examinescience

A personal journey into the world of Science and Human History

Category: Apologetics

Eric Metaxas and the Unprovable Theory

Even the most ardent evolutionary biologist would probably admit that finding that one moment in time where life suddenly happened from non-life is almost impossible. I know a few atheist apologists out there who might be willing to weigh in on the issue in the comments, and if they do, I’ll try to keep up.

I’ve used the argument before that we cannot know when the first cell developed. I’ve also asked the question, “where did the material come from for the Big Bang? Apparently, the answer to that one is that it came from a previously existing universe. Honestly, I can see how that might have happened. Of course, it doesn’t explain where the material from THAT universe came from, but this becomes a pretty circular argument and doesn’t prove creation any more than saying “God did it” and not having a better answer proves evolution.

Eric Metaxas, a writer I trust and enjoy (especially his biography of Bonhoeffer), wrote a piece on Break Point about how evolution is now even more difficult to prove since a discovery in Australia has shed some light on the earliest signs of life. In essence, the article suggests that life started further back than evolutionists currently claim. In Metaxas’ mind, this signifies a problem for evolutionists because it forces them to do two things.

  1. It throws off their numbers, beginning with when things first came to life. If it happened a few hundred million years before they originally thought, then they have to redo all of the other numbers too, and that presents problems.
  2. According to Metaxas, life started too early in the evolutionary timeline to allow for evolution. At the time of these living rocks, Earth was still too hot to really hold life. How could evolution have really happened?

So a few issues. First, evolutionists will quickly point out that life has been created in a lab. I disagree slightly with the idea that this equals life, since it was really a modification of an already existing bacteria. Still, it is life, as it were. Metaxas makes the argument that life cannot be created. That’s a side project in his article, and honestly I wish it wasn’t even there. It’s not relevant to his actual point.

Second, disproving evolution doesn’t prove God. This is something Christians have to stop doing. I’ll give you the atheist answer: We understand that this evidence disproves what we believed was true about life’s timeline. We’ll go back to the drawing board on that note and figure it out. You see, an evolutionist never stops trying to figure out the science of the issue.

Third, proving that life started earlier than scientists first imagined doesn’t prove creation because IT’S STILL HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO! By making his claim against evolution, that it started so much earlier than scientists first thought and that therefore evolution can’t be correct, Metaxas is saying that God created these living organisms millions of years before Christians accept his creation. It’s a horrible circular argument and a byproduct of trying to find the smoking gun against evolution.

Too many Christians think they can find evolution’s achilles heel. There isn’t one. Each obstacle in science merely produces a new direction for research.

Look, it’s hopefully become very clear over the last few months that I’ve tipped my hat toward creation. I am a Christian and I believe God created the world. I believe scientific thought can show us how that happened, not that I need to have it proven by science. Still, it’s so vitally important that we not shut the door to those doing this research for us because we need their research to understand God more. We’ve got to stop thinking that we have the smoking gun, especially when all we end up doing is alienating ourselves.

Creation, Evolution, and Apologetics Part I

I never wanted this project to be about apologetics. In my opinion, unless a person is already interested in scripture, or completely ignorant of the Bible, arguing (or debating) is just a waste of time. It is idle talk that takes away from the work of the kingdom (II Tim 2:16).

My only real desire for this research project has always been for it to be just that…a research project. I have hoped to bridge the gap between faith and science for me and my kids. You see, I had to know if these two poles were reconcilable for myself, and then I could help my kids see the truth.


Timothy Paul Jones, co-author of Practical Family Ministry, wrote, “Parents need to be trained to equip their children to defend their faith in an increasingly hostile context.”*

As much as I don’t want this project to be about apologetics, it has to be. Of course, that won’t happen until I’ve done the research that proves one thing or the other…and while I’m hopeful that, in the end, this research will prove God created everything (even if I have to reject what I grew up believing in order for it to be true). As I get further along, I hope to show how it’s not only true, but how to defend it in public.

Apologetics means to give a defense. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry  (CARM) defines it at, “Apologetics is the branch of Christianity that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith.”

I used to be afraid of that word because I thought it meant to apologize, and as a young Christian man in a small town in Kansas, I didn’t do that. The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, clears up the issue: “The word, however, derives its meaning from the Greek apologia, meaning a ‘reasoned defence’.”

Here’s why we have to include apologetics, as much as I may reject the notion at first. The world wants me to reject that God created the world and I need to find and defend the answers to that issue.

There is another reason, however, and it’s an unfortunate one. I have to be ready to defend my faith and beliefs from conservative Christians who reject the notion of anything but a 6 day creation and expect me to do the same. So I plan to learn how to do that as well.

Here’s why: the original call for apologetics didn’t come from the church, but from God through the apostle Peter. In 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV), the old man says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

This would seem to include Christians and unbelievers. And why must I be ready, along with my children? Because the attack will come. I can still remember a lecture in my sophomore year of high school where I defended the creation against my biology teacher, who I think acquiesced because of time, not because of my sound theology and logic. Already, my son is bringing home study books dripping with the rejection of Christian faith and filled with evolution. I don’t believe I have prepared him well enough for defending his faith in school.

So the research will continue, and will in time develop into a proper defense, but I promise you sincerely, the defense is to bring Christ to the masses, not to shun or hurt people. We’ll see how it turns out.

*  Practical Family Ministry: A Collection of Ideas for Your Church, Pg 10.

What’s faith got to do with Science?

In my estimation, the average atheist scientist has as much or more faith than the average Christian. 

I’ve been studying the ideas of evolution and creation for almost a year now. My reason for examining science has been many fold, and will be covered in a different post. I’ve researched cystic fibrosis, which is something near and dear to me as it runs in my family. From there I started studying human origins. To that end, I’ve written about Neanderthals and I’ve got a post in the works on Lucy, thought to be one of the first human ancestors.

In doing this research, with what I believe are now proper motivations, I’ve started feeling pretty good about myself. After all, I want to find out how God did it. How did he design the whole thing? Did he use a long time? How did he move one species to another? While sometimes I admit that the process gets me down, overall I’m quite excited about the research.

Until recently when I read Hebrews 11. Of course, as a person who grew up in the church, I have read the faith “hall of fame” many times. Hebrews 11:1 is a verse that (in KJV) I know by heart to this day.

The verse that got me thinking was the third verse: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Suddenly, I was unnerved by the Word of God. I do still believe in the Bible, don’t I? even if I’m willing to admit that Genesis 1 may not be the whole story, don’t I believe in the first verse? As I write this post, yes, I do believe that, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Scientifically speaking, this is the big bang. Whether the point of singularity was God-created (for Christians) or a dense piece of matter (evolutionists), the heavens and the earth were created at some point.

But do I believe that it was God? and if I do, isn’t that as far as I need to go? Shouldn’t it spell the end of the blog/research project?

 

I don’t think so, although the situation reminded me to keep this research project in perspective. I do believe it is important, from a purely apologetical perspective, to discover as much about science as we can. But more important than that, studying how this all came about helps us reach the lost. It helps us understand the average Joe’s base mindset going in to a discussion.

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, faith has everything to do with it. An evolutionary scientist does not know how everything came about, but he or she believes with great faith that science will betray the answers of the universe in time. In my estimation, the average atheist scientist has as much or more faith than the average Christian.

I don’t mean that flippantly, like some Christian apologists do when they say, “It takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does the Bible.” I don’t think that’s a true statement. I mean that, for the gaps that still exist in science (and there are plenty), the average scientist believes with an amazing amount of faith that the answers will be found and that those answers will continue to prove out the modified theory of evolution.

Yet I also have faith…faith that their research will give me answers in my research!

Because I’m convinced that this research project holds value as a tool to understand how God created everything, I will continue it, albeit at a slower rate than I had been going. Human evolution, or whatever it is, intrigues me, as does the overall age of the universe. I expect to learn a great deal while studying these things.

Until next time…

The difficulty of remaining unbiased in Research

I struggled at points in my graduate work because I already had presuppositions about things such as the pretribulational rapture, the role of baptism in the Christian life, and yes, even creation. While I “survived” my graduate work, I did struggle (please don’t look up my GPA!).

That struggle continues as I conduct research in the scientific world of modern evolution science. It started with cystic fibrosis, wherein I noticed a time gap between when cystic fibrosis started to appear and when the causal agent started to appear. My presupposition was that evolution could not have caused cystic fibrosis because its agent wasn’t “available.”

I may or may not be right about that; the research continues. I want to find holes in the evolutionary natural history that only biblical events could explain. That’s my problem. No matter how unbiased I attempt to be, I struggle with my preconceived notions.

I’m certainly not the first person to struggle with this. In the 1700s, natural historians started realizing that the world had to be older than we first thought. Georges Cuvier, the 18th Century French naturalist who conducted a lot of work in the field of paleontology, never left his Protestant roots as he learned more about the development of nature around him. In fact, he remained a Protestant to his death. He reviewed the ideas on evolution at the time (no, Darwin wasn’t the first to think of it), and “found it wanting.”[1] Like Cuvier, I have been reviewing the theory of evolution and have my issues.

And also like Cuvier, I have my biases against evolution. I DON’T WANT IT TO BE TRUE! Is that so wrong? Probably not, but what is wrong is that I claim to want to review the scientific data on its own without my biases so that I can find the truth for my kids. I don’t want them confused in school or ridiculed unnecessarily for beliefs that I have always taken for granted. Yet I struggle hard with these presumptions about evolution and creation which I must get past.

So today we try again. Again we look at science as modern scientists want us to. If anything, I need to see the current scientific study from their perspective, which is the presumption that the theory of evolution is correct and time will give us the answers that we’re seeking (such as in the case of transitional life forms).

I can’t promise that I’ll always be unbiased, but I’m hopeful that I can proceed with the correct mindset. Click HERE to stay on top of the research project.

[1] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Random House. New York, NY, 2000, pg 10.

Nature as the Bible Sees It

In giving evidence for why evolution is a fact, and not actually a theory, Cameron M. Smith says in his book, The Fact of Evolution, “Not only do life-forms come from parent generations, but offspring resemble their parents. Not just on the surface but down to the molecule, life-forms are usually pretty close approximations – replicas – of their parents’ basic form.”[1]

I’d say, “duh” here buy the author is basically saying that with his point. His contention is that evolution is actually easy to understand and that it’s so obvious it’s almost too easy. It’s actually pretty good writing

I’ll get to what the Bible says in just a minute, but notice the key point of Smith’s argument, “Why don’t elephants give birth to fish? The intuitive answer is that there are different kinds of life, and each essentially produces its own kind.”

This is not a foreign concept to believers in God’s creation. All of creation was in fact brought forth and told to reproduce after their kind. Like life gives way to like life (Genesis 1).

It doesn’t take an evolutionary biologist, or a prehistorian (like Smith) to know that life produces after it’s own kind. The interesting thing is that evolution doesn’t actually do that. Of course, for several generations it does, but over the course of millions of years it stops doing that and eventually splits off to become “other” kinds, such as the case of the mammoth and Asian elephant, which were supposed to have a common ancestor some millions of years ago.[2]

In this way, it is difficult to accept evolution when one is a Christian or grew up in church. We were taught from the Bible that everything gives life to its kind. This is what the observable world also shows us. Yet we are also to believe that at specific, accidental times throughout history (a very long history), kinds didn’t necessarily give way to like kinds. At some point, variation allowed for a new species to develop. The easiest way for that to happen in evolutionary science is to geographically separate the two species from each other as they develop so that the Asian elephant, for example, in the southern half or so of the Asian continent, becomes genetically different from the mammoth in the arctic.

This means that, according to science, at one time there actually existed an “Adam.” At some point, enough of the gene differences between our common ancestors with chimpanzees actually created two species (the chimp and humans). We actually have some of this knowledge in the form of mtDNA Eve (mitochondrial Eve).

Evolutionists would argue that an entire generation of Adams would have evolved, in order for the beneficial traits to develop, but the point is the same. At some point in time, Adam came to be. He was like his predecessors, but he was also a new species. No one knows yet when that happened. Many gaps exist in the timeline. Actually, I should be more specific in that science traces Eve more than it traces Adam. Maybe you have heard of Mitochondrial Eve? You will meet her and then get to know her more, as well as her husband Adam over the course of our journey.

We have to be careful here so as not to enter into some sort of “God of the gaps” argument. The idea of the God of the gaps is that, since science can’t always (or even mostly) fill in the gaps between two species (an example is the mammoth), then God must have stepped in and accomplished that task.

This is bad theology because it doesn’t actually give God credit for creation in the first place, and renders Genesis 1-3 unusable. It’s also bad science, because it assumes that God is really just a word for “I give up.”

This is why Christians cannot be afraid to research the issue. In my own review of the research on the evolution of cystic fibrosis, it has become relatively clear that at no time has science shown the cause of the cystic fibrosis mutation, nor what caused it. All that can be speculated on is that it showed up around 50,000 years ago, and that being a heterozygote carrier (meaning a person has one mutation and one good gene) allows for some advantage over tuberculosis.

Our God is not a god of the gaps, but an actual, creative being with power and mercy. He will either show us himself through our scientific processes or he will be proven to be less of a god than we think he is. I believe he will come out as more than we think he is…more sovereign, more powerful, and more loving.

If we remain faithful, and look into the research, we’ll probably find that God is in the details. Debate all you need to, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep reading and learning. I hope you’ll join me. Click this link to do so.

 

[1] Smith, Cameron M. The Fact of Evolution. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY. 2010. pg 38.

[2] Shapiro, Beth. How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 2015. pg 108

 

Out of the Garden and into the Cradle (Part Two)

In part one of this subject, I suggested that Eden could be in Africa, which is where modern scientists postulate our human ancestry begins. One other explanation exists for the contradiction between Eden, which some believe is in modern day Iraq, and the cradle of mankind, which is Africa.

Genesis two tells us about how God created man and then planted a garden in the east (vs 8). He could have “planted” this garden by supernaturally bringing it up from dead ground or he could have grown it through natural process. How he did it wasn’t important. It only matters that he did do it.

And all the Bible tells us is that he planted it in the east. More than likely, in writing to ancient Jews, the writer meant the location of present day Iraq. Remember that the books of the Bible had a target audience, just like any piece of writing does. So while Noah might not have meant that the Garden had been in Iraq based on his renaming of new rivers after old ones (see THIS post), the writer of Genesis seems to indicate this as a location.

Yet the location is really not that important. Again, we believe God created everything because we believe that both the Bible (his written revelation) and nature (his physical revelation) both tell us so. So whether the original writer was right in saying it was Iraq or not is irrelevant.

Because of the above and the previous post on this subject, I believe that the cradle of mankind (eastern Africa) and the Garden of Eden were the same.

Easter and Evolution

Pattaya Day 04 007

Picture of Sunrise Service on board USS Antietam, taken in Pattaya, Thailand. Easter 2009.

Happy Easter! I’m on duty today, but I started my morning with God and it has been a wonderful morning thus far.

I wanted to write today about what evolution means for Easter as I read something about the Scopes Monkey Trial that I found unnerving. William Jennings Bryan, who joined the prosecution in an effort to lend credibility to what was otherwise a small town affair, said the following: “if this evolution doctrine is true, this logic eliminates everything supernatural, and that means they eliminate the virgin birth…the resurrection of the body…and the doctrine of atonement.”

Is that what it really means though? Sometimes I wonder if the answer is yes. I wonder if modern evangelicalism (which replaced, at least in name, fundamentalism of the 1920s) can survive the pressing reality of evolution. I’ve written about it in my book, and I have a post coming about it on this blog, that suggests our faith might be in trouble if Genesis One can’t stand up to the scrutiny of modern science. I’m concerned that Jennings might be right if this is the case.

Yet I’m hopeful…it is spring after all. I am hopeful that our faith in God is stronger than our fears about engaging science. I’m hopeful that God will show us through nature what he planned in our faith. I’m hopeful that we will celebrate Easter in the many years to come as a sign of hope for our coming resurrection, not as a faded memory of a dead faith.

I’m mostly hopeful that evangelicalism as a political voting bloc, will itself fade, replaced by a faith that is willing to engage with science to learn more about the Creator. I think this is possible, and I’m hopeful for that day.

So happy Easter everyone. Praise the Lord for what he has done for us, and may he continue to teach us new things about him every day!