Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6b - Andrew Bramhill

2. Divine Agency and the mechanism of creation

Over the last year, I have commented on how badly the anti-evolution articles published in The Christadelphian have misrepresented the fact of evolution in their attempted refutations, which makes bro. Bramhill’s assertion that “each article illustrated that everything was made to a plan and for a purpose in a way that cannot be explained by evolutionists” merely a declaration of just how poorly he and other anti-evolutionists in our community actually understand the subject they criticise:

  1. Evolution is a fact, and no amount of poorly-informed argument from laypeople and retired scientists either arguing well outside their professional area of competence, or offering a long-rebutted, fringe view will change that fact.
  2. There is much in the world which makes perfect sense in the light of evolution such as suboptimal design, but is impossible to reconcile with design via direct intervention by an intelligent designer.
  3. The claim that evolution and design are mutually exclusive ignores the fact that selection acting on mutation has been shown to be able to produce design that at times can far exceed that of an intelligent designer.
The respected invertebrate palaeontologist and Christian Simon Conway Morris puts it well when he outlines the lines of evidence from evolution that he regards as congruent with it being a mode of creation:

In essence, we can ask ourselves what salient facts of evolution are congruent with a Creation. In my judgement, they are as follows:

(1) its underlying simplicity, relying on a handful of building blocks;
(2) the existence of an immense universe of possibilities, but a way of navigating to that minutest of fractions which actually work;
(3) the sensitivity of the process and the product, whereby nearly all alternatives are disastrously maladaptive;
(4) the inherency of life whereby complexity emerges as much by the rearrangement and co-option of pre-existing building blocks as against relying on novelties per se;
(5) the exuberance of biological diversity, but the ubiquity of evolutionary convergence;
(6) the inevitability of the emergence of sentience, and the likelihood that among animals it is far more prevalent than we are willing to admit. [1]

Likewise, the Russian American geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky pointed out that evolution and creation were not mutually exclusive, with the former being the way God achieved the latter:

I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way. [2]

Given this, bro. Bramhill’s assertion that “[w]ith so many references to creation throughout the entire Bible…if we do not accept the account of creation then many other passages become doubtful and the entire fabric of scripture truth unwinds” not only comes across as little more than an egregious example of the slippery slope logical fallacy, but also reflects a profound failure to grasp the concept of Divine Agency.

It is surprising that bro. Bramhill does not appreciate how God can work in the natural world through secondary causes, given that it is likely he would freely accept that atmospheric physics and developmental biology allow us to explain respectively how storms form and babies develop from a single fertilised egg to an infant. Certainly, I have never heard an evolution denialist denounce a believer for accepting the scientific consensus on tornadogenesis or the development of the nervous system in the human embryo, which is puzzling if we take evolution denialist thinking consistently as the Bible specifically and emphatically declares that God is behind both:
  • 1 Sam 12:17-18 Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the Lord, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the Lord by asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
  • Job 28:26 When He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt, 
  • Zech 10:1 The Lord who makes the storm clouds; and He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man.
  • Jer 10:13 When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His storehouses.
  • Jer 51:16 When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain And brings forth the wind from His storehouses.
  • Jer 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. 
  • Psa 139:13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 
  • Job 10:10-11 Did You not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese; clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews? 
  • Job 31:15 Did not He who made me in the womb make him, and the same one fashion us in the womb? 
  • Isa 44:2 Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you 
  • Isa 44:24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,  “I, the Lord, am the maker of all things,  stretching out the heavens by myself and spreading out the earth all alone."
These verses are fairly emphatic in directly ascribing to God the formation of infants in the womb. In fact, the last verse not only refers to God as forming people from the womb, but also refers to God as creator. Appealing to that verse as evidence against evolution would also just as validly be used to argue against any attempt to promote a belief in 'theistic embryogenesis' as well as 'theistic evolution.'


1. Conway Morris S Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (2003: Cambridge University Press) p 329-330

2. Dobzhansky, T "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution", American Biology Teacher (1973) 35:125–129