October 14, 2009

So Where Did Death Come From?

2009 1529 page24 capcience has improved our lives and given us many answers and insights into the world around us; and scientific discoveries continue to educate and amaze more than ever before.

Most scientists take a purely naturalistic approach in their search for understanding. To those who interpret the world in this manner, God played no part. To the learned individuals in this camp, life began in a lightning-charged primordial puddle, or perhaps through some as yet unknown and undiscovered properties of crystals. From there life progressed onward ?and upward, leaving behind the indisputable evidence of evolution over many millions of years. In their view belief in archaic creation stories is a naive approach that must be replaced with scientific truth. They hold that the serious pursuits of science will eventually supply the answers to the many unanswered questions.
“Even today,” the thinking goes, “many groups believe in religious creation myths at the expense of accepting the scientific understanding of the origin and history of earth. In such cases, the adherence to a creation myth is usually associated with restricted religious values rather than a rejection of the science-based world view.”1 In one of his “lighter” moments, Oxford’s outspoken atheistic evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins said it another way: “Science, the Enlightenment, and rationalism are in their way powerful weapons against religion and all other forms of superstition.”2
On the Other Hand
Scientific discoveries, however, have also provided an invaluable base of knowledge for creationists. The unbelievable physiology of the cell, the stunning operation of the DNA molecule, photosynthesis, the functions of the human brain, and the operation of the finely tuned universe with its precise physical constants are just a few of the astonishing processes that point to a Creator.
2009 1529 page24Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was a British mathematician and former director of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University. Hoyle didn’t believe in God, but as a result of his observations he came to this arresting conclusion: “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”3
Freeman Dyson (b. 1923) is a theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum theory, solid-state physics, and nuclear engineering. His observations led him in a similar direction: “As we look ?out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.”4
Francis Collins (b. 1950) is an American physician and geneticist and former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Human Genome Project. Collins grew up in a home with “nominally Christian” parents, but by the time he entered graduate school he considered himself an atheist. Over time he reversed his position and became an Evangelical Christian.
He stated: “I’m a theistic evolutionist. I take the view that God, in His wisdom, used evolution as His creative scheme. I don’t see why that’s such a bad idea. That’s pretty amazingly creative on His part. And what is wrong with that as a way of putting together in a synthetic way the view of God who is interested in creating a group of individuals that He can have fellowship with—us? Why is evolution not an appropriate way to get to that goal? I don’t see a problem with that. The only problems that get put forward are by those who would interpret Genesis 1 in a very literal way.”5
Since imposing facts are obviously found on both sides of the issue, why not, like Francis Collins, incorporate a belief in God with the best that science has to offer? After all, an omnipotent God could have used evolution to “create” if He chose to do so. In light of all the impressive evidence, it seems perfectly reasonable to combine creation with evolution.
Or does it?
An Issue Bigger Than Collins Imagines
Make no mistake, truth matters. And for me, truth’s trump card is not ultimately found in scientifically determining the origin of life, but rather in correctly understanding the origin of death.
The Bible says that death is the result of sin, and that God’s law requires the death of those who sin. God’s law could not be changed, so Jesus died in our place, that we might live.
If evolution is true, however, death is not the result of sin but merely a tool God used in the beginning to “create” through millions of years of “survival of the fittest,” a cruel and violent method that would have eventually and necessarily produced primitive, brutish humans. What’s worse, if evolution is true, God’s law of death for sin would not have applied. As a result, Jesus would have had no reason to die, effectively negating the plan of salvation.
Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) was an incredibly accomplished American astronomer, theoretical physicist, and cosmologist. He joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration when it was formed in 1958 and became ?the first chairman of both its Lunar Exploration Committee and its Theoretical Division. When he “retired” in 1981, he became a professor of geophysics at Columbia University, a professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth College, and director emeritus of both the Mt. Wilson Observatory and the Hale Solar Laboratory. Jastrow, who described himself as “an agnostic, and not a believer,” took considerable criticism from the scientific community for the conclusion in his 1978 book, God and the Astronomers. He said: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”6
Sadly, scoffers and skeptics choose to ignore the words of Ellen White: “Many have come to deny doctrines which are the very pillars of the Christian faith. The great facts of creation as presented by the inspired writers, the fall of man, the atonement, and the perpetuity of the law of God, are practically rejected, either wholly or in part, by a large share of the professedly Christian world.”7
In another place she wrote: “The mightiest intellects of earth cannot comprehend God. Men may be ever searching, ever learning, and still there is an infinity beyond. Yet the works of creation testify of God’s power and greatness.”8
For all of its profound and fascinating discoveries, science cannot stand alone in place of God, and the “indisputable” evidence of evolution cannot replace the literal account of creation found in Genesis.

1Arthur B. Busbey et al., Rocks & Fossils, revised edition (San Francisco: Fog City Press, 2007), p. 16.
2Richard Dawkins, from his audio commentary on the DVD The God Who Wasn’t There.
3F. Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 20 (1982): 1-36.
4As quoted in J. D. Barrow and F. J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 318.
5From the transcript of Bob Abernethy’s interview with Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, 2000.
6Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, second edition (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Co., 1992), p. 107.
7Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 583.
8White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 116.
Deryl Corbit is a cytotechnologist who writes from Paradise, California. This article was published October 15, 2009.