Your fondness for the neighborhood the magazine is leaving behind might depend on when you got here or what version of it sticks in the mind. The New Yorker has been in the area for all ninety of its years, but many, if not most, of us have known only the 4 Times Square chapter. Some, as teen-agers in the nineteen-eighties, oblivious of the existence of a Mr. Shawn, might have seen Times Square as a place to buy nunchuks, get mugged, or sneak into a movie house to see Vanessa del Rio. Or else, younger still, we know only the millennial theme-park edition, purified of porn by Rudolph Giuliani and of cars (on some blocks) by Michael Bloomberg, but a gantlet still, if you object to the molestations of sooty Elmos and lumpy Spider-Men, or find sad the forbearing expressions of tourists who can’t remember why they felt it necessary to come here. Then, there are the islands of safety—the Red Flame diner, say, still sincere in spite of a series of face-lifts, or the Kinokuniya Japanese bookstore, across from Bryant Park, a place to browse books without feeling any guilt about not reading them. And Bryant Park itself, with its pétanque courts and the crazy haphazard arrangements of bistro chairs. It smarts a bit to think of such spots out of our lives, like kids off at college.
Next to these great beliefs, a biological theory seems pretty unimportant. That impression is correct. Do I "Believe in Evolution" like I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Absolutely not! I accept the Theory of Evolution like I use the Quadratic Formula; they are both useful for a certain class of problems that I sometimes have to solve. I certainly do not place my eternal life and soul in the care of a scientific theory or a mathematical formula. I am no atheist. I place my entire being in the hands of God Almighty through his Son, Jesus Christ.
If you don't believe me, look these things up for yourself. You should, anyway, whether you believe me or not! Go to the library and look up the references that a young-earth creationist cites. Examine the original context, and judge for yourself whether important information is omitted, and if the creationist has quoted the source fairly, accurately, and completely. Judge whether the original meaning has changed. Do some searches on the Internet. You can begin with the references that I have included with this essay. On the Internet you will have to learn to discern the truth among a large number of competing claims. That's an important responsibility. Take the time to discern well. Remember that the number of repetitions and verbal volume don't make truth. Get started now.
This does not mean that the witness of 1 Corinthians 13 is equivalent to the witness of the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado. The Bible speaks to us in language, teaching us directly. God's Creation inspires awe in us at the works of the Creator who made it all and sustains it in the present time. The Bible is the greater witness. Creation does not contradict it.
Back in Rome, Caesar had to decide through some unknown political process to order a census for the purpose of taxation. Probably he had advisors who counseled him on the timing and extent of the census. Then Caesar had to send the word out to the provinces, and the word had to arrive and be implemented by the local governor at just the right time for Mary's pregnancy to terminate while she and Joseph were in Bethlehem. The likelihood of Jesus being born in Bethlehem is low from the very start.
This essay came about only because anti-evolution views were thrust forward at a worship service. I heed the warning in Titus 3:9-11: "Don't get involved in arguing over unanswerable questions and controversial theological ideas; keep out of arguments and quarrels about obedience to Jewish laws, for this kind of thing isn't worthwhile; it only does harm. If anyone is causing divisions among you, he should be given a first and second warning. After that have nothing more to do with him, for such a person has a wrong sense of values. He is sinning, and he knows it."
Geologists have recently found evidence that something very strange happened to the earth right at the Pre-Cambrian boundary. Discoveries like this make science exciting! It appears that a global freeze suddenly gave way to a very hot period. This abrupt change must have had something to do with the sudden explosion of life forms, but what? The researchers suppose that isolation and selection pressure during that event produced an "evolution engine" capable of great leaps in a short space of time. But the details, the mechanism, and the verification are still anybody's guess.
The term "Pre-Cambrian Explosion" refers to the sudden emergence of complex life forms after millions of years of single-celled creatures. How did evolution produce a sudden burst of advanced complexity? How does a paramecium become a trilobite in such a short time? This is a bigger puzzle for evolutionary theory. I thought that perhaps this big jump could be explained by the development of sexual reproduction over single-parent reproduction, until someone directed me to another development.
We have transitional fossils, despite the creationist claim that "there are no transitional fossils". We have transitional fossils for humans, too, in spite of the claim that "there are no ape-men." (see Time magazine, August 23, 1999; "How Man Evolved", by Michael Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, pp. 54-55). The References section of this essay contains links to transitional fossils, including some with pictures.
microevolution + time + isolation + selection pressure + changing environment = macroevolutionThese ideas were discussed at the 1980 Chicago Conference on Macroevolution. For more information, please see the Roger Lewin article "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire", Volume 210, 21 November 1980, pp 883-887.We have transitional fossils, despite the creationist claim that "there are no transitional fossils". We have transitional fossils for humans, too, in spite of the claim that "there are no ape-men." (see Time magazine, August 23, 1999; "How Man Evolved", by Michael Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, pp. 54-55). The References section of this essay contains links to transitional fossils, including some with pictures.It is puzzling that transitional fossils are more rare than we would expect. I think that paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould is on the right track with his theory of evolution through Punctuated Equilibrium. This theory states that major changes occur locally in an isolated population, so that fossils are more rare than would be expected by the slow, stately progress of change predicted by Charles Darwin. Punctuated Equilibrium is not just an excuse for finding no transitional fossils, because many such fossils have been found. Transitional forms are found locally for certain animals, and outside the "evolution zone" the transition looks quite abrupt because of migration of the new and displacement of the original species.When I look at the flowers in our front garden I marvel at the pistils and stamens, and at the mechanism for pollination and reproduction. It startles me that such a thing could arise simply from natural selection through mutation, in just a billion years. We have examples of change in moths, finches, people, and bacteria, but these examples are kind of unsatisfying in comparison to the great variety of form that we see in nature. Is there more to it?I realize that my life-span of about 80 years is so short that I cannot properly comprehend a million years, let along a billion. My common sense is simply not equipped to make a proper analysis of the time span required to produce a moon flower, or a bird, or a human.I think the "not enough time" problem bothers atheists more than it bothers me. I believe that God directs the processes that we call "random", and that He can engineer an unlikely event according to His plan. With God Almighty in charge, the unlikely becomes certain. I would be more comfortable with a theory that includes proper statistical measures, but I do not require it. Atheists require it.Certain recent evidence indicates just the opposite of what our common sense tells us. It appears that evolution actually occurs much faster than we would expect from natural selection through random mutation alone. Punctuated Equilibrium takes advantage of this difference by proposing that local changes occur rapidly in a small population under survival pressure.This is an unsolved puzzle. The mechanism that drives evolution is something for future biologists to research and figure out. I think that the mechanism is more complex than just natural selection through random mutation. However, I don't believe this to be an enormously difficult puzzle. Scientists finished decoding the human genome in June 2000, and further analysis should provide some answers. We don't know exactly how mutations occur, although that marvelous DNA structure seems to favor viability when it reproduces.The term "Pre-Cambrian Explosion" refers to the sudden emergence of complex life forms after millions of years of single-celled creatures. How did evolution produce a sudden burst of advanced complexity? How does a paramecium become a trilobite in such a short time? This is a bigger puzzle for evolutionary theory. I thought that perhaps this big jump could be explained by the development of sexual reproduction over single-parent reproduction, until someone directed me to another development.Geologists have recently found evidence that something very strange happened to the earth right at the Pre-Cambrian boundary. Discoveries like this make science exciting! It appears that a global freeze suddenly gave way to a very hot period. This abrupt change must have had something to do with the sudden explosion of life forms, but what? The researchers suppose that isolation and selection pressure during that event produced an "evolution engine" capable of great leaps in a short space of time. But the details, the mechanism, and the verification are still anybody's guess.A gap in does not prove the existence of God. We are not at the end of science, or history, until Jesus returns in person.The biggest mystery of biology is the emergence of the first life forms from the "soupy seas". This problem is not strictly of the field of evolution, but of biogenesis instead. It is a related field, so I will discuss it here.A biologist named Stanley Miller has done amazing experiments with lightning that produce amino acids from simple carbon compounds and water. Beyond that, biologists are fairly confident that they can develop a reasonable progression from RNA to DNA, then up through single-celled organisms to multi-celled creatures, and onward to the plant and animal kingdoms. However, the gap between amino acids and RNA remains a mystery.Various mechanisms have been proposed to cross this gap (lightning, solar energy, comets, etc.). However, even the most reasonable mechanisms are extremely unlikely to have produced life on this earth in the space of 3 billion years, according to the latest analyses.As noted earlier, the small probabilities here bother me less than they would bother an atheist, because I believe in more than just a tinkering God. I believe in a God who knows and cares for even the sparrows (Matthew 10: 29-31). Yahweh is always directing and caring for His creation. He does not show up only when evolution needs a boost. Jesus Christ is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).I would like to discover a sound scientific treatment of the amino acid - RNA gap, because I believe that science allows us to reveal the marvels of God's creation. Until then, here is how I shall answer the question."I don't know. Only God Almighty knows."I realize that this is not a good answer among men. But it was a good answer for the prophet Ezekiel (37: 3), and it will be good enough for me.There are some non-scriptural objections to evolution that I have heard from Christians:1. Cruelty of Evolution"Evolution is cruel, wasteful, and inefficient; God would not accomplish His creation that way."With regard to "wasteful and inefficient", I have not seen a Bible verse that states that God's ways are waste-free and efficient according to the judgment of 21st-century Americans. In contrast, God's ways often look wasteful and inefficient in man's eyes. For example, consider the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20: 1-16. The vineyard owner wasted his money on the workers hired to work for only the last hour. But God does not call this waste and inefficiency. He calls it grace and mercy.The creation of the dinosaurs would seem like a waste of time on the way to creating mankind. They ruled the earth for millions of years and then were wiped out pretty suddenly. Why did God bother to create them? One may ask the same question in the field of astronomy. The other galaxies besides our Milky Way are magnificent to look at through powerful telescopes. But we won't get the chance to make much use of them, unless Jesus' return is a lot farther off than most people think. Why did God bother to create all those extra galaxies? One would have been plenty.The charge of cruelty is another matter. Where does the Bible say that the working out of God's plan here on earth never involves cruelty? There is plenty of cruelty in the coming of Jesus Christ:I know that God is not cruel. When I see cruelty in this world, I look for an explanation involving our sin, not God's intention."Survival of the fittest is cruel. Death is cruel. God would not design his creation that way."There are some places in the Bible where apparent cruelty is recorded, and man's sin cannot reasonably be the cause.It strikes me as very presumptuous to claim to know the mind of God Almighty, to know His designs and to know what He judges to be cruel and what to be kind. Isaiah 55: 8-9 compares our intellect to God's: "This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours! For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts higher than yours."Perhaps God created the process of evolution as a way for life to survive the natural calamities that He knew would come, such as the meteorite impact at Chicxulub in Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A remnant of the animals (mammals, birds) apparently did survive and went on to re-populate the earth. This view is consistent with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19, where a remnant is saved because of God's mercy. (If you want to know why God sent or allowed the Chixculub meteorite in the first place when there was no sin of mankind to destroy, you'll have to ask Him when you get to heaven. I plan to. The same question applies to present-day hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters.) This view asserts that evolution is not God's ideal process for creating life, but instead evolution is God's way of providing for life to survive and thrive in a difficult and dangerous universe. Life on earth has indeed survived for many millions of years despite the worst that satan could throw at it. The universe is good - good enough for us to marvel at along with the Psalmist. But God's ideal arrangement for life is . . . heaven!Albert Einstein followed what he thought to be God's perfect simplicity in relativity. After many scientific successes, he reached a dead end when confronted with the unavoidable complexities of quantum mechanics. Each time he read a new modern theory, he rejected it with the words "If I were God, I would not have designed it that way." Finally Niels Bohr advised him to stop telling God what to do.St. Paul gives a long warning against criticizing the ways of God in Romans 9: 9-24. He gives examples from Biblical history, then denies our right to conclude that God was unfair or unkind. Note especially verse 20: "No, don't say that. Who are you to criticize God? Should the thing made say to the one who made it, 'Why have you made me like this?'"God chose a certain method to spread the Gospel message: Tell people, and then those people will tell other people, and so on. We humans could easily conclude that this method is cruel and inefficient by looking at human history. Jesus Himself was crucified for spreading the message this way. St. Stephen, St. Paul, and all the Apostles except for St. John are thought to have suffered violent deaths for spreading the Gospel message. We can see that this method is inefficient because 2,000 years later there are still people in the world who have not heard about Jesus. Some people have heard the message so poorly communicated that thay are not inclined to accept it. Yet we do not deny that God chose to use this method to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. Neither can we conclude that God did not use evolution because to us it seems cruel and inefficient. If you do not accept evolution as being from God, then I suppose you have one fewer "God-is-cruel" scenario to wrestle with. But it is a mistake to say, "In my judgment this process is cruel, so therefore God must not have permitted this process to occur."2. Common Sense"The idea that we all crawled out of the mud is contrary to common sense."So is the idea that we are living on a little globe spinning around a sun through empty space. But here we are.3. Random Chance Creating Order"You could shake up a bunch of watch parts in a bucket all day long and never get a watch."I've never met anyone who has tried shaking up those watch parts for a million years, or even for 10,000 years. I don't think the mechanism is the same, anyway.4. Evolution and Christian Faith are Incompatible"Theistic evolution is sitting on the fence. Pick one or the other."So is theistic meteorology sitting on the fence, but most Christians believe in it. God sends rain according to His plan, but water evaporates from the oceans and falls out of clouds as rain. They are both true. There is no conflict. Even Elijah knew that clouds were a sign of rain, although it was God who directed them (1 Kings 18:44).5. Theistic Evolution is a CompromiseMy dictionary defines a compromise as "a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions". There is the additional implication that these concessions are bad because we don't want to give up part of the Bible. Certainly we do not! So let's look at what we give up in the alleged "compromise" of theistic evolution. So - theistic evolution does not fit the definition of a compromise because we don't have to give up anything that is truly of value to our faith. Now let's look at what we gain. 6. Evolution is Not "Very Good" In Genesis 1:31 God looks over all that He has made: "And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good." This verse is used to contend that evolution cannot be part of God's plan because natural selection, the survival of the fittest, cannot be "very good" in God's eyes. Creationists quote a fragment of the very last paragraph of Darwin's book as evidence that evolution is not very good: "...the war of nature, from famine and death...".