If the evolution of the automobile proves that automobiles were not designed, then biological evolution probably does contradict the theistic notion that we are ultimately the result of plan and purpose.
Evolution has so many meanings that it would be an oversimplification to say that it is either compatible or incompatible with Christianity. It is certainly an oversimplification to place creation and evolution as polar opposites.
What is in conflict with Christianity is a materialistic worldview and the idea that matter and energy are all that exist. Philosophical naturalism is really the cornerstone of Darwinian theory along with the assumption that all biological information ultimately arose through random chance and natural processes. It is the religion of Darwinism rather than evolution per se that is in conflict with Christianity.
As philosopher of science, Michael Ruse, puts it,
"And certainly, there's no doubt about it, that in the past, and I think also in the present, for many evolutionists, evolution has functioned as something with elements which are, let us say, akin to being a secular religion ... And it seems to me very clear that at some very basic level, evolution as a scientific theory makes a commitment to a kind of naturalism, namely, that at some level one is going to exclude miracles and these sorts of things come what may."
AAAS Symposium: "The New Antievolutionism,"
February 13, 1993, Boston, MA
For a better understanding of what Darwinism really means, take a look at What is Darwinism? by Phillip E. Johnson.
There are also a number of good reference quotes and articles in the science section of our library and a number of excellent books on our recommended reading page.
Why do most scientists reject the notion of creation?
Science is restricted to the study of natural phenomena. Creation (in the sense of the direct manipulation of matter by God) is not natural. Therefore, it is assumed that creation events did not take place. This is not very logical, of course, but it is what the thinking boils down to. Most scientists simply begin with the assumption that the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of biological diversity and complexity must be explainable without recourse to intelligent input from outside the Cosmos. Others falsely conclude that no creator is necessary. The conclusions do not flow from the data, however. Rather they are built into the assumption.
This somewhat dubious assumption forces us to view the cosmos as developmentally continuous. While many Christian theists hold to a continuous creation, there are many obvious gaps and apparent natural discontinuities including the origin of life and the origin of most animal phyla during the Cambrian explosion. There are also numerous examples of irreducible complexity which cannot be explained in a gradual Darwinian fashion.
The question for Christian theists is really not whether creation or evolution is true. The question is WHAT did God create? Did He create a continuous universe whereby all natural laws and initial conditions were finely tuned to ultimately produce life "naturalistically" or did He create a cosmos with natural discontinuities and laws of conservation to preserve and prevent major evolutionary change from occurring? Philosophical naturalism has prevented scientists from even considering the latter possibility as logical as it is. It is really up to theistic scientists who are more open to the possibility of natural discontinuties and stasis to explore the idea further.
For further reading try Alvin Plantinga's erudite analysis of the problem, Methodological Naturalism?
Doesn't the evidence for natural selection show that God is unnecessary to explain biological origins?
One should never confuse the survival of the fittest with the arrival of the fittest. While natural selection can explain microevolution and the origin of species, it is becoming increasingly clear that microevolution cannot be extrapolated to account for major evolutionary change and the origin of the higher taxa. Darwinian processes may produce minor variations on pre-existing themes and technically generate new species in the process, but natural history reveals that most major themes of life were ushered on-stage during the Cambrian explosion during a period of low species diversity. The origin of species and the origin of the phyla are clearly two different phenomena.
Were Darwin's extrapolations justified? Judging from the conclusions of many of the scientists attending one of the most important conferences in evolutionary biology in the past forty years, the answer is probably not.
"The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.
... Evolution, according to the Modern Synthesis, moves at a stately pace, with small changes accumulating over periods of many millions of years yielding a long heritage of steadily advancing lineages as revealed in the fossil record. However, the problem is that according to most paleontologists the principle feature of individual species within the fossil record is stasis, not change...
In a generous admission Francisco Ayala, a major figure in propounding the Modern Synthesis in the United States, said "We would not have predicted stasis from population genetics, but I am now convinced from what the paleontologists say that small changes do not accumulate."
Lewin, R. (1980)
"Evolutionary Theory Under Fire"
Science, vol. 210, 21 November, p. 883
Darwin considered the fossil record to be the most serious objection to his theory. For more detail see Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology. A particularly serious problem for Darwinian intrepretations of natural history is the pervasive pattern found in the geological column. For further details see Conflicts Between Darwin and Geological Succession.
Another problem for Darwinian theory is the existence of systems of irreducible complexity. Historically, the problem was recognized quite early by St. George Mivart and termed "The Incompetency of 'Natural Selection' to account for the Incipient Stages of Useful Structures."
In his book, Darwinism: The Refutation of a Myth, Soren Lovtrup points out that
"some critics turned against Darwin's teachings for religious reasons, but they were a minority; most of his opponents ... argued on a completely scientific basis."
He goes on to explain:
"...the reasons for rejecting Darwin's proposal were many, but first of all that many innovations cannot possibly come into existence through accumulation of many small steps, and even if they can, natural selection cannot accomplish it, because incipient and intermediate stages are not advantageous."
Ironically, natural selection can also be seen as a conservative mechanism which inhibits major evolutionary change from occurring. For an explanation of how natural selection can account for higher taxon-level stasis see On The Origin of Stasis by Means of Natural Selection.
Random mutations are also not a very plausible explanation to account for biological complexity unless one has a prior commitment to a materialistic worldview. Belief in the creative power of mutations and natural selection to produce the information intensive complexity found in biological systems simply defies common sense. If there is an evolutionary process, neo-Darwinism isn't it. Chance is hardly a scientific explanation of anything and natural selection ought to eliminate useless incipient and intermediate stages of irreducibly complex systems thus inhibiting major evolutionary change from occurring through gradual Darwinian processes.
"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated."
"Billions and Billions of Demons"
New York Review of Books
January 9, 1997, p. 28
Pierre Paul Grasse, Michael Denton, and Michael Behe among others are all quite critical of the sufficiency of neo-Darwinian processes to account for life in all of its diversity, disparity, and complexity. Michael's Behe's new book ,Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution is an excellent critique of Darwinian gradualism from the perspective of biological complexity at the molecular level. Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis is also highly recommended reading. For a more general overview of the problems with Darwinian theory try Darwin on Trial by Berkeley professor Phillip E. Johnson.
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