Science in Christian Perspective



Irving W. Knobloch, Ph.D.

From: JASA 6 (March 1954): 30-31.

Evolution, Creation and Science - Frank Lewis March Ph.D., Washington, 1947, Review and Herald Pub. Assoc. - 2nd Ed.

This little book of 381 pages is now in its second edition and was written by a trained biologist. Dr. March has also written Fundamental Biology as well as articles in the field of entomology. Dr. Marsh points out that he is a Special Creationist and an Evolutionist but he is careful to add that his intrepretation of these connotations may differ from the generally accepted ones. It may come as a surprise to some that a man can lay claim to territory on both sides of a fence but the fence itself exists only in the minds of those who put it there. People like to classify dichotomouslyone is either a conservative or a progressive, an evolutionist or a Special Creationist and so forth. Truth, however, is seldom found at either end of a pair of extremes.

Dr. Marsh believes that the ready acceptance of Darwin's explanation of the mechanism of evolution was due to the fact that thinking individuals of the nineteenth century were seeking an escape from the narrow interpretations of the schoolmen and religious leaders in respect to Special Creation. Darwin is to be congratulated for freeing men's minds but it is unfortunate that he likewise set up a fallacious train of reasoning. Linnaeus and Agassiz are especially assailed for putting the theory of Special Creation in a bad light.

The Bible does not teach that nature is static. It does not teach that all modern species arose by separate acts of creation. It does not teach that animals were created as blind in caves. It does not teach that flightless insects were created as such. In short, the Bible does not teach the fixity of species.

Contrary to the ideas of some, Dr. Marsh does not believe that God created man with recessive genes for abnormalities such as feeblemindedness, albinism, hemophilia and other conditions. It is more likely than not that these conditions arose by mutations in the genes of early man. He thinks that real species are not the narrow entities as we now have them. Real species contain a number of related organisms, often times interfertile and sometimes crossing a generic "barrier". In this connection, it might be pointed out many recent workers in plant genetics, cytology and taxonomy are uncovering much evidence that so-called "species" in the field are, in many cases very "impure" and that there exist large "hybrid swarms". Edgar Anderson, Wendel Camp, G. L. Stebbins and others are some of the leaders in this promising re-evaluation of our species concepts. It will be advantageous for us to review, at a later date, some of the advances being made on this most active front. To continue with Dr. Marsh's book, he believes that the organisms created were just as complicated as they are today, to all outward appearances, but there were not nearly as many species. Modern species have arisen, with a few well-known exceptions of static forms, from these created, labile species by the processes of mutation and hybridization. The author is a specialist in this field and develops it rather fully and well. Dr. Marsh points out that the methodology he conceives of accomplishes diversity within the separate kinds and does not erase the fundamental discontinuity so manifest in nature.

Werner's onion coat theory of minerals has been replaced by an onion coat theory of fossils. Dr. Marsh doubts that there is any place in the world where more than a few thousand feet of fossiliferous rock are exposed in any one spot. In no one place can the evolutionary story of a plant or animal be satisfactorily traced. The story must be pulled together from many places. I would like my geologically-minded friends to tell me whether this is so or not.

Space does not permit a discussion of other important points in the book. The usefulness of the gill arches in man is explained and the need for the three types of kidneys in mammals is handled very well. The evidence from serology is criticized because of its fallibility. For example, W. B. Scott is quoted as saying that the blood tests show the ostrich and parrot more nearly allied than the wolf and hyena. Dr. Marsh wonders why precipitins are used to show relationships while agglutinins are considered to be of no importance?

The writer was greatly impressed with the book now being reviewed and it is my opinion that it is worthy of wide circulation and discussion. There is very little to criticize in it because the theory is very well presented. I cannot agree that the Bible teaches that the protoplasm of man and beasts is similar because the author of Ecclesiastes said that-"all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again". I wonder whether one can say that the words "dust" and "protoplasm" are synonomous? One other point: Dr. Marsh may have oversimplified the matter when he said, on page 242, that "Evolution is the development of the more complex from the simple". In the main this may be true but every biologist feels that there are many cases of simplification going on and that these are also called changes or evolution. The willows and oaks, the viruses and the tapeworms and so forth are thought, by many, to be examples of organisms which are now simpler than they once were-in other words, they are no longer considered primitive. To close this review upon a sweet note, let me say that Dr. Marsh cities his references in such a way (with complete data) that they can be checked if one is so inclined.

Browsing in the stacks of a large college library is usually a rewarding pastime for me and some interesting discoveries can be made. A short time ago I chanced upon a book by L. Allen Higley entitled "Science and Truth", published by the Revell Co. of New York in 1940. This volume supports the Genesis version of the origin of organic diversity but the author, being aware of the many scientific objections to the account, makes many efforts to harmonize the fields. Most of the efforts are quite artless but one is fairly clever, although not entirely original. Higley recognizes full well the difficulties of the "one flood" theory in accounting for the age, abundance and distribution of fossils and he lists most of the important objections to the "one flood" theory. Accordingly, he postulates a flood prior to the Noachian deluge. This he authenticates by referring the reader to the second verse in the first chapter of Genesis. According to Higley, organic life existed previously, was destroyed by the first flood (Gen. 1:2) and was reformed as mentioned from Genesis 1 :3 on. This series of events would overcome some of the scientific objections in regard to the age of the fossils. Laudable as this attempt is, I believe that geologists in general would not be satisfied since they postulate many floods. A point about the floods may not be out of order. I am not expressing my belief in this matter (since it is in a state of flux) but it may be unfair for some to maintain that the flood of Noah's day covered all of the earth- The words "world" and "earth" are used figuratively in some places and it may be that Noah's flood was a fairly local affair-that is-it covered the then-known earth. For example, when all the world was to be taxed or all the Kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon or men of every nation under heaven.

Passing now to another book "Modem Discovery and the Bible" by A. Rendle Short, Inter-varsity Fellowship, London, 1949, we encounter a book of higher caliber. In this book, Dr. Short expands certain chapters of his previously published book, "The Bible and Modern Research" in an attempt to show that modem discoveries do not make it impossible f or an intelligent person to embrace the Christian faith. Part of the book is concerned with biological problems but the greater portion dwells with ethnology and archaeology. The latter aspects of the main problem are out of my "line" and so I shall not comment upon them.

Dr. Short evidently allows more than six literal days to Creation as he tries to link up the appearances of organisms in the geological record with their appearance in the Genesis record. An example of this is the fact that birds appear at the same time as mammals in the Bible but at different times in the record. The argument on this point is that the Hebrew word oph comes from a root meaning to fly. It could be that flying insects are meant in the Bible instead of "winged fowl". A clergyman friend of mine told me that Dr. Short was right about this point.

Another difficulty frequently mentioned in connection with the "amoeba to man" concept is the possibility of an organism recapitulating its ancestral history. De Beer (E)nbrvos and Ancestors-, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1940) takes a dim view of Haeckel's theory. Dr. Short mentions the segmented character of trilobites (ancient crustacea) as opposed to the unsegmented embryos of modern crustacea, as a point against the theory. I must confess that this does not look like too strong a point to me.

Dr. Short's book is an interesting one and quite different in viewpoint f rom either Dr. Marsh's book or Mr. Higley's book. Those outside the field of biology may find it quite profitable reading.
East Lansing, Michigan