Charles Darwin...Minister of the Gospel?

    I was listening to a minister (just for the record, NOT my pastor) preach a few months ago, and in the process of his sermon he happened to drift onto the subject of evolution. It hadn’t been the topic of his sermon, but in passing he made a couple of remarks concerning evolution that left me in a state of amazement. “The theory of evolution was a creation of the devil through the minds of godless men, and no true Christian would believe in such heresy,” he said, and then he continued, “When I was a kid a frog was a frog, and today a frog is still a frog. I’m going to teach a couple of lessons soon that will prove that evolution is false.”
     Before I get too deep into this subject, let me state that I am not an expert on the subject of evolution. Just as I have mentioned in the introduction to my blog, what I offer in my discourses are simply my observations and opinions based on my experiences. If I am wrong in your eyes you are welcome to offer evidence to show my error, and, if your evidence is conclusive, I will alter my perspective. But until then I will write what I think is accurate.
     Shortly after I heard the minister slam evolution, I was privileged to attend a state convention of science teachers. The convention offered the usual list of speakers offering their insights into the many strategies for teaching science to school children, but one speaker’s subject caught my attention immediately. “Teaching Evolution---Tips of the Trade” said the headline, and although it was far above my grade level as far as target audience was concerned, it was a “must visit” class for me. The speaker was a science professor from the University of Houston where by coincidence the convention was being held. He opened the session with a simple question, “Who of you feel that evolution is a theory, and who of you think evolution is a fact?” The results were pretty interesting; the room of approximately 30 listeners was just about evenly divided, and this was a group of people who had an above average amount of science knowledge. He also made a statement which I found very interesting, “There are those who feel that religion and evolution science are incompatible, but I am a Christian, and I have found nothing in my study of evolution that contradicts the existence of a God. I believe in the existence of God.” I had to wonder how that statement went down with his professorial colleagues.
     Just a brief, layman’s definition of evolution should be introduced here. Evolution is the term we give to the process by which organisms (living things), in their struggle for survival, react over time to changes in their environments. It does not refer to a single generation of organisms, but changes and adaptations which occur through the processes of both natural and man-made interference over many years, perhaps thousands or millions. In nature, changing conditions of life and environment create adaptations in organisms which give them a better chance of preservation. Consider the Islands of Hawaii…the birds and plants which were introduced to the islands only three hundred years ago by the Europeans have adapted both in color and size to their more temperate and colorful environment. Many Hawaiian birds and plants of today only vaguely resemble their ancestors of three centuries before. Many of the early organisms introduced to Hawaii suffered in the early years due to weakness in camouflage and adaptability, but those organisms which did survive begat stronger offspring more suitable to the new environment. Charles Darwin called this phenomenon the law of natural selection…the term we more readily recognize is “survival of the fittest.”
     I went to the Museum of Natural History in Houston about a few years ago to hear a lecture from famed anthropologist Donald Johanson. Johanson has been a superstar in the anthropological circles for over 35 years. In 1975 he discovered the remains of the first humanoid to allegedly walk erect on two legs. The three million year old fossilized bones, affectionately called “Lucy” by the educated gentry were on display at the museum. It was the first time they had ever been out of Ethiopia, and they were guarded more tightly than the incredible jewelry exhibit that the museum proudly displays. As I walked around the display, which was sort of a glass casket, the bones appeared to be that of a child no more than four feet tall. The skeleton was missing some bones, but there was enough for the curators to claim “a complete skeleton.” There was an artist’s rendition of what someone imagined “Lucy” may have looked like when she was alive. Later, at the lecture, Johanson made the statement that what has solidified conclusively the argument about the facts of evolution has been the discovery and development of DNA sampling. DNA sampling is so incontrovertible that it is now being used routinely in crime solving and court trials, and with DNA sampling anthropologists can readily trace the linage of various species backwards in history over a million years. However, interestingly enough, I was able to ask him a question that drew a small admission from him. I reviewed with him the fact that “Lucy’s” bones were now actually fossilized stone, and, being stone, they could not have a DNA presence. He replied that the way they date fossils is by determining the age of the materials found around the specimen, and not the fossil itself. Score one for the doubters. Johanson is one of those scientists whom I call “pure” evolutionists. His quote: “There’s no God, never was one, and never will be. There is a scientific answer for every question. “
     A phenomenon which is becoming more evident in the world today is "man-made" evolution. We see examples of man-induced evolution practically everywhere. The next time you’re in your favorite grocery store, go to the produce department and pick up just about any piece of fruit or vegetable you prefer. That big fat juicy strawberry the size of a tennis ball was not created by nature alone, and that ripe, lovely half-pound tomato is a creation of man’s ingenuity, also. Most major seed companies use the process of artificial selection to insure that the seeds that are in the seed packet you buy are reasonably guaranteed to be healthy and productive. They do this by growing acres of “parent” plants. These plants are observed as they grow, and, although, they may be all planted in the same soil and receive the same dosages of water and minerals, some of them will be healthier and stronger that others. It is from the healthy plants that the seeds are taken to go into your seed packet, and the smaller, weaker plants are destroyed. Thus with each new generation of seed, the plant becomes even stronger and more productive. It is Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” with man himself being the judge of which plants survive to reproduce.
     I read of another example of man-created natural selection, or “survival of the fittest” just a few months ago in a magazine concerning pest control. The story did not look at the events in the context of evolution, but it reinforced the adaptability of organisms to their environment. In the Midwest a few years ago there was an invasion of insects in a farming area which was intense enough that it was threatening the crops of the farmers. Normal insecticides seemed to be ineffective, and finally a new powerful chemical was created to use against the invaders. Sure enough, 95% of the insects were killed and the crops were saved. The farmers were happy, needless to say, and order was restored to the farming community...until three years later.
     As if on schedule, the insects returned, but this time the farmers did not worry because they had their proven weapon against their enemies. The powerful chemical was sprayed again, but to the farmers’ horror, the deterrent had no effect on the insects. Some of the insects were captured and analyzed, and the pesticide experts came to the shocking conclusion that these new insects were offspring of the 5% of insects which had survived the chemical three years earlier. Those earlier insects, with some sort of stronger resistance to the chemical, had passed this resistance on to their offspring, and now the whole population of insects was immune to the insecticide. Through a man-caused selection, the insects had evolved into a species better able to resist a destructive force.
     I could give many more examples of natural and man-induced natural selection in nature which has caused adaptive changes in organisms, but the examples given are adequate, and that is really not the point of this discussion anyway. The question that arises is how does someone who accepts the above examples reconcile them to what we know in the Bible. If we are in fact Bible-believing Christians seeking communion with an omnipresent God, what do we do when science can prove without a doubt that the earth is over four billions years old? It is not enough to yell, “That’s heresy!”
     Here’s what I feel. My take on how old the earth is and how scientific evidence relates to the Bible goes along with my feelings and opinions about what’s going to happen when the earth comes to its end. Learned theologians have argued for centuries about what’s going to happen “when time shall be no more,” and the rock bottom fact is no one really knows for sure. Our church recently had a series of Bible studies discussing the mysteries of Revelations in the Bible. We learned about the Tribulation, Daniel’s 70 Weeks, the Millenium, the Rapture, and all sorts of interesting stuff. But even as I read the scriptures as they were discussed, I asked myself, “How did we arrive at that conclusion by reading this scripture?” I think the clues given in the Bible concerning the endtime are purposely vague, just as the clues concerning the beginning of our earth are vague. We are not meant to worry about the future, and we are not meant to be concerned about the past. Our relationship with God is based on the communion we have with Him today.
     There is, however, another possibility which I believe has been overlooked and yet is compelling in its simplicity. If we Christians believe the Bible literally that the earth is only 6,000 years old, but science tells us that the earth is over 4 billion years old, and if we really believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, why could He not have created the earth as if it were four billion years old. If He could create an earth, He could create an earth with a history just as easily. In doing so, the geologist could announce discovery of a rock that is a billion years old, an anthropologist could announce the discovery of a three million year old humanoid, and the Christian could say the earth is six thousand years old and they would all be correct. Think about this scenario: assume for a moment that the Bible is correct and God created Adam and Eve. The moment they were created, how old were they? Imagine a scientist at that very moment of creation jumping out of the bushes and examining this new creation called man. What conclusion would the scientist have drawn concerning Adam’s age? If Adam and Eve were created as adults, the scientist would have probably speculated “about 25 years old,” where in fact these new creations were only minutes old. In the environment of the Garden of Eden, were all the animals, plants, trees, and organisms mere infants at the moment of creation?  No, many, perhaps most, were full-grown adults.  Could God have done the same thing with the Earth and universe?  I believe the answer is yes.
     Charles Darwin for many of his early years was a minister in a small church in England, but his love for science and his inquisitive nature compelled him to attempt to find some of the answers to life.  In all his travels he carried two books: his beloved notebook for writing his observations and his Bible. In closing, I would like to quote from Charles Darwin’s amazing book, The Origin of Species. Published in 1854, the book presents in incredible detail the argument for evolution. To some Christian ministers, it is the devil’s bible; to evolutionists it is the definition of life itself. But many ministers and evolutionists have not bothered to read the entire content of the book. To an open minded reader it is a beautifully written, incredibly detailed document, and it acknowledges the existence of God. In Darwin's own words:
     “Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind, it accords (agrees) better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator. It is interesting to contemplate a tangled creek bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing in the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, are Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance, which is almost implied by Reproduction; Variability from the direct and indirect action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse; A Ratio of Life so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, involving Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one, and that, while this planet has gone cycling according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
    Happy Charles Darwin Day!