EVOLUTION: FACT & FANTASY
I noted recently that a leading Christian college has opted to teach theistic evolution, at least as a plausible alternative. Which brought to mind the distinction between fact and fantasy. Thus recalling one of my favorite sayings, “The more we know, the more we realize that we do not know.”
It also recalls a time when I sat in on a lecture by the prominent biologist Russ Mixter. He documented at some length evolution within species. Such as might account for the range of differences among horses. After which, he allowed that the origin of species remains in doubt. Either one must speculate that they simply emerged as variants or that there was some creative input. He then expressed a preference for the latter. While in either instance, he insisted that there is no conclusive empirical evidence.
Now I do not pretend to have expertise in natural science, even though I have a limited background in that area. However, it seems to me that science focuses on what can be empirically verified. If more, then to set forth whatever theories that might account for the evidence. If limited to naturalistic theories, then to designate them as such.
Consider a prime case in point. It was once common to portray humans as a direct descendant of Neanderthal. That is seldom the case today. Which leads some to speculate that they derived from a different evolutionary branch. Still more recently, Neanderthal dna has been discovered in certain European humans. Which is thought to indicate that there was interbreeding. As a later development, rather than account for human origins.
What of the controversy over creative design? If by design, then internal, external, or some combination of the two. So that an atheist could opt for creative design as an alternative to what might be designated as maxi-evolution, as a comprehensive explanation. Still, advocates of evolution often seem reluctant to grant even this distinction.
While it appears obvious that the existence of life in any form is quite remarkable, and even more so in its extensive variety. Which led one scientist to earnestly observe, “We can’t be certain how life came into being, but I am certain that if it were to be terminated, it would never return.” Since he thought the instance to be so rare as to be singular.
All of which brings to mind the commentary of the astute Christian apologist J. Edwin Orr. It seems that he was walking along the beach, when he observed that the sand had been scooped out in the form of our continents. Whereupon, he allowed that this might have been done by an enterprising crab, but thought it unlikely.
Shortly thereafter, he came across a young girl with shovel in hand. She had been engaged in an extension of her geography lessons. Which seemed a more likely scenario, even before it became evident. In similar manner, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard” (Psa. 19:1, 3).
Thus are we alerted to consider the creation narrative. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2). Accordingly, it resembled the clay before the potter fashions it into a vessel. With his hands poised in preparation for the task at hand.
Then God began to bring order out of chaos. First in one regard, and then another. And in each instance, the results were good. Which is to say that it was functional and aesthetically pleasing. Then in conclusion God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 26). And so it came to pass.
In our image in context implies such means as will allow humans to be good stewards of creation. Presumably including such features as reason and creativity. While more, certainly not less.
A word of caution is now necessary. Some would read too much into the narrative, while others read too little. Although not a scientific discourse, yet the creation narrative is decidedly compatible. One that allows for further exploration.
In any case, faith of sorts is required—whether one embraces a naturalistic explanation for human origins or a supernatural alternative. If the latter, God may still employ natural means to accomplish his benevolent purposes. This brings us full circle, and back to the affirmation: “The more we know, the more we realize we do not know.”
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