Evolution vs. Science

Ten dice at sixes

Evolution is fundamentally incompatible with the scientific method

by Dr. Jason Lisle

Evolution is fundamentally incompatible with the scientific method.  That is, if neo-Darwinian evolution is true, then there would be no rational basis for trusting in scientific procedures.  Conversely, if science is a reliable tool for understanding how the universe works, then particles-to-people evolution cannot be true.  Here is why:

Science is Predicated on the Christian Worldview

The method of science presupposes the truth of the Bible, beginning with creation.  The universe is not an accident.  God created it, imposed order on it, and upholds the universe by His power.  Consequently, the universe exhibits patterns.  There are laws which describe the consistent way that God upholds nature.  God has instituted cycles in nature, and has promised that these cycles will continue in the future as they have in the past.  God knows the future because He is beyond time.

Furthermore, God has created mankind in His own image, after His likeness.  Humans therefore have the capacity to think – in a finite way – some of God’s thoughts.  Since God’s mind controls the universe, and since the human mind is able to reflect God’s thinking in a finite way, it stands to reason that the human mind would have at least a limited capacity to understand the universe.  Furthermore, God made our eyes to see and our ears to hear.  Baring any damage to these structures, we can trust that they function in the way God designed – that what we see and hear corresponds in some way to the external universe.  Our senses are basically reliable in what they inform us about nature.

As a result of all these things, the Christian has good reasons to accept the scientific method.  We have good reasons to believe that the senses are basically reliable.  Therefore, we can use these senses to probe the external world.  We expect to find patterns in nature as a result of the God who placed them there.  We trust that God will uphold the universe in a consistent way for our benefit.  So if the particular circumstances are sufficiently similar, we expect to get a similar result.  Therefore, we can distinguish patterns from isolated incidents through repeated experimentation.   We expect that our mind has the capacity to draw rational inferences from our sensory experiences, since we are made in God’s image.  We have access to laws of logic, tools of reasoning that reflect God’s thinking.

Science is therefore the study of the predictable and consistent way that God upholds His universe.  It is possible because God has created both the universe and human beings such that the later can probe and understand (to some extent) the former.  If the nature of man and the nature of the universe are what the Bible says they are, then it follows logically that science is a reliable method for uncovering patterns in nature.

The Evolutionary Worldview

Contrast the above with the evolutionary worldview.  Evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense is supposed to explain how life could arise by natural means.  The big bang likewise attempts to explain how the universe came to be the way it is today without invoking God.  The universe is supposedly unplanned, not designed by intelligence.  Why then would we expect it to be organized?  Why expect the universe to obey laws when there is no law-giver?  Why expect to find rational patterns in nature, if nature is an irrational accident?

In the evolutionary worldview, human beings are also an accident of nature.  Unplanned, and not designed by any mind, the human form allegedly came about as unthinking organisms accumulated mistakes in their DNA.  Granted, most of these mistakes resulted in harmful traits, many of which led to death and as such were not passed on.  Those mistakes that improved the survival and reproductive success of the organism were preserved, and passed on.  In the evolutionary view, the human mind and body are merely a collection of mistakes, chemical accidents, with no mind behind them.  Why then would we expect that human beings have the capacity to do science?

Why expect that the human mind would have the capacity to be rational, if it is a non-designed accident of nature?  Why expect that our sensory organs are basically reliable if they have no designer but merely resulted as the chemical outworking of copying errors in the DNA?  Why should we expect any relationship whatsoever between the mind of man and the external universe, if both are unplanned accidents?

Survival of the Fittest

How might an evolution devotee respond?  “Well, our senses are reliable because of natural selection.  Nature guided their development.”  There are two severe problems with such a view.  First, natural selection does not guide the development of anything at all.  It simply refers to the removal of those cases that were unsuccessful.

Think of it like a roll of the dice.  What are the odds of rolling ten dice and all ten of them landing with “six” facing upward?  The odds are one in sixty million.  Not very good odds.  So, let’s try to improve the odds by adding in natural selection.  In all cases where all ten dice do not land with six facing up, we will destroy them by throwing them into the furnace.  Now what are the odds that all ten will land with six facing up?  The odds are still one in sixty million.  They haven’t changed at all.

Now consider all the beneficial, information-gaining mutations that would have to occur in order to turn a single-celled microbe such as bacteria into a person.  The odds are far worse than one in sixty million.  But many people have the impression that natural selection has improved those odds.  No.  It simply refers to the removal of the failed cases.  Natural selection cannot “guide” evolution.

Second, even if there were some guiding mechanism that improved the odds of mutations which increased survival value, this in no way justifies our belief that our senses and mind are reliable.  People have the impression that reliable senses would correlate with survival value.  After all, if our senses accurately inform us about the external world, we are less likely to fall off of a cliff, or run toward a fire.  That seems reasonable after all.

Evolution makes a lot of sense until you stop and think about it.  First of all, many false perceptions and beliefs would have positive survival value.  Suppose that when we see a steep cliff, our eyes interpret it as fire.  This incorrect perception would likely help us survive.  How do we know that all our perceptions are not like this?  How do we know that what we perceive is pure fiction, and yet produces responses that have survival value?

It should be obvious that reliable senses are not, in general, required or even helpful for survival.  Most organisms on earth do not have senses at all, let alone reliable ones.  Consider a blade of grass.  Grass has survived and reproduced far more effectively and abundantly than people; yet it has no sensory perceptions at all.  Indeed, the addition of reliable sensory organs to a blade of grass would reduce its survival value, because they would expend energy and would be of no benefit to an immobile organism.

“But we are not like a blade of grass.  We are mobile creatures where accurate sensory organs can help us survive.”  But this begs the question.  How do you know that you are a mobile creature and not a blade of grass?  Obviously, we cannot appeal to our sensory experiences as the proof of this since our sensory experiences are the very thing in question.  How could an evolutionist possibly know that his sensory experiences are not actually just a byproduct of photosynthesis?  How can he know for sure that he is not a blade of grass?  I suggest that the evolutionary worldview offers no escape from this epistemological dilemma.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that humans would have the capacity to probe the universe or reason rationally if we are not designed, but merely a chemical accident.  And since our abilities to reason and to perceive the external world are essential to science, the scientific method would make no sense in an evolutionary worldview.  It would be unjustified…

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image credit: Nicolas Raymond