where it will ultimately lead, but there is good reason to believe that now that humanity can direct and manipulate the process it will accelerate.

      I’m glad you brought this up. Plenty of food for thought today.

      • Funny. To me there is a clear distinction between suffering and evil. Evil can cause suffering, but I don’t consider suffering in the natural world to be evil. Evil in my use implies intentionality: someone is doing evil. If we buy into this notion of evolution (and Mike hasn’t left us much choice!), then natural suffering can’t just be the work of the devil. I think.

        • That is true in the everyday sense of the word “evil”. But in philosophy (as regards the Problem of Evil) “evil” and “suffering” are synonymous. In the case of natural evil (evil/suffering resulting from something not caused by a moral agent) there is no evildoer.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Look at the actual processes of evolution: the appalling waste

      No waste occurs. Waste is a concept intrinsically correlated to scarcity. The Universe has no scarcity.

      > the millions of years of perpetual suffering and death.

      Or the millions of years of perpetually rejuvenated life.

      > In the end tho, who flipping cares.

      Exactly. I do not see an issue here. This objection, IMNSHO, is a lingering echo of the belief in The-Perfect-Deathless-Eden narrative. Completely free of TPDE this ‘issue’ evaporates.

      • Stephen says:

        “No waste occurs.”

        The 99% of all species that have existed on this planet and gone extinct might disagree with you if it were possible to conduct a survey.

        “Or the millions of years of perpetually rejuvenated life.”

        Which merely restates my point. Life is sustained by death and this condition is not a special condition but is inherent in the process.

        ” I do not see an issue here.”

        Then Adam you are blessed among humankind! And I sincerely hope you can go through your whole life and not see the issue that many of us see.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          >> “No waste occurs.”
          > The 99% of all species that have existed on this planet and gone
          > extinct might disagree with you if it were possible to conduct a survey.

          But what was Wasted? Because a chapter in a novel ends was it a waste? Because a life ends was it a waste of energy?

          I just don’t see it. A man lives, and he dies. A species emerges, thrives, and fades. A world forms, carries its inhabitants, and burns away. Why is any of this “waste”? We may feel it is sad or disturbing – but it is not waste.

          Something that was had its time, its story was told. It is at least less ‘wasteful’ than if it had never been.

          • Danielle says:

            If there is value to things-in-themselves, their existence doesn’t have to be justified (and cannot be written off, either) by an end-game that has nothing to do with them.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Perhaps we just have to disagree.

            I do not see a requirement for justification of the existence a Tyrannosaur, or that the Tyrannosaur being extinct as it being “written off”. This necessarily implies some kind of Universal Ledger tracking … something … Essence of Tyrannosaur? [I don’t mean to be snarky, but I fail to be able to read this any other way].

            > by an end-game that has nothing to do with them

            But what is the Universe’s or Life’s “end-game”? Perhaps that is my firm rejection of Apocalyptic thinking – the attempt to view the world from the perspective of its [necessarily imaginary] ending is not fruitful or informative.

            And I cannot see how this notion of The Grand Ledger does not ultimately embalm the Universe – one thing may never give way to another. You cannot have both New York City and all its inhabitants, libraries, and art AND have the warm shallows of the Triassic sea.

            How does the fact that a Tyrannosaur will never again walk the earth jip/cheat/reduce the Tyrannosaur? [assuming no promise of Forever was made to him/her].

          • Robert F says:

            Adam,
            It’s all that suffering. It’s that the last thing so many creatures, so many human beings, have experienced has been appalling suffering, just before their life was extinguished.

            Yesterday I heard a segment on NPR, an interview with a reporter who had covered the humanitarian efforts of doctors to help horrifically wounded civilians in the nightmare of the Syrian civil war. He related the experience of one European doctor who was in the OR when a young boy was brought in, a boy whose pelvis had been amputated by a bomb dropped in Aleppo. The boy was conscious, in agony and looking around the OR. There was no morphine to help alleviate his suffering, and his wounds were ones the doctor knew to be fatal. The doctor held his hand, and tried to help the only way he could: by hoping that the boy would die sooner rather than later. The reporter who related the incident then started to cry, as did the host of the show.

            It’s no good; it’s no damn good. Things end badly; that’s what is unacceptable to many of us, though we can do little about it. There is really no balance, no economy, in it. It’s just violation.

      • Christiane says:

        “No waste occurs. Waste is a concept intrinsically correlated to scarcity. The Universe has no scarcity.”

        a thought-provoking comment, ADAM

    • You are certainly not alone in this. I think that Nature itself is fallen, just as Humanity is; it has been corrupted and is in bondage to death and decay, just as we are. Nature, as we know it, is not as it is meant to be. Although I can’t say for sure what an un-fallen Nature looks like, or why it fell in the first place, at least I don’t have say that God explicitly intended Nature to be as death-ridden as it is. I only pray that things will be made right one day.

      • Christiane says:

        ” . . . and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
        for the former things have passed away.
        5 And the One seated on the throne said,
        “Behold, I make all things new.” ”

        (from the Book of Revelation, ch. 21)

        is it a part of the Fall, that we know more than we can possibly understand

      • Stephen says:

        “at least I don’t have say that God explicitly intended Nature to be as death-ridden as it is”

        But if you accept evolution as god’s way of creation isn’t that exactly what you have to say?

        • Robert F says:

          No. But we would have to entertain the idea that primordial creation was given into the care of angelic beings long before humanity, or biological life, ever arrived on the scene, and that some of these beings abused the authority God gave them, twisting the original energies of creation, along with all the processes that flow from it. I recognize that many on this site are uncomfortable with entertaining that possibility, so I hesitate to bring it up; but I think it’s possible to entertain it without getting sucked into blaming all undesired events on demonic activity. If the authority that was originally given to angelic beings, who screwed up, now has been given to humanity, which ultimately obeyed its vocation in Jesus Christ (after first messing up like the angels), then the fallen angels have been stripped of much of their power and authority. No wonder that in the NT they are depicted as homeless squatters, who beg not to be ejected from their possessed victims into the abyss; they are homeless, having failed in their calling, and now having been evicted by Jesus Christ, who has succeeded in the vocation of redemption given to humanity.

          • CS Lewis explored those very thoughts, Robert, in his science fiction trilogy. Have you ever read them?

          • Robert F says:

            Mike,
            I read That Hideous Strength a long, long time ago, and it’s entirely possible I picked up some of this from Lewis without fully remembering if I did or not. But I think I’ve also absorbed some of it from other sources, although I can’t name them.

        • @Stephan
          I honestly don’t have a clear answer to that question. It could be the case that evolution still “works” in the absence of death and violence, or it could be that evolution was only God’s “backup plan”; His way of creating despite the death and violence that Nature (and/or its governing powers) choose for itself.

        • Robert F says:

          I imagine God creating life, and the kind of life he wanted, in spite of the brutality of nature’s conditions, not because of it; and ultimately forming humanity despite the twisted condition creation is in due to the mishandling of angelic beings.

          None of this would explain why suffering and death continues after the victory of Christ, and the defeat of the fallen angelic beings, but then, what theodicy ever has? Christ, and God in Christ, works through weakness, in the least likely places, in the places that humanity writes off as places of death and failure. The real question is why love must be suffering love, rather than just love.

          • Robert F says:

            Perhaps angels have a kind of physicality, akin to the physicality imagined by Hinduism when it talks about the subtle body.

          • Robert F says:

            Then again, maybe what I’ve said is just a bunch of hooey, and on the other side of the hooey is a lot of suffering and death that are completely inexplicable. Choose your poison.

          • ALL ABOARD… The Woo-Woo train is now departing the station. Your conductor, Charles Fines, will take your ticket. If you need anything or have any questions during the tour, please don’t hesitate to ask him, he will be more than happy to assist 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “The world is broken.”
        — Chief Bogo, Zootopia

    • All that bugs me too, Stephen.
      But I wonder if much of our misgivings can be sourced to the fact that we are fallen creatures living under a bondage of fear — fear of death and pain and uncertainty and everything we can’t fully control or explain. I think that seeing things through this lens of fear gives the way we perceive nature a dire and dismal aspect. And, maybe, if we were not so bound up by fear — and if we truly, truly believed that God loves us and will be with us no matter what — then the fact that the universe is a perilous place might not trouble us so much. It might even serve as a cause for joy. After all, what better training ground for faith and courage could we ask for?
      Still, it’s easy to say such things. Actually managing to see and feel and believe that way with anything resembling consistency is another matter entirely.

  5. Ronald Avra says:

    I greatly appreciate the time and effort you spent thinking this subject through and putting this series together. Thank you very much.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      +1

      I had sworn off all further reading on Creationism/YEC/Christianity+Science as it is a nearly worthless endeavor; so much time has been wasted on these fruitless – and mostly scandalously uninformed – debates.

      But your series hooked me. The writing is precise and the arguments delightfully clear.

      • Adam, Ronald, Bill, Stephen, et. al.: Thank you very much. Adam: good to hear from you again, I have missed your frequent commenting. I am printing these out and my giving them to my granddaughter who has just graduated from high school and is off to college this fall to study dentistry. We are going to get together once a week or so and discuss them. I want her to be prepared to face these questions as she goes to college and takes biology. Her evangelical church has woefully under-prepared her to face these questions.

        • StuartB says:

          Her evangelical church has woefully under-prepared her to face these questions.

          Hopefully. I’ve seen some outrageous, blatant lying done in some of those video worldview courses people like Focus on the Family put out. Good luck.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Also check “BioLogos” and “God of Evolutn” on the links at the right of the page.

            Biologos if you want the technical end,
            God of Evolution if you want snarky humor.

      • StuartB says:

        Yeah, this has been a great series! Thank you. It kinda finally nailed some of the doors closed in my mind. I’m firmly now in that place of “who cares”, especially when it comes to YEC arguments.

  6. 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
    47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

  7. Thanks Mike. I’ve appreciated this series.

    You’ve outlined a few genetic similarities between species that can only be reasonably explained by heredity. I’d like to add one other possible explanation: God created each species (or closely related group of species) separately but decided to put these genetic patterns in their DNA.

    Why would God do that? No flippin’ clue.

    About 10 years ago, learning about things like this (in my case it was the similarities in the defective vitamin C-producing gene in humans and chimpanzees) that changed my thinking from “evolution could be right” to “evolution is probably right.” And I’ve only become more sure of this since then.

    Anti-evolutionary arguments can try to claim that God decided to create life with these similarities in DNA, but they can’t explain why. Evolution can.

    • Right Alex. The “God designed it that way argument”. Which could possible be true; but why did He design it to LOOK like it was due to heredity. That raises the “God as deciever” argument which creates more problems than it solves IMHO.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        That’s also known as the Omphalos Argument, first proposed by Gosse in mid-Victorian times. It didn’t fly then and it doesn’t fly now.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Omphalos is one breath away from Last Thursdayism…

          It is an epistemological nightmare…

      • So, if God (the source of all truth) designs something to LOOK a certain way, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that it actually IS that way. Say if God wrote a back story to the universe, then why would that back story be any less “real” than the current, unfolding chapters we happen to be living in? After all, if a creator God truly exists, then reality is what He says it is. There could be no mere appearance of age or heredity. If enacted by Him, such things would be actualities by virtue of their source.
        Along these lines, Mike, I am wondering what your take is on some of the latest scientific theories regarding the origins of the universe and the nature of reality itself. I read about one theory (can’t remember what it’s called or who came up with it) that is like a non-theological version of Calvinism — basically setting forth that everything (every movement of every atom or subatomic particle) was predetermined at the moment of the Big Bang and that what we perceive as chance or randomness is only a by-product of the universe’s complexity. Another theory I read about denies the existence of what we call time and affirms that every moment is eternal like film on a reel, and it’s just a matter of what frame you happen to be looking at.

  8. Thanks, Mike. Heck of a ride. No, I don’t need to see your ticket, you’ve got a season pass. Stephen too. There’s a few missed the trip but that always happens. Get ready for the next tour. It’s going to be a hummer! We’re going to stop by Ken Ham’s Ark on our way out of the galaxy. It’s the talk of the Universe!

    • Robert F says:

      Oh, come on, Charles: don’t you want to pretend that you’re the Tom Hank’s conductor from the Polar Express?

      Woo, woo…