Evolution And Christian Faith
By Phillip E. Johnson
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men (John 1:1-4).
Whenever I speak from the pulpit on creation and evolution, this is always my text. I start with the beginning of the gospel of John and not with the beginning of the book of Genesis. The reason that I have made this choice is that the first 14 verses of the gospel of John are really the Bible's most important teaching on creation. This is where we get the meaning of the doctrine of creation. If you start with Genesis you are immediately led into historical questions, questions of interpretation, and very complex scientific questions: are we talking about 24-hour days or is this symbolic of some different concept? Starting with Genesis gets you into very complex questions that are beyond the capacity of most people to answer. We have to talk about geology and physics and Biblical interpretation and a great many difficult subjects. In John we have the plain meaning of creation and its importance to our lives.
Another problem with starting with the book of Genesis is that many get the impression that the creation/evolution debate is only about the book of Genesis. After all, there are 65 other books in the Bible, so it cannot be that important a debate on that basis. However people settle that issue, we still have all the rest of the Bible with Jesus, sin, salvation, the cross, resurrection, and so on, so it does not really matter very much, does it? Well, that would be a big error, because the debate over creation and evolution is not just a debate about the historical details of Genesis. It is about every single one of those books of the Bible. It is about whether God is real or imaginary. That is what the debate is about. Is God real or imaginary? Did God create man or did man create God? This is the subject.
So we start with this fundamental truth, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with the God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." Notice "He" was with God in the beginning, not "it" was with God in the beginning. The Word is not merely a concept; it is a Being with intelligence and purpose, a Being who was with God and who was God.
I became a Christian in my late 30s. I was already an established senior professor at the University of California at Berkeley, a University which can lay claim to being the world's foremost scientific institution. This is where the atom was first split, this is where the atomic bomb was invented, this is the place that always claims to have more Nobel Prize winners than any other place-they claim that whether it is true or not. We are very, very proud of our scientific pre-eminence and heritage. So you might imagine that it is somewhat unusual to find a senior professor in this environment who becomes a Christian and a somewhat notorious one at times. I felt a little bit different at that university.
I go to a very fine church, the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, which is one of the evangelical congregations in a denomination that nationally is very troubled. It is really two different religions under one roof. A modernist liberal national hierarchy that is headquartered in Louisville and then quite a number of solidly evangelical congregations that are very much like the one to which I belong.
I would hear good Biblical teaching from the pulpit, very fine teaching. But then I would wonder, is this real? I would hear, "In the beginning was the Word." The church is right next door to the University of California at Berkeley, and I know what they are teaching over there. I know what the faculty believes. We have a sprinkling of faculty members in the congregation, but they are not typical of the University of California at Berkeley faculty. They are assuming something very, very different from this and yet here we are; we think we are part of the university community.
We have many students in the congregation. Our senior pastor is the pastor of the football team-there is always a football team. That is where you will find the Christians. We lost the universities, but we won the football teams! You can see that after every Sunday game. You know, "Jesus gave me what I needed to score that touchdown."
The professors were not talking about Jesus, and they were not talking about the Word. So to make clear what the difference was, what the creation doctrine of the university was, I wrote a little parody of the opening verses of the gospel of John. These are my satanic verses that contrast with what I have just read from John, "In the beginning were the particles and the impersonal laws of physics." Note "it," not "He." In the beginning were the particles, and the particles somehow became complex living stuff. That is a long story, which I have condensed considerably. That is evolution. The particles somehow became complex living stuff, and the stuff imagined God. That is the creation doctrine of the university.
Man created God; the stuff imagined God. Primitive people who had evolved from animals did not have science to tell them that, and so they projected this father figure in the sky and credited it with being their creator. And the stuff imaged God, but then discovered evolution. I will say it again, "In the beginning were the particles and the particles somehow became complex living stuff, and the stuff imaged God, but then discovered evolution." And this is the greatest discovery of all time, you see. It is the discovery that God is and always was an illusion. And it is called the death of God in philosophy. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, Charles Darwin supplied the murder weapon, and then everything that happened in the 20th century followed from this important discovery that God is the product of our own imagination.
Once you have learned these verses, I think you will never again be tempted to think that this is just some controversy that exists among scientists, that it is just a scientific theory, and that it just has to do with how you interpret those days of Genesis. Lots of people have made that mistake. They have said, "Well, if we just say the days are long periods of time we can make peace with science and religion. Evolution was God's way of creating, the lion lays down with the lamb, and we have no further problems." That is an illusion; that is a complete mistake. You see, the particle story is the opposite in every way to the Word story. If the particles created us, if the particles somehow became complex living stuff, then there is no such thing, for example, as sin. You cannot be out of a right relationship with the particles, because the laws do not care what you do. Your behavior is not their concern. They are not thinking about you because they are not thinking about anything. And if man created God, then what we need to know is that God is an illusion, and then we turn to a different priesthood to tell us how to live-the scientific priesthood.
So the particle story is what you could call a creation myth. It is a creation story. Every culture has a creation story, and every culture has a priesthood to interpret the story for them and give the people the information that they need. It is not just the people who are scientific leaders, but also their compatriots who write editorials for the New York Times telling us what to think. They are part of this new priesthood.
Now let's go on to the next verse, the fifth verse of the prologue to the gospel of John. "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." Now what is the light and what is the darkness? The most important thing about light is not that you can see it. You can see light. If you are lost in a dark cave and you see a light coming, that is awfully good news. You can see the light, and you can see a rescuer coming to get you out of that cave. But the most important thing about the light is not that you can see the light itself, but you can see everything else because of the light. The light illuminates everything else. If you get started in the right way in your thinking and you can see everything else, then you can understand everything; but if you are started in the wrong way, then you are shrouded in darkness.
The Gospel says that the light is the light of the Word. The light shines in the darkness, and so that is the starting point for all our knowledge. But that is not what they teach at the University of California, or even at many ostensibly Christian colleges. No, they are teaching that the particle story is the light. The Word story is the darkness of superstition, which is dispelled by the light of scientific knowledge that tells us our true creator is a mindless, purposeless evolutionary process that does not control us; we can control it. And that is the great promise of genetic engineering, and that is the great dream which comes out of the human genome-sequencing project. We, not you and me, but we, the people who control the science, can take under our control the very creative power of the universe, the process of evolution. Before this, evolution was an unguided, purposeless process. The particles are unthinking; they just become complex living stuff. But now the stuff that imagined God in the first place can become God because it can take under its control the very creative power of the universe, the process of evolution, and make better people, a new kind of people. Now that is a powerful dream of life, a powerful dream of scientific conquest.
What is the light and what is the darkness? As I sat in the congregation listening to that good Bible teaching, I wondered when they were going to get to explaining whether this is for real or not, or were we just pretending to believe this. The liberals in our church would know how to deal with this. They would say the Word story is religious truth, but not scientific truth. Well, what exactly is this religious truth? It is the opposite of scientific truth. As soon as you begin to hear something like that you know what is coming. The true truth is the scientific truth. The religious truth is the thing you pretend to believe on Sunday mornings, because it somehow makes you feel good, maybe it makes you better people, it works for you in some way. So it is true for you, but we would not teach it to young people as if it really happened. It is imaginary, and it follows from this that everything else in the doctrine is just imaginary. Jesus rose from the dead--oh, that is a pretty story. But, no, people do not get up from the grave after they are dead. This is an event that happened in the minds and imaginations of the disciples; they imagined Jesus coming back from the dead. And that is probably what is going to be taught in most mainline seminaries as well as secular universities.
Well, I could not leave it there. I wanted to know what the true truth was. I had the opportunity to begin exploring this subject during the academic year 1987-88 when my wife and I went to London, England, on a sabbatical. I told the university I was going to study insurance law, but somehow I never got around to it. It may have been a big mistake. I might have become rich enough to buy and sell the whole town if I had done that, but I was not fascinated with insurance law. I wanted insight into this question of how are we created. And the Lord arranged it, or you could say it was luck, if you want. As I went from my apartment to my office at University College in London every day, I went past London's leading scientific bookstore, and there in the window as if beckoning to me was book after book on the theory of evolution. As I picked up these books and started reading, I came to understand a lot of what I have just told you. This not simply a scientific theory we are talking about; it is a creation story. And as a creation story, it is the foundation of everything else.
For example, why is it thought to be unconstitutional to put up a copy of the Ten Commandments in a public school? It does not have anything to do with that document you can see in the National Archives Building called the Constitution of the United States. It does not have anything to do with the thinking of the framers of that document; that is not what they had in mind at all. The rule that it is unconstitutional to put up the Ten Commandments as if they were authoritative comes from modernist thinking; it comes from the particle story. If the particles somehow became complex living stuff, what becomes of God's commandments? Well, they are illusory, just as God Himself is, and so they have no authority. We are talking about the customs of an ancient Jewish tribe that has no authority over us and does not know as much as we do. They did not even know about evolution, so why should we listen to them? The Ten Commandments becomes obsolete, and we have to make up a morality for ourselves.
The time when the Darwinian creation story became the official policy of the cultural establishment in the United States was the 1950s, and by around 1960 this was all established. The reason why it became so established was that we had had two world wars. Science had won the wars with radar, sonar, code breaking, the atom bomb, etc. Science had become the pre-eminent weapon and the pre-eminent resource of society. In 1957, the Soviet Union did something that scared the scientific establishment and the government. They put up the first space satellite. There was a panic that the Soviets were going to surpass us in science and hence win the Cold War. The government went very enthusiastically into teaching the whole culture to think scientifically. That is when the government really started putting out textbooks and advising how they should be. The major part of their effort was that every schoolchild was to be taught the theory of evolution so they would think scientifically and look to science to solve our problems.
Darwin published his masterpiece, The Origin of Species, in 1859, and 1959 was the centennial year. There was a great scientific convention at the University of Chicago that year to announce the triumph of Darwinism triumph in the scientific world and triumph in the religious world as well. This was the new creation story. Since that time you can say that this has become the established religion of the country, established by the government with its priests paid out of your tax money.
Now what happens immediately after that? Marriage changes its nature. This is no coincidence. This is a logical development. We saw what happened to the Ten Commandments-Thou shalt not commit adultery. What happens to marriage? Previously marriage had been thought to be a divinely instituted sacrament, a holy thing which was established by God and which human beings were not free to alter as they like. For example, in the 19th century we had religious freedom in this country. When Utah joined the union nobody thought that the people of Utah would have to give up their Mormon religion. But they sure did have to give up the endorsement of polygamy, because a Biblical nation would not stand for that. They did, and that was the price for joining the union. That would probably not be exhorted today. If it were, it would be because of the feminist lobby being against polygamy and certainly not because of any holy institution.
Again, this is perfectly logical. Once God's authority becomes illusory, then marriage becomes just an agreement between two people. What else could it be? It is a contract, another branch of contract law. You can quit your job when you want to. You can get out of a lease for an apartment. You might have to pay damages, it might be expensive, but you can do it. And so, of course, that is true of marriage too. If you are a man, you can rent a room in your house to another man, you can sell your car to another man, so you can get married to another man too, can't you? Now that has not quite come to pass yet, but you can see the logic is headed in that direction. It will come to pass unless the logic changes, because that is the logical outcome regarding marriage as a contract. I have taught this entire subject to judges, and they say, "You mean there was a time when marriage was not thought to be just a contract?" That is how they have internalized this new understanding in just a few decades.
What is the light? What is the darkness? When you change your definition of what is light, you change a whole lot of other things too. And now I think you can also begin to see why it was a professor of law who took up this subject and redefined the controversy. It is not just a matter for biologists. In fact, when I started studying the theory of evolution, I quickly discovered that biologists are taught to take the theory for granted and never question it. To imagine a biologist questioning the theory of evolution is to imagine something that just about never happens, because they are taught that it would be bad thinking. If you are going to be a good biologist, you just assume the theory of evolution and work out the details, but you never question the basic truth of the doctrine.
Here is what I discovered as I saw what the theory of evolution was really about. There are two definitions of science in our culture-two definitions of science, not just one. The educational authorities will tell you that they are the same and there is no need to distinguish between them because they amount to the same thing. But they are not the same; they are really very different. If you understand the difference between the two definitions, you will understand what is wrong with the theory of evolution.
The first definition of science says that science is the business of making observations of nature with microscopes, telescopes, and mathematical calculations, doing experiments, and interpreting the results without prejudice. That is why science has to be independent of any governmental authority or religious authority. You cannot have a bishop saying you cannot make that observation; you cannot come to that conclusion because it violates our doctrine. Science has to be independent so it can be unprejudiced.
The second definition says that science is the business of giving explanations for everything that exists in terms of natural causes and natural causes only. Science assumes by definition that there is an explanation for every phenomenon in terms of natural causes. That is just a starting point, a definitional point. If you want to ask, "Can the particles become complex living stuff" or, to put it another way, "Can non-living chemicals swirling around in a chemical soup spontaneously combine to make a living organism?" the answer is it has never been seen to happen. There is no experimental evidence that it occurs. In fact, it was one of the triumphs of 19th century biology to show that spontaneous generation of life does not occur. When maggots appeared in rotting meat, it was because the eggs were there first. The maggots were not transformed meat, as people had thought in an earlier era. Nonetheless, can the particles spontaneously combine to form a simple living organism? Well, it had to have happened once. What is the proof of that? Living organisms exist. They could not exist if they could not come into existence, could they?
You might say, wait a minute; maybe God was necessary. The particles could not do it; you need God. "Oh," the answer comes, "you've changed the subject. I thought we were talking about science. Now you are bringing up religion. That's a different subject." And religion effectively means fantasy; it means your feelings. You can have that on Sunday morning, but during the week in the classroom and the laboratory where we are talking about what really happened, we rely on science. The conclusion that nonliving particles can become a living organism is actually against of the scientific evidence, but they believe it anyway because it has to be true due to the way that they define science. It is that way all the way up.
Can a single-celled organism like bacteria become a complex plant or animal? It has never been seen to happen, and there is no fossil record of a step-by-step transformation of that kind. Human beings have trillions of cells in their bodies. Well, you know the answer now. It had to have happened regardless of the evidence. Otherwise we would not have complex plants or animals, would we? We cannot have these things just popping out of the void. That would be a supernatural creation, a miracle. So we have to have this evolutionary process.
The evolutionary process has to be completely natural, because that is the way science is defined. Now do you see why there is no such thing as God-guided evolution? God-guided evolution is not evolution at all-it is slow creation. If you believe in God-guided evolution, you are just mixed up or you are a particular kind of creationist. A supernatural mind that was unevolved and guides the process from the beginning is the Word story. "In the beginning was the Word," the supernatural mind. Science disallows that by definition, the way science is defined in our culture. So what I discovered in short was that the biologists believe in the Darwinian theory of evolution, not because of what they know as biology, but because they are supposed to. That is how science is defined. There is a natural process that explains everything.
One of the world's most famous scientists, probably the most famous living biologist, is Sir Francis Crick, the British co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, a Nobel Prize winner who has won all the prizes. Crick is also a fervent atheistic materialist, who propounds the particle story. In his autobiography, Crick says very candidly biologists must remind themselves daily that what they study was not created, it evolved; it was not designed, it evolved. Why do they have to remind themselves of that? Because otherwise, the facts which are staring them in the face and trying to get their attention might break through. What we discovered when I developed a working group of scientists, philosophers, et al., in the United States was that living organisms look as if they were designed and they look that way because that is exactly what they are. That they look designed is not controversial. Richard Dawkins, another atheistic materialist and the world's most prominent proponent of Darwinism today, begins in his own masterpiece, The Blind Watchmaker, with the statement that biology is the study of extremely complex things that look as if they were designed by a creator for a purpose. It is the job of the biologist to show that this is not so, that it is an illusion and that they are really produced by the mindless, purposeless process of a Darwinian evolution.
The biological cell, the fundamental unit of biology, is not simple at all. It is a masterpiece of miniaturized complexity that makes a spaceship or a super computer look low-tech. It has a billion or so proteins going around doing different chemical jobs. You can analogize it to an entire city with the police and the fire departments, the energy supply, the hospitals all working in perfect harmony and coordinated by a mastermind. Now there the analogy to a large breaks down, doesn't it? But the cell is in fact coordinated by some kind of a master program. Richard Dawkins, that atheistic Darwinist, again concedes this. He says that to coordinate its activities, the cell must have a program with a digitally coded database larger than all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together. Isn't it wonderful what natural selection can do? But of course if you ask not what natural selection can do in the imagination, but what it has been seen doing in nature, you find that it has never been seen creating anything, let alone writing volumes of an encyclopedia.
All that natural selection has ever been seen to do in nature is to effect certain changes in population shifts. If you spray a mosquito population with DDT, the DDT resistant mosquitoes are the ones that are going to survive.
Eventually the whole mosquito population is DDT resistant, and DDT does not work very well anymore. The same thing occurs with bacteria and penicillin. Penicillin does not work very well anymore because the surviving bacteria are resistant to it. This is not creating something new. This is not bacteria in the process of becoming alligators. Bacteria have been shifting and changing like this as long as there have been bacteria. But they are still bacteria and they are never going to be anything else. This is all that natural selection has ever been shown to do. So the Darwinian thought is, because natural selection is the only thing we know that can make any change at all, it must be responsible for doing all the creating. Because if it were not, the alternative would be-well, we do not even want to think about that. The purpose of the whole thing is keeping God out of reality.
Now the Light was coming into the world.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.... The true Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:5, 9-10).
The Light came into the world, but It was rejected. Now why is there this pattern of rejection? Why is it that people, often the most intelligent ones, often the professors, often the ones with the highest IQs and the most learning, are rejecting the creator? This is also explained in the Scriptures.
From the gospel of John, I go to the second Scripture that I teach from, another familiar one, Romans 1:18-23. Here is the light shining in the darkness and illuminating why people are rejecting the true Creator. Romans 1:20 says,
"For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities-His eternal power, and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so men are without excuse."
That is what Francis Crick said. Biologists have to remind themselves every day that what they see was not designed; it evolved. In his autobiography, Crick says very candidly biologists must remind themselves daily that what they study was not created, it evolved; it was not designed, it evolved Why do they have to, remind themselves of that? He is acknowledging the truth of this, which is to say that if they just left themselves free to observe what is there, they would think it was designed and they would see God's invisible qualities, his eternal power, and divine nature reflected in the things which have been created. So they are without excuse,
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:21).
And that is what I discovered, by the way, in my life as a senior professor at one of the world's foremost universities. I was writing papers and creating academic product, but I was not really learning anything. I was confusing the light for the darkness, and I was in that cave of darkness until I recognized the light for what it was. "Although they claimed to be wise," and we sure did claim that, "they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:23). Now what this is describing in one word is the process of idolatry, and idolatry is worshiping the created thing rather than the Creator. You turn the created thing into the creator; the particles somehow became complex living stuff. So you are worshiping the forces of nature represented by idols, and the naturalistic theory of evolution. The theory that nature did its own creating is just our century's fashion in idolatry. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.
Now you see where we have come. We started with "In the beginning was the Word," and we asked is that true, is it real, is it the true truth or just some kind of religious feeling? No, it is the true truth. It is just as true scientifically as it is Scripturally, and it is the light because it illuminates everything else. Now we understand what has happened to the morality of the country. When you repudiate God's power and authority, you repudiate God's rules. They become mere human rules, which you can change, and you do change them because they are inconvenient. We understand that. We understand how living things really have to be understood. Even the biologists who are formally materialists know this in their hearts. When they study the DNA and the activities of the cell, they talk about the information that is coded in the DNA, in the nucleotide chemical language. This is a four-letter chemical language, which is translated by messenger RNA to the 24-letter language of the proteins where the instructions go out to the body. All that is the language of Intelligent Design. But then if you remind them of that, they will go into denial--oh, that is just a figure of speech.
It is really only chemistry. One of the most famous biologists said the mind is only chemistry. He cannot understand why people do not understand that the mind is only chemistry. So I wrote to Professor Kornberg, a distinguished professor at Stanford, and said I can explain this to you. The reason people do not understand that the mind is only chemistry is that they have a chemical in their brains that causes them to make this error, whereas you have a different chemical in your brain, which causes you to believe that the mind is only chemistry.
We see now we have gotten to the Light that "was coming into the world" (John 1:9). It is the true Light. It is true scientifically as well as Scripturally. It is denied because of the power of sin, because of the desire to evade the true Creator. Once we are at this point we are now into the whole Biblical thinking system. Why are we in the wrong relationship with God and what can we do about it? Is there an answer?
And then we get to the final Scripture, Jesus' question to his disciples in Mark 8. "Who do people say I am?" and "Who do you say I am?" (vv 27, 28). At this point that becomes a very interesting question. Who is the Savior? Who is Jesus? Before we had gotten to this point, it was not an interesting question. Who was Jesus? He's an old teacher from long ago-what's the importance for today?
It is only when we have gotten to the doctrine of creation and to the sin problem--which causes people to deny creation--that we get to that final question. "Who do men say that I am and who do you say that I am?" That is the question we have to take out into the culture and explain to people why it is so important. Why it is the Light that illuminates the darkness in that cave and then enables people to see everything else and find their way out.
"here we have proof of cognitive dissonance in the most educated of people in the world" Why ?? could it perhaps be because of :
Following are the beginning paragraphs and other sentences from pages 1, 2, 3 of Reuchlin's book:
"In the middle of the first century of the present era, Rome's aristocracy felt itself confronted with a growing problem. The Jewish religion was continuing to grow in numbers, adding ever more proselytes. Jews numbered more than 8,000,000, and were 10% of the population of the empire ...Repeatedy, religious-minded Judaean zealots were staging insurrections against the Herodian rulers of Judaea who were Piso's wife's relations. ...The Pisos searched for a solution to the two problems. They found it in the Jewish holy books, which were the foundation both for the rapid spread of the religion and for the zealots' refusal to be governed by Rome's puppets. The Pisos mocked, but marveled at, the Jewish belief in their holy books. Therefore, they felt a new "Jewish" book would be the ideal method to pacify the Judaeans and strenghten their inlaws' control of the country.
"The Jesus figure which Piso creates is a composite. ...Piso plagiarized the Hebrew scriptures.
"In addition to creating Jesus in literature, Piso created for himself another famous literary role, that of a purported Jewish general and then historian: Flavious Josephus. ...Piso is known publicly in history only under his pen name of Flavious Josepus. He does not appear as Arius Calpurnius Piso"