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Perspectives

Evolution: go beyond ‘a natural occurrence.’

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

By Robert Harrell

Christians have always understood God to be the Maker and Possessor of heaven and earth.  This is His world and His universe.  Such a view entails a depth of spiritual and metaphysical understanding about which science can only stand mute.  Science deals with the material, the measurable, and the verifiable.  Most of us learned experiment testing in Grade School, did we not?  Yes, and this is a most noble realm.  Prodigious minds like Galileo, Kepler, and Newton understood that Omnipotence ordered the cosmos.  Not so much now.  The broad scientific community has generally and gradually come to imbibe a materialistic view of existence.  I believe it safe to say, the generality in the field of, say, biology, begins with an a priori naturalistic framework and will not openly entertain the possibility of the supernatural.  Be reminded: The Bible calls anyone who excludes God from his scheme of life a “fool” (Psalm 14:1).  This all said, I felt impelled to briefly comment on popular views related to the natural process of biological development.  The wider public usually refers to this category of discussion as “evolution”.  Admittedly, this matter to which I am referring is as complex as the Manhattan power grid, and as vast as the Pacific Ocean with all its subterranean caverns.  It is immense!  I likewise make no claim to expertise in the biological sciences or related fields.  Yet, I am occasionally stirred to such a degree, by what is regularly flung out at the often public, like a duck out a kitchen window, as hard “science” and material “fact”, that I wish to say a few words.  I am fully aware that commenting about such a broad and complex subject is somewhat like a man in a wooden rowboat rowing past an massive iceberg, taking out his little pic and chipping fervidly on it as he floats by.  Notwithstanding, I shall swing.

We must understand that those who believe and accept full-scale Darwinian Theory by natural selection, viz., life proceeding from simplest forms to higher by random mutation during enormously protracted scales of time, is held with the utmost tenacity.  To such adherents, this view is set in concrete.  On the other hand, to the average outside observer, such a pertinacious spirit evidenced by those convinced souls, might seem to bespeak of a kind of religious zealotry.  As we listen and consider, we soon start to become aware of the great stakes involved in this conversation; entire world view may collide if parties let loose the dogs of war.  If you doubt this, if you think this to be exaggeration, I dare you to suggest anything beyond the standard group-think related to evolutionary assumptions.  Question commonly held ideas.  Dig deeper.  You will find that those bold enough or foolish enough to even begin to question this modern system of thought had better buckle down and prepare for an onslaught the likes of which they have never seen.  Such a challenger may soon be pigeonholed and put into a particular category of Christian belief and interpretation, even though there is a breadth of views within Christian scholarship on cosmology and human beginnings.

One of the causes of my personal bristling is the all-too-smooth presentation of speculative ideas offered in, say, a documentary special on the cosmos and/or origins.  It is all set forth so glibly as standardized, indisputable “fact”.  The faceless, commentator relays to us the amazingly accidental commencing of life and its development on our planet.  By the way, the term “accident” is clearly forbidden in this topical discussion.  Life, we are told, began spontaneously on the earlier earth, though no proven detailed explanation of how such a stupefying miracle (another taboo term) could have occurred.  Before we know it, we have moved on.  We simply breeze past this astounding claim like a hawk soaring past Mount Rushmore with little more than a glance.  On this critical point, I would challenge anyone to look up the outstandingly formidable mathematical odds of such an event occurring on its own.  This is pointed out, but still the materialist says, ” Well, here we are…. so therefore…?”   i.e. “so, it must have occurred on its own”, inasmuch an Intelligent Designer is ruled out before the game begins.  “Yes, here we are”, I and other theists say (with an entirely different explanatory view in mind).  Now, the evolutionist will always attempt to scale these astronomical numbers down.  Still, the sheer odds of life arising from nonlife are mind-numbing.  The very expression, “life arising from non-life” strikes one as absurd.  Are we hearing ourselves?

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Further on, we are eventually reminded of the indisputable transformative climb of living forms, and routinely this is pictured in some standardized facsimile of what is labeled a “Tree of Life“.  This has always hit me as rather comical and cartoonish.  The gadfly in the High School audience may be tempted to whisper to his friend, “Are we looking at actual animal life or animation?”  You can guess what my response to him might be.  The pointer then shows us the way along the path of simplest bacteria through the aquatic world, through the reptilian forms, on up through mammalian varieties… you know how it goes.  We see the six silhouettes from monkeys to man all walking off to the right, and we are to believe this is the way we assuredly came about — end of case!  end of discussion!   All this massive, millions-of-years, biological advancement from the primordial soup, we are told, has come about of its own doing.  Remarkable!  This is presented as certain and without any real mention of serious problems or disparities to speak of.  Interestingly, however, there are many.  The fossil evidence, for example, hardly shows such a ramifying pattern.  The story of the emergence of species seems to be more of bursts and of sudden appearance than of smooth, steady ancestral branching out.  Yes, countless species do have similarities.  Yet, must we always understand these to be proof of common decent?  Why?  Transitional forms (you know, the in-between stages of life) are absent by the millions, yet we are given just opposite impression.   Also, have we really faced the practical worth or possible success of such in-between forms?  Can any bluebird with half a wing fly?  Could a spider monkey ancestor grab a branch with a third of a tail?  Unquestioningly, we see adaptation of certain species, with color and camouflage (micro-evolution), but must we then be forced to accept to ponderous thought that a fish once crawled upon the shore in the primordial past, or that in the eons of time a monkey become and man (both macro-evolution)?  This is at the very least often mere logical fallacy.

Reader, let none of this shake you.  Look around your world.  Sit still in your back yard and behold the wonders all around you this time of year.  Close your eyes and hear the varieties of feathered creatures calling to one another.  Can some of us not say with assurance this is the song of heaven?  Know this well, troubled one: You did not simply come to be by mindless, purposeless, random processes; God created you!  The Bible soundly declares He fashioned you.  The Word of God says that you, along with the earth and the heavens, are His handiwork!  Further, you are unique and on inestimable worth to Him.  That is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to come and give His very life for you on the cross.  He made a way of forgiveness of sin, that you might be forgiven, and dwell with Him forever!  Know this, however God made us, He made us!  Only a simpleton can look at a carpenter bee pollinating a night-blooming cereus and call it simply a “natural occurrence”.  Only a heartless person can witness the birth of a child and not see the wonder.  Only a fool can stare at a black spider knitting its intricate web and not be dumbstruck.  I ask you then, where is your mind?  Where is your faith in God?  Think!   Believe!

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Rob Harrell is originally from the Detroit area, and he has living in the Blue Water area for 20 years. He is 61 years old and has three grown children and 6 grandchildren, all of them living in Michigan. He has served as a pastor in Michigan, Connecticut and Virginia, and currently leads a home church, Oakwood Fellowship in Port Huron. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in Psychology, from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is a resident of Fort Gratiot, and enjoys golf, reading, travel.

Oakwood Fellowship meets at 10:30 am Sunday mornings. For more information contact Robert at (810) 385-6877.

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2 comments

Linda August 15, 2018 at 9:40 pm

Great commentary, gives one a lot to think about. I am a Christian and am not bothered by the evolution vs creationism argument. I am fascinated by scientific discoveries about life on Earth. But do we know everything? No, of course not! New discoveries happen daily, what we knew for sure last week is disproven this week. No one can fathom the fullness of God! He is not limited by our finite thought processes. To me, it doesn’t matter if humans were made 5000 years ago or 5 million, it doesn’t change who God is!

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Ken Maxwell September 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm

The article starts out making some good points, but I don’t like articles that question scientific assertions without any references. Transitional forms are absent by the millions? Where is the reference for that statement? I think it could just as easily be stated that transitional forms are PRESENT by the millions, and I think I could find references for that statement, I know I have read many individual examples. The other part about “can a bluebird with half a wing fly” is also missing the point. There is no such thing as “half a wing” or “half a tail”. There might be a “short wing” or a “short tail”, and there would certainly be some argument as to why a version of a monkey with a short tail was more successful and reproduced more often than a monkey with no tail.

I too question some of basic assumptions of life arising spontaneously, but my objections are more on the micro scale. How does RNA an DNA come into existence spontaneously? There is no reason for RNA without the cellular machinery to reproduce it, and there is no reason for the cellular machinery to produce proteins from DNA strands without DNA. I haven’t read any convincing argument for how the basic cell, RNA, and DNA arose from nothing.

At the end of the day it’s pretty difficult to have a meaningful discussion about a complex scientific question in a 5 minute read. So while I do appreciate the author’s thoughts, I don’t find myself persuaded in any direction by the opinions expressed here. There is a spiritual gift called “discernment”, and it seems to be the gift I have been given, so I need to see references and supporting research and testable theory to be persuaded.

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