Chapter 1: The Hebrew Text and the First Creation Account
Chapter 2: The Evolutionary View and Genesis 1
Chapter 3: Five Approaches to Reconciling Science and Genesis 1
Footnotes, References and Translations


Continued from previous page

The founder of the Discovery Institute is Phillip Johnson, a legal scholar and a Christian at the University of California at Berkeley, whose book Darwin on Trial (1991, 1993) created a bomshell281 by arguing that while Darwinian theory attributed biological complexity to the accumulations of adaptive mutations by natural selection over time, the creative power of this hypothetical mechanism had never actually been demonstrated; and the fossil record is inconsistent. Therefore, he concluded, the basis for this view is only naturalistic philosophy, and not science.282 Johnson’s arguments were further advanced by Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA),283 whose book Darwin’s Black Box (1996, 2006) described examples of “irreducible complexity” in nature which he felt could only point to a design beyond Darwin’s randomness, as seen e.g. in human vision and blood clotting.284 Then William Dembski, a mathematician/philosopher at Baylor University (Waco, TX),285 concluded in The Design Inference (1998) that, after surveying all of the evidence, only theism (belief in a God) could explain all of the evidence for design that one sees in biology following the origin of the universe.286 Even Collins (who holds to evolution by natural selection) noted that Michael Behe argues “quite persuasively,” looking at the inner workings of the cell and being “amazed and awed” – as Collins says he is also – at the intricacies of the molecular machines, that e.g. translate RNA into protein, help move cells around, and transport signals, etc. Not only that, but “[e]ntire organisms, made up of billions or trillions of cells, are constructed in such a way that can only inspire awe.”287 However, Behe says that natural selection could never account for this. He explains that “black box” is an expression that scientists use to describe a system or machine that they find interesting but don’t know how it works; and to Darwin, the cell was a black box. Now “[w]e’ve learned that the cell is horrendously complicated” and it’s actually run by micromachines of the right shape, the right strength, and the right interactions.288 Behe suggests, in fact, that these ‘machines’ challenge a test that Darwin himself proposed: that if it can be demonstrated that a complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, then his theory would absolutely break down.289 As a prime example of such a design, Behe pointed to the bacterial flagellum, a long, hairlike filament that is embedded in the cell membrane and that acts like a rotary propeller. Its energy is generated by a flow of acid through the bacterial membrane, and the flagellum’s propeller can spin at 10,000 revolutions per minute.290 However, the propeller can also stop spinning with a quarter turn and instantly start turning the other way. Howard Berg of Harvard has called this the most efficient motor in the universe. It is way beyond anything humans can make, especially when you consider its microscopic size (the motor is maybe 1/100,000 of an inch wide). Yet, looking at a drawing of a flagellum, the design is uncanny because it looks so much like something that human intelligence would construct.291 Between 30-35 different proteins are needed to make the three parts (paddle, rotor, and motor) of a functional flagellum; and still the specific roles of all of these proteins are not known.292

An interesting book surveying intelligent design is journalist Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator (2004), in which he interviews eight scientists from the fields of cosmology, physics, biochemistry, genetics and consciousness, who discuss why they believe scientific evidence points toward to an intelligent designer who has left multiple evidences of his handiwork in the creation of our world and of life on it. At the end of the book, Strobel notes that the intelligent designer perceived in the cosmic Big Bang must be a super-intelligent Being, incredibly precise, immensely powerful, beyond time and space, enormously creative, and with a special interest in humankind. This is no God of deism (who formed the universe and then left it) nor of pantheism (the universe and God are one), but is the God of the Bible.293

In evaluation of this view, the Morrises warn that any compromise on one-week Creation “will end up either in apostasy or oblivion” of the Christian mission. They note that evolutionists rarely, if ever, are won over, and that the idea of billions of years of suffering and death among billions of animals is incompatible with the Biblical revelation of an omniscient, loving Creator.294 Yet, suffering and death have played an age-old purposeful, if painful, role throughout human history; and in the OT God even seems at times to deal harshly with earth’s creatures (i.e. in the Flood). It would be better to say that God’s ways are always good (fulfilling his purposes) and yet at the same time they can often seem inscrutable (beyond human understanding). The Morrises argue that suffering in a harsh world came after the first humans sinned.295 It is true that God’s declared punishment in Gen 3:14-19 speaks of future birth pangs in childbirth, conflict in marriage, toil in agriculture, and even physical death for Adam and Eve and their descendents – but it does not say explicitly that all hardship came into the natural world at this point. The Garden of Eden could have been, in fact, only a local paradise (more special and ideal than the rest of the earth), which God knew would not last for long because Adam and Eve would sin right away.

Theistic evolutionists raise other objections. Father George Coyne, Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, says that intelligent design isn’t science, but religion. He views God not as a dictator or designer God, but one who instead allows freedom at all levels within the evolutionary process to lead to greater and greater complexity.296 Collins notes how scientists have since suggested plausible ways in which all of Behe’s examples of “irreducible complexity” could have developed in a gradual, step-by-step process.297 Also, Roughgarden complains that intelligent design advocates do not set forth any scenario for when and what occurred with regards to God producing an “irreducible complexity.” In contrast, she explains, evolutionists have proposed a way in which the bacterial flagellum could have evolved in an incremental manner, developing from a biochemical subsystem called a Type III secretory system. This refers to a ring of proteins in the bacterium’s cell membrane through which poisonous proteins are injected into the host cell it’s infecting. The hypothesis, then, is that proteins called flagellin, that comprise the flagellum tail, were emitted through this pore, and then they solidified to become a tail. Then, this extension acquired a new function.298 Further, she notes that intelligent design strikes evolutionary biologists as naïve. For example, a chameleon’s tongue, several body lengths long, sticks itself out in a flash to catch bugs far away. How could this possibly evolve? “Offhand, I don’t know,” says Roughgarden; yet an appeal to an intelligent designer is a “cop-out.” Instead, one should look around and see if there are any relatives with medium-sized tongues. She adds, “There’s nothing new about a trait being very complex.” Further, “I’ve learned not to underestimate the power of natural breeding acting on random mutations to yield very complex structures.”299 Roughgarden notes that Darwinian evolution and intelligent design may both be wrong – or one or the other right and the other wrong – but to make them mutually exclusive sets up a “false duality.”300

BioLogos, the search for a middle position – In summary, it may be said that Roughgarden’s view of God is too weak and vague to be the Almighty portrayed in the Bible, while the arguments of intelligent design have received harsh criticism from the mainstream scientists who claim that they are really religious (even Creationist) in nature, they fail to distinguish evolution as a process from atheism as a philosophy, and they lack any convincing scientific data.301 Moreover, Francis Collins holds that science and theology should basically remain separated as spheres of inquiry – and yet he holds to many traditional Biblical views and sees God as active in the world. Although he places himself in the theistic evolutionist category, he notes that he dislikes this label because what does a “theist” actually believe and how is this belief supposed to modify Darwinian theory? He would suggest instead the name BioLogos, drawn from the Greek words for “life” (bios) and “word” (logos), noting that for many believers “Word” will carry the connotation of God (John 1:1). This label then express the idea “that God is the source of all life and that life expresses the will of God.”302 With regards to his spiritual journey, Collins notes first that most of the world’s great faiths share many truths (else they would not have survived); and yet there are many differences between them. Into the “deepening gloom” of his search for spiritual truth, however, came Jesus Christ.303 Reading the Gospels, he noticed the scandalous claims of Jesus, who declared that he was the Son of God and that he could forgive sins. Now, this is “difficult stuff” for a scientific mind. Yet, if Jesus really was the Son of God, as he explicitly claimed, he could suspend the laws of nature if he needed to do so to achieve an important purpose (such as his atoning death and bodily resurrection). Collins came to realize and accept that Christ died for his sins and that God’s arrival on earth in the person of Jesus served a great divine purpose. Jesus Christ is not a myth or a hoax; credible evidence points to his historical existence.304 Also, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, one cannot simply say that Jesus was a great moral teacher and dismiss him as the Son of God, because if he was not who he claimed to be he could only have been a lunatic, a fool or a demon.305

Relating to Genesis 1-3, Collins believes that this should be understood as poetry and allegory. Perhaps the Biblical text even suggests that there were other ‘humans’ around at the time of Adam and Eve (the wives of Cain and Seth, if they were not their sisters, cf. Gen 4:16-17,25-26). However, whether Gen 2 is read as a special act of miraculous creation of Adam and Eve or as a powerful allegory of God imparting a special nature (soul) to certain humans, it would take a supernatural God to carry out either supernatural act.306 He notes how even the evangelical C.S. Lewis viewed human form as having come through animal form, which eventually gained hands with thumbs, jaws and throats capable of articulation, and brains clever enough to make things so advanced that modern archaeologists view these as proof of its humanity – and yet it was still an animal. However, God descended at one point with Adam and Eve, Lewis notes, to give them a new sense of “I” and “me,” which could know God, make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, perceive time passing by, and have the freedom to do right or fall into sin.307 Conservative Christians may respond to such a view by warning about the danger of starting down a “slippery slope.” Yet, Collins notes, while there is a “clear danger” in unrestrained forms of “liberal” theology, which remove the real truths of Christianity, “mature believers are used to living on slippery slopes and deciding where to place a sensible stopping point.”308

Collins notes that there will be Christians also who will question why God would have carried out an apparently random, potentially heartless, and inefficient process as Darwinian evolution – asking, if evolution is so random, how could God really be in charge? The answer lies, Collins believes, in the fact that God exists outside of nature and so he would know every detail of the future, including the formation of stars, planets and galaxies, as well as all of the chemistry, physics, geology and biology that would lead to the formation of life on earth and the evolution of human form. Thus God was completely and intimately involved in the creation of the species, even though from our perspective it may appear as a random and undirected process.309 Collins feels no need to try to wedge God into “gaps” in scientific understanding of the natural world, but rather BioLogos focuses on God as the answer to questions science was never intended to answer, such as “How did the universe get here?” and “What is the meaning of life?” and “What happens to us after we die?”310 In the end, he finds BioLogos to be the most scientifically consistent and spiritually satisfying way for him to reconcile science and the Bible. It will not be disproven by future scientific discoveries, it is intellectually rigorous, it provides answers to otherwise puzzling questions, and it allows science and faith to fortify each other like two unshakable pillars holding up a building called Truth. He notes that “The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome [the total genetic information in a cell]. He can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic, awesome, intricate, and beautiful…”311

In evaluation of BioLogos, we note that Collin’s view of Gen 1-3 as simply allegory and poetry is countered by Jesus’ view of the story of Adam and Eve as historical (Matt 19:3-6). Certainly tensions will continue to exist between Christians who believe that God’s hand can be seen in nature and scientists who hold that science should be kept entirely separate from religion – and this is probably the main reason why the latter dislike intelligent design. Still, a number of eminent scientists acknowledge the anthropic principle, which clearly points to an intelligent designer (most like the God of the Bible), who must have begun and guided the universe and earth to turn out just so. Certainly, the same may be said and is also true relating to biological life and humankind, which was begun and guided by God. That a step-by-step (purely) naturalistic pathway may be suggested for the development of a complex structure (“irreducible complexity”) does it document that this scenario actually happened in nature, or that the evolutionary process as a whole occurred apart from the guiding hand and power of God. Christians can accept development of amazing variety and incredible complexity through “natural selection by genetic mutation,” as long as God is not left out of the picture and it need not be held that this process was totally “random.” Likewise, “evolution” can be accepted as a general concept and process, as long as this is not tied to atheist philosophy. In fact, separating the Almighty from his natural world in the contemplation of it can be expected to lead to certain false perceptions – although one can also understand the desire to maintain a separation between scientific digging and theological dogma. Moreover, how exactly Divine will and action are joined with and displayed in evolution through natural selection and genetic mutation will remain an unanswerable question – for when have we ever been able to fully comprehend the Almighty’s work in either the supernatural or the natural realm and how these worlds may interface and intercept? With regard to evolution without God, as Lee Strobel notes, this requires one to make considerable “blind leaps of faith,” to believe that nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason.312 Yet, if one adds the God of the Bible to the picture, one has a fully adequate and satisfying Cause for the initial Big Bang (origin of the universe) and for the biological big bang (origin of life), for the anthropic character and for the amazing complexity displayed in nature, and for the Cambrian explosion and for the uniqueness of humankind. Indeed, as Paul observed in Rom 1:20, the natural world does reveal “God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature [intelligence, design, purpose and beauty]” (NIV).

Yet, a fierce struggle continues between unbelieving scientists and scientists of faith, often spilling out in the press. Behe notes that for many scientists, a “theological” answer is, simply and from the beginning, out of the question; and any other possible answers, no matter how flimsy or far-fetched, are to be preferred. Science has one fundamental, overriding rule: the physical universe (in other words, everything) must be explained by purely physical causes, without invoking the supernatural. Thus, intelligent design must be rejected out of hand.313 Scientists probably think that if the door is opened, the supernatural will pop up everywhere in science, but this fear is overblown. Evidence needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Of course, an intelligent designer cannot be tested; but then neither can extinct ancestors be put into a test tube.314 Still, as Douglas Erwin, a Smithsonian Institution paleontologist, notes, “One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed. That’s a fundamental presumption of what we do.” Kenneth Cheng, a journalist, has noted that the reason mainstream scientists dislike intelligent design even more than Creationism is because it is viewed as a more sophisticated and thus more seductive attack on evolution. Unlike creationists, design proponents accept an old universe and earth, they accept mutation operating in the natural world in limited ways, and some even accept common descent.315 Yet, Douglas Axe, a molecular biologist at the Biologic Institute, a newly-formed group in Seattle which has certain (financial) ties with the Discovery Institute, counters, “If we’ve defined science such that it cannot get to the true answer [whatever that is], we’ve got a pretty lame definition of science.” Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, says: “Imagine you’re an archaeologist and you’re looking at an inscription, and you say, ‘Well, sorry, that looks like it’s intelligent design but we can’t invoke an intelligent cause because, as a matter of method, we have to limit ourselves to material causes. That would be nuts.”316 Journalist George Johnson notes that Dawkins argued that if the God hypothesis is meaningful, it should be subject to a test; however, Christian scientists counter that we believe that there is nothing but matter and energy in the physical university, and yet there is no test for this. Either a materialist or a believer in God can do good scientific research. As John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge physicist turned Anglican priest, wrote in The Faith of a Physicist (1996), even looking at “beauty” (like the anthropic principle) in the natural world might compel one to believe in something transcendent.317 Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Harvard and an ardent Darwinist, notes in The Evolution-Creation Struggle, 2006) that often problems arise because the distinction is not made clear between “evolution,” which relates to testable science, and “evolutionism,” which moves beyond testable science to address questions of origins and the meaning of life. What you have [then] is really “a clash between two rival metaphysical world pictures.”318 Thankfully, as journalist Cornelia Dean notes, what books like those by Roughgarden, Gingerich and Collins show is that science does not require the abandonment of faith.319

Returning again to Genesis, the first chapter clearly presents a supremely intelligent, powerful and dynamic God who created the whole universe out of nothing and then fashioned the earth to become a marvelous home for humankind. The six creative days do not align neatly with modern scientific attempts to lay out a chronology for early earth (which are in themselves speculative, although reasonable, constructions). Instead, Gen 1 must be viewed as a theological, practical and pre-scientific text. On the theological level, the primary goal was to reveal that the God of Abraham and Israel was also the Creator of the whole world, that all other proclaimed deities (e.g. heavenly bodies and great sea beasts) are no gods at all but only parts of Yahweh’s creation, and that God set aside (“hallowed”) his seventh appearance (“day”) in Creation to call humankind to remember always their Creator and how dependent they are upon him. On the practical level, God does not speak to Moses and the Israelites using modern scientific terms and categories (he does not refer to protists, prokaryotes, photosynthesis, proteins, the Precambrian era, and so on) – but rather he mentions modern examples of life with which his audience would have been familiar (seed grain, fruit trees, domesticated animals, small crawling creatures, wild beasts, etc.), even though these forms arrived much later in the developmental process. Yet, there is also a pre-scientific level here, I believe, since God’s words in the Bible are often portrayed as carrying more truth and meaning than what the immediate audience understood (cf. Ps 22 and Micah 5:2). Therefore, Gen 1:1 may be viewed as correlating with the cosmic Big Bang, and Gen 1:2 reveals God’s knowledge of how important it would be for a home for humankind to have plenty of water. To further prepare this planet, God then issues a series of royal decrees, delivered on a number of “days” (pivotal occasions) and designed to make earth’s atmosphere human-friendly (days 1,2,4), to raise up dry land and create life and photosynthesis (day 3), to populate the ocean and sky with life (day 5), and finally to create the world of modern land animals and humankind, with the last made especially in his own image (day 6). There is no need to attribute waste or “not getting it right the first time” to God in the long prehistory of the earth and of life on earth, for one can imagine the Almighty exploring all of the vast possibilities of his new universe, for his own enjoyment and for the excitement of the angels watching in heaven (Job 38:4,7). And what an amazing world our natural world is. I think all scientists and Christians, of all stripes, could agree to this.

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© 2007 Bruce Gerig

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