Evolution: Perspectives of a Born-again, Biological Scientist
James R. Aist
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1
Some have wondered how it is that a successful biological research scientist like me could have ever come to be a born-again Christian. The truth is, this question should, in reality, be reversed. I became a born-again Christian at just eight years of age, and it was not until I was about 19 years of age that I became a biological research scientist. My conversion (click HERE) was an amazing, supernatural experience that settled, in my mind and spirit, once and for all, the central question of who Jesus is. And it was with that unshakeable knowledge and understanding that, 11 years later, I began my scientific research career. I knew all along that I was working merely to more fully understand the amazing and exciting world of biology that the God of the universe had so masterfully created. And with every new discovery, I sensed how blessed of God I was to be the first human being to ever know it! I saw my entire academic career through the eyes of a born-again Christian.
How can we really know anything?
Let’s explore how we humans can really know anything at all. Here is what I have come up with: we can know through personal experiences, the “testimony” of others, scientific observation and/or experimentation, and, for the born-again Christian, divine revelation (i.e., the written word of God, dreams, visions, the voice of God, etc.; click HERE for some examples). Of these several ways of knowing something, only divine revelation is, in fact, fully reliable, because it is knowledge obtained from God himself, who knows all things (John 16:30; John 21:17; and 1 John 3:20) and is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). Moreover, “By faith we understand that the universe was framed by the word of God, so that things that are seen were not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Thus, we can know that God, who existed before anything that is material in nature existed, is primary reality, whereas the material world, being created by God, is merely secondary reality. So, when we conduct scientific studies of the material world at any level, we are merely probing into the nature of secondary reality, and the knowledge we discover does not deny, but confirms, the existence of the primary reality (God) who created it (Psalm 19:1).
Evolution at its core
In its very formulation and assumptions, evolution denies the existence and role of intelligent design in the development of the universe, of life and of biological diversity. The Bible, on the other hand, clearly describes the role of intelligent design (God) in the creation of all things (Genesis 1:1-27). Evolution says that diversity came about by random chance without purpose, direction or meaning (no “intelligent design”). The Bible says that diversity came about by the purposeful and intentional creative acts of God, who gave it meaning. Therefore, evolution is not consistent with the God of the Bible, but is diametrically opposed to Him. The ongoing controversy about the age of the earth is not altogether unimportant, but it does not get at the heart of the matter; and that’s why many of my Christian contemporaries are being fooled into believing that God and the theory of evolution are not at odds.
The heart of the matter
It all boils down to this: does the God of the Bible exist? The atheist says “No, God does not exist, and therefore, only the material world is real.” Whereas, the God of the Bible says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1a). And it goes on to explain that “…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). This is the basic clash of two diametrically opposed world views, theism and atheism. The atheist starts with the basic assumptions that there is no God and that, therefore, the material world could not have been created by an “intelligent designer.” The theists, on the other hand, know that God does exist because He has revealed Himself to them, and that He created the universe and everything that is in it (Hebrews 11:3). And this is the key to understanding why the notion of “theistic evolution” is an oxymoron: if it is truly evolution, then it is atheistic, not theistic.
The body of evidence
What, then, does a born-again Christian do with the enormous body of valid, scientific evidence that is interpreted by evolutionists to be proof positive that this God-denying theory of evolution is no longer a theory, but a fact? Here’s what I do with it. First, I ask myself, does this body of evidence concerning materialistic, secondary reality do anything to deny the existence of the primary reality that gave birth to it? My answer is a resounding “No, it actually confirms the primary reality!” Now, stay with me here. God is no dummy. Don’t you suppose that when He set about creating life and then biological diversity, He would be smart enough to not “reinvent the wheel”, so to speak, every time He wanted to create a new “kind” or a new “species?” Would He not start with a creature He had already made and modify it to make the new one? So then, of course, at the morphological, anatomical, genetic and biochemical levels, the closely “related”, but different, newly created form would have very considerable commonality with the form from which He created it. What I’m saying here is that the same body of evidence that is used to support the theory of evolution can just as easily be seen to support the theory of “intelligent design”, if one does not begin with the assumption that an intelligent designer does not exist. And that brings us right back to the heart of the matter, discussed above. It is not sound, objective, scientific protocol to begin an investigation by eliminating one of two tenable and competing theories based on a mere assumption. That is what we call “junk science”, and it is not really science – the search for truth – at all. The “science” of evolution is a prime example of how a body of valid scientific information can be misused to give the impression that a mere assumption (e.g., that God does not exist) is actually proven fact, the objections of some heavily vested evolutionists notwithstanding.
God, random mutations, natural selection and survival of the fittest
In the previous section, I presented a case for the direct involvement of God in the creation of the spectacular biological diversity we see in the world around us. This case would work well for the scenario in which the earth is only about 6,000 years old, as many born-again Christians believe and a literal reading of the relevant Bible passages would lead one to believe. The God of the Bible could very well have created the universe in just 6 days, as we know days. But, the enormous body of relevant, valid, scientific evidence clearly points to an earth that is a few billion years old, not a few thousand. I do not believe that this body of evidence should be summarily dismissed, because scientific investigation is one of several valid ways to obtain knowledge. So, is there a plausible way to envision the God of the Bible creating biodiversity over millions of years? The evolutionary theory for biological diversity as we know it involves, at its most fundamental level, random mutation (natural, molecular modification) of genes, a resultant sub-population of organisms carrying mutated genes that are beneficial, and selective survival of the organisms that are carrying the beneficial gene(s) because they are best adapted (most fit) for different climatic conditions that develop naturally from time to time. Over millions of years, such a process, repeated over and over again, is believed to have produced new species and “kinds” (e.g., dogs, cats, horses, fish, reptiles, grass, trees, seaweed, etc.) of animals and plants. It is assumed that this process occurred “naturally”, without the influence of an intelligent designer. But wait a minute, who is it that controls the climatic conditions that drive evolution? The God of the Bible is sovereign over all of His creation (Genesis 1:1-27; Revelation 19:6). It is He who placed the moon and the stars in the heavens and maintains them in their respective orbits (Genesis 1:14). He caused the earth to pause in it’s rotation for a full day, giving the impression that the sun had stood still (Joshua 10:12-13). He commands the wind and the waves, and they obey (Exodus 14:21; Mark 4:39), and He calls forth drought to scorch the land (Haggai 1:11), and it is so. And, it is He who sends the rain as He pleases (Genesis 7:4, 11-12; Matthew 5:45). The relevant conclusion here is that the God of the Bible is sovereign over the so-called “natural” weather and climate changes that evolutionary theory credits with driving the “natural selection” process leading to the appearance of new species and kinds. Thus, by manipulating climate change again and again over millions of years, God could have steered what we refer to as “evolution” in any direction He desired, thus controlling and directing both the extinction of species and kinds and the development of new species and kinds, using the very mechanisms of random mutations, selection and survival of the fittest that are so fundamental to the theory of evolution. This scenario would involve intelligent design from start to finish, and it would look to us just like natural evolution. Thus, the same body of evidence used by evolutionists to prove “natural” evolution, could just as well be seen as validating this theistic mechanism of extinction and biodiversity. I would refer to it simply as “theistic biodiversity.”
Something from nothing…wait, say what?!
In the overall world of material things, there are two claims of the atheist (actually, assumptions) that require far more faith to believe than does the existence of God. First, the atheist must contend that all this material stuff of the universe (e.g., galaxies, stars, planets and moons) came from either nothing at all or a tiny little ball of something (the “big bang” theory). And, if from a little ball of something, then where did this hypothetical little ball come from? The fact is, there is no direct evidence at all that anything has ever come from nothing; the entire material universe in which there is always a cause and an effect for everything that exists (cf., the law of conservation of mass and energy) is proof positive of the foolishness of this claim. And second, the theory that life began by spontaneous generation from (non-living) chemicals is nothing more than unbridled imagination and wishful thinking, and it is likewise without any direct, scientific evidence at all. Both of these preposterous assumptions are made necessary by the unnecessary starting assumption that God does not exist. Biblical theism, on the other hand, solves this problem by concluding that God exists and is the uncaused cause of the entire universe. When God spoke there was, suddenly, time, space and matter (the heavens and the earth), where previously there had been only God (Genesis 1:1). Now that I can believe!
The mouse family who lived in a piano
I close with a simple parable that succinctly portrays what I believe is really going on here:
Once upon a time, there was a family of mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. To them in their piano-world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. At first the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the belief that there was someone who made the music, though invisible to them; above, yet close to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see, and yet blessed them so much with the beautiful music.
Then, one day a daring mouse climbed part way up the piano and returned very thoughtful. He had found out how the music was made. Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths which trembled and vibrated. They must revise all their old beliefs: none but the most closed-minded could any longer believe in the Great Player.
Later, another mouse explorer carried this materialistic explanation further. Hammers were now the real secret, numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show, once and for all, that they lived in a purely materialistic world, a world that did not need the imaginary Great Player to make the music, because the materialistic world itself could make the music without Him. The Great Player came to be thought of as a myth, and those who believed in Him were thought of as blind fools.
But the Great Player continued to play, and the mouse believers continued to believe.
Now, what is this story really about? It’s about astronomers and astrophysicists who believe that their modern theories and discoveries about the universe prove that the universe caused itself. And, it’s about evolutionary biologists who believe that their modern theories and discoveries about biology prove that life came about by spontaneous generation and that biological diversity came about without design, purpose or meaning.
God continues to sustain his creation, and His believers continue to believe, because God himself has revealed His existence to them. And the God who existed before anything material existed, calls the unbelievers “fools”, because of their unbelief (Psalm 14:1a).
To read a companion article, click HERE.
(For more of my biblical teachings, click HERE)