Genesis Fable or Genesis Fact?

A look at the two ways to arrive at a philosophy for the origin of life.

By FRANK L. MARSH, Professor of Biology, Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska

If we read the first of the book of Genesis as we read any factual history, we find a simple, clearly expressed statement that the animals and plants on our earth were formed instantaneously in their innumerable kinds at the beginning of this earth's history by the word of an omniscient, omnipotent Creator. This statement of origins in Genesis is diametrically opposed to the widely prevalent doctrine of evolution, which represents that the present complex forms of life, through a duration of millions of years, have gradually developed from simpler forms to present-day complexity by purely natural forces, that is, solely by means of the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.

There are two ways for each of us to arrive at our own particular philosophy of origins. Either we will accept by faith the opinions of certain scientists in this matter, and thereby sacrifice our individual rights and powers of investigation upon the altar of authority, or we will acquaint our selves, as students should, with the few basic facts of natural science which are required to enable us to form an intelligent conclusion that will honor our rights as individuals, and bear witness that we are not merely unthinking followers of a crowd.

At first thought, it might appear reasonable to accept some theory of origins just because we know several notable scientists who hold that view. However, as a scientist, I must remind you that a scientist is a scientist only so long as he presents you with facts. When he gives you a theory of origins, he has ceased to be a scientist and has be come a philosopher. As a philosopher he merely gives you his explanation of the way he, person ally, puts the facts together in his rationalization of that which is factual. Naturally his philosophy will depend entirely upon his point of view, or upon the major premise upon which he builds.

Let me explain this point more fully. Both the evolutionist and the creationist accept all the demonstrated facts of modern science. These facts do not prove evolution. Neither do they prove that organisms were created in their present multiplicity of kinds. To the evolutionist the facts of biology appear to indicate evolution, because he first makes the assumption of uniformity, that is, that the natural forces now in operation are the only forces which ever operated. His basic assumption takes no recognition of the possibility that a supernatural force may have figured in the origin of kinds, and figured in a very real, though unnatural, way. Therefore, whether We are evolutionists or creationists should not depend upon whether this man or that accepts this view or that, but upon whether we individually wish to make the assumption of uniformity with evolution, or of creation. Which of these points of view is compatible with the facts of biology is the theme of the following paragraphs.

I

There is a large group of biological facts which are not decisive in the problem of determining whether modern organisms arose by evolution or by creation. An example of this type of evidence is the fact that many different kinds of animals show similar structures, and may therefore be grouped into one large phylum. To illustrate, the presence of a notochord sometime during the development of the individual is a character which is used in pigeonholing the animal which possesses it in the phylum Chordata. Again, a large group of animals, including the fishes, frogs, reptiles, birds, and mammals, have dorsal backbones, and. many different kinds all possess, for example, the huinerus bone in their foreleg. The fact of classification itself among living things calls attention to the prevalence of common characters throughout large groups of different kinds of organisms. True, it may be assumed from this possibility of classification that evolution occurred. But it must be borne in mind that these same phenomena can also be explained just as reasonably from the point of view of a Creator with a master plan.

It is extremely important in arriving at a correct conclusion concerning origins, that no data be included which can be explained just as reason ably from the other point of view. Data which can be explained adequately from at least two points of view are commonly said to be "subjective." A theory of origins which must depend entirely upon data of this sort would most certainly be unsatisfactory. It thus becomes a dam aging thing in the acceptance of the theory of evolution for the student to discover that all the evidence which the evolutionist presents in the fields of classification, morphology, embryology, physiology, paleontology, and geographical distribution is of a purely subjective nature. Being of this sort it can be just as reasonably explained from the viewpoint of the creationist. Because this type of evidence is of such a nature that one can say, "It is," and the other can say, "It isn't," until the sands of time run out, we turn from it to other evidence which is more conclusive.

II

Can evolution be demonstrated in the laboratory today? To do this, it is necessary to. show that new kinds of plants and animals actually arise from other kinds. If a student makes an exhaustive study of every available exposition of evolution, he will find these treatises filled with what is purported to demonstrate that evolution has occurred.

What proof is presented here? Any student knows that he is told that the hundreds of color forms of sweet peas which have been developed from a single variety since the year A.D. 1700 is proof of evolution. He is told that the fact that our numerous breeds of pigeons have all descended from the wild rock pigeon of Europe is a demonstration of evolution. The development of over two hundred breeds of dogs from a few wild-dog ancestors is said to demonstrate evolution. In fact, the changes for the better which have been accomplished in all our economic plants and animals, as they have been improved over their inferior ancestors, are said ta demonstrate evolution.

However, the student does not have to be particularly astute to see that this sort of change would never accomplish the origin of new kinds. Sweet peas are still sweet peas, pigeons are still pigeons, and dogs are still dogs. The multitude of evolutionists with all their great labor of search and research have never been able to demonstrate the appearance of even one new kind. Variation among organisms is quite the rule in every new individual, and yet, in every case, all the processes of change have never accomplished anything more than the production of a new variety of a kind which was already in existence.

The evolutionist Dr. Theodosius Dobzhansky, in his recent book, Genetics and the Origin of Species, makes a careful summarization of all known processes of change among organisms and the extent of change which they are known to produce. It is definitely significant to learn that in no single instance has variation been seen to occur which accomplished more than to increase the complexity of variants within a kind which already existed. The plant geneticist, Heribert Nils son, says that each biological species (kind) is a "sphere of influence" as constant as a chemical element. These groups never intersect. (Hereditas, 1935 and 1938.) Every fact in this field bears witness to the bridgeless abyss which exists between different kinds. Although variation may cause striking changes, still no one doubts that the new variant is still a bona fide member of the kind from which it sprang. Honest evolutionists state frankly that the appearance of new kinds of animals and plants cannot be demonstrated today.

III

The question which naturally follows is, "Has evolution of new kinds occurred in the past?" Those who accept the theory of evolution say, "Yes," They maintain that if processes of change in organisms, such as mutation and chromosomal changes, are given sufficient time, they could build modern complexity from one or a few one-celled forms. Other scientists feel just as certain that no natural processes of change can produce a new kind—even though given a billion years—and that the passing of many years of effort to lift oneself by his own bootstraps will never be crowned with success. However, we should investigate the record of geological time to see whether there is evidence of simpler kinds changing into more complex kinds.

We have no guarantee that our earth has seen even ten thousand years. Those who accept the principle of uniformity naturally assume vast reaches of time in the hope that present-day natural forces could, in that profundity of duration, accomplish what their theory demands. True, if their major premise is correct, vast reaches of time are essential in order to befuddle our thinking and to dope our common sense out of the conviction that time alone cannot do it. But what if the story of Genesis is correct and conditions of uniformity have existed only since a comparatively recent creation?

The only record we have of the biological past, be it long or short, is the fossils. For our present purpose we need review but a very few facts about fossils. In the first place, the fossil-bearing strata compose but a thin, interrupted shell around the earth. At not one place in this peripheral layer can fossils be found actually lying in perpendicular and undisturbed order in such a way that the change of one kind into another is pictured. If evolution has occurred, it is quite essential to find fossils recording the changes in form in at least one such rock series. The only way to find "proof" of evolution here is to first assume that evolution has occurred, and then theoretically or actually pull fossils together from various regions and artificially arrange them from simpler to more complex. It is in this subjective manner that the pedigrees of horses, camels, and elephants have been built.

In the second place, connecting links between kinds are entirely lacking in the fossil record. At its "oldest" appearance in the rocks the "first" crustacean, for example, is just as completely a crustacean as are the modern members of this group. The morphological characters which are used to distinguish modern members of large groups today are applicable without the slightest change to the "earliest" members of the same groups. The same clear-cut discontinuity which exists between rabbits, cats, and opossums today exists between the groups in the fossils, and there are no connecting links. This would not be true if complex had evolved from simple.

In speaking of this very absence of intergrading forms among the fossils, the evolutionary paleontologist, Dr. G. G. Simpson, says on page 99 of his new book, Tempo and Mode in Evolution: "The facts are that many species and genera, indeed the majority do appear suddenly in the [geological] record, differing sharply and in many ways from any earlier group, and that this appearance of dis continuity becomes more common the higher the level, until it is virtually [actually] universal as regards orders and all higher steps in the taxanomic hierarchy."

It thus becomes plain that the only record we have of the past is found to be completely lacking in evidence which would indicate that kinds of or ganisms have gradually changed so as to produce new kinds. The only possible way to see evidence of evolution in the fossils is to be first completely sold to the idea of evolution. This point of view appears to furnish evolutionists with the vast amount of credulity necessary to bridge the in numerable gaps between kinds, and to make them oblivious of the true significance of the entire lack of intergrading forms. On the other hand, the first eight chapters of Genesis present an account of origins which adequately explains every fact of the fossil record.

IV

Thus whether we examine demonstrable facts in the biological laboratory today, or whether we examine the record of the past, we find the very discontinuity of kinds, each kind with its sphere of variation and yet each sharply set off from all other kinds by an absence of connecting links, exactly as we would expect in a world formed as described in the first of Genesis.

The creationist has but to accept by faith the fact of an instantaneous creation in comparatively recent times, followed later by a universal Flood, and then all natural phenomena take their places in his philosophy with little or no additional faith. On the other hand, the evolutionist must accept by faith the idea of simple giving rise to complex, and then apply more and still more faith, or more accurately, credulity, every time .he brings forth a more complex kind from a simpler kind. Great faith bridges must span every abyss between kinds.

The English biologist, Douglas Dewar, remarks on page 8 of The Man From Monkey Myth: "The theory of evolution is supposed to obviate the ne cessity for miracles. It does nothing of the sort. It merely substitutes miracles of transformation for those of special creation." The naturalist Wil liam Beebe remarks on page 97 of The Bird: "The idea of miraculous change, which is supposed to be an exclusive prerogative of fairy tales, is a common phenomenon of evolution. In our day we are inclined to stay as close to facts as possible, and to shun philosophies which lead us astray from the facts.

To some it seems of little moment whether we accept evolution or creation. However, a little further thought into the subject shows us that extremely vital matters are involved. If the evolutionary philosophy is correct, man has battled his way upward through slimy, scaly, and hairy brutes and arrived at his present exalted station, carrying more or less of his bestial inheritance with him, yet deserving high praise for his worthy achievements, and indulgent excuse when he relapses into animal ways. In the light of his past he has clone a good job.

On the other hand, if the creationistic philosophy is correct, "the genealogy of our race . . traces back its origin, not to a line of developing germs, mollusks, and quadrupeds, but to the great Creator. Though formed from the dust, Adam was 'the son of God.' "—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 45. Some have said in essence that they would rather be an exalted ape than a fallen man, but in this choice they overlook the fact that Christ did not die to redeem a noble beast, but rather to make possible the reinstatement of the fallen members of God's family. There can be a redemption only of that which has been forfeited.

For an evolved man there is no hope of escaping the chains of his bestial ancestors. His future attainments will, by the nature of his past, of necessity be limited. But before every fallen man who repents and accepts the proffered redemption, shines the most radiant hope of complete reinstatement in the household of God. The facts of Gene sis not only find complete harmony with the facts of nature; they also penetrate and explain the mysteries of the future.

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By FRANK L. MARSH, Professor of Biology, Union College, Lincoln, Nebraska

August 1946

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