It’s not time

It must be nice to live in a black-and-white world in which people either embrace “evolution” (more on that in a minute) or are science deniers who are committed to a view of Scripture that is quaint but utterly foolish. Personally, I prefer a world with a bit more hue to it.  From previous columns I have read by Chuck Queen along with opportunities I have had to interact with him through the comment feed on one piece or another, I had come to assume that he liked a bit more vibrant a world as well.  But, in his recent article, “It’s time for evangelicals to come out [interesting choice of words there] for evolution,” he painted with so much black and white that any bits of color in his worldview on this particular issue were completely obscured.

First some background.  I am a science guy.  My undergrad degree is in chemistry and I did pretty well pursuing it.  I am also a theology guy.  My graduate degree is in ministry and I did pretty well pursuing that one too.  I am also a pretty conservative guy.  This goes socially, politically, and, yes, theologically.  I am fully committed to the inerrancy of Scripture.  I am one of those evolution (again, more on that in a minute)-denying evangelicals Pastor Queen urges to “come out.”  I would tend to agree with the statement by Hugh Ross that Pastor Queen dismisses as utter foolishness.  Now, I do not agree with Mr. Ross that the universe is about 10,000 years old and that the earth was created in six literal twenty-four hour days, and yet I also don’t agree with Pastor Queen that what Moses wrote down for us in Genesis are mere parables.  Am I a mixed up guy or what?

With all of this in mind, as I see it, there are three major problems with Pastor Queen’s argument: one cultural, one theological, and one scientific.

First the cultural.  Pastor Queen frames his argument as if the church is lagging far behind the culture on the issue of accepting evolution (I really will get to my thoughts on this).  He cites an AP poll in which just over 75 percent of people claiming to be born again or evangelical disbelieve in both an old universe and natural selection as the mechanism for evolution.  What he doesn’t tell us is that while evangelicals might be more inclined to believe in a young universe (I don’t) than the general population, we are not that far behind when it comes to our thoughts about evolution.  A recent poll by Gallup found that some 42% of the general public reject evolution.  In a survey of 32 countries from a few years ago the U. S. was ahead of only Turkey in terms of the number of people who either doubt or reject evolution.  Now, while I suspect Pastor Queen would place himself in the 31% of that Gallup poll who believe in some form of God-directed evolution, this is not the same evolution accepted by the vast majority of the 99% of earth and life of scientists in the Newsweek article he cites.

This brings up the theological problem.  When the word “evolution” is used as Pastor Queen does in this article, what is normally meant is Darwinian macroevolution.  Two reasons for this.  First, evolution is itself an ambiguous word.  There are two major forms of evolution: micro- and macro-.  Using the word without further definition could make reference to either form.  Second, no one doubts the reality of microevolution.  It is abundantly documented and totally without controversy.  Macroevolution, on the other hand, is riddled with controversy and actually has no evidentiary support.  In using the word “evolution” without any further clarification, the obvious assumption on the part of readers is that the author is talking about the latter.  The problem with this is that Darwin’s mechanism to explain the origin of the various species was designed from the ground up to operate without God.  It was designed to be blind and undirected (and if God is involved at all it is inherently not undirected) with natural selection operating as the driving force.  The subsequent embrace of this mechanism by Christians of various stripes has attempted to retrofit God onto a system that was designed to work without Him.  God in this sense is an afterthought to the macroevolutionary conversation.  There are many creative arguments to try and make Him something more, but these are arguments from behind.  When you have a system that can be explained equally well with or without God–meaning He doesn’t really matter as far as the system is concerned–from the standpoint of Christian theology you have a problem.

This leads to the scientific problem.  As more and more evidence comes in about how utterly complex life is the case for Darwin’s evolutionary pathway describing how, through the process of speciation, all life forms today are descendants of a common ancestor is growing weaker and weaker.  Yes, 99% of earth and life scientists affirm Darwinian evolution, but perhaps part of the reason for such homogeneity is that so-called “deniers” are regularly blacklisted and find themselves targets of a variety of professional and personal persecutions (evidence here will have to be the subject of another blog).  As Dr. Stephen Meyer makes abundantly clear in his excellent book, Darwin’s Doubt, the ancient proliferation of new animal forms well-documented in the fossil record known as the Cambrian explosion itself pretty well pins Darwin’s theory to the mat.  More to the point, there is not enough time, even accepting a several billion year window of opportunity, in the whole history of the universe, let alone the history of life for sufficient genetically advantageous mutations to have occurred to produce a single new protein, let alone several whole phyla of animals (and the many, many proteins that takes), and the Cambrian explosion only allows for a few million years.  It is so bad for Darwinists that a few years ago a few honest evolutionary biologists had a conference in Altenberg, Austria at which they wondered if it wasn’t time for a new theory of evolution to replace Darwin’s mechanism.  As much as Pastor Queen would like to believe so, the evidence for evolution just isn’t in and it’s getting weaker.

No, no, I do not believe it is time for evangelicals, or anyone else for that matter, to come out for evolution.  Instead, as an educated evangelical I know that a healthy faith welcomes and is informed by science.  I know that I need not fear the “enormous amount of scientific data supporting evolution” because it just isn’t there.  I also know that the story of evolution as written by Charles Darwin and adapted for modern biology by his current disciples and a biblical faith are mutually exclusive.  And, as an educated evangelical pastor, I make sure I proclaim this message to my congregation as often as I can so that they are not afraid to stand up for the truth in a culture that is deeply committed to what is increasingly being recognized as a lie.

I’d like to close by inviting Pastor Queen to look more into the Intelligent Design movement which in spite of regularly being rather uncharitably maligned and misrepresented, makes better sense of the available scientific evidence and, as an added bonus, is not grounded in a scientific position which relies on a philosophical commitment to materialism as a better message to proclaim to his congregation.  In addition to his book, Darwin’s Doubt, Dr. Meyer’s previous book, The Signature in the Cell, are great places to start learning.

Jonathan Waits

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Jonathan is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Church Road, VA. He's the husband of one beautiful woman and the father of three active boys. A graduate of Denver Seminary, he loves connecting the dots between the Christian worldview and culture.

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  • David Saleeba

    I think you may have articulated this without saying it, but is your stance more of a progressive creationism?

    • Jonathan Waits

      Hi David. Thanks for the clarification question. Yes, I would fall more into the progressive creationism camp. I have respect for the young earth, folks, including their science-based arguments, but I think an old universe is more likely. And I should add that I find the case for an intelligent designer (without getting into any specifics as to the nature or identity of that designer) is the best explanation of the available scientific evidence without making any reference to the Bible. The obvious philosophical and theological harmony between the two only serves to strengthen the case. Thanks again for the question!

  • Hrafn

    “There are two major forms of evolution: micro- and macro-.”

    The idea that microevolution and macroevolution are two very different things is a ***creationist*** misconception, with no scientific basis. The are the same processes, with microevolution refering to these processes working within a species, and macroevolution refering to it working at a level above species.

    I’m sorry Jonathan, but MACROevolution is a scientific ***fact***. It has been directly observed, in the form of speciation, both in the lab and in the wild.

    I would also point out that the small number of ‘kinds’ (a Biblical term with no scientific meaning) that Young Earth Creationists claim for their ark a few thousand years ago into the millions we also see today is likewise MACROevolution (on such a massive scale as to be demonstrably impossible according to everything we know about genetics).

    Claims of persecution are standard rhetoric among promoters of pseudoscience. They never stand up to closer scrutiny.

    Meyer’s “excellent book” has been widely slammed by the scientific community for grossly cherry-picking and misrepresenting the scientific research in order to manufacture his argument — including by one of the very scientists he misrepresented.

    Altenberg is a mountain made out of a very small molehill. A very minor conference hyped by a very ignorant journalist and then spun by a very dishonest creationist propaganda-mill. All science is provisional, so such conferences to work out ‘where it’s all going’ are not an uncommon event.

    • Jonathan Waits

      Hrafn, thanks for the engagement. We obviously disagree pretty sharply at a number of points.

      On the macro-, micro- divide, you had better let the various biology textbook writers and university courses around the country which treat the two as different know they have fallen prey to a “creationist misconception.” Last time I checked groups like IUPUI and the NIH are not creationist in their bent and yet proclaim the two to be different.

      As for the observation of speciation, you’re going to have to document that a bit more thoroughly for me. The process of speciation by definition takes far longer than in-the-wild observations could catch…unless you, like Darwin did, change the traditional definition of species and treat variations within a single species (finches, for example) as different species. I would love to hear more about in-lab observations of one species becoming a different species. Please share with me.

      Your third point deals with young earth creationism which is a position I don’t hold and so won’t touch here.

      Persecution of scientists who show any inclinations toward intelligent design go far beyond mere rhetoric. Look into the case of Dr. Richard Sternberg, formerly of the Smithsonian Institute. No less an authority than the U. S. Congress investigated his case and declared that he had been subject to institutional persecution for allowing a paper by Dr. Meyer to go through the peer-review process and be published.

      As for Dr. Meyer’s book, most of the slams tore apart straw men made to look like his arguments but didn’t actually touch on any of the arguments made in the book. If you have some specific places to cite where Dr. Meyer’s arguments were bad or his research guilty of misrepresenting the truth I would love to see them and engage with you more on them.

      Lastly, that even a small group of evolutionary biologists with no interest in embracing ID got together to openly suggest that Darwin’s mechanism isn’t sufficient in light of the most recent scientific data is a big deal in light of the control the Darwin-only lobby exercises over the scientific community. And if by “creationist propaganda-mill” you are referring to the CSC in Seattle, you are falling prey to a common misrepresentation and baseless attack on the group. Check your sources there for better accuracy.

      Thanks again for the engagement!