Science in Christian Perspective
It is recognized as an accepted fact that proponents of the theory of organic evolution will submit information and arguments in support of their position. The thrust of this paper is to explore the thinking of scientist of reputation to find if they allow for another face to this "coin'. Where they take a hard look at their own theory, the quest is to see whether they recognize deficiencies in it sufficient to give cause for both secular and Biblically oriented scholars to maintain a position of suspended support for its comprehensive acceptability.
Some thirteen years ago there appeared an article in the American Scientist by R. B. Goldschmidt in which he made the pronouncement ... all biologists who have mastered the available facts are agreed upon the main points, the big outlines of the explanation of evolution "3
C. P. Martin of McGill University a year later wrote in the American Scientist, "There is no doubt of agreement among biologists that species evolve; certainly an overwhelming majority of them believe that evolution proceeds by mutations and natural selection." He continues, "Nevertheless there are some like myself who cannot see that the mutation-selection theory is wholly convincing as a means of explaining natural evolution and, perhaps erroneously, we believe that our dissent is not so much due to a failure to master the facts as to our grasp of some facts which we think geneticists are apt to overlook."8
According to Martin it seems to be beyond all
reasonable doubt that species have evolved, but how
they evolve is much less certain. He apparently would
support the theory of organic evolution but at the
same time makes some striking observations. He says,
for example, ". . . mutations are more than just sudden
changes in heredity; they also affect viability, and, to
the best of our knowledge, invariably affect it adversely."8
Towards the conclusion of his article he says:
What is really disturbing to me, if I may presume to say so, is the almost total lack of scientific caution and self-criticism current in genetical circles, in regard to the accepted theory of evolution by mutation. The recent textbooks of Huxley, Dobzhansky, Schmalhausen and others reveal an impressive and indeed overwhelming knowledge of mutations but the authors are all frank partisans of the accepted theory and almost completely devoid of a critical attitude. Their books are written entirely within the presuppositions laid down by the theory; they take it for granted and proceed to interpret a vast array of observations in its terms. Naturally their observations appear to confirm, or at least conform to, the theory. Such practices certainly will never bring any fallacies to light which the theory may contain, but will only serve to deepen the faith of the believer. Consequently, by far the greater number of students that come my way - and they are drawn from many American and Canadian universities - are completely indoctrinated with the idea that the theory of evolution by mutation is a closed issue, an unquestionable established fact. It is not that they are aware of the difficulties which I have mentioned above and esteem them of little weight or importance; they nver heard of them and are amazed at the bare possibility of the accepted theory being criticized.8
Martin's comments are presented here to set the
stage for further exploration of the kind of thinking
that is done by scientists of reputation who take a
hard look at their own theory, the theory of organic
Libbie Henrietta Hyman of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, widely known for her
Harold T. Wiebe is head of the department of zoology and dean of the graduate school, Seattle Pacific College, Seattle, Washington. Paper presented at twentieth annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation at The King's College, Briarcliff Manor, N. Y. August 1965.
Hyman further indicates in this section that the gastrea theory of Haeckel won acceptance at the time and has since been promulgated in practically every textbook of zoology and embryology.6 She says, "It and its corollaries represent a masterly simplification of the embryologic and phylogenetic history of animals and furnish a clear and plausible explanation of the stages by which complex metazoan structure might have been achieved."6
I class Libbie Hyman as a scientist of strong reputation with a firm commitment to the theory of organic evolution; and, recognizing this, it is interesting to note in her statement regarding the origin of the Metazoa that she is pressed by the principle of evolution. She says in the same chapter referred to above, "No direct proof exists of the origin of the Metazoa from the Protozoa, but such origin besides being necessitated by the principle of evolution is strongly indicated by the facts of embryonic development, in which each metazoan passes from an acellular to a cellular condition."6
In 1959, some nineteen years later, Libbie Hyman published Volume V, The Invertebrates: Smaller Coelomate Groups, and in her chapter entitled "Retrospect" she states, "As there is no possibility of revising the earlier volumes, advantage is taken here of the availability of a small amount of space to recount some recent advances and comment on viewpoints."7 In the last parapraph of that chapter she says, "The author regards such phylogenetic questions as the origin of the Metazoa from the Protozoa or the origin of the Bilateria from the Radiata as insoluble on present information. Also insoluble are such questions as to whether entoderm mesoderm, and coelom have or have not some original mode of formation from which other modes are derived. Anything said on these questions lies in the realm of fantasy."7
A. I. Oparin, Associate Director, Biochemical
Institute, U.S.S.R. Academy of Science, has received
wide acclaim; and his dissertation entitled "The Origin
of Life" has made a considerable impression in the
In his chapter on "Theories of the Origin of Life at Some Distant Period of the Earth's Existence," he says, "But a definite protoplasmic organization and fitness of its inner structure to carry out definite functions could easily be formed in the course of evolution of organic matter just as highly organized animals and plants have come from the simplest living things by a process of evolution."9
After checking Oparin's approach to the origin of life, whether one agrees with it or not, one could certainly challenge the above stated factor of "easily." For instance in his chapter on the "Origin of Primary Organisms," he says, "In the last analysis, all vital phenomena such as nutrition, respiration, growth, etc., result from the chemical transformation of organic substances. Outside the living organism, in the chemist's test tube or flask, these substances react very slowly, indeed. The cause of the great velocity of reaction in living cells is to be found in the great variety of specifically acting catalyzers, the so-called enzymes, present in the cell. The discovery of enzymes dates far back and their enormous biological significance was appreciated also a long time ago. Without enzymes there can be no life. There is no living organism, no viable cell which is not fitted out with a complete set of such catalyzers. As 'soon as, conditions become unfavorable for enzymatic activity, the vital processes are either greatly inhibited (anabiosis) or even stop entirely."9
He observes further, "As a result of many researches by outstanding investigators it can be stated with certainty that enzymes are catalytically active substances. They differ from other catalysts, first, by their biological origin, and, secondly, by the specificity and exceptional vigor of their action."
In his candid approach here he recognizes the biological origin of enzymes; and as he admits this, I consider him begging the question. He is demanding a high degree of specialization from a source which, if not biological, is not capable of such production and, if alive, the gulf from inanimate to animate has already been bridged.
To further support the observation just made, let me cite a section in this same chapter where be says, "We must, therefore, conclude that the naturally occurring high-molecular enzymes of living cells are not individual chemical compounds but complexes made up of numerous catalysts and promoters. The tremendous power of enzymatic activity must be attributed exclusively to a favorable arrangement of components in this complex, which, of course, could not have arisen fortuitously but only as a result of a long evolution of living organisms."9
It appears to me that as Oparin faces squarely his quest for the answer to the origin of life, he finds himself admitting its existence without satisfactorily explaining its arrival.At one point in his chapter on "The Origin of Primary Colloidal Systems," he says, "Unless we choose belief to indulge in chemical phantasies, instead of keeping our feet on firm ground of experimentally verified facts, it must be admitted that a successive growth of the molecule, by polymerization of link to link, will indeed result in compounds with definite structure, but these will be static and dead, either like those which Stau dinger obtained in his synthesis or like cellulose, silk, etc."9
He, as well as Hyman, recognizes the hazards of dealing in fantasies, and he in his 1961 publication, Life: Its Nature, Origin and Development, goes on to say, ... any attempt at the direct, artificial repro duction or synthesis of even the simplest of living things must still be regarded as very naive."10
In summing up these statements of Oparin's, it can
be noted that he recognized that the favorable arrange
ment of components making the tremendous power of
enzymatic activity possible could not have arisen
fortuitously, happening by chance, or coming about
accidentally but could have arisen only as-a result
"Evolution" takes on the aspects of purpose and
personality; and having said this, I would quickly add
that I doubt very much that Oparin would feel com
fortable in the theistic evolutionary camp. I would add
one other point here, and that has to do with the
term "easily" which he used when he said, "But a
definite protoplasmic organization and fitness of its
inner structure to carry out definite function could
easily be formed in the course of evolution of organic more easily from an evolutionary point of view.
matter . . ."9 To me his intricate and involved attempt
at explaining the origin of life, even on a highly
mechanistic level, hardly spells out that he really is
persuaded it could or did come about "easily."
In the May 11, 1962, issue of Science, Paul Weiss, Professor at the Rockefeller Institute, New York, in Professor at the Rockefeller Institute, New York, in Biology," made a significant observation in relation to the thinking having to do with the primordial origin of life. He said:
The center of gravity of the life sciences has steadily
shifted on this scale from the descriptive and normative end
of natural history toward the analytical and formulative end of the exact sciences. Of course, the assumption that biology could ever reach the physical end is a delusion, based either on lack of realistic acquaintance with living systems and their true nature of unawareness of the conceptural limitations of physical reductionism. This is not to question our success in reducing cellular phenomena to molecular terms. However, to pretend that the process can be reversed, that the molecular shambles can reassemble themselves into a functional living system without the cheating intervention of another living system is a conceptual perversion, whatever one may think of
the primordial origin of life.13
At this point one might logically raise the question
as to whether in the secular scientific world an attempt
has been made to evaluate the validity of a modern spontaneous generation or naturalistic approach to the origin of lifeagainst the historical belief in Divine creation of life.
Harry J. Fuller and Oswald Tippo of the Uni versity of Illinois in their publication, College Botany, make a rather weighty judgment on this matter of the origin of life. They note:
Some people assume, entirely as a matter of faith, a Divine Creation of living substance. The only alternative seems to be the assumption that at some time in the dim past, the chance association of the requisite chemicals in the presence of favorable temperature, moisture, etc., produced living protoplasm. In other words, if one subscribes to this theory, he admits that the first protoplasm to appear on our earth was a product of spontaneous generation. Then, if he accepts the evidence of Pasteur and others against spontaneous generation, he must reverse his explanation of the origin of the first protoplasm to explain the origin of all subsequent living protoplasm from that protoplast. In other words, spontaneous generation, according to these opponents of the idea of Divine Creation, worked when the first living substance was formed, but probably hasn't worked since. Actually, biologists are still as far away as they ever were in their attempts to explain how the first protoplasm originated. The evidence of those who would explain life's origin on the basis of the accidental combination of suitable chemical elements is no more tangible than that of those people who place their faith in Divine Creation as the explanation of the development of life. Obviously, the latter have as much justification for their belief of evolution. As I see it, by this line of reasoning as do the former.4
Not all writers of texts in the field of Biology are as fair minded at this point as Fuller and
Tippo, and their recognition of this status is added reason for the purpose of this paper.
Admittedly the origin of life offers the mechanistic evolutionist a real problem; and one might think that once this major gap is hurdled, answers would come more easily from an evolutionary point of view.
Early in this dissertation mention was made of Hy man and her recog nition of a sign ificant lack of evidence to account for the arrival of Metazoa from Protoza and Martin's real criticism of the mutation selection theory as an answer for the process of evolution. The impression of uneasiness left by these two authors about the theory of organic evolution is not an isolated occurrence. This uneasiness, I would venture, is more widespread in scientific circles than we know.
Bonner under "Perspectives" in the June, 1961,
issue of the American Scientist says concerning Kerkut's
publication, Implications of Evolution, "This is a book with a disturbing message; it points to some unseemly
cracks in the foundations. One is disturbed because what is said gives us the uneasy feeling that we knew
it for a long time deep down but were never willing to admit this even to ourselves. It is another one of
those cold and uncompromising situations where the naked truth and human nature travel in different
The particular truth is simply that we have no reliable
spontaneous generation or naturalistic approach to the
evidence as to the evolutionary sequence of invertebrate phyla.
We do not know what group arose from which other group or whether, for instance, the transition from Protozoa occurred once, or twice, or many times. Most of us make the tacit assumption that the origin of life, and the origin of the Protozoa themselves are unique events, but can we be sure? The evidence from fossils for these primitive groups has so far been of no help. The sole basis has been on the structural resemblances between adults or their development, but as the author shows in a most effective manner, if one were to tally the views of experts on such resemblances, then one can find qualified, professional arguments, for any group being the descendent of almost any other.1
He also says, "Apparently, if one reads the original papers instead of relying on some superficial remarks in a textbook, the affinities become extremely clouded indeed."1
Alfred S. Romer, Professor of Zoology and Curator of Vertabrate Paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Harvard University, has said ' "Today we have a fairly good outline of the lines of descent of many groups of backboned animals, but none is absolutely complete. There are many gaps, many perplexities."11
In referring to Annelid worms as the possible ancestors of vertebrates, Romer points out that they, too, have a nerve cord and a good blood system, but in them we find a marked difference from the vertebrate plan of structure. The nerve cord in the Annelids lies, on the underside rather than the upper side, and the blood flows in opposite directions from that found in vertebrates along the two aspects of the body; but these differences might be corrected' if the position of the animal is reversed and the worm is assumed to have turned over to become a vertebrate".
It is with tongue in cheek, it seems to me, that he states the following:
It may be that top and bottom mean little to a worm; but the reversal of position raises as many problems as it solves. We must, for example, close the old worm mouth and drill a new one through the former roof of the head, for in both worms and backboned animals the mouth lies on the underside, beneath the brain. Then, again, where are, in the worm, the notochord and gill slits, those vertebrate structures to which even the lowest of chordates clung tenaciously? Their homologues have been sought in annelids, but sought in vain. There is little positive evidence for belief in the origin of vertebrates from segmented worms.11
In the same section, entitled "Vertebrate Ancestry," from which the above quotation was taken, Romer says, "We have no certain fossil record of lower chordates or chordate ancestors and very possibly never shall have. The oldest ancestors of the vertebrates are unknown and may always remain unknown."11
Simpson of the American Museum of Natural History wrote in Science about Berrill's publication, The Origin of Vertebrates, saying, "Berrill's last sentence is, 'Proof may be for ever unobtainable and it may not matter, for here is such stuff as dreams are made on."'12 Simpson then follows this statement by his own comment, "Perhaps this is the last word on the chordate ancestry of the vertebrates. As for the ancestry of the chordates, all is left in darkness without even the dream of 60 years ago."12
Last year (1964) 1 visited the Thomas Burke Memorial Museum of the University of Washington and noticed the following terse statement in a display on the evolution of the vertebrate animals: "Unknown origin of Vertebrates from Invertebrates."
A little earlier I spoke of a sense of uneasiness regarding the theory of organic evolution. To add to this note I wish to draw attention to a review of Evolution after Darwin, Volume I, made by Zirkle of the University of Pennsylvania, Botanical Laboratory. Volume I contains twenty papers, revised in the light of discussions, each written by a specialist in the field. According to Zirkle, since each specialist had the further advantage of expert, critical comments, these essays can be described as authoritative. 14 He refers to a paper by Marston Bates. He says, "Marston Bates, in 'Ecology and evolution' also admits to having an 'uneasy feeling that some important pieces are still missing from the structure of our (synthetic) theory,' although he states that he does not know what these pieces are."14
Regarding Mayr, Zirkle observes, "Ernest Mayr, in "The emergence of evolutionary novelties' defines an evolutionary novelty as 'any newly arisen character, structural or otherwise, that differs more than quantitatively from the character that gave rise to it.' He includes within this definition 'any newly acquired structure or property which permit the assumption of a new function.' In this essay, Mayr brings together our existina knowledve of one aspect of evolution which has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin."14
To mention one more of the essayists reviewed, Zirkle says, "Thus, Everett C. Olson in 'Morphology, paleontology and evolution,' indicates that he does not find the natural selection theory (or synonymously the synthetic theory ) very satisfying . . . Olson calls attention to what he calls 'a generally silent group' of biologists who are in disagreement with the current theory but who feel that it is futile to combat the generally accepted VieW."14
Where does this put us as members of the American Scientific Affiliation? Are we as much or more convinced of the theory of organic evolution than its outspoken adherents; are we silent on the matter because we are either uninformed or feel that it is futile to combat the generally accepted view; or do we recognize that reputable scientists, even committed evolutionists, allow for another face to this "coin"; and therefore on the basis of admitted deficiencies we find that we are scientifically justified to take a position of Divine creation according to "kind"?
Clark of the U.S. National Museum in his book, The New Evolution Zoogenesis, says:
One of the most striking and important facts which has been established through a study of the fossil animals is that from the very earliest times, from the very first beginnings of the fossil record, the broader aspects of the animal life upon the earth have remained unchanged.3
Strange as it may seem, the animals of the very earliest fauna of which our knowledge is sufficient to enable us to speak with confidence, the fauna of the Cambrian period, were singularly similar to the animals of the present day. In the Cambrian crustaceans were crustaceans, echinoderms were echinoderms, arrow-worms were arrow-worms, and mollusks were mollusks just as unmistakably as they are now.3
Since all our evidence shows that the phyla or major groups of animals have maintained precisely the same relation with each other back to the time when the first evidences of life appear, it is much more logical to assume a continuation of the parallel interrelationships further back into the indefinite past, to the time of the first beginnings of life, than it is to assume somewhere in early pre-Cambrian times a change in these interrelationships and a convergence toward a hypothetical common ancestral type from which all were derived. This last assumption has not the slightest evidence to support it. All of the evidence indicates the truth of the first assumption.
To this plain statement of fact the objection might be raised, "This is all very true so far as it goes, but we must admit that the earliest evidences of life are the traces of simple and primitive forms; and, anyway, there was an enormous lapse of time between the first appearance of life and the period wherein are found the earliest fossil remains. So it is easier to believe that life gradually developed from simpler to more complex forms than that the major groups arose simultaneously.
The answer to this is that science is based upon ascertained facts. We take the facts as we find them and coordinate them into broad generalizations. The facts are that all of the fossils, even the very earliest of them, fall into existing major groups. This is indisputable.3
After drawing attention to these various comments in his book, one might suspect that this is the writing of a creationist and pass it off as biased opinion; some might go so far as to question his scientific reliability. However, before we write him off as an anti-evolutionist, let us take note that be also states, "If we are willing to accept the facts at their face value, which would seem to be the only thing to do, we must believe that there never were such intermediates, or in other words, that these groups from the very first bore the same relation to each other that they do at the present day. Is this creationism? Not at all. It simply means that life at its very first beginnings from the single cell developed simultaneously and at once in every possible direction. All of the phyla or major groups seem to be of simultaneous development - at least we have no evidence that it is otherwise. "3
It may be of added interest now to note a comment of Austin Clark's in the Qiiarterly Review of Biology where he says, "Thus so far as concerns the major groups of animals, the creationists seem to have the better of the argument. There is not the slightest evidence that any of the major groups arose from any other."2
In the light of the views presented and comments made by Martin, Hyman, Oparin, Weiss, Fuller, Tippo, Bonner (regarding Kerkut's publication), Romer, Simpson (regarding Berril's publication), Zirkle (regarding the papers of Bates, Mayr, and Olson), and the words of Austin H. Clark, do we see here acknowledgment of deficiencies in the theory of organic evolution sufficient to give cause for both secular and Biblically oriented scholars to maintain a position of suspended support for the comprehensive acceptability of the theory?
Having raised the question, I feel it is also appropriate to present an answer. My position is that the secular scientist and scholar taking a hard look at his "own" theory, the theory of organic evolution, recognizes major unresolved questions and sees significant gaps. Where these gaps and unresolved questions fall into place with a Scriptural account of Divine creation of life according to kind, my plea is for Christians, especially, to refrain from accepting and building hypothetical bridges to support a theory and try to make it work when neither God's Word nor the facts of science demand it.
Our quest should be for the facts, and I am confident that as the facts of science are brought to fight, they will in turn aid in revealing more clearly to us the true interpretation of God's Word. I am persuaded also that as our search for truth is aggressively sincere, there will be an increasing sense of assurance that the facts of science are not to be feared as though they would undercut the Bible, but rather that discovery of the facts will demonstrate the very reasonable harmony between science and the Scriptures or between God's handiwork and His Word.REFERENCES