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Old Testament Study - Science and Scripture

Written by: Culver, Calvin    Posted on: 05/12/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

            Old Testament Study - Science and Scripture

    We come now to an issue which must be addressed, however briefly: the problem of the relationship between science and scripture.  This is a highly controversial topic, which has generated volumes of discussion, and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future, but for now I will simply call your attention to a number of facts, and tentatively offer a few of my own conclusions.

    Let's state the problem in the following manner: The problem is that some interpretations of the scientific data contradict some interpretations of the biblical data.  I have stated the problem in this way in order to emphasize the root of the problem - the problem lies, not in the facts themselves, but simply in the interpretations which various scholars have placed upon those facts. There are, as we shall see, some interpretations of the scientific data which do not contradict the biblical accounts (or, conversely, some interpretations of the biblical data which do not contradict scientific accounts).  In sum, we must always bear in mind that there is no inherent contradiction between the biblical and the scientific data.

    So, let's be more specific.  What are the problem areas?  They are, primarily, the areas of biology and geology.  I will in this lesson discuss something of the biological issues involved, then turn in the next lesson to questions of a geological nature.  There are many biologists who insist that the biblical solution to the question of the origins and the development of life does not square with their understanding that life came into existence by chance or random, purposeless activity, and that all life as we know it today evolved from an original single-celled being.  What we have here, really, are two distinct problems: the first is that of the origin and development of the universe and life.  The second is that of the biblical claim of uniqueness for man.  This claim is being hotly contested by those whose interpretations of the scientific data see a long train of development of all life from lower stages of existence to higher.  And the claim is certainly also made that the evidence does not support the theory that all mankind finds its origins in a single pair of human beings.  These scientists would want to suggest that there were many primitive men, and that the human race evolved from many anthropodal forms, not just one human pair.

    Let's stop here a moment and ask something about the type of evidence used by the natural scientist to erect or to support this type of theory.  In order to provide a framework within which to organize this data I will be using, in modified form, the taxonomic tables of one George Gaylord Simson, a biologist who in 1942 wrote a book called _Tempo and Mode in Evolution_ in which he divided all biological evidence into three categories.  While I will be employing Simson's language, I will be organizing his categories somewhat differently.  The three categories as I will be using them are as follows: Phylitic, Speciation, and Quantum.

    The first of these categories - the phylitic - includes the evidence of the fossil records - those remains of dinosaurs, ancient fish, insect life, and the like which have through natural processes become entrapped in river beds and other deposits, leaving impressions which have through geological activities been transformed into stone, preserving for us a record of the life.

    The evidences classified as speciation are largely those evolutionary changes we see occurring among living beings.  For example, I could cross a German shepherd with a doberman pinscher to create a new strain of dog.  If I continue doing this, and then mate those of this new strain to produce further offspring, I can create a new breed of dog.  There are many incidences of this sort of change and adaptation which may be observed to occur naturally all around us. These are what Simson termed 'speciation', or 'species building'.

    If we look at the taxonomic tables developed by Simson, we are told that living beings can be classified, from general to specific, into the following categories: phylum, sub-phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.  The types of evidence discussed in the previous paragraph may be seen, in light of the taxonomic tables, to be very strictly limited to the level of species, or at most of genus (thought that is debatable).  This is to say that all observable changes occurring today do so at the species level only.  Even carefully controlled, rigidly guided laboratory research - research, for example, to develop a hardier strain of corn or wheat - has been unable to affect change above the level of species.

    Even the broadest view of the fossil - or phylitic - evidence discovers that, though there is no clear-cut definition, the various types of interrelationships that may be positively discovered in the fossil records do not go beyond order, and even at that there are large gaps between the various types of evidence - e.g. for various kinds of fish or reptile.  How then do we account for these gaps?

    To attempt to do so, we must turn to the third category of evidence - the quantum evidence.  While both the fossil record and observation provide evidence of change or evolution at the species level, there is no evidence available to support change at levels above that order; that is, there are gaps in the evidence.  These gaps are called quantum gaps, and the spanning of these gaps the quantum leap.  These quantum leaps suggest that for reasons as yet unknown to us there were sudden jumps in the evolutionary process, jumps which occurred suddenly enough to have left no trace; there is no physical evidence of their existence.

    Without evidence, then, we find ourselves caught up in the entirely hypothetical part of evolutionary theory.  There have indeed been many attempts made to explain these sudden quantum jumps -theories ranging from the bombardment of earth by ultraviolet or radioactive solar rays to as-yet- little- understood complexities of the DNA structure - but the point is that no hard evidence exists for evolutionary change beyond the species level.  In fact, such evolutionary processes would require millions of minute mutations simply to turn a scale into a feather, to say nothing of the corresponding musculo-skeletal structural changes that would be required to make use of the feather.  Further, such changes would have to occur in not just one but two members of a species - a male and a female - who would then have to mate to produce offspring and perpetuate the change.  And again, there is absolutely no hard evidence that such mutations have ever taken place.  This is not to say that such changes couldn't take place but only that one is left at the point of accepting theories of the quantum leap simply on principles of faith.

    In sum, then, the biological problem is essentially a problem of interpretation: we find some evidence of development - or evolution -but does this mean that evolution has occurred in a straight-line fashion?  Does it mean that when the Genesis accounts say life was created according to its kinds that we must impose certain boundaries on our vision of the evolutionary process?  Or perhaps there is another explanation entirely.  We simply cannot say with certainty.

Calvin Culver

Computers for Christ - Chicago

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