What is the Chistian's Best Strategy?

How best do we engage with evolution?

By GEORGE McCREADY PRICE, Veteran Geologist, Pomona, California

The terms "strategy" and "tactics" are in constant use in military circles. And as we have many examples in the New Testa­ment of military figures of speech, we may be permitted to ask ourselves here, What is the church's best strategy in her ever-present con­flict with the forces of false science?

"Tactics" is a term which pertains to direct action in the actual presence of an enemy; while "strategy" has to do more with long-range planning, often long before any actual conflict, and with the broader facts and prin­ciples in view. Hence, as a life-and-death struggle awaits the church of these last days, a true scientific announcement about creation and the Creator being a vital part of her last message, it is incumbent on the people of God to plan wisely concerning the strategy which they ought to use in this conflict. Wrong plan­ning may prove fatal. Let me therefore ask, What is the basic, the most essential, difference between the theory or philosophy of evolution and the Christian doctrine of creation?

In its broader aspects, or in its most basic form, the evolution theory is a system of thor­oughgoing naturalism. It is the teaching that the plants and the animals (man included) have come into existence through wholly nat­ural forces and processes, such as are in opera­tion around us today. Evolutionists seek to discover all these "natural" processes that per­tain to the life of animals and plants, and thus to "explain" their "natural" origin. Evolu­tion, however, is not necessarily committed to Lamarckism or Darwinism, or any other spe­cific form of explanation which has as yet been proposed. Any explanation seems to satisfy, providing it appears reasonable and helps to "explain" the origin of living things in terms of processes now going on.

The doctrine of creation, on the other hand, is a doctrine of supernaturalism. It holds that back at the beginning, the origi­nals of our present plants and animals were brought into existence by the direct decree or fiat of God, and not in the ways in which new animals and plants are now being produced. All present-day "natural" processes of repro­duction and growth are still directly under the control of God, and are conducted directly by His will or decree. But reproduction is only an indirect creation, and is very different from that form of direct creation which God employed to start the present order of things. We know of this radical difference between the original creation and the present regime of "natural law," because of the explicit statement in Genesis that creation is a finished work and is not now going on. The Sabbath, also, was given to mankind largely to keep this distinction in memory. But it is much more than a memorial of creation. It is a memorial of a completed creation, and was designed to keep in everlasting remembrance the distinc­tion in kind and in manner between the original creation and that form of "natural" reproduc­tion (or indirect creation) which goes on around us at the present time.

The amount of change which has come about among animals and plants since the beginning seems to complicate the problem somewhat. But the degree of this change does not modify the essential nature of the problem of distinguishing between the original creation and the present system of "natural law." Many changes have come about since the Biblical beginning, as the direct or indirect results of sin and degeneracy. But it is still possible and highly important for us to distinguish between the original creation and the present-day "natural" processes which take place in our modern world.

We all know how this distinction between the past and the present is shown in the problem of the origin of life. All the ancients used to believe in the natural or spontaneous generation of life from the inorganic. In our day it is pretty well settled that life comes only from preceding life, never from the not-living. Spontaneous generation of any kind of living thing is recognized as an unscientific absurdity.

But it seems to me like an exactly parallel case when we come to deal with the problem of the origin of the species of plants and animals. Without here defining just what scientists mean by the term "species," modern biologists have quite fully outgrown Darwin's pet notion that it is a very hazy and indefinite group. Dobzhansky, who is perhaps the foremost modern authority on the subject, declares that the term "species" is a category, which, "in contrast to the others, has withstood all the changes in the nomenclature with an amaz­ing tenacity."—"Genetics and the Origin of Species," 1939, p. 306. And he goes on to say that if this group "cannot be called 'species,' it must be called something else, and a new term should be invented for this purpose."—Page 313.

We may well ask, Are new "species" now being made in any way, by either natural or artificial means, in modern times ? Some say yes, and some say no. Which is right? And can we expect to answer this perplexing ques­tion definitely? Let us just suppose that some­one should succeed in actually making several new "species," in the correct scientific sense of this much-abused word ; or that he should succeed in showing how new "species" are naturally arising through modern processes. Which side of the controversy would he be as­sisting—the evolutionists or the creationists ?

I think all will agree that the answer is obvious. Was not this exactly what Charles Darwin claimed to have done? He persuaded the scientific world that new kinds of plants and animals are being continually produced in perfectly natural ways all around us, and we all know the results which followed when he convinced the world on this point. We know that the major part of the evolution scheme of things, the supposed history of animals and plants during uncounted millions of years, was already believed in when Darwin came for­ward with this seeming demonstration. And we also know that the world still goes on believing in the doctrine of organic evolution, even though biologists have become increas­ingly doubtful of Darwin's particular explana­tion of the methods by which new "species" arise. But is it not evident that any repetition of Darwin's methods, by again convincing the scientific world that we have a clear and un­equivocal explanation of the modern origin of "species," would only strengthen the hands of the evolutionists and weaken the hands of the creationists?

What, then, is the safe, the correct, strategy for the church to adopt in this matter ? Some timid souls have long been afraid to meet this issue, just as many were long ago afraid to meet the issue over the mat­ter of the spontaneous generation of life. The latter problem has now been settled, probably once for all. Life comes only from antecedent life of the same kind. But the "species" ques­tion, it seems, is still with us, and we must decide what is the best line of strategy for the Adventist Church to adopt in this matter.

In my "Q. E. D." (now long out of print), as well as in my other books, I have always taken the position that genuine new kinds (call them species, or what you will) are not now being made, either naturally or artificially. And to this day I have never seen any reason to recant this position. Some, however, take the opposite line of strategy. Such assure us that the species problem is almost solved, that its solution is just around the corner. They say that with a little more study in the field, and a little more experimental work with genes, chromosomes, and mutations, the entire prob­lem will soon be cleared up, and largely in terms of the explanations taught to the world by Charles Darwin.

Which is the safer, the better, strategy for the Adventist Church to adopt? Shall we freely admit that genuine new kinds will very likely be produced, or be shown to be in process of being produced naturally in the world around us ? Or shall we still insist that this making of distinctly new kinds belongs to the past and not to the present? Which is the true line of Christian strategy ? Or is there still a third method of simply doing nothing at all about the matter, and waiting to see how the scientists settle this matter among themselves ?

Incidentally, may I remark that, after nearly a century of scientific discussion over this question of species, eminent and positive au­thority can be adduced which denies that new species are now being produced. Many com­paratively recent pronouncements could be given which would agree with the statement of the late William Bateson, a man who has had few equals as an authority on the species prob­lem. He says : "Variation of many kinds, often considerable, we daily witness, but no origin of species."—Science, Jan. zo, 1922. And Rich­ard B. Goldschmidt, of the University of Cali­fornia, while insisting that we have learned much about variation within the species, is equally insistent that we have learned little or nothing about the actual origin of new species.

Even Dobzhansky, now of Columbia Uni­versity, whose "Genetics and the Origin of Species" is regarded as probably the very best work on the subject now before the public„ means the same thing when he says : "Nobody is audacious enough to believe himself in pos­session of the knowledge of the actual mech­anisms of evolution."—Page 8. An abundance of similar statements could be cited from other eminent men.

Accordingly, I am led to ask, Do we need to adopt a policy of appeasement toward the evolution doctrine in this matter of the origin of species? Is it good strategy for us to con­cede to evolutionists their contention on the origin of species? Or is it wise for us to seek to minimize the many difficulties which they are having in their attempt to prove the modern origin of species? That is, why should we try to persuade one another that this species question is almost solved, and that with just a little more work and a little more patience, this whole matter will be cleared up ?

Should any Adventist feel happy if someone announces, on a seemingly good scientific au­thority, that he has at long last produced a living thing in a test tube from absolutely sterile materials ? And should any informed person, Adventist or non-Adventist, especially science teachers, accept such an announcement without the most careful and critical exami­nation of all the evidence ?

It seems to me to only add a note of confu­sion to our thinking for anyone to convey the impression that hybridization is only one out of several Darwinian factors, such as natural selection, isolation, etc., all of which are now said to be operating all around us in the mod­ern world; and that all of these factors to­gether are to be projected backward in time indefinitely, so as to "explain" the origin of species in a general way, and with no definitely assigned limitations. It seems to me a grave mistake not to make crystal clear that the pri­mary or elementary species are not to be ex­plained in terms of any processes whatever that are now going on. They were created directly by God, and the methods of their origin are not now operating anywhere on earth. It is confusing not to make a clear and radical distinction in the methods of origin of the two groups; namely, the species originally created, and confused species which have since appeared as the result of sin and degeneracy.

What I am after, all sums up to this: Should anyone among us try to convey the impression that modern natural processes explain the origin of species, in the ordinary acceptance of this term? Darwin persuaded the world that he had done this very thing; and see what resulted. Are we to revamp his methods and his explanations, and adopt them as orthodox Adventist explanations, with only a very ob­scure and confusing intimation that these Dar­Winian factors are not the main factors ?

We Adventists need to decide on very definite and settled lines of strategy on this species question. Probably we shall not be able to settle on any unified line of action without considerable discussion among ourselves. Most of us need to think far more intensively along these lines than we have been doing. We need to examine all things, and to hold fast that only which proves to be the true and the best.

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By GEORGE McCREADY PRICE, Veteran Geologist, Pomona, California

September 1941

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