By Elias Ayala (M.A.T. & Mdiv)
One does not study the field of apologetics for very long without soon bumping into the creation vs. evolution debate. Perhaps the most frequent attacks upon the biblical worldview are aimed right at the book of Genesis. If you think about it, this is the proper place to attack given the fact that the book of Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible. If Genesis is not real history, then Adam and Eve were not real people; however, if Adam and Eve were not real people, then no one ate from the non-historical tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Hence without the sin that resulted from that act as recorded in Genesis, then there was no need to send a savior on behalf of sinners, and hence the role of Jesus would become superfluous. So the stakes are pretty high in this debate. So how are we to navigate this debate as we engage with evolutionists? My hopes are to provide some helpful things to consider when debating evolutionists.
First and foremost, it is vitally important that we define our terms. It makes no sense to engage in an in-depth debate about evolution, when we have not defined what evolution is. What sort of evolution is being referred to when it is often asserted that it is a scientific fact? This is an important point to consider. The definitions of terms are a necessary component of any meaningful dialogue and debate. This is especially true when debating a term that has a wide and varied meaning and application. When someone uses the term evolution, they can mean anything from “change over time” to the concept of “molecules to man” evolutionary development. So asking the person with whom we are debating to define what they mean when they use certain words, is a good way to help avoid talking past the other person.
The Fallacy of Reification:
When terms are defined, and the arguments put forth, we want to be able to identify logical fallacies and mistakes. First, we want to be able to identify fallacies when committed by our opponent, while at the same time avoiding using such fallacies ourselves. One common fallacy that is often committed is the fallacy of reification. This fallacy occurs when a person attributes personal characteristics to concepts. This is clearly seen when we hear the often said assertion: “Science tells us that evolution is a fact”. Notice that the concept (science) is said to “tell” us somethings. In reality, science is a process of investigating the world, but processes and methodologies do not say anything. In other words, “science” does not speak, scientists do! And course, scientists have their own worldview perspectives and bias that affect how they interpret the data and draw their conclusions. This is important to point out since it highlights the reality that no one comes to the evidence in a neutral fashion.
Evidence Wars and the Role of Interpretation:
The debate between Creation and Evolution can often take the form of evidence wars. Who has more evidence in support of their perspective? Opponents will then spew long lists of supposed scientific evidence that supports their view but often times to no avail since each opponent fails to recognize the necessity of addressing the interpretative grid of the other person. In reality, neither the creationist nor the evolutionist has “more” evidence than the other. Both sides have the “same” evidence. The differentiating factor is not the evidence itself, but the interpretation of the evidence. This is why the debate between the Creationist and the Evolutionist has never really been a debate over the evidence but rather, a debate over competing worldviews. This point is key in successfully navigating the Creation/Evolution debate, since if a person is operating on an incorrect worldview foundation, then the interpretation of the evidence will be erroneous as well.
A.I.P: A Worldview Critique Check List:
When debating any competing worldview, as well as the evolutionist worldview , it is not only important to recognize that the debate is not over “evidence” per say, but the interpretation of the evidence; it is also important to recognize that demonstrating that the issue is over interpretation is not enough. We must also demonstrate that the interpretive worldview grid with which the evolutionist interprets the data is inadequate. So here are a few points to identifying when seeking to show the inadequacy of a worldview:
A: (Arbitrariness): Is the worldview arbitrary? Is the foundation of the worldview without justification and based on mere opinion. Is the worldview foundation subjective and relativistic? If so, we are free to reject this arbitrary standard. Does the worldview demonstrate prejudicial conjecture; that is to say, does the worldview put forth assertions that are not only unnecessarily biased in favor of its own position, but is based off a lack of honest research and in-depth reflection?
I: (Inconsistency): Is the worldview inconsistent with itself? Does the worldview comport with itself? Does the worldview commit logical fallacies that make the perspective incoherent and self contradictory? Can the person holding the worldview live consistently with his or her own standards? An inconsistent worldview is not worth holding, and logical inconsistencies by definition cannot be true.
P: (Preconditions of Intelligibility): Does the worldview provide that which is necessary for rational thought? When discussing the “preconditions of intelligibility” we are really asking the question whether or not the worldview can make sense of human experience? Can the worldview account for the laws of logic (which are necessary for science itself)? Can the worldview account for the uniformity of nature (the assumption that nature will act in the future, the way it has acted in the past; Regularity is another necessary assumption of science)? Can the worldview account for the reliability of the senses and the reliability of memory (Both of which are necessary for science)? Lastly, can the worldview account for the personal dignity, freedom and self worth of human beings and objective moral values and duties?
If a worldview is arbitrary, inconsistent, and lacks the ability to provide the preconditions of intelligibility, then it is a worldview perspective not worth holding to. The atheistic, materialistic evolutionary perspective strikes out on all of the above and is thus not worthy of our rational adherence.
1. Some may suggest that there is no “evolutionary worldview”; however, while evolution can be imported into multiple worldview perspectives, the evolutionary perspective that I am referring to is the sort that denies that God has created (Atheistic, Materialism, Naturalism). Furthermore, perspectives that seek to incorporate evolution into the Christian worldview must be tested against the Word of God, otherwise, the evolutionary perspective cannot arbitrarily be incorporated. If one holds to a perspective that affects how one sees the world, and/or particular things within the world, such perspective and understanding of the world does not exist independent of a worldview. In essence, any view which denies the Creator God of scripture by necessity is holding to a particular worldview set with its own assumptions about the world, man, animals, etc. So while there is not “one” evolutionary perspective, the evolutionary view can constitute a worldview.