does Darwin still hold up? reflections from Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator”

darwin

This is a continuation of a series on Christian Apologetics. For more posts like this, click here.

The Enlightenment brought many challengers to Christianity, not the least being the ideas of the father of evolution, Charles Darwin.

Johnathan Wells, PhD, summarizes the theory by saying, “Darwinism [is] the theory that all living creatures are modified descendants of a common ancestor that lived long ago…that every new species that has ever appeared can be explained by descent with modification.”[1] In other words, everything from a fruit fly to a snow leopard to you and I are descended from a singular common living organism. Darwin employed several visual aids to enhance his theory, many of which are still being used in modern textbooks and educational materials. I will limit our consideration to three of these images and will now turn to their examination, in light of Christian belief. For more on this topic, check out The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.

Darwin_Tree_1837.png

The premier icon of Darwinism is of course, the so-called Tree of Life, the sketch of which is seen in his published work, The Origin of Species [above]. This image is used to illustrate his theory that “all living creatures had a common ancestor and that natural selection drove the eventual development of the countless organisms we see in the modern world.”[2] A key component to Darwin’s theory is that natural selection (or, the veritable genetic response to differing conditions) would happen over time in a slow, incremental way. The problem with his theory is that it has been disproved by fossil records, where major groups of animals suddenly appear in the chronological fossilized timeline (and was even acknowledged by Darwin himself.) It is widely known as the Cambrian explosion, or the biological big bang, an event occurring during the Cambrian geological period over 550 million years ago. So, instead of the gradual change in a species due to environment, the Cambrian explosion shows the opposite– a sudden record of major groups of different, fully-formed species. Wells comments, “These animals, which are so fundamentally different in their body plans, appear fully developed, all of a sudden, in what paleontologists have called the single most spectacular phenomenon of the fossil record.”[3] As a Christian, this echoes of the Genesis’ creation account, that dramatic and poetic narrative of God creating the creatures by “kind,” everything from sea creatures to birds to mammals to humanity, all distinguished by their phyla-division, or kinds.

darwin homology

The second image is one that compares the so-called homology in vertebrate limbs, like what you might see when comparing the bone structure of a bat’s wing, a porpoise’s flipper, a horse’s leg, and a human’s hand [above]. This pattern is commonly attributed to Darwin’s theory, while it was actually his predecessor, the anatomist Richard Owen, who said that they “pointed toward a common archetype or design,” not descent with modification.[5] The weak link in homology is that there has yet to be a mechanism that proves common ancestry, even though attempts have been made through “developmental pathways” or “similar gene” explanations (two theories that have since been disproved.) The umbrella answer of “common ancestry” often gets used when questions of descent or design are posed, which becomes a circular reasoning argument. For evolutionist scientists, the question of homology proves frustrating; for creationist scientists, the similarities and patterns in design poignantly suggest the intelligent mind of a designer.

java man

Finally, we consider the most recognizable image of macro-evolution, the prehistoric “Java man” [above][6]. This is the image of a rendered bust, from the American Museum of Natural History, of what the part-ape, part-man must have looked like…the imagined result of an ape-turned-man through gradual evolution over time. The hard evidence that the rendering is based on, excavated by Eugene Dubois in 1891-1892 on an Indonesian Island, turns out to have only been a human skullcap, a femur bone, and three teeth. Scientists later disqualified the findings because of the “shoddy” quality of the excavation, as well as determining that the femur did not belong with the skullcap.[7] The iconic image of an early evolved man turns out to only have been a figment of Darwin’s imagination. In contrast, early biblical accounts attribute great skill to mankind, in everything from city building to metal working to musicianship to farming (Gen 4:17-22.)

Humanity, as image-bearers of their Designer God, carries the uniquely creative and intelligent inner flame that no other members of creation exhibit. What evolutionary need would hope fulfill? Why would humanity (and humanity alone) continually look toward the future with ambition, enthusiasm, and aspiration? This final point especially reflects a Creator, because only a higher being could create the capacity for soul and spirit—evolution has no need for the transcendent.

 

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[1] Lee Strobel, The Case For a Creator – A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points toward God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 37.
[2] Strobel, 44.
[3] Strobel, 46.
[5] Strobel, 55.
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java_Man
[7] Strobel, 65.

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