Ross Olson's Second Response Dr. Allan Harvey
For Dr. Harvey's original article click HERE
For a critique by Ross Olson click HERE
For Dr. Harvey's response to that critique click HERE
This is Ross Olson's Second Response.
Dear Dr. Harvey,
Thank you for your response and for giving me some ideas to grapple with. You mention unpleasant responses you have had to your article and therefore appreciate civil interactions all the more. I, too, have had some nasty respondents. But, I have always felt that this is because, some people, when arguing a weak point, pound the table more intensely, and when in doubt, they shout.
I am glad that you admitted that you do not expect the sort of complexity seen in encyclopedias or genomes to arise spontaneously. What I ask is that when dealing with evolution or origin of life questions, after stating that you do not believe the second law to forbid those processes, you state clearly that there are other powerful arguments against the spontaneous generation of that sort of information. That way it is clear that you are not just trying to take on protective coloration in the presence of a scientific community hostile to any questioning of naturalism.
You take issue with my contention that naturalistic abiogenesis is "essentially impossible." You go on to say that basically no one is qualified to make that determination. Let me put it this way. We have two competing hypotheses, the natural and the supernatural, self-organization or creation, the universe that makes itself (or is eternally existent) or one that requires outside explanation, intelligent design or the illusion of design. Right now which hypothesis is supported by the weight of the evidence?
Clearly there is far too weak a case supporting the naturalistic origin to allow one to bet the farm (or one's soul) on it. Yet I have never met an evolutionist who frankly admits the fact that, so far, the other side is winning. Now, of course, any person can hold out the hope that new evidence will dramatically change the picture, just as O.J. Simpson holds out hope that "the real killer" will be found. But just as I am sure that O.J. really knows who the killer is, I suspect that deep down inside, many hard-core evolutionists really know the answer. The problem is not the evidence, it is the implications.
You have no theological qualms about saying that the evidence so far supports a supernatural origin of life. Why not just say that? I sincerely ask you to consider it - and not just react or become defensive. Some time ago I wrote an article entitled "Peer Pressure and Truth" http://rossolson.org/creation/peer_pressure.html, concerning a Christianity Today series on origins. There is a big difference between wanting Christians to use the most powerful apologetic and desiring to maintain academic respectability at all costs. But in practice, our motivations are always mixed and difficult for us to sort out. As Solomon wrote, the heart is deceitful.
But even if no human being is able to make the determination that abiogenesis is impossible, then certainly God is able. Your contesting of the meaning of Romans chapter one contains a mixture of truth, irrelevancy and misconception. What it clearly says is that the existence of God and key facts about His nature are so plain from what He has made that those who do not acknowledge Him are without excuse. It may be true in some cases that "if you cannot see Him in a sunrise, you won't see Him in cellular chemistry." But there are hard-minded individuals who needed the proof and when they got it, believed. This includes Moses, Gideon, Hezekiah, Thomas and Paul, among others. Those not responding to good evidence include Pharaoh, Jezebel and the Pharisees, the latter most surprising because they were looking for the Messiah.
But the point is, the passage does not say it is plain only to the uneducated, but that it is plain to all. Perhaps an evolutionary bias clouds your judgment here, thinking of the ancients as primitive. Please remember the sophistication of the Greeks and that although they did not have electron microscopes and DNA probes, they had looked very carefully and insightfully at the world around them.
I think the Holy Spirit here is talking in this chapter directly to the church at Rome but simultaneously to all people of all times. If God is plain to the simpleminded but not to the sophisticated, then the charges of the atheist are true in spades. But no, God has made Himself obvious to those whose hearts are humble whether they be at the top or the bottom of the intellectual spectrum. We do not find Him by intellect but also do not outgrow him by education. The rejection of God by the learned is a result of pride.
You continue to insist that there is no significant difference between the information entropy change going from zero to one or two human beings and going from 2 to 6,000,000,000. (Remember that God made man first and then copied, leaving out the Y chromosome, to make woman - let's leave all those issues alone since we are both guys.) Now, maybe you would rather retreat behind your energy calculations, but I ask you to admit that on other grounds there is a powerful difference between the two scenarios. And since you mentioned this as support for your claim that if it took a miracle to make the first person, God must be miraculously intervening each time a new person is born (make that conceived), then my point is very pertinent.
I recently was given a set of sermon tapes recorded in 1981 by my uncle, who was a personal friend of many prominent Israeli figures including Menachem Begin. He gave a series of talks to pastors on the place of Israel in Scripture, history and prophecy. Since he is now over 90 years old, these are family treasures and many relatives want copies. I am putting the originals in our cassette dubbing unit and taking the copies out the other side. It is easy and takes no intelligent input other than pushing the right buttons. In contrast, it must have required hundreds of hours of preparation plus a lifetime of experience to produce the original five one hour talks. The forces needed to play or duplicate the tapes have no relationship to the intelligence needed to create the sermons.
I belabor the point because you seem to be trapped in one mode of thinking. Creating and copying those tapes is exactly like the creation of self-reproducing people who then go on to self-reproduce. Call it something other than thermodynamics if you will, but it is a real and demonstrable phenomenon and I could allow all sorts of natural forces to act on those blank tapes and never find them creating sermons, even though now and then there might be some static that sounds like a word.
The whole issue of death before sin is very large and I will not attempt to be comprehensive, but only to offer comments to your talking points. You state that "There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that plants and (non-human) animals did not die before the Fall." As far as I can see, the evidence is indirect, but you have missed a few points that need to be considered.
For one, God did not create carnivores. It is clearly stated in Genesis 1:29, 30 that animals ate fruit, leaves and seeds. Now there have been questions about why God created the tooth structure of animals that are now carnivores, but remember that Pandas are exclusive herbivores and black bears are primarily plant eaters. There are some details we are not given, for example where God got the animal skins that He gave Adam and Eve after they sinned or how Cain should have known that Abel's sacrifice was more acceptable to God. But there was apparently an animal sacrifice involved and its significance was made known to the human family. And certainly the first human death was taken very seriously by God when Cain murdered his brother.
The soil was cursed and the plants said to produce thorns as part of the curse. And it is said that the whole creation groans in travail, indicating that animals were affected by human sin. The fact that Adam and Eve did not have a cardiac arrest the very moment they sinned (unlike Annanias and Saphira) is something to think about but seems to indicate that they only began dying. Yes, they did experience separation from God, but I also think that they started the process of physical degeneration that now affects us all. This was apparently intended to be prevented by the fruit of the tree of life from which they were then separated.
I am most concerned, however, about your attempts to equate my statement of evolution being a cruel and wasteful way of creating and the idea that God is lavish and operates out of a great abundance. This is either gross misunderstanding of what evolution really means, or is disguising a strange view of God's nature. God is not wasteful of his people or even His non-human creatures. He keeps track of every sparrow's fall. God sent Jesus to take our punishment, He does not require that we perform human sacrifices to appease him. He gives lavishly. He does not take lavishly.
And yes, God does use the still small voice and the unexpected weak vessel to accomplish His will. That is not contested. But He is not obligated to do so. In the Exodus, on Mount Carmel and in Christ's resurrection, He pulled out the stops. And as history draws to a conclusion, Scripture indicates that He will be doing some very spectacular interventions.
The incarnation is actually a wonderful example, God in His wisdom chose an unlikely couple and tenderly arranged all the circumstances to bring His Son into human flesh. It was not wasteful or cruel although the holy couple suffered in many ways. Cruel and wasteful would have been having a thousand candidates engaged in competition to the death and Christ inhabiting the survivor. Wasteful was Herod (who was working for the other side as you recall) killing the baby boys and even setting the age high enough that his soldiers would be certain to include the young king.
Your thoughts on God of the Gaps, including the article "What Does God of the Gaps Mean?" (http://members.aol.com/steamdoc/writings/gaps.html) are interesting but miss the crucial points. You state that "God of the Gaps - 1" is simply postulating an act of God as the cause of an unexplained phenomenon in nature. You state that this is legitimate but has a track record of failure and tends to slide into "God of the Gaps - 2" which you define in several ways but in the end seem to favor it as the position that could be stated as "God ONLY in the Gaps." In other words, this would be the view that if we closed all the gaps, God would be effectively disproved.
Firstly, I do not know any Christian thinker who espouses what you call "God of the Gaps - 2." Can you find some quotes? I know some atheists who think they can defeat Christianity by closing all the gaps - which they then fail to do, by the way. Are you getting these ideas by putting too much stock what the atheists say about Creationists?
The Bible indicates that God created the natural world with all its ingenious mechanisms for the good of his creatures - "it rains on the just and the unjust." But He also chooses to intervene in ways that will demonstrate His power and give credit to his messengers. For example, in the Exodus the plagues on Egypt, following the messages spoken by Moses, were intended to show the Pharaoh that God was real and acted to accomplish His will. Perhaps Pharaoh's problem was that he did not want to espouse a God of the Gaps position and assumed that there would be a good natural explanation for it all some day.
God instructed His people to test the prophets in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:15-22. If they failed the theological test or the supernatural sign test, they were not to be followed. Thus God expected people to be able to distinguish natural from supernatural events. When dead people came alive again in the ministry of the prophets and apostles as well as Jesus Himself, I don't think anyone needed to worry that they were in danger of seeing God only in the miracles. Rather, I think they then saw Him everywhere.
I attach a good article on the subject. "In Favor of Gods-of-the-Gaps Reasoning" by David Snoke. (See it reprinted at http://www.asa3.org/asa/education/origins/gaps.htm and click on "Gaps.pdf"). The belief that dragons cause eclipses was due to lack of information. The belief that life could not come about by natural processes is a result of a great abundance of knowledge. Even the secular evolutionists now admit it, although instead of acknowledging that they must tentatively accept intelligent design, they retreat from the whole question and pretend that it is unimportant to a naturalistic world view.
Christianity can tolerate evolution, although I maintain that it leads to distortions of the Scripture and a faulty understanding of God's nature. But atheism cannot live without the whole 99 yards. Atheism requires either eternal or self-creating matter, self-ordering space and time and the natural origin and diversification of life.
Thank you for frankly sharing your emotional reaction to my mention of the case for a young earth. It helps me understand that you are having trouble even considering that line of evidence and that you assume anyone espousing it must be beyond the pale by definition. I understand because I was there at one time. But having gotten over that, and actually looking at the competing lines of evidence, the facts are so very different than they seemed. Being an object of ridicule is not a good indicator for lack of truth. Semmelweis was ridiculed for proposing that obstetricians washing hands between the morgue and the delivery room would decrease maternal and infant deaths. I have gathered a series of articles in discussion with another evolutionist and ask you, after you have gotten over your initial revulsion, to look them over with an open mind. (/articles.html#beliefs )
Regarding your closing remarks, I understand that you wish to keep your comments within the area of your own special competence and am also pleased that you openly state that there seems to be a good case against abiogenesis in the areas of probability and information.
I also agree that God created the natural laws and so finely tuned them that the universe as we know it and life itself are possible. In fact, as the 17th Century philosophers stated, even our desire to pursue pleasure and flee pain, when properly informed (what seems pleasurable for the moment may be painful in the future) are an indication of God's goodness to us. Also, if it could be determined that some sort of temporary gravitational aberration were responsible for the parting of the Red Sea, this does not lesson the miracle, for God would have called for it at the precise time and place of His choosing. And if the Star of Bethlehem were a conjunction of planets set in motion thousands of years before, it only proves that God is able to deal with all the variables to bring everything to pass at the proper moment.
The question of how evolution affects Christianity is much more subtle than you indicate, however. I used to believe that God set off the Big Bang, knowing that everything else would follow inevitably and automatically. I was a Christian at the time, even a missionary. I had not thought about the implications for the reliability of Scripture or the authority of Christ, who believed and taught a literal Adam and Eve and that they were created "in the beginning." I had not worked out the details of how sin and death were related and to be frank, I was running scared from what seemed to be overwhelming scientific data. Even if the only evidence for a creator were the need for the stuff and the energy of the Big Bang, it is a good apologetic. Even so, as you well know, those who do not want to accept that possibility jump through (what they think to be) good escape hatches. These include "quantum fluctuations of nothingness" or New Age solutions like "the universe is a projection of our minds and needed to evolve intelligent minds to project it into existence." (And they think Christians are out to lunch!)
But I found the case to be so much better than that. And as I looked at it with new vision, I also saw the nearly imperceptible but ultimately significant effects of the other view. And if our compass reading is a couple of degrees off, although we may not notice anything along the way, by the time we cross the ocean, we will be hundreds of miles off course. And part of that effect is the quality of our witness - your concern as well - in that one with the evolutionary view is unable to confront atheists with the suppression of truth that God says is at the root of their problem.
I especially appreciate your concern for spiritual matters, the strength of our witness and our relationship with God. This is the ultimate issue. We all are probably mistaken about certain matters, perhaps gravely mistaken. We begin our spiritual journey with at least the knowledge that we are lost and that Jesus Christ can save us. We learn more as we walk with Him. We may be deceived and endanger others if we believe things that are not true. Karl Barth tried to protect the faith from archeology, which said that there was no evidence of Jesus, by claiming that Jesus existed in a realm of meta-history that might not have been visible to the first century. Even though Barth was a firm believer, within two theological generations, his follows went from the God who could not be confirmed to the God who is dead.
You are obviously concerned about the fate of the gospel if it is tied to an anti-evolution position because you really believe that evolution is true. Thus, given your position, your motives are pure. But what I ask is that you take another look at the case, because the evidence has been hopelessly entwined with expectation and fudged to fit the theory. I know that this will make you nearly want to toss my epistle out again, but I ask you to save it so you can come back when you cool down.
A few years ago I was disturbed about the animosity between old earthers and young earthers and had long discussions with a physicist about it. I wrote a peace proposal [http://www.rossolson.org/creation/peace_proposal.html] that I wanted to have published simultaneously in the ASA Journal and CRSQ Journal. My friend wanted it to go to CRSQ first which it did, was published and produced only the faintest of ripples. I also specifically contacted certain prominent creationists and theistic evolutionists and asked for reactions. Henry Morris was very gracious and wants to live in peace with his brothers although reserving the right - even obligation - to discuss issues on their merits. Hugh Ross has never responded to anything I have sent him. AIG was the most strident on the young earth side, feeling that they could not even appear to compromise on principle. One old earth creationist said basically that there was no reason to be at peace with people who were so wrong. My friend dropped the ball and never submitted the peace proposal to ASA. I could have done it, because I am a member, but wanted a long age creationist/theistic evolutionists to put it in play.
We are to love one another and to humbly restore brothers taken in a fault but also to beware of false teachers. I see you as a brother but do not think that means we must agree about everything. I hope discussions can be cordial but pointed, as iron sharpening iron - notice it does not make one harder than the other - in a situation where both are reshaped when we are both tools in the Master's hand.
Ross S. Olson MD