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Faith and Science, Falsely So-Called

Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Comments (13)

The apostle Paul closed his first epistle to Timothy by urging the young pastor to guard the deposit of truth that had been entrusted to him, “avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). In the King James Version, the text famously speaks of “science falsely so called."

Over the course of human history, all kinds of speculative ideas have been falsely labeled “science” and mistakenly accepted as true and reliable knowledge by otherwise brilliant people. The now-discredited dogmas of older scientific theories are numerous—and in some cases laughable. They include alchemy (the medieval belief that other base metals could be transmuted into gold); phrenology (the Victorian belief that the shape of one’s skull reflects character traits and mental capacity); astrology (the pagan belief that human destiny is determined by the motions of celestial bodies); and abiogenesis (the long-standing belief that living organisms are spontaneously generated by decaying organic substances). All those false beliefs were deemed credible as “science” by the leading minds of their times.

Consider just one of those—abiogenesis. Popularly known as “spontaneous generation,” this idea has long been, and continues to be, one of the archetypal expressions of “science falsely so called.” It is also one of the most persistent of all demonstrably pseudoscientific fictions. The notion that aphids arise naturally from dew on plant leaves, mold is generated automatically by aging bread, and maggots are spontaneously begotten by rotting meat was more or less deemed self-evident by most of humanity’s brightest intellects (such as Alexander Ross; see below) from the time of Aristotle until 1861, when Louis Pasteur conclusively proved that non-living matter cannot spawn life on its own.

[Note: Alexander Ross, an early seventeenth-century Scottish writer and intellectual, harshly criticized Sir Thomas Browne for questioning the dogma of spontaneous generation. Under the heading “Mice and other vermin bred of putrefaction, even in mens bodies,” he wrote: “He doubts whether mice can be procreated of putrefaction. So he may doubt whether in cheese and timber worms are generated; Or if Betels and wasps in cowes dung; Or if butterflies, locusts, grasshoppers, shel-fish, snails, eeles, and such like, be procreated of putrefied matter, which is apt to receive the form of that creature to which it is by the formative power disposed. To question this, is to question Reason, Sense, and Experience: If he doubts of this, let him go to Egypt, and there he will finde the fields swarming with mice begot of the mud of [the Nile].” Arcana Microcosmi, (London: Newcomb, 1652), book 2, chapter 10, 156.]

It is one of the great ironies of scientific history that the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published exactly two years before Pasteur’s famous experiments proved that life cannot arise spontaneously from non-living matter. The publication of Darwin’s book marked the apotheosis of evolutionary theory, and it was rooted in the basic presupposition that under the right circumstances, life can spring on its own from non-living matter. In other words, two years before abiogenesis was scientifically debunked, it was in effect canonized as the central dogma of modern secular belief about the origins of life. The discovery that fleas don’t magically form out of decomposing dander on the backs of dirty dogs did not dissuade most in the scientific world from embracing the theory that all life in the universe arose by itself out of nothing. The belief that life spontaneously came from non-life remains to this day the great unexplained (albeit easily disprovable) assumption underlying the dogma of evolution.

The irony of that is utterly lost on many in the scientific community today, where evolution has become an article of faith—unshakable faith, it turns out.

Evolutionists have conveniently “solved” the problem of abiogenesis by repeatedly moving their estimates of the earth’s age backward toward infinity. Given enough time, it seems, anything is possible. Trying desperately to keep the biblical concept of eternity at bay, evolutionists have thus devised an alternative kind of infinitude. Every time a challenge to current evolutionary theory arises, geologists and astronomers dutifully tack billions and billions of eons onto their theories about the earth’s age, adding however many ancient epochs are deemed necessary for some new impossibility to be explained.

In the introduction to my 2001 book, The Battle for the Beginning, I suggested naturalism had become the dominant religion of contemporary secular society. “Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism,” I wrote. “The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—a rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well” (The Battle for the Beginning, Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001, p. 11).

Here, then, is a classic example of what I was talking about: the typical evolutionist’s starting point is this notion that life arose spontaneously from inanimate matter sometime in eternity past. That requires not merely the willful suspension of what we know for certain about the origins of life and the impossibility of abiogenesis—but also enough deliberate gullibility to believe that moving-target estimates of the earth’s antiquity can sufficiently answer all the problems and contradictions sheer naturalism poses.

Meanwhile, in the popular media, evolutionary doctrine and ever-expanding notions of prehistory are being promoted with all the pious zeal of the latest religious sect. Watch the Internet forums, programs on the Discovery Channel, interviews and articles published in the mass media, school textbooks, and books aimed at lay readers—and what you will usually see is raw assertions, demagoguery, intimidation, and ridicule (especially when the subjects of biblical theism and the Genesis account of creation are raised).

But question the dogma that all life evolved from a single spontaneously-generated cell, point out that the universe is full of evidence for intelligent design, or demand the kind of proof for evolutionary origins that would ordinarily pass scientific muster, and the ardent evolutionist will simply dismiss you as a heretic or a bigot of the worst stripe. What they are tacitly acknowledging is that as far as they are concerned, evolution is a doctrine that must be received with implicit faith, not something that can be scientifically demonstrated. After all, the claims of true science can always be investigated, observed, reproduced, tested, and proved in the laboratory. So to insist that evolution and so-called “deep time” doctrines must be accepted without question is really just a tacit admission that these are not scientific ideas at all.

Consider these quotations from typical evolutionist writers:

  • No biologist today would think of submitting a paper entitled “New evidence for evolution;” it simply has not been an issue for a century. (Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology, 2nd ed., Boston: Sinauer Associates, 1986, p. 15)
  • It is time for students of the evolutionary process, especially those who have been misquoted and used by the creationists, to state clearly that evolution is a fact, not theory. . . . All present forms of life arose from ancestral forms that were different. Birds arose from nonbirds and humans from nonhumans. No person who pretends to any understanding of the natural world can deny these facts. (R. C. Lewontin, “Evolution/creation debate: A time for truth,” Bioscience (1981), 31:559)
  • Here is what separates real scientists from the pseudoscientists of the school of intelligent design. . . . One thing all real scientists agree upon is the fact of evolution itself. It is a fact that we are cousins of gorillas, kangaroos, starfish, and bacteria. Evolution is as much a fact as the heat of the sun. It is not a theory, and for pity’s sake, let’s stop confusing the philosophically naive by calling it so. Evolution is a fact. (Richard Dawkins, “The Illusion of Design,” Natural History (November 2005), 53)

But as those statements themselves show, evolution is a dogma, not a demonstrable “fact.” I stand by the position I took in The Battle for the Beginning: “Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. [It is] as much a religion as any theistic world-view” (The Battle for the Beginning, p. 12).

I’ll go even further: science cannot speak with any authority about when the universe began, how it came into being, or how life originated on earth. Science by definition deals with what can be observed, tested, measured, and investigated by empirical means. Scientific data by definition are facts that can be demonstrated by controlled, repeatable experiments that always yield consistent results. The beginning of the universe by its very nature falls outside the realm of scientific investigation.

To state the case plainly: there is no scientific way to explain creation. No one but God actually observed creation. It did not happen by any uniform, predictable, observable, repeatable, fixed, or natural laws. It was not a natural event or a series of natural events. The initial creation of matter was an instantaneous, monumental, inexplicable miracle—the exact opposite of a “natural” phenomenon. And the formation of the universe was a brief series of supernatural events that simply cannot be studied or explained by science. There are no natural processes involved in creation; the act of creation cannot be repeated; it cannot be tested; and therefore naturalistic theories purporting to explain the origin and age of the universe are unverifiable.

In other words, creation is a theological issue, not a scientific one. Scripture is our only credible source of information about creation, because God Himself was the only eyewitness to the event. We can either believe what He says or reject it. But no Christian should ever imagine that what we believe about the origin of the universe is merely a secondary, nonessential, or incidental matter. It is, after all, the very starting point of God’s self-revelation.

In fact, in its profound brevity, Genesis 1:1 is a very simple, clear, and unequivocal account of how the universe, the earth, and everything on the earth came to be: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is not an ambiguous statement. Until Darwinian evolution undertook a campaign to co-opt the story of creation and bring it into the realm of naturalistic “science”—and especially before modernist skepticism began to seep into the church—no one who claimed to be a Christian was the least bit confused by the Genesis account.

Christians should not be intimidated by dogmatic naturalism. We do not need to invent a new interpretation of Genesis every time some geologist or astronomer declares that the universe must be older than he previously thought. Nor should we imagine that legitimate science poses any threat to the truth of Scripture. Above all, we must not seek ways to circumvent the clear meaning of God’s Word, compromise our trust in the Creator, or continually yield ground to every new theory of falsely-so-called science. That is precisely what Paul was warning Timothy about.

Sadly, it seems evolutionary thinking and qualms about the Genesis account of creation have reached epidemic levels among professing Christians in recent decades. Too many Christian leaders, evangelical schools, and Bible commentators have been willing to set aside the biblical account of a relatively young earth in order to accommodate the ever-changing estimates of naturalistic geologists and astronomers. They have thrown away sound hermeneutical principles—at least in the early chapters of Genesis—to accommodate the latest theories of evolution.

When I encounter people who think evolutionary doctrine trumps the biblical account of creation, I like to ask them where their belief in the Bible kicks in. Is it in chapter 3, where the fall of Adam and original sin are accounted for? In chapters 4-5, where early human history is chronicled? In chapters 6-8, with the record of the flood? In chapter 11, with the Tower of Babel? Because if you bring naturalism and its presuppositions to the early chapters of Genesis, it is just a short step to denying all the miracles of Scripture—including the resurrection of Christ. If we want to make science the test of biblical truth rather than vice versa, why would it not make just as much sense to question the biblical record of the resurrection as it does to reject the Genesis account? But “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! . . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).


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#1  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Thursday, May 13, 2010at 8:11 PM

Off topic I realize, but driving home today I caught the "Bible Answer Man" broadcast. I hadn't listened to Hank in a long time...anyway, he seems to have gone full speed into old earth theistic evolution...perhaps I am wrong, but he had a guest on talking about the Cambrian explosion and how life forms found in that layer of the geologic column were fully developed, etc. All well and good, but the point was that life had changed over time from then until now, implying millions of years of progress to get from then until now...Hank was also talking about understanding the Bible by looking at the "book of nature". Well, I have thought that in the past as well, but we must be careful and look through the lens of revelation from God's word, not just scientific investigation.

Has anyone heard or know this about Hank Hannegraaf?

#2  Posted by Chris Schwenk  |  Thursday, May 13, 2010at 9:35 PM

It wouldn't surprise me. Hank is a Preterist; if he can't understand the end of Scripture, then I'm not surprised that he has the beginning confused as well.

#3  Posted by El Amigo De La Playa  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 4:13 AM

Very good article !

We need more of that !

Now that Hovind is in jail, I am glad JM is talking loud and clear on the Creation issue.

I wish Mark Driscoll would read that article, pray over it and repent from his old earth views.

Anyway God bless you all from a very nice part of our created Young Earth (the Dominican Republic)

#4  Posted by John Adams  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 4:57 AM

As part of Answers in Genesis's list of bad arguments/common misconceptions/misunderstandings - http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/topic/arguments-we-dont-use - they include

"The phrase “science falsely so called” in 1 Timothy 6:20 (KJV) refers to evolution."

Things such as alchemy, phrenology etc, were never rigorously tested scientific theories and have no comparison to modern science. It wasn't a case of millions of well-trained people all simultaneously misinterpreting the data, it was just that they didn't have any data to work with and so reached erroneous conclusions. They weren't using science to find out how the natural world works, they were relying to a large extent on 'intuition', historical traditions and what they thought sacred texts taught. As soon as the scientific data started to come in to indicate that these views were wrong, they were eventually abandonded (although still not quite - http://www.geocentricity.com/).

#5  Posted by Lois Dimitre  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 5:05 AM

Quick comment this morning, pressed for time. Mark, I agree with Chris Schwenk comments re: Hank as a Preterist. Plus, as you mentioned Mark, Hank has adopted a full-court press towards theistic evolution in the last several years.

Additionally, this "book of nature" is something Hugh Ross promotes, claiming it is the 67th book of the Bible, so to speak. The second way God has revealed Himself to us. As you know, Ross is a 'progressive creationist'.

#6  Posted by Jason Jacobs  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 7:12 AM

Hank seemed to reject any form of evolution as late as 2006:

http://equip.org/articles/can-we-be-certain-that-evolution-is-a-myth-

I wonder if his position on the matter has evolved . . . or devolved?

#7  Posted by Paul Tucker  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 8:54 AM

Hi Folks: It seems to me that people are still worried about what others think their level of intelligence is. As soon at a person's character is attacked and they are represented as fools because they are not "scientific" (by this they mean Evolutionist), they run for cover. I understand it, I don't agree with it, but I understand that folks want to be perceived as intelligent. (My own bane for years)

People who want to be thought of as intelligent will often go to great lengths to cover their own feeling of inadequacy. They may even agree with things they do not believe or have been taught. I had an Aunt who felt her memory may have been effected (and hence her intelligence) in some way by her husband who died from Alzheimer's. And she went to great lengths to show that she had not been effected by that disease. (She did not need to because she was always brilliant, but she "felt" that need. She died at 96 with memory intact.) Satan uses this "feeling" very effectively against us, so we must be humble enough to know where our "knowledge" fails and where reality is beyond our ability to comprehend. We often think we know more then we really do. My challenge is to be child enough to ask God for wisdom, (because I know that He is, and is a rewarder of them that seek him), and humble enough to say "I don't know and I'm just not that smart (to be able to see things that I have no evidence of and refute "known" error in love. Wisdom is, after all, known of her children). I don't know about you-all, but when I see the wonder of creation and it's complexity and diversity it awes me. I know that there is no force in this universe that could have brought it about by chance.

#8  Posted by Mark A Smith  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 9:07 AM

To be clear, probably Hank is thinking more along the lines of "progressive creationism" than theistic evolution...but it seems to me to be a horse of a different color...

#9  Posted by Jc 4 Truth  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 12:09 PM

This is off topic, but I believe I may have encountered a cousin to the slippery slope of discounting the Genesis account of creation in a "Christian" arena while in Hong Kong recently. It was during a trip to the Noah's Ark museum. There were topics on Genesis with different species. I was a bit tired and can't remember to a fault, but seem to remember there was no definitive statement of a young earth and just speculative statements that left things up for ones own thinking of young and old as they showed rocks and other things.

That being said, they did an excellent job on describing Noahs Ark and man's wickedness that resulted in God sending the rains. The slippery slope cousin from above I do remember is that I liked the Noah's Ark presentation, but left very disappointed. At the end they gave a politically correct social gospel of kumbaya about the "falsely so-called" pseudoscience and sister of evolution - global warming. They put on a big environmental propaganda piece about global warming and how man needs to be in "harmony" with the earth and each other... but can't recall ever seeing the only way to peace - which is through repentence and coming to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Sorry for the pun, but they really missed the boat on that one especially considering they probably had peoples attention.

#10  Posted by Garrett League  |  Friday, May 14, 2010at 12:32 PM

This post, oye, lots of issues with it. Maybe I'll address some later.

#5 Lois: "Additionally, this "book of nature" is something Hugh Ross promotes, claiming it is the 67th book of the Bible, so to speak. The second way God has revealed Himself to us."

Actually, the "book of nature" is something the Belgic confession (and Paul in Romans 1) promotes (See "Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God" here http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/BelgicConfession.html). Saying it's the "67th book of the Bible" is, admittedly, a bit creepy, and J.Mac. does some good correcting of that in "The Battle for the Beginning." But nevertheless, the two books notion runs deep in the Reformed tradition, and it need not compromise the authority of scripture. All it says is just what Francis Schaeffer said: when all is know about science and scripture, there can be no final conflict. General and special revelation are, at bottom, harmonious in every way since they are both, at bottom, revealed by the same God, though clearly not on equally perspicuous footing (special revelation is superior because of its clarity on issues not revealed in nature, like matters pertaining to salvation).

#11  Posted by Lois Dimitre  |  Saturday, May 15, 2010at 2:53 PM

Garrett,

Your use of a puerile description - "a bit creepy" - for Ross' (and others') view of nature as the "67th book of the Bible" is telling.

This particular view is not the same as that of general (natural) revelation (Romans 1: 19,20), as progressive creationists like to suggest. It is not the same as what the Belgic Confession "promotes". It is not harmonious with "special revelation" in the manner presented by adherents of this view. It is indeed a "compromise of authority of scripture", your explanations and understanding of such as presented in your post notwithstanding.

~ICR 'Acts & Facts', Vol. 32, No. 6, ICR June 2003

http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/af/af0306.pdf

The 67th Book of the Bible? The Slippery Slope of Progressive Creationism

by Mark D. Rasche

#12  Posted by Carol Gayheart  |  Sunday, May 16, 2010at 2:42 PM

Today’s guest minister’s sermon mentioned MIRACULOUS CREATION (something out of nothing) and MIRACULOUS PROVIDENCE (preparation beforehand).

He spoke of the earthquake which broke open the doors & bonds which held the prisoners including Paul & Silas after they had been praying & singing. (Acts 16:26) He called this a miracle of providence. On the way home, I discussed this with my husband. He said it “could have been” a frequency which caused the iron to give way (like a certain frequency shatters glass.) OK. That is a naturalistic/providential explanation for how that happened. So I said, “Then explain to me how only the 1st born of all of Egypt (including livestock) was killed during the 10th plague on Egypt?” Garrett, there’s one for you! I don’t believe that can be explained providentially. So, I will accept that there are miracles of providence (also mentioned was the 3 ½ year drought brought on by Elijah’s prayer/God acted through natural means.) But the plague which distinguished only the 1st born of Egypt must have stumped even Pharoah’s magicians. This is not found in the first 3 chapters of Genesis (which have been argued against being taken literally), but in Ex 12:29-32. So can we take it literally? If so, how do you explain the miracle? It is certainly an act of judgment by God.

Now I believe the judgment God gave in Gen 3:23-24 (setting an angel with a flaming sword at the entrance to the garden) was MIRACULOUS & not explainable by naturalistic means, while the judgment/curse He proclaimed against the serpent, the woman, & the man in Gen 3:14-19 was an act using PROVIDENCE, so I can see both used in Genesis 3, but providence used for CREATION (Gen 1), NO! The only providence I see in Gen 1 is that God created the sun before vegetation, thus providing for the needed photosynthesis, & God provided vegetation before the animals & man, thus providing a food source for them. That order of creation may be seen as providential, but the actual creation itself was totally miraculous, unexplainable naturalistically. “God said…” That’s enough for me! :)

#13  Posted by Shauna Bryant  |  Tuesday, May 18, 2010at 8:19 AM

*Shauna Bryant*

I remember watching a special (either Discovery or History channel I believe) in which they dealt with 'natural' explanations for the miracles in the Bible - including the exodus from Egypt and the fire coming down from heaven. They presented natural explanations for them all. From the river turning to blood (the fish got sick and died), the frogs(population explosion from aberrant weather patterns-that darn Global Warming keeps popping up!), the death of the firstborn (he ate more they say!), the parting of the sea (a tsunami in the exact right spot at the exact right time....yeah.) Even the 'properties' of the ark (magnetic metals, radiation, electromagnetic properties that seemed to make it float, etc) In discussing this program with another person (an unbeliever) I asked them to explain then, the order and manner in which these 'natural coincidence' events took place to confirm the Word of God. God may after all, use His own Creation to enact His miraculous Providence. The response was that the events naturally happened and 'the ancients' wove a colorful story around them to 'prove' their own God. Evidence to unbelievers will not matter - they will always talk around it. That's why we believe by faith. As Carol wrote "God said..." and that's enough for me too.

In fact, as I had the above conversation it occurred to me that it was much easier to believe and see the providential acts of God, then to try and explain them all away........"in order".......as "natural chance".

To me, that is so much more than just 'not believing', that is flat out rejecting. Knowingly turning one's back on God. May the man who hardens his heart towards God, realize his lost state and repent, because when man has hardened his heart towards God for the final time...God cements it (as in Pharaoh's case).

The created (and that includes science because God created it) will never be able to explain the Creator.

Romans 11:33-36 "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."