by Dave Johnson
(This originally appeared in the November/December 1998 edition of the MCOI Journal, starting on page 6)
There are those who think that the debate over origins is just so much petty bickering among academics. They could not be more wrong. The creation/ evolution controversy is, in reality, a war between two fundamentally different and opposing worldviews. The outcome of this war will determine the direction of our society in virtually every area of life.
Are these statements a bit dramatic? Are they exaggerations? I think not. It is my contention that evolutionary thinking has had significant, detrimental effects on our culture, and if the evolutionists have their way, things can only become worse.
There are evolutionary scientists who believe that religion in general and Christianity in particular is “the opiate of the masses.” The self-appointed role and duty of clear-thinking evolutionists are to save this society which has been deluded and led astray for decades by the superstitious ideas of the Church.
Let’s examine some of the ways the teaching of evolution has had an impact on our daily lives. What really is at stake in this debate?
Prior to the popularization of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 1830’s, most people in the Western world believed the Bible was true and the source of truth revealed to man by God. The understanding that man and the universe were created by an omnipotent Being was commonly held.
But today the Bible is ridiculed by many evolutionists, while science has displaced the Word of God as the source of truth. Consider this statement by Harvard genetics professor Richard Lewontin on the goal of modern scientists:
“The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of . . . Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth.” 1
So, in the mind of Mr. Lewontin and others of his ilk, the fool places his faith in the Bible, but the wise man places his faith in “Science” alone as the foundation for truth. Why? Because of evidence, of course. As Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins puts it, “Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results. Myths and faiths are not and do not.” 2 (An aside: if ever a statement demonstrated the need for teaching evidential apologetics in our churches, this is it.)
The Christian worldview, however, is radically different. The Bible speaks of God as both the revealer of truth and truth itself. Moses said, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Deut. 32:4). David prayed, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth” (Psalm 31:5). God speaks of Himself as “the God of truth” twice in Isaiah 65:15. Jesus said that those who desire to worship God must worship Him in truth (John 4:24), and He said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
The realization that Christians must be committed to truth from God is so essential that Paul reminds his readers “the church of the living God” is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). In this battle of worldviews, both the source of truth and the definition of truth are up for grabs.
Not only is truth affected by this debate, but so too is the purpose of life. One of the great questions man has wrestled with for thousands of years is “Why are we here?” Atheistic evolutionists are ready with an answer — there is no purpose to our existence, we are just here.
Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson asserts, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” 3
Douglas Futuyma, author of a college evolutionary biology textbook, declares,
“Some shrink from the conclusion that the human species was not designed, has no purpose, and is the product of mere mechanical mechanisms – but this seems to be the message of evolution.” 4
Once again, the Christian outlook on life is diametrically opposed to the naturalistic worldview. David tells us in Psalm 139 that we are not just the result of some fortuitous series of events, but we are the creation of a caring and masterful Designer:
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.(Psalm 139:13-18)
Meaning of Life
Is there meaning in life without a Creator? In reviewing a recent book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by evolutionist Daniel Dennett, Patti Clayton observes:
“Darwin did not set out to explain the meaning of life, of course, but his revolutionary theories posed deep and difficult challenges to the assumptions about human beings and about God that had long served to ground meaning. Thus the ‘danger’ of the idea: It ‘cuts [deeply] into the fabric of our most fundamental beliefs.’ We are terrified that if Darwin is correct and if we apply his thinking to ourselves, there can be nothing sacred, there can be no point to our existence, there is no assurance that everything will ‘be all right,’ and there is no content to ‘goodness’ or even any reason to think that goodness matters.” 5
It is true that without God, without an ultimate standard of right and wrong, there is no such thing as “goodness.” Good and evil, as objective concepts concerning events in the real world, are obliterated. In an atheistic, materialistic world where morality is meaningless and preference reigns supreme, it is proper to say “I don’t want you to steal my car,” but anathema to assert “It is wrong for you to steal my car.”
But this is counter-intuitive. Everyone has an inherent concept of right and wrong which is inescapable, since God has written this on the human heart (Rom. 2:15). Christianity explains the unavoidable reality of moral consciousness, while naturalism is at a total loss.
Meaning of Christianity
If naturalistic evolution is true, then obviously, Christianity is false. But some Christians don’t seem to grasp this, believing that Darwinism and the Bible are compatible.
Atheist G. Richard Bonarth understood the foundational importance of the creation account to Christianity when he wrote,
“It becomes clear now that the whole justification of Jesus’ life and death is predicated on the existence of Adam and the forbidden fruit he and Eve ate. Without the original sin, who needs to be redeemed? Without Adam’s fall in a life of constant sin terminated by death, what purpose is there to Christianity? None.” 6
This message should be preached from every pulpit in the land.
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ ONLY makes sense when the bad news of the fall of man and consequent separation from God is understood.
The Influence of Evolutionary Thinking
What has evolutionary thinking affected? Just about everything. Professor Daniel Dennett has summed this up well in commenting on the results of Darwinism:
“Universal acid is a liquid so corrosive it will eat through anything! . . . Little did I realize that in a few years I would encounter an idea – Darwin’s idea – bearing an unmistakable likeness to universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.” 7
Dennett’s description is quite apt, but I think he inadvertently points out one of the detrimental effects of evolutionary thinking — it is highly corrosive, not merely transforming but greatly damaging everything it comes in contact with.
For example, consider the effect of evolution on the interpretation of the Bible. German scholar and theologian Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) caused great damage to the notion of the reliability of the Scriptures in the minds of many with his theory that they were written as a result, not of divine revelation, but of an evolutionary process. Paul Heinisch described this view:
“Scholars who will not admit divine revelation seek to explain Old Testament belief in God in terms of evolution. They would have Old Testament monotheism be the resultant from lower stages, or from polytheism, or regard it as peculiar instinct of the Semites, or as borrowed from neighboring nations.” 8
This inevitably led to the religious liberalism concerning the Bible that we encounter today in the Jesus Seminar and in liberal churches, 9 but evolutionary thinking is completely inconsistent with the Christian view of the Bible. Jesus said:
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47).
If the writings of Moses in the Old Testament are undermined, then the claims of Christ in the New Testament are dubious at best and deceptive at worst.
How has evolution affected teaching in the public schools? Evolutionary instruction has been the reigning doctrine in government schools for decades. When a teacher or a school district has tried to balance the teaching of origins by informing students of creation alternatives, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) usually slaps them with a lawsuit, charging that such actions are unconstitutional. To my knowledge, there is no school system in the country that gives a fair presentation of intelligent design. And yet, the dominance of evolutionary teaching in our schools is not complete enough, say the evolutionists, because too many students are not being sufficiently indoctrinated in Darwinist dogma.
This past spring, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a guidebook aimed at providing teachers, administrators, and parents with tools to help students understand that evolution is essential to explaining some fundamental concepts in science. In an article decrying the need for such a guidebook, sympathetic columnist Tom Teepen explained why the NAS felt it must act:
“The academy of sciences found — anecdotally, for these things are hard to quantify — that school boards are under increasing political pressure to require equal time for creationism if evolution is taught. NO one has a handle on how many school districts, or how many teachers on their own, have given up teaching evolution to avoid having to mislead students by giving comparable weight to pseudo-science.” 10
Some evolutionists are so upset at this state of affairs that they turn college lectures into revivals for evolutionary irreligion. Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould gave a lecture at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, May 8, 1997 during which he lamented,
“We won in the courts but lost in the classroom. Teachers do not have the courage to teach evolution. They must become more aggressive.” 11
One very aggressive advocate of evolution, Professor Dennett, is so angered by the influence of religion in the arena of science (i.e. evolution) that he proposes that theistic religion should continue to exist only in “cultural zoos.” Note well the warning he gives to Christian parents:
“Is there a conflict between science and religion here? There most certainly is . . .
Save the Baptists! Yes, of course, but not by all means. Not if it means tolerating the deliberate misinforming of children about the natural world . . . Should evolution be taught in schools? Should arithmetic be taught? Should history? Misinforming a child is a terrible offense . . .
. . . those whose visions dictate that they cannot peacefully coexist with the rest of us we will have to quarantine as best we can, minimizing the pain and damage, trying always to leave open a path or two that may come to seem acceptable. . .
If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods – that the Earth is flat, that ‘Man’ is not a product of evolution by natural selection – then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being – the well-being of all of us on this planet – depends on the education of our descendants.” 12
Contrast this with the Christian worldview. The Lord instructed Joshua in the essentials for the well being of society:
“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua: 7-8).
God also gave instruction to Moses on what parents should teach their children:
“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:3-7).
Basic morality in our society has been profoundly affected by the evolution worldview.
Sexual morality has been assaulted by those who believe that people are born with a certain sexual orientation, and to act according to this orientation is proper and just. So homosexuality must not be condemned because it is the “natural” behavior for those who have evolved in that way. If there is no God and evolution is true, who can effectively argue against this? And how can anyone condemn adultery, promiscuity, or even child molestation since these are just the acting out of man’s basic survival instincts?
Euthanasia (the right to be killed) and assisted suicide (the right to kill yourself) are trumpeted throughout our nation today as wonderful and liberating advances in our society. If man is not the creation of God but the accident of chance, why not simply end your life when it becomes too bothersome?
Abortion is now looked at by many as a “fundamental constitutional right” because of Roe vs. Wade and other equally misguided court decisions. But a new perverted argument was recently introduced which gives further support for abortion, linking the killing of newborn babies by their mothers to evolution. According to Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at MIT, because of evolution there should not be harsh penalties meted out to mothers who commit “neonaticide.” This is not a moral horror but a genetically encoded evolutionary adaptation. Besides, says Pinker, these newborns are not really persons with a recognizable right to life because “the right to life must come, the moral philosophers say, from morally significant traits that we humans happen to possess.” 13
The Descent of Society
From the lofty ideals upon which this nation was founded, based on the belief in a divine Creator, evolutionary thinking has brought us down to the current cesspool of immorality in which we find ourselves. From the White House to the schoolhouse, evolution has had a universally corrosive effect on our culture. But this does not have to continue.
The Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, says:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
. . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
I firmly believe the solution to the ills of our society is for us to return to the worldview of the Founding Fathers, to again embrace a Christian worldview as “one nation under God.” The Bible speaks clearly on the proper relationship between God and nations:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance (Psalm 33:12).
The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17).
If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3).
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17).
If we want to survive and prosper as a people, we must return to the foundational principles laid out in the Scriptures and embraced by our founders. The words of Thomas Jefferson, etched into the marble on his monument in Washington, are a sober warning to America to reject the false religion of evolution before it is too late:
“GOD WHO GAVE US LIFE GAVE US LIBERTY. CAN THE LIBERTIES OF A NATION BE SECURE WHEN WE HAVE REMOVED A CONVICTION THAT THESE LIBERTIES ARE THE GIFT OF GOD? I TREMBLE FOR MY COUNTRY WHEN I REFLECT THAT GOD IS JUST, THAT HIS JUSTICE CANNOT SLEEP FOREVER.”
- Phillip E. Johnson, “The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism,” First Things 77 (November 1997): 22-25. Internet address for this article is “www.origins.org/ftissues/ft9711/johnson.html” ↩
- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: BasicBooks, 1995), 33. ↩
- Phillip Johnson, Reason in the Balance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 8-9. ↩
- Ibid., 9. ↩
- Patti H. Clayton, “A Promise Rather Than a Threat,” American Scientist 84, no. 3 (May-June 1996): 289. ↩
- G. Richard Bonarth, “The Meaning of Evolution,” American Atheist Magazine, 20 September 1979. ↩
- Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 63. ↩
- Dave Breese, Seven Men Who Rule the World From the Grave (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 93. ↩
- Ibid., 98-99. ↩
- Tom Teepen, “Creation of a Scandal,” The Charlotte Observer, 14 April 1998, 13A. ↩
- Norris Anderson, “The Science of Evolution and the Politics of Creation,” Origins & Design 18, no. 2 (Fall 1997), 7. ↩
- Dennett, 515-19. ↩
- Steven Pinker, “Why they Kill Their Newborns,” New York Times Magazine, November 2, 1997, 56. ↩