Unlike many, I see no incompatibility between Christian doctrines and the Theory of Evolution. I don’t think that Christianity is meant to explain all of science for us; instead, I am quite compelled to think the opposite. The Holy Bible uses the language it uses not to explain the laws of physics to us or tell us how old the earth is, but to explain that which lies beyond the capacity of human finding. Turning once more to the model presented in “La cima del purgatorio,” one might say that the Bible was written to explain to us all the things that Virgil is incapable of discovering for himself.
With that in place, it quickly becomes clear that any references to “science” that we find in the Bible are not the ultimate intent of their associated rhetoric, but are themselves rhetorical devices being used for the communication of something much more important. To differentiate between the makeup of a rhetorical strategy and the intention of the rhetoric, consider the case of Larry the Cucumber’s infamous water buffalo song. Here we have a vacuous vegetable going on with a rather silly song only to be interrupted by some scrupulous other who objects to a discrepancy of complete irrelevance. The situation is almost comical. Actually, I think it is comical, maybe even silly. But I hold it as no less silly to object to a passage in the Bible because it makes allusion to the earth being flat (or something of that sort). Indeed, at the time the Bible was written, the earth was thought to be flat, and we should hardly expect the text to have gone so far out of its way as to first explain all of science to its readers before making any allusion to the physical universe–that’s just silly! Instead, the best rhetorical strategy God could have chosen would be to speak of the world in the vernacular of the people he was working through, which happened to include some irrelevant misunderstandings about the physical universe. This indeed seems to be the strategy He has taken.
For those of you Christians who do not agree with me on this, consider 1 Kings 7:23 which reads, “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and its height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about” (KJV). If we do some algebra:
d = 10 cubits
r = 5 cubits
c = 30 cubits = 2 π r
2 * 5 cubits * π = 30
π = 3
We get a mathematical statement that I have disproven more times than I can possibly count. But I do not hold the exact value of π as being any more relevant to the salvation of souls than the ownership of water buffaloes is to the enjoyment of a humorous little song. And so it seems to me to be of equally little importance whether or not God created humanity through a long, many-yeared process or a six-day one. All I care, with regard to the literal facts, is that He created us and did so according to the normative principles that have elsewhere been established as necessary prerequisites to our existence.
One brief side note before I turn directly to the science of evolution: All the inaccuracies that have hitherto been mentioned are perhaps not even as dramatic or detrimental to the purely literal bible as we might make them out to be. Consider the following points:
- Three is less than five percent different from π, which actually makes it an accurate estimate of the irrational number when we account for significant figures.
- The earth cannot be proven to revolve around the sun, and we indeed have no conclusive evidence that it does.
- The earth, being roughly egg-shaped, does not really form any exact geometric shape at all, and therefore, to say whether it is flat or round is somewhat subjective. Parts of it are flat, and other parts are round, but no part of it is perfectly flat or perfectly round.†
- The order of the creation of species described in Genesis is roughly the same order science is uncovering, and the word that is translated to “day” could also be translated to “period.” Therefore, the book might be saying that God created the universe in six time periods which are in the same order as science supposes them to be.
However, as I have said, I find all this argument about the physical universe to be largely irrelevant. Now to evolution:
I find no theoretical inconsistency with the theory of evolution, but I find it hard to accept as a respectable scientific theory on the grounds of plausibility. Having relatively little knowledge of biology, I will find it useful to comment on the theory from a statistical perspective rather than an empirical one.
Your DNA is made up of approximately six billion (6,000,000,000) genetic base pairs, each of which are in one of four possible arrangements (assuming that mismatches of nucleotides are negligible). This means that according to Carl Haub’s estimate for the total number of people that have ever lived, there is less than a one in 3 * 10 ^ 1,800,000,000 chance that you would exist right now, assuming that there cannot be two people with exactly identical DNA, which would further decrease the probability.˚ This number completely excludes the probability of the human race existing, which is dependent on all physical factors that were necessary for its genesis–if there are such identifiable factors–as well as all those which are necessary for its continued prosperity.*
Furthermore, in the world of statistics, if we suppose that apes have DNA that is different from humans by two percent, and humans and apes together have an average of four point two billion base pairs (still using that six billion from earlier, and averaging it with the two point four billion ape base pairs), then forty-two million base pairs had to randomly mutate in order for either species to evolve from their ideal common ancestor (this being one percent of the aforementioned average), and twice that number in order for the whole process to occur. Hence, the chance of the human race evolving from a common ancestor to apes is less than one in roughly 2 * 10 ^ 25200001 for every four point two billion mutations that occur. We do not currently have any conclusive figure describing the mutation rate of humans or apes (that I know of), but it is thought to be very low. Hence, if I were to take a single atom off the tip of your nose and throw it randomly into the universe, this single evolutionary step in what is thought to be an immense chain reaction of similar processes is less probable than you finding your missing nose piece without searching for it (based on the current estimates of the number of atoms in the universe).
It is imperative that you understand that these numbers are incomprehensible (uh … yes … that’s supposed to be funny).
Of course all this work is very rough and dependent much more on statistics than science, but the math certainly shows that biologists have some serious explaining to do, if nothing more. I fear that because many believe that evolution is so relevant arguments against theism, they have shaded the public’s view of the theory. Indeed, public perception is so misguided on this matter that people who know nothing about the subject hold it as solid fact. In reality, it seems that it is very shaky theory, and if the evolutionist don’t have some clever reason that statistics are irrelevant to the plausibility of the theory, then we will all be compelled to call the Theory of Macroevolution “pseudoscience.” I do, of course, understand that it is a very useful model that can be stimulating to research and organisation of data, and for that reason would not propose to throw it out all together, but would suggest to stop preaching it so religiously as fact–because it is clearly not true.
What bothers me about this situation, and has led me to blog about it, is a concern not with theistic and atheistic argument, but with academic honesty and sincere truth-seeking. It seems that the voice of those who would point out that the emperor has no cloths has been buried in the overpowering assertiveness of those who would not. Science has effectively lied to us, and that bothers me for science’s sake as well as for the sake of all academia.
Here is a program that shows how a geocentric theory of the solar system is just as plausible (but less practical perhaps) as the current heliocentric theory.
And here is a “Super Calculator” that I created with the hope of using it to compute those ridiculous figures I’ve included in this post. Much to my chagrin, I found that, even as efficient as it is, the program would take many years to arrive at those numbers (that’s how absurd they are!), and was compelled instead to turn to more theoretical methods of “Discrete Mathematics.” But if you think that a super calculator is the sort of thing you’d like to have floating around on your hard drive, click the link.
(Technically, every word in this article is a “post” word.)
† As the currant theory stands, it is a fractal. Of course I have stepped outside the scope of the question once I turn to such a theory, but so have the people who proposed the question in the first place.
˚ We shall ignore the negligible probability of two individuals having the same DNA by chance or in the case of identical twins. This makes the math easier and has little effect on the estimate.
* I realize that this statistic is not all that relevant to evolution, but consider it an interesting prelude to the more relevant information found in the subsequent paragraph.