Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Creationism-Brother against Brother
John W. DeVilbiss, Ph.D.
Geologist and Geophysicist
Director of Office for Research on Origins
From: JASA 36 (September 1984): 192.
Philosophy, biology, geology and Christianity have all changed to various degrees since and because of the formulation of the General Theory of Organic Evolution as a scientific theory. The subject of evolution or origins is fundamental to the continuing strife between powerful contemporary ideologies. Such strife is also seen within Christianity itself. The subject of origins can divide Christian groups due to the great input coming from pagan philosophies and non-Christians. There is always that distrustful hesitation in accepting change promoted by pagans.
If two sources of knowledge contradict each other, there are four possible explanations for the contradiction. Geology and Biblical hermeneutics are said by some to lead to incompatible appreciations of the history and antiquity of life on earth (We are not addressing the identity of the Creator.). Either 1. geology is incorrect and hermeneutics is correct, or 2. vice versa; or 3. both are incorrect; or 4. both are correct but their compatibility is not yet apparent. Except for the third choice ("both incorrect") every option has drawn great following as a stand on the issue within Christianity. I would propose that the third choice also has some merit.
In more specific terms, it appears to me, as a person trained in both relevant disciplines: geology and Biblical interpretation, that the traditional accepted view in each discipline, taken in its totality, is inadequate. That is, it is not true.
The traditional interpretation of Genesis one is inadequate for
ascertaining the presence of conflict because it is non-unique. Until information from the sciences began to raise questions about the traditional interpretation of the Creation Account, there was no need to investigate other interpretations.
On the other hand, the traditional view from geology for the chronological order of first appearance of fossils, encounters so many exceptions in the geologic record, that its usefulness as an interpre tive tool should not be taken for granted. There are too many embarrassing situations.
No one can claim they have observed invertebrates evolving completely into vertebrates today. Special evolution is an observed phenomenon, but not its extrapolation to account for the major grace, it is the relationship between man's nature and the freedom of transformations General Evolution proposes. The truly scientific aspect of the General Theory of Organic Evolution is geological. It has to do with Natural History and not only with empirical science. Thus its character should be recognized and not equated with theories on processes observed in innumerable controlled experi ments today.
The fundamental argument for the historicity of General Evolution (what is generally agreed upon-that it in fact occurred) is the geologic principle of faunal succession, stating that:
"Groups of fossil plants and animals succeeded one another in a definite and determinable order and each period of time can be recognized by its respective fossils."
That is a statement that can actually be tested!
Thus, questioning the adequacy of the theory from a scientific point of view necessarily becomes an examination of the geological principle on which the belief in its historicity rests.
For more information on our developing Christian perspective on origins, please write to The Office for Research on Origins, Houston, TX 77272-2153. The issue urgently needs to be honestly and objectively pursued for the sake of the Christian testimony.