Category Archives: Scripture

War on Terror

“But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will appoint over you sudden terror…”

Leviticus 26:14-16


Review of Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

The Counterpoints series produced by Zondervan Publishing “provides a forum for the comparison and critique of different views on issues important to Christians.”1 Notable theologian Stanley Gundry is the series editor. The format for each book in the series is for three or four Christian leaders or scholars who are divided on an important Christian issue to each write an essay where they explain their position and briefly describe what they believe to be the best evidences for their position. Each essay is followed by responses from the other essayists and a brief rejoinder.

The Counterpoints series has featured books on creation, evolution, the early chapters of Genesis, and biblical inerrancy before. In these previous books the Reasons to Believe perspective was not presented. Consequently, over the past three decades we have had to continually deal with misunderstandings and misrepresentations of our positions and missions. Therefore, I jumped at the offer to participate in the latest book in the series, Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design.2 I saw my contribution as an opportunity to set the record straight on our mission and vision and on what we believe at Reasons to Believe and why we believe it.

The four authors for the book were the presidents of Answers in Genesis (Ken Ham), BioLogos (Deborah Haarsma), Discovery Institute (Stephen Meyer), and Reasons to Believe (Hugh Ross). Ken Ham (bachelor of applied science in environmental biology and diploma in education) defended young-earth creationism, Deborah Haarsma (PhD, astrophysics) defended evolutionary creationism, Stephen Meyer (PhD, history and philosophy of science) defended intelligent design, and I (PhD, astronomy) defended old-earth creationism.

The general editor for the book, James Stump (PhD, philosophy), is the senior editor for BioLogos—thus, he obviously favors the evolutionary creationism position. I was impressed, however, by how impartially Stump fulfilled his role as the book’s editor and how fairly and charitably he treated each author.

Originally, the four authors were to describe and defend their positions on creation, evolution, and the early chapters of Genesis. This assignment proved difficult for Meyer since the Discovery Institute and the intelligent design movement as a matter of policy “does not offer an interpretation of the book of Genesis, nor does it posit a theory about the length of the biblical days of creation or the age of the earth.”3 Thus, the book morphed into four views on creation, evolution, and intelligent design. Nevertheless, the other three authors did engage one another on their respective interpretations of Genesis 1–11.

I applaud Stump for requiring each of us authors to close our opening essays with what we considered to be the most significant biblical and scientific challenges to our respective positions. The subject of creation, evolution, and Genesis for the past two centuries has been typified by Christian leaders holding rigidly to their positions and refusing to consider any possible modifications or adjustments. By admitting and addressing both possible biblical andscientific challenges, we were all encouraged to go where the evidence goes.

I also applaud Stump for doing everything in his power to encourage a charitable dialogue among the authors. Readers will probably note that Stump’s objective was only partially achieved. However, as an insider I can attest that whatever lack of charity remains in the book is of no fault of Stump.

As for my own hopes for the book, I am grateful that the all-too-typical false dichotomy of young-earth creationism versus theistic evolution was countered. I was encouraged that I had the opportunity to correct the misunderstandings the other authors had about my views and motives. I was encouraged, too, that for the first time in print the four predominant positions on the science-faith spectrum were accurately and fairly presented. In particular, I was pleased that each author stated where they stood on the issue of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, especially the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy affirmations and denials, and why. While space prohibited laying out all the evidences for the respective positions, each of the authors had written several other books and articles where that had been done. We cited these other works in our contributions to enable any reader who wants to dig deeper to do so.

At 235 pages, the book is short enough to quickly provide both Christian and non-Christian readers an understanding of the scope and the passions of the science-faith debate within the Christian community. At the same time, it is long enough to be a useful textbook for Christian seminaries and colleges and for youth and adult classes in churches and Bible studies.

Original article: Review of Four Views on Creation

Mutations—How They Work and Which Worldview They Favor

Does “Evolution” Point to Naturalism or Design?

Before addressing this question, it is always important to define terms. Evolution, at a very basic level, means change over time. We use the words evolution and evolve in this way all the time. As an example one might assert that one’s thinking about race and cross-cultural interactions evolves over time as one gains exposure to various cultures and races. In scientific language evolution can have this same basic meaning: change. But often in naturalistic explanations of the origins of life and of species this simple concept of change is misapplied to mean more than has been scientifically or mechanistically demonstrated.

Mutations and Microevolution

Consider mutations in the cell as an example of this misapplication. Mutations are changes to the nucleic acid molecular codes that randomly occur as a result of mistakes in DNA replication or during DNA damage repair. There are many different kinds of mutations; for example, point mutations (single base substitutions), repetition of short segments (from stuttering of the polymerase during replication), and indels (insertions or deletions of bases). Spontaneously occurring mutations result from external stimuli or internal mistakes that affect cells’ processes. Mutations can also be induced through intentional exposure to chemicals or radiation. Within a given cell, some mutations have no effect, some can be detrimental to proper functioning (even resulting in cell death), and on rare occasions some can provide increased fitness in particular environments.

For haploid organisms (those possessing one complete set of chromosomes) and single-cell organisms, mutations of any kind can have a radical effect on the cell and all its progeny. The replication of single-cell organisms is haploid and asexual, and is extremely rapid compared to the reproductive cycle of sexual organisms. Therefore, a mutation that provides a fitness advantage will often spread throughout single-cell progeny and become prevalent throughout the population within a very short period of time. The fact that rapid selection of mutations provides fitness advantages is an uncontested idea at the level of single-cell microorganisms. This type of evolution is sometimes referred to as microbial evolution or microevolution and it is noncontroversial.

Similar molecular mutations and adaptations occur, emerge, and are preserved over time within multicellular organisms and populations, especially when such genetic changes correspond to fitness advantages. But the scientific mechanisms of such inheritance and spread within multicellular organisms and populations are much more complex and less frequent than for single-cell organisms.

Multicellular, Diploid Challenges

In multicellular, diploid organisms (those possessing two sets of chromosomes) that require sexual reproduction, mutations typically occur in somatic (nonreproductive) cells and in an allele on only one chromosome. These mutations can have an immediate effect on the single cell’s function or progeny cells if it undergoes division.

Significantly, however, somatic mutations in sexual, diploid organisms are not passed on to offspring. In order for a mutation to be inherited, the mutation must occur in a gamete, the haploid cell of a sperm or egg.1 If the mutation occurs within a gamete (sperm or egg), upon fusion with the corresponding unmutated gamete (egg or sperm, respectively) the resulting diploid progeny becomes heterozygous (occurring in one chromosome) for the mutation. If a mutation is heterozygous but not dominant in its phenotype, it must occur independently and concurrently in both individual gametes of the reproductive pair in order to have a phenotypic effect in offspring and for subsequent positive selection to occur within a population. In fact, it would almost certainly need to have spontaneously occurred in multiple germ-line cells of each individual to result in a likely fertilization of a mutated sperm with a mutated egg. Therefore, in multicellular organisms, in order for a single change to be passed to progeny, such fitness mutations must be heterozygous dominant or they must occur independently and concurrently in multiple cells in each member of a reproductive pair. To add to the difficulty, they must occur within the germ-line cells, not just somatic cells. The intricate, complex nature of this nontrivial type of molecular change and germ line heredity was unknown to evolutionary champion Charles Darwin.

Furthermore, selection of advantageous mutations in large-organism populations is extensively prolonged in two ways compared to simple, single-cell organisms or asexual reproductive populations. First, selection is prolonged by the fact that the progeny or recipient of the germ-line mutation must reach reproductive age and successfully reproduce. And second, the spread of the trait throughout the population is prolonged by the previously unmutated allele’s predominance in the existing population, which would not necessarily result in an immediate inability or inhibited ability to compete for resources or mates.

Advantage: Design over Darwinism

Nevertheless, the existence of mutations (or variations) within human alleles that provide obvious environmental advantages for specific populations is uncontested. This molecular adaptation is often heralded as a hallmark of naturalistic evolution. In evolutionary dogma these nontrivial molecular changes are employed to explain not only the observation of complex organisms’ adaptive abilities but also the emergence of entirely new species.

However, macroevolutionary changes and advancements in complexity that are necessary for observed differences in biologically advanced organisms pose significant problems for naturalistic evolution. To employ microevolutionary (undisputed) explanations in an attempt to address macroevolutionary (highly disputed) advancement seems wholly inadequate. It is similar to citing the discovery and repeated verification of the use of stone tools as an explanation for the computer laptops and tablets humans use today.

From my perspective as a scientist, there is no rational reason why molecular adaptation should be co-opted and relegated only to naturalistic evolutionary explanations of the origin of species. In fact, what scientists observe about the mechanisms and advantages of molecular adaptation fits better in a biblically compatible, design narrative than in a neo-Darwinian one. In a design narrative, one starts with complex organisms that have the capacity for molecular adaptation. Such molecular adaptation would be expected as a mechanism of survival, persistence, and thriving. An insightful designer would anticipate various external challenges and environmental changes between different geographical climes and creatively engineer organisms with the capacity to accommodate such changes. Any species subject to such environmental stresses would be short-lived if not for an innate ability to adapt.

In an attempt to understand the world, we need to seek out the best possible explanations, clearly enunciating the scientific underpinnings of nature’s complexities. And for the sake of scientific inquiry and true advancement, we must admit the areas where neo-Darwinian explanations fail to offer sufficient or viable mechanisms for observed phenomena. To force the observations to fit the paradigm just for the sake of maintaining the paradigm might truly hinder scientific progress.

  1. It’s important to note in regard to complex diploid, multicellular, sexual organisms that mutations in somatic cells are not directly passed on to offspring. Although some epigenetic changes are passed on to offspring, unless these mutations occur in the egg of the maternal parent it is difficult to imagine or articulate how these epigenetic changes are “inherited” and not rather a result of continual environmental influences resulting in individually reproducible, repeated epigenetic changes.

Original article: Mutations – Which World View Do They Support?

A Species of Robbery—John Taylor, 1852

There is also another political party, who desire, through the influence of legislation and coercion, to level the world. To say the least, it is a species of robbery; to some it may appear an honorable one, but, nevertheless, it is robbery. What right has any private man to take by force the property of another? The laws of all nations would punish such a man as a thief. Would thousands of men engaged in the same business make it more honorable? Certainly not. And if a nation were to do it, would a nation’s act sanctify a wrong deed? No; the Algerine pirates, or Arabian hordes, were never considered honorable, on account of their numbers; and a nation, or nations, engaging in this would only augment the banditti, but could never sanctify the deed.

I shall not, here, enter into the various manners of obtaining wealth; but would merely state, that any unjust acquisition of it ought to be punished by law. Wealth is generally the representation of labour, industry, and talent. If one man is industrious, enterprising, diligent, careful, and saves property, and his children follow in his steps, and accumulate wealth; and another man is careless, prodigal, and lazy, and his children inherit his poverty, I cannot conceive upon what principles of justice, the children of the idle and profligate have a right to put their hands into the pockets of those who are diligent and careful, and rob them of their purse. Let this principle exist, and all energy and enterprise would be crushed.

John Taylor. Government of God, 1852, p. 23.