My podcasting partner Stacy McCain has a post up at The Other McCain titled
Of Course, Evolution Is Racist. I believe his concluding paragraph is absolutely correct.
God rules the universe, all men will be judged by Him, and “there is no respect of persons with God.” The high and the low, the rich and the poor, men of every race and tongue — all shall acknowledge God’s authority at the final day. Never doubt that for a minute. Selah.
However, much of his post is simply wrong, based on a lack of understanding of Darwin, Nietzsche, and Genesis, compounded by a century-and-a-half of pseudoscientific and pseudotheological spin.
Properly understood, evolutionary biology does not address the existence or non-existence of God. As I show in the essays found under the Science and the Bible tab in the Menu above, nothing in the Hebrew text of Genesis limits how God exercised his power creating the Universe. Moreover, what we know from Science is fully compatible with what is revealed in the Bible. There’s no reason to be drawn into a false contest between two strawmen, one created to attack religious faith and the other created to defend a particular limited understanding of the Bible.
Indeed, being wrong about the commonly understood facts of the natural world tarnishes one’s credibility. As Augustine wrote,
If they hear a Christian embracing error in a thing that they know well, and hear him defend in the same way our Scriptures, how will they believe those books concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of life eternal, and the kingdom of heaven, when they believe they are full of lies about facts they themselves have learned from experience and the light of reason?
Here are some snippets from those essays.
I’m not a scientist or a theologian. I’m an engineer. In practicing my profession, I’m often presented with a problem that is too complex to be solved all at once. When this happens, my usual approach is to try to break the problem in to smaller chunks and to go after each simpler piece using what I know about the basic laws of Physics. These first principles include such things as Newton’s Laws of Motion or the Laws of Thermodynamics. It should not be surprising that I would take a similar approach to my understanding of how what we know of God from the Bible squares with what we know of God from the fingerprints He has left on His handiwork in creation.
What are the first principles that apply to this inquiry?
The very first principle is a belief in the existence of God and an understanding that He tells the truth. I’ll take that as a given for this work. If I’ve lost you at this point, let me suggest that you leave this post now and pick up a copy of a book such as C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity instead.
If you’re still with me, the next of these first principles is that, if God is who He says He is, then we ought to pay close attention to what He tells us—both the explicit things He tells us in the Bible and the implicit things we learn from our knowledge of the natural world.
The third of these first principles is that we will ask questions only where we can expect valid answers. When we want answers concerning the general history of the universe or the laws of its mundane behavior, we will go to Science, but there are things for which Science cannot have an answer. In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking asks
What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
Science is about how; religion is about why. Thus, if we wish to know about God’s governance of the universe or His relationship with man, we will look first to the explicit statements of the Scriptures.
* * * * *
The scientific evidence for common descent is quite strong. Indeed, over the last century or so, no other hypothesis has been able to account scientifically for the unity and diversity of life on earth. Common descent has been verified so extensively that it is the currently accepted scientific “fact.” The common descent hypothesis makes predictions that have been confirmed not only in genomics and molecular biology but also in other areas such as paleontology and anthropology. No significant contradictory physical evidence has been found. Competing proposals either have been contradicted by the evidence or are not testable using the scientific method. No other scientific explanation competes with common descent.
* * * * *
No serious biologist doubts the theory of evolution is the best explanation we have thus far for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Given the genetic relatedness of all known organisms, it is hard to imagine how one would go about understanding biology without the foundation that evolution provides. Oh, one could do what was once called natural history and classify living things in various ways, but one could not engage in modern biology.
* * * * *
Notice also that God commanded that the earth and the waters “bring forth” the living things He created. The text doesn’t say how, it just says that God commanded and that it was so. Thus, when I look at what Scripture really says and the evidence of God’s handiwork in creation, I am led to believe that He was wise enough to create a universe that would use the natural processes He provided from the beginning to work its way toward producing the creatures God wanted. Of course, God may have created each species or group of species separately, but there is nothing in Genesis that requires us to say that God used any particular means other than His commands for the universe to be as He willed. But His fingerprints seem to be on one particular method—evolution through natural selection.
* * * * *
I wrote in the Introduction that Science and Theology are both attempts to learn true things, but they usually use very different methods. As we’ve gone down the Science-side of the street, we’ve looked at what Science and the Bible have to say of about the origin of space and time. We’ve considered the spectrum of beliefs about the origins of the universe, the Earth, life, and man, and the nature of time and its relationship to God. We examined what our own DNA and the Bible reveal about the origin and nature of man, and at what physics, geology, chemistry, biology, and Genesis tell us about how the earth got to be like it is today. We looked at how astronomy reinforces the New Testament’s record of the life of Christ.
On the Bible-side we’ve seen how the truth of the Scriptures can inform our interpretation of Science. Science and the Bible are not to opposing ways of looking at the world. They are complementary ways of understanding different slices of God’s truth.
A God Who can say “Let there be …” and have things of unimaginable complexity happen is an awesome God. I hope that you leave this series of posts with a deeper sense of awe of the Almighty.
* * * * *
One more thing … Evolution isn’t racist, but many so-called Social Darwinists used it as a false foundation for their racism just as some religious folks tried to use various misinterpretations of the Bible to support their racism.
UPDATE—There really isn’t a philosophical connection between Darwin and Nietzsche. In fact, Nietzsche was dismissive of Darwin. He wrote this in Beyond Good and Evil—
There are truths best perceived by mediocre minds, because they are most suited to them; there are truths that have charms and seductive powers only for mediocre spirits: we are being forced just now to embrace this perhaps unpleasant tenet, ever since the spirit of respectable, but mediocre Englishmen (I am thinking of Darwin, John Stuart Mill, and Herbert Spencer) has begun to gain the upper hand in the middle region of European taste.
Nietzsche’s posthumous Writings from the Late Notebooks contains this—
What surprises me most when surveying the great destinies of man is always seeing before me the opposite of what Darwin and his school see or want to see today: selection in favor of the stronger, in favor of those who have come off better, the progress of the species. The very opposite is quite palpably the case: the elimination of the strokes of luck, the uselessness of the better-constituted types, the inevitable domination achieved by the average, even below-average types.
Nietzsche didn’t see how Darwin’s views lead to the Übernensch. The imagined connection between Darwin and Nietzsche comes from the writings of late 19th- and early 20th-century pundits who had no real understanding of either the Englishman’s or the German’s work.