The Unexpected Perspective
The Implications of Darwin and the Big Bang for Christians ... and Everyone Else

Perspectives

New Evidence Suggests an Earlier Date for the First Appearance of Life on Earth

Our Earth is estimated to be about 4.4 billion years old. Over time, scientists have pushed the date of the earliest appearance of life on Earth farther and farther back. For the past two decades, the general consensus has been that life first appeared on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago, meaning that for the first billion years, Earth was "lifeless". Now a new study in Nature magazine suggests the date is much earlier.  The research is definitely controversial.  In fact, some critics of the new study have called the fossil evidence "dubio-fossils".  Obviously, it isn't just politics that's controversial today! Check out Oldest Bacteria.  

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The fifth reason Christians should love Darwin and the Big Bang Theory is because they can be used to help Christians formulate a solid response to secular humanism.

THE FIFTH REASON

            The fifth reason for Christians to embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory has to do with secular humanism.  Secular humanism is a group of creeds that have emerged over the past 100 plus years representing an alternative to Christianity and other religions.  While not exclusively so, a very high percentage of secular humanists are atheists and freethinkers.  Their thinking is summarized in three Secular Humanist Manifestos, issued respectively in 1933, 1973, and 2003.  In general, one can summarize their beliefs as follows:

  • Humans have an innate capacity to do and be good
  • We should focus our attention on the needs of this world, not on some mythical deity and  "afterlife"
  • The values of scientific inquiry, as well as justice and fairness, are paramount
  • Humans are capable of making progress, and given this capacity, should focus on building a better world.

There is much one can find appealing in the beliefs of secular humanists.  The

problem, of course, for Christians is that secular humanists believe there is little or no place for God in the world: in the secular humanist world, God either doesn't exist, or He takes a completely "hands off" approach to the world, similar to the conception of the Deists.  Either way, in the mind of the average secular humanist, God, even if He exists, is completely irrelevant.  When the subject of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, comes up, secular humanists tend to make the following arguments:

  • Religious beliefs tend to become fanatical, causing unnecessary wars
  • Humans have demonstrated tremendous progress, particularly in the past few hundred years, and that progress will lead us to solve any and all problems without the help of God
  • One of the highest values for humanity is science, and religions tend to be opposed or at odds with scientific endeavors
  • Sacred books such as the Bible are merely a bunch of stories and myths, things that can be disproved by science
  • Secular humanists can be just as moral, maybe even more moral, than Christians and those who adhere to other religions, so why bother with religious dogma?

These arguments will understandably cause Christians to get red in the face, but what responses can be offered?  First, with respect to wars, it's true, sometimes wars have been undertaken in the name of religion.  However, what secular humanists are forgetting to consider is that atheists have been the cause of incredible suffering, too.  All one needs to do is consider the murderous reigns of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.  Thus, the argument that religious belief leads to irrational, possibly murderous, behavior is not credible. 

Beyond this, in response to secular humanism, Christians tend to refer back to the Bible, but secular humanists already dismiss the Bible as a bunch of myths that lack credibility.  The result is that Christians and secular humanists largely shout past one another. 

The bottom line, however, is that for increasing numbers of ordinary people, secular humanism seems very appealing.  Once again, this is where a Christian embrace of Darwin and the Big Bang Theory could be beneficial to Christians.  Let me explain how and why.  First, I've laid out the argument that Darwin's theory actually reinforces the idea that sin is a byproduct of the evolution of humans.  Thus, the core belief of Christianity, one can argue, is based upon the very science that secular humanists seem to embrace. 

Second, secular humanism is grounded in the idea of human progress.  I agree that humans have, and continue to make, tremendous technological and material progress.  No one would disagree with that.  Even the most committed Christians still love their Ipads and Iphones, and wouldn't trade them in for old fashioned rotary dial up phones or 300 baud computer modems.  Where the disagreement comes is whether or not humans are making any real moral progress.  A fundamental tenet of secular humanism is that humans have the capacity to solve their own problems.  It may take us a while to do that, but we can eventually solve pretty much any problem.  My response is that secular humanists are mis-guided in this because they are not taking antagonistic pleiotropy into consideration.  Let me provide a brief review of the concept.

Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection suggests that traits that do not fit well will eventually die out.  If that's the case, one would expect that various terrible diseases would eventually disappear because humans, and other animals and organisms, would adapt to the diseases, much as microbes tend to adapt to antibiotics intended to kill the microbes; unfortunately, after a period of time, the antibiotics no longer work.  The problem is, terrible diseases don't seem to disappear, or at least humans don't seem to develop innate resistance to those diseases.  In my book I cite the example of Sickle Cell Anemia, a terrible disease that tends to strike people of sub-Saharan African descent.  The reason is because the genes that cause the disease have both negative a positive characteristics: the positive side of Sickle Cell Anemia is that it confers resistance to malaria, so the disease doesn't disappear because it simultaneously has negative and positive characteristics.  I make the argument that Sickle Cell Anemia is a metaphor for human sinfulness: each human behavior has both a positive and a negative side, the positive being the reason the person has survived, and the negative being the sinful side of the trait.

The argument I make is that each human behavior has both a positive side and a negative side, much as Sickle Cell Anemia has both a positive side and a negative side, and much as every coin has both a heads and a tails.  Assuming that's the case, the notion of human moral progress becomes impossible.  This is because the bad sides (the tails of the coin) of our individual natures are – what we call sin – are the flip side of the very things that have helped us survive – the heads of the coins.  These bad traits aren't going to go away.  Yes, humans will likely continue to make technological and material progress, but our real problem is that we're unable to make moral progress: we continue to deceive others, cheat on our spouses, gossip, bully others, engage in wars, and do all manner of other bad things, ostensibly because these things help us to be genetically successful.  Precisely because these bad things help us to be genetically successful, they're not going away. Moreover, the argument of the secular humanists – the reliance upon science – is used to overturn the secular humanist belief in human progress. 

Christians can then combine this understanding of Darwin with traditional Biblical arguments, as follows.  When mankind evolved from lower species, the negative traits that helped us to survive, combined with our far greater brainpower, led us to become simultaneously capable of doing good along with being sinful.  That's the traditional Christian formulation – the dual nature of humanity.  Moreover, Christians argue that we cannot overcome this on our own – it's "baked in."  The only thing we can do is to rely upon faith in Jesus Christ to help overcome this.  We can't do it on our own.

Thus, by relying upon Darwin, Christians can build an argument that secular humanism is fundamentally flawed.  The argument relies upon science – the very thing secular humanists say is the cornerstone of their thinking.  Secular humanists will no longer be able to make a claim that they're the only ones relying upon science.  Christians will be able to do the same, in addition to having the arguments laid out in the Bible.  Of course, secular humanists will reject these arguments, but Christians will now have a new set of arguments to use, ones that will buttress their underlying arguments about the claims of the Bible.  In other words, Christians won't be using science to replace the Bible – the thing secular humanists have been doing – but use science, in conjunction with the Bible, to undercut the secular humanist case.  So far, I haven't seen any effective secular humanist argument in response. 

In summary, Christians should love Darwin and the Big Bang because they can be used to help Christians to build solid, credible arguments against secular humanism.

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There's a lot of concern that climate change is making hurricanes more frequent and worse. That may be the case, but climate change isn't the place to focus attention if you're trying to reduce the impact of hurricanes.

            The incredible destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey on Texas, as well as that from Hurricanes Irma and Michael – reminds us of the unbelievable havoc and misery that hurricanes and tropical storms can wreak.  The fury accompanying these three storms has raised an obvious and important question: is climate change making hurricanes worse; and isn't this an important reason to take action on climate change?

            I definitely believe in human-induced climate change, and I also strongly suspect that climate change may well be making hurricanes at least somewhat worse.  But if we want to try to reduce the tragic impact of hurricanes, focusing on climate change is at best a distraction in the effort.  Let me explain how I come to what is probably an unexpected conclusion.

            Before going any further, let's consider why climate change might be making hurricanes and tropical storms worse.  The two key reasons are water temperature and water vapor in the air.  Hurricanes gain their energy from warm ocean temperatures.  In fact, a hurricane can only form if the water temperature is at least approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 degrees Celsius).  It can only be sustained with warm water temperatures.  The warmer the temperature, the greater the chance of a hurricane forming and/or strengthening.  Global warming certainly appears to be increasing water temperatures.  At the same time, higher temperatures tend to increase the amount of water vapor in the air, something else that helps nurture a hurricane and make it more destructive.  So other things being equal, global warming may well be contributing to the problem both of the number and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms.

            Yes, but it isn't so simple.  Let me explain why.

            First off, even if we could somehow end the problem of global warming and associated climate change, it's not clear what impact there would be on the number of hurricanes or their intensity.  We know this for no other reason that there were intense hurricanes before there was evidence of global warming.  In fact, since the start of the 20th century, the USA has experienced a Category 5 hurricane about once every 25 – 30 years: one in 1900, one in 1935, one in 1961, one in 1969, one in 1992, and now one in 2017.  Category 4 hurricanes are an even more frequent occurrence.  Table 1 below shows a list of the most intense Atlantic basin hurricanes over the past century.  Hurricanes such as the 1900 Galveston storm, the 1935 Florida Keys storm, Carla, and Camille were likely just as intense as Irma and Katrina, and all occurred before global warming was an issue.   So solving the global warming problem is certainly not going to eliminate these hurricanes.  It may reduce the frequency, but even that isn't clear.

 

Table 1: Past Category 4 and 5 Hurricanes

 

Hurricane

Year

Windspeed (Miles/Hour)

Irma

2017

185

Katrina

2005

175

Andrew

1992

175

Camille

1969

175

Carla

1961

175

Mitch (did not hit USA)

1998

180

Rita

2005

180

Florida Keys

1935

185

Gilbert (did not hit USA)

1988

185

Wilma

2005

185

Allen

1980

190

Galveston hurricane

1900

Unknown Cat 5

 

 

            But the intensity of the hurricane really isn't the thing we should be worried about anyway.  Instead, deaths and injuries, as well as the resultant damage, are the real concern.  After all, there have actually been a number of extremely intense hurricanes in the Atlantic that never touched land.  Nobody remembers the names of those storms, and nobody really cares.

            So which storms have actually been the deadliest and costliest?  The deadliest by far was the 1900 Galveston hurricane, which killed an estimated 6,000 people.  They had virtually no warning on that one.  Fortunately, modern technology has helped to provide better warning, with much less loss of life.  The 1926 Miami hurricane killed 372 people, mainly because people didn't understand the calm of storm's eye is but a precursor to another round. 

            Then there's property damage.  Table 2 shows a list of the most costly hurricanes and tropical storms.  One interesting thing to note is that amongst the costliest were storms that weren't intense.  In fact several of them – Tropical Storm Allison and Superstorm Sandy - weren't even hurricanes.  They did incredible damage, however, and besides fatalities and injuries, that's what really gets our attention.

Table 2: Costliest Hurricanes/Tropical Storms

 

Hurricane

Year

Estim Cost (Billion USD)

Hugo

1989

7.1

Jeanne

2004

7.6

Tropical Storm Allison

2001

9.0

Frances

2004

9.5

Rita

2005

12.0

Charley

2004

15.1

Irene

2011

7.3

Wilma

2005

21.0

Andrew

1992

26.5

Ike

2008

29.5

Superstorm Sandy

2012

71.4

Katrina

2005

108

Harvey

2017

100+

 

            Our real concern shouldn't be how intense the storm is, it should be how much loss of life (and injuries), as well as the damage.   To deal with those, there are three things we can focus on.  Let's consider each of them.

            The first is the technology associated with tracking storms and predicting where they'll go.  The 1900 Galveston hurricane killed so many people because there was little technology to track the storm and warn people to get out.  We can and should continue to improve this technology, but we're not likely to have much impact here.  Yes, we can build ever better weather satellites and sensors, but such improvements will probably have only marginal impact.

            Instead, we should give greater attention to the second area where we can improve – building technology and building codes.  The destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 led to a detailed review of building codes and practices.  They were strengthened significantly, especially with respect to window and door technologies, as well as methods to insure that roofs won't blow off.  Homes and businesses built since 1992 are far more likely to survive an intense hurricane, thanks to the Andrew-induced changes.  More obviously can be done in this area, particularly in retro-fitting existing structures.

            While spending on hurricane tracking and building technologies can help save lives as well as reduce property losses, there is a third area that will yield substantially greater reductions in deaths, injuries and property damage … and it has absolutely nothing to do with global warming or technology.  Instead, it has to do with zoning and insurance.

            The biggest single danger in a hurricane or tropical storm is storm surge.  The low barometric pressure associated with a hurricane causes the ocean to rise at least a few feet.  The lower the air pressure, the greater the surge.  How do you avoid this problem?  By either not building structures in low lying areas adjacent the ocean, or building the structure high enough that storm surge passes underneath the structure.

            This isn't some great new revelation – it's been known for at least fifty years.  The other thing that's been known for many years is what areas are susceptible to storm surge and flooding.  So you may ask, if we know that storm surge is a problem, and we also know where it could be a problem, why haven't we solved the problem?

            The answer, unfortunately, is that we don't want to acknowledge the problem.  Not only that, we take active measures through our government to make the problem worse.   Let me explain how, and why.

            We have pretty detailed maps that show what areas in the country will flood, as well as the estimated frequency of flooding.  This is quite well known for coastal areas, especially low lying coastal areas.  You may ask, if we know the relative frequency that these low lying coastal areas will flood, why do we build structures in those areas?

            It's a good question.  Some say we shouldn't build structures in low lying coastal areas for this very reason.  One way to solve the problem is through property insurance.  Unfortunately, about fifty years ago, property insurers concluded that flood insurance simply wasn't a good product to sell.  This is because the property insurers calculated they would have to pay out too many claims and wouldn't be able to make money.

            To the rescue came the US government, which decided to provide insurance companies guarantees for the flood insurance policies they wrote. This helped foster the development of property in flood prone areas, including areas subject to hurricane storm surge.  Lots of people were happy about this – property developers, because they could build beautiful beach front developments; and buyers.  So what could go wrong?  Plenty.

            Remember that the reason the Federal government started guaranteeing flood insurance policies was because the private market wasn't working.  By getting involved in flood insurance, there have been a whole host of unintended consequences.  The key one is that a huge amount of development has occurred in these flood prone areas.  Every time a hurricane or tropical storm hits, huge claims need to be paid.  The real reason the costs in Table 2 are so high is because these storms did serious damage to structures that were principally located in flood plains.   The 1926 Miami hurricane, a pre-global warming storm, killed lots of people and did a lot of damage.  If the same storm occurred today, it's estimated it would cost $ 164 billion in damages.  This is because of so much development, as well as lots of it in flood prone areas.

            Unfortunately, the problem just gets worse, because we keep permitting development in known flood plains; and that development is backstopped the Federal government.

            We probably can't do much about reducing the number of hurricanes and tropical storms we have, at least in the short run, but we can do something about building structures – especially expensive structures – in known flood plains.  If we curtailed the number of structures in flood plains, we're likely to reduce storm induced damage there.

            We could materially reduce the terrible cost of hurricanes by focusing on items two and three (i.e., improving building codes, zoning,  and reducing the amount the amount of construction in flood plains.

            Here's the really good news about this.  It can all be done without the Paris Climate Accord … without developing any new technology to reduce carbon emissions … and without worrying about who is the President of the United States.  Much of it can be done without even spending money. 

            If it is indeed that easy, why hasn't it been done?   Quite simply, because there are lots of incentives to build structures in known hurricane flood plains, but not enough dis-incentives to prevent this from happening.  The incentives are obvious: buildings near the sea are highly desirable.  Economic development of the beach is highly attractive for lots for people.  The disincentives are far less obvious.  The big disincentive – paying out Superstorm Sandy size insurance  claims – just isn't a disincentive until it happens.

            What realistically can be done?  At one extreme, we could stop all development in flood prone areas.  Pretty draconian, but that would reduce the problem going forward.  At the other extreme, we could end all Federal flood insurance guarantees and just let the marketplace sort out the risk.  This solution would save taxpayers a lot of money, but it would create problems, especially for lower income groups.  Moreover, it would be very unpopular with those whose insurance is presently being subsidized.  Any way you look at it, there are tough choices to make.  The key point, however, is that these are the real decisions that need to be made if we want to reduce the cost of hurricanes.

            This problem isn't limited to construction of properties that are in storm surge prone areas.  The case of Houston and Hurricane Harvey is instructive here.  The impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston was not related to storm surge.  Even though Houston is a good distance from the Gulf of Mexico, it still has numerous areas that are prone to flooding.  Yet there's been lots of development in those areas thanks to government backed flood insurance. 

            The other thing about Houston is that flooding is a recurring problem.  I personally experienced in 25 inch rainstorm in Houston one day in the summer of 1976.  It had absolutely nothing to do with a hurricane.  The flooding was horrendous.  There have been numerous other floods since.  The problem is exacerbated by poor soil, excess construction, and inadequate zoning – all problems which are understood, but for which not enough has been done. 

            Hurricane or no hurricane, these are costly and deadly problems that need to be prevented.  My point is that one can superficially cite global warming and climate change as the cause, but by doing so one obscures the real problem: building in flood plains and inadequate building codes.

            So while it's important to deal with global warming and climate change, let's not let that be an excuse.  When it comes to problems like hurricanes, lets focus attention on solving the real problems.   

            Please share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.  Thanks for reading.   

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The fourth reason Christians should embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory is because it will provide a way to resolve the issue of what type of science should be taught in schools, a question that has caused great angst for Christians for many years. Christians will definitely like my proposal.

THE FOURTH REASON

            The fourth reason Christians ought to love Darwin and the Big Bang is because it provides a way to deal with the longstanding problem of what to teach about science and religion in the public schools.  This is certainly a very old problem, one going back to the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee in the 1920's. 

Unfortunately, Christians have generally come out on the losing end in court cases, the courts pretty much always ruling that Christian efforts to present alternatives to Darwinian science are unacceptable.  Many would argue that everyone – Christian and non-Christian alike – has lost out, the reason being is because teachers and schools are so afraid of this issue they shy away from teaching anything.  Some would argue that students are simply being taught "junk".  I believe that my proposed approach can come to the rescue, offering benefits to all:

  • NonChristians will be happy because good science will be taught
  • Christians will be happy because they will be able to build the set of arguments they've always wanted taught in schools, but simply haven't been able to advance, until now.

Sounds like a pretty bold claim – and it is – but let me show you how I believe I can make it.

            Let's go back to the great fear that Christians have had about Darwin.  I think there have been two: 1) that Darwin is inconsistent with the Biblical narrative; and 2) that it hypothesizes a world without purpose, and one without God, so students will be taught that the atheistic conception is correct.  Elsewhere I've shown how Darwin is clearly not inconsistent with the Biblical narrative, so we can definitely dispose of that objection.  Let's now turn to the other objection.  My proposal will provide atheists and other non-Christians with something they've always wanted – to teach Darwin in the schools – but it will come at a cost they haven't considered, one that Christians will definitely like.

            Let me explain how I think the subject of Darwin and the Big Bang should be taught in schools.  Bear with me, because if you're a Christian, I think you'll like where this is going.  As I've argued in my book, I think the schools should teach that the Big Bang and Darwin's theory are essentially correct, so let's teach that in the schools.  Atheists should love that, so what might their objection be?  Well, the problem that arises for atheists is that, just as Christians are practicing religion, atheists really are, too.  They'll object mightily to this, but let me show you why they actually are practicing religion.  If the schools follow through with what I'm suggesting, it should be fairly obvious.

            So here's what I think should be taught in the schools.  First, the Big Bang is our best explanation for how the universe began, about 13.8 billion years ago.  From that, the universe, as well as life, emerged and evolved to the present.  Here, though, is the big question: what caused the Big Bang?  Christians, as well as adherents of other religions, believe that God, or some type of God-like agent, caused it.  Atheists, of course, believe that it more or less happened by chance.  Who's right, and what proof is there?  Let's consider the alternatives.

            The question of the cause of the Big Bang is an excellent opportunity for schools of all sorts to teach the scientific method.  Pretty much everyone believes it's a good idea for children to learn the scientific method, they just haven't thought about it in this context.  So let's demonstrate the scientific method in the context of the question, who or what caused the Big Bang?

            Teachers at all levels could describe the following experiment.  Imagine that there is a giant wall, with all humanity on one side of the wall and an unknown world on the other side of the wall.  The question is, what's on the other side of the wall, and how can scientists prove it, one way or the other?  So imagine that a group of scientists get the very best scientific equipment available and aim it at the wall to determine what's on the other side of the wall.  Now even young children are familiar with X ray machines, if only because they may have seen them at airport screening.  Imagine that the scientists aim all of their sophisticated equipment at the wall, but despite their best efforts, the equipment provides absolutely no information about what's on the other side of the wall.  The question is, what conclusions can the scientists draw about what's on the other side of the wall?

            The obvious answer is, nothing!  If there are no data produced by the machines about what's on the other side of the wall, it remains a mystery what is on the other side.  Since no data are available, any conclusions reached are in the realm of speculation, and possibly religion.  I say this because one of the definitions of "faith" is belief in things that are unseen and not provable.  The experiment I've described is a perfect example of our understanding of what happened before the Big Bang.  Right now, we have absolutely no data points, so the experiment I've described pretty well summarizes our understanding of the "cause" of the Big Bang.  The scientific method dictates that we can reach no other conclusion than that, at least at this time.  So if someone tries to draw conclusions about the cause of the Big Bang, it means they're moving from the realm of science and into the realm of the metaphysical or religious.

            Christians, as well as adherents of other religions, believe that God caused the Big Bang, but what proof is there of that?  Well, unfortunately, there is no proof.  As such, the belief that God caused the Big Bang is a faith statement – a belief in something that is neither provable nor seen.  Absolutely no surprise in that!  Religious people have always understood that at some point, at some level, there was no way to prove what they believe.  For Christians and other religious people, our conclusion that God is on the other side of "the wall" is understood to be a religious statement. 

The problem, though, is that the very same principles apply to atheists.  Let me show you why.  Recall, there is absolutely no data from our hypothetical experiment about what is on the other side of the wall, so any conclusions drawn are religious or metaphysical.  That means that the conclusions of atheists about the cause of the Big Bang are, well, faith propositions because there is absolutely no data to back up the statement.  Yes, while atheists insist they're not practicing religion, they actually are, because they're making claims that they dress up as scientific, but are not based upon science.

Thus, everyone benefits, for the following reasons: 1) good science is being taught in the schools; 2) children are learning about the boundaries between science and religion; and 3) no one needs to worry that a particular religious view is being taught.  Christians should also be pleased because children will be taught that the claims of atheists are, like those of Christians, merely faith statements, so any conclusions drawn are beyond science.

Christians, of course, can rest assured that the case doesn't end there.  After all, as I've pointed out elsewhere, the real "line in the sand" Christians should be drawing is not how the world was created.  Instead, the "line" is the Garden of Eden, the reason being that the core of Christian beliefs are derived from that event: 1) mankind is sinful; 2) we have a dynamic God who cares about us; 3) we can't overcome sin on our own; and 4) Christ's death and resurrection are the atonement for our sin.  As I've noted elsewhere, Christians can build a strong case out of Darwin that leads directly to the Garden of Eden.

Based upon this understanding, an embrace of Darwin and the Big Bang will benefit Christians, especially those who have been concerned about what is taught to children in school.

           

 

 

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In the last post, I discussed a number of the problems with intelligent design theory.  In this post I offer additional arguments why Christians shouldn't count on Intelligent Design.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN PART 2

In the last post, I discussed a number of the problems with intelligent design theory.  Many Christians view it as a viable alternative to Darwinism, but I noted the fact that it really isn't a coherent scientific theory, merely a set of objections to Darwinism.  Unfortunately, the majority (possibly vast majority) of scientists – including Christian scientists – object to it. Moreover, conventional scientists continue to find ways to overcome the objections that Intelligent Design has raised. Evidence keeps appearing that seems to confirm the Darwinian theory, as well as the Big Bang Theory, thus weakening the case for ID.  

The second key problem I have with Intelligent Design is that I see absolutely nothing "Christian" in it.  It's a theory that can be embraced by anyone with religious inclinations.  It seems to be equally applicable to Muslims, Hindus, Unitarians, and Deists.  In other words, even if one built a strong case for ID, it would not reinforce any of the unique claims of Christianity, merely that some god-like agent intervened to create the universe as we know it. 

The best example of this I can think of is traditional Deism.  Deists believe that God created the universe, but that He no longer participates actively in the creation.  Some have made the analogy of the great watchmaker who, having created a magnificent timepiece, is content to sit back and admire his creation.  However, as the timepiece operates on its own, without the need for its Creator to intervene, the creation is perfect.  As such, the Creator no longer has a role to play in His creation.  

Deism emerged in the 18th century.  Many of the founding fathers of the USA were themselves Deists.  Thomas Jefferson is one of the best know of the early Deists.  As Jefferson lived and died before the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, the third president of the USA likely would have believed both that God was actively involved in the creation of the universe, but then chose to play the role of "admirer of his great creation".  Thus, Jefferson and the other Deists likely would have adhered simultaneously to Deism and Intelligent Design.  Christians, of course, reject the concept of Deism. This then creates the peculiar situation of many modern Christians defending a theory (Intelligent Design) that could easily have been embraced by those who were opposed to many of the precepts of Christianity.

In contrast to this, let me suggest a different form of "Intelligent Design", one that both accommodates accepted modern science and also fits into the traditional Christian narrative.  My version of Intelligent Design includes two key elements: 1) the evidence of "design" shown by the six scientific constants of Martin Rees, as well as Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

Martin Rees is a well known Britist physicist.  He has identified six scientific constants that were present from the moment of the Big Bang onward.  What is interesting about these six constants is that even very slight changes in any one of the constants would have prevented the creation of the world we know.  I commend to you Rees's book titled The Six Numbers.  The existence of these scientific constants is acknowledged and accepted by scientists of all persuasions, including atheists and the religiously inclined.  Moreover, everyone acknowleges that if the constants changed even slightly, life as we know it could not exist.

Many Christians take the presence of these six constants as evidence of design by God.  It seems to be pretty good evidence, though even Christian scientists will readily agree that there is no way to prove this to be the case.  On the other hand, atheists and others will dismiss this as evidence of design, saying only that the constants emerged by chance.  Unfortunately, neither side can either prove its own case or disprove the case of the other side.

At the same time, one can make the argument that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is also a form of design, arguably an indication of Intelligent Design.  Of course, atheists don't believe there is a God, so no atheist will say that Darwin is evidence of ID.  It's a fair point, so the various parties will simply have to agree to disagree.

Thus, my argument is that the best evidence of Intelligent Design is the six scientific constants, as well as Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.  It can't be proved, at least not now, but it also can't be dis-proved, and no alternative theory can be proved either.  Many atheist supporters of Darwin seem to agree that these two elements - the scientific constants and Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection - are all the Intelligent Design that is necessary.  I agree.

Why, then, do supporters of traditional Intelligent Design cling to the theory? Many have argued that the real problem with Darwin is that his theory eliminates "purpose" in the world.  It seems to say, in effect, that the world emerged without purpose; and Christians tend to have a real problem with notions that the world was created in any way beyond the hand of God, or that there is no purpose.  In upcoming blogs, I'll discuss why Christians can still believe in the idea of purpose to the world, even if it was created in a way that is consistent with what Darwin described.


    
 

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Many Christians have embraced a concept called Intelligent Design (ID) as an alternative to Darwin. Most all mainline scientists reject ID. This post explains what ID is, as well as the problems with the theory.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN PART 1

Many Christians who reject Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection have embraced a concept called Intelligent Design (ID in common parlance).  Broadly speaking, that's the idea that God, or some God-like agent, had to have been involved with the creation and emergence of life.  It's an idea that's intuitively appealing to Christians.

Intelligent design actually can be traced back to Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Roman Catholic theologian, but it really was popularized in the 1980's and early 1990's by Michael Behe, an Australian micro-biologist, and Philip Johnson, who teaches constitutional law at the University of California Berkeley.  It's become very popular with many evangelical Christians, but is roundly rejected by mainline scientists, both non-Christian and Christian.  Let's first provide a brief explanation of the modern day version of Intelligent Design, then we'll discuss why most scientists reject it.

First off, one should realize that most supporters of Intelligent Design actually believe in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, just on the scale of microbes and viruses.  For example, they acknowledge that mutations can occur.  A perfect example of this is when bacteria mutate to develop resistance to drugs. The problem for supporters of Intelligent Design, drawing upon a card playing analogy, is that Darwin "over played his hand".  They have problems on two levels – chemical evolution and macro-evolution.    Let's look at those.

It turns out that cells are far more complicated than Darwin ever could have imagined.  How did that complexity emerge?  Supporters of ID claim that one cannot explain a reasonable way for the complexity of the average cell to emerge through the process Darwin described.  The conclusion is that it could only have happened with the intervention of an intelligent designer.  

The other problem they have is on a macro-scale.  It's one thing for evolution to occur on a micro-scale, but that doesn't explain how new species and orders emerge.  If it did occur, then there should be evidence of transitional species.  As an example, Darwin's theory postulates that life forms transitioned from the oceans to land, so how did species make that transition?  There should be some evidence of life forms that made that transition.  When Philip Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial, there weren't any known transitional species.  Johnson made a point to note that Darwin, himself, said his theory would fall apart if there were no such evidence.

Johnson and other ID theorists have indeed identified weaknesses in Darwin's theory.  In the minds of many evangelical Christians, what the ID theorists have done is fatally wounded Darwin.  Unfortunately, it isn't so simple as that.  Here's why.

First, while ID theorists have developed a number of important criticisms of Darwin, they have not developed an alternative scientific theory.  Intelligent Design is not a fleshed out scientific theory that can compete with Darwin, merely a hodge-podge of criticisms of Darwin.  That doesn't mean a full theory won't emerge, it just hasn't yet.  

Second, ID depends upon including some form of "intelligent agent" in the design process, usually described as God.  From a scientific viewpoint, that's a non-starter.  The reason for this is because there is absolutely no way to construct a scientific hypothesis that can test for the existence or non-existence of God.  That's not to say God doesn't exist, just that there is no way to do a scientific test of His existence.  Please understand, this  isn't some type of atheist conspiracy.  Scientists who are themselves strong evangelical Christians line up in lock-step with atheist scientists on this point.  It comes down to how the scientific method, including the principle of falsifying a hypothesis, that trips up ID.  Thus, ID can't become a serious scientific theory until it can be presented in a way that eliminates the need to explain phenomena based upon the intervention of a God-like agent.  Remember, it isn't a question of whether or not God exists, it is a question of whether the science can be explained without having to rely upon the existence of God.

The second issue with ID has to do with the "evidence problem" described above.  The problem is that conventional scientists keep coming up with actual evidence of the things that ID theorists said can't or didn't exist.  For example, remember the problem with "transitional fossils"?  Since Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial in the early 1990's, evidence of real transitional fossils has been found.  Such transitional fossils tend to reinforce Darwin's theory.  Second, scientists keep finding examples of things ID theorists say are too complex to be explained by Darwin's theory.  In other words, supporters of Darwin keep finding things that reinforce what Darwin said, and undercut the ID argument.  If you think of ID as a chair, what's happening is that conventional science keeps knocking the legs off the chair.


Has Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt?  No, it hasn't, but no other theories have been developed that come anywhere near close to providing the explanatory power of Darwin.  While ID has identified a number of problems with the theory, ID itself is not a fleshed out theory itself.

While I'm rejecting Intelligent Design as a concept, one could make the argument that my proposed concept is really just a different form of Intelligent Design.  After all, I'm suggesting that God did create the Universe and His hand is evident, so aren't I being hypocritical?  No, not in the least.  In the very purest sense, my proposal is a form of Intelligent Design, because I do believe God was involved in the creation of the Universe, but my proposal is significantly different from Intelligent Design in some very important respects.  The key difference is that I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of macro-evolution, the very thing that Philip Johnson and the other key leaders in the Intelligent Design movement reject.  I believe Darwin's theory applies on a macro scale, just as do people like Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheists.

So what's the difference between the atheist conception, Intelligent Design, and my conception?  Here's a quick summary:

a) I embrace Darwin's theory on both a micro and macro scale, just like Dawkins, but unlike the Intelligent Design movement;

b) I also embrace the idea that there is a Creator God, much like most of the Intelligent Design movement, but quite unlike Dawkins;

c) I believe that whatever "design" God did was pre-Big Bang, so there is really no way to prove it, or disprove it.

The "design" I embrace includes two key elements: a) the physical constants that make our world amenable to life as we know it; and b) the process of evolution by natural selection.  People like Dawkins also embrace these two "design" elements, they just don't think they came from the hand of God, whereas I do.

Scientists have not identified any tools or methods to investigate what might have happened before the Big Bang, or who or what might have caused it.  Thus, any thoughts about the origin of the Universe, or the existence or non-existence of God, are purely in the realm of speculation, at least for now. 


    

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Since Darwin's theory was first elucidated about 150 years ago, religious people, both Christian and non-Christian, have sought ways to reconcile the different ideas.

A DIFFERENT AND BETTER QUESTION TO ASK

As discussed in the last post, at a minimum, the world view of a religious person, Christian or non-Christian, seems to be at odds with what Charles Darwin and the Big Bang Theory are saying.   This is because the religious believe that God, or a god-like agent, pre-existed the world, then directed the emergence of the world.  The Big Bang Theory seems to suggest that the world emerged out of nothing at a particular moment in time, and Darwin seems to suggest that the world emerged without purpose.

Since Darwin's theory was first elucidated about 150 years ago, religious people, both Christian and non-Christian, have sought ways to reconcile the different ideas.  You'll recall in an earlier blog post, I pointed out two theories – directed evolution and planned evolution – that reconcile Darwin, the Big Bang and Christianity.  A number of Christian groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and various mainline Protestant denominations, have reconciled the ideas.

Reconciliation, however, is not the same as what atheists have done – they've wholeheartedly embraced Darwin and the Big Bang.  Is there a difference?  I think there is, and let me describe it by analogy.  Recall when you were a child that at least one of your parents, most likely your mother, told you to eat your vegetables because they're good for you.  You probably didn't care for them, but you knew you needed to eat them.  For me, it was Brussels Sprouts.  Today, I'm a man in late middle age, and my tastes in food are considerably broader than when I was a child … but I still HATE Brussels Sprouts!  Conversely, I absolutely love carrots and watermelon, two other fruits and vegetables.    You likely have your own version of Brussels Sprouts, carrots, and watermelon.

Darwin and the Big Bang are like my carrots and watermelon to the atheist – he or she absolutely loves these theories, whether he or she knows anything about them.  Conversely, for the average Christian who has reconciled these theories with the Bible, it's still somewhat like my Brussels Sprouts: my "good reason" for eating them was to avoid the wrath of my mother.  But in my own mind, no one has given me a really good reason I should love them.  

But imagine a different scenario – a variation of the carrots and watermelon one I described above.  Imagine that Christians wanted to embrace Charles Darwin and the Big Bang Theory just as much, if not more than, atheists?  What would be the benefit of that?  Well, let me suggest a bunch of benefits:


    #1: Younger Christians might stop leaving the church as much as they do now, if only because one of the reasons for leaving has been mooted;
    #2: Rather than spending time arguing about "origins", Christians could use the that "bandwidth" to offer constructive comments about other matters of science, particularly scientific matters with an ethical dimension.  Hint: there are LOTS of them!
    #3: Christians could regain the respect of non-Christians on matters of science.  The latter probably still won't adopt Christianity, but at least some important attitudes could change.

There could be real benefits to this, but it could only happen if Christians could be given reasons to want to embrace Darwin and the Big Bang.  

You'll recall how I said that entrepreneurs often reframe old problems by asking new questions?  Well, that's precisely what I'm doing here.  Most everyone has some sort of entrenched position on this issue, and no one is budging.  In a case like that, the only way to make any real progress is to re-frame the problem.  Thus, for me, the starting point for addressing the BIG ISSUE – the relationship of Christians to science and technology – actually starts with coming up with a solution to the Darwin/Big Bang issue … and the only way to make real progress on that is to re-frame the entire problem by asking the following question: what would have to happen for Christians to want to "bear hug" embrace Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and Georges LeMaitre's Big Bang Theory?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward: the two theories would have to show something that somehow reinforced something else that Christians already believed.  After all, that's really the reason atheists embrace the theory – because the two theories, when taken together, appear to reinforce the idea that the world just emerged out of nothing and evolved without purpose.

So the real question becomes: is there a way to think about Darwin and the Big Bang Theory that provide evidence that reinforces what the Christian Bible has been saying all along, that reinforces fundamental Christian doctrines?  If the answer is yes, then Christians ought to want to "bear hug" embrace Darwin and the Big Bang Theory, not because an atheist said to, but because the Christian Bible, and therefore God, says to do so.

Your initial reaction may be, preposterous!  I invite you to continue along with me, for I am going to take you on a journey to a place you probably thought was preposterous, but which I firmly believe is real. 
 

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Creationism Is Being Embraced in Seemingly Unlikely Places

Stephen Jay Gould, the famous late scientist and writer, made the observation that belief in "creationism" is pretty much limited to certain groups in the USA.  He said, "I hope everyone realizes the extent to which this is a local, indigenous, American bizzarity."  Many outside the USA seem to share the belief.  Ronald Numbers, a Professor of History and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and perhaps the world's foremost authority on the study of creationism, says that Gould's idea is a complete myth. 

Numbers is perhaps best known for having written The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism.  He has devoted a significant portion of his career to the study of the emergence and propagation of creationist ideas.  He has also edited a very interesting book entitled Galileo Goes to Jail, and Other Myths About Science and Religion.  He personally wrote the chapter describing the myth about creationism being a purely American phenomenon. 

It is certainly true that the creationist movement started in the USA, and it continues to be very strong here.   What appears to be a myth, however, is the idea that creationist ideas are a purely American phenomenon and haven't taken hold in other countries.  In fact, Numbers has meticulously recorded evidence of strong creationist groups outside the USA.  For example, he notes that creationist thinking has been very positively received in both Australia and New Zealand.  Closer to home, he observes that Canada may have more creationists per capita than anywhere else.  Even though less than one third of Canadians attend church regularly, survey data show that 53% of adults in Canada reject the theory of scientific evolution.

One normally doesn't think of people in Europe, especially Western Europe, as having strong religious leanings, yet creationism has definitely taken hold there.  Numbers cites a United Kingdom poll that shows four in ten people in the UK think that religious alternatives to Darwin's theory should be taught as science in the schools.  Surveys show that only 45% of respondents believe that evolution best represents their personal views.  On the other hand 22% identified themselves as supporters of creationism, while 17% endorsed Intelligent Design.

Elsewhere in Western Europe, Numbers notes that 20% of those surveyed appear to believe in special creation.  Young earth creationism, the most conservative version, is widely endorsed in various countries.  For example, surveys show that 21.8% of the Swiss say they're young earth creationists.  Lest you conclude that yodeling or Swiss chocolate may have inflicted some unintended consequences on the populace, 20.4% of Austrians self-identify as young earth creationists.  The number in Germany is 18.1%.

In Latin America, a similar phenomenon is occurring.  Belief in creationism has skyrocketed in Brazil, for example.  In Asia, belief in creationism also seems to be on the rise, particularly in Korea.

Perhaps even more surprising is the data Numbers has compiled about non-Christians outside the USA.  He notes much interest expressed by Muslims in Turkey.  A creationist movement has emerged there, too.  Not to be outdone, Jews in Israel have also been embracing creationism.  In fact, Numbers cites the emergence of the Torah Science Foundation in Israel to promote creationist ideas.  A particular variation on this is what is called "Kosher evolution".  This involves an acceptance of micro-evolution but rejection of macro-evolution.

The obvious question to ask is, how did this come about?  Numbers notes that various groups have been evangelizing the creationist message.  One group in particular, based in Kentucky and called Answers in Genesis, has definitely been proselytizing.  Just as Christians have been faithfully following the Great Commandment to spread the Gospel, so have creationists been adhering to a Great Creationist Commandment to do the same with respect to creationist doctrine.

The spread of interest in creationism outside the USA has been accompanied by an increasing desire to teach alternative scientific theories to evolution by natural selection.  Just as creationists and supporters of Intelligent Design have pushed to have alternative science taught in schools, the same is true outside the USA.

Numbers has observed that secular scientists in many of these countries are shocked at this development, seemingly thinking that the impossible has come to pass.  However, just as atheist scientists in the USA are absolutely shocked and appalled that, notwithstanding all of the scientific evidence, about half of the USA adult population is skeptical of Darwin, and only one quarter of Christians embrace Darwinian thinking, is it really a surprise that attitudes are the same in other countries?  This again seems consistent with the notion that there is no science/religion continuum.  The idea that the more one believes in science, the less they'll believe in religion … and vice versa … is a myth.  Moreover, it is a worldwide myth that applies throughout the world.

Just as the embrace of creationism by many in the USA has led to a battle about what science is taught in the public schools, so are similar battles emerging in countries around the world.  Scientists are understandably horrified by this, but they really shouldn't be surprised.  When all is said and done, there is nothing uniquely American about creationism, intelligent design, and other forms of opposition to Darwin's theory.

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The third reason Christians ought to love Darwin and the Big Bang is because it can provide a better way to do evangelism, particularly of the well educated.

THE THIRD REASON

            Unlike the first two reasons, the third reason I think Christians will love Darwin and the Big Bang Theory has to do with evangelism.  The importance of evangelism is found in Matthew 28:16 – 20: 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV).

            The words are pretty clear yet, by and large, Christians tend to have a problem following through.  In my experience, nothing makes Christians, even committed ones, squirm in their seats more than when they are reminded of the importance of evangelism: it gets lots of lip service, but often not a good deal of follow through.

            Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse, not better, especially when it comes to evangelizing the well educated.  Committed Christians seem more than willing to invest in efforts to evangelize in Africa and Asia, but they largely ignore their neighbors, especially well educated ones. 

            Why do Christians have such a hard time sharing the message of the gospel with well educated neighbors?  I haven't researched this, but I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that the well educated are especially resistant.  Why?  Because a high percentage of them have grown to develop a healthy skepticism of Christianity, particularly of the Bible.  It's the skepticism about the Bible that may be creating the greatest challenge, but Darwin may actually provide an unusual, and unexpected, solution to the problem.  Let me explain.

            My book develops the argument that Christians ought to embrace all of the science of Darwin and the Big Bang, with one notable exception: Christians believe that God pre-existed the Big Bang while atheists reject the idea of God.  Thus, with the respect to the "cause of the Big Bang", Christians believe that God was the author of the Big Bang whilst atheists tend to believe either that it "just happened", or that all matter and energy has always existed.  In other words, Christians believe the source and first cause was God, whereas atheists don't offer a specific first cause, but likely deny there is any cause.

            With that in mind, let's go back to the problem that evangelists have, particularly today.   All of the arguments that evangelists make are based upon the Bible.  That certainly makes good sense, except when the person being evangelized tends to reject the Bible as "hocus pocus", something more and more people, especially the well educated, do. 

            So what is the Christian evangelist to do when he or she is trying to evangelize the person who thinks the Bible is simple rubbish?  If the person being evangelized thinks the Bible is without merit, likely every statement the evangelist makes will fall on deaf ears.  Well, that's where Darwin and the Big Bang might play an unexpected role.  Here's how.  The first task of the evangelist, much like anyone who is trying to persuade another person to change his/her mind, is to establish rapport.  Anyone who has ever been involved in sales knows this is essential: if you can't establish rapport, you'll never persuade someone to buy your product.  My theory is that Christian evangelists can utilize Darwin and the Big Bang as the way to establish rapport, especially when the person being evangelized is highly skeptical of the Bible itself.  Here's how.

            I'm suggesting to committed Christians, and all evangelists, that they should embrace Darwin and the Big Bang.  Thus, the Christian evangelist can establish rapport with a non-Christian by pointing out a common belief in Darwin and the Big Bang.  Having done this, the evangelist can then ask the other person, "if Darwin is correct, and you and both believe he was correct, why do we still seem to have so many flaws as humans; and why haven't many of these flaws been eliminated through natural selection?"  This question may or may not start a discussion.  The Christian evangelist can then proffer the theory of pleiotropy that I advance in the book.  There isn't enough room to discuss that theory in detail now, but I will in an upcoming blog.   Pleiotropy is an accepted concept in biology, the idea that given genes perform multiple functions.   Paired with this is the concept of "antagonistic pleiotropy", also an accepted scientific concept.  The essence of the "antagonistic pleiotropy" argument is that bad traits don't disappear because they simultaneously offer benefits to humans: a given trait offers simultaneous benefits and drawbacks to humans.  There are lots of examples of antagonistic pleiotropy in the natural world.  The book cites sickle cell anemia as an excellent example: sickle cell anemia is a terrible disease, but it doesn't disappear, as Darwin's theory would expect, because it simultaneously confers the benefit of resistance to malaria.  Thus, the disease of sickle cell anemia has the seemingly peculiar characteristic of being simultaneously bad and good. 

My argument is that antagonistic pleiotropy provides an excellent metaphor for the behavior of mankind.  Like sickle cell anemia, humans have evolved a set of traits that are simultaneously good and bad: the "good" side of each trait is what has helped humans to survive and evolve; and the "bad" side of each trait is what we call sin.  When considering the sickle cell anemia analogy, the benefit of resistance to malaria is the "good" side while the terrible effects of the disease are the bad.  In the case of humans, for example, there is evidence that lying and deception can be simultaneously good and bad: we all know when lying is bad, but don't realize that all kinds of animals use deception as a strategy to survive.  It is evolutionarily beneficial.

The person being evangelized can certainly understand, and most likely accept, the concept of antagonistic pleiotropy, as well as idea that human traits can have both positive and negative sides.  From there, the evangelist can use the antagonistic pleiotropy hypothesis to explain the Garden of Eden.  The atheist and the Christian can agree that man evolved from lower mammals.  They can also agree that non-human mammals display the same type of behavior that we describe as sinful in humans, but with some important differences:

  • While humans evolved from lower mammals, because of their larger brains, possessed certain capabilities that lower level mammals lacked, in particular, the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong, as well as the ability to make decisions
  • Humans had the ability to make a bad choice, even though they knew that the choice was wrong.

From there, the evangelist can present the story of the Garden of Eden.  Assuming the non-Christian accepts the idea of the evolved differences of humans, it should then be quite easy for the non-Christian to understand the meaning of the Garden of Eden.  

            The non-Christian and the Christian evangelist can then agree that humans are different than their non-human mammalian forebears.   The question then becomes, what can humans do about their faults?  Increasingly, the modern narrative is that humans can overcome their weaknesses, possibly even "perfect" themselves.  However, "antagonistic pleiotropy" suggests otherwise; and the evangelist can ask the other person, if the "bad" traits and behaviors are the flip side of the coin from the positive behavior, intimately intertwined with the "good" traits, how can a person possibly hope to eliminate them?

The evangelist can then describe the traditional Christian narrative: the only way mankind can overcome its sinful nature is through God, specifically the atonement provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            The narrative and conclusion for the evangelist is the same as before, but the science on which both the evangelist and the evangelized agree, it can become a "bridge" to a positive evangelistic experience.  Because of the skepticism of the person being evangelized, it is important to provide Darwinian science as "the bridge".  Absent that "bridge", the evangelist is very unlikely to "connect" with the person being evangelized.

            The "bridge" is made possible by the Christian's embrace of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, as well as the Big Bang Theory. Darwin and the Big Bang are not a substitute for the Bible, merely a "bridge" to understanding.

Thus, these theories provide another unexpected benefit to committed Christians.

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This post looks at a new book on three distinctly different ways for Christians to think about creation.

As I've said many times, we all have a tendency to try to organize ideas and information into neat little "either/or" categories, then overlook or obscure any nuance or subtlety.  A great example of this concerns Christianity and beliefs about evolution: if you believe in modern science, you'll certainly believe in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and also probably reject what the Bible says; and conversely, if you believe the Bible, you'll reject modern science.

            My book, The Unexpected Perspective, shows why this is a false dichotomy and a vast oversimplification.  In this post I'd like to introduce you to another book that explores in greater detail why there is no religion/science dichotomy.  The book is call Old Earth or Evolutionary Creationism? and was recently published by InterVarsity Press.  I'll explain in a moment why I think it's worth your while to pick up this book, but let me first give you some background on how it came to be published, which is an interesting story in itself.

            The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is one of the largest Protestant Christian denominations in the USA.  By its own estimate, most of its members are young earth creationists.  That means they believe the Bible literally, including the idea that the world is no more than about 6,000 years old. They also believe in a literal seven day creation cycle; that all humans descend from an original pair named Adam and Eve; and that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is hogwash.

            The Southern Baptists appear to reinforce the stereotype that religion and science are mutually exclusive.  But the SBC realizes this is an oversimplification; and to their credit, they've sought out a dialogue with two key Christian groups who look at science and the Bible differently than does the SBC: Biologos and Reasons to Believe (RTB).  Both Biologos and Reasons to Believe are composed of people who are simultaneously committed Christians and committed scientists.  Biologos was founded by Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, and Reasons to Believe was founded by Hugh Ross, who holds a PhD in Astronomy and spent five years as a postdoc at California Institute of Technology.  By no means can one consider either founder to be a scientific slouch!

            As such, this new book represents a dialogue between three groups of committed Christians about the relationship between modern science and Christianity, with the young earth creationist group (the Southern Baptists) posing questions to the other two groups (Reasons to Believe and Biologos).  So just what are some of the similarities and differences in their viewpoints?

            The first concerns the age of the universe.  While young earth creationists believe the universe is only about 6,000 years old, based upon a literal interpretation of Genesis, both Reasons to Believe and Biologos embrace the evidence that the universe started with a Big Bang and is about 13.8 billion years old.  This is hardly surprising given that RTB's founder is an astronomer, and Deborah Haarsma, the president of Biologos, has a PhD in Astrophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

            The second is that both accept the reality of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, but they do differ on the extent of its applicability.  The key to the disagreement appears to be the question of "common descent".  Common descent is the theory that all creatures have a common origin.  In particular, humans and lower primates such as apes, monkeys and orangutans all have a genetic common ancestor.  Biologos embraces this idea, as do I.  In contrast, Reasons to Believe maintains that God created humans separately and specially: we do not have common ancestry with the lower primates, or any other organisms, for that matter, even though we appear to share a large amount of DNA.

            Reasons to Believe further insists that the literal narrative of Genesis is true.  With respect to humans, that means God created Adam and Eve in a special way, and that all humans are descended from that pair.  Reasons to Believe and the Southern Baptists are very much in agreement on this, in contrast to Biologos.  Much of the book focuses on various aspects of the question, are humans common descendants (the Biologos viewpoint, as well as that of Darwinians) or a special creation (the Reasons to Believe viewpoint)?

            SBC posed a broad range of questions to Reasons to Believe and Biologos.  These questions covered not only biology and genetics, but also geology, anthropology, the fossil evidence, and a range of issues related to Biblical interpretation.  While one may disagree with their thinking, one cannot accuse the Southern Baptists of not giving serious thought to the entire subject.

            As mentioned earlier, the people at Reasons to Believe are serious, competent scientists, so one must ask, what scientific evidence could they present that would support the idea of Adam and Eve as a real pair of humans, from whom all are descended?  The RTB spokesman cited the evidence of mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam.  That's evidence that all females can trace ancestry to a single woman called mitochondrial Eve and all males can trace ancestry to a single male called Y-chromosomal Adam.  Until recently, data suggested that mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam lived about 80,000 to 100,000 apart from one another, thus they never could have been a couple.  RTB says new research suggests they lived at the same time, but the spokesman never cites any specific evidence.

            Let's assume, for a moment, that RTB is correct in saying that mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam could have been contemporaries.  The spokesman for Biologos, however, presented the argument that there never could have been an original pair simply because the original population of humans could not have been fewer than 5,000 or so, likely more.

            Biologos presents a strong set of arguments to counter those made by RTB.  I think the case could been even stronger, but there was obviously an editorial limitation placed on the participants.  So what additional evidence might Biologos have presented?   The work of Francisco Ayala, cited in my book, is an excellent example of this evidence.  Ayala traced the DRB1 gene, present in humans and other primates, back to identify a common ancestor who lived about 105 million years ago.  We, and our non-human primate cousins, all have one of the variations of this gene.  The variations in this gene are excellent evidence that there could not have been just an original pair of humans.  Note that there are other forms of evidence supporting the Biologos argument, but Ayala's evidence seems pretty compelling.

            But apparently it still isn't sufficiently compelling to convince lots of evangelicals to reconsider the "common descent" issue.  I sensed frustration on the part of the Biologos spokesman in chapter 10.  No matter how much evidence, and how many compelling arguments, he couldn't get RTB to budge on the question of "common descent". 

The reason, I believe, has to do with the "historicity" of Adam and Eve.  Evangelical Christians believe that there had to have been a literal Adam and Eve.  Absent that, in their minds, it's "game over".  On the surface, it appears that evangelicals are faced with the choice of either accepting the science that there couldn't have been an original pair, or accepting the Biblical account.  Looks like "game over", unless someone can present a case that includes three key elements: 1) a real life Adam and Eve; 2) consistency with the available evidence for common descent; and 3) consistency with the Biblical narrative.

            Elsewhere, Biologos builds a strong case that Adam and Eve may have been archetypes, not real individuals.  Unfortunately, that tends to leave many evangelical Christians cold.  Thus, even though the Biologos case for common descent being consistent with the Bible may be strong, it feels like "game over" to unpersuaded evangelicals.

            I think Biologos is right, so how might they reframe their arguments so that they might be more appealing to many "un-persuaded" evangelical Christians?  For the answer, consider the argument I make in my book, The Unexpected Perspective.  Let me briefly summarize the argument.  I believe modern science is correct in saying that the original group of humans could not have been fewer than five or ten thousand.  The evidence looks pretty strong.  How, then, could there have been an historical Adam and Eve?  The simple answer is that Adam and Eve could have been two people in the original multi-thousand human population.  They were merely representative of everyone. 

            Is such an interpretation consistent with the Bible?  Actually, yes.  Assume for a moment that there had been just an original pair, Adam and Eve.  They had children, Cain and Abel.  Cain married a woman who bore a son, Enoch.  Well, if Adam and Eve were the literal first humans, who were the parents of Cain's wife? If Adam and Eve were the parents of us all, Cain's wife was also a child of Adam and Eve, so Cain married his sister!  Does that mean that incest is okay because it's in the Bible?  Ugh!!

            Another piece of evidence is found at Genesis 4:15.  As is well known, Cain killed his brother Abel.  As punishment, God banished Cain, sentencing him to a life of wandering.  Cain protested to God, saying that if anyone found Cain, they would kill him.  God reassures Cain that won't happen. 

            Well, if there had been  just an original pair, that dialogue would have been moot because there wouldn't have been anyone else to kill Cain.  But the words are there, suggesting that there were other humans besides Adam and Eve and their descendants.  What this means is that the Bible is more in accord with the science of an original human population of many thousand than with the original pair scenario. 

            As such, by adopting the Biologos position, the Southern Baptists could actually address each of their major concerns: a) a real life pair named Adam and Eve; and b) consistency with the evidence of modern science.  If the Southern Baptists rely upon the RTB position, there will be two key problems: a) it will imply incest; and b) it will not be in accord with the genetic evidence.

            Unquestionably, evangelical Christians believe it is critical to have a real life Adam and Eve.  If Biologos, and other Christian groups who embrace Darwinian science, hope to win the hearts and minds of evangelicals such as the Southern Baptists, they'll need to provide a way to embrace both common descent, and everything that goes with that, and a literal Adam and Eve.  As discussed, there is such a way.

            There are many other dimensions to this book, in recognition of the fact that this is a multi-faceted issue.  I strongly commend it to a broad audience of readers, and thank all three groups – the Southern Baptist Convention, Biologos, and Reasons to Believe – for their dedicated efforts to find common ground.

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Carl Treleaven is an entrepreneur, author, strong supporter of various non-profits, and committed Christian. He is CEO of Westlake Ventures, Inc., a company with diversified investments in printing and software.

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