The Idol of Secularism:
Imagine a primitive tribe standing on a beach, clustered around a huge crate that has washed up on the shore. As they pull away the boards and rip open the plastic packing, they uncover a beautiful mahogany clock. They are awestruck as each hour it emits melodic gongs from within its breast.
The people speculate as to its meaning. After a while they begin to observe a pattern to the sounding gongs: When the sun stands precisely overhead it sounds twelve gongs; then after one of the two sticks on its face moves in a complete circle it sounds one gong, and, after another revolution, two gongs. This continues until it again sounds twelve gongs in the middle of the night. This pattern repeats itself day and night.
As time passes their reactions become matter-of-fact. The women of the village begin to prepare morning and evening meals when the sticks are straight up and down. Eventually, the elders declare the device a gift from God. That viewpoint is believed because no other explanation seems possible.
One day, however, one of the elders says he doesn't believe the device came from God. He advances the theory that natural forces on a distant island shaped it. The wood was sculpted by fire and water and wind. The shiny parts were formed by lightning and heat. Somehow the entire project was completed by natural accident. The tribe, he says, is a recipient not of a gift from God, but of a happy accident. And this theory begins to prevail.
That scenario represents the development of the theory of evolution. The generally accepted belief in God held until the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, when elders of science announced that they no longer believed life was a creation of God. It was but a cosmic accident. This was a new and radical idea, and it challenged the philosophical consen sus of human history.
Great social pressure challenged the old ways, particularly explanations of the creation of the world as described in the Bible. As we saw at the end of chapter 7, what the new rebels lacked was a unified theory to undergird their rising impatience with Bible revelation.
The main problem facing the Enlightenment thinkers was the origin of all the different species of life: How can we account for the profusion of life forms without God? Various individuals advanced theories suggesting that the similarities among the species indicated everything arose from one primary life form. That idea was considered for at least a hun dred years before Darwin set forth his theory.
The French philosopher Denis Diderot suggested in 1753 that "there never was more than one primeval animal, the prototype of all." Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a convinced evolutionist by 1794, but he too lacked a theory to describe what he wanted to believe. Another naturalist, Chevalier de Lamrack, sorted animals into an evolutionary tree from microanimals to man. He proposed that new species emerged because organisms desired certain changes to take place. He called this motivational force "natural sentiment."
Charles Darwin called his theory "natural selection." He suggested that the environment created pressures that allowed those individuals best adapted to survive. Natural selection has commonly been called survival of the fittest. In one famous example Darwin postulated that giraffes had developed long necks because drought reduced the availability of food. The long-necked giraffes were able to eat leaves at the tops of the trees which were inaccessible to other animals. Short- necked giraffes died out. (No short-necked giraffe fossils have ever been discovered.)
In 1859 Darwin published On the Origin of Species to account for the proliferation of life forms through natural selection. The impact of that book is unequaled in secular human his tory. The implications of Darwinism are with us today in every scientific field, including biology, geology, astronomy and sociology. Objective investigators should remember that the initial battle was more philosophical than scientific. The question being asked was, "Where did we come from?" Evolution's answer differed from history's, which was, "We are here because God created us."
The furious debate occasioned by On the Origin of Species continues today. Evolutionists line up against creationists. Court cases test whether or not creationism can be taught alongside evolution in the classroom.
Theistic evolutionists ask, "Couldn't God have created the beginnings of life and then let it evolve into its present complexity and profusion?" The answer is, Of course. Yes, He could have done so. But did He?
We need to answer that question because millions of secularists rely on the theory of evolution as their primary defense for atheism. It is impossible to be a solid secularist if evolution has not occurred. Those who, like Isaac Asimov, believe there is no spiritual dimension must have the theory of evolution: Without it no rational explanation can account for mankind's existence except special creation by God.
If evolution is not true—and if we can demonstrate that— the secularist may be motivated to reconsider the existence of God.
Our Secular Society
Secularism is caught in an endless cycle of circular reasoning. Human beings asked the question, "How could man exist if there were no God?" The theory of evolution was proposed to answer the question. Then came the question, "How do we know there is no God?" And the answer, "Be cause man was formed through evolution."
Evolution is now the a priori explanation for what we ob serve in nature. For example: Evolution says complex life forms evolved from lower life forms. So, we date rock formations by the fossils contained in them. When we want to date those fossils, on the other hand, we date them by the rock formations they were found in. This kind of circular reasoning is called a tautology. (We will talk more about fossils in chapter 9.)
Today most children are taught evolution in school as though it were established fact. Academia believes, by and large, that evolution is science and special creation is "merely" religion. Some scientists take very anti-creationist positions. Ernst Mayr, the ornithologist who redefined biology's concept of the term species, is one such scientist. Mayr determined that species should not be classified according to how they look, but rather by their ability to interbreed. The earmark of a true species is reproductive distinctiveness: One species cannot breed with another species to produce fertile offspring. As professor emeritus of zoology at Harvard, Mayr, in the science magazine Omni, blamed Christianity not only for the "intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages," but for the "nonsense" of wanting to introduce teachings of the Bible into classrooms on equal footing with "established scientific fact," by which he meant evolution.
Likewise, Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, writing in May 1981 in the science magazine Discover, was both angry at and amused by the Creationists." But mostly he was "deeply sad because Evolution is one of the half dozen 'great ideas' developed by science." Carl Sagan, dean of the secular community, writing as president of The Planetary Society in 1985, sent out a mailing in which he said America's exploration of space was "as significant as our ancestors' descent from the trees."
In view of those kinds of statements from our foremost scientists, it is little wonder the average Christian is uneasy when evangelicals speak openly of evolution as anything less than good science. But is the belief in evolution based on an objective evaluation of scientific data, or is evolution itself a religious belief system?
While the majority of scientists believe in evolution, thou sands do not. Many eminent scientists agree with Dr. Robert Gange, an award-winning NASA research scientist, who calls evolution "the secret and irrational worship of interstellar dust under the guise of atheism." World famous philosopher/ scientist Karl Popper spoke for many scientists when he said evolution does not even qualify as a legitimate scientific theory because it can never be finally proven nor disproven. Dr. Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist and editor of a prestigious journal at the British Museum of Natural History, has said there is no real evidence of evolutionary transitions either among living or fossilized organisms.
When people ask for the hard objective evidence behind the scientific community's ongoing declaration of confidence in evolution, they often come away stunned. They find little good evidence defended with near religious fervor. Dr. Gange takes Popper's statements even further, calling the theory of evolution "not a scientific theory [but rather] a conjectural apologetic for materialism."
My own personal experience of having my eyes opened to evolution is typical. In 1981 I took a vacation trip through Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. I was fascinated with the unearthing of the fossils of these magnificent beasts. A few days later at the Denver Museum of Natural History I was again awestruck by the size and reality of these ancient creatures. Like so many others, I assumed that the reality of extinct dinosaurs in some way vindicated evolution.
While this new sense of mystery hung in my memory I happened upon a book entitled Evolution: The Fossils Say No! I supposed the book was by a crackpot or amateur scientist and nearly passed it by when I turned it over to see that it was written by a man with an earned doctorate in biology from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Duane Gish.
As we headed home from our vacation, driving through two days of cloudbursts across the red desert of southern Wyoming, my wife read the book to me. I was astonished by page after page of evidence that indicated the fossil record does not bear out the theory of evolution. I swore I would study the matter for myself. Remember, I had no ax to grind. My theology was not threatened by evolution. I could be a Christian whether or not evolution was true. But, as I discovered and have indicated here, evolutionists have a vested interest in evolution being true. If it is not true, their secularism is threatened.
I tell that story because it is typical. People who investigate evolution objectively are surprised by its tenuous foundation. I'll go further than that: The only people who cling to it after a serious investigation are those who—for whatever reason— cannot bring themselves to consider special creation by God as an explanation for the universe and the origin of species. The fact is that evolution continues to be considered seriously by intelligent people (after objective investigation) only if they are threatened by the alternative—special creation of the universe by God. Over and over again you will discover evolutionists saying something like, "Whatever the problems with evolution, the alternative is impossible." As Dr. Gange says, evolutionists pursue their cause with religious zeal and evaluate it by standards far less stringent than those they use to evaluate all other scientific matters.
Foundation of Evolution
Dr. George Wald is typical of those openly taking this stance. Wald, who won the Nobel Prize in 1967 for his work in identifying the chemical process by which the retina differentiates colors of light, once wrote an article in Scientific American (Vol. 191) entitled "The Origin of Life":
The argument stemmed from the fact that nutritive broth, which forms mold under normal circumstances, was shown by Spallanzani not to do so if it were boiled and then sealed while boiling (this was the beginning of modern food preservation— canning). Spallanzani said this proved that the microorganisms that made up the mold did not come into being spontaneously, but were introduced to the broth through im purities in the air. His detractors argued that mold did not form because his process excluded air, which was a crucial component of the mix.
Pasteur then took up the experiment by placing broth in a bottle with a long S-shaped neck, which allowed air to get to the broth but prohibited dust—and thus microorganisms— from getting to the broth. No mold formed. Wald says that when Pasteur finished his experiments, "nothing remained of the belief in spontaneous generation.
Wald says that faced with the two options—spontaneous generation or an act of supernatural creation—a scientist who chooses not to believe in an act of God has no choice but to accept spontaneous generation as the explanation for life. Why? Because the idea of creation lies outside of science, and these scientists have no other alternative—thus they choose to believe something that could not happen. This is irrational for a scientist, but such are the mental gymnastics of those who choose not to believe in God.
How It Works
Today, a beginning biology student will be taught that spontaneous generation was demonstrated by Pasteur to be impossible. In fact, in the opening chapters of a Biology 101 textbook, the concept of biogenesis will be taught: Biogenesis states that life can come only from other life. But somewhere around chapter four, the student is told that evolution must be assumed to be true. For the rest of the student's biological education, that assumption is made.
The same circular reasoning exists wherever evolution is taught. The theory is so much a part of our everyday life that no amount of proof will do it in. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, the famous biologist of the original Earth Day fame, says in an article in Nature (Vol. 214): "No one can think of ways to test [evolution]. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity."
One of the world's most eminent astronomers, Sir Fred Hoyle, says the chance that life may have emerged through biological evolution in our solar system is impossible. There simply is not enough time for that to have occurred, even if the earth is 4.7 billion years old. Hoyle says it is as likely as "a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard [and assembling] a Boeing 747 from the materials therein" (Nature, Vol. 294). Hoyle continues to be an evolutionist, but he thinks evolution must have happened somewhere else. Some suggest that life evolved outside our solar system and either arrived on a meteorite or was sent by intelligent life from another solar system.
How Can We Proceed?
The key to reaching secularists is in the rational presentation of arguments against the idol of evolution. In the next chapter we will take a look at the arguments of evolutionists and present the evidence with which those arguments are refuted.
People do change their minds about evolution, as evidenced in the interesting change of thinking by Dr. Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History. In his keynote address at the American Museum of Natural History in 1981 he said:
Question is, "Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that is true?" I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence. I tried it on the members of the Evolutionary Morphology Seminar at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious body of evolutionists, and all I got there was silence for a long time and eventually one person said, "I do know one thing—it ought not be taught in high school."