July 16, 2021

Suppose, Just Suppose

At every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner), the gross error of our era astonishes me. A strawberry—luscious, beautiful, vitamin-saturated and sprinkled (like a mini-ice cream cone) with its own seeds—mocks the grand and great metaphysical pronouncements of our age, which decree the strawberry (its beauty, taste, vitamins, and seeds) a cosmic coincidence, with more thought going into a sketch of the fruit than into the fruit itself. The claim that the strawberry—and peaches, pears, apples, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes, oranges, avocadoes, cauliflower, broccoli, almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, wheat, rye, barley, potatoes, etc., their seeds either in them, on them, or being them—along with elephants and the human limbic system—arose only from natural selection and random mutation, testifies to the enduring power of myth to beguile, even in the age of science. In this case, science itself does the beguiling.

I know that for some this will be absurdly hard to imagine, but suppose, just suppose that the Genesis account of origins is accurate.  That is, instead of billions of years, as science claims, God did create our present world, as Genesis says: in six days, each day an “evening” and “morning” (Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) as days are reckoned today.

And, instead of an endless torrent of violence, death, extinction, predation, survival of the fittest and chance being the vehicle that created life, suppose, just suppose, that life on earth in all its beauty and stunning complexity and function was intentionally created by God as Scripture teaches: “Then God said, ‘Let . . . and it was so” (Genesis 1: 9, 11, 24).

Suppose that strawberries, cabbage, cucumbers, olives, oranges, blueberries, walnuts, apricot, grapes, peaches, kale, etc. instead of randomly mutating and naturally selecting (and what, pray tell, randomly mutated and naturally selected first (the strawberry, the strawberry plant, or the strawberry seeds?) into the beautiful, luscious, vitamin-saturated fruit that it is—suppose that it was created, seed, plant, fruit, at once, as God’s Word declares. “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food,’” (Genesis 1:29).

And suppose, just suppose, that humans were created (contra science), not in the image of a fish but, as the Genesis creation account says, “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27)?

But what about the “overwhelming scientific evidence” for evolution? What about it? The history of science festers with theories, pronouncements, and assumptions, buttressed by “overwhelming scientific evidence,” that today sound all but alchemical.  Even after a run of over 200 years, Newton’s theory of gravity—notice, I said “theory,” not the accurate predictions that it often makes (two completely different things)—didn’t survive Einstein in the early twentieth century. And if science got something so ever-present and pervasive as gravity wrong, and for so long too, we’re supposed to accept speculations about microscopic mutations that occurred supposedly millions of years out of our reach, and which result in such claims as breathing ears,1 whales with hind legs,2 and monkeys that sailed on rafts from Africa to South America?3

To this day, no agreement exists even on what constitutes a valid scientific explanation for a theory. We’re not talking about a specific scientific theory, such as evolution, but all scientific theories in general: what makes an explanation valid?  Debate continues.

One popular view is the Deductive-Nomological method (D-N).  Despite its foreboding name, it simply means that a scientific explanation involves an event that needs to be explained (the explanandum) and at least one physical law that does the explaining (the explanans). If the law (nomos) is true, the event must, logically (deductively), follow.  

For example, “the apple fell” is the explanandum (the event that needs explaining). The explanans (the law that explains) would be the “law of universal gravitation.” Sounds reasonable, though it is filled with holes, such as one proposed by Johns Hopkins’ Peter Achinstein.4 Anne ate pound of arsenic. Everyone who eats a pound of arsenic dies within 24 hours. Anne dies within 24 hours.  Only problem? Anne was killed by a bus three hours after eating the arsenic. All prerequisites for the D-N model were met, but the explanans, anyone who eat a pound of arsenic dies within 24 hours, didn’t explain her death, the explanandum.

Let’s assume this D-N model is used to justify evolution as the explanation for the strawberry and its seeds. Whatever steps people follow, with the explanans (the law) deducing an explanandum (the thing explained), and no matter how many levels down these people go (which I would guess would not be many), sooner or later all their valid justifications stop. They have to start making assumptions and accepting things on (a word they hate) “faith.”  

“For any theory,” wrote Martin Curd and J.A. Cover, “will eventually bottom out, having to posit some regularities as basic or primitive, without receiving any further explanation at a deeper level.”5 And, if the biblical account is correct, then somewhere science posited some outrageously erroneous “regularities.”

Again, for some, even among Adventists, the idea of God’s creative act is absurd. But suppose, just suppose that Genesis 1-2 was what really happened: six days, God speaks life into existence, Adam is created whole, Eve is taken from his side, and plants are formed with their seeds in them (how, possibly, else?). Suppose that the creation story, the foundational account upon which all biblical theology, especially the plan of salvation, rests—suppose it is true.  It means that science has gotten our origins wrong, radically so. In contrast, if billions of years of evolution are true, the Genesis creation account does nothing but deceive us.  (The painful attempts to harmonize Genesis and evolution are just that: painful).

Which is correct? At every meal, especially one with strawberries, the answer is obvious.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide. His latest book is Risen: Finding Hope in the Empty Tomb.

1 https://phys.org/news/2006-01-ancestors-ears.html." ‘It looks as if the first step in the evolution of the middle ear had nothing to do with hearing. Our forebears developed ears in order to breathe through them,’ says Professor Per Ahlberg.”

2 https://www.livescience.com/7564-early-whales-legs.html. “Early Whales Had Legs.”

3 https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/monkeys-raft-cross-atlantic-twice-180974637/   “More Than 30 Million Years Ago, Monkeys Rafted Across the Atlantic South America.” 

4 Peter Achinstein. Evidence, Explanation, and Realism: Essays in Philosophy of Science (pp. 30-31). Kindle Edition.

5 Curd, Martin and Cover, J.A., Eds. Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998). p. 1238.