This post will discuss two philosophical arguments about evolution. One is an argument for evolution on the basis of the appearance of age of the earth and the universe. The other argument regards concerns of Creationist Christians about moral relativism.
The Appearance of Age
One of the objections to viewing the six days of creation in Genesis that originally made the most sense to me is that the universe has the appearance of great age. Why would a God make a universe that is young and give it the appearance of age?
There are a couple of ways to answer that question. One is to ask whether the earth is as old as established science wants us to believe. The scientists who study the creation with a view to letting the Bible be correct believe it to be a young earth in a young universe, and do have some science to back it up. Lack of acceptance by the established scientific community does not automatically invalidate their findings. Looking at contrary evidence is how theories get corrected or replaced. That is how science is supposed to work.
The other way to answer the question is to ask whether God has ever made something that normally takes time happen in no discernible time. Eyewitness accounts have Jesus doing so on at least two occasions.
Jesus’ first public miracle is purported to have occurred during a wedding feast. The hapless organizers have run out of wine, and Jesus’ mother asks him to intervene. He does, instantly changing the water in six large jars (20-30 gallons each) into wine. It wasn’t just any wine. It was noticeably better in taste and quality than anything that had been served up to that point.
Under normal circumstances, making wine takes time. Making good wine requires extra aging. Until Dr. Martin pointed this out to me I had always looked at the marvel of making wine out of water without other ingredients as the miracle. Dr. Martin pointed out to me something obvious that I had missed: time has also been bypassed in this miracle. In other words, Jesus instantly created something with the appearance of age.
Another example that I overlooked is the incident in which Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant at Jesus’ arrest. Jesus touches the spot the ear had been removed from, and the ear is whole again. Jesus doesn’t reach down, pick up the ear, clean it off, suture it back and wait for a few weeks until it heals. Instead, it grows back (amazing as that is!) in literally no time at all, a process that takes place over time in some lower life-forms.
Dr. Martin notes that God’s trademark in creation is the creation of mature creatures and mature ecosystems. Making things that happen in time in little or no time is a specialty of God’s. Creating the appearance of age is a side-effect God’s creative process.
In fact, it makes more sense to me for an omnipotent being to create an integrated ecosystem by fiat in only a few days than it does to theorize that creatures and plants that need each other to survive evolved into that condition. The many unique pollination/feeding pairs and symbiotic or parasitic organisms are a testimony to creation rather than evolution.
My money goes with the unique action of a Creator God.
Evolution and Moral Relativism
Some observers of the new creationism/intelligent design battle for a hearing in the schools of the country have caught a glimpse of the problems inherent in an atheistic evolutionary approach to science. The author of one website writes the following.
“The war between creationism and evolution has flared up again.
There are important points that both sides in this debate must recognize. First, creationists must appreciate that their beliefs are not—in any way, shape, or form—science. Science entails a rational method for acquiring knowledge, and the creationists are disingenuous if they maintain that their faith-based beliefs should be taught in classes as part of biology, geology, or any other such discipline.
Second, those who take a rational approach to knowledge must understand that deep moral concerns motivate many creationists, and that these concerns should be addressed. They fear that if humans are merely animals produced by material processes, then there is no firm foundation for ethics; indeed, some see the social breakdown around them resulting in part from the teachings of Darwin. Since they reject moral relativism, they believe they must reject evolution. Thus, they find themselves attracted to convoluted and unconvincing critiques of science, and looking to mandates from God to supply humans with a moral code.
Creationists are right to reject moral relativism, but they are fundamentally mistaken about the nature of morality. Indeed, their beliefs ultimately undermine it. What they must grasp is that with the proper understanding of the foundations of ethics, they can have both morality and science.
… But our most important creation is our moral character, the habits and attitudes that govern our actions. A good character helps us to be happy, a bad one guarantees us misery. And what guides us in creating such a character? What tells us how we should deal with our fellow humans?
A code of values, derived from our nature and requirements as rational, responsible creatures possessing free will.
We need not fear that with evolution, or without a god, there is no basis for ethics. There is an objective basis for ethics, but it does not reside in the heavens. It arises from our own human nature and its objective requirements.
Creationists and advocates of intelligent design come to their beliefs in part through honest errors and in part from evasions of facts and close-minded dogmatism. But we should appreciate that one of their motivations might be a proper rejection of value-relativism, and a mistaken belief that acceptance of divine revelation is the only moral alternative.
If we can demonstrate to them that the basis for ethics lies in our nature as rational, volitional creatures, then perhaps we can also reassure them that men can indeed have morality—yet never fear to use that wondrous capacity which allows us to understand our own origins, the world around us, and the moral nature within us.”
I will not belabour the author’s view about creationism not being science. I have already sufficiently begged to differ.
I am happy to see that there are scientists out there who also do not believe in moral relativism.
I note however that the author of the post did not comment on what, exactly, a scientifically based morality would codify as a set of values. Unfortunately, a “code of values derived from our nature and requirements as rational, responsible creatures possessing free will” is precisely what Creationists and even non-Creationist Christians are afraid of. Through “through honest errors and in part from evasions of facts and close-minded dogmatism” scientists and other supporters of evolution often make the classic mistake of assuming that human nature is basically positive and rational.
Science does not automatically generate rationality. For one thing, only a very small percentage of any population are scientists. The rest of us are regular people with only a small understanding of the science and technology that power our modern world. From what I see everyday the majority of us are not well trained in objective and dispassionate thinking. All one has to do is analyze the political rhetoric of an election campaign to see the real level of discourse in our society. For me this level of public “rational” discourse does not bode well for building a rational model of morality in a democratic society.
The other problem I see is that the Western morality that Creationists see disintegrating all around them was not derived scientifically. Nor has science replaced it with an equivalent, provable, scientific morality.
That morality was generated internally by a conscience that was informed by a bond with the Creator of humanity. Two very real covenants with a very real God engendered the morality that Western civilization takes for granted. Take away that personal bond with the Creator, and that morality will devolve into a debased moralism that hurts and destroys everything in its path.
I will confess that I have no science to back up that statement. I am not worried about that, because morality cannot be objectively measured, and science doesn’t care much about what it can’t measure.
A morality that builds and lifts human beings upward will not be replicated scientifically. I’ll grant that some societies will have a certain stability over some time due to internal structures and societal safeguards and/or punishment/reward systems. However, none of those things ensures that rationality will always be used to produce win/win situations.
For the Christian, morality is thinking and behaviour that conforms to the will of God. That, of course, is an ideal that is completely outside the realm of science. So who is encroaching on whose area of operations, anyway? Evolutionary science is out to topple all notions of a God who needs to be obeyed. That makes it a rival religion, despite its claims to being non-religious. When God is out of the way, who will be in charge?
My money is on the most ruthless and power-mongering of humans.
I frankly doubt that any atheistic society will be able to rise above aggression, oppression and domination in the long term. Certainly the two forms of atheistic socialism/communism that have arisen in the 20th Century have not been the utopia they set out to be. At least not according to the tens of millions of Ukrainians and others murdered by Stalin’s policies. Nor did the German version of National Socialist (Nazi) evolution fare any better for the millions of people murdered in the name of purifying the “master race.”
I encountered a blog that argued that Russian Communist evolutionism was not a good example of an atheist state because the kind of evolution it was based on was not scientific. Lamarckian evolution was about use and disuse of organs and characteristics. Really???? That made a difference???
No matter how you slice it, somebody sooner or later gets the bright idea to control the evolution of the human race by selecting their favourite traits while eliminating others. Wherever the theory of evolution takes hold in the collective consciousness of a society genocide will follow. That is the logic of the survival of the fittest.
I might point out as an aside that none of the three societies that embraced evolution as national policy has had much tolerance for the mentally ill or for homosexuality. The logic will be fairly obvious if you think about it. Every eugenics program ends up sterilizing the mentally incompetent because they are a drain on society’s resources and because they don’t want those genes propagated widely.
The logic of homosexuality and evolution is more subtle. Non-reproductive societies are an evolutionary dead-end. No society that embraces evolution as part of its outlook can afford to become heavily weighted in favour of non-reproductive unions. That is why Russia has currently outlawed all overt expressions of homosexuality. You see, a society will only survive as long as it keeps up in the reproductive race (or finds a way to destroy the reproductive ability of other societies).
But what about theistic evolution? Isn’t that a compromise that lets science be science and religion be religion? Maybe on the surface it does. However, theistic evolution misses the point. Even a God who created the universe, but turned the creation and development of life over to random chance via natural forces is hardly a God at all.
Where it really misses the point is in that the entirety of the biblical witness is one of a God who is deeply involved in the struggles of his highest creation: humanity. Theistic evolution literally de-humanizes God by making him an absentee landlord. Why would such a God bother becoming human? Why save beings he allowed to come into being by random chance?
To me, that is what really makes no sense. The God that the Bible reveals first created all that is, then became human in the person of Jesus Christ, who lived and died to set us free from sin. By his resurrected life he sets us free from the fear of death.
That is something that no mere evolutionary theory can do.