Five Views of the Book of Revelation

One of the reasons Revelation is (I think) the most difficult book of the Bible is that not only are there disputes about particular verses, but the purpose and the interpretation of the book as a whole are also disputed.  No other book has had such a wide diversity about its basic meaning and interpretation.  Here is a brief chart listing the five main ways Revelation has been understood through the centuries. (click on the chart for a better resolution)

Christian Science

No, I am not talking about the religion called “Christian Science”.  That religion always reminds me of Grape Nuts (its neither grapes, nor nuts).  I am talking about how a Christian does science, or understands science, or appreciates science. 

This is not a question to be settled only by the people in the lab coats.  All of us are affected by science, and oft those outside the trenches are best able to take in the meaning of the battle.  I claim no expertise, then, but simply lay out my opinion for your comments and thoughts.

First, a Christian doing science will use the same methodology as anyone else doing science.  He or she will use the scientific method appropriate to the field of study.  Appeals to the bible or the viewpoints of the church (as if the church was univocal) will be totally out of place in deciding scientific questions. Nor will the Christian scientist be affected by the question of whether or not God exists.  The reason is that if God does exist, he has presumably left the area of science under investigation subject to the natural laws of physics he established.  Miracles are more the realm of the historian than of the scientist.  This combination (of belief in God and metaphysical neutrality in methodology) actually gives the Christian an advantage: He or she is able to be content with saying of some things: “we don’t know”, rather than forcing facts into ill-fitting theories that try to explain everything from a naturalistic viewpoint. 

Second, the Christian doing science or appreciating science is able to understand the picture, not just examine the brushstrokes.  I take this metaphor from the times I have stood staring at a Van Gogh at a local museum.  With my face a few inches from the glass I have wondered and been amazed at how the crazy brushstrokes conveyed the weary face of the farm worker, or the beautiful mess of the haystack.  And the crucial work of those in the lab coats is to unveil or to shine light on, the various parts of the painting.  A few, whom I will call meta-scientists, will step a few feet back and show how all the parts of the painting work together to create, not isolated images, but a blended panorama.  A Christian (or, substitute most religious persons here) are not those who see different things in the painting, but are those who can consult, as it were, Van Gogh’s diary on why he painted what he did.  They see not just the beauty of the painting, but the meaning of the painting.  They praise not only the glory of the masterpiece, but the glory of the master.

Of course, others are free to view with skepticism whether the religious folk have the real diary, or even if the painting had a painter.  But those are not scientific questions.  And the religious folks, alleged diary in hand, are free to respond, “And what is your explanation, not for what the painting is, but what it means, and how do you justify that explanation? I’m all ears.”

What is Leviathan and Why should I Care?

At the end of God’s speech to Job, He speaks for an entire chapter about a creature called Leviathan.  There is much confusion about the identification of this creature (in spite of its lengthy description) for the following reasons:

  • The word itself is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew (not a translation).  It seems to derive from a root meaning, “coiling, gliding”.
  • It’s description does not match exactly any one creature.
  • The context would seem to be a real (not mythological) animal known by Job, but the description seems to be mythical or hyperbolic.
  • The word is used only five times in the bible, and seems to have a different meaning in some of them.
  • It’s closest parallel seems to be to another being mentioned in the Bible, Rahab; This creature is equally mysterious and not mentioned by name outside of scripture.

Options, please:

A. Leviathan is a crocodile. This is supported by the following facts:

  1. It is described as being covered with something like scales or a skin impervious to puncture.
  2. It is described as having fearsome teeth.
  3. It is a marine animal, yet also can leave a trail in the mud

The weaknesses of this view are the following:

  1. Leviathan is described as a beast that none can capture, but crocodiles have always been able to be captured by skilled hunters.
  2. Related to the above, Leviathan seems to be pictured as the most fearsome beast, but few would give that description to the crocodile.
  3. Leviathan is said to breathe fire
  4. “The deep” usually refers to the sea, not swampland or rivers
  5. The parallel passages which refer to Leviathan do not fit with the description of the crocodile.

B. Leviathan is an extinct dinosaur:

  1. A number of ancient fossils describe a beast like this
  2. While these creatures would not be known to Job, God could still be describing them (and perhaps fossils of dinosaurs were known)

The weaknesses of this view:

  1. It would fit the context better if it were a being that Job had actual knowledge of.
  2. No dinosaur could breathe fire.

C. Leviathan is a crocodile (or some other animal) that is given a hyperbolic, not literal, description.

  1. This would make sense of the crocodile like features, as well as the breathing fire.
  2. This would fit the style of the book of Job (this is poetry, after all, not a zoology textbook).

However:

  1. If the point of the chapter is to show God’s greatness in what He created, it perhaps seems pointless to have an exaggerated description.
  2. The problem with the parallel passages remains.

D. Leviathan is an unknown (probably extinct) sea monster of some kind.

  1. The depths of the oceans still holds many mysteries to us

However:

  1. It stretches credulity to think of a sea monster who was able to breath fire.
  2. The context seems to demand a creature who can also appear on land, or at least the shallows.

E. Leviathan is a purely mythological being.

  1. Since no animal actually matches the description, it must be a mythical or symbolic being.

However:

  1. The context almost demands an actual created being.

F. Leviathan is a unique and somewhat supernatural being, associated in some way with Satan’s primeval opposition to God.

G. Leviathan is a real creature (like a crocodile or dinosaur), but also serves as a symbol for the evil forces opposing God’s good rule over creation.

Let’s look at these last two ideas more closely:

In addition to the description in chapter 41, the book of Job also mentions Leviathan once more:

First, in Job chapter 3, where Job is cursing the day of his birth.  He says in verse 8.

May those who curse days curse that day,

those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.

Let the stars of its dawn be dark.

 

Here we see the first thing Leviathan was associated with in the ancient mind: darkness.  Those ready to rouse Leviathan are looking to blot out the dawn or the day.  Leviathan seems to be a creature at war with the coming of light or day.

The book of Psalms mentions Leviathan twice, in very different contexts.

The first is in Psalm 79:

12 But you, O God, are my king from of old;

you bring salvation upon the earth.

13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;

you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.

14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan

and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.

15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;

you dried up the ever flowing rivers.

16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;

you established the sun and moon.

17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;

you made both summer and winter

This psalm is a cry for God to save His people from their adversaries.  The section here hearkens back to God’s power in His victory over his enemies at the dawn of creation.  Leviathan is described as a sea monster with several heads.  At some time associated with creation, God crushed Leviathan and gave him as food for the creatures of the desert.

Before we look at a parallel text to this, we should also look at Psalm 104:

 

24 How many are your works, O Lord!

In wisdom you made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,

teeming with creatures beyond number—

living things both large and small.

26 There the ships go to and fro,

and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

Here Leviathan is again associated with the sea, but is seen, not as a fearsome foe of God, but one of the animals that frolic in the sea.

The Last mention of Leviathan is somewhat surprising to us in light of what we already have read.  It is Isaiah 27:1:

In that day,

the Lord will punish with his sword,

his fierce, great and powerful sword,

Leviathan the gliding serpent,

Leviathan the coiling serpent;

he will slay the monster of the sea

Again, Leviathan is seen as some sort of sea monster, and an enemy of God.  But God’s victory over Leviathan is seen in the future, not the past.  Indeed, most Bible scholars view this whole section of Isaiah as eschatological, that is, looking forward to the final victory of God over his enemies and the establishment of His eternal kingdom.

Now, before we begin to interpret these verses, we should also point out verses that deal with a being that seemingly is associated with Leviathan: Rahab.  This being is not mentioned outside the Old Testament, but many of the ancient myths refer to a creature or force like Rahab.  The first reference is again in the book of Job (26):

10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters

for a boundary between light and darkness.

11 The pillars of the heavens quake,

aghast at his rebuke.

12 By his power he churned up the sea;

by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.

13 By his breath the skies became fair;

his hand pierced the gliding serpent.

Here we see many of the same themes associated with Leviathan: a gliding serpent in the sea that God cuts to pieces as part of the creation process.

Psalm 89 also describes God’s power over creation and Rahab:

9 You rule over the surging sea;

when its waves mount up, you still them.

10 You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;

with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.

11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;

you founded the world and all that is in it.

12 You created the north and the south;

Isaiah 51 hits the same notes:

9 Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,

O arm of the Lord;

awake, as in days gone by,

as in generations of old.

Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,

who pierced that monster through?

10 Was it not you who dried up the sea,

the waters of the great deep,

who made a road in the depths of the sea

so that the redeemed might cross over?

This last verse also brings in another meaning of Rahab.  Rahab also symbolizes Egypt, as the enemy of God’s people (and therefore of God himself). This symbolism is brought out plainly in Isaiah 31:

6 An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev:

Through a land of hardship and distress,

of lions and lionesses,

of adders and darting snakes,

the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs,

their treasures on the humps of camels,

to that unprofitable nation,

7 to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.

Therefore I call her

Rahab the Do-Nothing.

This same identification of Egypt with Rahab is seen in Psalm 86: 4

Finally, in Ezekiel 29, the king of Egypt is described as a monster not unlike Leviathan or Rahab:

Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. 3 Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“ ‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt,

you great monster lying among your streams.

You say, “The Nile is mine;

I made it for myself.”

4 But I will put hooks in your jaws

and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales.

I will pull you out from among your streams,

with all the fish sticking to your scales.

5 I will leave you in the desert,

you and all the fish of your streams.

You will fall on the open field

and not be gathered or picked up.

I will give you as food

to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air.

See also the almost identical scene in Ezekiel 32:1-4.

Analysis:

  • It appears obvious from the above that a simple identification of Leviathan with some animal is inadequate.
  • Leviathan is equated or at least associated with another sea creature, Rahab.
  • Rahab is both already conquered by God, and yet to be conquered by God in the last days.
  • Rahab has a strong association with the sea, and sometimes seems to personify the sea in its resistance to land and human civilization
  • Both Leviathan and Rahab are also associated with darkness.
  • Rahab serves as a symbol of Egypt and Egypt’s king, enemies of God’s plan.
  • It is worth noting that Satan is described in Revelation as both a serpent and a dragon (chapters 12 and 20), and in Genesis 3 as a serpent.
  • In Revelation 13:1 the first beast is described as “coming out of the sea”. See also how the four beasts of Daniel 7 also arise out of the sea).
  • Perhaps we see two hints of all this in the first and penultimate chapters of the Bible.  Cryptically, the only day of creation which God did not pronounce his blessing on (“It was good”) was the second day, when the seas were formed. Just as cryptically, we find that Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea”.

Conclusions:

  • Leviathan is not a mythical being (totally made up), but rather a symbolic being.  God uses earthly creatures to point to spiritual (invisible) forces.
  • In the fullest sense, Leviathan stands for violent opposition to God.  This is pictured in the raging sea threatening life on land (or ships) with its stormy darkness.  Repeatedly, God’s forming of the world is described as a victory over the waters (see also Job 38:8-11).   But this is not simply inanimate resistance, but associated with the active resistance of intelligent and willful opponents of God. This is why God is described as triumphing not only over the sea (an inanimate force) but over the great monster of the sea (an animate and willful force).
  • It is this last sense that Egypt and Pharoah become apt symbols of Leviathan and Rahab.
  • It is also in this sense that the victory over Rahab is not yet complete.  Yes, Rahab as opposition to creation was defeated, but Rahab as opposition to God’s new creation (centered on a redeemed humanity) continues until it’s final defeat in the last days.
  • Option F (above) is possible. In this view a supernatural yet physical being still exists, probably in the deepest ocean lair.  This being was subdued and imprisoned there until the end of days when God will allow it to again wage war against God and will be completely defeated.  Note Job 7:12 —    “Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that you put me under guard?”
  • Option G is preferred. Job 41 is more than a description of God’s power in creating the crocodile or some other great being.  It is an affirmation that Satan and all the forces opposing God are totally under his control.  Job can place his trust in God because, even though his ways are mysterious to man, they are not random but part of his active plan to defeat the forces of evil.

The Sin of the Orthodox

[note: by “Orthodox” I am referring to those who are biblical and traditional in their theology; I am not referring to the Orthodox church]

 

Each time I read the book of Job I find deeper meanings.  As I read it this week, one idea that kept coming to my mind was the sin of those who thought they had God all figured out.

At the conclusion of the book, God responds to Job, and then responds to Eliphaz and his friends.  The friends were, you will recall, the “miserable comforters” who debated with Job about the justice of God. The substance of their great debate could be summarized this way: The friends argue that since God is just, Job’s afflictions must be the punishment for some hidden sin.  Job argues in response (repeatedly): Look, I don’t have any “secret sin” that deserves this kind of punishment, so God is not being just to me.  The friends then accuse him of undermining the notion of God’s justice.  Job responds by repeating what he knows: I am innocent, yet enduring incredible suffering, and this suffering seems to come from God himself.  Again, Job implies, “God is not being just with me”.

Now, of course, we readers are let into a secret.  Chapters one and two describe the scene in heaven where God twice describes Job, “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil”.  In fact, God says, “there is none like him on earth”.  So we know before the dialogue begins that the three friends are in the wrong.  Job’s afflictions are not punishments.  Job is blameless before God.

But imagine if we did not have this information.  Imagine we walked in to the story right where the dialogue starts.  On the one hand, we have three wise, older men who have an exalted view of God and are eager to defend his ways.  They are completely orthodox in their understanding, and their first priority is to protect God’s reputation.  On the other hand, you have Job, who seems to be not only suffering, but positively afflicted by God (the suddenness and completeness of his losses cannot be mere coincidence).  Job argues that he is blameless, therefore God is not being just, while the orthodox friends argue that God is just, therefore Job is not blameless.  Who is right?

Wait: before you answer, again try to strip your mind of what you know from chapters one and two.  And you may find yourself in the position of Elihu.  Elihu is a rather mysterious figure.  He shows up without introduction and his name is not mentioned again after his long speech (chapters 32-37).  His speech does not serve to advance the dialogue at all, and neither God nor Job nor the friends respond to it.  Here is what I think: Elihu is intended to function as a warning to the reader.  His viewpoint and speech (“Job, you are wrong; I know wisdom, and you are speaking folly”) are the natural conclusion we are tempted to draw simply by listening to the speeches (without the prologue).  In his speeches, he not only agrees with the orthodox friends, but is angry at them for not being able to withstand Job’s arguments. 

It is right after his speech that God Himself arrives on the scene and, incredibly, joins in the argument.  God does two things.  First, he reproves Job (chapters 38-41) for failing to understand what Kierkegaard would later call “the infinite qualitative distinction” between God and man.  Job is wrong because He simply is not in a place to understand God’s ways, and therefore is recklessly hasty in saying that God is unjust to him.  The second thing God does, then, is surprising.  He approves Job, especially in contrast to his orthodox friends.  Twice he tells the orthodox, “you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has”.  In fact, God regards this not only as a mistake, but a sin, for which they need to offer a sacrifice and ask Job(!) to pray for them.  God seems less upset by Job yelling at Him than the friends yelling at Job on God’s behalf.

This, then, is the surprising conclusion to the dialogue: Elihu listens and takes the side of the orthodox friends and rebukes Job, while God listens and ultimately takes the side of Job and rebukes the orthodox.  And this is the heart of the book of Job: God’s ways are, in the final analysis, not able to be fully understood by man, simply because we are never in the position that He is in.  Even the most godly (like Job) and the most orthodox and cerebral (like Job’s friends) can never understand God in the same way they understand the things of this world.  In fact, God describes the words of the orthodox friends, who felt they were speaking godly wisdom, as “folly”. 

Now, here is where the rubber hits the road.  I have always taken pride in holding correct, orthodox views of God and theology.  And I still feel that the traditional, conservative, biblical viewpoint is the best way to understand the world in which we find ourselves in.  Yet, books like Job warn me to be very humble about this.  In the end, I have little doubt that my orthodox, evangelical theology will be like the fig leafs the first couple used to clothe themselves: wholly inadequate, and replaced by something else by God’s grace. 

What does this mean practically?  It means that we should be careful that our study of theology should never outstrip our understanding of “the infinite qualitative distinction”.  It means our eagerness to defend God should never come at the expense of loving people.  It means we must learn to live out our worldview fully, all the while realizing that when we see Him all of our previous “knowledge” will be fig leaves of foolishness.

Visual Outline of the Book of Job

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, they say.  With that in mind, here is a visual outline of the Book of Job. Click for larger image.

outline of the book of Job

Outline of the book of Job

2017 Calendar

March 2017

  • 7th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 9th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 10th, 7:00pm:  African Children’s Choir Concert
  • 14th, 6:30pm: Mission Team Meets
  • 21st, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 25th, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets at McDonalds
  • 27th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

April 2017

  • 4th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 7th, 6:30pm:  CareNet Banquet in Morresville
  • 7th – 8th:  Men’s Retreat
  • 11th, 6:30pm:  Mission’s Group Meeting
  • 13th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 14th, 7:00pm:  Good Friday Service at Community Congregational Church
  • 18th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 22nd, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets at McDonalds
  • 24th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

May 2017

  • 2nd, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 4th:  National Day of Prayer
  • 6th, 1:00 – 4:00pm:  Graduation Party in Sanctuary
  • 9th, 6:30pm:  Mission Team Meets
  • 11th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 16th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 27th, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets at McDonalds
  • 28th, Following Worship:  Memorial Picnic at Province Park
  • 27th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

June 2017

  • 6th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 8th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 13th, 6:30pm:  MissionTeam Meets
  • 20th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 24th, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 25th, Time TBA:  Mystery Dinner
  • 26th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

July 2017

  • 4th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 11th, 6:30pm:  Mission Team Meets
  • 13th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 18th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 22nd, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 30th, Time TBA:  5th Sunday Service & Fellowship
  • 31st: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

August 2017

  • 1st, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 6th, 6:00pm:  Community Prayer & Praise Night
  • 8th, 6:30pm:  Mission Team Meets
  • 10th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 15th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 20th, 7:00pm:  Pool Party at Franklin Pool
  • 26th, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 28th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

September 2017

  • 3rd, Following Worship:  Labor Day Picnic at Province Park
  • 5th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 12th, 6:30pm:  MissionTeam Meets
  • 14th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 19th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 23rd, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 24th, Time TBA:  Church Olympics
  • 25th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

October 2017

  • 3rd, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 10th, 6:30pm:  Mission Team Meets
  • 12th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 17th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 28th, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 29th, Time TBA:  5th Sunday Service
  • 30th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

November 2017

  • 7th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 9th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 14th, 6:30pm:  Mission Team Meets
  • 21st, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 25th, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 27th: 6:00pm: Women’s Committee Meets

December 2017

  • 3rd, 11:30 am:  Congregational Meeting
  • 6th, 6:45 am: Elder Prayer Meeting
  • 10th, 6:00 pm: Christmas Dinner for Wheeler Ministry
  • 12th, 6:30pm:  Mission Team Meets
  • 13th, 6:30pm:  Elder Board Meets
  • 19th, 8:00am:  Open Prayer Meeting
  • 23rd, 8:00am:  BAM Committee Meets
  • 24th, 7:00pm:  Christmas Eve Service

 

The Small god of Modern Evangelicalism

Yes, the non-capitalization of the third word in the title is deliberate.  I don’t think the god I am talked about deserves to be capitalized.  For I am not talking about the God of the scriptures, but the god that is worshipped in much of modern American evangelicalism.

This god is good, but small and not very powerful.  This god is not able to use the foolish, weak and lowly things of this world to shame and nullify the wise, strong, and powerful ((see I Corinthians 1:26-31).  That is why those who lead this god’s churches must attempt to change the foolish things into things wise in the ways of this world, and must change the lowly and despised things into things this world likes and respects. 

This god and his message must be made appealing to the world, much like Mary Poppins made the medicine more palatable by a spoon full of sugar.  The sweeteners  of coolness, relevance and freshness coat the message of this god, while those doing the coating tell us it doesn’t change the fundamental recipe.  Perhaps not, but the very fact that the sweeteners are added betray a lack of faith in the inherent power of the message, and the power of the god who gives it.

It is not that the followers of this small god don’t believe the message; they just don’t believe it has much power without their help.  It’s not that they want to distort this message.  It’s just that the don’t reflect on how its distortion flows naturally from the help they give it.

This is why we see increasingly that not only do many of the leaders have a small god, but so do the people in their churches.  These are people who view god as some sort of personal life-enhancement, not the author and judge of their life. They obey his commands selectively, and feel free to ignore or re-interpret those that might cause too much change, or that conflict too fiercely with the spirit of the age.  They view his church not as something they are deeply privileged to be a part of, but something they consume like any other form of entertainment, and that had better keep the goods coming. 

This leads to the following scenario, in which I will ask the reader to see past the exaggerations and ask if it does not reflect reality somewhat.

The pastor of [insert trendy name here] Church heads into his office Monday morning.  His first action is to check the numbers: attendance, giving, google rank.  He soon begins to think of this week’s sermon and worship (or, if well organized, those of the weeks ahead).  He has 7 hours for that this week (it used to be 15, but that was before he took on more ceo type responsibilities).  How does he spend those 7 hours?  The options are basically these: exegesis, prayer, presentation, and practice.  Since his main concern (though he would never admit it) is to impress or at least interest the hearers, so that they feel good enough about the message that they continue to come (and hopefully invite friends), he ends up spending most of the seven hours on the last two.  After all, not many will notice and fewer will care if he doesn’t get the meaning of the passage exactly right.  But everyone will notice and care if he is not interesting or relevant to the felt needs of the audience. 

In similar way, the worship leader, taking his cue from the pastor, chooses songs based on the criteria of what the people will find enjoyable or “meaningful”.  Of course, he would never choose songs that are not scriptural.  But that leaves a lot of leeway.  He may try to coordinate the songs with the sermon and the other parts of the service.  But he will not spend a significant percentage of his time in prayer, nor will the focus of that prayer be seeking wisdom for how God would be pleased in the worship.

The parishioners do their job on Sunday: they attend.  They are happy that their kids enjoy the music, and that the sermon is not too long.  The church is full, and seems to have energy, which further boosts their self-esteem for having chosen to be a part of such an excellent church. The message focuses on how God can improve their marriage, and they leave glad that God wants to help them.  As one wife would say later in the week, “I just love God! He does so much for me.”

Is it even possible that the children of this church will ever view god as something more than a cosmic vending machine? 

This is the morass into which we have sunk.

Links

 

imonk, a site run by Mike Mercer (former Pastor of FCC).  this site has a very wide reach, and a wealth of discussion about the Church, the Scriptures, and spirituality.  Dont miss the archived essays.

churchangel, a place to find churches in your area.

Danieljepsen.com, the musings of the most profound man on earth.

Logical and Factual Problems with Naturalistic Evolution

By Daniel Jepsen

Intro:  this is my attempt to show why I have not been persuaded by the scientific arguments for materialist evolution, that is, evolution within a naturalistic worldview. This type of worldview is one that states that only matter (or, only matter and energy) exists, and therefore all life, including our existence, must be accounted for by the unguided process of natural selection.  Most of these arguments will not be relevant to the various theories of theistic evolution. 

Also, there is one other problem with a materialistic account of origins which I will not develop here (because it is covered elsewhere in this journal) but which I feel is cogent: the fact that matter exists at all, that is, that there is something rather than nothing.  While this is not technically a problem with evolution, it is a problem for a worldview (naturalism) which underlies the type of evolution I am discussing here.

So, in brief summary, here are the problem areas for unguided evolution:

A. the origin of life

A theist looks to a creator to explain the origin of life. This answer will not satisfy all people, but it is an answer internally consistent with its worldview.  The materialists, however, have no answer here.  Their sole source of knowledge, empirical science, simply cannot give an explanation for this crucial phenomenon. 

 Everything we see of life around us have the following characteristic:  it arises from life.  A baby is born from its mother, a plant develops from a living seed, a cell is produced from another cell.  This is called biogenesis, and is the common fact of our experience. Materialism, however, must also choose to believe in what we have never seen: abiogenesis, that life arose from non-life.  The reason materialists must choose to believe what they have not seen is simple: we have life now, but at some point in time there was nothing but non-life.  Without recourse to a creator, materialists must explain this phenomenon. 

Of course, it does no good to say that evolutionary theory only deals with things already living.  If evolution professes to give an adequate account of the world we live in, it cannot simply skip over the most startling fact of all: that life is here.  If it cannot explain the origin of life, its answers to the modification of life will seem at best to be incomplete, and at worst to be pointless.

Some of the more un-informed will point to the Urey/Miller experiments in 1953 as proof that life, or at least the building blocks of life, can be simulated in a lab. This is false for two reasons.  First, even if the experiment were a success, it would not support evolution, but intelligent creation.  The raw materials in the experiment did not simply show up in the lab by chance.  They were chosen by intelligent beings with the design of trying to create life.  Secondly, the experiments were a failure, not a success.   I will allow microbiologist Jerry Bergman to summarize the experiment and its problem (you may skip the italicized sections if you don’t want to get technical).

The most famous origin of life experiment was completed in 1953 by Stanley Miller at the University of Chicago.  At the time Miller was a 23-year-old graduate student working under Urey who was trying to recreate in his laboratory the conditions then thought to have preceded the origin of life.  The Miller/Urey experiments involved filling a sealed glass apparatus with methane, ammonia, hydrogen gases (representing what they thought composed the early atmosphere) and water vapor (to simulate the ocean).  Next, they used a spark-discharge device to strike the gases in the flask with simulated lightning while a heating coil kept the water boiling.  Within a few days, the water and gas mix produced a reddish stain on the sides of the flask.  After analyzing the substances that had been formed, they found several types of amino acids.  Eventually Miller and other scientists were able to produce 10 of the 20 amino acids required for life by techniques similar to the original Miller/ Urey experiments.

Urey and Miller assumed that the results were significant because some of the organic compounds produced were the building blocks of proteins, the basic structure of all life (Horgan, 1996, p. 130).  Although widely heralded by the press as “proving” the origin of life could have occurred on the early earth under natural conditions without intelligence, the experiment actually provided compelling evidence for exactly the opposite conclusion.  For example, equal quantities of both right- and left-handed organic molecules always were produced by the Urey/Miller procedure.  In real life, nearly all amino acids found in proteins are left handed, almost all polymers of carbohydrates are right handed, and the opposite type can be toxic to the cell.  In a summary the famous Urey/Miller origin-of-life experiment, Horgan concluded:

Miller’s results seem to provide stunning evidence that life could arise from what the British chemist J.B.S. Haldane had called the “primordial soup.” Pundits speculated that scientists, like Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, would shortly conjure up living organisms in their laboratories and thereby demonstrate in detail how genesis unfolded.  It hasn’t worked out that way.  In fact, almost 40 years after his original experiment, Miller told me that solving the riddle of the origin of life had turned out to be more difficult than he or anyone else had envisioned (1996, p. 138).

The reasons why creating life in a test tube turned out to be far more difficult than Miller or anyone else expected are numerous and include the fact that scientists now know that the complexity of life is far greater than Miller or anyone else in pre-DNA revolution 1953 ever imagined.  Actually life is far more complex and contains far more information than anyone in the 1980s believed possible

The major problem of Millers experiment is well put by Davies,

Making the building blocks of life is easy—amino acids have been found in meteorites and even in outer space.  But just as bricks alone don’t make a house, so it takes more than a random collection of amino acids to make life.  Like house bricks, the building blocks of life have to be assembled in a very specific and exceedingly elaborate way before they have the desired function (Davies, 1999, p. 28)….

Yet another difficulty is, even if the source of the amino acids and the many other compounds needed for life could be explained, it still must be explained as to how these many diverse elements became aggregated in the same area and then properly assembled themselves.  This problem is a major stumbling block to any theory of abiogenesis…

As Coppedge (1973) notes, even 1) postulating a primordial sea with every single component necessary for life, 2) speeding up the bonding rate so as to form different chemical combinations a trillion times more rapidly than hypothesized to have occurred, 3) allowing for a 4.6 billion- year-old earth and 4) using all atoms on the earth still leaves the probability of a single protein molecule being arranged by chance is 1 in 10,261.  Using the lowest estimate made before the discoveries of the past two decades raised the number several fold.  Coppedge estimates the probability of 1 in 10119,879 is necessary to obtain the minimum set of the required estimate of 239 protein molecules for the smallest theoretical life form.

At this rate he estimates it would require 10119,831 years on the average to obtain a set of these proteins by naturalistic evolution (1973, pp. 110, 114).  The number he obtained is 10119,831 greater than the current estimate for the age of the earth (4.6 billion years).  In other words, this event is outside the range of probability.  Natural selection cannot occur until an organism exists and is able to reproduce which requires that the first complex life form first exist as a functioning unit.

The situation is so bad for the naturalist that many of them are openly discussing what most people would consider a rather bizarre belief: that living organisms came from another planet.  This theory, called Panspermia, has two major variations: undirected panspermia (life accidentally hitched a ride on a meteor that landed on earth), and directed panspermia (life was purposefully sent from aliens to earth).  As strange as that last theory may seem, it was the espoused view of the late Francis Crick, an evolutionary advocate and winner of a Nobel prize. 

Of course, Panspermia has a host of problems, both logical and scientific:

•           First, it does not solve the question of how life could arise from non-life, but merely pushes it back to another planet in the hopes of increasing the timeframe.

•           Secondly, by doing so, it implicitly violates materialist methodology by postulating a whole area of human origins to a time and place we cannot examine.  A believer in panspermia seeks answers “outside the system” as surely as creationists do.

•           Thirdly, scientific problems abound.  Space is a damaging environment for life, as it would be exposed to radiation, cosmic rays and stellar winds. Studies of bacteria frozen in Antarctic glaciers have shown that DNA has a half-life of 1.1 million years under such conditions, suggesting that while life may have potentially moved around within the Solar System it is unlikely that it could have arrived from an interstellar source. Also, life as we know it requires heavy elements carbon, nitrogen and oxygen (C, N and O, respectively) to exist at sufficient densities and temperatures for the chemical reactions between them to occur. These conditions are not widespread in the Universe, so this limits the distribution of life as an ongoing process.

Some naturalists, looking at the evidence, yet clinging to a naturalistic viewpoint, then make the following argument:  Well, we know it occurred, so somehow it must have occurred.  This of course, is the very definition of circular reasoning, but has not stopped many evolutionists from making the argument.  Some will augment this argument by postulating a multitude or an infinity of universes.  In an infinity of universes, the argument goes, even the most implausible things are bound to happen in at least one or two of the universes.  The second objection to panspermia (above) applies equally well to this desperate argument.

B. The transition from one species to another 

My first  point here is that many of the arguments to support evolutionary theory, despite their impressive data, are fallaciously argued.  Some scientists either are not well-trained in logical argumentation, or their allegiance to a system of thought blinds them to problems with their thinking.

One example, quoted above, is circular reasoning.  This occurs whenever the theory of evolution is somehow snuck into arguments for analyzing the facts for evolution.  You can see this is many textbooks, but especially when you hear the author saying something like, “well, we don’t know how this evolved, but we know it did, so it must have worked somehow”.  Or you may read something like this, “while we don’t know how this could have occurred in this time frame, the fact that it did simply shows that we will figure it out someday”.

A more hidden type of circular reasoning is even more commonplace.  This occurs when a person who is thoroughly committed to a system of thought finds a new piece of evidence, and automatically (that is, without deliberation), evaluates that piece of evidence only from the viewpoint of that system of thought.  If one is already committed to the belief that birds evolved from dinosaurs, then a fossil like Archaeopteryx (which appears to be something like a dinosaur with feathers and wings) confirms this belief.  If one is not, then the fact that Archaeopteryx could apparently not raise its wings above its head, nor flap them (and so could not fly), and the fact that it occurs in the fossil record before the dinosaurs is supposedly evolved from, and the fact that we have no fossils that look anything like steady stream of transitions from dinosaurs to Archaeopteryx, all lead to a rather different conclusion.  See more examples in the next note.

Another type of faulty reasoning frequently found in evolutionary arguments (especially textbooks) is the fallacy of equivocation.  Basically, this means using a term in two different ways, or using one term to describe two different things, but confusing the meanings in your argumentation. 

The two chief examples here are the equivocation between natural selection and guided selection, and the equivocation between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. 

First, one will often see examples of guided change used to support natural selection.  Any time you hear an argument for the change of species based on the breeding of dogs or other domestic animals, this fallacy is in play.  The argument they are trying to make is that species change.  The argument they are really proving is that species change, within certain boundaries, when someone with intelligence, power, and direction facilitates that change.  But of course, no-one argues against that last point. 

Second, related to the example above, their also seems to be a huge equivocation in most evolutionary arguments between micro-evolution (that species change physically based on changes in their environment) and macro-evolution (that species change into completely different species).  Two of the very famous examples here are the variations of Finches beaks, and the peppered moth study in England.  Lets take these in reverse order.  I will allow R. Matthews to summarize the experiment of the Peppered Moths, and what is wrong with it:

The “evolution” of the peppered moth, Biston betularia, whose story is recounted in almost every textbook on evolution, now appears to be based upon spurious data. According to the standard account, only one version of Biston existed before the mid-19th century: a white variety, peppered with black spots. During the Industrial Revolution its numbers plummeted because it became easy prey for birds as it rested on the pollution-blackened trunks of trees. In its place a mutant, pitch-black form of the peppered moth began to thrive, as it could rest on tree trunks without fear of being eaten. Precisely as predicted by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, this more fit mutant moth rapidly outnumbered the white version, reaching 100 per cent levels in some industrial areas. However, during the 1950’s, naturalists discovered a resurgence of the white variety, thought to be the result of the Clean Air Acts.  Scientists soon discovered that the white variety flourished again well before the return of pollution-free trees, while the black type continued to thrive in areas unaffected by industry. In addition, experiments showed that neither variety of moth chooses resting places best suited to its camouflage. Despite 40 years of effort, scientists have seen only two moths ever resting on tree trunks – they never have landed consistently on tree trunks, but hide under branches! It looks like the evolution textbooks will have to be rewritten. Evolutionist Richard Dawkins dismissed the new data, saying that, “nothing momentous hangs on these experiments.”

Now think carefully about what would be proved even if the evolutionary proponents were correct that somehow a white moth population turned dark in response to environmental change.  What exactly does this mean in regards to evolution?  Exactly nothing.  Since both varieties existed before the industrial revolution, no change of the species was involved, simply a change in the population demographics within the species.  As an example, imagine if a virus started to infest mankind that killed every person except for those with blue eyes (or every person without dark skin, or whatever).  If this occurred, it would certainly seem that our species had changed:  Now, every human has blue eyes.  However, notice what it would not prove: it would not prove that our species could change beyond the normal variations of eye color that we already have.  It would not add any genetic information to our species.  It would prove exactly nothing about whether our species could evolve into another species.

This fallacy is so obvious that it amazes me that the peppered moth example was put into the textbooks at all.  What is even more amazing is that it is still there, even after numerous holes have been seen, both in the facts of the case and their interpretation.  Yet here is the California Department of Education 2003 Science Framework for California Public Schools:

“An example of natural selection is the effect of industrial ‘melanism,’ or darkness of pigmentation, on the peppered moths of Manchester, England. These moths come in two varieties, one darker than the other. Before the industrial revolution, the dark moth was rare; however, during the industrial revolution the light moth seldom appeared. Throughout the industrial revolution, much coal was burned in the region, emitting soot and sulfur dioxide. For reasons not completely understood, the light-colored moth had successfully adapted to the cleaner air conditions that existed in preindustrial times and that exist in the region today. However, the light-colored moth appears to have lost its survival advantage during times of heavy industrial air pollution. One early explanation is that when soot covered tree bark, light moths became highly visible to predatory birds. Once this change happened, the dark-peppered moth had an inherited survival advantage because it was harder to see against the sooty background. This explanation may not have been the cause, and an alternative one is that the white-peppered moth was more susceptible to the sulfur dioxide emissions of the industrial revolution. In any case, in the evolution of the moth, mutations of the genes produced light and dark moths. Through natural selection the light moth had an adaptive advantage until environmental conditions changed, increasing the population of the dark moths and depleting that of the light moths.”  (California 2003 Science Framework, p. 241; see Part 5)

For those who may not realize this, textbook publishers tend to take their cues from California’s guidelines, because they do not want to give up such a large market; in other words, they make their books for the whole country conform to California’s guidelines. Thus, textbooks around the country are still telling children about spotted moths as proof of evolution.

I won’t go into all the details here, but it seems to me that the same equivocation between micro-evolution and macro-evolution is also at play whenever Darwin’s example of finch-beak variations comes into the discussion.  Carl Zimmer comments on the 30-year study by Peter and Rosemary Grant:

            Look at this situation, the classic textbook illustration of natural selection that is supposed to give us giraffe necks and bat sonar and spider webs and monarch butterflies over time.  All the Grants have observed is a tiny 4% change, that reverted almost all the way back when the rains returned.  And the fact that the birds can interbreed and produce fertile offspring means that these are not really distinct species that have evolved apart, let alone evolved into something new.  Most important, there has been no gain in genetic information.  Any observed changes merely oscillated back and forth depending on climate and food availability.  Where’s the evolution?  The birds are still finches, the beaks are still beaks, and the short-term changes do not translate into any long-term trend.

My second point is that, despite common misperception, the fossil record is inconsistent with natural selection.

The fossil record is often cited as lending support to the theory of natural selection.  In fact, it is a huge embarrassment to natural selection, and theories abound as to why the fossil record does not fit in with the theory of evolution.  This has been well known to informed thinkers for decades.  Randall Niles does a good job of stating the problem:

Let’s start by looking at a few more of Darwin’s very honest statements:

Firstly, why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined? 1

But, as by this theory, innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? 2

Lastly, looking not to any one time, but to all time, if my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed. 3

Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory. 4

 

Since Darwin put forth his original theory, scientists have sought fossil evidence indicating past organic transitions. Nearly 150 years later, there has been no evidence of evolutionary transition found thus far in the fossil record. In Darwin’s own words, if his theory of “macro-evolution” were true, we would see a vast number of fossils at intermediate stages of biological development. In fact, based on standard mathematical models, we would see far more transitional forms in the fossil record than complete specimens. However, we see none — not one true transitional specimen has ever been found.

Our museums now contain hundreds of millions of fossil specimens (40 million alone are contained in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum). If Darwin’s theory were true, we should see at least tens of millions of unquestionable transitional forms. We see none. Even the late Stephen Jay Gould, Professor of Geology and Paleontology at Harvard University and the leading spokesman for evolutionary theory prior to his recent death, confessed “the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.”  He goes on:

The history of most fossil species includes two features inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Statis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear… 2. Sudden Appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed’.  The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.

Author Luther Sunderland saw the problems with the fossil record, so he determined to get the definitive answer from the top museums themselves. Sunderland interviewed five respected museum officials, recognized authorities in their individual fields of study, including representatives from the American Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and the British Museum of Natural History. None of the five officials were able to offer a single example of a transitional series of fossilized organisms that document the transformation of one kind of plant or animal into another.

The British Museum of Natural History boasts the largest collection of fossils in the world. Among the five respected museum officials, Sunderland interviewed Dr. Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist at the British Museum and editor of a prestigious scientific journal. Patterson is a well known expert having an intimate knowledge of the fossil record. He was unable to give a single example of Macro-Evolutionary transition. In fact, Patterson wrote a book for the British Museum of Natural History entitled, “Evolution”. When asked why he had not included a single photograph of a transitional fossil in his book, Patterson responded:

…I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be used to visualize such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it, and if I were to leave it to artistic license, would that not mislead the reader? I wrote the text of my book four years ago. If I were to write it now, I think the book would be rather different. Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwin’s authority, but because my understanding of genetics seems to demand it. Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils. As a paleontologist myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of identifying ancestral forms in the fossil record. You say that I should at least “show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism was derived.” I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.

David B. Kitts. PhD (Zoology) is Head Curator of the Department of Geology at the Stoval Museum. In an evolutionary trade journal, he wrote:

Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of “seeing” evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of “gaps” in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them…

N. Heribert Nilsson, a famous botanist, evolutionist and professor at Lund University in Sweden, continues:

My attempts to demonstrate evolution by an experiment carried on for more than 40 years have completely failed… The fossil material is now so complete that it has been possible to construct new classes, and the lack of transitional series cannot be explained as being due to scarcity of material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.

Even the popular press is catching on. This is from an article in Newsweek magazine: The missing link between man and apes, whose absence has comforted religious fundamentalists since the days of Darwin, is merely the most glamorous of a whole hierarchy of phantom creatures … The more scientists have searched for the transitional forms that lie between species, the more they have been frustrated.

This covers the main points here. 

Additional note:  One of the cardinal tenets of evolutionary theory has been that birds emerged from dinosaurs.  This is the reason that Archaeopteryx is so celebrated, even with the problems already mentioned.  However, as Science Daily (June 9, 2009) recently reported, that no longer seems tenable: 

            Researchers at Oregon State University have made a fundamental new discovery about how birds breathe and have a lung capacity that allows for flight – and the finding means it’s unlikely that birds descended from any known theropod dinosaurs.

The conclusions add to other evolving evidence that may finally force many paleontologists to reconsider their long-held belief that modern birds are the direct descendants of ancient, meat-eating dinosaurs, OSU researchers say.

            “It’s really kind of amazing that after centuries of studying birds and flight we still didn’t understand a basic aspect of bird biology,” said John Ruben, an OSU professor of zoology. “This discovery probably means that birds evolved on a parallel path alongside dinosaurs, starting that process before most dinosaur species even existed.”

            It’s been known for decades that the femur or thigh bone in birds is largely fixed and makes birds into “knee runners,” unlike virtually all other land animals, the OSU experts say. What was just discovered, however, is that it’s this fixed position of bird bones and musculature that keeps their air-sac lung from collapsing when the bird inhales.

            Warm-blooded birds need about 20 times more oxygen than cold-blooded reptiles, and have evolved a unique lung structure that allows for a high rate of gas exchange and high activity level. Their unusual thigh complex is what helps support the lung and prevent its collapse.

            “This is fundamental to bird physiology,” said Devon Quick, an OSU instructor of zoology who completed this work as part of her doctoral studies. “It’s really strange that no one realized this before. The position of the thigh bone and muscles in birds is critical to their lung function, which in turn is what gives them enough lung capacity for flight.”

            However, every other animal that has walked on land, the scientists said, has a moveable thigh bone that is involved in their motion – including humans, elephants, dogs, lizards and – in the ancient past – dinosaurs.

            The implication, the researchers said, is that birds almost certainly did not descend from theropod dinosaurs, such as tyrannosaurus or allosaurus. The findings add to a growing body of evidence in the past two decades that challenge some of the most widely-held beliefs about animal evolution.

            “For one thing, birds are found earlier in the fossil record than the dinosaurs they are supposed to have descended from,” Ruben said. “That’s a pretty serious problem, and there are other inconsistencies with the bird-from-dinosaur theories.

Obviously, space does not permit me to examine every proposed “transitional” fossil.  I will just say that every one I have examined has turned out to be extremely problematic. 

3. The transition from animal life to human life.

Simply put, I don’t see any way that natural selection can account for the uniqueness of homo sapiens.  Not only is the descent of man extremely problematic on the basis of the fossil record, but even if it were perfect it could not explain many of the key virtues which make us human.

First, related to above, natural selection, despite 150 years of trying, has not been able to create a clear descent for man from a non-human ancestor. 

When I was in school, the progress of man was depicted in a fairly straight line. But the old story of apes and man having descent from a common ancestor, and the modern human arising from a straight line through various intermediate types, is long a thing of the past.  In the first place, many of the examples used for decades as transitional forms between our ape-like ancestor and ourselves are now recognized as NOT being our ancestors after all.  This includes the Neanderthal, the Cro-Magnon, Homo Erectus and Homo Habilus.  The chart below represents as much consensus as there is in this field.  The following notes accompany the chart:

NOTES

• Each colored bar represents the time interval spanned by recovered fossils associated with that species. Dotted lines indicate the conjectural evolutionary lines of descent.

• Under each species name is a list of the national areas where all or most of its fossil remains have been found.

• White numbers inside the species bars indicate the approximate count of distinct individuals in each species from whom fossil remains survive. This is considerably smaller than the number of fossil specimens, because a specimen can be a single tooth, bone or bone fragment.

• The human fossil record from about 2.5 to 1.0 million years ago is especially sparse — only about 50 individuals are known, many of them represented by only a single tooth or jaw fragment — and the evolutionary connections from australopithecus to homo erectus, including the evolutionary relationships between habilis, ergaster and erectus, are in dire need of clarification.

• Time spans for modern humans, Neanderthals and archaic Homo sapiens (H. heidelbergensis) have been extended back beyond accepted fossil limits to accommodate recent genetic evidence that the divergence between the Neanderthal and human lines occurred around 500,000 years ago.

• As environmental or climate context, the major Ice Age epochs in recent human experience were [1] the Wisconsin, 11,000-35,000 years ago (the most extreme of recent coolings), and [2] the Illinoian, 130,000-190,000 years ago, with an intermediate ice era around 60,000-70,000 years ago.

• Four human species proposed in the literature — H. floresiensis, H. pekinensis, H. georgicus and H. rhodesiensis — have been omitted as conjectural or controversial

 

 

(see chart in it’s original site)

So, according to the current theory, man (Homo) first appeared just over two million years ago, but the relationship between modern man and any of his supposed predecessors is still uncertain.  Again, this is after 150 years of dedicated search.

Even more interesting, a new fossil has appeared which seemingly destroys any consensus at all about human origins.  In Chad, a fossil described as Toumai was discovered within the last few years.  It has caused a stir because of the combination of two facts: 1. that it is a species much more human and less ape-like than Australopithecus species, and 2. that it is dated at 7 million BC.  In other words, the descent of man charts will again have to be revised, but in this case the entire bottom of the chart is suspect.  One is left with two alternatives: either all the dating is incorrect (which means the fossils would say precious little about a descent of man) or that the process of finding a coherent pattern of hominid evolution is little more than a shell game.

Other facts about the hominid fossils you may not have learned in school:

            •           Homo erectus maintains the same appearance over its two million year history (again, the evolutionary time scale)

            •           At the bottom of Bed I in the Olduvai gorge is a circular stone structure 14 ft. in diameter made by humans, similar to those in use today by the Okombambi tribe of Southwest Africa. That means true humans were around 2 million years ago by the evolutionist’s time scale, before Homo erectus and the Australopithecines (Lubenow, 1992, 172-173).

            •           Modern Homo sapiens, Neanderthal, archaic Homo sapiens and Homo erectus all lived as contemporaries at one time or another. There is no trend for robust forms evolving into more gracile forms. In the case of Neanderthals and archaic Homo sapiens, the more robust forms are the more recent.

            •           Fossils only record bone structure. What about the fact that apes have 48 chromosomes and man only 46? This is a significant difference that is rarely mentioned.

            •           It should be remembered that an individual fossil can sometimes mean nothing more than a part of a skull, a piece of the femur, or a tooth.  Some scholars estimate that the entire pre-man hominoid fossils collection could fit within one coffin.

In summary, I do not have much confidence that paleontologists have proven anything conclusive regarding man’s descent.

Secondly, natural selection fails to adequately account for the uniqueness of humans

This is a long and complicated discussion, so I will only summarize what to me seem the most unique aspects of human identity, and which seem the least likely to have come about by natural selection:

1.         Humans uniquely have language skills that are beyond rudimentary.  We are the only species that seems to communicate abstract ideas by language, the only one to create an alphabet or any type of written language, the only one to show development in language, and the only one which seems to teach language.

2.         Humans have unique analytic skills, which are of a difference in kind, not just quality, from animals.

3.         Humans alone advance their culture by the transmission of knowledge through generations.

4.         Humans alone have an objective yet internal sense of morality.  Other species can be taught what is or is not desired or acceptable (by humans or other of their species), and can display aggression-avoidance techniques (like a cowering dog).  This is completely different than the morality that resides at the heart of the human.  It is not too much to say that other animals see only one dimension of reality: what is.  Humans alone see the second element: what ought to be.

5.         Humans alone display a love for beauty.  Other animals interact with their environment functionally; we do it with evaluation.  Not only do even advanced animals seem to not appreciate the beauty of the world around them (from everything we can tell about them), but beauty itself seems to not be a category of thought.

6.         Humans alone display certain emotions, and with other emotions they display them to a much more profound level than animals.  A dog whose pup dies will show a reaction of puzzlement or even sadness for a day or two (often not even that).  A woman whose infant dies will never be the same.

7.         Humans seem unique in their consciousness.  They know not only that they exist, but reflect upon their existence.  This may seem trivial, but its uniqueness in nature, and its importance for human culture, demands it be taken very seriously.

Of course, each of these issues has been tackled by materialists, who attempt to show that each could have arisen from natural selection.  I find their answers extremely unpersuasive.

Darwinists are fond of pointing out that we share 98.5 percent of our genes with chimps.  This statistic is not meaningless, but it can be very misleading.  Scientists are now sequencing the murine (mouse) genome and have come upon some rather startling data regarding a comparison of the murine and human genomes. So far, only chromosome 16 has been fully sequenced in both species. However, the results show that human and murine DNA differ from each other by only 2.5%. This is very surprising, since, according the evolutionary theory, the two species diverged 90 million years ago. The problem for the theory of evolution is that this small difference between mice and humans makes the difference between humans and chimpanzees look huge. Whereas, according to evolutionary theory, it took 90 million years of evolution to produce 2.5% difference in DNA sequence, humans and chimpanzees diverge 1.5% in less than 10 million years.

4.  the intellectual coherence of natural selection:

This last point is not about fossils or DNA.  It is a simple logical issue.

A firm believer in natural selection faces a conundrum.  Here is why: because according to his theory, all brains, including his own, did not necessarily evolve to report truth, but to increase reproductive capacity.  The same brain making the statement, “everything evolved through a process without design, which rewarded those characteristics associated with increased fertility”, is the same brain which itself evolved in this way.  But of course, there is no way to get from, “my thoughts increase my fertility”, to “my thoughts are true”.  It could be argued that only true thoughts increase fertility, but this has two problems: first, we can easily think of numerous scenarios where believing something untrue actually increases fertility.  Secondly, this statement itself seems to be under the same curse: it could be that I only think that true thoughts increase fertility because that belief increases fertility, not because it is true.

Steven Pinker is one of the most influential writers in the Darwinian Camp.  His book, “How the Mind Works” is something of a classic in its field, despite the fact that toward the end of it he acknowledges that neither he nor anyone else can explain fully things like sentience, the self, free will, meaning, knowledge, and morality (quite a substantial list).  He then goes on to make a most remarkable statement, illustrating the dilemma I have just brought up.  On page 516, he says this:

“We are organisms, not angels, and our minds are organs, not pipelines to the truth. Our minds evolved by natural selection to solve problems that were life-and-death matters to our ancestors, not to commune with correctness or to answer any question we are capable of asking.”

This is not an off-hand remark made in the spur of the moment.  It is the published writing of a leading Darwinian, and, indeed, it is hard to escape the logic of the statement if natural selection is true.  If everything else evolved, then certainly our minds did as well.  But they did not necessarily evolve to find truth.

As one reads this statement by Pinker, the inevitable question comes to mind: “But, Dr. Pinker, did you mean that as a true statement?  If yes, how is that possible if you have just destroyed the belief that the mind can know things truly and with correctness?  Is your mind an exception?  If no, then I have just wasted the time reading 515 pages of some sort of sophomoric joke”. 

Again, this is not just Pinker’s dilemma.  He simply is brave enough to put into words the natural consequence of natural selection.  A theory which undercuts itself so badly, a theory which is not even consistent with itself, is a theory impossible to believe, except on faith.

Conclusion:

•           The wealth of evidence and argumentation in this area is complex and spans biology, genetics, paleontology, geology, zoology, botany, as well as logic, philosophy, and, in particular, the philosophy of science.  Quite simply, no-one can be an expert in all these areas, (or even most), so we should all be humble in our conclusions, charitable in our words, and open in our thoughts.

•           Nevertheless, if my arguments are correct, they demonstrate that natural selection is insufficient by itself to account for the evidence around us.

Glossary of Apolologetic Terms

Agnostic – One who believes that it is not possible to know if God exists.  Either the evidence is insufficient, or our ability to analyze it objectively is impossible.  It may also be defined as one who is undecided on the question of God.

Anthropic Principle – The observation that the universe and the world seem to be designed for human life.

Anthropomorphism – The act of ascribing human characteristics to non-humans (especially to God).

Antithesis – An idea in opposition to a particular proposition or thesis.

A Priori – Latin for “from before”; that which is known independently of sense perception and thus often held to be undeniable.  Often used in the sense of one’s presuppositions, which are brought to bear on a question before any data has even been evaluated.

Apologetics – The venture of defending the truth and rationality of a position, for example, Christianity.

Atheist – Someone who asserts that there is no God.

Cosmological Argument – The philosophical argument (can also be argued from physics and astronomy) that the existence of the universe demands a theistic cause.

Deism – The idea that God is not personally involved with the material world after having created it.  The imagery is of a clock maker who winds the clock and allows it to run according to its own design.  Miracles have no place in the deistic worldview.

Determinism – The view that everything in the universe is controlled by previous conditions, and therefore could not be otherwise.  On this view, free will is an illusion since all actions (including man’s actions are ultimately driven by predetermining causes.

Empiricism – The belief that all knowledge is acquired through the experience of the five senses.  Often contrasted with Rationalism.

Epistemology – The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge, i.e., What is knowledge? How do we come to know things? What is truth? How do we derive certainty?  etc.

Eschatology –Study of last things (the future).

 

Ethics – The study of right and wrong, of what one ought to do.  

FallacyAn invalid inference; a logical error.

Fideism – The view that faith means choosing to believe totally without objective reasons. Also called volunteerism

General Revelation – God’s revelation of himself through the created universe..  Also known as “Natural Revelation.” 

Humanism – Humanism is essentially an attempt to construct a non-theistic system of beliefs and values around the central idea that mankind is supreme (there is nothing above him)

IdealismThe philosophy which holds that reality consists of minds and ideas rather than matter.

Kalam Cosmological Argument – A form of the Cosmological Argument that divides the argument down into the following logical premises, which are then independently argued for.

  1. The universe either had (a) a beginning or (b) no beginning.
  2. If it had a beginning, the beginning was either (a) caused or (b) uncaused.
  3. If it had a cause, the cause was either (a) personal or (b) non-personal.

Materialism – The philosophical perspective that nothing exists except the material, physical world.  This view is also know as “Naturalism”, (because the only thing real is the “natural”).  Modern materialist have sometimes preferred the term, “physicalism”, since this term includes both matter and energy.

Metaphysics – The branch or field of philosophy concerned with the ultimate nature, structure, and characteristics of reality.  A narrow usage of the term refers to the study of that which lies beyond the physical realm (i.e., the supernatural realm).

MonismThe metaphysical view that all reality is one.

Moral Relativism – The idea that there is no objective good and evil.

Natural Theology – Doctrines concerning God which are attainable via nature and reason, as opposed to those that require special revelation (e.g., scripture).

Naturalism – See “Materialism.”

Natural Revelation – See General Revelation.

Negative Apologetics – Defending Christianity against criticisms.

NihilismThe view that there is no value or being in the universe.

Ockham’s Razor – The idea that the explanation for a problem or effect that fits the facts with the least number of assumptions is the best. 

Ontology – The study of “being,” or existence.

Ontological argument – The argument devised by Anselm for God’s existence which claims that from our idea of God’s essence we can conclude God must exist

Pantheism – The idea that god and the world are inseparable — God is all, and all is god.  The most important, and emphasized, implication of this is that we (being of the same substance) are gods as well.  This view originates in the Eastern religious traditions and plays heavily into the New Age worldview as well.

Polytheism The belief in many gods.

Positive Apologetics – Advancing Christianity via arguments or evidence.

Postmodernism – A reaction to the optimistic modernist perspectives on truth, reason, and science.  Postmodernism values subjectivity over objectivity, feeling over reasoning, creativity over conformity, defining meaning over seeking meaning, and tolerance over discernment.  It especially supports such ideas as sexual and cultural diversity, religious pluralism, moral relativism, and an individualized view of “truth.”

Pragmatism – The philosophy that makes practical consequences the criterion for truth.

Rationalism – Broadly speaking, the epistemological view that stresses reason as the test of truth.  In a strict sense, the belief that at least some knowledge is acquired independent of sense experience.  Contrasted with Empiricism.

Religious Pluralism – The idea that all religious traditions should be given equal value in society.  Behind this is the postmodern idea that none have a monopoly on truth, if “truth” even exists.  Consequently, all religions should be valued and afforded equal status.

SkepticismThe belief that one should doubt or suspend judgment on philosophical or theological questions.

Special Revelation – Knowledge of God supplied directly to humanity.  For modern Christians this generally refers to scripture.

Syncretism – The blending of different beliefs or practices.

Theistic Evolution – The idea that evolution is true, but that it proceeded under the direct guidance or subtle prodding of God.  There are many forms of this.

TheismThe world view that affirms the existence of a personal, infinitely powerful and all-perfect Creator of the world, who is both transcendent over the world and immanent in it.

Teleological Argument – An argument for God from the design/purpose (telos) seen in nature.

UtilitarianismIn ethics, the view that one should act to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people.