Burning Questions: In the Beginning… then what
I come to tell you today, that both the evolutionists and the creationists are completely wrong about how life began on earth. I have seen definitive evidence that it was neither God, nor the big bang and primordial ooze. Life began about 4.5 billion years ago with … pizza. Yes, Pizza! Have you ever left a piece of Pizza in the back of the refrigerator for too long? It begins to recreate the beginning of life right there in your kitchen… "My theory is that around 4.5 billion years ago, the earth was bombarded by intergalactic pizzas. These then provided the ideal breeding ground in which early organisms could thrive and" [i] and voila… here we are.
I would have been surprised if I hadn't received a question about Creation and evolution for the Burning Questions series. For 153 years, since Darwin published his book Origin of the Species there has hardly been a time when creation and evolution were not debated in scholarly circles and churches, if not around kitchen tables.
I was surprised to learn, however, that today 46% Americans believe in strict Creationism. That is much higher than I expected. According to last May's Gallup Poll 15% believe in strict Evolution without God. 32% that God had a part in evolution. [ii] It seems like everyone has an opinion. Why? Because these are the seminal questions of our existence.
- When did we get here?
- How did we get here?
- And why are we here?
We ask these questions in 100 different ways, but the search for the beginning of humanity, the world and the universe is a universal quest of both science and faith. It is the quest of both the physicist and the theologian. That is good, because I want to say today that it takes both the biologist and the Bible to provide sufficient answers for me. I believe, when science is rightly understood, and the Bible is rightly understood there is no conflict.
Yet we have two groups on opposite ends of the rope playing tug of war. What is the argument, then? I suspect you know it well, but to summarize the two extremes:
· On the one hand are learned scientists who say the universe is 14 billion years old, the result of the big bang. The earth is 4 billion years old and life started 3 billion years ago by completely natural processes. Life has slowly and steadily evolved into the diversity and complexity that we see today. Any suggestion that they cannot study, know, and explain the whole process in detail is "ignorant, the dogmatic, and the prejudiced." [iii]
· At the other extreme, there are faithful folk who say the earth is 5,772 years old because they have counted the Biblical generations back to Adam. God created the world in 144 hours and rested for the next 24. Any suggestion of an older world or any process not in the first two chapters of Genesis is a threat to their faith.
Those who hold this dogmatically theistic worldview are forced into a corner having to either schizophrenically separate faith from science so they never cross paths, or reinterpret the Bible saying the days of creation were billions of years long, and that dinosaurs appeared and disappeared in day 4.
The truth according to the Gallop poll is at least 1/3 of Americans (I suspect even more) are somewhere in between these two characterizations. I know I am. It may or may not surprise you to know that I love science and as a youth, I thought I would be an organic chemist working for one of the oil companies. I used to hang out in the physics room instead of going to study hall. My all time favorite course in High School was chemistry. Yet, you know me as a man of faith. I take seriously the teachings of the Bible and the importance of the spiritual life. How do I bring those two things together in a culture that likes to force us into one pigeonhole or the other?
I believe that neither science nor religion should be afraid of the truth contained in the other. As Hugh Ross, a Christian astrophysicist wrote, "The work of secular scientists is the friend, not the foe, of Christians. Their efforts have given us some of the strongest evidences for our Creator, God, and Savior."[iv]
Francis Schaeffer stated it well when he said, "when all the facts are finally in, we will discover that there is no final conflict between the Bible rightly interpreted and the facts of science rightly understood." [v]
I have come to what I want to call a modern Biblical worldview. Although I credit the many authors whose names I have, over the years, forgotten, this is wholly my personal position, but I believe it is cohesive, and has both theological and scientific integrity.
As I speak, remember I am a Christian, but God gave me a brain and I like to use it. I am not a scientist, but I love science.
I think it is our job as Christians to turn the world upside down. So I think the way to approach these seminal questions is exactly backwards of how I listed them before.
The first question becomes, "Why are we here?" I start there because that is the fundamental question of Genesis. It is, unfortunately, a question that Science does not address. That is a question the biologists prefer to leave to the philosophers and theologians. As people of faith when we read Genesis, what does it tell us?
· Are we the chance products of mindless evolution; or are we here because God created us?
· Did the human race rise up from the primordial ooze; or were we intentionally created by the hand of God?
Genesis tells us clearly, (even if we can't agree on anything else) that we are here because God created us. By divine Fiat-- that means that by the power of the free will of God saying "Let there be life" we are here. We are here because God wanted us here! Not by chance, not by accident, but simply because God wanted us here.
We are certainly products of natural processes and natural selection. We are certainly genetically related to the chimpanzee, the koala bear, and the porcupine. However, there is something special about humanity. We are created in the image of … (what) the image of God.
If we don't believe that we are here because of Divine Fiat and to be God's image on the earth; then there is nothing more than time, plus chance, plus a few helpful mutations that separate us from the chimpanzee, the koala bear, and the porcupine. If that's all we are, then we don't need God because the universe can take care of itself quite nicely without him. If I can believe that I am an animal, it will be easy to live like a baboon. If survival goes to the fittest, I can eliminate the weak. However, because I believe that every single man and woman is a creation of God, and that we are unique because God made us in his image, then I will have an entirely different view of the universe and my place in it.
Why are we here? We are here because it is God's desire, and because we bear God's image.
The second question is, "how did we get here?"
As people of faith, we read Genesis and it tells us how we got here. On day one, day two, day three, day four… right? If that is all we see, I think we miss something important. What if the meaning of the first two chapters of Genesis is not in the words, but behind them? In other words, maybe this is not God's daily to-do list, but rather a story of the process by which we came about? That process, according to Genesis, started with light and matter, and the collection of that matter in dry places and wet places. The first chapter of Genesis is certainly not written by a 21st century physicist, but the process sounds a lot like the Big bang Theory? In fact, it solves one of scientist's major problems. One of the problems with the big bang theory is what set it off? (Let's ignore the problem of the first law of thermodynamics which says that mass and energy can nether be created nor destroyed, so where did the matter and energy come from) Wherever it came from, the Big Bang theory says that all the matter in the universe was in a spot the size of a pinhead. It should have been the densest black hole of all time. Yet something overcame natural law, (Big bangers disagree on what that something was, some even saying that the laws of physics did not exist yet.) Nonetheless, something or someone… had to put enough energy into the system that it stopped condensing, and exploded. Something or someone lit the fuse, it was evening, and there was morning. And someone called it good.
Bio- poe- ee-sis
Bio- poe- ee-sis
First, the first life form would have to have arisen from Biopoiesis. That is from non-living matter. That is astounding. That is a 1 followed by 2 trillion zeroes.
Borel's Law of probability says that anything with more than 50 zeros is the limit at which one can reliably say something is impossible. This number is 40 billion times less likely than Borel's limit.
Noted astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle commented that the chance that higher life forms might have emerged through evolutionary processes is comparable with the chance that "a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the material therein."
That is all true unless… unless just by chance there is an outside force that starts the process, and guides the process, and declares it good. Is it possible that evolution is part of the process described in Genesis? I think so.
The other question I have, has to do with the second law of thermodynamics. "All systems if left alone tend to become less organized" (it actually says will increase in entropy) but for our purposes we will say they become less organized or simpler. Without additional energy, everything in the universe moves from complexity, to simplicity, to random chaos. Clocks run down, clothes wear out, our bodies grow old, and our hair falls out. What happens when you don't mow your grass? It doesn't mow itself. Your yard turns into a jungle.
So how is it that a bacterium becomes a more complicated amoeba; and a fish becomes a more complicated bird; and a monkey becomes a more complicated human being? It can't, according to the second law of thermodynamics, unless that system is not left alone. Unless there is something or someone saying "Let there be birds in the air, and let there be fish in the sea, and let us make man in our own image". I don't know how it worked, but the only way I, in my best (albeit simple) scientific mind, can understand evolution is with an outside force adding energy to the system. I call that outside force and energy, God. It was morning and it was evening, and it was good.
As people of faith, we read Genesis and it tells us where life came from what about the primordial ooze of evolution? I don't have any problem believing that God worked through that primordial ooze.
The last question is, "when did we get here?" That is a relatively easy question. Reading genesis there is no reference to time. The Hebrew word we translate as beginning, as in "in the beginning" means a great expanse of time.
We know that human beings have been here for more than the 6000 years the strict creationists give us. That is not counting anything that came before us.
My geologist brother would say the world is about 4.6 billion years old and life started 3.6 billion years ago. That sounds like a great expanse of time to me. That sounds like "In the Beginning."
I am no scientist, but I think as Christians our worldview starts with God; integrates the best science we have available, and it returns to God. Where is the conflict? There is none, except for those unfortunate few who are too entrenched in their little worldview, either naturalistic or Biblical, to see what they are missing. For the rest of the faithful and the rest of the science community the conflict just does not exist.
Creationists and evolutionists, and everyone in between, can all agree that putting a man on the moon was one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of the 20th century. Those who were involved were the best and the brightest this country had to offer.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. As their tiny capsule floated through space, they saw the glistening blue and white hues of earth rise slowly filling their window. In that moment, what do you think those men did? They did not quote Einstein, Shakespeare, or Darwin. Only one thing could capture the magnificence of the moment. Billions of people around the world heard the voice of Jim Lovel from outer space as he began to read Genesis chapter 1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The astronauts read Genesis 1 to a worldwide audience. In that moment science and spirituality stood side by side in harmony.
May you find God no matter where you have come from, and no matter where your search may take you.
[i] Mark D. Greene, "How Life Began," Time, 142:8, November 1, 1993
[ii] Results are based on telephone interviews conducted May 3-6, 2012 with a random sample of –1,024—adults, aged 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Http://www.gallup.com/file/poll/155006/Creationism_120601.pdf
[iii] Horatio Hockett Newman, University of Chicago
[iv] Hugh Norman Ross (born July 24, 1945) is a Canadian-born astrophysicist and Christian apologist.Ross has a PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto and an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of British Columbia. He is known for establishing his own ministry called Reasons To Believe which uses scientific evidence to ague for the truth of Christianity. It promotesprogressive and day-age forms of Old Earth Creationism. Ross accepts the scientific consensus on an old age of the earth and an old age of the universe, though he rejects the scientific consensus on evolution and abiogenesis as explanations for the history and origin of life (Wikipedia)
[v] No Final Conflict: The Bible Without Error in All That it Affirms: Inter Varsity Press / Tyndale / Hodder and Stoughton (1975)