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Perhaps the only way to find out where we are in the human drama, and where we should be going, is to go back to the very beginning.
Did you ever come into the middle of a murder mystery or spy thriller? Some people are chasing others, shooting, ransacking hotel rooms. But you don’t know what they’re looking for or why. You don’t even know who the “good guys” are or the “bad.” Confusing and unsettling, isn’t it? The only way to find out where you are in the story, and where you’re going, of course, is to go back to the beginning.
Our lives are much like coming into the middle of a spy story. As soon as we’re old enough to be conscious of our surroundings, we find nice people around us, some not-so-nice, and some always bickering about something that happened before we were born. In school, we learn certain nations are friends of ours, but others are enemies—but some of the ones that were enemies are now friends (and some think some of our friends are really enemies in disguise). Our parents say it’s wrong; our peers say it’s “cool.” It’s hard to figure out who the “good guys” are and who are the “bad.”
We know we’re supposed to be looking for something. It’s got something to do with “happiness”—but what is it: Money? Success? Family? Friends? Self-sacrifice? Beating your competitors? All of these? None of these? Confusing and unsettling, isn’t it?
Perhaps the only way to find out where we are in the human drama, and where we should be going, is to go back to the very beginning.
Human beginnings were once the domain of philosophers, religious leaders, college “bull sessions,” park-bench debates, and barroom brawls. But now “science” has gotten into the act.
I love science! One thing that attracted me to science as a college student was simply this: Scientists get answers. In philosophy, history, and literature classes, we always seemed to be studying “age-old questions,” no closer (or not even as close?) to the answers than were Plato or Aristotle. But in science classes, things were always moving forward. We found out one answer was wrong and another answer was right, and then we moved on to the next question.
Maybe, I thought, science can help us with the really big question: How did it all begin—the universe, the earth, life itself, my life? Some scientists now believe they can take us right back to the very beginning of everything!
In the beginning was hydrogen. At first that hydrogen was pressed together into some incredibly dense ball of matter. Then, for reasons we may never fully understand, that ball of matter exploded in a “Big Bang” that sent radiation, gas, and dust rushing out into the ever-expanding reaches of our universe. Under the influence of gravity, particles began to collect to form galaxies. Within those galaxies, stars began to shine. Around those stars, cold material collected to form planets. Of all the millions and billions of planets that must have formed in a manner like this, one is this tiny chunk of rock we call home, the earth.
At first the earth was quite different from what it is now. Lightning flashed back and forth in an atmosphere of methane and ammonia for perhaps a billion years, producing molecules that rained down into the ancient oceans. Then, just by chance, a group of molecules got together that could reproduce, and life on earth began.
About 600 million years ago, fossils first began to form, in abundance, of those early, simple kinds of life, forms like the trilobites. About 400 million years ago, the first land plants and animals appeared in the sequence. About four million years ago, certain apes took those first upright steps toward becoming human beings.
People are the first animals able to look back over the history of their own development. As we do so, we learn things that help us understand ourselves and our nature. Why do we do things harmful to our own kind? It’s that “jungle fight for survival” that brought us into being in the first place.
But we’re not without hope. We’re already beginning to take control of that molecule of heredity, DNA. Using the techniques of genetic engineering, we can re-make ourselves into our own image of what mankind really ought to be. We’re already reaching for the stars. There’s simply no limit to what human beings can do.
Have you heard that story before? I’m sure you have. It’s a story told over and over again in textbooks, television programs, museum displays, and magazines. It’s a story called “evolution.” It’s a story I taught my students during the first several years I taught university biology.
For me, “evolution“ was much more than just a scientific theory. It was a total world-and-life view, an alternate religion, a substitute for God. It gave me a feeling of my place in the universe, and a sense of my relationship to others, to society, and to the world of nature that had ultimately given me life. I knew who the “good guys” were, and where I was going.
I had heard Christians and other “religious fanatics” talk about “back to God, back to the Bible, back to this, or back to that.” But for me as an evolutionist, the best was yet to come. And, as a scientist and professor of biology, I could help make it happen. By contributing to advances in science and technology, both directly and through my students, I could be part of the process of bringing “heaven on earth.”
Let’s face it. Evolution is an exciting and appealing idea! A lot of scientific evidence can be used to support it. Perhaps most importantly for me and many others, evolution means there is no God, no “Creator” who sets the rules. Human beings are tops. Each of us is his or her own boss. We set our own rules, our own goals. We decide what’s best for us.
I didn’t just believe evolution; I embraced it enthusiastically! And I taught it enthusiastically. I considered it one of my major missions as a science teacher to help my students rid themselves completely of old, “pre-scientific” superstitions, such as Christianity. In fact, I was almost fired once for teaching evolution so vigorously that I had Christian students crying in my class!
Then I got invited to a Bible study. How silly, I thought, that educated people nearing the 21st century would still study a dusty old outmoded book like the Bible. But the Bible study was led by the chemistry professor where I was teaching. More importantly, I was promised free coffee and donuts for coming. Now those are three of my favorite words: free … coffee … donuts! So, for less than honorable motives, my wife, Mary, and I set off for that Bible study. Besides, I thought, by pointing out all the obvious errors in the Bible, maybe I could convince them to study something more relevant, like evolution, for instance!
Most of the errors I tried to point out turned out to be my errors. The chemistry professor was a pretty good Bible teacher, and that got to be irritating. But the free coffee and donuts kept us coming back anyway. I soon learned, much to my amazement at first, that the Bible describes the origin and history of life on earth in a way dramatically different from evolution’s story:
In the beginning was God. With plan, purpose, and special acts of creation, God stretched out the heavens and clothed the earth with plants both “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” He created our first parents (Adam and Eve) in His own “image,” placed them in paradise (Eden) to live forever, and asked only for their love and trust.
Unfortunately, our first parents sinned—rejected God’s love and put their trust in their own opinions rather than God’s Word. That self-centered arrogance ruined the world God had created “all very good,” and brought death, disease, and disaster to the earth—a “bondage to decay.”
The early earth became so filled with violence and corruption that God destroyed it in a global flood to give the world a fresh start with Noah and those with him on the Ark. Sadly, human evil has again polluted God’s world, and the present world is destined for cleansing by fire. We might summarize the sad history of our planet as 3 C’s: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe.
But we’re not without hope. There is a fourth “C.” The same God who created us, the same God who daily cares for us, is the same God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to conquer sin and death and to raise us to new life, rich and abundant, now and forever. As “new creations in Christ,” we wait for a “new heavens and new earth,” where “the wolf and the lamb will lie down together,” there will be no more pain, tears, or death, and peace and paradise will be perfectly restored.
Here’s one point on which everyone can agree: Evolution and the Bible paint radically different pictures of the origin, history, and destiny of life on earth! Of course, there are many different views about both evolution and creation (which we’ll discuss as we go along), and maybe it’s possible to “blend the best of both.” But to sharpen our understanding, we’ll consider the two “classic” views of origins that have been battling it out for the last 150 years or so.
According to “classic” evolution, our universe began with a “Big Bang,” a colossal explosion that scattered “dead” (non-living) matter throughout expanding space. Life on earth began purely by accident, without any plan or purpose, from a stupendously lucky clump of molecules that had the ability to reproduce. With life came struggle, and death; and those forms of life that inherited (again, by chance) traits more “fit” won the “struggle for survival,” killed off the competition, and paved the way for evolutionary expansion. Finally, the sun will burn out, the universe will expand or contract itself into oblivion, and life will be no more.
In short, the evolutionary history of the universe might be pictured as four B’s:
By contrast, the “classic” Biblical history of the universe might be pictured as four C’s:
Creation refers to the acts by which God brought into being time, matter, energy, space, and life, all working together in a paradise of perfect peace according to His divine plan and purpose. Corruption refers to how the effects of human evil ruined God’s handiwork, bringing disease, disaster, and death. Catastrophe refers to the worldwide Flood by which God destroyed the wickedness of the ancient world to give it a fresh start with Noah and those with him on the Ark. Christ is the One who conquered evil and death, and the One coming again to restore paradise, to establish life, rich and abundant, both now and forever, in the “new heavens and new earth.”
What a difference! In evolutionary thinking, chance and struggle produce “new and improved” forms of life. In Biblical thinking, chance and struggle produce disease, decline, and death. Evolution begins with dead things; living things—including us—are temporary intruders in the universe, and death wins at last. The Bible begins with the life of God; death is a temporary intruder, and eternal life wins at Christ’s return.
Most people agree that it’s the Bible that has the happy ending: life triumphs over death. During an interview, a famous evolutionist and anti-creationist admitted that it would be nice to believe that we were especially created by a loving God who put us here to superintend the earth. But then he quickly added that it isn’t right. During a television program in which I also appeared, another leading evolutionist told how he had grown up in a religious household and had heard the “wonderful story” of a beautiful creation, ruined by man’s sin, restored by Christ’s love. But then he went on to say that the whole of his scientific training, indeed the whole development of science during the last 200 years, had convinced him the “wonderful story” was wrong. No matter how wonderful the story, it’s only self-deception (and a little stupid?) to believe it if it’s not true.
That’s the way I looked at it, too, for many years, including the first several years I taught university biology. But now I’m here to tell you the “wonderful story” is true after all! And it’s not just me. Thousands of scientists are now telling us that the scientific evidence in God’s world encourages us to believe all the wonderful promises and prospects in God’s Word, the Bible.
How can that be? How can scientists—all using the same evidence—come up with such different ideas about what that evidence means? Hasn’t “science” proved the Bible wrong? Don’t we “know” that man created “God” in his image when he reached the stage of abstract thought in evolution? Wouldn’t going back to believing God created man in His image bring back other superstitions and destroy the very fabric of society in our scientific age? Isn’t it unconscionable (and unconstitutional) to mix religion, like the Bible, with science, like evolution?
Calm down. There really are important issues at stake here, both personal and social. But that’s all the more reason to hold our emotions in check and to examine our beliefs calmly and rationally. After all, it’s important to know not only what we believe but why we believe it. Being comfortable and confident with our beliefs means that we have honestly considered the merits of beliefs different from ours. And understanding another’s beliefs helps to generate respect and compassion, even if the disagreement is deep, profound, and absolute.
This book is especially for those who love and/or respect science. In it I’d like to share with you some of the scientific evidence that helped to change me, as a biology professor, from an enthusiastic (even “evangelical”) belief in evolution to a belief instead that the Bible is the best guide to understanding God’s world and our place in His plan. But the Bible contains no explicit references to DNA, mutations, fossils, or Grand Canyon! My scientific applications of Biblical truths are no better than the evidence I use to support them.
I also want you to understand evolution clearly and thoroughly, so I’ll also be going over with you—as I still do with my students—all the standard textbook arguments used in favor of evolution.
Take your time. Be critical. Think it through. It took me three years of re-examining the evidence before I gave up my deep-seated belief in evolution and concluded, like thousands of other scientists in recent times, that the Biblical framework is the more logical inference from our scientific observations.