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Evolution and Creationism Part One

December 27, 2015 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Riding The Rapids

Topic: Culture Passage: Romans 1:19–1:23

Riding the Rapids: Navigating the Whitewater of Today's Culture

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

Dec. 27, 2015


Riding the Rapids: Evolution and Creationism Part One

If you're visiting us this morning, we have been in a series called Riding the Rapids: Navigating the Whitewater of Today's Culture where we've been looking at how we as followers of Christ are to navigate some of the hot button issues of our culture and the last issue we're going to be considering is the issue of evolution. This is an important issue, especially for young people, because if science has proved the Bible false in its account of how we got here, then why should we believe the Bible about anything else it says, including who Jesus is and the salvation that the Bible claims he accomplished?

My plan was to finish up this series with the issue of evolution this morning, but there was just too much to cover in one message, so this is also going to be a two part message. Let's begin by reading

Romans 1:19-23

To prepare for these messages, I was curious to see what one of the foremost evolutionists of our day, Richard Dawkins, had to say about the subject, so I picked up his book The Greatest Show on Earth, and I read these words in the preface: The evidence for evolution grows by the day, and has never been stronger. At the same time, paradoxically, ill-informed opposition is also stronger than I can remember.1 In chapter one he equates the person who denies evolution with the person who denies the Holocaust, and coins the term "history-deniers" to describe them. He laments the fact that 40% of Americans (and a lower, but still too-high percentage of Brit's) deny evolution and still believe that God created all life, including humans. He then admonishes enlightened bishops, pastors, and theologians to do more to combat the "anti-scientific nonsense" that these creationists believe.2

Dawkins confidently declares that evolution is not a theory, but is a fact that no reputable scientist disputes.3 I have to admit that as I read his confident assertions about evolution and his dismissal of creationists as non-sensical history-deniers, at first I felt intimidated by his assertions that evolution has been proven and only idiots believeotherwise. But as I continued to read his insults and disdain for creationists, it actually began to annoy me. Dawkins is obviously a brilliant man and I don't mind his sarcastic sense of humor at all. But when someone is disrespectful and dismissive of those who disagree with him or her, I believe that weakens rather than strengthens their case. And after a while his assertions and insults began to remind me of the line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "the lady doth protest too much, methinks." He seems to be trying too hard to convince everyone how strong his case is and how weak the opposition's case is.

Is it true that no reputable scientist disputes evolution? It depends on your definition of reputable. Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, claims there's an effort to discredit anyone who believes in intelligent design. He should know. In 2004 an article he wrote was the first peer-reviewed article published in a mainstream scientific periodical and the fact that an article proposing intelligent design was published in a Smithsonian publication sparked a tremendous controversy. The editor, Richard Sternberg, who had the audacity to publish the article, though he himself was an evolutionary biologist, not a believer in creationism, became the victim of a smear campaign that included senior administrators questioning his Smithsonian colleagues about his religious affiliations. Even though this article had been peer-reviewed, many scientists were angry at Sternberg for publishing Stephen Myer's article proposing intelligent design and Sternberg was demoted.

Meyers wrote: The numbers of scientists who question Darwinism is a minority, but it is growing fast. This is happening in the face of fierce attempts to intimidate and suppress legitimate dissent. Young scientists are threatened with deprivation of tenure. Others have seen a consistent pattern of answering scientific arguments with ad hominem attacks (attack on the character or motives of the person being opposed). In this environment, it's not hard to see why Dawkins would say that no reputable scientist disputes evolution: anyone who believes in a Creator is, by their definition, not a reputable scientist.

Detectives at the scene of creation

Because no one was around at the dawn of the universe to scientifically observe what happened, Dawkins likens evolutionary science to a detective who comes upon a crime scene and has to read the evidence to discover what happened. The flaw in his analogy is that a good detective will come without biases, and allow the clues to take him where they will. The truth is that both evolutionists and creationists come to the scene with biases, and that bias is called faith. Those who believe in God as the Uncaused Cause, and those who believe that time and chance and natural selection resulted in all that we see around us, are both applying faith. Romans 1 says that God has written things about Himself in creation, things that are clear to see, although men, thinking they are being wise, will exchange the glory of the Creator for the far lesser glory of His creation, and by doing such will become fools.

Let's consider some of the fingerprints God has left behind in His creation, evidence that He not only exists, but that He is amazingly glorious, powerful, and loving. I know some of this might get a little thick and hard to follow but stay with me and allow yourselves to think about things that most of us don't think about too often and let it remind your heart of how worthy God is to be worshipped, and hopefully at the end of the message we'll bring it in a little closer to our lives.

  1. Exhibit A: The evidence of the existence of the universe

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)

The question that kicks the whole thing off is, how did all this come to be? At one time it was generally believed that the universe had always existed, but scientists are now discovering undeniable evidence that the universe has not always existed but that it began at a single point and exploded outward with such force that it is still expanding outwardly at tremendous speeds. Someone once derisively called this theory the Big Bang Theory and the name stuck. The creation of the universe didn't take long. In his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson writes, "In three minutes, 98% of all the matter there is or will ever be has been produced. We have a universe. And it was all done in about the time it takes to make a sandwich." Bryson doesn't attribute this big bang to God however. He writes, "It seems impossible that you could get something from nothing, but the fact that there once was nothing and now there is a universe is evident proof you can."4

With all due respect to Bryson, that is poor detective work. It is circular reasoning: he begins with an assumption that the universe came from nothing, and then confirms that assumption by pointing to the fact that the universe exists. There is another possible explanation: everything didn't come from nothing, it came from God.

The question that scientists struggle with is what caused the Big Bang? When we talk about everything coming from nothing, most of us envision nothing as space, maybe an empty universe. But space is something. Absolute nothingness is not empty space, it is nothing. What caused absolute nothingness to explode and create everything? Here's where faith comes in because there is absolutely no observable case of something coming from absolute nothing. What would cause absolute nothing to erupt in even a small pop, much less a Big Bang? With a simplicity that is eloquent, the Bible begins with the beginning of the universe - it doesn't try to explain God's origin because He doesn't have an origin. God is eternal and timeless. The point of singularity that the Bible brings us to is the moment of creation - when the universe and time began. I don't mind calling that moment a Big Bang, if by that we mean the creative power of God's spoken word.

  1. Exhibit B: The evidence of the precision of the universe

Dr. William Lane Craig, a scientist who believes in Creationism, points out that "the Big Bang was not a chaotic, disorderly event. Instead, it appears to have been fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life with a complexity and precision that literally defies human comprehension."5

The properties of the universe we live in, even the very laws of physics, did not have to be the way they are. There are an almost limitless number of ways that the universe could be structured differently. In his book, Just Six Numbers, Martin Rees writes, Mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe - not just atoms, but galaxies, stars and people. He goes on to write that the properties of atoms - their sizes and masses, how many different kinds there are and the forces linking them together - determine the chemistry of our everyday world. These properties, he writes, were imprinted into it at the time of the initial Big Bang.

I believe the evidence powerfully points to an all powerful God who designed everything with a precision that is awesome to consider. Scientists talk of the fine-tuning of the universe - the conditions necessary for the existence of life sits upon a razor's edge of necessary conditions. Not just talking about the beauty of planet earth, but the very laws and properties of physics have been finely adjusted to make life possible. Dr. Robin Collins says, "our minds can't comprehend the precision of some of them." Let me mention a couple (and don't worry if you don't understand it all - neither do I). But allow it to give a small glimpse into the greatness and glory of God in creation.

Think of the laws and properties of our universe as a series of dials, each dial having millions of possible settings, and each dial has to be adjusted to a very specific setting in order for life to exist. The odds of all these dials being set to the exact right settings, out of millions -maybe billions of possible settings - is virtually impossible. Let's consider one dial setting: there is something called the cosmological constant - the energy density of space. Nope, I don't know what that is either, but based on other primary principles, scientists would naturally expect that number to be a very large number. It would make more sense for the dial to be set on a large number which would produce a universe unfit for life. Surprisingly, the cosmic constant is quite small. The dial is set on just the right setting. This may not seem like anything that you or I think about, but the cosmological constant is widely considered the single greatest problem facing physics and cosmology today. The odds of this fine tuning just accidentally being on the right dial setting are conservatively estimated at one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion. Put this into perspective, the odds of your winning the big pot in the lottery are only one in 14 million. You would have a better chance of winning the lottery a million times in a row than the cosmological constant being set on the right dial setting. That is not an encouragement to go out and buy a lottery ticket!

Let's consider another dial setting: the conversion rate of hydrogen to helium. Martin Rees gives this example: For the universe to exist as it does requires that hydrogen be converted to helium in a precise… manner- specifically, in a way that converts seven one-thousandths of its mass to energy." If you lowered that conversion rate slightly - from 7 thousandths to 6 thousandths then the universe would consist of hydrogen and nothing else. If you raised the value slightly to 8 thousandths and hydrogen would have been exhausted long ago. Either way, with just a tiny adjustment in either direction, we wouldn't exist.

Another parameter - another dial setting - that physicists need to deal with is called the original phase-space volume. I have no idea what that is, but Oxford physicist Roger Penrose says the fine tuning for this required the dial being set with an accuracy of one part in ten billion multiplied by itself one hundred and twenty three times. How incredible are those odds? Let's say you wanted to go home after church and in your spare time write out that number, it would If take more zeroes than there are particles in the universe. It's no wonder that the science magazine Discover marveled, "The universe is unlikely. Very unlikely. Deeply, shockingly, unlikely!" 6

The impossible odds of the universe being so precisely fine-tuned for life are problems for evolutionists, but many of them are unwilling to allow for the possibility that it points to a Creator. Because the evidence points them away from such a belief? I submit that it is because they have already concluded that there is no God - and like Dawkins they desperately want to protect that conclusion - and so they read the evidence based on the bias - the faith - that there is no God. They have the perfect right to do so. But for the Christian when we read in Psalm 19 these words: [1] The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV) we see overwhelming evidence that the mind-staggering precision of the universe didn't happen by accident, but by the design of the Creator.

III. Exhibit C: The evidence of a planet finely tuned for life

Now add to all this impossibly improbable fine-tuning, the fact that this planet is fine-tuned for life. It's precise location to the sun which is just the right size and type to sustain life. Once scientists thought that our sun was a pretty unspecial star, and that the odds were that there were millions of other planets in such proximity to a star like our sun and therefore life throughout the universe was more than likely - it was a statistical probability. We have been watching Star Wars 4, 5, and 6 in preparation to see the new Star Wars movie, and those movies illustrate the idea that there are all kinds of planets and life forms throughout the universe.

However as astronomers have been able to study stars more accurately they are now admitting that our sun is actually a very special and unusual star. 90% of the stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs which wouldn't be conducive for habitable planets, but more massive stars wouldn't be conducive either. And our nearly perfect circular orbit, and the nearly circular orbit of the other planets in our solar system is very unusual. Most planets have an elliptical orbit, but that would result in extreme climate changes.

But the dial settings aren't just limited to our relationship to the sun. Earth's precise size (just large enough for its gravity to retain its atmosphere, and just small enough so that it doesn't retain too many harmful gases). The earth's composition, structure, atmosphere, its temperature, it's internal core which has been described as a gigantic but delicately balanced heat engine fueled by radioactivity, and its many intricate cycles that are essential for life: carbon cycle, oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium and sodium cycle. The entire ecosystem of the earth is interconnected in very complex and interdependent ways.

We could get into a hundred different ways that this planet is fine-tuned for life, but the bottom line is that the fingerprints of complex and precise design is all over everything about this planet. And we haven't begun to get into the complexities of life itself.

None of this proves the Bible is true. None of this disproves evolution or Darwinism. But as detectives examining the evidence, our conclusions either way ultimately require a degree of faith. The idea that there is a God who created all of this complexity with the spoken word is actually really strange - it's hard to believe and harder to conceive.

But the idea that all of this came from absolute nothingness is, in my opinion, even harder to believe. It takes more faith to believe that the great First Cause of everything was nothing. That the intricacy of life was designed by time and random chance. In order to cope with the impossible probabilities of the universe existing as it does, some scientists have hypothesized that there are multiverses (billions and billions of universes) out there, and we just hit the universe lottery. There isn't a shred of evidence for that idea, it is really just a matter of faith. A faith that is prejudiced against the idea of an intelligent designer and therefore will hypothesize about far-fetched possibilities that have no basis in science and not the slightest bit of evidence that they exist. Make no mistake about it, it's faith.

Christians also have faith. Faith that God designed and created all that exists.

[3] When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, [4] what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

Everyone is free to choose whether to believe in God or not. But don't think for a moment that it makes no difference in our everyday life. It makes all the difference in the world. I like to take walks at night and look up at the stars. But what do we see when we look up at the moon and the stars? And what do our lives mean in light of the massive universe?

Both evolutionists and creationists see how small we are in comparison. We are left dwarfed and puny in comparison to our solar system, much less our galaxy, much less our universe. But for the evolutionist, we are puny and unimportant. Our father is time and our mother is chance. So looking into the stars can and should us feel worthless and cold and empty, because there is no meaning to life because meaninglessness can't give birth to meaning. And it should lead us to feel unloved, because a cold and impersonal universe has no love for us, and we are less than worthless to it.

When I look up into the stars at night, I feel small, but not worthless or meaningless. Because all that I see was hung there by God, created as an expression of His love for mankind. And we feel so deeply, what am I that You are mindful of me? And yet the answer is that the infinite God who can effortlessly create everything that exists not only knows us but He loves us intimately - numbering the very hairs on our heads - and sent His Son Jesus to die on a rough wooden cross in order to save us from our sin and restore us back to loving relationship to God. Relationship so loving and personal, that God is our Father and we are His children. And so in our hearts there can be a warmth and comfort when we gaze up into the night sky that comes from knowing that we are so small, but God our Father is so large and He loves us and holds our lives in His hands. As I was closing up the church after our Christmas eve service and walking out to the empty parking lot, I looked up at a full moon, and felt my smallness, but also the love of God, love that we celebrate at Christmastime, love that would send His Son to this little planet called earth in order to save us from our sins and restore us back to relationship with Him.

Let's let this amazingly massive, complex universe that sits on the razor's edge of life cause us to see how glorious our God is. How vast and complex - how scientific - He is. And at the same time, fill our hearts with love and gratefulness that this infinitely powerful and glorious God knows us by name and loves us enough to give His life for us. That should lead our hearts to want to give Him glory, honor, and worship.

Let's pray.

1 Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, pg. xiii

2 Ibid, pg. 7

3 Ibid, pg. 9

4 Quoted from The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel, pg. 115

5 Ibid, pg. 130

6 Ibid, pg. 166