Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where does "the Fossil Man" fit in?

I was recently asked to respond to the question "where does the fossil man fit in?" for my general biology class here at APU. Here were my thoughts (I was limited to a one page response). Thoughts, comments, blatant disagreements...bring 'em

M



            When considering the veracity of evolutionary theory in relation to the Bible, it is important to evaluate in what way humans might have evolved and what implications there are if indeed this is true. Essentially, how do Adam and Eve fit into the evolutionary story? It is best to first step back and take stock of evolutionary theory as a whole. I think that a consistent hermeneutic paradigm for interpreting and understanding the Bible points to the accurate and complete historicity of the Genesis account. That is, my reading of Scripture leads me to believe that while God may have created a mature earth that may appear billions of years old, He did so in six literal days. Another reason for holding to this view comes from evolutionary theory itself; I do not see it as being sufficiently unified or scientific (in that it is not testable and reproducible).
Science has indeed come a long ways since it became a major field of study in the last two hundred years, but there is still a greater deal that is not properly understood. As such, I am compelled from without and from within to believe that a literal interpretation of the Genesis account is the best paradigm to adhere to.
However, there are still issues to be addressed. For instance, how does posited evidence for the evolution of man fit in with Christian doctrine and Scripture? Even if God did indeed use evolution to bring about the creation of humanity and all that lives on earth, there is still no change in the spiritual state or redemptive plan that Scripture clearly describes. Paul spends the first portion of the book of Romans, which is his most systematically theological letter to any church, thoroughly laying the basis for the complete depravity of mankind: What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” ” (Romans 3:9–12, ESV). Regardless of when humans were created, either by God-directed evolutionary means or by an ex-nihlo creation process, there is no change in the human condition. Man, as a part of God’s plan for our eventual redemption, sinned and brought condemnation upon the human race. We are completely unable to reconcile ourselves with God cannot merit His favor of our own volition: “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. ” (Ephesians 2:12, ESV). The hominids and Neanderthals that are thought to be our early ancestors may or may not have come to be after the time of Adam; in fact they are probably simply humans from an earlier time or simply variations within humankind that happened to be fossilized. However, it is clearly seen in Scripture that those who come after Adam are fallen and are in need of a Savior. So, where does ‘fossil man’ fit in? He fits into the same place that we all do: being in complete and total need of Christ’s atoning blood. There is no person in any time, place, in the New or Old Testament, in any country anywhere, that merits God’s favor of his or her own accord. The Westminster Confession of faith puts it well “being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto (Regarding the condition of humanity).” We are in need of Christ, His death and resurrection. This has been true for all of humanity at all times since the fall of man. This theological truth does not, and will not, change in light of evidence biological, paleontological, or otherwise.

6 comments:

  1. This was very interesting to read and I totally agree with your final statement that all humanity needs Christ and that this won't change regardless of what kind of evidence the arises. I can't wait to read more of what you got to say later on.

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  2. To answer your question about the creationist position:
    I'd like to first say that I think that any origins paradigm that excludes God from its framework is utterly wrong in its logic and should not be adhered to. I can get into why I that later but I want to answer your question first. I do believe in the literal, 6-day position regarding the creation of the world. As a biology student and prospective doctor/scientist I am compelled to examine the scientific evidence posited by proponents of evolution. Thus far, I haven't found the evidence to compel me to believe that organisms currently alive arose via evolutionary means. In all actuality, while I think that my interpretation of Scripture is correct (I can get into the scientific part if you'd like), I don't have a huge problem with others believing differently. There are going to be people in Heaven who think the world is 14 billion years old and those who think it is 10,000 years old. Additionally, I think that while science has made rapid and incredible advances over the past several hundred years, we are not currently at a place where we can support an origins theory like evolutionism in a truly scientific way. It is neither reproducible or observable and the theories held by various scientists are greatly varied.

    What I AM concerned about though is the Gospel; I am concerned mostly for those who don't know it or who know a version that is not true to Scripture. While apologetics have their place and the origins debate ought to take place, it shouldn't be at the forefront of the evangelical world. There is no salvific power in origins theory, but there is in Christ and His death and resurrection.

    M

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  3. I enjoyed reading your ideas but, being a science guy, there are a few inaccuracies from that my point of view. I'm not sure if it was your intention, but you may be confusing some terms. While you use the term "evolution", your arguments suggest you mean "natural selection". " Evolution" refers to the change in a frequency of an allele in a population over time. Complex traits, even speciation has, indeed, been observed directly - along with highly suggestive DNA evidence. Evolution in this sense is in fact "testable and reproducible". The argument is really over the mechanism, i.e.natural selection, creationism, etc. While there is a preponderance of evidence for evolution by natural selection, I suppose it could be debated.
    Also, it is difficult to reconcile the logic of dismissing "evolution" because it isn't empirically evident (paraphrase). Then, to accept the "literal interpretation of the Genesis" as "the best paradigm to adhere to". There is not only no evidence these events took place, but much to the contrary.
    I'm not sure why God would trick us with his creation (fossils, DNA sequencing, embryology, carbon dating) into believing mainstream scientific principles -- or maybe that was the devil.

    AW

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  4. Thanks for your comment! What kind of science are you in/what do you study? I wrote this paper for a biology class, it was a 'thought question' or a short response my teacher has us do from time to time. I was limited to one page, so I wasn't able to cover all the areas that I would've liked to. I intended to focus on the theological issues because an adequate discussion of the science would've taken much longer.
    My area of contention is with Darwinian evolutionary theory specifically. The lack of God in the theory and the positing that random chance lead to everything that now exists is what I strongly oppose. My scientific disagreements take second priority. While I don't see the evidence pointing towards gradual speciation or Gould's punctuated equilibrium, I'm much more concerned about what people think about the Gospel than a specific origins paradigm, This isn't a science blog so I'd like to focus primarily on theology and God. What do you think the relationship between science and faith is?

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  5. This was very interesting to read and I totally agree with your final statement that all humanity needs Christ and that this won't change regardless of what kind of evidence the arises. I can't wait to read more of what you got to say later on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I enjoyed reading your ideas but, being a science guy, there are a few inaccuracies from that my point of view. I'm not sure if it was your intention, but you may be confusing some terms. While you use the term "evolution", your arguments suggest you mean "natural selection". " Evolution" refers to the change in a frequency of an allele in a population over time. Complex traits, even speciation has, indeed, been observed directly - along with highly suggestive DNA evidence. Evolution in this sense is in fact "testable and reproducible". The argument is really over the mechanism, i.e.natural selection, creationism, etc. While there is a preponderance of evidence for evolution by natural selection, I suppose it could be debated.
    Also, it is difficult to reconcile the logic of dismissing "evolution" because it isn't empirically evident (paraphrase). Then, to accept the "literal interpretation of the Genesis" as "the best paradigm to adhere to". There is not only no evidence these events took place, but much to the contrary.
    I'm not sure why God would trick us with his creation (fossils, DNA sequencing, embryology, carbon dating) into believing mainstream scientific principles -- or maybe that was the devil.

    AW

    ReplyDelete