Darwinian evolution and the limits of science
September 6, 2005
Editor’s note: This is the second of a four-part series of columns examining the Bible and the theory of evolution.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” – Rom.1:22-23
Scientists, obviously, are among the most intelligent and highly educated people in the world. They have achieved such a phenomenal degree of success that it is mind boggling. Man can now fly to the moon; land robots with laboratory instruments on distant planets such as Mars; bomb comets streaking through outer space; genetically engineer plants; and clone animals, and even humans.
So, when scientists, with all their knowledge, make claims about the natural world that are in direct conflict with orthodox Christian teachings taken from the Bible, who are Christians to believe? If we stand by our faith have we really left our brains at the church door, as many claim? Absolutely not!
Our position is no more faith based than the evolutionary scientists. For starters, science is not an “objective” enterprise (as most folks mistakenly believe), but the product of man’s mind and thus subject to personal prejudice and bias. Stephen Jay Gould, a renowned evolutionary scientist, called the idea that science is objective an “objectivist myth.”
Science is practiced on two fundamental levels, theoretical and applied. Theoretical scientists develop “unproven” human concepts, called models, theories, and hypotheses, that attempt to best explain the world we see around us. These theories, such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or the Atomic Theory (new subatomic particles keep popping up), are at best “provisionally” true or “probably” true. They are also “subjective,” since they are without a doubt influenced by the scientist’s personal worldview or belief system.
Applied scientists (typically engineers, my chosen career for 32 years), on the other hand, use known natural laws (what I call “hard science”) to solve practical problems. For example, every time NASA conducts a space shot known laws of motion for our solar system are used to guide the flight path of the various vehicles sent into space. The recent bombing of a comet in flight by NASA scientists is an example of the extreme predictability and accuracy of our understanding of these laws of motion.
Thus hard science deals with natural phenomena that are observable, experimentally repeatable, and are very accurately predictable. Theoretical science, on the other hand, deals with natural phenomena that are not directly observable, not always experimentally repeatable, and not always predictable. In comparing the merits of theoretical versus applied science remember that laws (hard science) are “discovered” by scientists, not “created” by them. Thus the discovery process of hard science is ultimately immune to a scientist’s particular worldview. I wish the same were true for theoretical science.
Many current theories of theoretical science, such as the Big Bang, have not been “hardened,” so to speak, into what is considered “hard science.” In other words, the theory is still debatable and there are no known natural laws to explain the theory. The most controversial and socially far reaching theory of theoretical science is the theory of evolution.
The theory of evolution is the supreme example of just how subjective “science” can become. At present, many scientists proclaim that “evolution” is a scientifically established fact in spite of the hard scientific evidence that refutes the two fundamental claims underlying the theory.
Evolution as an idea has been around in various expressions since at least the time of Aristotle. The grand theory of evolution makes two fundamental claims. The first claim maintains that all current forms of matter “evolved” from either some unexplainable prior form of matter (Cyclic Theory, among others) or from some unexplainable concentrated energy source (Big Bang Theory). This first claim also means that living organisms had to have evolved from non-living matter.
The second claim maintains that all current forms of living organisms evolved from previous simpler forms of living organisms (Macroevolution and Speciation), now known as the biological theory of evolution.
Hard science has refuted both claims. The spontaneous generation of life was a widely accepted concept until Louis Pasteur proved conclusively that life cannot spring from non-living matter. This hard scientific discovery falsified the first claim of the grand theory of evolution.
The second claim has also been falsified scientifically. A dictate of this second claim is that genes of ancestral species pass to descendant species through interbreeding and later splitting or branching. Today many scientists claim that our DNA contains ancient genes dating back to single cellular organisms. They also claim that our nearest relative is the chimpanzee and that man has evolved from apes through this evolutionary process of interbreeding and later splitting or branching from some prior unknown common ancestor.
Hard science, however, clearly falsifies these concepts. Man has discovered from nature that different species cannot reproductively interbreed. That discovered natural law is now the scientific definition of what a species is – a set of interbreeding organisms.
Further, geneticists have tested the DNA remains of two Neanderthals and discovered that their DNA is so different from human DNA that it would have been impossible for humans to interbreed with Neanderthals. Natural law proves that humans could not interbreed with Neanderthals (previously thought to be human) or any prior form of “pre-human” hominids and hominoids. In fact, geneticists now claim from scientific studies of human DNA that all humans presently on the earth descended from one woman and one man.
Believing in evolution is not based on science, but on a faith commitment to naturalism. As human knowledge increases, that knowledge consistently attests to the accuracy and truthfulness of Scripture. (Charles Warren, Ph.D., is vice president of institutional effectiveness and senior executive assistant to the president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City.)