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"The BIG Questions”
Part 2:

Don't Science and the Bible Contradict Each Other?”
Based on Psalm 104:1-24 and Selected Texts
Delivered on February 27 & 28, 2010
by David J. Claassen

Copyright 2010 by David J. Claassen

When I was a kid I had a microscope, a telescope, and a chemistry set. I enjoyed looking at objects small and up close with my microscope, at objects big and far away with my telescope, and blowing up objects with my chemistry set. (Just kidding!) My favorite subject in school was science. I still own a microscope and a telescope, and I enjoy reading Discover magazine and will even pick up a Scientific American magazine upon occasion. I say all of this because when we’re considering our big question for this weekend (“Don't Science and the Bible Contradict Each Other?”) I want you to know that I really like science.

The big question we're looking at this weekend in our “The BIG Questions” series is whether science and the Bible contradict each other. I'll give you what I think is the correct answer up front: yes, they sometimes contradict each other, but they don't have to!

Undoubtedly the biggest area of conflict between science and faith is the debate over evolution and religion. Let's take a closer look at that.

Evolution and Faith

Evolutionary theory suggests that life evolved: it developed from simple to more complex forms, eventually resulting in the variety of plant and animal species that we find today. Many people who hold to the theory of evolution believe in naturalism, the belief that it all happened without any kind of divine help or direction. However, some people who believe in the evolutionary process are theists: believers in a God.

Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ believe what Jesus believed. He endorsed, often quoting as God's Word, various parts of the Bible, including the creation accounts in the first two chapters of the Bible in Genesis.

Genesis talks about God’s creating everything in the world, including all life, in six days of creation. The evolutionary theory says that it evolved over eons of time.

First, let's address the creation accounts. If you believe in God, you have to believe that God could create everything in six days. Nothing's impossible with God. Many Christians believe that this is exactly what God did: He created it in six literal days. Again, God could, and maybe did, create it all in six days.

There are other Christians who also believe that the Bible is God's inspired and inerrant Word but who don't see the Biblical text necessarily referring to literal twenty-four-hour solar days; instead they think that it refers to long periods of time. Many of us use the NIV Study Bible, a trusted study Bible. In its footnote on Genesis 1:5 it states, “Some say that the creation days were 24-hour days, others that they were indefinite periods.”

It has been pointed out that the first creation account in Genesis 1:1 — 2:3 is in poetry form, while the second account (which emphasizes Adam and Eve) is in prose. It has been suggested that although what it states is true, poetry states something in descriptive phrases and words that often don't have as narrow a meaning as when they’re used in prose. Therefore, it’s suggested, the idea of “days” was a poetic way of describing long periods of time and that the Genesis 1 account compresses the timeline into a week.

We do know that the word “day” is used not only to refer to a literal solar day, but to something longer. A summary of all the days of creation found in Genesis 2:4 states, “These [are] the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens . . . .” The Hebrew word for “day” is “yom” here, as well as in the earlier description of the six “days” of creation. Here in Genesis 2:4 it obviously refers to more than a solar day. It has also been pointed out that the sun, by which we have our solar day of twenty-four hours, wasn’t created until the fourth day, so the sun’s rising and setting to measure days didn’t happen until the fourth “day” of creation.

The psalmist stated, as does the New Testament, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by.” (Psalm 90:4) We often use “day” in this broader way. We say, “Back in the day of the horse and buggy, . . .” or “I'm sure the day is coming when we'll all have private air cars, . . .”

The fact is that good Bible-believing Christians hold different views on the timeframe that God used, as it's described in Genesis. The main purpose of Genesis is not to give a scientific detailed account of creation, but to proclaim unreservedly that God made it all and that humans are the grand finale of His creative efforts, having been made by Him in His own image. Let's take a closer look at the evolutionary theory.

Species within Walls

Many assumptions made by those who hold to a strict evolutionary process have never been proven. One such assumption — it's really a belief — is that life evolved, creating the different species of plants and animals.

The fact is that there's no evidence of one species evolving into another. We know that within a species there can be evolution. For instance, the survival of the fittest means that over the long haul the fastest rabbits will survive being chased and will live to raise young, and the young will tend to be rabbits who can run faster. Slightly darker moths in a dark forest will survive being eaten by predators more often than light-colored moths, so over time the moths in the forest will tend to be dark.

We can cross-breed animals to get different and better animals, but always of the same kind. We have many varieties of dogs because of years of careful breeding, and the same with cats. However, we've never produced a new species that's a combination of a dog and a cat (would you call it a dat or a cog?). Even if scientists could manage to do that, it would only prove that it takes intelligence and intention to create a new species!

The book of Genesis says, “And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.' And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:24-25) God created the different species, each according to its own kind. The idea of gradualism — that one species evolves into another — has never been observed to happen. Philip Johnson wrote “That Darwinian evolution can gradually transform one kind of creature into another is merely a biological hypothesis, not a fact.” (Darwin on Trial, p.10)

Of Peacocks and Guppies

The evolutionary theory also assumes that life evolves into more complex and extravagant forms. The peacock is an example given of how over time, peahens are more attracted to peacocks that have a bigger, more gaudy tail. However, it has been pointed out that those long, fancy tails make a peacock vulnerable to a predator. If a wild dog is chasing two peacocks and one is slowed by a longer tail, guess which one is going to be eaten, and which will survive to be the husband of the peahen and the father of her children? It can easily be argued that natural selection wouldn’t choose that which is fancier and more extravagant. Peacocks have amazing tails, it seems to me, because God made them that way, according to their kind!

There's also the observed fact that when specially-bred domestic animals go wild for several generations, they tend to evolve back to their original state. I knew a man who bred guppies for a hobby. Guppy breeders go for a big fancy tail, and they've come up with some really beautiful guppies. However, if you let those fancy guppies loose into a pond, over time they’ll crossbreed, lose the distinctive tails, and look like ordinary wild guppies. It takes an intelligence and intention to produce complexity. That sounds like God at work to me!

Monkeying Around with the Origins of Humans

Evolutionary theory says that we humans evolved from primates. Ape-like mammals were around, according to archaeological evidence, for some 4.5 million years. DNA tests were done on a Neanderthal skeleton. They proved that we aren’t descended from the Neanderthals; their DNA is about as much different from our own as that of chimpanzees is to our own. (I know, some of you believe the Neanderthal has survived and one of them is your boss at work, but it isn’t true!)

Actually, archaeological evidence shows that modern man suddenly appeared on the scene about 40,000 years ago. That's when there was a sudden appearance of sophisticated art and religious expression, as discovered at the Grotte Chauvet caves in 1994. The artwork there goes back 30,000 to 32,000 years.

Authors Rana, Deem, and Ross wrote about recent DNA work in reference to finding a common ancestor: “All mtDNA s from our mothers and is passed down from mother to daughter. . . . By tracing the differences in mtDNA from peoples around the world, scientists have calculated the probable date of the last common ancestor of modern humans at 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. . . . Re-calibration of the mtDNA molecular clock to take into account the higher mutation rate places the likely date of man's appearance near 50,000 years ago.” Again, the evidence shows that we humans showed up rather suddenly about 40,000 years ago.

There’s little if any hard evidence that we came from any line of primates. Humans simply suddenly appeared on the scene. “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, . . .’” (Genesis 1:26)

The Miraculous Element

It’s understandably difficult for scientists who don’t allow themselves to hypothesize the possible involvement of a Creator to admit that there are many major problems with the theory of evolution. Can a scientific view allow for God? Most certainly. Many scientist are theists: they believe in God.

God's activity, of course, may not be easily identified. Science believes in cause and effect. When you postulate God, you're dealing with a cause — the Cause — that's outside the natural world of cause and effect. We call His involvement the miraculous.

If I drop a pen from my hand and it stops falling halfway to the floor because I caught it in my other hand, we're not surprised that it stopped falling. We see my other hand stopping it from falling. The pen isn’t defying gravity, it's just that another law — one that we can observe — has come into play: my hand’s providing resistance to its continuing to fall, and the resistance is stronger than the gravity that was making it fall. If the pen were to stop in midair and no one could possibly determine that something or someone was suspending it there, one could legitimately suppose that God is the cause that’s producing the effect. It's still cause and effect, but God's the cause!

The uniqueness of each species, the fact that there's no proof that one species has gradually evolved from another, and the sudden appearance of humans are reasons enough to consider that a creative process, rather than an evolutionary process, is involved.

Science is a wonderful tool for studying and trying to understand this amazing creation. However, science can only know what it can see, analyze, and test. How things came to be might just be out of science's field of discovering the facts of the matter. Just how did God create it all? Well, none of us was around to observe that. We know that He did it because He says so in His Word. The Bible says about Christ, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

Science can do us a great service by explaining what we see and how it works. How it got here and what keeps it working is beyond what science can tell us from what it studies in this cause-and-effect world. You need faith in God and His working to understand how it got here and what keeps it working! Unless you factor God into the observable world, it simply makes no sense as to why it's here and why we're here!



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