Evolution and Creation of Life
Evolution is a hot-button issue that has been hotly debated over the past 100 years because it seems to challenge the biblical account of creation. Typically, any such conversation polarizes into two camps – defenders of creation and defenders of evolution leaving the middle a cratered no man’s land. Such conversations often time are stumbling blocks rather than a stepping stones to Jesus. Likewise, being a creationist does not make one saved. One could be a JW, Mormon, Muslim, or Jew and adhere to even young-earth creationism. This does not mean that this conversation shouldn’t happen or isn’t important. But as a rule, I prefer to keep this an “in house” discussion among believers rather a public discussion.
Rather than drawing battle lines between these two camps, evolution can be addressed within the context of evolution, looking for general revelation that can be used to point people to Jesus. But before thus discussion can take place, we have to be clear what we are talking about when we say “evolution” as it encompasses many things. Evolution, strictly speaking, is a biological process that talks about how species adapt to changes in their environment over time. More broadly, evolution talks about the origin and subsequent propagation of species. And most broadly, evolution talks about how the universe itself evolved from a singularity to what it is today.
When talking about a strict view evolution, we are talking about the well evidenced process by which species adapt and change to the environment. When speaking strictly about evolution, there is nothing about the biological process in and of itself that is in conflict with creation, rather it is subsequent to and part of creation, and even more so, such a process would be more likely to imply God than not imply God. The hallmark of evolution is reproductive success – the ability of life to propagate from one generation to the next. In other words, evolution has a goal, which would make it teleological. Naturalists on the other hand do not think that natural processes including evolution are inherently teleological. They are two common objections given to this line of thinking. First, rather they may only have the appearance of teleology. In attempts to explain away this appearance of teleology, naturalists describe natural phenomenon in carefully worded expressions of “functions” and “programs” rather than goals and purpose and such functions are “shaped” by natural selection. These approaches, however, are problematic. In trying to avoid teleology they invoke it by invoking the teleological process of evolution, and this really amounts to nothing more than a word games. Second, some will focus on natural selection, saying that natural selection is only works in the present rather than the future. Natural selection, however, is only part of the picture, as it fails to account for the object of operation, namely biological species. The drive for reproductive success within a species is the teleological element of the process of evolution and this is honed by natural selection.
At the next level is evolution as it relates to the origin of life. There are many explanations of the origin of life, but the most widely touted explanation is called abiogenesis, which suggests that life rose from lifeless matter. Abiogenesis is complicated, consisting of one complex step leading to the next complex step. With life from lifelessness, one has essentially two options – it is a determined process or an undetermined process. Naturalist will generally say that evolution as such is a determined process rather than a random process. This deterministic process, however, is the result of a complex network of preconditions. There are a number of “cosmological constants” that in and of themselves are not apparently determined. Some of these constants could have a different value without fundamentally changing how the universe works, but would otherwise make the universe hostile to the formation of life. The complex array of values within their possible ranges makes the probability that they were arranged in the way they are arranged incredibly small. The general response to this is that the universe is one in a string of many universes. This is problematic in that is an ad hoc objection with little to no evidential or academic support outside the realm of a mere possibility. Second, it opposes Occam’s Razor – it is multiplying entities beyond necessity, which in this case is a string of multiverses.