The many debates, court cases, letters to the editor, and talk shows on the subject of evolution and creation almost without exception demonstrate the shell game played with the terms creationism, evolution, science, religion, and faith. The game usually begins with a statement that evolution is a proven fact. Next, this claim is established by the presentation of voluminous evidence from the physical sciences and the fossil record for changes in the universe, the earth, and the forms of life on the earth over the course of the last several billion years. Therefore, it is then claimed (or implied) that the theory that lifeforms developed out of some kind of primordial soup and changed through strictly natural processes into more and more advanced species is unquestionably correct.
At some point in the game, creation is defined as adherence to Archbishop Ussher's chronology for the Bible--the claim that God must have created the universe and everything within it in the last 6,000 years or so. Then, more evidences are presented to show the ridiculousness of the 6,000-year time-scale. Finally, the reader is told (condescendingly) that he is free to believe in creation, if he insists, as an act of faith, but that our schools and educators must confine themselves to the facts. Meanwhile, we should exercise the tolerance to grant churches the freedom to teach their religious myths, but only to their own constituency, not to society at large.
What is the result of these shell games? Only one view may be presented to society at large: atheistic materialism (which is, by the way, a religion of sorts).
As an astronomer, educator, and evangelical minister, I concur that the normal physical science definition for evolution is well established things do change with respect to time and in some cases over a time-scale of billions of years. Incidently, this fact can be established not just from the scientific record but also from the Bible. The first chapter of Genesis is set up as a chronolog documenting how God changed the world over six specific time periods. A literal and consistent reading of the Bible, taking into account all its statements on creation, makes clear that the Genesis creation days cannot possibly be six consecutive 24-hour days. They must be six lengthy epochs. Ussher's chronology represents faulty exegesis, as many Bible scholars affirm.
It is the common life science definition for evolution that must be questioned--the hypothesis that all the changes that take place in lifeforms, both in the present and the past, are by strictly natural processes. For the lifeforms of the present era, I would agree. We do see natural selection and mutational advance at work within some species. But, as biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich report, The production of a new animal species in nature has yet to be documented. In the vast majority of cases, the rate of change is so slow that it has not even been possible to detect an increase in the amount of differentiation."
At the same time, as the Ehrlichs also point out, we are witnessing an extinction rate of about one species per hour. Even if the human activity factors are removed, one is still left with an extinction rate of at least one species every year. Yet, the fossil record reveals millennia of both a high extinction rate and a high speciation rate. The Bible offers a solution to the enigma. We are now in God's seventh day of rest; He has ceased from making new creatures. For six days (as seen in the fossil record), God created. On the seventh day (the present era), He rested.
Since the 1986 Origin of life Conference in Berkeley, the primordial soup hypothesis has been acknowledged by many leading scientists as utterly lacking in factual support. Even the self-proclaimed atheist Robert Shapiro, professor of chemistry at New York University, proclaims that no natural explanation for the origin of life exists. Interested readers may want to check out his book, Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Origin of Life on Planet Earth (New York: Summit Books, 1986). An extensive bibliography on this subject is available from the organization I work for, Reasons To Believe.
Science is never religiously neutral. Science deals with cause and effect. Unless one makes the dogmatic presupposition that causes can only be natural, it must be said that causes can be either natural or supernatural. In the case of the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the appearance of most, if not all, new species, science can show us no natural causes. In the case of the universe, direct proof now exists that the cause, or causer, must transcend matter, energy, length, width, height, and time. In other words, the causer must be supernatural.
Similarly, faith is never scientifically neutral. It can dogmatically presuppose that natural processes had no part in creation. The New Testament, however, defines faith as belief and action based on established facts. The established facts, for example, tell us that stars, like raindrops, evolve under natural processes. As a physicist, I have never seen a fundamental particle called a neutrino. But I have faith in its existence and act accordingly because of certain well-established facts. As a Christian, I have never seen God. But I have faith in His existence and act accordingly because of certain well established facts.
Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.