When people ask this question, usually what they mean is, ‘hasn’t the theory of evolution replaced the creation story and so disproved Christianity.’ The answer to that question is an emphatic no! There’s a saying, however, that ‘a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.’ In other words, someone who is an avowed atheist and has already decided that God does not exist isn’t likely to change their mind, no matter how convincing the evidence is. Nevertheless, as we begin this lecture I would ask you to keep an open mind and consider the evidence, or lack of it!
First, let me start by stating that many people think science and the belief in God and Christianity are at odds with one another and that they contradict each other but I find the opposite to be true; I find that they complement each other. In the final analysis, science only ever seeks to answer the question, ‘How?’ but Christianity never attempts to answer that question: Christianity seeks to answer the question ‘Who’ not ‘How?’
Author Stephen Gaukroger makes the point: ‘Science and Christianity are different in that they answer different questions. But there is an important point of similarity. Both are based on faith! (Scientists call them presuppositions, but they can’t be scientifically proven and so they are really statements of faith.) Now this comes as quite a shock to a lot of people who think science is all about facts. In reality all science is based on at least two statements of faith:
- The universe is an orderly place, which works on a uniform, regular basis.
- The information received by our senses and minds is an accurate picture of the universe.
Now it is absolutely impossible to ‘prove’ either of these statements scientifically. Yet if you don’t accept them, there is no point bothering with scientific investigation. Citation
Science only offers one aspect of the truth (the how or method, not the reason or the why). For example, as a scientist you could say that playing the violin was ‘rubbing the entrails of a dead sheep with the hairs of a dead horse’, and you would be describing the facts accurately – but not all the facts. You would not be describing the question of why certain sounds are harmonious and others not, why the music is enjoyable or why the violinist is playing at all. Strictly speaking, science can only answer the ‘how’ questions, not the ‘why’ questions. Citation
If you think about it, ‘science is unable to tell us why the universe came into being. Science is unable to explain why there are scientific or natural laws, or why they are so consistent and dependable. Science cannot explain why the universe is so amazingly fine-tuned to support intelligent life on our planet. Science can tell us nothing about why the mind exists and functions as it does. Science cannot define or explain ethical principles. Science is not able to answer life’s deepest questions.’ Citation
The facts is, science can only answer certain kinds of questions: If you ask how something happened, science is usually pretty good with coming up with a theory (such as, evolution by natural selection for example). However, when you ask the question why? The scientist is less comfortable. Another illustration may help. A young boy walks into the kitchen one morning to find a kettle boiling on the stove. Wondering why it is boiling, he asks his dad (who just happens to be a scientist). His dad promptly replies, “Well son, it’s because the combustion of the gas transfers heat to the bottom of the kettle which, being a good conductor, transfers heat to the water. The molecules of the water become more and more agitated, give off steam and there you have your boiling.” A little dissatisfied by his father’s reply, the kid asks his mum the same question, “Mum, why is the kettle boiling?” Finally he gets the answer he has been looking for: “The kettle is boiling because I am about to make us all a cup of coffee.” The father explained how the kettle was boiling. The mum answered why. Similarly, science is great at speculating about the big how of the universe, but we must turn elsewhere to find out why. Why does the universe work so intricately? Why are humans here? Why do we feel a deep need to know the answers to such questions? Citation
Let me say it again, science and the belief in God and Christianity are not at odds with one another, and they do not have to contradict each other; rather they often complement each other. In fact, ‘One of the most convincing reasons for not seeing any real conflict in principle between science and Christianity is a very practical one. So many scientists today are Christians! Intelligent men and women in every field of scientific research see absolutely no conflict between what they believe as scientists and what they believe as Christians. Citation
Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, science and Scripture are not necessarily opposed. The ranks of Bible-believing scientists have grown rapidly since the discovery of quantum physics, which demonstrates the amazing symmetry and order that make up the universe. Did you know that one of the most brilliant scientific books of our time was written by no less than sixty notable scientists, including twenty-four Nobel Prize winners? The book’s title is Cosmos, Bios, Theos, which means Universe, Life, and God. And one of the contributing authors, Yale physicist Professor Henry Margenau, concludes, ‘There’s only one convincing answer’ for the intricate laws that exist in nature. And what does this brilliant man think it is? Evolution? Coincidence? Happenstance? No! Margenau believes that ‘creation is by an omnipotent omniscient God’ Citation (all-powerful, all-knowing God).
Many of the world’s greatest thinkers believe that God not only exists, but that He created the universe and its inhabitants. So the next time someone tells you that only simple, uneducated people believe in God – don’t buy it. Dr Robert Jastrow, founder and director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, writes in his blockbuster book, God and the Astronomers: ‘The astronomical evidence supports the Biblical view of the origin of the world… The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same… Science has proved that the universe exploded into being at a certain moment… What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter or energy into the universe? Science cannot answer these questions…and for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance… is about to conquer the highest peak, and as he pulls himself over the final rock he’s greeted by a band of theologians who’ve been sitting there for centuries.’ Citation
In the Bible God says, ‘I…made the earth and created mankind upon it’ (Isaiah 45v12 NIV). Did you know that if the earth was 10 percent larger or 10 percent smaller, life as we know it wouldn’t be possible? Or that we’re just the right distance from the sun so we receive the right amount of heat and light? If we were any farther away we’d freeze, and if we were closer we wouldn’t be able to survive. Consider for a moment the amazing tilt of the axis of the earth. None of the other planets are tilted like ours at 23 degrees. This angle allows the sun’s rays to touch every part of the earth’s surface over the course of a year, as the earth circles the sun. If there was no tilt to the axis, the poles would accumulate enormous masses of ice, and the centre of the earth would become so hot we couldn’t stand it. Citation
Science and the belief in God and Christianity do not contradict each other; rather they complement each other. Stephen Gaukroger makes a valid point: ‘Perhaps the greatest conflict between science and faith in the popular mind is seen in the media. Most of us do not read scientific journals and wouldn’t understand them if we did! We watch television programmes or read our newspapers, and this is where most people get their scientific information. Sadly, this information is sometimes inaccurate and often misleading. A scientific paper of any weight is hedged around with qualifications – ‘given these conditions’, ‘other experiments pending’, ‘on the data available’ – and is fairly tentative about reaching conclusions until much more evidence is examined. But this makes for boring TV and dull articles in the press, so what we are presented with are certainties. ‘Major breakthrough’ and ‘new discovery’ sound much more exciting than the ‘may be’, ‘possibly’, and ‘perhaps’ of true science. This leaves the average person with the impression that definite statements of provable fact are being made.’ Citation
The fine-tuning of the universe makes more sense if there is a God than if there isn’t. But what about evolution – did man evolve from ape? No, he did not! Gaukroger asks, tongue in cheek, ‘Can any right-thinking person really believe in Adam and Eve? Well, perhaps they can – given recent scientific genetic research which points to the possibility that all humanity may have evolved from a single couple! Citation Indeed, according to some genetics experts, modern-day DNA research could theoretically trace our ancestry back to one man and one woman. ‘Evolution is not a fact! Evolution is [a theory] a description! If we ask the question, ‘Why did the man fall off the roof’ science can draw on its resources to tell us about the mechanics involved – the mass of the man, the velocity of the fall, gravitational pull, and so on. But this is only a description of what happened. Gravity did not make the man fall! To find out the cause we have to ask other questions. Did he slip? Was he pushed? Did he jump? Similarly, evolution is a [theory or] description of the way life may have started, but it cannot explain what made it start and why. Only non-scientific questions can do that. Was it chance? God? Evolution simply cannot say. This means that even if every single piece of current evolutionary theory proved accurate, it would still not rule God out of the picture.’ Citation
Others disagree with this: ‘Biologist Ernst Mayr, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, writes, ‘Since Darwin, every knowing person agrees man descended from the apes. Today, there is no such thing as the theory of evolution. It is the fact of evolution.’ But is it? Avowed atheist Richard Dawkins endorses this verdict with a typical truculent flourish: ‘It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who does not believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that). Citation
‘Nobody seriously denies that apes and humans share some physical characteristics, but that is a long way from proving a direct link between the two species. There is a huge gap between similarities and direct relationship. (…) There is no clear-cut and inexorable pathway from ape to man. Having spent twenty-five years researching the fossil record, the American scholar Marvin Lubenow opened his book Bones of Contention with the words: ‘The human fossil record is strongly supportive of the concept of Special Creation. On the other hand, the fossil record is so contrary to human evolution as to effectively falsify the idea that humans evolved.’ Later he added, ‘Human evolution allegedly took place in the past over vast periods of time. Evolutionists readily admit that evolutionary processes work so slowly that they are not observable over the lifetime of one individual or even over successive lifetimes of hundreds of generations. In other words, there are no direct observations or experiments that can confirm the process of human evolution.’ Citation
Dr John Blanchard in his book, ‘Has science got rid of God?’, makes another valid point: ‘The facts tells us that whenever we discover human fossils – and thousand have been found – they are already fully human, with no signs of transition from a more primitive creature. Distinguished anatomist Lord Zuckerman, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, concluded that, ‘… if man evolved from an apelike creature, he did so without leaving a trace of evolution in the fossil record.’ There are no apes in human history. – The ‘missing links’ are still missing! Darwin admitted that this was ‘the most obvious and serious objection that could be urged against his theory, but decided that this could be explained by ‘the extreme imperfection of the geological record’. (…) Darwin had hoped that the discovery of further fossils would reveal the missing links needed to confirm his theory’ [of evolution by natural selection]. Although we now have a staggering number of fossils to examine, Darwin’s own conclusion – ‘Not one change of species into another is on record… we cannot prove that a single species has been changed’ – remains essentially correct. Citation
Author, John Dickson writes: “It is interesting that Darwin himself believed in God and didn’t view his theories as a threat to belief in God (at least not until later in life). [Did you know that Charles Darwin graduated from Cambridge University with a B.A. in theology?] In fact, in his book, The Origin of Species, there is a reference to God as the Creator who “originally breathed life with its several powers into a few forms or into one”. In his later years Charles Darwin commented: “I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out (to people) guesses, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them.”” Citation
Evolution by natural selection is a fact only to those who do not want to believe in God; people like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawkin. ‘In his book, The God Delusion, Professor Richard Dawkins says, “If you tell me God created the universe then I have the right to ask you, who created God?” Well, even leaving God out of the equation, I have the right to turn the question around and ask Professor Dawkins, ‘If the universe created you who created the universe?’ He has no answer to that question! Similarly, ‘Professor Stephen Hawkin also favoured a self-designing universe. In his book, The Grand Design, Hawkin wrote, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” – The problem with Hawkin’s theory is neither gravity nor any other law of physics provides a mechanism by which universe can be spontaneously created. The question Hawking never answered was why those laws of physics exist in the first place?’ Citation
It is easier to believe that God created something out of nothing than to believe that nothing made something out of nothing. Towards the end of his life, Charles Darwin wrote of ‘the impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe including man as a result of blind chance or necessity: When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look for a first cause having an intelligent mind and I deserve to be called an theist’. (…) Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, who comes from a budhist background, has said, ‘The chances that life just occurred on earth are about as unlikely as a typhoon blowing through a junkyard and constructing a Boeing 747.’ Citation
I noticed a funny sign on a church bulletin board that says it all: ‘If evolution is true, how come mothers still have only two hands?’
We did not simply evolve from an amoeba. We were created. Blanchard uses ‘the human eye to provide a good illustration. It comes with automatic aiming, focusing and aperture adjustment and its tiny retina has 130 million receptor cells, 124 million of which are rod-shaped and differentiate between light and darkness, and six million of which are cone-shaped and can identify up to eight million variations of colour. Is it possible that all of these features came into being by means of the genetic equivalent of typing errors over millions of years? Those who insist that this is the case (and Darwin did, is spite of admitting that for natural selection to form the eye was ‘absurd in the highest possible degree’ Citation ) have surely missed the point that a partial eye is useless. Five percent of an eye would not give you five percent vision – it would give none. What is more, even if all the physical components of an eye were in place, they would achieve nothing unless they were precisely ‘wired’ to an amazing complex of nerve cells in the brain. Small wonder that someone has suggested, ‘Examination of the eye is a cure for atheism.’ Citation
American physicist Wolfgang Smith has said, ‘We are told dogmatically that evolution is an established fact; but we are never told who established it, and by what means. We are told often enough, that the doctrine is founded upon evidence… but we are left entirely in the dark on the crucial question wherein, precisely, this evidence consists.’ He continues, ‘If by evolution we mean macro-evolution… it can be said with utmost vigour that the doctrine is totally bereft of scientific sanction… there exists today not a shred of bona fide scientific evidence in support of the thesis that macro-evolution transformations have ever occurred.’ Citation – There is absolutely no evidence for the multitudes of intermediate forms that would exist if evolution were true.
So all of this brings us back to the opening question: hasn’t the theory of evolution replaced the creation story and so disproved Christianity? And the answer to that question is still an emphatic no! Why, no? Because the Bible’s account of creation, in Genesis chapter 1, never even attempts to answer the question of how creation happened; it only tells us who created and why?
I have a friend, Stephen Abery, who has an in-depth Bible knowledge and has written on this subject. He acknowledges there are several unhelpful ways of approaching Genesis chapter 1:
“The first unhelpful approach is to read Genesis 1 as a literal historical account of what actually happened in a very special week several thousand years ago. In this view, God created the world in 6 days of 24 hours each. Now I am not suggesting that God cannot do that – of course He can, God by his very nature can do anything – and I know for many people being a ‘6 day creationist’ is the touchstone of orthodoxy. However, such a view today is very difficult to reconcile with our scientific knowledge of geology and astronomy. A more basic problem is a careful reading of Genesis suggests that its author’s intention was never to create a literal history.
Another unhelpful approach to Genesis 1 is to treat it as a myth or legend. In this approach the creation story is no more than a fairy tale without any basis in fact at all. A story made up by an ancient unsophisticated people to explain why the world existed and to justify their religious beliefs. The great problem for this view is that the Bible everywhere assumes the creation account is true truth. Jesus assumed Adam and Eve were historical figures in His discussion of marriage. The apostles base the arguments in many of their letters on the fact of creation. You simply can’t decide the creation story is a make believe fairy tale without undermining the whole Bible.
So if these are unhelpful approaches, how are we then to interpret and make any sense of Genesis 1? I suggest we are meant to approach Genesis 1 as a carefully crafted account of creation. If you read it you will notice its repetitive rhythm: ‘And God said… And God said… And God said… Let there be… Let there be… Let there be… It was so… It was so… It was so… And God saw… And God saw… And God saw… It was good… It was good… It was good… And there was evening… And there was evening… And there was evening… and there was morning… and there was morning …and there was morning…’
Notice also the structure of Genesis 1. What was the problem with the earth in verse 2? ‘The earth was formless and empty.’ How was the problem solved? The first three days create form, they create structure. What are the fundamental forms or structures for human life? Well, you need to know whether its day or night, whether you’re on the earth or in the sky, whether you’re on land or sea. So these forms, these structures are created and then… the second three days populate them. So what are the six days about? Are they regular 24 hour days? The evidence suggests they may not be regular 24 hour days – sponsored by Accurist – they’re a literary device, an organising structure which enables us to see the order and logic of God’s creation.” Citation
The word ‘day’ has several meanings: It means light, as opposed to darkness. It means a full day (morning and evening). And it also means a longer period of time (in our day). That the six days of creation in the Bible were very different from ordinary days is clear by the non-existence of the sun until the fourth day. The account of creation in Genesis is like a poetic literary device. As well as the repetitive rhythm, notice also the parallels between the two sets of three days; between days 1, 2 and 3 where things are formed, and days 4, 5 and 6 when they are populated. Three days of forming followed by three day of filling:
|Day 1 – light and dark||Day 4 – sun, moon and stars|
|Day 2 – sea and sky||Day 5 – sea creatures and birds|
|Day 3 – land and vegetation||Day 6 – beasts and human beings|
The formless earth was formed at God’s command. The empty earth was populated at God’s command. The picture painted in Genesis 1 is of the one true God as the creator of order and life, and Christians believe the evidence we have supports this.
So science and the belief in God and Christianity are not necessarily at odds with one another. Indeed, the absolute intricate precision and fine-tuning of the universe makes more sense if there is a God than if there isn’t. Let me close with this:
In his typically quirky way, the American film producer Woody Allen complained, ‘If God would only speak to me – just once. If he would only cough. If I could just see a miracle. If I could see a burning bush or the seas part. Or my Uncle Sasha pick up the cheque.’ Elsewhere he mused, ‘If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.’ One has to smile at Woody Allen’s wit, but in this extremely serious issue he misses the point that God has spoken and he has reveal himself to us in at least three dramatic ways.
- God has revealed himself in creation.
- God has revealed himself in the Bible.
- God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Citation
So coming back to our question: Hasn’t science disproved God or hasn’t the theory of evolution replaced the creation story and so disproved Christianity? The answer is an emphatic no!