This is, I believe, my best argument for evolution as a Christian, godly, and reasonable position to take on the creation and progress of life. Though this was orginially an email sent to an inquirer, I put a lot of effort into it and want to preserve it on this site.
I'm glad to hear the leukemia blog is inspiring. A Christian who can live in submission and faith before God can do anything. Joseph was in a prison cell for two years(!!) and never lost his faith in God. That is true belief.
I believe in gifts of healing and gifts of faith, but I don't believe that being divinely healed of leukemia is the only way to express faith. Putting oneself in the hand of God, no matter what, is the faith we must all have. He can show us where we need to pray for deliverance and where we can rest in confident trust that all things work together for good.
Okay, on to evolution.
You're younger than me. You put a bit more stock in "why" questions than I do. I know the answer to a lot of those questions is "I don't know."
I don't prefer evolution. I see that the evidence indicates that it's true. I was against evolution when I began this quest, just like you and many other Christians. I wasn't trying to find out that the evidence overwhelmingly supports evolution, I just did.
So the question of "why" is irrelevant to me. I'm stuck with the fact that it's so. I can come up with answers to "why," but that doesn't make evolution more or less true.
The geologic column is unlikely to be complete anywhere in the world, though it is complete in several places. The only way for the geologic column to be complete is for one spot on earth to have been accumulating sediment for the last 600 million years. (Before 600 million years is bedrock.) On that sort of time frame, continents move, mountains rise and fall, and weather changes dramatically. Thus, any one spot is likely to experience both erosion and sediment accumulation during its history. So there will always be gaps in any one spot in the geologic column.
However, what should always be true if evolution is true, is that anywhere that the triassic, jurassic, and cretaceous layers (the Mesozoic era) are found, they should be below layers from our current Cenozoic era. They should contain certain types of flora and fauna and not contain other types. In other words, you will find dinosaurs and other huge reptiles, but you will find only small mammals of a certain type. In the Cenozoic layers, however, you should find no dinosaurs and lots of mammals. In fact, as you go up through the Cenozoic layers, you should see a progression that makes geographic and evolutionary sense, progressing from the earliest mammals to modern ones.
And that's exactly what we find.
There are exceptions. Earthquakes thrust layers out of the ground over the top of other layers. However, this is almost always easy to recognize, especially now that we've identified the major tectonic plates.
Actually, one of the places the geologic column is complete is right here in the good ol' U.S. of A.! It's in North Dakota!
John Woodmorappe has written a rebuttal, but (sorry about being so honest here) like most creationist rebuttals, it's irrelevant. He argues that the sedimentation there is not thick enough. He does not deny that every layer of the geologic column is there.
He says that if you add up the largest thickness of each of the layers anywhere on earth, it would add up to over 100 miles, and the thickest you ever find all the layers together is 16 miles?
I have to ask, what's the point? Does that change the fact, that there, in one place, is the whole lineage from Cambrian fauna to trilobites to fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals? It's a full picture of the smaller picture we find everywhere else in the world.
If the evidence were questionable, I would be fashionable and stay out of the whole debate. The evidence, however, is not questionable. It is overwhelming and one-sided (for a person willing to keep digging past where the creationists want you to stop, explained below).
As a result, I have no choice but to believe that life evolved because God's earth says that life evolved.
It was only after I gave in to the evidence that I was forced to ask questions about the literal accuracy of Genesis. Once I did, the whole idea of taking a stand against science based on Genesis 1 seemed extremely presumptuous, even naive.
Now keep in mind, God was kind to me. He made it easy on me. I had already been reading the writings of the earliest Christians for four years before I was confronted with the evidence for evolution. I already knew two key things about the apostles' churches that most modern Christians don't know because they're unfamiliar with the second century writings of the church:
Augustine begins his commentary On the Literal Meaning of Genesis by saying that every Christian has to understand Genesis figuratively. After that, we can then determine what is literal as well. He based that on 1 Cor. 10:11, where he reads "Now all these things happened to them figuratively and are written for our admonition" (On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, ch. 1).
Moses was writing a Law. The covenant laws of the Middle East of that time, known as "suzerain covenants," had three parts:
In Moses' case, the Suzerain is Yahweh. Yahweh had done a lot for Israel, including creating the world and creating man. Thus, "Genesis" is not so much about beginnings as it is about what God did for man and how he came to be Suzerain of Israel.
This does not require God to inspire Moses to produce a factual, scientifically-accurate account of creation. Moses can simply write down the creation story as it was known to himself and the rest of the Hebrews. The point was only that Yahweh is Creator.
Now you may say, "But it was inspired!" To that I say that modern Christians have lost an effective, practical, and more accurate understanding of inspiration.
To the early Christians inspiration meant that God guided Moses to write the story in such a way that it would provide admonition and divine guidance for spiritual, born-again, sons of God in the Church despite the fact that it was orginally written for carnal, non-born-again servants of God in Israel.
So my answer is that I do not consider the story in Genesis one to be scientifically accurate or necessarily accurate at all, just a story that was passed down among the Hebrews, albeit one that is remarkably more reasonable than most creation stories involving turtles, snakes, elephants, and a man with the world on his shoulder.
I do believe that the message of Genesis 1 is that God made everything, and that inside that chapter are remarkable lessons that we miss when we argue over science. The third day is an incredible picture of the Word of God and how it works inside of man. The fourth day testifies of the life of Christ, light and darkness, and the role of the church in the world.
Finally, I mentioned that early Christians understood nature to portray the work of God in us. When we are born again, made into new creations, are we as Christians created complete as we ought to be, and then slowly devolve into less than we were when we were born again? Or do we not, as new creations, evolve into something beautiful through a process of suffering and dying to ourselves?
And this is why I wrote all that I wrote about inspiration. If modern Christians are right, and inspiration means that Genesis one must be scientifically accurate, then we are going to look really bad because we're losing the evolution argument badly (for those willing to go further than creationists want, which I'll explain in a moment).
Does God want me to trust the description of the days in Genesis one more than the evidence of the earth? That's a premise that must be proven to be true, and I don't believe that the early churches, those started by the apostles, would have agreed with that view of inspiration. In fact, I can produce at least two (Origen and Augustine) who directly argue against that and complain that it makes Christians look foolish.
Here I'll explain what I mean by going further than creationists want us to.
Brilliant men have been trying to explain how the flood could account for the layers of the earth ever since Henry Morris wrote The Genesis Flood back around 1960. That's a half a century!
The problems have not been resolved. Even if you agree with them that the flood caused the entire geologic column, there are lots and lots of unresolved questions.
Let's look at one, for example. Creationists like to say, "What if there were a vapor canopy over the whole earth prior to the flood? Animals and people would have lived longer due to UV rays being blocked by this canopy. That's why there were dinosaurs, because reptiles grow their entire lives and dinosaurs are just long-lived reptiles. That would also explain why the sun and moon weren't seen until day four even though there were plants. The sun and moon weren't created on day four, they just weren't visible through the canopy until day 4. And the vapory canopy also explains 'the waters above the firmament.'"
The problem? One, the whole system doesn't work very well. A vapor canopy doesn't explain day four or the waters above the firmament. The waters are above the firmament, and the firmament has the sun, moon, and stars in it. You can't hide the sun, moon, and stars above the waters; the waters are above the sun, moon, and stars.
Further, if there were a vapor canopy that large, the weight of it would compress the air on the earth and heat it above what life could bear.
Is what I just said true? It's so true that Answers in Genesis has cried "uncle," and they now include the vapor canopy among their arguments that creationists shouldn't use.
John Baumgardner is famous for designing a computer program that can mimic the movement of the continental plates. He's also a young earth creationist. He's been working on his own model of how the flood could have laid the geologic column.
The problem is, it's not working any better for him than for anyone else. In a discussion with Joe Meert, Joe pointed out that Baumgardner's model has a "heat problem." Baumgardner's response?
Really, though, it's more than that. I have a page on the Haymond Formation, which is a formation in Texas, from the middle of the geologic column, that has 15,000 alternating layers of shale and sand. The shale has burrows dug in it. This indicates thousands of years of time, right in the middle of layers that the flood was supposed to have laid.
Creationists like for us to just stop at "the flood laid the geologic column." They don't like us to go further and see whether that's plausible.
In fact, I wrote a blog on John Woodmorappe's response to the Haymond Formation that illustrates the same thing. His answer to the Haymond Formation is that it was possibly dug by shrimp underwater or that the burrows were created by escaping gas.
So what about that response? Creationists want us to stop, not ask more questions, but if we want the truth, we have to follow through on our theories and postulations.
If shrimp dug the burrows underwater, does that change anything?
No, not at all. You still have the problem of 15,000 alternating layers right in the middle of the geologic column. If the flood laid the column, then all 15,000 of those layers, and the burrows, had to happen in the one year of the flood. That's nonsensical.
What about gas escaping?
That still doesn't explain how the shale and sand created 15,000 alternating layers, but it has a further problem. You can look at the burrows and tell how they were formed. It's not enough to say, "What if?" You have to check and see what is. You can tell the difference between gas escape tunnels and burrows.
Well, I don't know that this constitutes "taking it easy on you," but I feel like if I say something small and incomplete to you, then I can shake your faith. If I tell you the whole truth, as I see it, then it ought not to shake your faith. You can stand on inspiration when you know what it is. You can stand on the inspiration of God and perhaps get more out of Genesis 1 than you ever dreamed possible.
You can also look at nature and get its message to you. Out of death comes life, and suffering and struggle produces the most marvelous beauty ever.
Let me add one final thing, since I'm on the message of nature.
The final blow for me was finding out about supernovas. Yeah, stars.
Stars give off heat by nuclear fusion. They fuse hydrogen into helium, then helium into carbon, and then carbon into the higher elements.
You probably know that when you fuse hydrogen into helium, great amounts of energy are produced. What you may not know is that as you fuse larger elements into even large elements, once you reach iron, energy is not produced; it is consumed.
When a very large star begins to make iron, the fusion of iron consumes energy, creating a void in the middle of the star. The star then collapses on itself, creating intense heat. The intense heat drives the entire star into fusion (rather than just the core) and the star explodes.
The result can be a beautiful bright object in the sky if it happens in our galaxy. The other result is that carbon-based molecules are scattered like dust across vast reaches of space.
Do you know what we call carbon-based molecules?
We call them organic molecules. They are the molecules from which all life is made.
Am I supposed to believe that God made these huge stars, most of which we cannot see, which blow up in incredible beauty, producing the very dust from which we are made, and then believe that God did that to no purpose? Is it really possible that he never meant to make us from that dust despite creating it in such a beautiful and remarkable fashion?
I can't believe that. I believe those stars explode at the will of God, that he lovingly gathered that dust over eons, and that the end of all that gathering was people who are "the called according to his purpose."
Anyway, that's what I believe.