Naturalistic Evolutionism: Irrational and Anti-Scientific
Historically-speaking, most confessional Reformed and Presbyterian churches (such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) have been hesitant to be overly-dogmatic or “fundamentalist” in their responses to contemporary theories of secular science, in particular theories having to do with human origins (such as the theory of biological common descent, or “evolution,” and the enormous ages of time required by the theory). A number of years ago the General Assembly of the OPC erected a study committee tasked with studying various interpretations of the days of creation as recorded in Genesis Chapter One, and the report of that committee (which can be found in the Minutes of the Seventy-First (2004) General Assembly of the OPC) have made it clear that the OPC as a whole allows for (indeed, has throughout its brief history allowed for) a number of different interpretations of the creation days of Genesis, judging such diverse views to be within the bounds of confessional orthodoxy. (For example, not only the literal six day creation or “days of ordinary length” view, which I personally hold to, but also the day-age view, the framework hypothesis view, the analogical day view, etc., are deemed to be permissible within most Presbyteries of the OPC.) As long as a candidate for ministry in the OPC can affirm the biblical essentials connected to the orthodox doctrine of creation, he will generally be permitted to pursue ordination within the OPC, even if he doesn’t personally hold to the literal six-day creationist view(1). Some of these biblical essentials would include, creation “ex nihilo” (“out of nothing”) by supernatural Divine fiat; the literal historicity of Adam and Eve; the historicity of the Fall narrative; the creational covenant of works with the historic Adam as the original covenant head and representative of the human race; the historical trustworthiness of the Genesis record, including the early chapters (chs. 1-11) and the historicity of the events recorded therein (including such things as the Genesis genealogies, the Noahic Flood — whether interpreted as a large local/regional flood or a worldwide flood — and the Tower of Babel); and so forth.
Though there has tended to be great diversity within confessional Reformed and Presbyterian churches on the questions of the age of the earth (whether relatively young or ancient) and of how to understand the creation days of Genesis One (whether they should be interpreted as literal, ordinary days or understood in a more figurative or literary sense), all confessionally Reformed believers (indeed, all orthodox Christians in general, I would hope) should agree on this: That the biblical and historic-Christian doctrine of creation simply does not allow for naturalistic, undirected evolution by means of unguided, random-chance mutations. (“Theistic evolution” — i.e., the belief held by some Christians that evolution from a common animal ancestry was guided by a purposive Divine providence — is also problematic, in my opinion; but that is another issue, one which I do not intend to address here in this particular post. Here I am addressing the secular notion of evolution by an undirected and naturalistic evolutionary process — a purely natural process that does not require or involve God in any way, other than perhaps allowing for belief in an unbiblical, deistic creator “god” who merely gets things going in the very beginning but then withdraws himself from involvement in his creation and lets it run on its own.)
Not only is the position of unguided, naturalistic evolutionism unbiblical (something so obvious that I should not even have to state it). Naturalistic evolutionism is also profoundly irrational and anti-scientific (in spite of its adherents’ frequent and dogmatic insistence that “science” demands belief in unguided, naturalistic, random-chance evolution). Dr. Jason Lisle(2) (who holds a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Colorado) explains the irrationality of naturalistic evolution in his book The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009):
“…if evolution were true, there wouldn’t be any rational reason to believe it! If life is the result of evolution, then it means that an evolutionist’s brain is simply the outworking of millions of years of random-chance processes. The brain would simply be a collection of chemical reactions that have been preserved because they had some sort of survival value in the past. If evolution were true, then all the evolutionist’s thoughts are merely the necessary result of chemistry acting over time. Therefore, an evolutionist must think and say that “evolution is true,” not for rational reasons, but as a necessary consequence of blind chemistry.
“Scholarly analysis presupposes that the human mind is not just chemistry. Rationality presupposes that we have the freedom to consciously consider the various options and choose the best. Evolutionism undermines the preconditions necessary for rational thought, thereby destroying the very possibility of knowledge and science.
“Evolution is anti-science and anti-knowledge. If evolution were true, science would not make sense because there would be no reason to accept the uniformity of nature upon which all science and technology depend. Nor would there be any reason to think that rational analysis would be possible since the thoughts of our mind would be nothing more than the inevitable result of mindless chemical reactions. Evolutionists are able to do science and gain knowledge only because they are inconsistent – professing to believe in evolution while accepting the principles of biblical creation.” (p. 62)
Bible-believing Christians (which would include the confessionally Reformed) may debate the “young earth” versus “old earth” positions. They may have differences of opinion over whether the creation days of Genesis Chapter One should be interpreted literally or figuratively. They may even have vigorous discussions about whether or not Scripture would allow for man as God’s image-bearer being the product of a lengthy, providentially-guided, purposive evolutionary process, and whether or not such a “theistic evolution” position is within the bounds of biblical and confessional orthodoxy. But I would hope that all biblically orthodox Christians would see that the Darwinian notion of a totally naturalistic, unguided, undirected evolution by random-chance mutation is not only completely contrary to God’s Word; it is also ultimately an irrational and anti-science position. Only the biblical-theistic worldview provides the foundation and necessary pre-conditions for rationality, logic and science(3).
(1) Although I should say that any candidate for ministry in the OPC who holds to a “theistic evolution” viewpoint would likely be thoroughly grilled during his ordination trials on the floor of Presbytery, and would probably not be approved for ordination in most Presbyteries unless he showed a willingness to reconsider his position on the subject.
(2) Some Christian readers who hold to an “old age” perspective may object to me quoting from Dr. Lisle, since he is associated with the “young earth creationist” organization “Answers in Genesis.” However, whatever one might think of Dr. Lisle’s young earth creationism, his literal interpretation of the Genesis days of creation, or of the “Answers in Genesis” organization with which he is affiliated, I believe his comments with respect to the irrationality of naturalistic evolution are accurate and true. The truth is the truth, whoever happens to be speaking (or writing) it. The presuppositional foundations of naturalistic evolutionism do not comport with rationality or science. (Perceptive readers will notice that in this quote Dr. Lisle has correctly adopted and applied Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetic to critique the metaphysical position of naturalistic evolution. In his book he relies heavily upon Van Til and uses – or perhaps, as some “old earther” Van Tillians might argue, misuses – the Van Til apologetic to defend the six day literal creationist interpretation.)
(3) It does so through providing ultimate basis for the order and uniformity of nature (which is grounded in the character and handiwork of the biblical Creator God), the basic reliability of memory and the senses, the laws of logic, etc. All of these things are logically consistent with the biblical worldview and biblical epistemology. However, they are not consistent with an atheistic and/or naturalistic evolutionary worldview (as explained above in the quote from Dr. Lisle).