What Are the Odds? – 1

Let’s admit, just for the sake of argument, that evolution does take place. What if tomorrow scientists came forward with indisputable evidence that species change over time? We’re talking fish evolving into land-dwelling, four-legged salamanders, and humans descending from ape-like ancestors. What would that do to your faith? After all of the discussions, arguments, rhetoric, and philosophizing of the creation-evolution debate, what would remain firm in your belief-system if evolution was a cold, hard fact? Would you lose your faith? Compromise your faith? Re-evaluate your faith?

There is one thing you need to know about evolution before you jump to any conclusions: evolution does not explain where life came from in the first place. That is not the point of evolution. It merely attempts to explain the variety of species that we have today. But that explanation only goes so far. It cannot, and does not even attempt to, explain how the first living cell came into existence.

There are scientists who have taken the evidence for evolution a step farther. Do not be surprised that it happens, and, by all means, do not ridicule them for doing so. Science cannot take place without scientists who take the current evidence a step farther. There is no exploration, and, therefore, no discovery, if we do not attempt to explain and hypothesize about that which is beyond the evidence. On the other hand, making possibilities into probabilities and “laws,” as many evolutionists have done with their assumptions about the genesis of life, is wrong.

This is how it happens. Scientists have a question. They come up with some possible answers to the question. They do experiments and gather data pertinent to the question. They analyze the data and attempt to find the best answer for the question based on this data. At this stage their answer is called a hypothesis. Once their tentative hypothesis is developed they do more experiments to gather more data to re-check their explanation. Through the course of many experiments the hypothesis will be re-worked and re-thought to best explain the evidence. Proponents of the hypothesis work to support their claim. Others make attempts to discount the claim (should they have reason to believe the hypothesis is false). After years, many experiments, and a lot of data, if the hypothesis generally works to answer the question, then it will be called a theory. Many more years and experiments are necessary to change a theory to a law (such as the law of gravity…plenty of people of dropped things, so we can be pretty sure it is true).

Anywhere in this process assumptions can be developed. Someone says, “If this hypothesis/theory/law is true, then it is a pretty good bet that this other hypothesis is also true.” Sometimes these assumptions make sense. Sometimes they need more exploring. Sometimes they do not make sense, but they are set forth by people who think they do. It is this last area that causes the most problems. Scientists who say, “This is true, so this also must be true,” and they maintain this belief without any evidence, or contrary to the evidence. This very thing has happened with evolution and the question of where life came from.

Many scientists are convinced that evolution is a fact because of the evidence they have seen and gathered. Some of these scientists make an assumption: “If species are so varied because of purely natural forces, then it is obvious that life could arise by purely natural forces.” But, the one does not necessarily follow from the other.

This will be the first in a series of articles about the origin of life. We will look at evidence to show that purely natural forces are not adequate to explain the origin of life. We will attempt to answer the question, “If evolution were true, what would happen to your faith?” We will attempt to build faith while exploring science.

You can “stand firm in the faith,” [1Corinthians 16:13] no matter what the world throws at you. And, you can be confident knowing that God does not ask for blind faith, but that the evidence supports belief in God.

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5 thoughts on “What Are the Odds? – 1

  1. You wrote:
    “We will look at evidence to show that purely natural forces are not adequate to explain the origin of life. We will attempt to answer the question, “If evolution were true, what would happen to your faith?”

    Have you read Robert M. Hazen’s book Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin, and are you keeping up on current research in the field?

    What happens to someone’s “faith” when faced with the reality of evolution has to do with how much of that faith is dependent on belief in this or that dogma. Evolution spells disaster to biblical inerrancy and infallibility, because those are “belief-based” systems.

    I am using these terms in the same manner as Aldous Huxley, who once wrote “Give us this day our daily faith, but deliver us, dear God, from belief.”

  2. Very good rough overview of the scientific process, until you got to this part:
    “Many more years and experiments are necessary to change a theory to a law (such as the law of gravity…plenty of people of dropped things, so we can be pretty sure it is true).”
    This is not true. The output of science is only theories. When physicists call their theories “law” they are just muddying the issue. Drop things all you want, gravity will remain a theory. Things falling are evidence that can support (or not) a particular theory of what and how gravity operates.

    In regards to evolution, scientists look for natural processes for explanations for all phenomena they observe. It is the limits of science that theories must describe repeatable, measurable, testable events in order to be sufficiently explored scientifically. An intelligent designers whim can never be studied scientifically even if there was one.

    You are correct that abiogenesis (a word referring to the origin of life from non-life) would have to occur prior to the existence of biological evolution as we see it today, and that this is a separate issue than evolution itself. (Thank you for making that distinction.) I am interested to see if you can demonstrate that natural forces would be insufficient for causing abiogenesis, and how you will go about trying.

  3. Hokku,
    I have not read Hazen’s book. I will look into it. I am trying to stay (relatively) current on the research. It has not been that long since I earned my undergrad degree in Biology, and I try to keep up in my regular reading…although I have to confess I don’t subscribe to any of the journals or other primary lit.
    I agree completely with your statement, “What happens to someone’s ‘faith’ when faced with the reality of evolution has to do with how much of that faith is dependent on belief in this or that dogma.” It is actually my goal to show that our faith must not be dependent on this or that dogma, but on the person, Jesus Christ. Faith does not have to be, nor should it be, “blind.” In fact, there is no definition in the Bible for faith that requires believing without evidence. That was the misconception of Huxley and many other skeptics who use Webster or some other source to define faith rather than looking at the biblical definition.

    I understand that you don’t believe the Bible to be infallible, but in order to criticize the faith of Bible-believers you must start with their understanding of faith (which is biblically based). If you use any other definition, then you are not really addressing our faith, but someone else’s conception of our faith.

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your time and attention, and I look forward to future discussions.

  4. Joe,
    Thanks for your critique. I appreciate your input. It will help me to communicate better.

    I understand that there are no “laws” in most fields…generally just in physics…but the general public is not necessarily aware of this fact. They know that there are “laws,” “theories,” and “hypotheses,” but they seem to have a misunderstanding as to how they are defined. Comments like “it’s just a theory” are made all of the time because they think that a theory is extremely inferior compared to the “laws” that they have heard of. I suppose I didn’t make it very clear…and I apologize…but my intended audience is much broader than the scientific community or those with a science background.

    As for your comments regarding my comments about natural processes: I think you are absolutely right. Science cannot go beyond natural explanations. Of course science cannot funtion properly without this limitation…but I do believe it to be a limitation. I hope you will continue reading as I attempt to explain my comments further. You have questioned the very thing I intend to develop…so I won’t write an article here explaining…I will keep you in suspense.

  5. You wrote:
    “I understand that you don’t believe the Bible to be infallible, but in order to criticize the faith of Bible-believers you must start with their understanding of faith (which is biblically based).”

    What I call “belief” you seem to call “faith,” but when you speak of “our” faith, as though speaking for all Christianity, I cannot help but recall that there are a great many quite different and often contradictory Christian belief systems, even regarding the origins of the universe. So in discussing systems based on certain dogmas and doctrines, I find “belief” more precise.

    But in any case, you are correct in assuming that I regard the Bible as a collection of very human and fallible documents that have been revised and edited over time, and are not in the least inerrant or infallible.

    Further, I hold that the origin accounts in Genesis depict a primitive and pre-scientific world view that has long been disproved. I do not yet know what your view on these matters is, but I look forward to finding out, and to seeing how you defend that view in what you intend to present here.

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