I write on the premise that belief or non-belief in God significantly changes our vision of the world. It orients us differently in our everyday lives, in the choices we make, and often blurs the limit between what we know (scientifically speaking) and what we believe.
The October 2019 issue of the French magazine Questions Sciences was entitled “L’évolution, de l’apparition de la vie à l’Homme du futur” (in English “Evolution: from the First Appearance of Life to the Man of the Future”) and held the position that all organisms come from a common ancestor (by genetic comparison), that planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old (by radiometric dating), and that men and monkey have 98.8% of their DNA in common.
The same month, the very first national conference “Bible et Science”, organized by Bible et Science Diffusion, took place in Mulhouse, France. A group of geneticists, physicists, and biologists that believe in God and having a literal interpretation of the Bible (namely the creation account in Genesis), had quite a different message to share. They stated that Earth is no older than 10,000 years, and that God created each family of living creatures in a distinct fashion. They brought up the comparison between men and monkeys, and one of the speakers (André Eggen) counted 85% of similar DNA rather than the 98.8% reported by Questions Sciences…
For me, the reason for such diametrically opposed points of view comes from their underlying beliefs! They surely have the same scientific facts before them, but it’s their interpretations that differ. In considering these two points of view, it would be an error to see rigorous and objective scientists on one side, and dishonest scientists on the other. I find this example very interesting, for it seems to underscore our issue… and the analysis is the same when we bring up other questions (eg. Life after death, the origins of life, etc).
Indeed, if the writers of Questions Sciences have the underlying belief that God does not exist, then it makes sense for them to adhere to theories in which there is no divine intervention (eg. the theory of evolution and spontaneous generation). Thanks to Charles Darwin, who first presented the theory of evolution as a mechanism to explain both the diversity of species on Earth and the randomness of these changes (variety of mutation and natural selection), Neo-Darwinism has successfully freed itself from God altogether.
On the flip side, if the speakers at Mulhouse believe that God exists, it’s logical for them for God to be the source of biodiversity, as well as the origin of life.
I would like to mention that these speakers’ position (creationist: Earth is no more than 10,000 years old), and that of the authors of the magazine Questions Sciences (atheistic evolutionism) are not the only positions to be found. There is also theistic evolutionism, and even old-earth creationism—a type of creation that derives from the first two verses in Genesis that the Earth is over 10,000 years old (based on a lack of temporal indications).
I personally do not believe that the theory of evolution is more scientific than creationism. More common, yes. More broadly accepted, certainly—at least in France—but not more scientific.
Wikipedia tells us that science is a collection of knowledge acquired through meticulous experimentation that can be repeated and verified.
The problem that comes up with either interpretation is the verifiable nature of the scientific method (hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, verification).
One of the conference speakers, geneticist John Sanford, attacked Fischer’s fundamental theorem of natural selection, which is one of the pillars of Darwin’s theory today. In doing this, Sanford exposed scientific fragility within the theory of evolution. This study can be found here. If I question Mr. Sanford on the origin of life, he will answer without a doubt, “God!” This is where he exits the scientific realm, because God is not verifiable!
Let us return to the writers of Questions Sciences, and ask them why they believe that life first appeared spontaneously in simple organisms before evolving toward more complex organisms. They would certainly speak of natural selection, and give me several examples of microevolution (genetic changes or adaptation within the same species), assuming that with enough time, these microevolutions would become macroevolutions (greater changes that lead to a change of species). Here again, the problem of verification comes up, for macroevolution has yet to be observed, for no missing link between species has been documented.
All of the above-mentioned people are scientists, but how they understand science depends simply on their beliefs.
I hope that I have not bored you too much so far?
If so, I’ll meet you next week for our third and final step in this series!