Creationists have taken issue with my article titled, “Evolution is a Religion! Proclaims Creationist Quacks.” Randy Ruggles has provided a formal response. I will be providing a reply to this on Monday 11/19. May the best argument win.
“Evolution is NOT a Religion!” says THIS Creationist
– A Response to James Kirk Wall –
By Randy Ruggles
Author “Evolution: Fact or Fiction?”
James Kirk Wall’s article titled “Evolution is a Religion! Proclaims Creationist Quacks” is a mixed bag of weak arguments, half-truths and ad hominem attacks.
Wall begins by stating emphatically, “Biblical creationists don’t have a prayer when it comes to any kind of an honest argument with an evolutionist.” Well, in the spirit of science, I’d like to put that claim to the test. I am a Christian and a biblical creationist; Wall is an evolutionist. In the following article, I intend to respond to Wall in an honest as well as completely rational and logical fashion.
Space does not permit me to address every one of Wall’s erroneous assertions (e.g. Thomas Huxley regularly crushed theologians in debates; everything in the universe points to simple origins). Since I must pick my battles, I will restrict my responses to four of Walls primary claims:
1. Christian fundamentalists take every word in the Bible literally
2. Religion retards scientific progress
3. Positing God begs the question of who designed the Designer
4. Creationists lie that evolution is a religion
When someone glances at me incredulously and asks, “You don’t really take the Bible literally do you?” I typically reply, “I take the literal parts literally and the figurative parts figuratively.” What I mean by that is that I attempt to interpret the biblical text the way the author intended it to be read.
The Bible is a collection of 66 books written on three continents, by some 40 different authors over a 1,600-year period. It contains songs, poetry, allegories, parables, prophecy and, yes, history; history that has been confirmed relentlessly by archaeology – much to the chagrin of skeptics and non-believers.
The Bible does, of course, contain figures of speech. Jesus called himself “the door” but I don’t believe for a second that he was implying he was made of wood and had hinges. But the only way Jesus’ declaration makes any sense at all is because we can compare his claim to be “the door” with what we know about a literal door – an entrance-way. If real doors did not exist, they could not be invoked symbolically. A literal meaning of a word or passage must always precede a metaphorical one.
Contrast Jesus’ statement with one about Genesis made by Hebrew scholar James Barr:
” . . . probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c)
Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the ‘days’ of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”
Now Barr is, by no means, a creationist and does not take Genesis as literal history. His point is that the author (or authors) of Genesis certainly did. And that’s what matters. There might sometimes be more than one way to interpret a text but this is often only one correct way – and that is how the author intended. Our job is to determine the author’s intended meaning and then to accept it as written. I suspect that Wall’s bias against the Bible would prevent him from taking any of it literally – regardless of what the evidence says.
In paragraph two of his article, Wall puts the following words in the mouths of creationists: “If we don’t know all the answers, the Bible is true.” This is known as a non sequitur where the conclusion of an argument does not follow logically from its premises. And if creationists were guilty of this fallacy, I would happily join Wall in their condemnation. In reality, no creationist speaks this way. Based on evidence from science, archaeology, history, prophecy and buttressed by personal experience, we have good reasons for trusting the Bible is God’s word.
It’s true that we don’t know all the answers. But like any good scientific theory, creationism makes predictions. And time and again, I’ve seen the Bible’s predictions be vindicated while evolution’s were falsified. Here are three brief examples:
1. For centuries until about the 1930s, scientists and philosophers believed the universe existed eternally. The evidence of the big bang overturned that belief. Modern science has finally caught up with what the Bible predicted over 3,500 years earlier, that the universe – including all time, space and matter – had a beginning in the finite past.
2. Fossilization is a rare process requiring unique conditions. Evolutionary theory would not necessarily predict a large fossil record. The trillions of fossils we find all over the earth in sedimentary rock strata that were laid down by water is best explained by a global flood in the days of Noah.
3. Since the early 1970s, DNA sequences that did not code for proteins were labelled as junk – useless leftovers from our evolutionary heritage. Creationists adamantly rejected the notion of junk DNA asserting that an Intelligent Designer would not design the human genome in a wasteful and capricious manner. The most up-to-date research by the ENCODE project (Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements) has revealed that at least 80 percent of so-called junk DNA is functional. The presupposition of evolution held back the progress of genomic research for 40 years.
I’LL SEE YOUR DARWIN AND RAISE YOU A NEWTON, KEPLER AND BACON
Next, Wall repeats the old canard that religion has retarded scientific progress. But even a cursory review of history reveals that, for most of the early scientists, belief in God, far from being a hindrance, was often the motivating factor behind their work.
Dinesh D’Souza, in his book “What’s So Great About Christianity” wrote, “An unbiased look at the history of science shows that modern science is an invention of medieval Christianity, and that the greatest breakthroughs in scientific reason have largely been the work of Christians. Every atheist scientist works with Christian assumptions that, due to their ignorance of theology and history, are invisible to them.”
Here is a partial list of leading scientists who were Christians: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Pascal, Cuvier, Faraday, Kelvin, Pasteur, Planck. Of course no list would be complete without Sir Francis Bacon who is credited with inventing the scientific method itself. And Sir Isaac Newton, arguably the greatest scientist who ever lived, wrote more about the Bible and theology than he ever did about science.
WHO MADE GOD? *
Wall goes on to ask the illogical and somewhat childish question: “Who made God?” (Strangely, even Richard Dawkins adopted this as the “central argument” of his book The God Delusion. If this is the best argument the high-priest of atheism has to offer, atheism is in serious trouble.) For some reason, every atheist I meet seems to think this is a slam-dunk win for their side. But in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, God is outside of time. He is eternal and has always existed. He does not require a cause.
The same cannot be said for the universe. We now know from evidence of the big bang that the universe is finite and had a beginning. Only things that have a beginning need a cause. The big bang was the beginning of time, space and matter. So the cause of the big bang must have been immaterial, non-spatial and timeless. Sounds a lot like God to me.
The “Who made God?” question actually commits at least two logical fallacies. First, it is a straw man. It assumes God needs a cause when, in fact, God is uncaused and eternal. This argument might legitimately be used to refute the pagan gods of Greece and Rome but it is powerless and invalid against the biblical God, Yahweh.
Second, it is also what is known as a category mistake in logic. Asking “Who made God?” is akin to asking “To whom is the bachelor married?” or “How many sides does a circle have?” A bachelor is, by definition, unmarried. A circle has, by definition, no sides. And Yahweh is, by definition, uncaused, self-existing and eternal. Therefore, God does not require a cause and asking “Who made God?” is logically fallacious.
I am often accused of committing the special pleading fallacy when claiming God is eternal but I am not for two simple reasons:
1. I’m not saying I can have an eternal God but you can’t have an eternal universe. My claim is that scientific evidence from the big bang and the second law of thermodynamcs tells us the universe is not eternal. Conversely, the God of the Bible has always been described as existing eternally.
2. The key to special pleading is when a distinction is made without adequate justification. For justification I appeal to the Principle of Relevant Difference. It would obviously seem quite strange to apply the same criteria to both a material, spacial universe and an immaterial, non-spatial entity such as God.
In my humble opinion, the atheist who asks “Who designed the Designer?” is in the same intellectual camp as the creationist who proclaims that “Evolution is only a theory.” To make the argument is to profoundly misunderstand their opponent’s position.
DARWIN THE PROPHET
Lastly, we turn to Wall’s central thesis – the one revealed in his title – that creationists call evolution a religion. I have found that, in general, most of the major creation organizations such as Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research do not label evolution as a religion. But both have articles on their websites quoting evolutionists who have, themselves, called evolution a religion. Two are reproduced below:
“Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion- a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint…the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.” – Michael Ruse
The late biologist Lynn Margulis has referred to neo-Darwinism as “a minor twentieth century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology.”
Wall’s claim that “creationists label evolution as a religion that needs faith” is only partially true. Evolution does require faith (albeit not blind faith). Evolutionists deny this but only because they have a misguided understanding of both the definition of faith and the nature of science.
Richard Dawkins has called faith “belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” And Mark Twain famously wrote, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” But the dictionary and the Bible each define faith as confidence or trust in someone or something based on evidence and not proof. Thus, because the scientific method itself does not and cannot provide absolute proof, all scientific claims require some measure of faith.
Psychology Today magazine pulled no punches when it stated emphatically that, “Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a scientific proof. Proofs exist only in mathematics and logic, not in science … Anyone who uses the words ‘proof,’ ‘prove’ and ‘proven’ in their discussion of science is not a real scientist.” And reknowned German physicist Max Planck said, “Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.”
THE FAITH OF THE ATHEIST
Biologist Richard Lewontin, in his review of a book by Carl Sagan, wrote, “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 counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
It is the atheist’s “a priori commitment to materialism” because he cannot allow “a Divine Foot in the door” that troubles creationists. In fact, Wall himself asserts, “Surely any kind of divine designer would not be jealous and vengeful as the flawed deity of Western religions.” And it is with this statement that Wall wanders perilously beyond any attempt at reasoned arguments and into the realm of philosophy and religion. How does he know what God would or wouldn’t do or be? Here, we get a glimpse behind the rhetoric and into the mind and motivations of this author.
At the risk of being accused of psychoanalysing him, I suggest Wall does not believe in a god that is (to paraphrase Dawkins) a jealous, petty, unjust, unforgiving, vindictive, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanical, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully for emotional reasons not logical ones. And I would simply add that I do not believe in the god that Wall does not believe in.
To conclude this article, I would like to point out that I find the parallels between Christianity and atheism to be remarkably striking. Christianity says God created a perfect world but we humans destroyed it through our selfishness and sin. We need salvation in the form of the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Atheistic materialism says humans, having reached the pinnacle of evolution, have achieved supreme status through advancements in science and technology. But these same advancements threaten to destroy us and our future. (Global warming is the atheist’s Armageddon.) If we wish to attain ‘eternal life’ through the lives of our children and grandchildren, we need a ‘saviour.’ That salvation, they believe, will come by human enlightenment through science or even perhaps by a last-ditch rescue effort by aliens from another planet. All the major biblical themes are there: creation, the Fall, redemption and salvation.
So in the end, as it turns out, I fully agree with the thesis of Wall’s article: evolution is not a religion. However, atheistic materialism most assuredly IS a religion. Evolution is merely its official creation myth.
* Parts of this section are excerpted from my new book “Why I Am Not An Atheist” coming soon to Amazon Kindle
Randy Ruggles is from North Bay, Ontario. He has a passion for Christian apologetics which is defending the Word of God using logic, reason and evidence. He is particularly interested in the debate surrounding creation, evolution and intelligent design.
He is self-employed as a Marketing Consultant and freelance journalist. He also volunteers as the creator and host of a local television show called Beyond Belief that frequently examines the “big questions of life” as well as the intersection of science and faith.
His fourth book called “Evolution: Fact or Fiction?” was recently featured on the “It Is Written” television program with Bill Santos. Those four episodes can currently be viewed, in their entirety, on YouTube.
Randy is currently working on his fifth book titled, “How to Debate an Atheist” and an essay called “Why I am Not an Atheist” which will both be available on Amazon Kindle in 2013.
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