Friday, December 05, 2014

Christianity and inconsistent evolution

Modern evolutionism has created great difficulties for Christians, not so much because it tells us that we are genetically related to orangutans and chimpanzees, but because it insists that fundamentally we are not very different from them. In theory, say evolutionists, it would require only a few small genetic changes in those animals to turn them into human beings like us, and it is assumed that some millions of years ago all of us evolved out of a common ancestor. Without denying this possibility completely, Christians are obliged to make two observations about it. First, such an evolution was not and could not have been spontaneous. There is little evidence to support the theory that one species can evolve naturally into another by a process of random trial and error, and none to say that this happened to produce the human race. Orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees still exists, but how is it that all the intermediate species have died out leaving little or no trace behind them? Logically, one would expect to find them around somewhere, but although it is sometimes claimed that proto-human bones have been dug up, the evidence is controversial and it must be concluded that such "missing links," as they are called, have never been convincingly identified. [Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 246]

One major problem with Christians who want to "avoid" where possible the issue of science in origins is that they end up either with little to say about actual cosmic origins (relegating the Genesis account to a framework or something), or when they try to relate it with the "current scientific consensus," what you get is terrible science and even worse theology. In this section by Gerald Bray, we see some really bad science and bad reasoning on the topic of origins.

In the paragraph, Bray shows an ignorance of science when he states categorically that "such an evolution [of humankind] was not and could not have been spontaneous." Bray probably means by "spontaneous" the concept of naturalistic causation, since it is remarkably stupid to suggest any evolution is "spontaneous" in the sense that it must take a few generations, 100 years or even 1000 years. Evolutionary theory posits the accumulation of small incremental changes over long periods of time (Gradualism), unless of course one wants to hold to Punctuated Equilibrium which is the alternate theory. Regardless, when Bray asserts that human evolution cannot be "spontaneous," the question is: why not? Isn't this an instance in which the tail is wagging the dog? If one is committed to evolutionary theory, why stop at humans? One already acknowledges the grand narrative of evolution, so why are those like Bray keeping human evolution out of the picture, as if every other species can evolve but humans are somehow exempted from scientific consideration?

Worse still is the next line: "There is little evidence to support the theory that one species can evolve naturally into another by a process of random trial and error." Excuse me while I wonder if he realizes that evolution through random mutations and survival of the fittest IS the standard evolutionary mechanism. In evolutionary theory, all mutations ARE random, and it is the job of the environment to select for the organisms that have good mutations. The "fittest" survive and pass on their beneficial genes to the next generation, and the cycle continues. When an organism approached a certain point of time, they might branch off into two separate sub-groups, which over time have evolved into two separate species. So when Bray make such statements while claiming that he "does not deny the possibility [of evolution]," how is that not being duplicitous? Does he or does he not allow for the theory of evolution, including human evolution? How can we say that one is open to the possibility of evolution, while claiming in the next breath that there are no evidences for the mechanisms of evolution when it pertains to humans (as opposed to animals)?

Bray brought up the paucity of transitional fossils, which is an interesting apologetic method to be sure. Yet, it is strange to me that he utilizes the argument only to cast doubt on human evolution, or at least naturalistic human evolution. The same problem of transitional fossils plagued all supposed instances of major evolutionary transitions, so it seem it is brought up just for the issue of distancing humans from evolution. Again, it is profoundly unscientific to claim that humans are somehow exempt from the same processes and same mechanisms that supposedly apply to all other living beings, especially when one is agreeing with the supposed high degree of similarities in the genotypes of humans with apes for example.

Unless one wants to speak about the actual beginning of the Cosmos, Christians who try to "avoid" the issue of origins typically do a bad job in science, and nothing screams that more when one sees believers who hold to some form of evolutionary theory yet refuse to endorse human evolution.

P.S.: The argument Bray uses is known as the god-of-the-gaps argument, and it is philosophically untenable as much as it is scientifically untenable.

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