Debate: Biblical Creation or Theistic Evolution

On Saturday, September 28, 2013, I watched a debate between theistic evolutionist Dr. Karl Giberson and creationist Dr. Randy Guliuzza. Giberson intended to demonstrate that all life evolved from a common ancestor, and that the universe is just as old as secular science claims, while Guliuzza intended to demonstrate that evolution is false, and that the Biblical explanation of our origins, as outlined in Genesis, is correct. This post is a bit lengthy, so I’m splitting it up into two posts. It’s worth the read if you want to see some of the differences between theistic evolution (and Darwinian evolution) and young earth creationism. Of course I think Dr. Guliuzza won the debate hands-down, but I do like to learn arguments from all the different sides. I’ll just present their arguments without much interjection, and then I’ll comment further in my next post when they go into their rebuttals.

Dr. Giberson began by presenting his creationist roots: Creationist Dr. Henry Morris, who wrote The Genesis Flood, was one of his heroes, and he still owns creationist material from when he was young. By making this connection to creationism Giberson is attempting to demonstrate that he’s studied both creationism and evolution and has found evolution to hold the correct theories for the origin of life and the universe.

Giberson believes that God is the creator, but that God’s work took place within the laws of nature. He claims that no key theological concepts are harmed by believing this. He also explained that successful predictions are the most reliable indicator of a solid theory, and that evolution makes predictions that have been verified.

There are four points he wanted to make:

  1. Scientific theories of origins are reliable.
  2. Theistic evolution explains observations.
  3. Theistic evolution is theologically preferable.
  4. Theistic evolution evokes worship of a creator

He began by discussing the successful predictions associated with the Big Bang. Einstein proposed the theory of general relativity which made a number of predictions. 1) Starlight will be deflected as it passes near a large body (like the sun). 2) The theory also predicted that the universe was expanding or contracting. Both of these predictions were confirmed. The Big Bang, as presented by Lemaitre in 1933, predicted the existence of universal background radiation, and this was discovered by Penzias and Wilson in 1964-1965. Giberson says it’s these series of successful predictions that undergird the central scientific explanation for the evolution of the universe.

He discussed the history of life on earth, explaining that life originated about 4 billion years ago and evolves slowly via natural selection. He claims the rich tree of life that we see today satisfies another prediction about life based on the theory of evolution.

According to the fossil record, explains Giberson, we should see increasingly complex species over time, and that human fossils should be found only in recent strata and never with dinosaurs. He claims that we do indeed find such a steady, growing complexity in the fossil record. Evolution predicts curious transitional forms, such as Ambulocetus, which he claims is a transitional species between land and water animals. Ambulocetus- the “swimming whale that walks” was found in 1994, and is a confirmation of evolution.

He claims evolution predicts Common design over Custom design. Common design is driven by limited resources leading to cutting corners, while custom design is the hallmark of perfection, and this is what we’d expect if God created animals aside from evolution. Mammals have five fingers at the end of their hand- humans, cats, whales, and bats. This design appears to be something that was adapted as nature used the resources at hand rather than from scratch. This is a non-optimal process, according to Giberson and, the fossil record demonstrates this modification with horse evolution- the lateral digits on the horse slowly shrivel as horses evolved.

Evolution predicts we should share genes with our ancestors. Our DNA is almost identical to chimps and bonobos, which strongly suggests common ancestry. We also share rare “broken” genes with other species. Giberson questions why God would place these same broken genes in each species. He says natural selection can’t punch “reset”; evolution predicts nature will have odd ways of doing things, using existing materials. Humans have genes to produce tails, webbed feet and webbed hands. He asks, why do we have genes to produce such features only to have them removed? Giberson claims it’s hard to understand in a creationist model why these features exist. Evolution, he insists, is a friend to faith.

Giberson asks, “Did God create cruelty? Why does a cat torture a mouse before eating it? Did God create cats to torture the mouse?” He explained how wasps inject eggs into a caterpillar, and when the eggs hatch they eat the host and keep it alive as long as possible. In a creation model we’re somehow supposed to believe God created this scenario, and even Darwin felt this wasn’t worthy of a Biblical creator. He also claims we have examples of bad design in nature- humans have mouths that have to open and close the right way so that we don’t get something stuck down our windpipe. Hundreds of thousands of people have died from this design flaw. Someone working at General Motors could have created a better design, so why did God create in this way? Giberson claims that our windpipe and lower back pain demonstrates imperfection.

He then considers what it means to be created in the image of God, and questions how we arrived there. Theistic evolution suggests the image of God emerges gradually, like a newly fertilized egg isn’t fully human; it emerges after that. Therefore we can say it arose in our species over time.

Giberson discussed the origin of sin: Theistic evolution suggests our sinful nature emerged gradually. A one-month old infant isn’t committing a serious sin, and we wean them off that behavior and then hold them responsible.

He says this all supports evolution and matches the observations we see, while Biblical creationists have to deal with these predictions.

Giberson says that, as a physicist and scientist he looks at the world and sees a grand narrative. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He stands in awe thinking that the universe began as a set of equations. Change is remarkably orderly. These equations have to be tuned in the right way to create life. There’s a whole set of knobs that need to be adjusted for gravity, conservation of energy, strong nuclear force, repulsion. Without fine tuning we can’t have life. It doesn’t look like a random or crazy, disorganized explosion. It looks like a symphony. We don’t understand the universe- it’s beyond our grasp. Like Moses who saw the promised land but couldn’t enter. We can see after the Big Bang how processes came in an orderly way to give us the remarkable universe we live in today. Atoms are endlessly recycled without deterioration. Gravity begins to gather the atoms into great clouds. Hydrogen atoms are gathered into clouds and burst into flames. Stars begin to form. Gravity made the stars so dense that they began to fuse. Nuclear energy builds the periodic tables- constructed inside stars through fusion process. The largest stars die by explosion. Supernovas spread their atoms throughout vast regions of space and make them available to be recycled into something else. Our universe and star is recycled. Some planets are exactly the right distance from the sun for liquid water, which is plentiful on our planet. Liquid water provides the environment for diverse life. He says the process of evolution “delights”. It leads to eyes that see and ears that hear. Life becomes more complicated and our thinking becomes complicated. Our species needs to love each other. Evolutionary process is leading to greater forms of love. The story of how God created the heavens and the earth is a grand story. Theistic evolution has its own unique grandeur. Jesus became incarnate within the human species and within the laws of our scientific processes.

Dr. Guliuzza began his portion of the debate by providing his background: He was an atheist and believed in evolution with all his heart. He believed his teachers and professors as they taught evolution, and he took their word verbatim. Then one day a girl introduced him to Jesus Christ, and eventually it was the scientific evidence that caused him to question evolution. He saw inconsistencies between science and evolution- inconsistencies between how science was supposed to operate and how it’s actually practiced. It was science that led him to reject evolution.

He then went on to explain how science is supposed to work. Science is based on observation, testing and repetition. Scientific investigators seek to understand natural phenomena by observation and experimentation.

The NABT (National Association of Biology Teachers) says the diversity of life on earth is the outcome of biological evolution: an unpredictable and natural process of descent with modification.

Guliuzza relied heavily on quotes from evolutionists to highlight the problems with evolution; here he shows how secular evolutionists tell us that evolution does not point to God- but in fact points away from God. Steven J. Gould, an evolutionary biologist, said, “The radicalism of natural selection lies in its power to dethrone some of the deepest and most traditional comforts of western thought… to these beliefs Darwinian natural selection presents the most contrary position imaginable. Only one causal force produces evolutionary change in Darwin’s world: the unconscious struggle among individual organisms to promote their own personal reproductive success- nothing else, and nothing higher.”

Freethinker and atheist Richard Bozarth said, “evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”

Those who rely on secular science to shape their religious beliefs have to confront these accusations, which demonstrate the hostility behind evolution and atheism. If we examine what atheistic scientists say about evolution, and if we hand science over to them, then what’s left is the conclusion that denying the special creation of man and all the different kinds of animals leaves us only with evolutionary explanations and no room for God. Theistic evolutionists embrace evolution and secular science, and then try to fit God within that paradigm.

Guliuzza made the case that those who lived during Biblical times understood scripture as it was written. Jesus quoted Genesis one as if it were an historical event while explaining marriage in Matthew 19. And Romans 5:12 ties a real Adam to the redemptive work of Christ when it said that the 2nd Adam conquered the grave and will raise us again.

Guliuzza says that science has supposedly proven that dead people don’t come back to life, so if we’re to accept whatever “science” says, then theistic evolutionists face a problem with the resurrection.

Only Genesis three gives a rational explanation as to why there’s suffering- it’s a result of sin- our doing. We contributed to the sin burden in the world. For evolutionists, they don’t have a rational reason as to why there’s death and suffering, they just say that it exists, but can’t explain it without twisting Scripture.

Guliuzza disagrees that there’s profound evidence supporting evolution. He says we know that life only comes from pre-existing life and that Genesis 1:21 shows that God created life and every living creature according to their kind. Genetic information always existed with their cellular apparatus and predicts an all-or-nothing unity and function. Evolution tells us that life came from non-living material and natural processes.

According to evolutionist Scott Todd, “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” For this reason many scientists won’t even consider a Biblical explanation, even though science is supposed to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Many scientists are only interested in natural explanations, and this is inconsistent with the real purpose of science. Therefore, since evolution appeals to events that have never been observed, it lacks scientific validity. In fact an article in Scientific American was revealing when it said, “Pssst! Don’t tell the creationists, but scientists don’t have a clue how life began.”

Guliuzza says there’s no undisputed credible documented account for the natural origin of life, and that Scripture was right that life only comes from life. Always. No exceptions. He then questioned why scientists believe things that are contradictory and instead appeal to mystifying explanations, which they supposedly reject.

According to evolutionist Richard Lewontin, “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated…”

In other words these scientists resort to mystical explanations to initiate those who don’t understand evolution.

Since organisms only reproduce after their kind, there can be no universal common ancestor. Life is fundamentally discontinuous, and this is what we observe. According to evolutionists, however, the diversity of life on earth is the result of evolution over long periods of time. But what about experiments? Well, the percentage of experiments showing organisms change into a fundamentally different kind of organism is zero. And the percentage of experiments showing that organisms remain the same kind are 100%. So we see that the Bible gives us answers based on science and what we observe in real life.

One of the staples of evolution today is Richard Lenski’s experiments on E-coli, which has involved over 50,000 generations of the organism. But after all these generations, E-coli were still E-coli and hadn’t fundamentally changed, which is what the Bible predicts. The only changes observed were regulations within the cell, such as allowing them to digest citric acid. But this didn’t require the evolution of new genetic information and features.

Another point against evolution is that ancient organisms look nearly identical to those organisms living today. Fossil shrimp, for example, look like living shrimp, even after 360 million years. The tree of life, as presented by evolutionists, is imaginative speculation.

A recent article in the Guardian stated that Darwin was wrong about the tree of life. It turns out that organisms aren’t branching out like it was predicted. So here’s another example where the Bible is right without exception.

Guliuzza says that evolution appeals to extrapolation far beyond what the evidence supports. For example, change in fur color isn’t enough to explain the diversity of life on earth.

Next Guliuzza discussed vestigial organs, such as human gill slits, tails and the appendix, and he explained that the supposed “gill slits” are not “gill slits” and never were, but they are folds in the neck of the human embryo that develop into important parts of our jaw. And the supposed “tail” is not a tail- it’s the backbone that the embryo grows into. The appendix, finally, is not a useless organ, but is useful in our immune system and is a storehouse for useful bacteria. An article that appeared in ScienceNow said, “Researhers compiled information on the diets of 361 living mammals, including 50 species now considered to have an appendix, and plotted the data on  mammalian evolutionary tree. They found that the 50 species are scattered so widely across the tree that the structure must have evolved independently at least 32 times, and perhaps as many as 38 times.” This wasn’t predicted by evolution, and should be enough to falsify it.

Guliuzza says that we have fossils of all kinds of invertebrates and fish, but not a single intermediate form, and not a shred of evidence that evolution has ever taken place. He says evolution couldn’t have happened without leaving a single transition, and he quotes evolutionist Ernst Mayr: “Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document a gradual steady change from ancestral forms to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series. New types often appear quite suddenly, and their immediate ancestors are absent in the earlier geological strata. The discovery of unbroken series of species changing gradually into descending species is very rare. Indeed the fossil record is one of discontinuities, seemingly documenting jumps (saltations) from one type of organism to a different type. This raises a puzzling question: Why does the fossil record fail to reflect the gradual change one would expect from evolution?” Instead of finding what evolutionists predict, we find the appearance of living things created fully functional and fully complex.

Evolution would predict that major differences should arise after millions of years of evolution, however the major phylum-level differences appear first in the fossil record, not last. The tree of life has been turned on its head. The appearance of all major life forms is abrupt, discontinuous, extensive and complex right from the very beginning.

Evolutionists ask, “Why do we have similarities unless we evolved from a common ancestor?” They point to organisms with similar traits (such as wings in birds, mammals and insects) that come from independent evolutionary lineages, and they appeal to convergent evolution to explain how these independent organisms developed similar traits. But this idea appeals to circular data. The bat and whale, for example, have similar genes for echolocation, but that doesn’t mean they’re direct ancestors of each other. In fact such examples have astounded evolutionists, another indication that the predictions of evolution were wrong. Convergent evolution is a rhetorical device intended to rescue evolution from what we actually observe, despite the contrary predictions. Ernst Mayr said, “Much that has been learned about gene physiology makes it evident that the search for homologous genes is quite futile except in very close relatives. If there is only one efficient solution for a certain functional demand, very different gene complexes will come up with the same solution, no matter how different the pathway by which it is achieved.” It’s apparent that evolution didn’t predict the similarities.

So how does the Bible explain these similarities? In 1975, Dr. Henry Morris said that similarities were predicted in the creation model. And this was verified when scientists analyzed genes for coding entire structures, called HOX genes. According to researchers, “Such sequence similarity was just stunning. The evolutionary lines that led to flies and mice diverged more than 500 million years ago . . . No biologist had even the foggiest notion that such similarities could exist between genes of different animals. These Hox genes were so important that their sequences had been preserved throughout this enormous span of animal evolution.” And, “Disparate animals were built using not just the same kind of tools, but indeed, the very same genes.”

But instead of being a falsification of evolution, evolutionists insist this is “a powerful fundamental proof of how evolution works.” Guliuzza calls this the, “Heads I win, tails you lose” scenario that evolution maintains. He points out that the Bible is right- common design explains the similar design in diverse creatures.

Another failure of evolution were the predictions associated with junk DNA. Creationists expect there to be some degeneration of DNA, but not wholesale junk. We should always search for function while researching.

Jerry Bergman describes the failure of evolution by quoting Richard Dawkins: “It is a remarkable fact that the greater part (95 per cent in the case of humans) of the genome might as well not be there, for all the difference it makes.” And that pseudogenes inparticular “are genes that once did something useful but have now been sidelined and are never transcribed or translated.” Dawkins concluded: “What pseudogenes are useful for is embarrassing creationists. It stretches even their creative ingenuity to make up a convincing reason why an intelligent designer should have created a pseudogene… unless he was deliberately setting out to fool us.”

And Francis Collins said, “Even more compelling evidence for a common ancestor comes from the study of what are known as ancient repetitive elements (AREs)… Mammalian genomes are littered with such AREs, with roughly 45 percent of the human genome made up of such genetic flotsam and jetsam….There are AREs throughout the human and mouse genomes that were truncated when they landed, removing any possibility of their functioning….Unless one is willing to take the position that God has placed these decapitated AREs in these precise positions to confuse and mislead us, the conclusion of a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable.” He also said, “This evidence does not, of course, prove a common ancestor; from a creationist perspective, such similarities could simply demonstrate that God used successful design principles over and over again.” And, “Of course, some might argue that these are actually functional elements placed there by a Creator for a good reason, and our discounting them as ‘junk DNA’ just betrays our current level of ignorance.”

As of now we’ve found 17 known functions for AREs. In other words we’ve found “hidden treasure in junk DNA.” Pseudogenes aren’t pseudo anymore. An article in the New York Times read, “Bits of Mystery DNA Far From Junk, Play a Crucial Role” The article goes on to explain, “The system, though, is stunningly complex, with many redundancies. Just the idea of so many switches was almost incomprehensible. There also is a sort of DNA wiring system that is almost inconceivably intricate.” Guliuzza says evolutionists were completely wrong. But, on the other hand, Scripture is confirmed again, and this is evidence for an incredible designer.

2 thoughts on “Debate: Biblical Creation or Theistic Evolution

  1. Pingback: Debate Part II: Biblical Creation or Theological Evolution | sixdaysblog

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