AN ADVENTIST APPROACH TO EARTH ORIGINS
Geoscience Research Institute
Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350
Science/religion issues are important because they have to do with ultimate realities, with whether to "worship" the Creator or the creature (creation), with whether a supreme being is above the creation and can supernaturally intervene (with miracles, an Incarnation, a resurrection, a new birth, an Advent). As Christians, evolution/creation questions affect an understanding of: (1) the relation of faith and reason and the nature of inspiration, (2) God's character and now He relates to evil, competition, and death, (3) relationships to other humans and to the environment, and (4) self-worth and need of a Savior. As Seventh-day Adventists the issues are important because of belief in the Sabbath as a memorial of a 7-day creation and belief in a short future for the earth. As Evangelists, one must understand the science/religion interface to work in a technological society and to share beliefs with scientists.
This paper is one of a set of three. The other two are entitled "A Biblical-Christian Approach to the Sciences" and "Integrating Faith and Learning in the Teaching of Physics". The two associated papers note that science developed in a civilization with a Christian worldview, that many of the founding fathers of science were devout Christians, and that prominent scientists today are also believers. Evidence from developments in physics during this century suggests that a totally naturalistic worldview is insufficient to explain all the scientific observations. However, this evidence may lead to various metaphysical philosophies such as the New Age, pantheism, and eastern mysticism. Thus, evidence for a personal designer/creator is discussed next.
The design argument and its strengths
The complexity of a simple living cell suggests that life was designed. Scientists have made numerous statements about the improbability of life arising from non-life, with the following as representative quotations (Bradley):
The current scenario of the origin of life is about as likely as a tornado passing through a junkyard beside Boeing airplane company accidentally producing a 747 airplane. – Sir Fred Hoyle, in The Intelligent Universe
The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions, which would have had to be satisfied to get it going. – Sir Francis Crick in Scientific American (February 1991)
The simplest bacterium is so… complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened. – Harold Klein, chair of National Academy of Sciences committee, in Scientific American (February 1991).
Improbability arguments easily catch one's attention. The immense number of different ways to assemble a simple protein is easily calculated. Selecting from 20 varieties of amino acids, a sequence of 100 units can be assembled in 20100 different ways, or about 10130 which is 1 with 130 zeros after it. If the handedness and the conditions for forming a peptide bond are including, the chances of randomly forming the requisite sequence are astronomically small. Closely related arguments can be made from information theory. Hubert Yockey's article, entitled "A Calculation of the Probability of Spontaneous Biogenesis by Information Theory", says: "One must conclude that, contrary to the established and current wisdom, a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written."
The irreducibly complex structures of higher organisms lack a step-wise evolutionary explanation; and the corresponding, structurally intermediate fossils are rare. The irreducible complexity argument, or argument from perfection, emphasizes that nothing works until everything works. It describes a system that is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. A book published in 1996 by Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, describes examples of irreducible complexity from biochemistry, an area that Darwin and his colleagues knew nothing about. Independent of any evidence from the fossil record, this book gives evidence for design:
[B]iochemistry offers a Lilliputian challenge to Darwin. Anatomy is, quite simply, irrelevant to the question of whether evolution could take place on the molecular level. So is the fossil record. It no longer matters whether there are huge gaps in the fossil record or whether the record is as continuous as that of U.S. presidents. And if there are gaps, it does not matter whether they can be explained plausibly. The fossil record has nothing to tell us about whether the interactions of 11-cis-retinal with rhodopsin, transducin, and phosphodiesterase could have develop step-by-step. Neither do the patterns of biogeography matter, nor those of population biology, nor the traditional explanations of evolutionary theory for rudimentary organs or species abundance. (p.22)
Examples of irreducible complexity included in the books are: the cilium, blood coagulation, vesicular transport, the body's immune system, and the biosynthesis of AMP. The author states that no papers are available offering a testable, Darwinian scenario for the evolution of these complex systems.
Possible weaknesses of the design argument
A god-of-the-gaps argument. Design can easily appear to be a god-of-the-gaps argument to be refuted as further evidence is discovered. This has happened often enough in the past, and some biochemists see hints of evolutionary explanations for hemoglobin, cilia, and vision. It is easy to ride the bandwagon when science presents evidence for the fine-tuning and design, but without care it can set one up for disillusionment Premature appeal to special divine activity to explain nature damages the Christian apologetic. In referring to the gap between life and non-life, Andrew Ellington, an Indiana University professor, warns "to trumpet the barrier today is to eat your words when it falls tomorrow. If you make a proof of Jesus (or Buddha or any supernaturalism) on the back of a biogenesis, be prepared for the disproof as well. Such a disproof is unfair, and not necessarily logically linked, but it will be so perceived." However, perhaps irreducible complexity is different than other god-of-the-gaps arguments because additional information widens the gap instead of narrowing it.
Other. A rigorous definition design needs yet to be carefully articulated. A higher probability for forming a 100-amino-acid protein may be possible, if only a few of the 100 amino acids are critical and if a functional molecule can be formed in a myriad of ways. Flaws in design, such as the panda's thumb and the arrangement of rods and cones in the eyes, have been urged as evidence against an intelligent Designer. Hen's teeth, pseudogenes, vestigial organs, and other examples provide evidence of evolution. The ichneumonid wasp laying its eggs in a caterpillar provides evidence only of an evil designer unlike the biblical God. Some of these arguments can be answered by including the results of sin as a destructive agent, or assuming that we really don't know how God works; however, these are only partial answer and on-going study needs to be done.
Naturalistic explanations for apparent design
Self-organization. This explanation is probably the most popular current alternative to a Designer. In complex systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium, order and new properties can arise spontaneously. Self-organization results. These complex systems can be explained by simple laws: the complexity of the Mandelbrot set can be derived from a simple equation; the infinite variety of snowflakes can be explained from some simple laws of chemistry and geometry.
However, complexity theory may work better at explaining design on computers than in real life. At a summer 1993 conference at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico where these topics were being studied,
Participants in the discussions constantly returned to the necessity to calibrate models and their parameters against observation of the real-world systems they purport to stimulate. Questions were raised and left largely unresolved about the potential usefulness and hidden dangers of models as "flight stimulators" … The agenda included a number of examples of applications of models and of the behavior of real systems. Here is where the greatest divergences in views of complexity and the need for "reality checks" emerged most visibly. The discussion involving these contributions can best be summarized in terms of its emphasis on increasing, wherever and however possible, the amount of "hard" data that can be used to test the validity of models. (Cowan and Pines)
The anthropic principle. This alternative to a Designer states that: This alternative to a Designer states that: we wouldn't be there if it weren't that the conditions were right for us to exist. This explanation is rather lacking in appeal and not the one most generally espoused by the scientific community. It is like explaining why you can see an elephant in your living room by saying that you wouldn't see it there if it wasn't there.
Other. Infinite time and space have been suggested as possible explanations for the coincidences. Infinite time could be provided by multiple universe in series, and infinite space by having multiple universe in parallel. Unfortunately these can't be tested scientifically, but only discussed philosophically.
Perhaps design in nature is only a construct of the human mind. Nature appears ordered because the human mind is a product of nature and sees some of itself there.
Perhaps the designer is just the environment. The apparent design of the environment for the organism may in fact be the design of the organism for the environment by natural selection and survival of the fittest. The explanation easily works for many adoptions seen in nature.
Darwinian evolution--useful scientific principles taken to an unwarranted excess
Mechanistic laws govern nature. Mechanistic laws (invoking no supernatural intervention) have worked well in the physical sciences, and it was hoped that they would work in all areas of the biological sciences as well. The attempts was made to leave God out as an explanation, to use natural law as all-sufficient with no place for the supernatural or miracles, to treat life as governed by chance with not purpose, and to reject teleology. For some this has led to meaninglessness, disillusionment, pessimism, and despair. Bertrand Russell in A Free Man's Worship wrote:
That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labor of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safety built.
However, mechanism laws are not sufficient to explain everything, even in the physical sciences.
Nature changes. In the last century, society exhibited evidence of change, growth in knowledge, and progress. Charles Darwin rejected fixity of species and proposed that change and progress occurred in the biological realm as well. His history of evolution was an extrapolation of the ubiquitous variation he saw in tropical animals. However, biological variation and change has its limits; it is not necessarily progress; and direct evidence for development of new types of organisms is lacking.
Man as a part of nature. The Copernican revolution removed the earth as the center of the universe. A logical next step assumed that man is not so special either. After all, physical and chemical laws and biological processes are same for man as for the rest of nature. However, in fact, man is unique; conscious mind and moral instincts cannot be reduced to these laws of nature.
Struggle and natural selection in nature. Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem, In Memoriam, gave from to the concept of struggle and natural selection:
- Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life, …
- 'So careful of the type?' but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone;
I care for nothing, all shall go. …
- Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law-
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravin, shriek'd against his creed-
In Darwin's autobiography, he acknowledged his debt to Thomas Malthus' book, Essay on Population, in the often-quoted passage:
In October 1838, that is fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement "Mathus on Population," and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavorable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work.
However, the observance of struggle does not necessarily make it right or applicable to humans, especially the excesses that have at time been seen in social Darwinism.
There are two types of design arguments: (1) the conditions for life were fine-tuned, and (2) life itself was designed. The second type of argument is valid in any kind of creation theory. However, some evidence for the first type of argument is not compatible with all creation theories. This evidence from astrophysics assumes a Designer who works through naturalistic processes in the formation of the physical matter of the universe.
The argument from is a strong argument. It is a faith-affirming for the believer when facts in the natural world provide empirical evidence consistent with belief in a Designer and the supernatural God of Scripture. It provides evidence for the unbeliever to suggest that a totally naturalistic world view is not sufficient.
The argument is strongest when it is carefully presented and doesn't claim more than it can deliver. Exaggerated negative predictions of the past only made the Christian appear a fool when they happened: "man will never synthesize any organic molecules" or "man will never set foot on the moon". Scientists like to have incontrovertible facts, but the design argument doesn't go that far. The far existence of God cannot be proved. Blaise Pascal in his Pensées observed that "We have an incapacity for proving anything which no amount of dogmatism can overcome."
The evidence for design--the difficulty in arriving at a spontaneous origin for life and the gaps in the fossil record--suggest that a Designer/Creator may be a better explanation of the data than what naturalistic science offers. However, this evidence is also consistent with some kind of progressive creation. The issue of time--how long life has existed on this earth--is next addressed.
My personal philosophy
To me, the issue of a short time scale is a much more difficult topic than the issues of naturalism/supernaturalism and design for life, so I will start with my personal philosophy.
Although I myself prefer a (short-age) recent, world-wide, catastrophic flood model to a (long-age) evolutionary model, I do not believe a short-age model is supported scientifically: much data does not easily fit, no comprehensive model is available, and a supernatural component must be included. I am not overly concerned with this situation, because I am not basing my belief in the short ages on science. So, what do I do?
Empirical evidence should be necessary for any belief system, and I do find evidence (as discussed above) that a totally naturalistic worldview is insufficient. This leads to some kind of a religious approach to life, which is in my case is Bible-based Christianity.
With a Christian world view as a basis, it is difficult to picture the biblical God of love as using competition, survival of the fittest, the rule of tooth and claw, and death as His preferred method for the development of life; however, we find evidence for this kind of activity throughout the geologic record. In order to harmonize this evidence with a biblical worldview, it is easiest to assume that this destructive activity was the result of man's sin (and thus happened after the creation of man) and was buried in a worldwide flood. This suggests (although doesn't require) a short time period since God created the various life forms, man fell, and sin resulted in the destruction of the world.
It is from the philosophical framework that I try to find at least some empirical evidence that preferentially supports short ages and more that is at least consistent with it; however, I don't expect overwhelmingly good scientific evidence, nor to be able to prove my viewpoint, because a supernatural component must be included.
Some of this evidence is presented in the next several sections; however, this and similar evidence should not be used as good scientific reason to believer in short ages, because it can easily leave one with an incomplete picture, and thus a philosophical misunderstanding: (1) If one believes that the limited data consistent with a short-age model makes it a defensible scientific model, he can easily be unprepared for facing the much greater weight of data that has been fit into the long-age theory. The weight of scientific evidence is on the side of long ages. (2) If one believes it is safe to accept the Bible because science supports it, it is tantamount to putting science above the Bible and reason and sense perception above revelation. Belief in a short chronology [and perhaps the Bible as well] can then easily be discarded when the scientific evidence is found to be lacking.
The sample evidence below and other evidence similar to it can be useful in suggesting that some scientific data is consistent with a short-age model, as long as it is recognized that: (1) The arguments are in a very simplified format, but are more complicated and equivocal when all factors are taken into account. (2) At least part of the evidence for rapid, wide-spread activity fits easily into a long-age model as well. (3) Any comprehensive geologic model doesn't fit all the data, so that problems with a long-age model do not necessarily mean that a short-age model is correct. (4) Significant data exists that has no good explanation in a short-age model. (5) No comprehensive, short-age model is even available. (6) Ultimately, a biblical short-age model would be expected to include some supernatural activity, immediately making it unacceptable as a scientific model at all.
Some scientific data preferentially supports a short chronology
Paraconformities. How long did it take to lay down the rock layers, for example those so readily seen in the Grand Canyon? The standard interpretation requires millions of year; however, flat contacts representing the passage of tens of millions of years (as dated by fossils) between layers can be found rather frequently. Major erosion would be expected at these contacts, if left exposed for long periods of time. The frequent lack of significant erosion suggests that the successive layers were deposited much more rapidly. (Roth, 1988)
Paleocurrents. Is geologic activity local or wide-spread? A massive collection of data is available suggesting that ancient water currents were uni-directional over wide areas. The standard geological paradigm would expect water to flow into a depositional basin from many different directions; whereas, a flood model would more likely propose flood waters sweeping across large areas in a single direction, as is observed.
Some (reinterpreted) scientific data will not fit either paradigm
Catastrophism. In the last 20 or 30 years, more and more evidence has been interpreted in terms of catastrophism. Examples include: turbidites, the channeled scablands of Washington state, and meteor impacts (such as a possible one defining the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary). Fossilization processes and mass burials also suggest catastrophic activity. Mount St. Helens is a modern example of this kind of catastrophic activity, where sediments hardened rapidly and deep canyons were quickly eroded. (Roth, 1986; Brand)
Yellowstone fossil forests. In some places, Yellowstone National Park has more than 70 volcanic layers, each of which contains upright trees. If each layer represents a forest requiring 1000 years to mature, the total time required would be more than 70,000 years. Much research has gone into studying these layers. Results suggest that instead of being buried forests, the trees may have been destroyed, transported (with some oriented vertically), and buried rapidly by successive volcanic eruptions. (Coffin)
Coconino footprints. Some rock layers in the middle of the geologic column have been interpreted as being deposited under desert conditions. That would be difficult, if most of the rocks in the geologic column were deposited during a world-wide flood. The Coconino sandstone in the Grand Canyon area is one such example. However, recent studies suggest that trackways in this formation more closely resemble modern trackways made underwater. (Brand and Tang)
Some scientific data is difficult to fit into a short chronology
Order in the fossil record. The geologic column is based on the order of fossils in the (sedimentary) rocks. The following table gives a general idea of the types of life found at different levels in the column.
The Colorado plateau is one area where the sequence can be observed, but the order is worldwide, so that index fossils from this sequence do well at correlating from one area of the earth to another. A long-age evolutionary model easily explains the order by gradual development over long periods of time. Sudden appearances in the record, such as the Cambrian explosion and the appearance of angiosperms, are difficult but not impossible to explain. A short-age flood model explains the order by ecological zonation and by differential animal behavior, motility, flotation, and sorting; however, some specific features are not particularly easy to explain: biogeography, the detailed small-scale order, the general lack of mixing (no humans with dinosaurs, no angiosperm pollen with trilobites), and the observation that fossils (even of animal types assumed to be on Noah's ark) become more and more similar to modern forms as one moves up the geologic column.
Radiometric dating. Evidence that the matter of the universe, the solar system, and the earth are old comes from such areas as: element and isotope abundance's, the naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, the Oklo phenomena, the concordance between various radiometric dating methods, and the constancy of radiometric decay rates. The life associated with these old rocks is assumed to have a corresponding old age. This evidence presents a significant problem for a short-age model. Following are some attempted approaches to the problem, but no coherent short-age explanation is available.
Radiometric dating is not a perfect science, so its problems can easily be emphasized. Discordance between different radiometric dates is not uncommon (although often understood) due to argon retention (only pertinent for K/Ar dating), to metamorphic resetting, and to different source areas of sedimentary rock. Coals, expected to be millions of years old, have been dated with carbon-14 at 40 thousand years. Perhaps the only dates published are those that agree with expectations. Other questionable evidence has also been suggested such as: pleochroic halos for polonium, lack of helium in the earth's atmosphere, and the small depth of meteor dust on the moon.
Perhaps one can accept that the rocks are really old, but the associated life is young independent of the radiometric dates. If old matter, but young life is accepted, some suggestions from geochemistry may help with the sequence of dates: fractionation/zonation in the magma chamber, crustal material incorporated in the magma as it moves, isochrons instead of being mixing lines, and argon escape in submarine volcanic rock being dependent on hydrostatic pressure.
Several other features should be kept in mind when discussing the age of the universe and the earth: (1) Extrapolation back in time is reasonable, but requires caution. (2) Unexpected scientific discoveries in the past have changed age estimates by several orders of magnitude. (3) Evidence from special and general relativity suggest that our perception of time is relative, rather than absolute. (4) Perhaps time is just the god-of-the-gaps for evolution--given enough time anything can happen, so that the impossible becomes possible and the possible probable. (5) God's supernatural intervention can at times provide appearance of age, such as the water-to-wine miracle.
Geological evidence. Although not totally impossible to fit into a short-age model, the following evidence is easier to explain in a long-age model: cooling of batholiths and tectonic plates, coral reef growth rates, "annual" sedimentary layers that in places may number in the millions, ice core data, length of time for geomagnetic reversals, reworked sediments, and fossilized evidence of significant animal activity.
Theological and scientific implications of different time models
Entire universe young. This view is held by many young-earth creationists. YES This model is the simplest to defend theologically, due to almost complete lack of contrary evidence in Scripture. Quite possibly this was the understanding of the ancient Israelites. NO It fits very poorly with much of the scientific evidence.
Solar system and earth young –BUT- universe old. There were other previously created worlds, and the devil sinned before this earth was created (Job 1:6; 38:7; Ps. 33:6; Col. 1:16; DA 834; PP 41,42; GC 497; SR 19). This may be the most common understanding held by Seventh-day Adventists. YES It helps scientifically in explaining astrophysical phenomena, such as light from stars that appear to be millions of light-years away. NO If the Sabbath commandment of the immutable Decalogue is for the entire universe, it would suggest that the entire universe was created during a 7-day creation week. And old universe model could accept long ages for stellar evolution; however, it arbitrarily states that the star in our solar system (Earth's sun) was a fiat creation.
Life on earth young (6000 years) – But – materials of earth and solar system old (billions of years). The soft (or passive) gap theory suggests that the heavens in Genesis 1 include only the atmosphere and the earth includes only the dry land. The Review and Herald has suggested this view on various occasions (1860, 1887, 1964, 1993, 1998). YES This view may assist in explaining the old radiometric dates as actual ages for the rocks, without necessarily assuming that the constituent fossils are also old. NO This model is not inherently obvious in the creation account, and is only suggested in science; however, even the science has problems. The rocks with little life (Precambrian) and those with much life (Phanerozoic) are geologically similar in many ways, so that arguing for an old Precambrian and a young Phanerozoic may not be consistent. In addition, if the sun and moon were not actually created on the fourth day but only appeared to an observer, perhaps the plants and animals were not really created during creation week but only appeared on their perspective days as well. Accepting the stellar evolution of the sun rather than its fiat creation on day 4 would have been just as unacceptable for the Israelites as accepting the evolution of life rather than its fiat creation on the other days. The Israelites needed to reject all of the nature gods, including the sun god Ra, as independent of Yahweh.
Life on earth young (approximately 10 thousand years) –BUT- not exactly 600 years. Using the genealogies of the patriarchs between Adam and Abraham, the various Old Testament manuscripts provide a range of ages since creation. YES This vies more easily harmonizes some archeology (carbon-14 dates) with Scripture. NO Ellen White makes numerous statements about the age of the earth being about 600 years, so this view suggests that inspired documents are not necessarily accurate in all scientific details.
Recent creation and world-wide flood –BUT- somewhat extended time (200 thousand – 1 million years). YES This view removes problems with archeology and carbon-14 ages and many questions about the ice age. NO No suggestions of these extended times is found in the biblical chronologies, and Ellen White suggested that ages should not be measured in tens of thousands of years.
Recent creation, local flood –BUT- previous life, no world-wide flood. This view is sometimes called the hard (or active) gap theory. The fossil record is due to a long period of life that was destroyed before the 7-day creation of Genesis 1 occurred. YES Although death in the fossil record would be before Adam's sin, it could still be placed after the devil's sin and be the result of his experimentation. This model agrees with the uniformitarian geologic column and long ages. NO It may be difficult to explain why the animals from an ancient creation are so similar to those of a recent creation. The Bible suggests that creature death is the result of Adam's sin. The Bible assumes a world-wide flood (1 Pet 3:20; 2Pet 2:5;3:6; Lk 17:27; Mt 24:39): migration would have been easier than an ark to save life from a local flood; God promised not to destroy the earth again with a flood (Gen. 8:21;9:11) and many local floods have occurred since then.
One literal 7-day creation week –BUT- occurring millions of years ago. This view has been suggested, but not amplified significantly. YES The Sabbath as a memorial of a 7-day creation is retained. The suggested long ages of science are accepted. NO An ancient creation associated with an ancient fall and death would result in a mixed burial of many kinds of organisms, unlike the observed paleontological sequence.
God as Creator –BUT- working over long time periods. Progressive creation and theistic evolution are accepted by many evangelical Christians who are scientists. YES It accepts the standard scientific interpretation of long ages for the geologic data, but still holds God as Creator and Designer. NO It removes the literalness of Genesis 1-11 attested by other Bible authors (creation: Heb. 11:3; 2Pet. 3:5 / Adam and Eve: Mt. 19:4-6; 1Tim. 2:14-16 / origin of sin: Rom. 5:12 / flood: Heb. 11:7; and see above). It allows for death before sin and calls into question the goodness of God's character.
Science. There does appear to be good scientific evidence for long ages (even for life on earth). The standards techniques are reasonably good with no obvious major problems. A fairly comprehensive long-age model with supporting evidence exists, whereas no good comprehensive short-age naturalistic model exists. However, science is not perfect, so one is not irrational for not accepting all of it. Radiometric dating has problems, and some scientific evidence exists for short ages.
Inspiration. Short ages for life on earth (and even for the matter of the universe) may be best theologically. Origins questions are intended to be answered by the Bible, whereas science is not best equipped to answer them. Outside evidence can be used to check a biblical interpretation, but the interpretation shouldn't be changed if it would destroy the Bible's internal consistency. However, scripture misinterpretations have occurred in the past (a geocentric universe, fixity of species,. . .), so it is important not to require more than the Bible requires. Care must be taken not to repeat dogmatic mistakes of the past, and the Bible should not be used as a science textbook.
Conflict. Conflict between science and revelation on time issues is very apparent and no clear final answer is currently available. For comparison, other examples of necessary conflict due to our finite comprehension are available: the divine/human nature of Christ, the dual cave/particle nature of light. Some scientific data fits a short chronology best, more fits a long chronology best, and much can fit both.
Therefore. Various resolutions to the conflict should be considered, weighing the pros and cons of each. One can be more objective when considering several options, rather than just one. I prefer to work with a combination of models (although uncomfortable with the extremes listed). With the chance of erring in developing an earth history model, I prefer caution – biblical certainty over scientific certainty. Some corroboration for belief from the physical world should be expected, but it is unlikely to be overwhelming, considering the difficulty of analyzing God's activity scientifically.
Any of the models have significant problems. There is a lot we don't know about time that will not be understood until heaven. There is a need for continued study and the willingness to change one's opinion as necessary. However, for me there are two non-negotiable point: any origins model that misrepresents God's character or that puts man's reason above God's revelation is totally unacceptable.
Several quotations have helped me in dealing with the evidence. First, job's response to God after God had asked him so many difficult questions:
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further. –Job 40:4,5
I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore Have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. –Job 42:2,3
The chapter is Steps to Christ on "What to Do With Doubt" is very helpful, with the following quotation being of particular interest:
God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Out faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith. (SC 105)
And we find that Jesus dealt tenderly with doubting Thomas:
… Many who, like Thomas, wait for all cause of doubt to be removed, will never realize their desire. They gradually become confirmed in unbelief. Those who educate themselves to look on the dark side, and murmur and complain, know not what they do. They are sowing the seeds of doubt, and they will have a harvest of doubt to reap. At a time when faith and confidence are most essential, many will thus find themselves powerless to hope and believe.
In His treatment of Thomas, Jesus gave a lesson for His followers. His example shows how we should treat those whose faith is weak, and who make their doubts prominent. Jesus did not overwhelm Thomas with reproach, nor did He enter into controversy with him. He revealed Himself to the doubting one. Thomas had been most unreasonable in dictating the conditions of his faith, but Jesus, by His generous love and consideration, broke down all the barriers. Unbelief is seldom overcome by controversy. It is rather put upon self-defense, and finds new support and excuse. But let Jesus, in His love and mercy, be revealed as the crucified Savior, and from many once unwilling lips will be heard the acknowledgment of Thomas, "My Lord and my God." (DA 808)
John T. Baldwin. 1992. "God and the World: William Paley's Argument from Perfection Tradition--A Continuing Influence", Harvard Theo. Rev. 85(1):109-120.
Michael J. Behe. 1996. Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Simon & Schuster, New York).
Walter Bradley. 1994. "scientific Evidence for the Existence of God", The Real Issue 13(September/October) :3-6,14.
George Cowan and David Pines. 1994. "From Metaphors to Reality?", in Complexity: Metaphors, Models, and Reality (Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA), Santa Fe Institute Proceedings, vol. XIX.
Richard Dawkins. 1987. The Blind Watchmaker (W. W. Norton).
Philip E. Johnson. 1991. Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity Press).
J. P. Moreland, ed. 1994. The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer (InterVarsity Press).
William Paley. 1802. Natural Theology: or, Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature
Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen. 1984. The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (Philosophical Library, NY).
Hubert P. Yockey. 1992. Information Theory and Molecular Biology (Cambridge Univ. Press).
Paul Davies. 1995. About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution (Simon and Schuster).
Hugh Ross. 1996. Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God: What Recent Discoveries in Astronomy and Physics Reveal About the Nature of God (NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO).
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From The Bible True. 1860. "Geology", Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 16(July 3):1.
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