The previous post is here.
c. Challenges to Evolution
Grudem spends about seven pages challenging evolution scientifically, followed by a page discussing the negative philosophical consequences of the theory. He acknowledges that Darwin's original theory has undergone some modifications but claims it is still "foundationally similar" enough to Darwin's original position to be open to similar critiques (279). "Natural selection" is his main target, as he draws six scientific objections to evolution from a book by Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trail (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1991).
First, natural selection is a "conservative force" that works to preserve the general fitness of a population, not to change its characteristics (280). A hundred years of experimental breeding has produced fairly limited variation.
Second, Johnson targets the notion of "survival of the fittest." In reality, almost any characteristic can be argued as either an advantage or disadvantage. He argues that the notion is a tautology--you call something an advantage because it's what ended up, not because it was a real advantage.
Third, "the vast and complex mutations required to produce complex organs such as an eye or a bird's wing... could not have occurred in tiny mutations accumulating over thousands of generations" (281).
Fourth, he mentions the failure of archaeology to produce a single convincing example of an intermediate type. He references Stephen Jay Gould's suggestion that instead of a gradual process, evolution must have taken place in more dramatic jumps rather than gradual and small incremental development. Johnson accuses evolutionists of circular reasoning here--with no real evidence, scientists suggest in must have happened in jumps because it has to have happened and gradualism doesn't account for the archaeological evidence.
Fifth, Johnson argues that a similarity of design between the molecular structures of living organisms is better explained by an intelligent designer than by the development of more complex organisms from simpler ones.
Finally, Johnson considers the mathematical likelihood of life developing by random chance. His conclusion is that "chance assembly is just a naturalistic way of saying 'miracle'" (284). One source suggests the likelihood of one enzyme molecule by random processes as one chance in ten to the 340 millionth power--a one with 340,000,000 zeros after it.
The one page section that follows then outlines the destructive implications of evolution for modern thinking. 1) Human life becomes insignificant--"Honest reflection on this notion should lead people to a profound sense of despair" (286). 2) There come to be no moral absolutes--morality becomes subjective. 3) We should then not take care of the weak, because of survival of the fittest. 4) The wisdom of the past is less likely to be as valuable as current thinking, including Scripture. 5) We simply become higher forms of animals and the animal rights movement is a natural consequence.
Evolution is anathema enough in Grudem's world for him to take a number of pages to deviate from theology proper and engage in an apologetic against naturalistic evolution. A very important point is that Johnson's arguments mostly attack naturalistic evolution, not theistic evolution.
For example, if Johnson is correct about the mathematical impossibility of an enzyme evolving by chance, it says nothing about theistic evolution, which usually argues that it is exactly at this point that God performed a miracle. A theistic evolutionist might argue that it was exactly at the gaps that God intervened, especially when it came to humanity.
The nihilistic consequences of evolution do not apply to theistic evolution either, not merely because God would have stepped in at the point of humanity's creation but because God loves us, and that makes us of immense value. The consequences section as a whole does not apply to theistic evolution.
History has not been kind to those who have opposed prevailing scientific ideas simply in the name of traditional biblical interpretations. Nor has history been kind to those who argue for God because of gaps in science. Gaps get filled, and people run into faith crises. Grudem himself is eager to say that the "geocentrists" who opposed Copernicus in the name of God had misinterpreted the Bible. But he now potentially stands in the same spot. Who is to say that he has properly taken from Genesis and Romans what God wants us to take?
The wisest position to take, it seems to me, is for faith-filled theologians, Bible scholars, and scientists to engage in an ongoing, healthy dialog. Grudem is surely right that there can be no ultimate conflict between faith and science, not when both are properly understood. But when we ask which side is more likely to have presuppositions interfering with its reading of the evidence, there seems to be no real question. There is no possible world in which those with Grudem's theology would conclude in favor of evolution, but there are countless faith-filled scientists who would be willing to conclude in favor of special creation down to the level of species but who have not. In itself, this observation strongly suggests that Grudem's side is more likely to be wrong.
I am not a scientist, but I have heard some scientific responses to the kinds of arguments Johnson makes above. First, he may be right that notions like "survival of the fittest" and "natural selection" are misleading. Chaos theory might suggest that which changes survive may not always be the most advantageous.
Chaos theory might also suggest that while any one specific version of complexity is highly unlikely, the likelihood of some form of complexity developing is likely. I remember an episode of the original Star Trek television series in which silicon rather than carbon based life forms had evolved on some planet ("The Devil in the Dark" episode, first aired June 15, 1967).
Chaos theory might thus suggest that while the likelihood of our specific form of life developing is preposterous, it was likely that some complex form would somewhere. Of course evolutionists reject the way in which the mathematical probability Grudem mentions is set up.
Again, my point is not to say that Johnson is wrong on his science--neither Grudem nor I are competent to be listened to on the subject. But to suggest simplistic answers probably doesn't help anyone. Answers to scientific questions are not a matter of popular common sense. The danger of simplistic answers is that we may set up our children for unnecessary faith crises. How many Christian children have gone into biology, zealous against evolution, and have lost their faith as they themselves became experts? I think we might be surprised to find out how common this pattern is.
Dialog, not shutting down the issue presuppositionally, is the best course of action going forward.