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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Darwin’s Legacy: A Biblical Worldview

Posted by jlwile on November 13, 2009

I have a stack of journals and other periodicals that I read in order to keep up on what is going on in the world of science. Currently, I am working on the ones that came in late July. However, for some reason, the March 23 issue of Answers Update from Answers in Genesis got mixed up with the late July materials. As a result, I just read this:

The horrible school shooting in Finland in 2007 is a prime example. The killer stated: “I am prepared to fight and die for my cause . . .I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit…It’s time to put NATURAL SELECTION & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on tracks!” This student was only carrying out in practice what he had been taught concerning origins, as well as the lack of purpose and meaning he found in life. Herein lies Darwin’s terrible legacy, which has affected all modern cultures. 1

In other words, Charles Darwin left behind a terrible legacy – one of violence and evil. Many other Christian works say similar things. For example, a book that claims to give people a “Biblical Worldview of God and Truth” says:

Darwin’s Tragic Legacy…his 1859 book…gave rise to the controversial theory of evolution. Sadly, 150 years later, modern evolutionary theory has become the basis for most biological studies and is taught as fact in our schools and universities, despite the truth that scientists are no closer to proving the theory after all this time. Meanwhile, the biblical account of God’s creation of the universe is no longer taught in most schools due to legal challenges brought by those who do not believe in God or the authority of His Word. 2

So according to this book, Darwin left behind a tragic legacy that has destroyed modern education.

Of course, both statements are seriously incorrect. Darwin certainly did not leave a “tragic” or “terrible” legacy. In fact, Darwin was a great scientist who left us a rich legacy of solid scientific data and conclusions. Sure, some of what he believed was wrong, but that can be said of almost every great scientist from the past. More importantly, a lot of what Darwin believed is correct. In fact, the great irony of all this is that both sources I quoted are from young-earth creationists, and without Darwin, it would be impossible for young-earth creationists to have a Biblical worldview!

Now before I explain that statement, let me make it clear that a young-earth view of creation is not the same as a Biblical worldview. Unlike many of my young-earth creationist colleagues, I am not arrogant enough to think that I know more about the Bible than Gleason Archer, Clement of Alexandria, C.S. Lewis, or any of the other Christian luminaries who disagree with my interpretation of Genesis. Thus, I am not arrogant enough to think that one must be a young-earth creationist to have a Biblical worldview. Old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists can have a Biblical worldview as well. However, since I am a young-earth creationist, my Biblical worldview includes the idea of a supernatural creation that occurred probably less than 10,000 years ago, a worldwide flood, etc. As a result, that’s the kind of Biblical worldview I will be discussing.

So why do I say that it is impossible for young-earth creationists to have a Biblical worldview without Darwin? It’s simple. As I just said, a young-earth creationist Biblical worldview requires a flood that happened a few thousand years ago. During that flood, air- and land-based animals were saved on an ark. They came on the ark mostly in pairs, but the clean ones came in groups of seven.

Now it is abundantly clear that there is no way Noah’s ark could have supported two of each species of air- and land-based animal that we see today. Thus, young-earth creationists believe that God created specific kinds of creatures, and He built in them the machinery that would allow them to change over time so as to adapt to changes in their surroundings. However, each genome is limited to the specific kind of organism created, and at some point, you reach a limit at which the genome cannot be changed anymore, at least not in a way that will promote further adaptation. Indeed, this is exactly what most modern genetics and evolution experiments seem to be telling us.

Because of all this, Noah did not have to take two of each species. He simply took two (or in some cases, seven) of each kind of animal. Then, after the ark landed and the animals began to spread out, variation and natural selection ended up producing all of the species that we see today.

Now who, I ask you, formalized the idea that variation can be acted upon by natural selection to produce new species? Darwin did. In fact, the majority of his book (The Origin of Species) is devoted to showing how variation and natural selection allow animals to adapt and become more specialized. In general, scientists called this “microevolution.” Only a small portion of his book is devoted to the idea that one basic kind of organism (like a fish) can become a completely different kind of organism (like an amphibian). This idea, called “macroevolution,” is what Darwin got wrong.

Unlike macroevolution, microevolution is a well-established scientific theory. Not only is there a wealth of evidence for it, but the basic mechanisms that produce it are also fairly well understood. Thus, far from leaving a “tragic” or “terrible” legacy, Darwin left us a rich scientific legacy. He gave us the ability to understand how God made organisms able to adapt to changes in their environment.

For the young-earth creationist, however, he left an even greater legacy. He left us the ability to understand how all the air- and land-based animals we see today could have descended from animals that Noah brought on the ark. Without Darwin, young-earth creationists simply could not hold to a Biblical worldview. It is time that young-earth creationists really understood this important fact and stopped trying to falsely minimize the incredible legacy Darwin left us.

REFERENCES

1. Ham, Ken, “Darwin’s Sad Legacy,” Answers Update, March 23, 2009, p. 1
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2. John Hay and David Webb, Who Is God And Can I Really Know Him? , 2009, p. 33
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Comments

12 Responses to “Darwin’s Legacy: A Biblical Worldview”
  1. Are the number of different kind of animals that Noah saved the same as the kinds of animals in the creation story? What are those kinds again?

    How do you reconcile the observed rates of genetic mutation with the fact that so much micro-evolution has occurred in the past 10,000 years?

  2. jlwile says:

    There is a lot of great research going on right now to determine exactly what the kinds of animals are. The field is called “Baraminology,” and it utilizes genetic studies, hybridization studies, and the like to try to determine exactly what kinds exist in nature. A good peer-reviewed article on the recent status of this line of research can be found here.

    In terms of mutation rates, you have to remember three things:

    1. Mutations are not the only cause of speciation. Natural variation can cause that as well.

    2. Mutation rates depend substantially on environment, and as has been pointed out in several other articles, the genome seems designed to increase mutation rates when stressed. Thus, current mutation rates are not a good indicator of mutation rates in the past.

    3. The scientific literature is rife with studies of rapid speciation. Finches and lizards are two examples.

    These considerations show that there is no “time problem” with the speciation of animals after the Flood.

  3. I first got interested in contacting Apologia (which led to you) from the Exploring Creation with Zoology textbook my sister was using to homeschool. What are the kinds of animals from the creation story that are listed in that book?

    The National Center for Science Education has a great article on Baraminology.

    “Mutations are not the only cause of speciation. Natural variation can cause that as well.” Mutations do not cause speciation. Natural selection, operating on phenotypic variation, causes speciation. If you are a supporter of Darwin’s explanation of natural selection, you should understand this. Darwin had no idea about genes, so he certainly didn’t use mutation in his explanation.

    “[T]he genome seems designed to increase mutation rates when stressed.” Any non-creationist science that backs this up? As for science, the molecular clock can tick at different rates, but these rates are single percentage point changes over millions of years.

    The finches article also says this: “The Galápagos Islands’ 14 species of finches all evolved from one ancestral species, which arrived from the South American mainland about two to three million years ago.” Do you believe that?

    The lizard article, which is about humans introducing a lizard population to a new environment artificially, also says “Tail clips taken for DNA analysis confirmed that the Pod Mrcaru lizards were genetically identical to the source population on Pod Kopiste.” So no mutation occurred.

    Finally, I don’t care how many creationist peers review submissions to the CRSQ, or what its article acceptance rate is (surely decreased by total crackpot submissions). The CRS is not an credible source. Can you cite Nature or Science for at least one post or comment?

  4. jlwile says:

    The zoology books (there are three of them) don’t deal with baraminology, so the kinds of creatures are not listed in the books. If you had read the article I linked, you would have seen a table that lists many of the created kinds.

    Here is a great article on the “National Center for Science Education”, which should be called the National Center for Disinformation.

    You are correct that Darwin didn’t use mutations to explain speciation, because he didn’t know about them. However, mutations do cause speciation, as anyone with any knowledge of evolution can tell you. In “On the Road to a New Species”, for example, Elizabeth Pennisi says,

    Catching one species in the act of becoming two is no easy feat. Yet evolutionary biologists working in the Solomon Islands may have done just that. They have found that a single genetic change turns a small, brown-bellied bird black, possibly leading it to mate with like-colored birds–and setting it on the road to becoming a new species…To track down the gene underlying the color change, Uy and his colleagues took a cue from black sheep and pigs. These animals have a mutation in the gene for the melanocortin-1 receptor, a protein that helps control how much black pigment is produced. The researchers sequenced part of that gene from 28 black birds and 19 brown-bellied ones. They found a few differences but only one that mattered: a genetic change that altered a single amino acid in the resulting protein. It seems this change permanently activates the protein so that more black than brown pigment is produced.

    Since you probably don’t subscribe to the journal Science, here is a link to a discussion of the article. I truly wish you would LEARN about evolution before you try to comment on it.

    I think you need to read this blog more carefully, because I have already gone over the evidence that the genome seems designed to increase mutation rate when stressed. A good review article is Patricia L. Foster, “Adaptive mutation: implications for evolution,” Bioessays 22:1067-1074, 2000.

    I certainly don’t think the article is right about its SPECULATION about when the original finch came to the Galapagos. I do, however, trust the DATA in the article.

    The lizard article indeed shows that no significant mutation occurred, which once again demonstrates the first point I made to you – speciation does NOT require mutation. Please try to keep up!

    The CRS certainly is a credible source. Just because you claim it isn’t doesn’t change the fact that it is. You see, unlike you, I am a scientist. Thus, I look at the DATA. The DATA show that CRSQ is a credible source. You, however, seem to only look at what you WANT to believe. Since you don’t WANT to believe what the data say, you must arbitrarily limit what data you consider. You do that by claiming that some sources are “credible”, while others are not. That is not a rational or a scientific approach to understanding nature. It is unfortunate that you are too afraid to consider what the data say.

    I reference Science and Nature quite a bit. I even referenced the former in this reply. Once again, that’s because I look at the DATA. I don’t arbitrarily decide which sources I will ignore. It would be helpful to your education if you learned to do the same.

  5. Just how do you tell SPECULATION

  6. jlwile says:

    It is rather easy. Statements made in the absence of solid evidence are speculation. The changes in the finches have been observed and well documented. Thus, the statements made regarding them do not involve speculation. They involve good reasoning based on solid data.

    The idea that the original finch ancestor arrived from the mainland two to three million years ago has very little data to back it up, and what little data that does exist is very questionable. Thus, it is speculation.

    The fact that the author goes into strong detail about the data that support rapid speciation but cannot even summarize any data in support of the time frame should give you some idea of how speculative the statement is.

  7. (oops, continuing) from DATA? “Since you don’t WANT to believe what the data say, you must arbitrarily limit what data you consider.” Doesn’t that apply to your choice of labeling a certain part of an article SPECULATION and another DATA?

    “3. The scientific literature is rife with studies of rapid speciation. Finches and lizards are two examples.” The finch article examines the rapid evolution of one species of finch away from another species. The lizard example is about two populations of one species. There was no speciation, thus no rapid speciation in either case.

    As for your link that discusses the Science article, it includes these words:

    “I’m not an evolutionary biologist, afterall.” and “But the full article isn’t published yet, so I haven’t read the paper, only it’s synopsis.” Nice Google search, though.

  8. Or an alternative interpretation: that the article goes into great detail about what is new and simply states things that are already solidly established.

    Either way, the finches article doesn’t have anything to do with speciation.

  9. jlwile says:

    No. As explained in my previous answer, the data determine whether or not the statement is speculation.

    The two articles both discuss rapid speciation, which directly addresses your question. The lizard might not be a new species yet, but the changes clearly will lead to a new species, and the article discusses how RAPID those changes are. The fact that you don’t WANT to believe the conclusions of the studies does not affect what the studies clearly say.

    The full article is, indeed, published. It was published in June of 2009 and is available to subscribers (I am a subscriber) on Science’s website. Nice attempt at diverting away from the data, but I won’t let that happen on my blog.

  10. jlwile says:

    Your alternate interpretation requires speculation. The article makes a statement with no supporting evidence. You might WANT the statement to be true, but that doesn’t affect the fact that it is highly speculative.

    Of course the finch article has everything to do with speciation. Beak size in and of itself is a characteristic used to identify one species from another in a genus of birds. Thus, a smaller beak is very significant in terms of separating species.

  11. “but the changes clearly will lead to a new species” hmmm, speculation, perhaps?

    Shouldn’t an article that has everything to do with speciation include the word “speciation”?

  12. jlwile says:

    Uh…no. It’s not speculation when it is backed up by solid data. Please try to keep up!

    The author chooses to use the word “evolution” instead of speciation.

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