Last week, John Joseph Porter opined on why combining conversion to Christianity with criticism of evolution is bad. I’d like to address on his fourth point. One of the things that I’ve noted after the distribution of The Origin of Species on campus is that most people at Harvard think anyone who questions evolution is an absolute fool. I’ll never forget when I walked in on a meeting of the science department in my high school and heard one teacher call a student “brainwashed” for bringing up criticisms of evolution. The consensus of academia is that if you disagree with evolution, you must be a Bible-thumping, brainwashed hick. I’m going to go through two legitimate criticisms of evolution, even though I would consider myself an evolutionist.
Before we start, we must understand the important distinction between macroevolution, which generally entails the claim that man evolved by chance alone, and microevolution, which is only requires natural selection operating within populations. Anyone who denies the latter must blatantly reject empirical evidence to the contrary. However, there is an important question as to whether the natural selection we observe occurring within a short period of time can be extrapolated to defend speciation. Even if it can, I think there are problems with believing that evolution can explain the presence of all life on earth.
First, although macroevolution can explain speciation, it cannot explain how the earliest forms of life began. How did life spring out of non-life? How did matter go from being inanimate to animate? How did objects miraculously start self-replicating? These are questions that science still struggles to answer. Harvard’s own Andy Knoll stated in an interview with NOVA, “The short answer is we don’t really know how life originated on this planet. There have been a variety of experiments that tell us some possible roads, but we remain in substantial ignorance.” Interestingly enough, in what I can only imagine is a veiled reference to 1 Corinthians 13: 12 (KJV), the interviewer later asks “So at this point we’re seeing the origins of life through a glass darkly?” Knoll essentially said yes, and that science will always have some unanswered mysteries, even though we will eventually get to a better understanding of those mysteries.
I think Knoll’s response is articulate and intelligent. However, it reveals that there are still very big holes in our theory of evolution (especially the gaping one at the very beginning). An evolutionist can claim that since scientists have come this far in figuring out evolution, they will eventually fill in the holes. The problem is that they’d be relying pretty heavily on a “science of the gaps” argument and essentially taking on faith that science can and will figure out the problems (even though it hasn’t for over 150 years). I have no problem with that, so long as evolutionists are intellectually honest where the evidence ends and their faith begins. Of course, most like to pretend that the theory is based on incontrovertible empirical evidence alone.
Even if this gaping hole were filled, there would still be a big problem with evolution: the problem of man. Under a purely macroscopic evolutionary account, man is but another life form created by chance, the result of completely natural events, and a part of nature itself. Yet our experience screams at us that man is distinct from nature. A bird’s nest is drastically different from a man’s home. What a beaver makes is a far cry from the Hoover dam. A mole’s den cannot compare to the chunnel.
I’ve heard many people in support of evolution describe how some catastrophic event will eventually occur and wipe out mankind, restoring the planet to her “natural state.” In other words, somehow man is an ugly unnatural force in an otherwise beautiful, natural earth. Yet if evolution is true, then we should view man’s machines as no more mysterious or unnatural than the twigs in a birds nest. There can be no return to nature if man is merely a part of nature itself. A city should be as natural as a forest. But the fact is that we don’t look at a city and think “oh, what a beautiful thing that Nature has wrought.” We distinguish between the beauty of nature and the beauty of objects made by man.
This is where I take issue with the evolutionary account of the world: it denies the fundamental difference between man and nature. Man strikes me as much more than a mere arrangement of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorus. Evolution doesn’t give a good explanation of how that is possible, and that is why I don’t believe that evolution gives a complete account of life on this planet.