Creation’s Intimate Touch, Part 2: The Testimony of Nature

Share It :

google+
More
Creation’s Intimate Touch, Part 2: The Testimony of Nature

In the first article in this series we took a long look at Romans 1, where Paul presented three fundamental revelations that influence the life of every human. The first revelation was God’s power and deity seen in nature. The second was God’s wrath against human sinfulness, which we noted is His holy hatred of sin. His wrath finds expression in handing people over to the passions that characterize their rebellion. Finally, the third revelation we noted was His righteousness revealed in the gospel message to redeem people from their sin. Paul presents these in Romans 1 in reverse historical order because the purpose of his book is to explain salvation, which cannot be understood outside of the context of the other two revelations.

Paul insists that the revelation of God in nature is plain and that people reject it for rebellious reasons and are therefore without excuse before the Creator (Rom 1:19-20). This claim raises the hackles of modern atheists, who claim that nature does not reveal a God or deity of any kind. They insist that the world has evolved its complex living organisms through a long process of evolution that began billions of years ago with life arising from nonliving substances and that through slow and laborious minute mutations, the better and more complex organisms of today have come into existence. Order, in short, has arisen from disorder and chaos.

If you listen to popular media, this is the type of story and instruction you hear—all the way from the History Channel to NPR News to Scientific American and beyond. These media outlets maintain that science has proven evolution as a fact and that anyone who disagrees is a foolish simpleton, “history denier,” and “child abuser.”[1]

I recently heard a British newscaster ask Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin if he believed in evolution. The governor was in London on a trade mission to help sell Wisconsin products, so he was caught off guard by the question. He refused to answer and was excoriated by the newsman and later in the popular press.

The fact of the matter is that Governor Walker was actually asked at least three questions in one. In other words, the question was too broad and general. “Do you believe in evolution?” includes “Do you believe that adaptation occurs in nature today, giving rise to new species?” Almost all agree to this concept. But the question “Do you believe in evolution?” also includes two other questions: “Do you believe in long ages of development of life from simple life forms to more complex forms?” and “Do you believe that life arose from nonliving substances?” It is here that creationists and evolutionists part ways.

The Challenge of the Geologic Column

The greatest challenges to creationists come from the geological column and its gradation of life forms from simple to complex, along with radiometric dating that suggests long ages. Here research is ongoing using short chronology models as a heuristic to determine and suggest patterns for understanding both the geologic column and the radiometric measuring sticks.

But we must not forget that even here the evolutionists do not hold “all the cards” despite what the scientific and popular media would suggest. Two characteristics of the geologic column do not speak in favor of the usual evolutionary model. First, species tend to suddenly appear in the geologic column, particularly in the Cambrian level.[2] An evolutionary model would suggest gradual, not sudden, appearance and would predict intermediate stages in development, something not commonly seen.

Second, there are gaps in the column where the evolutionary model would predict erosion to be present, and it is absent. There are levels in the Grand Canyon where between one layer and another the usual model of the geologists suggests millions of years. And yet there is no erosion evident in the layer. How could a million years pass without erosion? Actually the pattern clearly seen in the Canyon of distinct layer upon layer over a very wide geographic area is possible only in one of two ways: volcanic ash raining down from above (not the likely scenario for the Canyon) or deposits on the bottom of an ocean floor.[3] Of course, Noah’s worldwide flood is just such a “deep sea” experience that the Bible reports.

The Challenge of the Origin of Life

But the biggest challenges to evolution are not inconsistencies in the geologic column but the problem of the origin of life and the complexities of present-day living systems. The rise of life from nonliving substances by natural processes is extremely challenging to prove. A number of experiments have been done that are hypothesized to reproduce an early earth’s reducing atmosphere (the necessary condition for the formation of the amino acid building blocks of life).[4] With the application of “lightning-like” energy, amino acids have been found in this “primordial soup.” But that is so far from actual life that it is a matter of deep faith to insist that life arose from such “soup.”

Both RNA and DNA, necessary components for life, are extremely complex compounds requiring a totally different atmosphere from proteins for their abiotic synthesis. While the necessary steps for their synthesis have been described within a cell, these steps involve enzymes that are themselves the products of RNA activity. One would have to postulate the rise of the enzymes first (but what would drive their rise without the goal in mind?) and then the right situation would be necessary for them to drive RNA and DNA synthesis—a quite unlikely scenario.[5] Current theories hypothesize an RNA world in which RNA acts as an enzyme and source of nucleic-acid-based genetic information storage, but it always takes an intelligent scientist and tight chemical restraints to make anything remotely feasible work in the lab.

Funding and research for “evolutionary chemistry” is rapidly increasing, and we should expect to hear more about “seemingly plausible” chemical pathways being broadcast through media outlets in the upcoming months and years. But these pathways always dead-end into an information-storage issue. How does the arrangement of the specific yet very complex information get implanted into the genetic code? How do the “words, sentences, and story” enter into our genes, when any other random assortment of genetic codes leads to an unviable living organism?

Scientists can readily test, in a positive way, that intelligence is the only way we know of to generate complex, specified information into a system. We have positive proof of intelligence as we compare genetic information to computer code. Both have meaningful outcomes when intelligence injects a meaningful (specific and complex) arrangement of information. This has been labeled as the grand “signature in the cell” that points to a Creator.[6]

The Challenge of Complex Systems

The “origin of life” challenge leads to the other major problem. In all living systems today, from the smallest cell to the largest creature, are found complex systems of energy production, waste disposal, and reproduction. These complex systems all have to be present for life to continue and function. There are more than four thousand chemicals even in the simplest cell that work in perfect harmony.

The evolution of such systems is a major problem for evolutionary theory because all the components have to be present at once for the system to work, and to have them all appear through evolution together at the same time is so difficult and improbable that it again would require deep faith to believe it. Michael Behe, a biochemist, argued convincingly for the idea of irreducible complexity in his book Darwin’s Black Box.[7]

The basic concept is described by a mousetrap. The trap has five parts: a base or platform, a spring, a hold-down bar, a hammer, and a catch.[8] Take away any one of these and the mousetrap does not function—hence irreducible complexity. Behe proceeds in his book to lay out the case for numerous biological systems that illustrate this principle of irreducible complexity. He searches for mechanisms for their evolution described in the scientific literature and finds no satisfactory explanation—in fact, a dearth of attempts to explain them. He insists that this points to an intelligent Creator.

Of course, he has been challenged on this concept based in his simple description of a mousetrap and its necessary components. But he also has responded with an article titled, “A Mousetrap Defended: Response to Critics,” in which he illustrates the challenges to Darwinian evolution for producing even simple irreducibly complex systems.[9] The system itself is not what drives adaptation, but rather the function it provides. But for a system to be present and function it has to come from somewhere, and Behe finds Darwinian evolution wanting in this regard.

We could mention other complexities that go beyond living things and point to a Designer. Irreducible complexity is seen in our galaxy, solar system, and planet. The Earth just happens to be in the right location in our galaxy (not too far in or too far out) and in our solar system (not too hot, not too cold) to have one of life’s most precious ingredients: abundant liquid water. The amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is also finely tuned for life—if we had more, everything would rage in fires; less and we would not be able to breathe. Many other atmospheric and terrestrial chemicals testify to these tight life-giving constraints as scientists begin to know more and more about their irreducibly complex cycles within planet Earth.

The Creator and Worship

What I am suggesting is that it is very reasonable to agree with Paul’s statement in Romans 1:19-20 that nature points to the Creator. Daily, all around us, are the wonders of life in its deeply complex forms (even “simple cells”—an oxymoron if I ever saw one!). But if the complexity of what we see around us points us toward an intelligent Creator, it also seems quite reasonable to expect that He could and would communicate with us. Of all the gods and stories of the supernatural in human history, the God of the Bible holds a unique place, with the focus on a loving relationship and care for humanity over against capriciousness and self-centeredness in other stories. The Babylonians taught that the gods created the people to provide them with food and service, whereas the God of the Bible provides food for the human race.

Furthermore, the God of the Bible is described as separate from the Creation He made. Over and over the Bible stresses and commands that the created objects (including the people) are not objects worthy of worship. They are simply the products of a creative process carried out by the Creator, who is the only one worthy of worship. It is this sense of the “otherness” and greatness of the Creator God of the Bible that draws our attention away from the adoration of the material universe that is quite a universal characteristic of other religions.

Indeed, it is interesting that evolutionary theory returns people to adoration of the material and physical processes around us in the same way that religions not based in Scripture do. The effect of making things into gods has been quite plain throughout human history. We have this great urge, it seems, to worship something, and the fact of the matter is that we become like that which we worship. Aim low and you end up low. Aim high and your life is lifted up out of yourself in service to others.

An Unrepeatable Event

For these reasons I take the Scriptures seriously in what they teach about Creation. I believe that life on our planet was created by an Almighty Creator who carried out His work in a simple literal week of time. Since such a Creation is a unique, unrepeatable event, it is not really possible to study it scientifically in the sense of making an experiment to test its validity. That is to say, if one were to walk into the Garden of Eden on the first Sabbath, one would encounter large trees, mature animals, and two mature human beings. If we asked ourselves how long they had been there, a scientific response would require us to postulate quite some time—many years for the living things to arrive at that level of maturity, let alone other items.

They would all appear to have much more age than they actually had. This phenomenon is due to the unrepeatable and unique quality of Creation. It is not “deceptive” or “unfair” to suggest this appearance of age. It is, in fact, a necessary quality of the unique act of Creation itself. And this leads to the clear conclusion that belief in such an event is a matter of faith.[10]

Why Believe in Creation?

But this leads to the last question we address in this article: “Why would someone believe the message of the Bible about Creation over against the scientific arguments for evolution?” First, we should note that such questions are usually presented in language with a clear bias against faith in Scripture, as though the only reasonable and intelligent option is to believe in evolution. I trust that the points raised above have helped to suggest that the evolutionists do not hold “all the cards” when it comes to intelligent postulates about origins.

But let me raise one more point in response to the evolutionists’ attacks. One of my scientist friends responds to those who attack trust in the Creation story by an illustration. This scientist says, “When I read a scientific study, I do not simply take its claims at face value. I ask such things as ‘Who wrote this? What is their reputation? Where did they study? In what journal is this published?’” The best studies come from the best scientists, trained at the best schools, who publish in the most prestigious journals.

Then my friend goes on, “When it comes to the question of origins, I want evidence from the best source, the most reliable account. Since I have come to recognize in my own life experience that living by the Bible’s values and teachings creates the most reliable and stable life, and because I see evidence of the fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies in history, I trust it when it comes to the Creation story as well.” I concur, and for this reason I am a creationist who takes the Bible’s record of Genesis 1-2 as historically reliable.

The implications of this belief we have already discussed in the first article on Romans 1. The Bible’s Creation story is not simply a “belief” without consequences. It reaches even into the intimate details of our lives.

But perhaps Paul’s description in Romans 1 is unique, an “odd man out” presentation that we can discount as singular and therefore unnecessary for us to take seriously. In my third and final article in this series I will investigate this question by a look at something Jesus said in Matthew 19.

Read Part 3: Creation and Marriage

______

Notes:

I want to thank my friend and colleague, Ryan T. Hayes, PhD (Chemistry), for his helpful suggestions on this article.

[1] Cf. the words of Richard Dawkins regarding brainwashing children with religious ideas (http://sofiaglobe.com/2015/05/17/richard-dawkins-on-brains-and-brainwashing/, accessed 20 June, 2015). Some in society believe that children of people of faith must be taught that their parents’ views are wrong, and that the parents must be told that they can keep their antiquated views but must not teach them to their children. I dare say that such feelings would quickly fade if the tables were turned.

[2] See Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper Collins, 2013) for a review of the Cambrian explosion.

[3] I appreciate hearing a report of this phenomenon by Dr. Art Chadwick at the meeting of the Faith and Science Council in April 2015 in Loma Linda, CA.

[4] The first of these experiments was by Miller-Urey in the 1950s. In contrast, today’s atmosphere is oxidizing because of the presence of oxygen.

[5] Or there would need to be a way for RNA and DNA to arise before the enzymes. The Creationist joke is, “What do you get when you cook primordial soup for a billion years?” The answer: “Very old primordial soup.”

[6] Cf. Stephen C. Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York: Harper Collins, 2009).

[7] Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, 2nd ed. (New York: Free Press, 2006).

[8] One could add the two staples to hold down the spring and a third staple to hold down the hold-down bar.

[9] See Michael Behe, “A Mousetrap Defended: Response to Critics,” available at http://arn.org/docs/behe/mb_mousetrapdefended.htm. Accessed 11 April, 2015.

[10] At least Creationists admit their faith.

Share It :

google+
More

About the author

Avatar

Thomas R. Shepherd, PhD, DrPH, is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University. He is also the Director of the PhD in Religion and ThD programs. Along with his wife, Sherry Shepherd, MD, he has been a missionary to Malawi and Brazil. They have two grown children and five grandchildren. Dr. Shepherd enjoys playing the cello in the Seminary String Quartet and loves walking, running, and riding his bike to work.