Scientists describe our universe in enormous terms. The distance that light travels in a year at 186,000 miles per second is about six trillion miles. The distances in space are so great that a new term, mega-light-year, is introduced to convey one million light years. Our sun is no longer regarded as the center of the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Instead, the center is some 30,000 light-years distant. One astronomer has estimated that there are 1020 stars in the universe.1 The nearest galaxy is Andromeda which is a mere 800,000 light years away but this is a drop in the astronomical bucket in comparison to quasi-stellar objects (quasars) that are believed to be 8 billion light-years from the earth.
Given any number of facts about the world that we view on a clear night, one cannot help but stand in awe and ask about the origins of it all. Heidegger's question, "Why are there existents rather than nothing?" becomes a staggering question. This kind of question is answerable only in general, provisional ways. We must resort to "I-believe" statements in the final analysis since we cannot return to the events for a re-run and verification. Nevertheless, the questions are important philosophically, scientifically, and religiously.
The question of origins is a restricted question although it seems to be a question about the origin of all things. The question of origins begins with the origin of matter in space. The origin of space is difficult to question. It seems impossible that there be nothing in the absolute sense of the term--including no space--and then something come to be. Space--even space without anything at all in it--seems to be a necessary concept. Thus, our discussion of origins will begin with the origin of matter/energy, and then we will discuss the important question concerning the origin of life.
I. The Origins of the Universe
There are only two basic views that are advocated although variations and hybrids may
enlarge the competing positions.
A. The Universe is eternal
In ancient times Democritus is listed as an example of one who believed that the Universe was eternal. He is quoted as saying that "the causes of what now exists have no beginning, but from infinitely preceding time absolutely everything which was, is and shall be, has been held down by necessity."2 Lucretius was another example of one who held an atomic view of the eternity of the cosmos. Both Lucretius and Democritus rejected the reality of God, but Aristotle and Plato taught a different doctrine of the eternity of matter. Aristotle believed that the heavens are eternal but
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), born near Paris, became a chemist and microbiologist and later proved that fermentation and disease were caused by microorganisms. Pasteur disproved the controversial idea of spontaneous generation. His name is associated with pasteurization, the destruction of harmful germs by heat.
he also believed in God as a first mover.3 God's presence has an influence on matter, but God is not at all concerned about the presence of matter.
Modern philosophers who accept the eternality of matter adopt the view as a basic presupposition of their system, or as an act of faith. There is no way to prove eternity of matter. Among people who believe in forms of pantheism, i.e., God is all and all is God, eternity of matter is implied. If the world is part of God, then matter has always been related to God. While this seems dualistic at first, what actually happens is that matter is not accepted as ultimately real, but as an illusion that covers up the real spiritual nature of the world.
One of the more unusual variations on the theme of the world's eternity is that of English astronomer Fred Hoyle. Hoyle argues for a qualified eternity of matter. He advocates what has come to be called the steady-state theory of the cosmos. There is matter that has always existed, but there is matter that will come yet into existence in the future. Rather than accept a once-for-all beginning of the cosmos, as seen in the next theory, Hoyle believes that every atom has a beginning, but not all of them at the same time. Thus there is no beginning or end for the Universe.4
Hoyle notes, "we shall suppose that matter originates as hydrogen atoms,"5 and later explains, "There must it seems to be a clear-cut reason why it is hydrogen that originates and not other elements. Why this reason is we do not know."6
The picture may be seen along these lines. The universe is expanding beyond a half million parsecs away (a parsec is the distance that light travels in three years). The further the expansion away from us, the faster is the expansion. To fill up space as expansion takes place new matter is coming into being. In turn the appearance of matter causes the universe to expand.7
What can we say in evaluating Hoyle's view? Critics raise certain problems and questions. The first centers around the discovery of quasars. Before talking about them we must note that Hoyle declared that if the expansion of the universe does not increase in speed on the outer reaches of space, then his theory has its problems. Well, in 1960 Maarten Schmidt discovered quasars that are the farthest known objects in space, quasars. As the quasars have been studied it was found that they are slowing down, not picking up speed as Hoyle requires for his theory. Then the number of quasars appears to have been larger when the universe was younger and they seem to have disappeared in the course of time, and this is a further difficulty for the steady-state theory. A second center of criticism comes around the age of the moon, the earth, the oceans and what may be postulated about the expansion rate of the universe, points to the conclusion that there is a definite age to the universe rather than an eternity of the past. Third, Hoyle mentions the test of observation and verification as important. Do we have observations of hydrogen atoms coming into existence from nothing? Do we have observations of galaxies coming into existence by means of originating hydrogen atoms? Can we really claim any more than this: "it is there" or "it is not there?"
One last problem is that the steady-state theory seems to operate against the widely accepted law of entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics. This means that the available energy in the universe seems to be moving from available to unavailable forms. Burned out stars, the prediction that the sun will burn out in so many millions years, and the slowing down of the expanding universe tend to illustrate and give credence to the second law of thermodynamics on a cosmic scale, and if it is true, then it is an argument against the steady-state position.
B. The Universe had a beginning
Three different disciplines have an interest in advocating this position. The oldest is the biblical. The Bible begins: "In the beginning God created . . . ." Obviously, there were no human eye-witnesses. Two points are involved: (l) God Exists and (2) God has revealed his creative activity. If creation is to be known, then only God can tell about it. Not only is this claimed as true, but it is claimed that what is known about the universe, its expansion, etc., synchronizes with the Biblical record of a beginning. As such, creation is a sui generis--an event one of a kind!
The philosophical support comes later and has a relation to the religious view. The kind of argument used may be seen in the contingency argument. Thomas Aquinas argued that there is nothing that we see that is necessary. Everything is dependent on something else. Since nothing visible--matter--can originate itself, then there must be something or someone on which matter is dependent and this we may speak of as God--who is a necessary Being, and who is eternal.
It is objected that the argument from contingency commits the fallacy of composition.
This fallacy consists of arguing from the properties of the parts, taken separately, to a property of the whole, taken together. Because sodium and chlorine are poisonous, it does not follow that table salt, which is composed of these elements, is equally poisonous.8
The analogy of the two elements is misleading. The combination gives a new quality, but the quality of various combinations in the universe is not eternity. No amount of combining of elements, or recombining them will move the elements from the category of contingency to eternity.
(2) Big Bang Theory No. 1
The scientific interest in the question comes mostly from astronomy and physics. One of the most popular expositions of the view called the "big-bang" theory is found in The Creation of the Universe, by George Gamow.9 Gamow argues that the present universe is the result of a catastrophic explosion that took place 6 to 10 billion years ago. At that time all the matter in space was found in a gaseous stage in which enormous contracting was taking place. This contracting reached a point in which it rebounded in elasticity and flung gases into space which would eventually condense into matter in various stages so making up the diverse forms of the galaxies, planets, supernovas, etc.
There are some important features supporting the theory. (l) The data derived from (a) the radioactive decay of atoms or uranium, (b) the age of rocks, (c) the age of the oceans, (d) the age of the moon, (e) the age of the sun and other stars, (f) the age of galactic clusters, and (g) the age of the Milky Way, points to approximately the same answer for the age of the universe. (2) The big-bang theory gives a rationale for the outward thrust of expansion of the universe.10
Moreover, the discovery of quasars and their slowing down on the outer reaches of space supports the big-bang theory as well as the second law of thermodynamics. As one can see, arguments marshalled against the steady-state theory are frequently arguments for the big-bang theory.
Gamow's theory is probably more widely accepted, but again, we have the problem of not having a reproducible phenomena. The big-bang theory is an event one of a kind.
(2) Big Bang Theory No. 2
While Gamow's theory stops with a huge conglomerate of energy some 6 trillion miles in scope, the big bang theory no. 2 goes even further in density and compactness. In the beginning of the universe, the theory requires that the cosmos begin as the size of a pin-head. At a 1035 second later the observable cosmos expands to the size of a baseball. It is 1060 times denser than the nucleus of an atom. As great amounts of time pass, expansion takes place and our cosmos ultimately comes forth.
Where does the beginning come from in this theory? Science can only theorize. One theory is that the cosmos sprang into existence from little or nothing, a quantum fluctuation, a bubbling up of the vacuum of space.
This sounds a little like something coming from nothing, and if so, that is accepted.1
The theory seems a bit like Genesis except for the "mechanism." In the Genesis story it is God who brings something from nothing, and here an intensely dense big bang erupts from a vacuum.
C. Oscillating Universe
This is a big-bang theory modified by the gravitational pull involved in the expansion. The universe will expand outward for 40 billion years in which time expansion will slow to a stop and then contract for 40 billion years to a new dense state for another big bang. This is postulated as a never-ending cycle.
In brief assessment, the big-bang theory has a good edge over its competition. But any theory must be regarded as only a theory when it comes to requiring verification. Hoyle dismisses the big-bang theory as an item beyond observation and laden with suspicions because it is assumed. But at the same time he must assume lessor creations that took place in the past and are to take place in the future. These are non-observable, and imply something coming from nothing--a case of which we have no known examples. But at the same time this criticism is raised against Hoyle on the lessor creations, neither the big-bang theory or the oscillating theory are better off in accounting for the appearances of the gases to be blown out to become matter. But how did the big-bang become possible? The big-bang theory must tacitly assume the eternity of matter or gases, or conclude for an Eternal God who brought it into being. The steady-state theory has problems both as a theory--against the present evidence--and in supposing something coming from nothing. While neither theory likes to resort to the supernatural as an explanation for the primeval beginning, yet God conceived as the eternal Creator brings to the explanation the creative and rationally satisfying role of Mind. Although this may appear like substituting one mystery for another, the necessary eternal existence of a rational, creative God is not as mysterious as presuming something coming from nothing, or the appearance of mind from inanimate matter.
II. The Origin of Life
In spite of all that has been done to research, theorize, and guess about it, the origin of life--like the origin of the universe--is a unique event. Regardless of the attempts to simulate what may have been samples of how life began, even when successful, we can only say--it might have been that way. There is no possible way of returning to it apart from some science fiction time machine.
Nevertheless, it is both interesting and desirable to look into the origins of life. This form of cosmology is relevant to our views about a philosophy of man. What we think about man--his past, present and future--will relate to how we treat man. Questions of origins can be very relevant, if relevancy is a necessary demand.
The proposed answers to the origin of life are diverse. We will attempt to summarize the general theories held by thinkers of the past and present. These views are: (l) life came from another planet, (2) life arose via spontaneous generation, (3) life evolved from a few original species, (4) life was created, and (5) theistic evolution, a hybrid view.
l. Life came from another planet or galaxy.
Periodically, some physicist or chemist will come up with the suggestion that the origin of life is to be explained by life dropping in upon the earth some 500,000,000 years ago. Often this suggestion comes as an alternative to evolutionary theory. Fossil remains date from the Cambrian age (500 million) and appear suddenly with the major orders appearing together.
As interesting as this proposal sounds, it doesn't answer the question of how life started in that distant unknown planet. It is further complicated by the lack of knowledge about life anywhere in the universe. If there is life it is believed to be in existence only in terms of probability. Given the existence of billions of planets the presumption is that the odds hold for life somewhere. But until we have definite communication and facts we cannot depend upon this as a meaningful answer.
2. Life arose via spontaneous generation.
This is one of the oldest views held by mankind. Advocated by Aristotle, Lucretius, and others all the way to modern times, it was believed that nature spawned the various forms of life. Given the basic format of light, water, air, and earth, it just occurred that the earth "girdled its hills with a green glow of herbage and over every plain the meadows gleamed with verdure and with bloom." Trees then happened along, followed by furry and feathery creatures. Lucretius, in describing this, continued:
The animals cannot have fallen from the sky, and those that live on land cannot have emerged from the briny gulfs. We are left with the conclusion that the name of mother has rightly been bestowed on the earth, since out of the earth everything is born.
Even now multitudes of animals are formed out of the earth with the aid of showers and the sun's genial warmth.
Here then, is further proof that the name of mother has rightly been bestowed on the earth, since it brought forth the human race and gave birth at the appointed season to every beast that runs wild among the high hills and at the same time to the birds of the air in all their rich variety.11
Thus mother earth appears like a fertile womb giving birth to life of all kinds.
Spontaneous generation in some form or other was accepted for centuries until the l9th century. It was regarded as an alternative to any form of creationism involving God. Apparently through the centuries spontaneous generation had slowly been questioned concerning flies, maggots, and similar creatures, but the origin of bacteria was still believed to arise spontaneously. Then in 1860, a controversy came to a head centering around Louis Pasteur. Pasteur seemed to prove that bacteria did not originate spontaneously but was introduced into decayable materials by the air. In other words, foods cooked and sealed in sterile containers did not decay. On April 7, 1864, Pasteur addressed an audience at the Sorbonne using some flasks as examples of his work. He declared:
And, therefore, gentlemen, I could point to that liquid and say to you, I have taken my drop of water from the immensity of creation, and I have taken it full of the elements appropriated to the development of inferior beings. And I wait, I watch, I question it!--begging it to recommense for me the beautiful spectacle of the first creation. But it is dumb, dumb since these experiments were first begun several years ago; it is dumb because I have kept it from the only thing man does not know how to produce: from the germs that float in the air, from Life, for Life is a germ and a germ is Life. Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow of this simple experiment.12
And William Beck comments by adding a historical note to Pasteur's words, "And it has not. Today these same flasks stand immutable: they are still free of microbial life."13
Now the issue seems to be closed on spontaneous generation. But note what Beck has to say. Although we regard the downfall of spontaneous generation as complete, "we must not forget that science has rationally concluded life once did originate on earth by spontaneous generation."14 Evolutionary theory is committed to spontaneous generation for a beginning at least. Once started, evolution has no need of further generations. This poses a serious problem for the nature of science and the status of theories. Beck admits the exception, but when exceptions are granted in theories, the exceptions destroy or greatly modify the nature of the theory being defended. As seen previously, Fred Hoyle rejected the big bang theory of the universe because he regarded it as arbitrary and superseding the laws of physics for an explanation.15
Can it be that Pasteur's evidence is applicable only in the l870s and not in the primeval beginning? Was spontaneous generation ever true? The answer to this question brings us to the next theory in which it plays a vital part.
3. Life Evolved from a few original species.
The history of emerging evolutionary theory to the time of Darwin is interesting, but for our purpose here we will sketch the outline of evolutionary theory as it appears in contemporary works on biology. Before doing that however, the theory of evolution, it should be noted, involves a basic motif of scientific explanation: uniformitarianism. This means that changes take place gradually and require vast amounts of time for erosion to carve out canyons, the oceans to become salty, and changes in species to take place. Before 1785 when James Hutton, a Scottish farmer, presented the doctrine of uniformitarianism to the Royal Society of Edinburg, the prevailing viewpoint of change was some form of catastrophism. Catastrophism viewed changes as taking place quickly and dramatically. Thus if there are two million species today, on uniformitarian grounds it will require enormous time for this diversity to take place. If catastrophism were the basic philosophy of explaining the Grand Canyon, perhaps an earthquake, or flood, or other explanation would be given, but the amount of time is of little consequence. Now the biology.
To begin, "most biologists believe that the first living things arose through the accidental conversion of non-living into living matter."16 Given enough time the statistical averages are used to speculate that life was bound to develop. Note the following:
The first cells came into existence, presumably, through the spontaneous aggregation of complex organic molecules already present. Most biologists now believe that before cells came into being, there abounded in the waters of our planet, at least in certain places, a variety of carbon compounds, forming a sort of rich organic soup. Simpler than the typical cellular constituents familiar to the modern biochemist, these primitive carbon compounds may have united spontaneously to form droplets. If we assume that some of these formations were able to absorb material from their medium, grow, and fragment to form "daughter" units, we have something that may be tentatively regarded as the ancestors of the first actual cells.17
It should be also noted that the relatively complex organic substances required for the beginning of life are not "found in nature except those that owe their origin to some living thing."18 It is presumed that the supply was limited and was used up, or disappeared. But it is reasoned that these earlier forms of primitive life came into existence "because their descendants live today."19
From the time of Darwin, evolution in some form has become accepted as a scientific fact. The comments that follow are based upon an important distinction. There are in fact two theories: a major theory and a minor theory; or what might be called evolutionary faith and evolutionary fact. The minor theory or evolutionary fact poses no problems philosophically. The minor theory describes the development within one species to another to produce hybrid varieties. This is seen in corn, birds, wheat, hogs, cows, dogs, and a host of other forms of life. The minor theory poses no problems either for religious questions.
However, the major part of the theory, or what may be designated as evolutionary faith is laden with questions for scientific, philosophical and religious communities.
The theory of origins as sketched above can only be designated as a state of faith, not fact. It is the example of a scientific paradigm that has had enormous acceptance in spite of serious problems. Standen describes it in the following way:
By far the most sweeping and by far the best of the great generalizations of biology is the Theory of Evolution. It can be called a theory that has by no means been tested by experiment.20
Thus, in the final analysis, it will probably be seen that evolution is accepted on the grounds of preferring one faith over another rather than for the scientific or philosophical grounds. Philosophers like Corliss Lamont and Bertrand Russell see in evolution (the major theory) an escape from the need for theism, or belief in God. Lamont regarded evolution as much as a sure fact as two plus two. It appears to furnish a scientific alternative to creation in which an unscientific God appears as the key factor in starting life. Russell regarded evolution as fact and explained the change factor as a result of "sports" or mutants. He wrote, "It is these sports that give the best opportunity for evolution, i.e., for the development of new animals or plants that descend from old kinds."21 Russell's solution of "sports" or mutants is not one that is satisfying to many biologists. "Mutations do not produce new species. The mutants of Drosophila (fruit fly) are still flies which belong to the same species of Drosophila to which their ancestors belonged."22 Moreover, there is no evidence for large mutations, or sports, which is what Russell would need to make his theory work.
At this point we need to describe the problems and issues relating evolution to science, philosophy, and religion.
(1) Science and the issues in evolution.
There are certain questions that are yet unresolved in accepting the major theory of evolution. (A) The origin of life from non-life poses the first problem. Was Pasteur wrong? Can life come into being as the biological description above has it? If this is so, must we not ultimately conclude that the categories of non-living and living be broken down so that we can accept an evolutionary beginning? And if this is so, then we must re-evaluate our idea of nature and conclude that nature is more alive than we ever thought. But this borders on vitalism, which most biologists and other scientists reject. Moreover, if there is an exception to the law or theory of the beginning of life--life comes from life--can we conclude that other exceptions might exist elsewhere in physics, chemistry, and other areas.
It is freely admitted that nothing remains previous to the Cambrian Age. No fossils remained presumably because there were no hard parts. What evidence stands for evolution between the Cambrian Age of 500,000,000 years ago and the presumed beginning of two billion years ago? According to biologists and other scientists, none! Evidence is lacking and faith takes its place. Evolution is accepted as having occurred in the half billion years, and it must be imposed on the longer duration from 500 million to 2 billion years ago. In this case the theory of the known is projected on the unknown. Normally, theories are postulated on evidence, but where there is no evidence, one must infer what the theory demands. Dobzhansky concludes that evolution did take place in the period before the Cambrian Age, but "this enormous time span has left almost no fossil records . . . It is possible that the remains of the most ancient life are lost forever."23
Thus we must endeavor to separate the minor theory which is factually supported from the major theory which lacks evidence. Polanyi's comments on the matter of evidence is instructive: "Neo-Darwinism is firmly accredited and highly regarded by science, though there is little direct evidence for it, because it beautifully fits into a mechanistic system of the universe . . . ."24
(b) Status as a theory.
The major theory, we have said, should be regarded as a belief-system. Undoubtedly as a theory a better alternative is needed. Kemeny declares:
The great difficulty in evaluating this theory lies in its incompleteness. It is more of a qualitative description than a precise scientific theory. The proponents of Neo-Darwinism claim that there is no known instance of evolution which they cannot explain. This is actually untrue. What is true is that no such instance clearly contradicts their theory but this is not surprising when we realize how little the theory actually states. To say that the known changes could have been brought about by the described machinery does not explain the changes. We have seen that an adequate explanation is one which would have enabled us to predict the outcome before it took place, but none of the present evolutionary theories enabled us to make such predictions.25
Had Darwin lived fifty million years ago and predicted how the horse would evolve, then the theory would be meaningful. But biologists do not know what the next evolutionary step will be, nor is it known how to bring about the next step in true evolutionary style. This again raises the issue concerning "laws" of science. A law has predictability. An experiment centering on some law can be repeated endlessly and correctly. But not only do we admit an exception of the law--life arising from non-life--but we must admit ignorance on where life is going.
(c) The problem of logic.
The larger theory of evolution sits precariously on the principles of inference and analogy. Is it not dangerous to conclude from the particular to the general especially when the general adds up to two million species? When it is admitted that fossil remains are extremely meager--the further back we go the more meager they get--can we justify the vast generalization that all of life has evolved from a single species some two billion years ago.
Standen gives an example of the inferring that some biologists have done, although they speak of it as homology.
A human fetus shows clear analogies to a fish, and by a more vigorous exercise of the imagination, a biologist can see part of the human ear in the jawbone of a fish. This analogizing, this fine sweeping ability to see likenesses in the midst of differences is the great glory of biology, but biologists don't know it, and they praise themselves for the wrong reasons.26
In a similar vein there is confusion regarding the two different theories--the major and the minor. Proof for the minor is not proof for the major. Development within species is quite different than development across species or larger units of life like the phyla. The inadequacy of the big theory led Polanyi to opt for another way. He wrote:
It is obvious therefore that the rise of man can be accounted for only by other principles than those known today to physics and chemistry. If this be vitalism then vitalism is more common-sense which can be ignored by truculently bigoted mechanistic outlooks and so long as we can form no idea of the way a material system may become a conscious responsible person it is an empty pretence to suggest that we have an explanation for the descent of man. Darwinism has diverted attention for a century from the descent of man by investigating the conditions of evolution and overlooking its action. Evolution can be understood only as a feat of emergence.27
(d) The problem of verification.
The evidence for the origins of life are lost. We cannot do a re-run of the beginning. A substitute is offered for the beginning of life by what may be regarded as a simulation of what might have occurred. Various experiments have been achieved in the laboratories for the creation of amino acids--the building blocks of life--and the conclusion is then inferred: "that is what may have happened in the beginning."
Is this a valid inference? Note some of the complications of this inference. If we say that the lab experiments reflect what happened in the beginning of life, then we must conclude that Pasteur was wrong. No one wants to do this. But if we argue that the possibility that the conditions at the beginning of life were different from the lab simulations, then we have made no progress toward a mechanistic explanation. If the latter is the case, we have to confess practical ignorance about early beginnings. All we can say is that this may have been the case and in no wise do we have "what happened" except what happened in the lab. The origin of life lies beyond verification. But even if it could be simulated in a lab, we have one ingredient added that biologists dismiss in the first beginning of life. That is intelligence. The lab depends upon mind, but science in its method of investigation rules that out in the first instance because it seeks a mechanistic explanation for the origin of life.
(2) Philosophy and the issues in evolution.
Nietzsche was one of the first atheists to reject Darwinism. As an atheist he should have welcomed it, but he saw in it an ominous implication for any view of man, and man's nature. Nietzsche's atheism made it impossible to link man's status and being to God. On the other hand, if evolution were true what can be said about man's uniqueness. In simple biological terms there would be no uniqueness of any consequence. Man is one with the animal creation. There is a line of continuity running from the first protocell to man. How could he be different significantly? Man is obviously a different species, but he is kin to everything else in the biological tree.
The issue may be put another way: why shoot rabbits and not people? Biologically, there is no good reason for not shooting people because they are animals like other species. One might actually argue that an open season would be a good way to depopulate the earth. There is no sacredness of man in biology. If man is sacred in any way, it must be found, or defended from another viewpoint than biology per se. Nietzsche sought an answer in his idea of the over-man, or the fact that man can transcend himself.
A legal outgrowth of the sacredness of man may be seen in the Nurenberg trials held after WW II to convict the Nazis of atrocities against humanity. The underlying reasons for the laws, on which these people were tried, is to be found in the view that man is sacred, made in the image of God. As a unique creature it is wrong to murder other human beings. However, if we are to think of man being special in any other way than an animal, it will have to come about on philosophical or theological grounds.
Some biologists have felt the criticisms of past and have rejected the older theory's implications that man is "nothing-but" a complex of physicochemical processes.28 A general proposal to the problem of man's uniqueness is to add "mystique" to man's existence. But even if this is done it cannot meet with the criteria of observation, verification, and science as a hard-line discipline.
There are, therefore, definite implications for one's view of man drawn out of biological evolution. These implications are related to our ideas on the nature and use of law, war, civil rights, social reform as well as the traditional questions of goodness, sin, and God. For example, if man is merely another animal, what justification is there, apart from some aesthetic feeling, for social reforms to recover people from ghetto existences?
(3) Religion and evolution.
Unfortunately, science and religion have fought one another frequently out of misunderstanding. Some religionists have taken unnecessary positions in defending the Bible. For example, a defense of creation taking place at 4004 B.C. on an October afternoon is not required by the Bible. There is no date implied in the Bible. But even Charles Darwin was surprised to learn that 4004 was not part of Scripture.29 This date was the work of Archbishop Ussher and it has been accepted because it was printed in the margins of Bibles. The Hebrew text does not give a date.
Another problem is that the biologist deals with a pseudo-problem in thinking that religion must defend special creation of individual species.30 Two points need to be remembered about special creation and individual species. First, fixity of species is an influence that came from Aristotle. Aristotle believed in unchanging forms and his influence was so impressive and great that interpreters of the Bible came to believe that God had created each species individually. Second, the Bible does not require that specie-creation be defended. A species is often defined as an organism that will mate with one another. When they will no longer mate, then they are regarded as a separate species. The Bible itself records the fact of selective breeding to gain stronger sheep.31 The story of creation does not mention species at all, but a term that is broader in scope. Genesis 1:24 says:
And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beast of the earth according to their kinds. And it was so.
There is no attempt to give a run-down on how many "kinds" of animals were in existence, nor the relationship of these animals to one another with reference to species. The central point is that God created the various levels of life. No length of time is given except the story is told in six days. There are no boundaries drawn on the kinds, no static species are mentioned, no fence around families that prohibits development within their kinds.
In summary, all that we can say about the major theory in evolution is that life appeared in the Cambrian Age. We cannot say how it got there. There were no human observers. The faith of the evolutionist declares that it evolved at that point. But the Cambrian Age witnessed the appearance of most phyla and even the phyla are not "in the order which would be expected as 'natural' on the basis of increasing complexity . . .."32 But progressive complexity can be seen in the phyla. This becomes one of the key issues in the major theory: is there evolution across phyla, or only in phyla? Evolution within phyla poses no great problems religiously or philosophically, but evolution across phyla would, and one of the important questions centers around the sacredness of man in contrast to other creatures.
4. Life was created.
This is a religious view for the most part although one might possibly reason to it philosophically and scientifically. Who did it? God. How is it known? Only by revelation. It is maintained, in the Bible, that creation is the work of God who is personal. If it happened that way, God was there to tell the story.
This view is simple to express, and it begins with the assertion, "In the beginning, God created . . . ." Broad outlines of the story are only given. God created the world, matter, and then living things and finally man. In bare detail the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms are created. The record of Scripture goes on to say that not only is God the Creator, but the sustainer also. Life
continues to be, because God is and wills it. Life is good because God created it.
The progressive complexity of life has a broad agreement with a geologic table of life which is more detailed, but essentially the same in order. So when a scientist declares that life originated in the Cambrian age, a man of faith declares: "God created." When man appears on the scene the man of faith in God says, "God created man."
Creationism has some problems. There are no fingerprints of God left behind, but there is a very complex system of life indicating a designer. However, creationism depends upon self-revelation of God. There are no a priori arguments against the possibility of God's self-revelation. Revelation is not measured by scientific devices. What is involved here is the credibility of people, the confirming of what has been said by the God who acts.
There are some lesser issues in creationism. There is no necessity to adhere to the 4004 B.C. date for creation. Some theologians have argued that the genealogies in the Bible are not concerned with the time of descent but the line of descent. The lineage is important for tracing the heritage of the Messiah, not the figuring up of man's age.33 There are many gaps in the genealogies and there is no way of knowing how many generations are supposed to be from the first man to the days of Jesus. However, the genealogies would not allow in their intent a broad use to include millions of years.
Second, as stated above, it is not required that the creation of species be defended. Genesis does not give details except for the important general items of a Hebrew's life--cattle, vegetation, fruit trees, and the significant fact that human life is a creation of God. He also created the elements that make life's continuation possible. Beyond this, there is no word on the varieties of animals, birds, bees, etc. Only that God created.
Third, there are theologians who argue that God did not create the Cosmos in six consecutive days. The Genesis story is told in six consecutive days concerning God's past creativity. We really are not told to whom the story was told, but let us suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the story were told to Noah. At one point the story is told on six successive days about how God created and the order of events in his creation. P.J. Wiseman supports such a view in his Creation Revealed in Six Days,34and argues that it was customary in ancient Babylon to write the account of creation on six tablets.
There are some very satisfying features in creationism. God is continually active in up-holding the world. The complexity of the world and its systematic inter-dependence within living things as well as outside of living things reflects tremendous creativity and intelligence. It is more aesthetic to conclude for God's creativity than mere chance. This leads us back to the first question of metaphysics: why is there something and not nothing? Eternal God is more appealing than Eternal Nothing.
5. Theistic evolution, or God and Evolution.
A hybrid view called theistic evolution is the attempt to give independence to biological evolution as well as retain belief in God. Theistic evolution means that evolution is to be accepted as the biologist describes it with one or two exceptions. One of the better known advocates of theistic evolution is E.L. Mascall who wrote:
Evolution is but the modus operandi by which the ideas or forms or universals are realized in the animal and plant world. God as the cause of all motion is the spiritual and intelligent force behind evolution, and evolution occurs solely because there is a God.35
Hence the first exception to the evolutionary theory is the introduction of God who starts and directs it. Why is there evolution? God started it! Why does it keep on? God keeps it up. How does God get into the picture? The answer comes from religion, not science.
The second exception concerns man. Mascal wrote:
Even if we hold that the production of man's body is a matter of "pure chance" . . . . the production of man is not a matter of chance, if it involves the direct and deliberate action of God. In the language of Genesis, "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life," and however the original writer understood his assertion, there is nothing to prevent us from taking the "dust from the ground" as denoting one of the higher anthropoids. The production of this anthropoid may indeed be a matter of chance, like so much in the evolutionary process, but need that worry us? Suppose that God uses just this method of "chance" to produce here and there the occasional physical organism which, by its organic adaptability and its cerebral complexity, is an adequate counterpart for a rational and spiritual soul.36
These comments incorporate the uniqueness of man using evolutionary concepts as far as they go.
There are some questions to be raised about theistic evolution. First, it incorporates exceptions that are scientifically undetectable. God and the spirit of man are not measurable from the standpoint of science. As such it is another, but limited version of creationism. Second, it is something rejected as another version of the old idea, "the God of the gaps." This means that God is appealed to for special purposes, but after the process is started, God is no longer. Man fills in the gaps of missing knowledge. In it also is seen another form of deism in which God is the first cause, or originator of things, but then has no function or interest in the world thereafter.37
Last, it appears that theistic evolution plays a little loose with the Biblical record concerning man's being a direct creation of God. Theistic evolution has both the problems of naturalistic biology as well as the problem of being true to the Biblical record.
We have looked at two questions of origins: the world and life. These are difficult, complex, but important questions. There could be little significance in the questions were it not for the way they touch on man's understanding of himself. Is man living in a hostile world or a friendly cosmos? Does something awesome, wonderful, and personal transcend man's existence as William James described it? Or, is man only a chance creature that happened on this little planet that will one day die and that will be his only end? Is man a high grade simian or the creation of God? Western man has believed that man is made in the image of God. As such a creature his life is sacred and should be preserved above all other creatures. Murder is a crime against the image of God. Atheism is not only the denial of God's existence, but also the special significance of man's nature in contrast to other creatures.
Man becomes the focal point of philosophy and man alone seeks to understand his world and himself. We now turn to our next topic involving more of the issues of man's existence: what is man?
For Further Reading
Beck, William S. Modern Science and the Nature of Life. Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1961.
Dobzhansky, Theodosius. Evolution, Genetics and Man. New York: John C. Wiley, Co., 1955.
Gamow, George. The Creation of the Universe. New York: Bantam Books, 1965.
Gish, Duane T. Evolution: The Fossils Say No! San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers, 1973.
Hoyle, Fred. Frontiers of Astronomy. New York: Signet Science Library, 1957.
Lucretius. The Nature of the Universe. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1951.
Mascal, E.L. The Importance of Being Human. New York: Columbia University Press, 1958.
Ramm, Bernard. The Christian View of Science and Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954.
Shapley, Harlow. The View from a Distant Star. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1967.
Simpson, G.G. The Meaning of Evolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949.
Whitcomb, John C. and Henry Norris. The Genesis Flood. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961.
Wiseman, P.J. Creation Revealed in Six Days. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1949.
1Harlow Shapley, The View from a Distant Star, New York: Dell Publishing, 1967, p. 43.
2Frederick Mayer, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, New York: American Book Co., 1950, p. 69.
3Aristotle's Metaphysics, p. 204.
4Fred Hoyle, Frontiers of Astronomy, New York: Signet Science Library, 1957, p. 284.
5Ibid., p. 287.
6Ibid., p. 310.
7Ibid., p. 283.
8Brennan, The Meaning of Philosophy, p. 298.
9George Gamow, The Creation of the Universe, New York: Bantam Books, 1965. See Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way, New York: William Morrow and Co., 1988, chapter 18.
10Ibid., pp. 4-18.
11Lucretius, The Nature of the Universe, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1951.
12William S. Beck, Modern Science and the Nature of Life, Garden City: Anchor Books, 1961, p. 104.
13Ibid., p. 104.
14Ibid., p. 106.
15Hoyle, op. cit., p. 282.
16Thomas S. Hall and Florence Moog, Life Science, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1956.
17Ibid., p. 30.
18Ibid., p. 31.
19Ibid., p. 32.
20Standen, op. cit., p. 100.
21Russell, op. cit., p. 33.
22Theodore Dobzhansky, Evolution, Genetics and Man, New York: John Wiley and Son, 1966, p. 83.
23Ibid., p. 288.
24Personal Knowledge, p. 136.
25Kemeny, op. cit., p. 199.
26Standen, op. cit., p. 98-99.
27Personal Knowledge, p. 390.
28Cf. Overman, p. 161; Julian Huxley, Evolution in Action, pp. 76-97. G.G. Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949, pp. 294-337.
29Overman, p. 23.
30Cf. Hall and Moog, "Historically evolution has posed not one problem but two. (l) Have existing species evolved out of other species, or were they individually created? (2) If they evolved, by what mechanism did they do so . . . . About the first question there is no longer any scientific doubt whatsoever," p. 437.
32Simpson, op. cit., p. 31.
33Cf. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1948.
34P.J. Wiseman, Creation Revealed in Six Days, London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1949.
35E.L. Mascal, The Importance of Being Human, New York: Columbia University Press, 1958.
36Ibid., p. 14.
37Cf. Overman, p. 137.