In the Beginning

[Editor’s Note: Time passes by quickly. It has been three years since Tony Glaros wrote a column in the Laurel Leader, a local paper in suburban Maryland. Glaros enjoyed lunch with the pastor of the Christ Reformed Presbyterian Church at a well-like local restaurant, Red Hot and Blue. The two discussed the Biblical description of the origin of the universe and of life and its relationship to scientific inquiry. As a consequence of that discussion, Glaros was motivated to write, “Maybe I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution.” I took the liberty of responding to that column in a letter to the editor. That response can also be found in the form of an article entitled, “Better Places to Discuss the Origin of the Universe.” I urge readers to check out that link before proceeding. A little while ago I received an extensive e-mail from Rick Petersen, critiquing the essay. With his kind permission, I reproduce Rick Petersen’s e-mail below. My response follows further below. As usual all readers are invited and encouraged to contribute. — FMM]

Rick Petersen’s E-mail:

Dear Frank,

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to respond to your comments regarding the article in the Laurel Leader concerning the meeting with Pastor Skip Dusenbury.

I don’t know if you’re a Christian or not, so this makes the arguing difficult. As a physicist, I am sure that you can accept well thought out science that follows the scientific method. In this vein, I challenge you to prove that evolution, much less, the old age of the Earth can be proven to be scientific fact using the scientific method. It does not follow from the scientific method. At best, these thoughts can only be thought of as theories.

As a Christian, there are a few things that have been overlooked by many Christian theologians to try to resolve the antithesis of evolution and the inerrancy of Scripture. First, either the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, or it is nothing. For if there are any errors in it, then who can say what is God’s Word and what isn’t. As liberal theologians have tried to discern what is and isn’t God’s Word, they have become lost in a world of relativism rather than the objective truth of God’s world. Second, there is a real problem with evolution and the Bible. If evolution is true, then the Fall is a lie! For the curse of the Fall was death (Gen 2:16-17, 3:19), but if evolution is true, then death already existed. (Note: by evolution, I mean macro-evolution). Again, this makes the Bible nothing but a bunch of empty words with morals.

I believe that the Word, the Bible, is inerrant and inspired by the Holy Spirit (I Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting, for training in righteousness.”). The God of the Bible is one who is omnipotent and omniscient. With this all powerful and all-knowing God, it is a small matter to have his Holy Spirit inspire men to write truth, even with the personalities of the writer showing through. Having said all this, the take-away is that the Bible doesn’t have to fit science; rather, science has to fit the Bible. Sometimes the problem may be a poor or wrong interpretation of Scripture, but if it does not agree, then science must be wrong.

Your comments regarding Skip Dusenbury and, I am sure your thinking is same for all other like-minded Christians, is that we are ignorant and not well learned. Most Christians that I know that believe in Creation came out of homes that believed Evolution. I know I did; in fact my parents and I still disagree. Most of us have had to wrestle with the differences and come to sound Biblical conclusions. The problem with most evolutionists, that I know, is that they are not well read on Creation because they do not feel threatened with the God of the Bible. To accept the God of the Bible and his inerrant Word would mean to have to change their thinking, to go against the norm.

The issues that you brought up in your paper regarding the speed of light and the age of fossils/dinosaurs are good arguments; I should know, I relied upon them for a long time. The easy answer to the speed of light is the “appearance of age,” and it may very well be correct since Adam was created with full maturity (i.e., the appearance of age). However, there are some excellent theories being proposed by excellent physicists that may be able to explain the appearance of age when the whole universe was created by God at the same time, yet with light reaching to us now, millions of years later. I have found one book, Starlight and Time , to be an excellent theory for this explanation. The author is also a physicist with a Ph.D. who uses Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to explain this creation.

As for the fossil record, I have a couple of thoughts to pass by you: 1) Can you explain why there are inconsistencies in the “fossil record” such as inversions in the layers and also how a fossilized tree that has been fossilized for millions of years can go through multiple strata? 2) Is the environment and in the Earth the same as it always has been? Is it possible that there were radical changes that would make our assumptions on dating methods in gross error?

You also asserted the need to visit the Smithsonian Institute to see the fossil record and how it “shows clear and systematic change in the types and complexity of species.” Again, as has always been the problem with the fossil record, it shows greater variation of species, but fills none of the gaps required for macro-evolution.

Another interesting thought is how the current theories of evolution and the beginning of the universe can violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. According to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, everything left to itself would run down and go from order to chaos. If this is true, then how can evolution work? Wouldn’t everything get worse? Wouldn’t the gene pool continue to worsen over time such that species would die rather than be created? At the same time, I have always thought it interesting that the examples I was given in school of current evolution show degradation from more complex to simpler. Evolutionists claim that mutations are the way that new species are made, yet when pressed, they cannot give an example of a good mutation, except perhaps Sickle Cell Anemia(?).

You made the following statement: “History is full of important Jewish scientists in western countries. Einstein is the most well known. Atheists in the former in Soviet Union and members of other non-Christian religions have made profound scientific contributions.” This is an unsound argument. What is their science originally based upon? The God of the Bible. I would expect Jews to share much of the same doctrine of unchanging scientific laws. As for atheists, their science was based upon what came out of the Renaissance and Reformation. These people had a clear understanding of God’s sovereignty and control of nature. It is their understanding of the God of the Bible that allowed them to surpass the more advanced technology in the Far and Middle East. It is only since Man’s turning his back on God’s revealed Word that shows how ignorant and foolish he can become. (Romans 1:22-23 “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”)

In your article you mention the Hubble telescope to look at the universe — I agree! What a wonder!! The universe clearly shows the handiwork of a Creator, not the hit or miss chance coming from chaos (Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”) also (Psalm 19:1 “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of his hands.”)

In conclusion, I ask you the same question that Pilate asked Christ, “What is truth?” And which takes more faith, the probability of an orderly creation arising out of chaos, or a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and holy who has left us the proof us who he is in his Word, the Bible, and in creation? (I Peter 4:19 “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”)

I also just wanted to pass on a couple of comments — Pastor Dusenbury is my pastor; I did not want to say this at first because I wanted you to be more open to what I have to say. Skip is a wonderful pastor and a great friend. He is well learned and takes his faith seriously. Also, my intent here was to defend the Word of God. I hope that you will read this whole letter and mull it over. Read the Bible yourself, if you haven’t, read literature on creationism, especially Starlight and Time. I hope that you would consider even visiting our church, Christ Reformed Presbyterian Church, or at least some other Bible-believing church. Most of all, if you are not a Christian, I pray for your salvation.

Rick Petersen

Response to Rick Petersen

Dear Rick,

Let me first thank you for your sincere letter. Such letters deserve equally well thought out replies. I chose to respond, with your permission, in this forum because I believe others would not only profit from the discussion, but might feel motivated to contribute.

Rick you began your letter with a challenge “to prove that evolution, much less, the old age of the Earth can be proven as a scientific fact using the scientific method.” At best you suggest that evolution and the proposition that the Earth is far older than a few thousand years are “theories.” Your challenge, however, begs the question as to what would constitute a “proof” to you and what is the status of theories.

One method of proof is by deduction. Begin with a few commonly assumed postulates and use deductive logic to “prove” the necessary consequences of the postulates. This form of proof is common in mathematics.

The scientific method is both deductive and inductive. It certainly relies on commonly held assumptions. It assumes that the universe is understandable. To embark in scientific inquiry requires a faith, yes a faith, that there is no malicious force deliberately making the universe unintelligible. There would be, for example, no way to disprove the assertion that the universe was created from nothing moments ago, complete with evidence and memories of its previous existence. However, that would violate the assumptions behind the scientific method. The general acceptance of the scientific method by different cultures derives not only from its success at explaining the universe, but in also making predictions. For example, the theory of universal gravitation can predict accurately when the next solar eclipse will occur.

The scientific method assumes that the rules by which the universe works apply not only here but also elsewhere in the universe and at other times. This is a common faith we virtually all hold. For example, flying on a plane invokes apprehension among some, but the concern generally involves the failure of equipment or of human error. No one fears that suddenly the physics of aerodynamics will change, making air flight impossible. Indeed when you sent me your e-mail, Rick, you probably exhibited the same faith. I am sure that no doubt crossed your mind that the quantum mechanics that explains the operation of the semiconductors in your computer would change. You had no fear that the electrodynamics describing the propagation of electrical (or optical) signals along the Internet would cease to work. In a real sense, we all share this faith.

Science begins with observations either in the laboratory or of the outside world. From these observations, we make generalizations about the operation of the universe. This is the process of induction. If these generalizations continue to hold and if we are able to make accurate predictions then we have comprehensive theories. Some important theories are the theory of gravitation or of relativity. After we become comfortable with theories, they are sometimes called laws. You use the term theory with respect to evolution as if it were a pejorative, as if theory meant only a guess without serious support. Rather in this context, the word theory implies a set of generalizations that have great explanatory value.

Nonetheless, in reality evolution is less a theory and than an observation. There has been a progressive alteration over time in the types and complexity of species. This is an observation. There are competing explanations; variations on the process of natural selection or genetic drift, that are debated by scientists, but serious working scientists treat evolution as an observation. You are welcome to travel to the Natural History Museum in Washington, DC and make the same observations yourself. [1] If you are concerned with the direct observation of mutations, I direct you to the scientific literature where scientists tract mutations in bacteria on a regular basis.

Carbon dating, counting tree rings, and radioactive dating are internally consistent with the dating of the fossil evidence. Sure there is the possibility of error and the Earth has undergone radical changes, but these could not induce the gross errors necessary to create an Earth that is thousands of years old rather than billions. Science by it nature is provisional, always open to new evidence. However, to assert a universe that is extremely young is inconsistent not only with fossil evidence but with the same physics of solar and planetary evolution that control the internal workings of your hand calculator. If your hand calculator works, the universe is old. [2]

In my previous article, I explained that the observation of background radiation from space is in essence a snapshot of the “Big Bang.” We are directly observing the Big Bang. You neglected to address this direct evidence, but you took issue with my explanation that the age of the universe is verified by light from stars that are billions of light years away. You suggest that perhaps there is only the “appearance” that we are receiving light from distance stars.

Arguments I have seen along this line suggest that the speed of light is increasing and hence the stars are not nearly so far away. However, the data from those individuals who make this argument is carefully selected to exclude contradictory data. In the time since we have been making extremely precise measurements of the speed of light there has not been a variation consistent with a significant increase of the speed of light. Even rather large changes in the speed of light would be insufficient to change the age of the universe from billions of years to thousands of years. It would require the speed of light to at one time have been the speed of a human sprinter. [3]

Finally you invoke the second law of thermodynamics: that things run from order to chaos. You ask how could organisms evolve to greater complexity if the universe tends to less order? You, however, neglected to state the second law of thermodynamics in its entirety. “Closed” systems tend to disorder. If you add and subtract energy from a system, order can increase. The Earth is an open system that is being pumped with energy from the Sun. The second law of thermodynamics does not preclude evolution. [4]

In her recent book Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel recounts the story of Galileo’s career and his persecution by the Catholic Church. Galileo was forced into house arrest for suggesting that perhaps Copernicus was correct and the Earth revolved around the Sun. To some people this contradicted Biblical passages about the sun moving across the sky.

The story is complex, but in reality Galileo’s persecution did not revolve (no pun intended) about scientific questions. Copernicus’s new description of the universe came at the time of the Protestant Revolution. Punishing Galileo was more an assertion of authority over Biblical interpretation than adjudication of scientific question. The Catholic Church has belated recognized its error. Indeed the modern Catholic Church has no problem embracing both a Copernican solar system or evolution. Surely, no one believes that Pope Paul II has a liberal theology with regard to faith and morals. But his Biblical understanding does not attempt to transform Scriptures into a scientific text.

Let me suggest that in an era of moral relativism, many people cling to the Bible so tightly they inadvertently force it into inappropriate roles. You yourself quote I Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” So be it. However, to assert that Scriptures also represent a scientific treatise, more than Scripture themselves claim to be, appears somewhat presumptuous.

Galileo believed that God revealed himself both in Scripture and in the Universe. Allow me to respectfully suggest that if God’s revelation in the Bible seems inconsistent with God’s revelation in the Universe, then it is not the Bible nor Universe that are in contradiction. Rather is it the theory of Biblical interpretation that is inadequate.

I believe the argument is not between the God and the Godless, but between different modes of Biblical interpretation. To try to make the Bible a science text book is, in my view, to unintentionally diminish its real stature and authority. Such an approach appears to violate the Biblical prescription to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s and unto God the things which be God’s.” (Luke 20:25)

Frank Monaldo

  1. “Evolution is a Fact and a Theory,” Laurence Moran.
  2. “The Age of the Earth,” Chris Stassen.
  3. “The Decay of c-Decay,” Robert P. J. Day.
  4. “The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Evolution, and Probability.” Frank Steiger.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.