Mars Hill Forum #115: Evolution and Intelligent Design: What are the Issues? New Testament Church, Plymouth, MA, May 7, 2006: Guest: Daniel Barker, Freedom from Religion Foundation
Prepared Outline by John C. Rankin
There are three components to look at; first, the definition of evolution; second, the definition of intelligent design; and third, what are the issues? Let me start with some up front issues, look at the definitions, then return to the issues.
I. Theological baggage.
A. Democratic and Secular Humanists (DASH) of Boston, meeting at Harvard ca.1990 – fear of imposed religion and the question of suffering.
II. What preceded the Hot Big Bang? This is the ultimate question. Or to put it another way: What is greater than space, time and number?
A. Flash Gordon & Sputnik.
B. The name of the Lord: Yahweh Elohim.
A. Let’s look at nine definitions of the territory.
1. Microevolution = any change within a given species, changes that occur within a small context.
2. Macroevolution = any change that produces a new species from an existing one, changes that occur in a large context.
3. Darwinists use “evolution” as an all-encompassing term that fudges this distinction; language of “anti-science” and “anti-knowledge.”
4. Microevolution happens, but is lateral at best and only for survival against new environmental hostilities.
a. Reznick’s guppies …
5. Macroevolution by definition cannot be tested, and there is no evidence greater than the weakest of inferential arguments.
6. Darwin’s doctrine of natural selection = chance mutations leading to upward evolution in a struggle for existence in a universe hostile to life; “survival of the fittest.” This is a reactive position.
7. Darwin was intellectually dishonest in addressing Thomas Paley.
a. Common Designer v. common descent; hinge point for all that follows – what is simpler?
b. Morphology v. homology.
c. Though it is in the title of “On the Origin of Species,” Darwin avoids the question of ultimate origins.
8. Yet Darwinian evolution is a materialistic philosophy which seeks to explain all, where nothing outside matter can explain our origins.
9. Darwinian evolution has no productive qualities for family, politics or economics, being rooted in a zero-sum model of the survival of the fittest. From Charles Darwin to Karl Marx to Richard Wagner to Friedrich Nietzsche to T. H. Huxley to Herbert Spencer to Margaret Sanger to Adolf Hitler to Roe v. Wade to Peter Singer to Goodridge v. Massachusetts, the track record is known to students of history.
IV. Intelligent Design.
A. There are many advocates of intelligent design, but in particular I want to thank George Gilder, my friend and polymath of all things technological and economic with the Discovery Institute, and a recent paper he wrote and emailed me. Thus, let’s look at eight definitions of the territory.
1. Information theory contradicts Darwinian evolution; John 1:1,14: “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh …”
2. In every technical field, from quantum theory to molecular biology to computer science to economics, information is central; and hence, the preeminence of information theory. “In the beginning was the Word …”
3. All biology is “irreducibly complex;” indeed, no reductionist materialism can explain the universe; to understand the universe, you need to grasp the whole universe on its own terms, and that which is greater and prior. “In the beginning was the Word …”
4. Content precedes and defines the need for the existence of a conduit – DNA carries the content, but is only a conduit. “In the beginning was the Word …”
5. Without a hierarchy of information programming, proteins are mere matter, impotent to produce life – life cannot be created out of non-life, organic from inorganic. “In the beginning was the Word …”
6. The brain is a material conduit, but it cannot explain the mind in which the content is located. Richard Dawkins says that the material explains all, but that is like saying that the tail wags the dog or the tongue wags the mind. “In the beginning was the Word …”
7. The computer is hailed as a model for the brain, but it is no more than what the designer and programmer put in to it; it is not a model for the mind and cannot account for the spirit. “In the beginning was the Word …”
8. Kurt Godel says that math is dependent on premises it cannot prove such as 1 + 1 = 2; yet with math we can calculate extraordinarily in the material universe. What precedes and defines math? What came before the Hot Big Bang? What is the square root of -1? “In the beginning was the Word …”
9. All this inference points comprehensively and in only one direction – intelligent design, not chance; a common Designer, not common descent. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth … and God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light … In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh …” And the nature of revelation – to bring to the light – is rooted here.
V. The power of “only Genesis” addresses all the issues and is entirely proactive.
A. By this compound term “only Genesis,” I mean the content of the biblical order of creation, which precedes and defines the nature of sin and redemption. There is no more intelligent and comprehensive source for liberal arts inquiry and science in all human history apart from “only Genesis.” Once in a Public Television panel discussion in Albany, NY, with a theistic evolutionist, the president of Sienna College, and two evolutionary scientists, the articulation of this foundation won the eager embrace of the college president. When one of the scientists said he was not concerned to explore the question of what precedes the Hot Big Bang, I said how remarkable it is that a scientist closes off the inquiry into knowledge at this point (and indeed, the word “science” comes from the Latin root scientia, which simply means “knowledge”), whereas a theologian is open to seeking all good knowledge. More recently I addressed a panel discussion at Columbia University, myself with three macroevolutionary scientists, and I set forth the foundation of “only Genesis,” and one of my co-panelists, the curator for ornithology and zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, found it “intellectually challenging and refreshing.” We will be having lunch later this week.
Only Genesis has ten positive assumptions found in their nature and the whole nowhere else:
1. Only Genesis has a positive view of God’s nature – the power to give.
a. The name of Yahweh Elohim v. Marduk in the Babylonian genesis and the Epicurean swerve of Greek philosophy.
b. Cause and effect back to the Hot Big Bang + the personal God.
c. Life produces life.
d. Genesis 1:1,5: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light …” – one big bang, and we can still measure its echo., and prior to 10 to the -32 after the Hot Big Bang, all the math points to infinity.
2. Only Genesis has a positive view of communication – the power to live in the light.
a. Genesis 1:1,5: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light …” and John 1:1,4-5,14: “In the beginning was the Word … In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it … and the Word became flesh …” Communication means revelation.
b. Basis for information theory.
c. Nature of light – in physics, ethics and spiritual domains – darkness
d. “Apparent age” and “ready made fossils” v. “apparent design.”
e. Darwin’s hiddenness vis-a-vis Paley – morphology v. homology.
3. Only Genesis has a positive view of human nature.
a. The image of God.
b. Contrast w/pagan religion and Darwinian evolution.
4. Only Genesis has a positive view of human freedom – the power of informed choice.
a. First words of the sovereign God to man: the metaphor of freedom.
b. Contrast the slavery of pagan religion and Darwinian evolution.
5. Only Genesis has a positive view of hard questions – the power to love hard questions.
a. This is an intellectual and emotional cognate of human freedom – the essence of the rabbinic teaching ethics fulfilled in Jesus.
b. Contrast the politics and pedagogy of Darwinian evolution today.
6. Only Genesis has a positive view of human sexuality.
a. Equality and complementarity of male and female equaling the image of God.
b. Male chauvinisms explicit in pagan religion and in Darwin’s “survival of the fittest,” as the war between the sexes rages.
7. Only Genesis has a positive view of science and the scientific method.
a. The sun and moon in Genesis 1; Hebrew prophets in the law of
b. Contrast the superstition of pagan religion in deifying astronomical bodies; there is a good but still partial rebellion against this in Greek philosophy; but then, the idolatry of materialistic science in the present and new superstitions of its own “faith.”
c. “Faith” means trust. Do we place it in materialistic science and blind chance, or in the intelligent design of the Author of information theory? “In the beginning was the Word …”
d. Issue of the days of creation, and scientific liberty in grasping the age of universe, planet and humanity; “kinds” + no macroevolution.
8. Only Genesis has a positive view of verifiable history.
a. Historical location and eye witnesses to Adam, Eve and progeny up to Jesus.
b. Mythology of pagan religions and science fiction (“2001: A Space Odyssey”).
9. Only Genesis has a positive view of covenantal law.
a. First covenant with Adam and Eve is one of freedom; all subsequent ones aim at restoration of lost freedom – no tyranny allowed in covenantal law.
b. All pagan religions are rooted in political tyranny; Darwinian “survival of the fittest” led to the tyranny and wars T. H. Huxley feared.
10. Only Genesis has a positive view of unalienable rights.
a. The appeal in the Declaration of Independence to the Creator, who is the God of Genesis 1-2 – none other.
b. No basis in pagan religion or Darwinian “survival of the fittest”
c. If intelligent design or common Design cannot be taught in public education, neither can the Source for unalienable rights – hence, the collapse of the nation beckons.
VI. So, in what or whom do we trust, and why?
1. I have sought to remove the theological baggage – there is no coercion in the Gospel. “Only Genesis” is proactive, every element is attractive to the human spirit; Darwinian evolution is reactionary and deeply unattractive to the human spirit as T.H. Huxley in his candor admitted.
2. Common Design versus common descent, intelligent design versus Darwinian evolution, are the choices; and Darwinian evolution is the opposite of information theory.
3. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth … And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light … In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh …”
4. So, why did God make the dinosaurs? [A clue: God loves all people equally, and has thus helped fund the Smithsonian’s exploratory love with such delightful creatures of antiquity.]