Copyright © 1985, 1986, 1998 by John D. Callahan
All Biblical quotations are from the Good News translations (3rd or 4th editions) by the American Bible Society.
ISBN 0-9615767-0-7 (2nd edition)
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 85-91519 (2nd edition)
One of the most talked about issues today, both in and out of the church, is the question of evolution. Most Christians believe in either a literal interpretation of Genesis or a modified version where a day may not have meant a literal 24-hour period. In either case there is still a strong belief in the basic story of man's origin. That is, that God created the heavens and Earth and then two human beings, Adam and Eve, from whom we are all descended. Most scientists, on the other hand, are evolutionists. They believe from an objective scientific approach, using observation and experimentation, that the evidence clearly points to life having started in the sea billions of years ago followed by a slow process of change or evolution until we have the creatures, including man, that we see today.
Now remember, as was stated in the first chapter, there are two basic foundations for knowledge -- one being observation and experimentation, the other being divine revelation from God. The creationists base their arguments on the creation story as being the literal word of God, and therefore they assume that it must be correct. Since God said it, it must be right, and all observation, experimentation, and theory must be interpreted in this light. The evolutionists, on the other hand, do not start with any Biblical premise but rather are more swayed by scientific fact.
The Bible is a very valid source, but it must be weighed against other evidence. If the Bible turns out to be wrong in areas, then it's wrong. In forming models of the universe we live in, our models often start out crude. Not surprisingly, this is true in a spiritual as well as physical sense. The story of creation as given in the Bible is a very crude model for what actually happened. Still, it does make some valid points. Moses was a man of God and had insight from Him (Moses is thought to have written Genesis and the creation account). The story is correct in identifying God as the supreme being and creator. The story is also correct in identifying Satan as the main opponent of God and man. There are also many valid points about the relationship between God, Satan, and man. And even in a scientific sense the account is right in many of its assumptions. For instance when the Earth was first created 4.5 billion years ago, it is fair to say that it was "formless and desolate" (Gen. 1:2). The story as a whole, however, taken in a literal sense is badly flawed.
As was mentioned earlier, there are practically no scientists today who doubt that life, including man, evolved on this planet. The evidence is just too overwhelming to the objective mind. There is a heated debate today over the exact mechanisms involved in the evolutionary process, but this is only a result of scientists attempting to further improve their understanding. The fact of evolution is not debated. It is much the same as astronomers debating whether or not the physical universe will one day halt its expansion and collapse. The fact that it is expanding right now is not debated, only whether it will one day halt (by the way, the evidence is favoring a never ending expansion). We will discuss evolution and man's origins latter in the chapter, but for now let us first look at the creation story found in Genesis. We will note that besides the overwhelming scientific evidence against its literal interpretation the story contradicts itself.
"In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate" (Gen. 1:1,2). Everyone has heard this passage many times. It is the first sentence in the Bible. Now we are fairly certain that this present material universe began 10 to 20 billion years ago with a gigantic explosion -- the Big Bang. The Earth, on the other hand, is known to be approximately 4.5 billion years old from uranium 238 decay and other evidence. This means that the time from the beginning of the universe to the formation of the Earth is at least 5 billion years. So the author of Genesis covers at least 5 billion years, or half the time of the existence of the universe, in one sentence. There is no mention of the Big Bang, no mention of the expansion of the universe and formation of galaxies and stars, no mention of the formation of our solar system with the sun at the center. Later on in Genesis there is the mention of the formation of the sun, moon, and stars: "So God made the two larger lights, the sun to rule over the day and the moon to rule over the night; he also made the stars" (Gen. 1:16). However, this statement comes several verses after the verse: "Then God commanded, 'Let there be light' -- and light appeared" (Gen. 1:3). Worse still, it (Gen. 1:16) also comes after the verse: "Then he commanded, 'Let the earth produce all kinds of plants, those that bear grain and those that bear fruit' -- and it was done" (Gen. 1:11).
So according to Genesis, day and night were created first, followed by plants, and finally the sun was created. Of course this is ridiculous, and one might try to argue that Moses was not implying a strict sequence of events. However, it is quite clear from the text that day and night were created on the first day, plants on the third day, and finally the sun on the fourth day. In addition, stars were also created on the fourth day, which is absurd. The stars existed before both the sun and Earth.
Now we know, again, from evidence which few objective scientists deny, that vegetation has only existed on the land masses of the Earth for the last 400 million years. This means that Moses not only has the events out of order, but he is off by billions of years. Also one has to speculate on Moses' understanding of the sun. For the sun was not created before or at the same time as day, but rather the sun was created after day in order to rule over it.
A few examples of the story clearly contradicting itself are given below. Animals were created first (Gen. 1:24) and men were created latter (Gen. 1:26). Yet in Genesis 2:7 God created the first man, Adam, and then we read in Genesis 2:18,19 "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.' So he took some soil from the ground and formed all the animals and all the birds."
If Adam and Eve were the first and second humans, then their first two sons, Cain and Abel, were the only others. There is no mention of Adam and Eve having any other children until after Cain kills Abel: "Adam and his wife had another son. She said, 'God has given me a son to replace Abel, whom Cain killed' " (Gen. 4:25). For his crime, God punishes Cain by forcing him to be a homeless wanderer (Gen. 4:12). If there were only two other adult humans on Earth (Adam and Eve), Cain should have no fear of other men. However, Cain expresses fear of other men and God protects him (Gen. 4:13-16). Not only this, Cain finds a wife, settles down, and builds a city (Gen. 4:17).
Now these are some of the fallacies of the creation story; there are many more. The point is that to the objective mind the story is not correct. The universe, the Earth, and man simply did not come into existence as described. We know this from concrete scientific evidence, and the story contradicts itself several times. The story is only correct in the crudest sense. It is a beginning model for the spiritual universe, much as the flat-Earth theory was a beginning model for the physical universe. Those who try and rationalize the creation story to be correct base their arguments on a false assumption: that the Bible must be perfectly correct. They start with this theory, which they will not change, and try to make the facts conform. Now this is not how the method of observation and experimentation works. Theory (that which is presumed and to be tested) must conform to fact (that which is known for sure). Fact cannot be made to conform to theory. As was pointed out in chapter 1, the Bible, for the most part, was written by inspired men of God. It was not written directly by God. In many places the Bible is clearly right, but in many others it is just as wrong.
Science has given us everything from the telephone, to the electric light, to air conditioning, to television. We have landed men on the moon, and sent spacecraft past the outer planets. It would not be possible to do these things if the science behind them was wrong. And the same kind of reasoning and scientific knowledge which has given us these wonders has also given us our understanding of the physical universe as described in chapter 2. For instance, scientists have a firm grasp of many of the laws which govern the behavior of the nucleus of the atom. This is why scientists were able to split the uranium atom and begin the nuclear age. When the first atom bomb was exploded in 1945, it was not an accident. What would happen was theoretically predicted based upon the facts scientists knew. Now scientists also understand much about the atomic decay of uranium into other elements. This knowledge is one way to determine the age of the Earth. That scientists are grossly wrong in their prediction of the Earth's age is highly unlikely. It is, again, around 4.5 billion years old. Yet many Bible scholars for many years held that the Earth was around 6,000 years old.
Science too has learned much about the origins of life and mankind. Let us start with the newly formed Earth. It was hot and water did not exist in liquid form. A primitive atmosphere of ammonia and methane existed. Active volcanoes were numerous and there was no life anywhere. Around a billion years pass. The Earth cools down, oceans form, and the primitive atmosphere changes slightly. There is lightning, rain, and thunderstorms periodically, as there is today. By the way, it seems highly unlikely that rain first fell upon the Earth in Noah's day as many Bible scholars contend.
We know that there are around 100 basic elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, etc. The elements are capable of combining to form almost an infinite variety of molecules, from water to DNA. Due to lightning and other external forces, more and more complex molecules began to be built up in the primitive oceans. Also, molecules would change spontaneously. That is, certain molecules would form and then change into others. Considering the laws of physics and chemistry this is not really strange. For instance good whiskey improves with age due to gradual changes in its chemistry. These changes are spontaneous, occurring as the bottle simply sits on a shelf.
So we have now a primitive Earth where many, many molecules are forming. A variety of reactions and changes occur in the molecules continually. This process goes on for hundreds of millions of years. Note that a time span of 200 million years is a million times longer than the age of the United States. Eventually something very important happens. A molecule is formed which has the capacity to reproduce itself. It has a certain molecular structure, and as it moves in the ocean it attaches a variety of loose molecules to itself. Eventually it has a double structure, one consisting of the original molecule, the other consisting of a duplicate molecule. The two identical molecules then split. This may be considered the beginning of life, because the molecule, in a very primitive sense, eats food and reproduces itself.
This very primitive life form spreads throughout much of the oceans of the Earth. This life form and the other molecules continue to undergo change due to external forces and spontaneous changes. Millions upon millions of years again pass. New, different, and more complex reproducing molecules arise. As these primitive forms of life begin to crowd the seas, a competition arises for the food molecules they need to survive. The more advanced life forms win out and dominate. However, there is often, but not always, still a place for the more primitive ones. All of this is based on the fact that things do not stay exactly the same as the eons pass. A bolt of lightning hits the ocean just right one day and a new molecule is formed. A reproducing molecule, due to spontaneity, does not reproduce itself exactly and there is another different life form, and so forth.
Hundreds of millions of years pass. Then something new comes onto the scene, a cell. It is bigger, more organized, and capable of doing more than the simple reproducing molecules. Cells now advance and develop in much the same way as the primitive molecules did. There are many one celled animals, which compete with one another for food. They reproduce by division. Cells which are more advanced and adapted to their environment increase in number. Cells less adapted and unable to compete decrease in number, and some forms disappear altogether. External forces and spontaneous occurrences continue to cause change in the organisms. Primitive cells in the form of bacteria have existed on the Earth for billions of years.
Now another significant advancement takes place: multiple cell organisms begin to appear. The process of change and advancement continues, and countless cells begin to organize themselves into organisms. Primitive animals arise with male and female representatives. Sex becomes the mode of reproduction rather than simple cell division. Seemingly incredible advancement has taken place since the formation of the Earth. Yet things have only begun. Let us look now at the development of life from when primitive multi-celled animals left numerous fossils, due to the development of hard shells and bones.
It is approximately 600 million years ago, and the land masses are still devoid of life. Plants and invertebrate animals thrive in warm shallow seas. The most advanced form of life is a little animal, about an inch long, which crawls on the ocean floor. It is called a trilobite. One hundred million years pass and the first coral and vertebrates appear -- small armored fishes. Another hundred million years pass and the first land plants and land animals arise. These first land animals are like scorpions, while the seas become bountiful with fish and invertebrates. Next, amphibians develop from fish who learned to crawl from evaporating pool to pool to stay alive.
Another 100 million years pass; the time is now about 300 million years ago. The middle United States is under water, and plants become numerous on land. Shortly after this we have what is called the "age of insects," because insects appear in amazing number and large size, along with great coal deposits and the first reptiles. Next, from these reptiles, fin-backed lizards evolve -- forerunners of the great dinosaurs. Also the first beetles are seen. Time passes and when it is 200 million years ago we see the first land dinosaurs walking on hind legs. Another 50 million years pass and the first small mammals and birds come on the scene, while reptiles of all shapes and sizes occupy the land, sea, and air. By the time it becomes 100 million years ago, dinosaurs rule the Earth. Also we see the first flowering plants and modern trees.
The dinosaurs suddenly disappear now, and mammals arise and evolve to take their place. There are many different and varied types, including hoofed mammals and carnivores. Evolution continues, species change and some die off all together. This continues up to the present, and approximately one million years ago a new mammal evolves -- man. Also during this time continental ice sheets spread over much of the Northern Hemisphere.
Before moving on to a more detailed account of the rise of human beings, it would be beneficial to think further about this whole question of evolution. Let's first start with what we know for a fact. We know for a fact, from an extensive fossil record, that more primitive forms of life existed before more advanced forms. Often less advanced forms died off and became extinct. Now either the more advanced forms developed, or evolved, from the more primitive forms, or more advanced forms were suddenly created. We know, from everyday observation, that things do not suddenly pop into existence from nothingness. Even Christ when He multiplied the loafs and fishes started with a small amount of the same (John 6:1-13). Also when Christ made wine at a wedding, He did not do so out of nothing but rather turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). Also we know that almost everything in the universe is changing from existing forms: the whole universe is expanding, galaxies are evolving, stars are being born, evolve, and die, the Earth is slowing down as it spins, man's knowledge is increasing, etc., etc. Is it not also reasonable to suppose that life is changing and developing?
But are there other evidences which support evolution? Yes. We know for a fact that mutations, or changes, occur in animals and their offspring. This happens because the genetic code, the blueprint for life, contained within the chromosomes of the cells sometimes experiences change due to external forces and spontaneity. Sometimes a change is subtle, sometimes drastic. Now many hundreds of millions of years ago life was very primitive. It is easy to see that any random mutation which caused a creature to be more advanced would give that creature a better chance at survival. The creature could then pass the new gene to its descendants. Less advanced creatures might have trouble competing. This could all happen in an environment which stayed basically the same.
As life developed and spread all over the Earth, the above process continued. However, as life became more advanced, another important factor came into play. This is the fact that environments on the Earth are constantly changing, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly and drastically. We know this from natural history and the fossil record. For instance the land masses of the Earth were at one time much closer together, but because of continental drift they have moved thousands of miles over the age of the Earth. Climates changed on the land masses as they shifted their north-south position from the equator. Also, there have been global temperature changes. These changes in temperature could have resulted from fluctuations in the sun's radiation, or changes in the Earth's atmosphere, or changes in the Earth's orbit and tilt. Due to temperature changes, the amount of frozen water on the Earth has varied greatly over time. For instance most of the central United States was under water at one time. Later, great continental ice sheets covered much of the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to the above, cataclysmic events also change the Earth's environments. Volcanoes erupt on land and sea. Large meteors from space and even comets occasionally strike the Earth. A large impact is thought to have perhaps caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The change in environments necessitated that animals also change (evolve) to meet the challenge. Only the animals best suited to their environments survived. We note today that all animals are well suited to their natural environments. For instance, giraffes have long necks in order to reach the leaves they eat, tigers are fast and have large canines to help them hunt and kill their prey, and penguins have extremely warm feathers to protect them from the Antarctic cold.
Although we do not understand every detail, evolution is by far the most reasonable explanation for the development of life upon the Earth and for the past and present animals we see. Evolution is greatly supported by scientific fact, especially the extensive fossil record. The overwhelming majority of scientists support the theory of evolution.
Anyway, human evolution runs something like this. About 60 million years ago a group of small mammals began to live in trees. These were tree shrews. They evolved into a number of animals called prosimians, which were larger and more adapted to tree living than the shrews. Various prosimians then evolved into monkeys. Monkeys are, in general, more intelligent and adapted to tree living than prosimians. By the time monkeys appeared, there were a great variety of primates. Primates are all these animals and also the apes and man. Variety was caused by many different trees and climates around the world. Also primates lived in different levels of the trees which called for different adaptations.
As forests retreated in some areas due to climatic changes, some species of monkey started to come down from the trees and live on the ground again. They evolved slightly to meet this change. Present day baboons and macaques are good examples. Monkeys are actually well adapted to make this change, because in the trees they run along the tops of branches on all four of their extremities. Once on the ground, they can run like a dog or cat. Now of the monkeys which remained in the trees, which were the vast majority, a few evolved into apes. The present day gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee, and gorilla are examples. Apes are different from monkeys, because instead of running along the branches of trees, they swing from branch to branch with their arms and legs.
Just as with monkeys, certain species of apes began to live on the ground. But whereas a monkey can easily adapt to running on the ground, because he runs along the tops of branches, this is not the case for apes. Apes swing through trees, and the readaptation to ground living was more awkward. Since the apes were not well adapted to ground living, they needed to evolve in some way in order to have a long term chance at survival. Now the apes made a remarkable adjustment indeed! They began to walk upright, which freed their highly dexterous hands. Their brains began to increase in size and use the hands to make tools. This gave the ground dwelling apes a great advantage over all other animals. Eventually they evolved into man and dominated the world.
This is all truly remarkable and fascinating, and while all the details may not be correct, the scientific model given here for the creation of life upon the Earth is much more accurate than the creation story given in the Bible. Although the creation story is not completely in error but has a little validity. However, the scientific model is much more factual and almost universally accepted by scientists, schools, and universities. The evolutionary approach does not preclude the existence of God, just as the sun-centered solar system of Copernicus did not. It simply means, as it did then, that God and the universe He created are much bigger and more complex than we at first imagined.