Creation and evolution: another view

Creation and evolution: another view

Geological time divisionsWe are born into the world as if from nowhere, at a birth we cannot remember. Growing into adulthood, we inquire into how the universe itself arose, but discover that its origin is also far from clear. Truly, existence is a mystery.

Many assume that the planet which is our home for the brief span of our lives had a natural origin. But is it reasonable to attribute nature with its own creative power, even to the extent of producing things incomparably more complex than human intelligence and technology can engineer? Can human life be reduced to the properties of atoms, contrary to our sense of being distinct from the world?

In recent decades it has become difficult to ask such questions in an open-ended way. Scientific institutions, educational establishments and broadcasting media all permit but one answer, one view of reality: the world created itself.

But doubt persists in sidling in. We live from day to day knowing that life is something different from molecules. It involves consciousness, something that plants, which also reproduce sexually via DNA, do not have. Our experience of ourselves as conscious beings tells us that there is more to reality than can be accounted for by molecules, however complex their organisation.

Given that life is inherently and irreducibly wonderful, what we have done in rejecting theistic explanations is simply to transfer the power of miracle from God to Nature, using scientific language to dress up a belief in natural magic. This is not to say that creation in 6 days provides a straightforward answer. While the glory of the stars, the majesty of the continents and oceans, the secret lives of the animals that share our planet all appear to deny a natural explanation of their existence, they do not speak directly of creation, because nothing is as it was. Everything lies at the end of a long history. Creation cannot be read from the universe’s present appearance.

Moreover, we cannot go back to the beginning because a cataclysm near the beginning destroyed the original land. We have become aware of this only in the last 40 years, as a result of discovering that Earth’s oldest crust is missing. The impact craters which defaced the Moon just prior to the beginning of the rock record destroyed Earth’s earliest record. Asteroids, combined with torrential flooding, rendered the Earth formless and barren.

Evolution

Cover of the 26 June 2008 edition of Nature, which focused on the evidence for cataclysm in the early solar systemIt is this primeval cataclysm that offers the key to understanding the fossil record. After the bombardment the planet was in geological flux. Species had to colonise new seas and lands, and to diversify as they met the challenges. Bacteria were the first organisms to appear not because they were the simplest but because they were the most prolific and lay at the base of food chains. Other organisms gained a foothold as land surfaces stabilised: mosses, lichens, low-lying wetland plants and forest-forming trees in rapid ecological succession, joined by an equally diverse range of animals millipedes, insects, mites, spiders, scorpions, reptiles.

Evolution has two meanings. The first is the well established fact that all species originate from other species; the second, the presumption that all species, from bacteria to human beings, are related to one another and originated aeons ago from self-organising chemicals. More influenced by Darwin than we would like to think, we tend to confound the two. When new species originate, we think we are seeing evidence for the theory that life evolved from a prebiotic soup. In reality there is no such evidence, and documented examples of evolutionary change cannot be explained in Darwinian terms.

The discovery that organisms change over time was once perceived as a threat to the idea of creation. It is in fact the reverse. Despite attempts to associate evolution with a blind, random, undirected process, the truth is that the most spectacular examples of evolution are also the most obviously directed directed not by an intervening power continually giving a helping hand, but by a genetic code that was programmed to respond to change. Consider what is involved, for example, in:

  • the evolution of anemones, jellyfish and corals from a common ancestor
  • the evolution of snakes from lizards
  • the adaptations which gave woodpeckers and flamingos their identities
  • the transformation of feathered birds into penguins
  • the transformation of land-dwelling quadrupeds into sea-going whales and dolphins

Their evolution is as miraculous as the creation of the progenitors with which their whole history began. Nonetheless, many theists deny that such transformations could have happened because they seem too miraculous, while atheists invoke continual natural selection in order to deny the miraculous. An argument from incredulity on the part of believers, an argument from credulity on the part of unbelievers!

The more spectacular the transformation or prodigal the diversity, the more it becomes clear that such phenomena were not the work of chance but pre-programmed just as the single-generation metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, or of an egg into an ostrich, is evidently pre-programmed. Evolution of this kind in no way implies the denial of an original creation. Survivors from the cataclysm were endowed with enormous potential to diversify because there were so few of them. They were endowed with the potential to adapt because they had to colonise a world that, beginning from total devastation, had to pass through multiple stages of ecological renewal.

Food webs and ecosystems appear suddenly from the Cambrian onwards
How this website is organised

Earth history took place over a succession of ages, and inevitably the names of these ages will be unfamiliar to most readers. Be patient while you become used to them. We recognise that Earth history is not generally a subject taught at school that adults know almost nothing about the origin of the world they are born into. The organising principle of the site is primarily chronological.

  • First, a record of Earth’s colonisation walks the visitor through the early part of the fossil record, illustrating how the step-by-step appearance of plants and animals reflects a process of ecological recovery (Archaean to Devonian).
  • The antediluvian world steps still further back in time to look at what the original world was like (before the Archaean).
  • The old world destroyed argues that evidence generally taken to go back to the solar systems birth is actually evidence of its destruction.
  • Transitional fossils discusses, in chronological order, the top ten examples of evolution, from fishes to man (Devonian to Quaternary).

In addition:

  • The age of the Earth discusses how the planet is dated and why timescales of millions of years should be treated with scepticism.
  • A series of diagrams and timecharts provides visual aids.
  • Key concepts summarises the new approach, followed by pages that treat some concepts in more detail.
  • In-depth discussions engage the reader at a more technical level, with topics such as the origin of the solar system and the newly discovered transitional fossil Tiktaalik.
  • Finally, Genesis and other traditions considers the testimony of traditions that predate the invention of writing, on the basis that they represent a lost memory of how the Earth came into existence. They too tell us that the original world was destroyed.

This is a quality site, which invites you to be open to new ways of seeing. The less you skim, the more you will get from it. New material continues to be added.