Charles Stolfus on the historical relationship between science and faith and the tremendous scientific evidence against a postmodern worldview.
The first thing to consider when addressing the issue of evolution is the alleged battle between science and faith. Historically, this battle did not exist. In fact, the scientific revolution was driven by men of faith. Many of them were evangelical believers, and most believed in a “God” of some sort. They saw no conflict between science and the belief in God or the reliability of the Bible. For many, the Scripture, or a belief in God, was an incentive to pursue an understanding of the natural world. So it is a myth that the current battle between we see between science and faith has always existed or even originated in the scientific community. Scientists can in fact be Bible believing Christians and the alleged battle between science and faith was a fictional narrative started in the 19th century by several authors who were hostile to the Christian faith. But it was, in fact, a manufactured battle that really never existed prior to this time and should not exist today.
Now to the issue of evolution.
For much of human history people felt that we were required to invoke God to account for life as we see it. There was no conceivable way to explain the extraordinary levels of complexity that we see in the simplest life forms.
And yet with the 19th century and the advent of Darwin’s theory of evolution there came at least a plausible theory for how living things could come about through the blind forces of nature. Specifically he put forward a theory called natural selection. This was the idea that the natural forces of reproduction could inevitably accumulate to lead to increasing levels of complexity in nature. In this scenario, all living things share a single common ancestor. What connects them all is this process of change driven by what he called natural selection. Namely that in reproduction mutations occur, and every once in a while mutations occur that confer some sort of reproductive advantage on a living thing, and it overtakes a population. Then that process happens again, so you have this stair stepped, gradual increase in complexity that would develop a simple creature into a more complex creature and again into still a more complex creature. Inevitably, given enough time, you could get a bacterium to evolve through this gradation of intermediate species into a human being. So Darwin made it at least plausible that life could have another origin.
I say plausible because even Darwin acknowledged that there were many problems that he had to address, one being the fossil record. Some of the most eminent paleontologists of his day were his chiefest critics because they said the fossil record did not give evidence of intermediate species through this long history of life on earth. Darwin acknowledged the problem, but he was able to blunt that kind of criticism by appealing to future discoveries that would eventually find these intermediate species in the fossil record. Close to 99.9% percent of the work that has ever been done in the fossil record has been done since the time of Darwin and we still haven’t been able to find this inumberable number of transitional species.
On top of that, there is a significant challenge that the Cambrian explosion presents to evolution. The Cambrian Explosion is a phenomenon of the fossil record during the Cambrian Era, however you may date it. In the Cambrian Era, there is an explosion of diversity in the fossil record. But Darwin’s theory called for a slow, gradual evolving of living things from a common ancestor. It did not account for very large leaps in complexity. But all of a sudden we find in the Cambrian Explosion a huge diversity among species so that you go from very few phyla, or body plans, that characterize living things in the earlier periods to a vast diversity of complexity at the Cambrian Era. From there, you actually have a tapering off of the number of phyla, or body plans. So this poses a serious challenge to evolution. How can you account for this explosion of diversity in a geological instant by the Darwinian theory of natural selection. It simply is inexplicable on Darwinian terms, so there have to be other explanations for how this happened.
Charles Stolfus is the Director of the Lay Institute at Denton Bible Church.