How should the Bible and science relate to each other? An increasingly popular way to answer that question has been to draw a dividing line between the two, to declare a ‘no contest’ by recognising that they deal with different types of truth. Accordingly, any conflict between the two is merely apparent, a consequence of category confusion in the minds of those who have never been trained to think properly.
But, as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, that division is both unnecessary and leads to logical incoherence. It’s also futile as an attempt to declare a truce: scientists have a tendency to step over the line by making philosophical assertions (usually on the impossibility of God’s existence) based on what they consider to be science.
There is, of course, some truth to that division. The Bible is clearly not a scientific textbook, just as an Irish road map is not an analysis of the chemical compostion of bitumen and concrete. Scripture gives us no guidance on how to conduct experiments in a laboratory or how to arrange geology field trips. But although the Bible is not a science manual, it is a clear guide to the philosophy of science: it provides an accurate description of the type of reality we should expect to uncover when we study the natural world.
If God’s word is true in its entirety (Psalm 119:160), then its explicit and implicit statements about nature will never fail to be congruent with that reality. Conversely, any erroneous philosophy about the character of existence will inevitably fail the congruence test. So how do the Bible and Darwinism measure up when subjected to that analysis?
A fascinating answer to that question is provided in J.C. Sanford’s book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. Sanford, a geneticist, had been an atheist, then, following his conversion, a Christian evolutionist. That is until he decided to question Darwinism’s Primary Axiom that ‘man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection’. He discovered that the theory’s failures soon became apparent when measured against the hard realities of genetics.
Although Darwin proposed his theory based on observations of gross anatomy (and not a little speculation), his twentieth century followers combined it with advances in microbiology to produce the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. Simply stated, Neo-Darwinism maintains that mutations in the genome produce features at the level of the whole organism, or phenome, which are then naturally selected, eventually producing new species. Extended over millions of years, this process is sufficient to give rise to complex life forms (such as men and chimps) from simpler forms via common ancestors.
The theory’s logic is certainly enticing, but Sanford mercilessly exposes its practical impossibility. Its logical appeal rests on the naïve popular understanding that many genetic mutations produce clearly good or bad effects in the phenome. Given this assumption, all the significantly bad mutations – even if they’re the vast majority – will be weeded out by natural selection, allowing the few good mutants to dominate and pass their advantages to the next generation.
However, geneticists now know that the overwhelming majority of genomic mutations only produce very slight deleterious mutations (VSDMs) which have no obvious effects at the level of the phenome. These mutations are invisible to nature, so there’s nothing to select. Consequently, mutations are passed from one generation to the next and accumulate in the genome, leading to the gradual genetic deterioration of the species. This, of course, is precisely the opposite to what we should expect if Darwinism were true.
As an example of Darwinism’s utter inability to break through the hard wall of genetic fact, Sanford cites the dilemma first recognised by J.B.S. Haldane in the 1950s. Haldane understood that all selection came at a cost – not even breeders could simultaneously select all the qualities desired in a stock – and calculated that it would take 6 million years (the time period that separates man and ape from their supposed common ancestor) to fix just 1,000 genetic mutations in man through natural selection. Since Haldane, geneticists have discovered that there are 3 billion genetic units in the human genome, which has approximately 150 million nucleotide differences compared to the chimp genome. Forty million hypothetical mutations (20 million for each species) are necessary to arrive at the current point of separation given the common ancestor starting point. But, as Haldane discovered, natural selection can only account for a thousand of those mutations in humans. So practically all of them must be VSDMs, whose aggregate would be lethal to the species. Sanford comments that this process of evolution through non-selected mutations ‘would not just have made us inferior to our chimp-like ancestors – it would surely have killed us’.
So evolution is happening in the genome – but in reverse! Darwin’s hopeful story of the triumphant progress of increasingly more sophisticated life forms is precisely that, a nineteenth century progressivist fairy tale whose fabric is daily being torn to pieces by modern science.
And that same science is remarkably consistent with the biblical record, even in the most unexpected places. Sanford shows that the shortening lifespans of Noah’s descendents, when charted, follows the same exponential curve associated with human genetic decline established by the secular geneticist J.F. Crow. His analysis of this correspondence is worth quoting at length:
The unexpected regularity of the Biblical data is amazing. We are forced to conclude that the writer of Genesis either faithfully recorded an exponential decay of human lifespans, or the author fabricated the data using sophisticated mathematical modeling. To fabricate this data would have required an advanced knowledge of mathematics, as well as a strong desire to show exponential decay. But without knowledge of genetics (discovered in the 19th century), or mutation (discovered in the 20th century), why would the author of Genesis have wanted to show a biological decay curve?…The most rational conclusion is that the data are real, and that human life expectancy was hundreds of years – but has progressively declined to current values.
But we really shouldn’t be surprised by the Bible’s regularity. Scriptural authors consistently anticipated science by centuries, and in some cases millennia, with their insights regarding the natural world. Although western medicine laboured under the Aristotelian misconception of ‘humours’ even into the modern era, Moses recorded that ‘the life of all flesh is its blood’ (Leviticus 17:14); Job knew that the Earth was suspended in space (Job 26:7), and recognised that it was spherical (Job 26:10) centuries before that idea occurred to the Greeks, as did Isaiah (Isaiah 40:22).
So drawing an arbitrary line between scientific truth and scriptural truth is unnecessary and diminishes the full impact of God’s word. God, as the creator of the universe, should be expected to speak accurately about His creation, to describe the natural world as it really is. Darwinism, on the other hand, presents a largely inaccurate – indeed, back to front – picture of that world. Darwinists will claim that nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolutionary theory, but surely Science progresses in spite of being shackled to this philosophical dead weight, not because of it.
And although the Bible speaks accurately on a range of scientific matters, it never once suggests the possibility that life evolved. It’s strange that the Author of life would remain silent on that subject, and it should cause Christian Darwinists to at least consider their assumptions. If they do, they might discover that any conflict between science and the Bible cannot be resolved by constructing artificial epistemological barriers but by subjecting all knowledge – including science itself – to the Word of its Creator.