Do Long Creation
Days Imply Evolution?
A Canadian University professor with whom I correspond refers to evolution as the Christian E-word, a word so emotionally charged that its mere mention sets off fire alarms in people's heads. No wonder acceptance of the antiquity of the universe, the earth, and life so often draws a blast.
Christians have been taught what early fundamentalists-and their opponents-believed, that to accept a long creation time scale is tantamount to accepting the self-assembly of molecules into humans (via the monkeys). Heightening this issue are the Genesis flood doctrines of many modern young-earth creationists. Since they recognize the ark as too small and the caretakers on board too few to preserve all the land animals on the earth today, they conclude Noah took two of every order, genus, or subgenus rather than two of every species. The many species of today are presumed to arise through biological evolution from the orders and genera on Noah's ark!1 Extrapolating such rapid biological evolution over a billion years seems to imply little need for God beyond the first life-forms or the first members of phylum.
Before addressing the capabilities of biological evolutionary processes, it is helpful to clear away some of the emotion surrounding the offensive term, evolution.
In its ordinary usage among scientists and non-scientists alike, especially among physical scientists, evolution simply means "change with respect to time." The time can be short or long. The change can be small or great and more or less gradual. The cause can be intelligent or nonintelligent. By this definition, we could say that Genesis 1 describes evolution, for it describes change in the realm of nature with respect to time, however long or short that time.
Because this meaning of evolution is the one they have in mind, scientists become perplexed at the Christian's typical reaction to the term. Scientists cannot comprehend why anyone would take exception. The problem is that the Christian is repsonding to an entirely different definition.
To most Christians, the definition is usally the narrow biological one: the theory that all species developed from earlier forms. The dictionary does not add the phrase, "with out divine miraculous intervention," but people, Christians and others, assume it's there. Nor does the definition include any comment about the origin of life, but for many people the word evolution implies that natural processes alone produced the gigantic leap from inorganic to organic.
Even when this particular meaning is the one intended, a crucial question must be asked, Do long creation days provide sufficient time for life to originate on its own and to develop from simple to more and more complex on its own?
The naturalist's problem is bridging the gap between relatively simple inorganic systems and vastly more complex self-reproducing organic systems. The difference between an aqueous solution containing a few amino acids and other prebiotic molecules and the simplest living cell is enormous. (The first organic entity appearing in the fossil record is a fully formed cell. Biologists do not suggest that an organic entity any simpler than a cell could survive independently.)
Years ago, molecular biologist Harold Morowitz calculated the distance between the inorganic and organic worlds. If one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal conditions (the best possible chemical conditions where no foreign substances would be permitted to intrude nor any of the needed substances permitted to leave) would be one chance in 10100,000,000,000. 2
With odds as remote as 1 in 10100,000,000,000, the creation time-scale issue becomes irrelevant. Whether the earth has been around for ten second, ten thousand years, or ten billion years makes no difference. Nor does the size of the universe matter. If all the material in the visible universe were converted into the building blocks of life (amino acids and nucleotides), and if assembly of these blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe (about 17 billion years or 5 x 1017 seconds), the number of opportunities to form a living entity, 1084 , is so enormously smaller than the number required to give a reasonable probability of success, 10100,000,000,000 , as to make no difference at all in the likelihood of the spontaneous formation of life, (Mathematicians tell us that if an event has a probability which is less likely then one chance in 1050, then that event is mathematically impossible. Such an event, if it were to occur, would be considered a miracle.). Give these numbers, how absurd for Christians to argue about a mere factor of 106 (the difference between a universe created ten thousand years ago compared to 10 billion years ago)!
Actually, the odds are worse. Morowitz assumed the presence of only bioactive building blocks. In the real world nonbioactive building blocks are mixed in with the bioactive ones. Only twenty of the more than eighty naturally occurring amino acids are bioactive and only those with the hydrogen atom on the left side (about half the amino acids) can be used in biological systems. Morowitz also assumed that only constructive chemical processes would operate. Under natural conditions, destructive chemical processes operate at least as frequently as constructive ones.
Not every building block in the molecular chains within living cells must fit strictly in sequence. Some substitutions are permissible. But this flexibility adds no substantial help to the naturalists' argument for the origin of life.3-5
Two more problems thwart the idea of prebiotic molecules assembling themselves into living cells. One is the irrational assumption of prebiotic molecules arriving without divine design. Recent research shows that at least twenty-five different characteristics of the universe must be exquisitely fine-tuned for life's essential building blocks to exist.6 In several cases the degree of fine-tuning exceeds one part in 1037. This fine-tuning far exceeds anything humans have been able to achieve - even with advanced technology - in our most magnificent projects. We can conclude only that the Cause of the building blocks of life is unimaginably intelligent, creative, capable, and caring. If the involvement of a Creator is necessary to explain the crafting of the simplest building blocks of life, how much more would He be needed to explain the design and assembly of living organisms?
The second problem lies in false assumptions about the benefit of time and durability of the building blocks. To illustrate, compare essential-for-life molecules with the parts of a watch. In the absence of friction and erosion, it would be almost conceivable for watch parts loosely place in a shoe box to self-assemble bit by bit into a finished watch under careful, gentle shaking of the box. Careful, because the shaking must be stopped at exactly the moment when the parts come together, since subsequent shaking would lead quickly to the disassembly of the watch parts. This precise timing, in itself, requires an intelligent "box shaker."
I say the shaking must be stopped quickly because at each point in the assembly sequence, under random shaking of the box, the probability would be higher for disassembly of the watch parts than for assembly. As any watchmaker will testify, piecing together the parts of a quality timepiece takes intense concentration and exquisite, purposeful manipulation. Given the far higher probability of disassembly than of assembly, it is arguable at what point time becomes a hindrance rather than a help in the random assembly of parts into a finished watch. Likewise it is arguable at what point time turns against the chances for strictly natural assembly of building blocks into living organisms.
Also, the friction and erosion cannot be ignored. In the real world - organic and inorganic - they continually occur. In the watch analogy, continuous shaking of the box will turn the gears and sprockets into dust long before they assemble themselves into a finished watch. The durability of the watch parts falls far short of the random-assembly time. In the case of proteins, DNA and RNA molecules, their breakdown into simpler molecules or into nonfunctioning molecules would occur far more quickly than would their random self-assembly from simpler molecules into living organisms, or even into the component proteins, DNA and RNA.
The most recent scientific determination of the maximum time it took for the first life-form to originate on the earth is 10 million years.7 The 10 million years might as well be ten nanoseconds, for such a time span is, by far, inadequate for self-assembly of atoms into organisms.
From Primordial Life to Humankind
Another myth has long held sway in evolutionary biology, a myth that says the 3.8 billion years between the first life-form on the earth and the first humans is adequate time for single-celled creatures to transform themselves into human beings. The basis for the myth is twofold:
1. The mechanism of natural selection has been observed under field conditions and in controlled breeding experiments to produce from a single species in just a few centuries two sets of individuals so distinct from one another that they cannot successfully mate to produce survivable, fertile progeny. Thus, one species (loosely defined) apparently has to split into two.
2. The mechanism of successive mutations has been observed under field conditions and in laboratory experiments to produce offspring that in just a few decades can supplant the non-mutated members of the species. Thus, one species changes into another.
Ignoring the limitations on these two mechanisms, a person might presume that several billion years worth of extrapolation might explain much, if not all, of the fossil record details. Unfortunately the limitations are much too severe to support a strictly natural interpretation.
Limitations on Natural Selection
The canine species provides a helpful example of how far natural selection can and cannot go. Through decades of selective breeding wild dogs have become hundreds of distinct breeds. Today we see teacup poodles no bigger than a person's hand and great danes nearly the size of a pony. Obviously, a male teacup poodle is physically unable to mate successfully with a female great dane.
If a common definition of a species (a class of creatures than can mate and produce fertile offspring) is used, the dog species has developed into more than one species. But consider the impact of that "speciation." Both teacup poodles and great danes are fragile in terms of life expectancy and survivability. If they were forced to fend for themselves in the wild, they would rapidly become extinct. The farther we breed the progeny away from the norm (or mean) of the species, the less survivable the progeny become. Though to breed a dog even smaller than a teacup poodle may be possible, breeders would eventually bump against the limits of natural selection. The smaller the dog, the more difficult to keep it alive even in the protection of our homes.
Ironically, natural selection usually argues for stasis rather than for change.8 In the case of dogs, if we remove all the barriers separating different breeds and allow the breeds to mingle freely in the wild, within relatively few generations the progeny would revert back to the mean.
Where natural selection does work to change a species, the change is minor. We humans are about half a foot taller and can see better than our ancestors of millennia ago. Most of this change can be attributed to improved diet. Some is the result of natural selection - e.g., people with clearer eyesight are better able to dodge spears and other hazards. The contributions of natural selection to the human species remain so tiny, however, as to prove inconsequential for explaining the differences between humans and nay other species, including the apes.
For some species, even this possibility for slight change does not exist. Natural selection is founded on the principle that a species will overpopulate to such a degree that only the fittest survive. But not all species overpopulate. Many species of birds, for example, reduce their egg production in direct proportion to the supply of food. Their populations are not limited by starvation and predation but rather by instinctively controlled breeding.
Limitations on Mutational Change
In the process of natural selection, one gene may be chosen over another. But in mutations (chemical changes in complex molecules induced by radiation and other environmental stresses), the chemical structure of the gene itself is changed. Therefore, mutations carry the potential for producing dramatic changes in the characteristics of a species. These changes, however, are limited by the generation time span and the population size of the species.
Mutations occur only rarely. Typically only one individual in a million will experience a mutation. Most nonlethal mutations are neutral. That is, they have no effect on the characteristics of the progeny carrying the change. Of the remaining mutations, the majority are harmful to the species. The ratio of harmful to favorable mutations measures between ten thousand to one and million to one.
With favorable mutation rates as low as one per 10 billion individuals or lower, most species cannot mutate rapidly enough to adapt to severe environmental stresses. The likelihood for extinction far exceeds the likelihood for mutating into a new, survivable species. The exceptions are species with huge populations and short generations. Species with a quadrillion individuals (or more) and a life cycle of three months or less stand a reasonable chance of propagating a sufficient number of favorable mutations to adapt to minor environmental challenges. Ants, termites, bacteria, and viruses fall into this category. For the vast majority of species, however, mutations are destructive. Virtually all will go extinct long before they could change successfully via mutation. For all species, nothing like the development of new organs falls within the range of reasonable probability.
One response of evolutionary biologists to this dilemma is to hypothesize periods in Earth's history during which the mutation rat greatly exceeded one per million individuals. However, circumstances generating such a high mutation rate would also threaten the survival of all progeny, both mutated and unmutated. Therefore, the increased mutation rate would be counterbalanced, if not vastly overbalanced, by a decreased population and decreased probability that survivors will successfully reproduce and provide for the needs of their offspring.
Interpreting the Genesis creation days as tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of Earth years in no way lends support to evolutionism. These time frames would be too brief by countless orders of magnitude for simple life to arise and become complex by natural processes.
The fear expressed by many devout Christians that long creation days grease a slide into the tenets of naturalistic evolution (belief that all life arises from natural processes only) or theistic evolution (belief that God creates only through His control of the natural processes, never independent of them) has no scientific foundation. It is a little known fact that a sizable proportion of biology research fellow, professor, and graduate students at leading institutions are Bible-believing Christians who deny the neo-Darwinist hypotheses of molecules to primordial life and primordial life to humans through natural process alone.9
To order this book "Creation And Time" go to:
to Believe Catalog
Ross Hugh, Ph. D., "Creation And Time" Navpress, (1994) Reasons to Believe, p.81-90
Dr. Hugh Ross's References :
-1. Whitcomb, John C.,Jr., and Morris, Henry M., "The Genesis Flood" (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1961), p. 66-69 (in particular figure 4 on p. 67 shows, for example, zebras and horses evolving from a single horse kind pair on board Noah's ark), and p.80-87.
-2. Shapiro, Robert, "Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Origin of Life on Earth" (New York: Summit Books, 1986),p. 128
-3. Ross, Hugh, "The Creator and the Cosmos" (Colorado Springs, Co: NavPress, 1993), p.141-146.
-4. Yockey, Hubert P. "Information Theory and Molecular Biology" (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 1992) p. 131-342
-5. Hart, Michael H., "Atmospheric Evolution, the Drake Equation, and DNA: Sparse Life in an Infinite Universe," Physical
-6. Ross, pages 105-121
-7. Ross, pages 137-138
-8. Battson, Arthur L.,III, "On the Origin of Stasis by Means of Natural Processes: An Empirical Alternative to the Creation/Evolution Dichotomy (Colorado Springs, CO: Access Research Network, 1993)
-9. On one of our Reasons To Believe television episodes (aired in 1992 on the Trinity Broadcasting Network) I interviewed three research biologists from three different research groups at the California Institute of Technology. After describing how they received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and how they became active in the evangelical Christian community, each of them gave an estimate as to how many in each of their research groups of about thirty-five biologists per group would identify themselves as Christians. Their answers: 50 percent, 35 percent, and 25 percent, respectively.
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