Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Setting of the Stage (the Earth Before Man)

THERE IS
little doubt that the first step in preparing the earth as a habitation for man must have been to clothe it with vegetation as a source of food for the animals which preceded him. The earth's earliest atmosphere was almost certainly not suited for the support of animal life of any kind on land, though the seas could do so. All animals which live on land must have free oxygen as a source of energy. This oxygen can be breathed (or taken in through the skin, as it is in insects) mixed with other gases such as hydrogen or nitrogen, for instance. It appears that in the earth's atmosphere, at the beginning, even after noxious gases had been removed chiefly by loss from the earth's gravitational field, the available oxygen was combined with carbon in the form of carbon dioxide. In order to free the oxygen, plants were created to perform this role by photosynthesis, taking in carbon dioxide and setting the oxygen free in the atmosphere again, converting the carbon into usable form. Since all flesh is grass (1 Peter 1:24) in the sense that all animal life depends upon plant life for energy, plant life had to precede animal life not only to make the atmosphere respirable for them but to supply them with food energy.
     But the first plants obviously had to be able to survive without soil, since soil is composed of decayed vegetation. Once vegetation of such a kind had multiplied sufficiently to create humus, then higher forms of plant life more effective as sources of energy for animals ‹ and later for man ‹ could be created and planted. That God should create and plant is not strange, for this is what we are told He did with respect to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8).
     The course of events was, then, somewhat as follows. The rock at the surface of the earth was broken down into gravel and sand by the action of waves, wind, gravitational shock (i.e., falling and breaking), and by alternating heat and cold, which would fragment the rock by expansion and contraction. In addition, volcanic action
contributed ash and certain chemicals. In due time such combined forces provided suitable beds for the creation and planting of vegetation capable of growing without soil. As W. Bell Dawson pointed out, to begin the process of clothing the earth, God designed plants that could grow in pure sand; and these gradually made soil for plants of higher classes to grow in. There is, for example, one species of pine which is used extensively in France in the dunes along the coast, for the purpose of preventing them from drifting back over the cultivated fields. 
           These first plants were reeds, rushes, and ferns, and although they often grew as large as trees, they were not the kind of vegetation which higher forms of animals use as food. They served a dual purpose, however. While they lived, they began to remove from the atmosphere its excess carbon dioxide; and when they died, they created a humus which when it had accumulated sufficiently provided the bed into which higher forms of plant life were introduced by creation. Lichens also enter this picture as fundamental to all that followed. "Lichens have no need for soil, but, preparing it, they lay the cornerstone for flowers and trees. They are the plant world's pioneers, bringing life where none existed." 
When the time was fully come that animals should move out of the sea on to the dry land, there was both air fit for them to breathe and food suitable for them to eat.
     George Wald, Professor of Biology at Harvard, speaks of the preparation of the atmosphere by plant life in the following way:

     The atmosphere of our planet seems to have contained no (free) oxygen until organisms placed it there by the process of plant photosynthesis. . . .
     Once this was available organisms could invent a new way to acquire energy, many times as efficient. . . This is the process of cold combustion called respiration.
    
Wald spoke of "inventing" a new way to acquire energy far more efficient than the methods by which plants acquire it. The word "invent" is inappropriate since it attributes to inanimate things a consciousness of purpose which they surely do not have. But his remarks serve to point out that the liberation of free oxygen for cellular respiration allowed for the introduction of living forms with immensely increased energy potential. The lowest, and thus presumably the oldest, deposits of minerals are found in non-oxidized form, which seems to demonstrate the initial absence of free oxygen. It is evident, therefore, that animal life could not have existed until the plants had transformed the atmosphere.
     This step thus opened the way for the introduction of creatures which were far less tied to their environment, one further step in the unfolding of God's purposes in the ultimate creation of man. As Wald put it:
(
     Photosynthesis made organisms self-sustaining; coupled with respiration, it provided a surplus (of energy). To use an economic analogy, photosynthesis brought life to the subsistence level, respiration provided it with capital.
     But this is not all. The new atmosphere thus generated had an equally important function of another kind:
     The entry of oxygen into the atmosphere also liberated organisms in another sense. The sun's radiation contains ultraviolet components which no living cell can tolerate. We are sometimes told that if this radiation were to reach the earth's surface, life would cease. That is not quite true. Water absorbs ultraviolet radiation very effectively, and one must conclude that as long as these rays penetrated in quantity to the surface of the earth, life had to remain under water.
     With the appearance of oxygen, however, a layer of ozone formed high in the atmosphere and absorbed this radiation. Now organisms could for the first time emerge from the water and begin to populate the earth and the air. Oxygen provided not only the means of obtaining adequate energy for evolution, but the protective blanket of ozone which alone made possible terrestrial life.
     These stages of preparation reinforce the concept of purpose, because they indicate the timed introduction of the requisite elements in the economy of Nature at each step as required -- and very frequently without predecessors. The appearance of lichens, for example, looks much more like deliberate creation than the outcome of pure chance. Similarly, later on, lungs seemed to be in the making at the same time that the atmosphere was being prepared for creatures that could make full use of such structures, a circumstance which again looks much more like planning than the operation of pure chance.
     Everything is orderly and purposeful, there is nothing accidental about the order in which forms of life appear from amoeba to man. Next time we'll take up the discussion of
The Evidence for a Succession of Forms
 
To be continued . . . 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the Concept of Teleology

ALFRED KUHN pointed out that modern objections to the inclusion of the concept of purpose to account for any phenomenon in Nature are traceable to Emmanuel Kant's "Critique of Teleological Judgment." ) Kant held that such a concept really explains nothing, because it makes the "end," or objective, the cause. The end becomes the beginning. The argument is circular and therefore without force.
     However, not all agree. Indeed, in recent years the older teleological view is regaining favour, especially among those whose main concern is with the origin and the nature of life, where behaviour at a molecular and cellular level, as well as at the whole animal level, is increasingly difficult to explain in purely mechanistic terms. Thus Peter T. Mora of the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland ‹ during the discussion which followed a paper entitled "The Folly of Probability,"

which he presented at a conference on the general subject of the origin of prebiological systems ‹ argued that the present insistence among biochemists that the concept of purpose must be rigidly excluded from all research into the origin and nature of life is proving just as defeating and unhealthy as the medieval insistence was that no other concept was acceptable. It is interesting to note that Dr. Mora's paper, according to the chairman (J.D. Bernal of England), raised "the most fundamental questions of the theory of the origin of life that have been raised at this conference, or as far as I know elsewhere." Mora's conclusion is that "a certain type of teleological approach must be pertinent to the study of living systems," and therefore we ought to "dare to ask whether there is something special in the living which cannot be treated by physics as we know it. . . ." 
           This is in marked contrast to the views of an older generation. Leo Berg in his Homogenesis observed: 
   "The history of science has taught us that vitalism, as a hypothesis, is valueless, it has in nowise aided us in making any progress in the interpretation of facts." Later he said: 
     We are enabled to work fruitfully in the field of natural science only by the aid of forces recognized in physics, and every naturalist should endeavor to interpret nature by mechanistic means. . . .
     This could be true if the only object of research is the collection of measurable data for the purposes of prediction, if the only tools of research are those that measure and weigh, and the only way of obtaining a hearing among one's peers is to adopt an entirely mechanistic approach or else find oneself without a voice and a hearing.
     It is true that the teleological explanation may be a lazy man's way out of an intractable problem. But it may also be the worshipful man's insight. The difficulty is to find the balance. But one does not find the balance by simply denying the alternative route to understanding. Sir Alister Hardy said in his book The Living Stream, that while we may regard the fabric of an organism as a mechanical configuration, "I would not for the world be thought to believe that this is the only story which life and her children have to tell. One does not come by studying living things for a lifetime to suppose that physics and chemistry can account for them all." 
And Susanne Langer, with her characteristic eloquence and insight, pointed out:
     Since the assumption of a Divine Creator, who might exercise the required foresight and ingenuity, is proscribed in the scientific sphere, the analogy of the industrial plant can be carried out only with a replacement in the managerial and planning departments; and this is commonly made surreptitiously by a literary trick of using what purports to be a mere figure of speech ‹ the introduction of "Nature" or "Evolution" as the agent who supplies the blueprints and materials and guides the attainment of her (instead of His) purposes. This ready evasion of a difficulty, which really shows up the weakness of the machine model, has become the stock in trade
not only of science writers, but of excellent, authoritative scientists writing on problems of adaptation, organic integration and evolutionary tendencies.
     Langer gives one example: A. von Szent-Gyorgyi in his book Oxydation and Fermentation wrote: "Nature discovered oxydation by molecular oxygen. . . ." And again, "We usually find that the way Nature reaches its purpose is the only possible way, and yet, in spite of its simplicity, the most admirably ingenious way."  Surely these things could only be said of a personal agent, and who else could this possibly be but God Himself? Langer says, "The factory manager is left nameless."
    Andre Schlemmer pointed out long ago that life behaves so unlike a machine in so many ways, that the mechanistic approach simply has to be abandoned again and again. Thus the body has very un-machine-like powers to heal itself, to repair and renew its parts, to make compensatory adjustments in order to insure the same work output. And "the most materialistic biologist cannot refrain from falling into teleological language as soon as he turns to explain the process." 
He is simply forced to personify the agent who oversees it.
     Max Kleiber, an internationally renowned physiologist, brought up in the school of Claude Bernard, objected strongly to any such course of action by a scientist. Science must rid itself of any appeal to a "personal" agency in the works. Thus he said:

     In an attempt to clear science of theology, the postulate that man is a machine is a rather tricky analogy, because an essential characteristic of a machine is that it is planned for a purpose, which implies a designer. . . . The study of man as a machine leads to teleology, and that leads naturally to the question of the mind of the designer of man. This mind must work in a way similar to that of the human mind, if we are to understand its planning; we understand the planning of the machine because the designing engineer thinks as we think. So we are back to theology.
     He then observed that as an evasion of this rationale, some atheistic teleologists deified nature itself! But he asked, "Can a biologist learn to understand what the inventor of a fish or a man had in mind when he designed these creatures?" How blind can one be, indeed!
     Subsequently, he noted that there is a frank return to teleology by such outstanding workers as H. Krebs,    and more recently A. V. 
Hill,  both Nobel Laureates. The latter referred to "innumerable examples in both animal and plant life of what can only be described as evidences of superb engineering ‹ which, of course, invites acknowledgment of a superb 'Engineer'." Kleiber would have none of this. He said, "Instead of accepting an analogy between a creator of organisms and a designer of machines and hunting for divine blueprints, the Darwinistically oriented physiologist is stimulated to search for causes, and even if he does not completely succeed he usually finds a lot of what is interesting on his way."       This seems to me a rather unsatisfactory motivation for the dedication of one's life to research. And if Krebs and Hill, and a growing number of other workers in the life sciences, are any indication, it is a futile approach as well.
     But Kleiber was, it seems to me, fighting a losing battle, especially when dealing with the extraordinary abilities of the animal body to prepare itself for a role that is yet future. The embryologist sees this particularly -- though he may be reluctant to say much about it because of the pressure of scientific opinion to the contrary. Sir Charles Sherrington expresses his wonder at it all, but is clearly not willing to acknowledge the existence of a divine Designer behind it. But his style of writing contrasts notably with that of, for example, G. G. Simpson writing on the same subject. Simpson exemplifies a peculiar blindness in a remarkable way. Thus in a paper entitled "The Problem of Plan and Purpose in Nature" (emphasis mine), he wrote:

     An eye, an ear, or a hand is also a complex mechanism serving a particular function. It, too, looks as if it had been made for a purpose. This appearance of purposefulness is pervading in nature, in the general structure of animals and plants, in the mechanisms of their various organs, and in the give and take of their relationships with each other.

It is indeed.
     Darwin said he never contemplated the design of the eye without a tremor. And Sir Charles Bell in 1832 wrote his Bridgewater Treatise, The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design, almost as an act of worship. Such was the spirit of the time which moved some men to praise and others to tremble. Other later men of equal stature with Bell, like Sir Charles Sherrington, acknowledged their unstinting admiration of the eye as an
optical instrument and yet could no longer see it as evidence of design by the Creator.
     One may compare Simpson's treatment of the eye in his Meaning of Evolution (pp.169‹175) and be impressed with his knowledge of the data on eyes in general. But one also senses the coldness, and one might almost say the disinterest of the writer, in the basic questions that such an organ raises. 
If one reads, by contrast, Sherrington's treatment of the same subject in his Man on His Nature (pp.105‹l09), one begins to capture something of wonder in the author's mind.  How sad, then, to find that he too was blind to the possibility that the designer was a Person, personally approachable and personally rejoicing in His own creations.
     One writer of comparatively recent times, whose work is always a delight to read ‹ perhaps because of his willingness to admit the fact of purpose ‹ was F. Wood Jones of England. In his Trends of Life, he stated the present position very clearly when he said:

     Against the tyranny of modern orthodox views on teleology there is no reason whatever why we should not rebel, for orthodoxy in this case, is not supported by scientific facts, but rests for the most part on prejudices inherited from the "intransigent materialism of the nineteenth century."
     It is true. Prejudice, not scientific objectivity, has been the real reason for the rigid exclusion of the concept of design and purpose in accounting for natural phenomena. It certainly did not prevent Joseph Priestley in his research in chemistry, nor Sir Charles Bell in his research in physiology. Nor did Newton's faith prevent him from formulating his Principia, acknowledged to be one of the most extraordinary creations by the human mind in mathematics. There is really no sound reason to exclude the possibility of a Personal Creator superintending His own created order, though it may humble man a little by making him dependent upon revelation wherever his own limited means of exploration of the natural world prove inadequate.

To be continued . . .  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Evolution- the study of origins (Part 5)

Water is the most universally effective chemical solvent known, dissolving more substances than any other liquid, though being itself exceedingly stable chemically. It thus provides the fluid medium in which extremely slow chemical reactions may proceed rapidly. It constitutes the fluid medium in the body which makes the body a functioning chemical plant of high efficiency. Water also has almost the highest heat capacity of any known substance and therefore is probably the ideal stabilizer of the temperature of the planet, absorbing enormous amounts of heat without itself becoming too warm for life and then surrendering that heat without itself becoming too cold. Its unusual properties in all three states -- solid (ice), liquid, or gaseous (vapour) ‹ within the temperature ranges common to the earth make it tremendously important as a mechanical agent in modifying the earth's surface, weathering the rocks and creating a bed for the first plants, and allowing for its own re-circulation by evaporating into cloud formations and then being condensed and precipitated. Its ability to absorb large quantities of oxygen at comparatively low temperatures guarantees survival of living organisms in oceans and lakes. Its exceptional property of expanding slightly just above the freezing point allows it to form a protective layer of ice that floats on the surface and prevents large bodies of water from freezing solid and destroying marine life.

           Meanwhile, the earth has a proper relative proportion of land and water surface in order that the land may be neither parched through insufficient precipitation nor turned into a swamp through excess. The topography of the land is such that it assists in the process of watering the earth by causing turbulence in air currents which pass over it, thus bringing about the breakup of cloud formations.


           (6) The existence of the moon is also of fundamental importance tothe earth. As far as is known, it is the largest satellite relative to the size of its parent body. From this point of view it is, in fact, huge. The moon has sufficient mass to cause tides, and tides are of great importance in keeping the oceans fresh. The possession of a moon of such a size by our earth is of importance in more than one way to life as we know it. What currents do in vitalizing rivers, tides do for the oceans.
     All these coincidences add up to an impressive testimony to the uniqueness of the earth as a theatre for the unfolding of God's plan. In his book Man on His Nature, Sir Charles Sherrington remarked:
     A great American physiologist, Lawrence Henderson, has set forth the particularity of the physical and chemical conditions whose occurrence on the face of the earth render possible the existence of the systems we call living. Certain anomalous properties of water in conjunction with universal powers and space-relations of the carbon atom, along with exceptional conditions of radiation and temperature, are shown to form a sort of conspiracy of circumstance allowing life to be, both here and now.

     Dean H. Kenyon and Gary Steinman, in their book Biochemical Predestination, would go one step further and argue that the raw materials for life were created in such a form that life must have been predestined by them.  They put it this way: "Biochemical Predestination means that the limits beyond which evolutionary processes could not stray, would be determined largely by the properties inherent in the evolving bodies as preset by the (raw) materials from which the (finished) materials were fabricated."

           We are often told that the chances of life on other planets like the earth are very considerable, and there is no need to suppose that the existence of life here is really so exceptional. I think the total situation is more complex than the public has been led to believe. In a paper entitled, "Some Cosmic Aspects of Evolution," which G. G. Simpson contributed to a symposium held in Europe in 1968, he dealt with some aspects of the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe and concluded with the following remarks:
     The chances that anything like man, or for that matter like any other terrestrial species except perhaps the most primitive, exists elsewhere in the universe are, I think, the same as the chances that any other planet has had exactly the same history as earth -- and as its inhabitants -- in every essential detail for two billion years and more.
      In my opinion those chances are effectively nil for the mere one hundred million planets of Shapley's minimum or even for Hoyle's less reasonable billions of billions.
     I therefore earnestly doubt whether there are any manlike beings waiting to greet us anywhere in the universe. The opposite opinion, even though it has been advanced by some eminent and sensible men, seems to me to underestimate either the complexity or the rigidity of historical causation.
     Our earth therefore may be somewhat more significant than we might suppose, even though astronomers have shown that it is such a tiny speck of material in an inconceivably vast universe. The question arises, can such a tiny speck, looked at from this point of view, be really so important? The answer, I think, may be found this way: There are two alternatives. One would be to make the earth much larger relative to the universe. And the other would be to make the universe much smaller relative to the earth. As we have seen, the first alternative is out of the question; the size of the earth cannot be changed very much. Then what of the latter alternative? What would happen if the universe were made smaller? Is it not true that in due time we should pierce through space until we have found its boundaries? Then suddenly it would not seem so big after all. At first this might not matter very much. But in the end and in a subtle way, when we found we could comprehend the whole of it, our view of the Creator would begin to contract and He would seem to become smaller as our exploration became more complete. In a way, man's greatness is sensed by the magnitude of his achievement, and the immensity of the universe -- for the Christian -- adds not a little to our sense of awe and our worship of the Creator. If it is true that the universe is expanding, there is little need to fear that we can ever catch up to, or overtake the greatness of God.

           And this touches one other point. We are making an assumption that the universe was created a very long time ago. It is quite conceivable that God could have created everything instantaneously and set the stage for man in a moment. Yet this would have two effects: First, it would have prevented us from seeing how wise, methodical, and orderly is God's work. The suddenness of instantaneous creation is frightening rather than reassuring and, as a rule, God has only adopted this method when He desired to make a special impression. It is not His normal way. Moreover, "taking time" implies a certain determination, forethought, and unchangeableness of purpose, as though the end result was something greatly to be desired how ever long it took to achieve. It seems to have taken a long time to prepare the earth for man, and so long as we believe it was a preparation for man, we can derive considerable assurance and

 comfort from the knowledge that God was prepared to work so patiently. Yet from His point of view, there may have been no delay involved. Le Comte du Nouy made this remark:
     To an imaginary being, with a life span of ten thousand million years evolution would seem very rapid. To God, whom we cannot even conceive in relation to time, it may well have been instantaneous.
     There is no doubt, of course, that God could have created the world instantaneously, although this would have involved the making of many things in such a form that they would appear to have an age which they did not, in fact, actually have ‹ trees with tree rings that did not signify age, humus which was not constituted of decayed vegetation, and so forth. Scripture shows that this kind of "creation with a history" has often occurred in a miraculous way whenever it was absolutely necessary. Thus Moses' rod became a serpent (Exodus 4:2‹4) which was probably of comparable length, and therefore of a specific age, since serpents grow with age continuously. When the Lord restored Malchus' ear (Luke 22:51), it was the ear of a man, appropriate to his age even though it had certainly been created instantaneously. There are many such illustrations in Scripture. Undoubtedly the Lord could have accelerated the preparation of the earth for man in the same way, but evidently a better purpose was served by working in a manner more in keeping with human experience in order that man could, if he would, see that it was all done specifically in preparation for his own coming.

           Unfortunately, for a little over one hundred years, since Lyell and Darwin's time, man has not been willing to see the whole process as purposeful with respect to himself. The insights of previous generations of naturalists have been, and largely continue to be, laid aside as inappropriate to the naturalistic world view. But the categorical denial of teleological explanations, a denial which at first seemed so stimulating to our understanding of the natural order, is now beginning to prove to be a barrier to further advances in understanding, and there is a new wind blowing.

To be continued . . .


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Part 4 the Earth as regarding Evolution

The Fitness of the Earth

     IT IS a curious thing that so long as man was viewed as the centre of the universe because of his unique relationship to God, the earth which is his home automatically achieved its special status by association, and very little thought was given to its peculiar fitness in performing this function. It was only after man had been dethroned and the geocentric concept of the universe had been abandoned, that man suddenly began to realize what a unique body the earth really is.
     The uniqueness of the earth as a setting for life is indeed quite extraordinary and the fact is very widely recognized among scientists who nevertheless view it as a purely accidental circumstance. The kind of uniqueness here in view involves a number of factors: (1) its size, (2) its rate of revolution, (3) its mean distance from the sun, (4) the variations in its distance as it circles the sun, (5) the constitution of its surface, and (6) its satellite, the moon.
     (1) The size of the earth determines the constitution of its atmosphere, and the constitution of its atmosphere determines the nature of the living forms upon it. (6)
If it were much larger, it would have retained a large percentage of gases inimical to life. If it were much smaller, its gravitational forces would have been insufficient to retain virtually any atmosphere at all. The smaller planets with smaller gravitational fields lose a large proportion of their lighter elements during the cooling process. The larger planets retain most of their original atmosphere. Actual measurements show that although the weight of Jupiter is only 317 times that of the earth, so great is the amount of atmospheric strata around it that its volume appears to be 1300 times greater than that of the earth. The planet Mercury, on the other hand, has a mass approximately one twenty-third that of the earth and is known to have no appreciable atmosphere surrounding it, its gravitational field being too weak to retain nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapour.
     The earth has, as a result, just sufficient mass that it is able to hold around itself a blanket of gases which both supports life and shields it from lethal rays of the sun. Its size is such that poisonous gases which formed as the earth cooled were not held in the atmosphere but escaped into space. The carbon dioxide, which was held, ultimately supported luxuriant vegetation, which in turn purified it for animal life by setting oxygen free through photosynthesis. Gases, like all other things, have mass, some being heavier than others. It so happens that the gases unsuitable for life were light enough and the earth's gravitational pull small enough that they were lost into space and thereby eliminated.
     (2) The rate of revolution of the earth is just right for the continuous renewal of the atmosphere for animal life. Nothing gets too cold or too hot over most of its area, and plants have just sufficient times of light and of darkness to perform their function of regenerating the air (since the unique stability of carbon dioxide depends upon alternating light and darkness)
.
     (3) The distance from the sun determines the mean temperature of the atmosphere and the earth. The pliable materials of which living tissue is composed are made up of chains of molecules which retain their physical characteristics within a comparatively narrow range of temperature variation. It appears that apart from the very exceptional properties of carbon in forming these long chainlike molecules, such structures as ourselves and all other pliant forms would not be possible at all. It is only in a very restricted range of temperature that these carbon compounds are stable. If the temperature becomes too cold, these chains become inflexible, and if the temperature becomes too high, they lose their bonds and disintegrate. The range of temperature within which living flesh can continue without artificial protection is quite small relative to the ranges of temperature which may exist on a body in space.
     (4) The seasonal variations which take place throughout the year, due to the 23° axial tilt of the earth, are very important for the continuance of human life. Were it not for these changes, micro-organisms which cause diseases and which are favoured by certain environmental conditions, would multiply so extensively that the
human race might very well suffer extinction because of them. Man is not the only animal to suffer on this account. Consider what would happen to the mosquito population if the conditions ideal for their multiplication were to persist throughout the year all over the globe. Surgeon-General C. A. Gordon pointed out that not only does the persistence of a particular temperature and humidity have to be taken into account here, but even the length of day. The length of day, of course, is governed by the rate of revolution of the earth about its axis. In his paper, Gordon gave a chart showing the distribution throughout one year of some of the major diseases caused by these micro-organisms.  Were the conditions favouring any one of the disease micro-organisms maintained throughout the year, the consequences would probably be disastrous for man.
     (5) The surface of the earth is part water, part dry land, in a ratio of approximately 3 to 1. The uniqueness of water has been pointed out by countless authorities so that the existence of water in a fluid state is itself fundamental to the continuance of life. On this point Harold Blum makes the following observations:
     Water makes up perhaps 80 to 90% of all living organisms, and may be regarded as their principal environmental component, since even forms living in air maintain an aqueous internal environment in one way or another. Most of the water on the earth is in the liquid state, but it is also of importance as an environmental factor when in the vapor state and even as a solid.
     Water seems admirably suited for the major role it plays in maintaining a relatively constant temperature for the earth's surface, a matter of paramount importance to living organisms, which can serve only within a very restricted range of temperature. It owes this aspect of its fitness to several properties.
     Blum then elaborates upon these properties. His elaboration leaves one filled with wonder at the power and wisdom of God in creating such a medium. But this medium requires a quite specific environment for its continued usefulness. That is to say, it is useful in a unique way -- in a unique environment. Blum sums this up by saying:
     So fitness partakes of the nature of uniqueness, the uniqueness of the earth as an abode of life is a matter that strikes one more forcibly the more he tries to break out of the circle. Not only is the earth as it is, but it has reached that state through an evolutionary process, each step of which has been dependent upon the one preceding it.The stage upon which living systems bowed their debut was set by all the preceding events in the history of the earth ‹ or, for that matter, of the Universe. These events placed important restrictions upon the nature of life and its evolution.
     Life, it seems, did not arise and evolve as a system free to vary in any direction whatever; but as a system upon which great restrictions were placed, some of them even before the earth came into existence.

     Harold Blum concludes his chapter "Fitness of the Environment" with these words, "This aspect of fitness is not, then, universal, but exists only in relation to the planet Earth, or to planets that are very nearly like the Earth.''
To be continued . . .   

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Evolution Part 3: Two world views

The fundamental difference between the Christian and the purely naturalistic view of the world in which we live is simply that the former sees the world as having been deliberately planned as a habitation for man, whereas the naturalistic view sees man only as an accidental by-product of an entirely purposeless process. These two diametrically opposed views are epitomized by juxtaposing two quotations, one from the Word of God and one from man. The Word of God reads:
For thus saith the Lord God that created the heavens,
God Himself that formed the earth and made it;
He hath established it, He created it not in vain,
He formed it to be inhabited.                             (Isaiah 45:18).
     According to man, in this instance G. G. Simpson:
     There was no anticipation of man' s coming. He responds to no plan and fulfills no supernal purpose. He stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long unconscious, impersonal material process, with unique understandings and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and indeterminate forces but is his own master.
     Now, why is there such violent opposition between these two views? I think it exists for several reasons. To begin with, the first world view clearly introduces plan and purpose (what is technically known as the concept of teleology), and plan and purpose involve a Planner and a Purposer who stands above and outside of the programme. And the existence of such a creative agency inevitably introduces the probability of supernatural intervention. Supernatural intervention, no matter how infrequent it may be, if it occurs at all, electively removes the possibility of any complete scientific understanding by pure intellect alone. Such intervention will inevitably involve events which can only be explained by reference to forces beyond experimental control because they are outside the system. In addition to this, the introduction of a personal Planner at once brings up the question of human responsibility in cooperation or opposition to the plan, since man clearly has the ability to perceive the purpose and therefore to advance or retard it. Both G. G. Simpson and Sir Julian Huxley, the great prophets of the naturalistic world view, have openly acknowledged this fact. For example, Sir Julian speaks of the "glorious paradox" of a process which through eons of time, though quite without direction, finally produced a creature, man, who by reason of his possession of self-consciousness and the ability to make delayed decisions is freed from the previous all-pervasive determinism of the natural order and can therefore undertake that which no creature before him had been able to undertake, namely, the directing of his own future. Indeed, he sees man as the introducer of purpose into a hitherto purposeless universe.  Henceforth man will direct evolution.

           So these two views are indeed diametrically opposed. The second has really rejected the first for two stated reasons: supernatural intervention is a scientifically unmanageable concept, and moral responsibility to some Agency other than man is psychologically unacceptable. Scripture is clear in saying that man is both spiritually and intellectually in need of redemption, and so long as he is unredeemed, his spiritual and intellectual perceptions and tendencies are distorted.


           The very existence of a Purposer introduces a whole "other world," interacting with this world to place either complete understanding or complete control out of man's reach unless he cooperates with God. And it calls man to humble himself, to place his will and his intellect at the service of the Lord instead of attempting to act as an entirely autonomous and self-sufficient creature. Unless he will accept the lordship of Christ in his life, a bondage which is really a freedom, he is forced to accept bondage to himself with his fallen nature, a bondage which is fatal. The naturalistic world view parades as an objective exercise of the intellect but is really the display of a rebellious spirit pretending to be self-sufficient and omnicompetent, cloaking itself in the garb of an unselfish humanitarianism that is entirely deceiving and self-deceived. Naturalism or scientific materialism is, in fact, a false religion, based on a faith which, like the Christian faith, is supported by a creed and a hierarchy (evolution and the contemporary evolutionary authorities), and is every bit as dogmatic and narrowminded as it rightly accuses the Medieval Church of having been. As H. J. Eysenck said, "The mantle of the Inquisition sits uneasily upon the shoulders of the scientific establishment."     Or as R. E. Gibson put it, "The present tendency is for the scientific community, now grown powerful, to behave much as the Church did in Galileo's time.


           It, too, has its "scriptures," the pronouncements of its recognized authorities. It believes in miracles and has its shrines (and its sacred bones): and it has its prophets and its martyrs. In short, it is simply another religious world view, for man is indeed incurably religious. Only, it is pretending not to be religious and has so far been highly successful in maintaining the pretense.

           Now the question is, Which religious world view is the most reasonable one? An examination of the evidence shows increasingly that the truth lies clearly in the Christian world view, in the view reflected in Isaiah 45:18. The world was indeed formed as a habitation for man, though it is to be gratefully acknowledged that we owe to science much of our understanding today of how this fitness for habitability by man has come about. If we once allow that the whole process of preparation was teleological, did have an end in view from the beginning, did involve divine intervention often creatively and sometimes in judgment, and that the world was prepared as a stage for the acting out of a drama specifically involving the confrontation of man and God under unique circumstances, then many striking phenomena in the preparation of the earth are wonderfully illuminated.


           These phenomena can be usefully reviewed even within the confines of such a short Paper as this. The phenomena to be considered are three. First, very briefly, the evidence that our world was specifically prepared to sustain life. Secondly, that creative activity was clearly demanded at many stages along the way, because there are an enormous number of critical missing links between groups of animals which evolutionists hold must have been related to one another by intermediate forms but which are nowhere to be found. Thirdly, that there has been a direction of the course of events, which supports the view that the earth was being furnished specifically for the coming of man. In short, the impression of plan and purpose pervades the whole programme to such an extent that it becomes virtually unintelligible unless they are admitted, and all explanations which exclude them become stilted and artificial. The evolutionist must really commit a kind of intellectual suicide in order to maintain his position that the whole drama has been the result of a freak accident. Scientific materialism constitutes a darkening of the intellect, so that its proponents, though professing to be wise, really become foolish, degrading their spiritual nature by worshipping the human intellect of the creature rather than the wisdom and greatness of the Creator.
     So we have these three matters to consider in order to make a reasonable assessment of the relative merits of the two world views.


To be continued. . .

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Science and Supernatural Selection

There  is a broad measure of agreement among professional geologists that the evidence points to an orderly succession of stages through which the surface features of the earth have passed to reach their present form, and that this probably took a very long time to come about. It was matched by an orderly succession of living forms, which began to appear rather later in the presently accepted time frame but has nevertheless been going on for a very long time relative to the span of human history. These two broad conclusions, based on an enormous amount of research into the earth's past history, are accepted both by a very large number of informed Christians and by the vast majority of qualified geologists and biologists. This does not by any means guarantee that they are true: but it certainly represents the present consensus of opinion in both circles. The universe is probably very old, and life began a very long time ago and shows an orderly progression from simple to complex. We are talking only about the matter of a succession of forms; we are not talking about any linear evolution of these forms from one another.
     When we come to consider the how of these immensely drawn out sequences of geological and paleontological events, we find somewhat less agreement among the scientists themselves, and even less among informed Christian people. The fact is that the evidence can be interpreted in more than one way, and the preferred interpretation always depends upon certain basic and usually unstated assumptions. These assumptions hinge upon the question of whether natural laws are sufficient to account for all past events or only for some of them.
     The origin of matter out of non-matter is clearly not one of these natural events, because it is an inconceivable phenomenon for which we have no experience whatever that would serve as a guide to understanding it by analogy. It is inconceivable to us that matter never had a beginning; and it is equally inconceivable to us that matter came suddenly into being out of nothing. These are really the only two alternatives, and both are simply inconceivable. Yet one of them must be true.
     So scientists accept what amounts to the eternity of matter, inconceivable though that is, simply because the only alternative, direct creation, is clearly incredible to them. In other words, they accept what is inconceivable rather than what is incredible, because they prefer a non-supernatural explanation to what they view as a supernatural one. Having started along this route, they are bound to follow it consistently and thereafter to reject any concept of divine interference unequivocally -- indeed, dogmatically. They really have no choice.
     Many Christian people, however, do not find direct creation out of nothing objectionable at all, although it is still not something we can actually conceive of in our minds. Having admitted supernaturalism to this extent, we do not find it at all irrational to allow the idea of divine interference subsequently during the course of geological history. But there is from this point on much disagreement as to whether such intervention by God was either necessary or likely. Could He not have so designed the universe and our world that it would be capable of unfolding according to His plan without any such intervention? The answer certainly is, Yes! Indeed, I am fully persuaded that God is an economist where miracle is concerned and that more than 99.9 percent of all events happen as the result of natural law. But, and this is the crucial point, God has intervened throughout past time (and still does!) to perform what can only be described as miracles -- using this word in the present context as Augustine used it, i.e., to mean the bringing about of events which are not so much contrary to Nature but contrary to what we know of Nature. In God's view, there are no miracles, there are merely alternative routes to accomplishing the same end.
     So the basic question really is this, Did God merely wind the clock of Nature up, adjust its tempo, and then let it run its course thereafter on its own? Or does He constantly intervene in a supernatural way to do things which cannot possibly be accounted for in terms of natural law as we understand it in the laboratory or in the field?
     In this study, my object is to show that God has intervened, not to disrupt the natural order but to introduce into it courses of events that make the whole process something more than simply a natural development. Such intervention made Revelation necessary in order to complete man's understanding of the mind of God, even as Revelation was not necessary for him to understand the workings of Nature wherever God has not intervened. As a consequence, so long as the scientific view maintains its integrity as truly scientific, it must conduct its search apart from Revelation and thereby impose limits upon its understanding, though what understanding it does achieve may well be very nearly correct as far as it goes. Revelation is needed to complete our understanding, particularly our understanding of God's creative acts and His acts in judgment.
     I do not think these interventions were called for because God was unable to design a natural order that would suit His purposes without them. But I believe He chose to do otherwise so that we could see how He was quietly at work preparing the stage for the enactment of a drama which was to serve uniquely to display His love. This drama was to involve the special creation of a unique creature, Man, with freedom of will and a moral sense. This was to be followed by the trial of that man and the working out of his redemption when he failed the test. This redemption involved, in turn, the coming of the Creator Himself as a man, into man's world to sacrifice Himself for man and as a man. Man therefore had to be quite an exceptional creature, a creature in which God could perfectly express Himself in terms of human personality. Man's body and man's spirit had to be such that God could do this as man and for man. 
Moreover, the natural order had to be such that this tremendous event could be brought to pass without either violating that natural order or the person of the Creator Himself.


           The Creator had to be born as man is born but without man's corruption, and He had to grow up and live as men might have lived, while still being subject to the physical world in which man labours, eats, grows tired, and sleeps. And in due time, He had to give His life voluntarily as the sin-offering which would be truly human (and therefore acceptably substitutional), yet far exceeding the value of any one human life (and therefore sufficient for all who would claim it for themselves).


           And since this sacrifice was to be the sacrifice of a man on man's behalf, we must assume that there was a first true man who fathered all other men thereafter, whose family is unequivocally "the family of man," whom the Redeemer truly represented in His Person. There can be no half-men who are capable of some kind of half-redemption.


Nor can even the first man have been any less human than the last, for the Redeemer must be a redeemer in retrospect, back to the very first man, even as He must be in prospect forward to the very last.
     Adam, then, was redeemable; and to be truly so he must have been potentially like the Lord Jesus Christ as Man. In this sense, Jesus Christ was the last Adam. But Jesus Christ was also the prototype of Adam since He was the Redeemer before the world began (Revelation 13:8). Adam was created in His image (Genesis 2:26). It could not be otherwise.


           So I am proposing that God was at work from the very first, moving toward this objective, the preparation of the earth as a stage for the coming of such a creature as man is. And because He is God, He had the right to adopt any plan that seemed best to Him. The plan He did adopt has allowed secular man to uncover to a remarkable degree the workings of Nature and to be in a position to discern (if he would but do it) how much evidence there is of plan and purpose in the course of past events. Orderly preparation is everywhere apparent to the eye of faith; and throughout the whole process God has, I believe, combined creative activity with providential superintendence over the work of His hands.


           But I think we need a new term to describe this providential creative superintendence, and I am proposing that we call it Supernatural Selection. This is what the present study is really about. Let me just state as briefly as I can what I mean by this term. Among living creatures, offspring differ from their parents, and this fact provides a means whereby select lines may be encouraged and unwanted lines may be allowed to disappear. If this occurs by accident, it is termed "Natural Selection." When it is performed by man, it is termed "Artificial Selection." Natural Selection is a purely fortuitous process involving no conscious direction as its strongest proponents see it. Artificial Selection depends upon the presence of man and cannot therefore have been operative prior to his appearance. But I believe there is evidence that the progress of forms from simple to complex has not been by chance but by design. This process has resulted, I suggest, from the operation of Supernatural Selection, a form of selection which has the purposefulness of Artificial Selection but also introduces supernatural forces.


           It is widely agreed that Natural Selection is not strictly creative. Artificial Selection in a way is creative, but only in the sense that it is directed consciously toward a foreseen objective. Supernatural Selection differs from the other two in that it is a creative process whereby are introduced entirely new forms and therefore, presumably new genes and new gene combinations. The natural order is not the cause of this introduction of novelty, but it is rather the condition of it. By combining these three kinds of selective processes -- natural, artificial, and supernatural -- I believe we have a much better account of the way in which God prepared the earth for the coming of man.


           I am proposing that the term "Supernatural Selection" be taken to mean that God intervened within Nature, sometimes by acting directly upon the environment to change the conditions of life, sometimes providentially to change the directions of life (as when overruling the chance division of genes in the dividing cell), and sometimes creatively to introduce entirely new forms of life when the total ecology had been suitably prepared to accommodate them. And I believe that this makes better sense of the evidence and is more in harmony with the Christian world view than either blind evolution or fiat creation.


To Be continued . . .

Friday, February 14, 2014

Evolution- preparation of earth for mankind

Questions about the earth's past geological history have sparked conflicting answers. How old is this earth? Did it evolve by chance ‹ or was it created by God? Is our planet billions of years old ‹ or was it an instantaneous creation of only a few thousand years ago?
     There are four basic alternatives ‹ the purely non-theistic evolutionary view, the theistic evolutionary view, the creationist view (young earth or flood geology), and the view explored in this Paper which argues for that particular form of catastrophism that sees a discontinity between our present world and "the world that then was" (2 Peter 3:6), which was disastrously overwhelmed and left a desolation as described in Genesis 1:2 and then reconstituted in Genesis 1:3-31. 

THE ISSUES in the conflict between Science and Scripture with regard to the earth's earlier history during the ages which preceded the coming of man have become almost impossibly confused. On the one hand, we have the confirmed evolutionist who finds no place whatever for the supernatural in his scheme of things, and therefore no place for God. He holds that everything has happened purely by chance, and that the process has occupied an immense period of time to be measured in billions of years. He rigidly excludes anything that smacks of catastrophism, holding to Lyell's dictum that the present is the key to the past. The progressive change from simple to complex forms of life has neither involved unbridgeable discontinuities nor divine interferences. The apparent gaps in the record do not represent discontinuities in the great chain of life. At the other extreme are those who, as openly confessed creationists, believe that virtually all the past is in one way or another stamped with the hallmark of instantaneous creation. Everything that has existed -- the universe, our solar system, the planets, trees, animals, and man -- came into being by fiat creation not more than a few thousand years ago. They interpret the phenomena of stratified rocks containing fossils as evidence of a global catastrophe in Noah's time and are therefore commonly referred to as "flood geologists."

           Then there are creationists who believe that evolution was God's way of "creating." This seems to me really an abuse of language, but those who hold this view look upon evolution as a kind of creative process in itself. But they would admit that fiat creation was probably involved in the origination of matter, of life, and possibly of man as well.

           A fourth school, of which I count myself a member, holds that we simply do not know precisely how God ordered the world in geological times prior to man, whether by direct creative activity or by something akin to evolution. Those in this group believe, as I do, that something went wrong and a catastrophic judgment brought that older world to a disastrous end, leaving it ruined and desolate, as Genesis 1:2 describes it. Then followed a re-creation at a tremendously accelerated rate, over a period of six literal days, at the end of which, as for a jewel, the setting was reconstituted. Man was then created to be the star of the piece and to dominate the stage thereafter. Much of the geological evidence of catastrophism that has been commandeered by the flood geologists is believed, by this school, to belong between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Such a concept is anathema to those creationists who believe in a very young universe, not because it is catastrophic, but because it makes concessions to the concept of a very ancient world -- and this invites an evolutionary interpretation of that world. On the other hand, it is almost as unpopular with theistic evolutionists who see no need for it and no evidence of it, because it does involve the catastrophic and badly conflicts with current uniformitarian philosophy among geologists.

           So we have certain atheistic and theistic alternatives, all of which are held by people who honestly believe that the evidence entirely supports their own particular view. And it is no longer possible, it seems, for the protagonists to really communicate with one another usefully. But being the creatures we are, we each hold fast to the view that best serves to integrate the knowledge we have of the evidence, and this study is merely one man's attempt to do just this from a biblical as well as a scientific point of view. Frankly, I think it can be shown that the direction in which geological theory was heading just before Lyell and Darwin turned the tide was very much that which I am proposing in this Paper. The evidence now has accumulated to such an extent that I believe this older view should be brought forward again and re-examined. Certainly the Lyellian view of geology is beginning to show signs of bankruptcy, even as I think the Darwinian view of paleontology has done.

           The informed Christian assuredly has two great advantages over the non-Christian. In the first place, he almost certainly will have a rather good idea of the data upon which the evolutionist rests his case, whereas the non-Christian evolutionist has probably read almost nothing of a serious nature from the Christian point of view. In this respect, he is likely to be seriously unaware of the weaknesses of his own position. In the second place, the Christian has the tremendous advantage of being willing to accept the light of Revelation which, by its very nature, supplies data that cannot be obtained any other way.

 So here is the situation as I see it: We have four basic alternatives -- the purely nontheistic evolutionary view, the theistic evolutionary view, the young earth or flood geology view, and the view to be explored in some detail in this study, which argues for that particular form of catastrophism that sees a discontinuity between our present world and "the world that then was" (2 Peter 3:6), which was disastrously overwhelmed and left a desolation as described in Genesis 1:2 and reconstituted in Genesis 1:3-31.To be continued...