Barry Newman's Blog

December 1, 2010

Science and Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3 (part XIX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 7:42 am

Let us now return to biological evolutionary theory.  S.C. Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, has expressed the view (in an address, “Darwin’s Compass: How evolution discovers the song of creation”, an ISCAST- CEN – CPX lecture delivered 21 Sept. 2009, Sydney), which he acknowledges is not a common one, that biological evolutionary processes are not thoroughly random.  If evolutionary development were allowed to start all over again and under the same conditions, in the course of time one would end up with a very similar history, with the life forms produced bearing some similarity to those that in fact were produced.  The evolutionary “pressures” would be similar.   That is, those factors responsible for evolutionary development would always hold.  Consequently, the directions which evolutionary development would take, given the same initial conditions, would be much the same, no matter when occurring.  Given these evolutionary “pressures” it perhaps should not strike us as remarkable that various and very different life forms develop similar mechanisms for living in this the world.  For example, eyes of one form or another, including a box camera like apparatus in some jelly fish have developed in a range of organisms. Wings of various types have developed in fish, reptiles, insects, birds and mammals.  That is, one could argue that even if God were “playing” with creation, any creation set up by God in our universe, would produce life forms, similar to what we observe to have been in existence, where there were suitable conditions for life forms to evolve in the first place.

That man should bear a biological relationship with other life forms should not be seen to be a diminution of the significance of mankind.   Insects might be more numerous and extraordinary in the effect they have on their environment but we are the creatures that through our mental and physical capabilities exercise considerable control over our environment for better or for worse. Though other creatures can communicate with each other and some communicate and develop relationships with mankind our mental “where with all” and our ability to create language of considerable complexity make us stand apart in our relationship with each other and with God.  Our biological heritage is what it is but if it is of an evolutionary nature, that in itself has no bearing on our relationship with God and his fulfilling his purposes through us.

Palaeontologists provide the following estimates for the appearance of various life forms: Simple cells (prokaryotes) – 3. 8 billion years ago. Complex cells (eukaryotes) – 2.0 billion years ago. Land plants – 475 million years ago. Mammals – 200 million years ago. Modern humans – 200, 000 years ago.  These dates have been supported by appeal to a large variety of dating methods including a number of different radio isotopic procedures. Without dealing with the age of modern human beings in this blog series, we humans conceptualise time in certain ways. Gold fish, with their very short memories, would have a completely different view!   What “time” means to God, if it is appropriate to even pose the matter that way, is unfathomable.   The question then of why would God take such a long time to bring human beings into existence becomes an odd one to ask and we cannot be confident that it makes much sense.  The reality is that we are here now and God has done things in our recent history with the people of Israel and through Jesus of Nazareth and what he has done has been documented.  It might seem odd to us that God should, from our point of view, bring about momentous events associated with the people of Israel and through this Jesus, only in the last few years of his great creation, but from God’s point of view, well, who knows?

One of the offshoots from biological evolutionary theory has been evolutionary proposals of a social and psychological nature, some of which impinge on matters of culture, morality and religious belief.  We have many developmental theories that relate to our world – mountain building, river formation, etc. with respect to the “natural” world – ways of conceptualising our world, and ways of thinking morally as we change from infants to young adults, etc. with respect to our “human” world.  And as we continue to work with these developmental theories we refine them and sometimes replace them. Consequently we should be wary of using aspects of biological evolutionary theory, without reflection, in attempting to explain the existence of certain cultural characteristics, religious beliefs and moral attitudes in societies.  There might be some value in such a strategy but even if we were to adopt an atheistic position, presumably we would not wish to deny the complexity of human interactions one with the other, the complexity of the way human beings interact with their environment in general and the relative autonomy that characterises much of humanity compared to that of the animal and plant world.  Furthermore, sole appeal to evolutionary processes in such matters is to confine oneself to only one type of explanation and to be blind to the possibilities of other explanations.  Besides, at this stage the evidence claimed for the validity of such evolutionary understandings is quite limited and open to dispute.

Is biological evolutionary development going on today?  If it is a good theory, one would expect that to be the case.  However, given that significant evolutionary developments, according to the theory, occur over long periods of time we would not expect to see enormous changes occurring over a short period of time. Understandably then, given the short span of time in which human beings have existed, the living world would and does appear to have been relatively stable during that time. Whether new species have developed or not, there have not been any great changes in the biological world of modern man.  The point of view that Genesis adopts is that of God who created but who now has ceased his work.  For all intents and purposes the state of the world today is as portrayed in the Genesis account.  However contrary to an evolutionary prediction that living creatures will continue to evolve and in remarkable ways, the Biblical account of the future is very different.  God will wind up his universe at an appointed time.  There will be a resurrection of all mankind from the dead.  Judgement of all will occur and God’s Son, Jesus, the man in heaven, the Saviour of some, will be acknowledged by all to be the Lord.

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2 Comments »

  1. Barry, First of all thank-you for your earlier response, clearly you are a “truth seeker” and a very well informed one as well. Let me first of all say that I am not formally trained in the sciences, however, I am in pursuit of God (truth) and often His role as Creator surfaces. Some years back I read a book by Gerald Schroeder which formally discussed the variability of time when gravitational forces are in flux. His claim was that an eye witness (God) at those first moments (24 hour day) would have observed an explosion of creative activity that would appear from our current time/observation to be billions of years. see (www.genesistime.com)

    Is this valid evidence of God’s authorship of Genesis? Because only God’s eyewitness perspective would have recorded “days” for what appears to be billions of years from our space/time perspective.

    Comment by Rick — March 8, 2012 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

    • Hi Rick,

      Understanding Genesis 1 – 3 has been an ongoing matter for debate for centuries and godly people have wrestled with how to handle the material. My own view is that God’s authorship of Genesis and the whole of the Bible is independent of any scientific findings or claims at any time. I also think that it is probably inappropriate to see early Genesis as portraying a view that we can “mesh with modern scientific findings. I think God has chosen to reveal his creatorship through ancient literature that is reflective to some extent of ancient ways of seeing things. As I try to explain in the blog series I think that it was written so that ancient peoples – his chosen people would benefit to the maximum and they didn’t have modern scientific perspectives. I think that under his good hand we can benefit to the same extent

      Having said all this I fully recognise that godly people differ enormously on such issues. May God continue to bless you as you seek him and his truth more and more.

      Cheers

      Barry

      Comment by barrynewman — March 8, 2012 @ 9:57 pm | Reply


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