Adam & Eve, Evangelicals, and Science

Al Mohler has a nice post up on what is at stake in the current debate over the literal existence of Adam and Eve. Go ahead and read it and come back, if you like.

I'm happy to go on record here agreeing with Dr. Mohler. Scriptural theology, indeed, the entire doctrine of salvation hinges precisely on the relationship between the first and last Adam. Creation and re-creation, Adam and Christ, the origin and destiny, the problem and solution, are a package deal. Either you believe the package of Christian truth claims or you don't. I find the recent attempts of some "evangelicals" to synthesize Christianity with a Darwinian hypothesis (see here and here) very lame. This is just old classical theological liberalism remastered and repackaged (in very neo-pagan form) for a new generation. It amazes me how J. Gresham Machen's classic little book Christianity & Liberalism never seems to get dated. Just as the earlier liberals re-imagined the meaning of the virgin birth, resurrection, miracles, etc. to fit the scientistic paradigm of philosophical naturalism (people don't rise from the dead, after all!), so their "evangelical" heirs are re-imagining the doctrine of creation to fit the prevailing scientistic (note: I'm not saying scientific) paradigm. And what disturbs me is not so much the palpable lack of faith and trust in biblical revelation exhibited by these people (and it does disturb me).

It is their sycophantic and condescending faith and trust in the alleged decrees and dogmas of science.

I'm no Luddite, by any means. I'm writing this blog post on a bluetooth keyboard wirelessly connected (how?) to an Apple iPad, which I consider to be one of the most amazing technological inventions humanity has ever known. I love science and I love technology.

But I'm going to respond with some condescension of my own. It seems to me that any well-educated person knows, or ought to know, that since the Enlightenment the scientific guild has become accustomed to speaking in only one tone of voice: the dogmatic. Hypotheses that serve to confirm the reigning orthodoxy are treated as the equivalent of deliverances of a prophetic oracle. Doubt this? Okay, here are two topics for you: "Darwin." "Climate Change."

Here is something else any well-educated person knows, or ought to know: the history of science is the history of overturned orthodoxies. Certain "fact" one day is ancient myth the next. Doubt this? Ever hear of a guy named Ptolemy? In fact, there was a rather earth-shattering book demonstrating all this (with which well-educated people are familiar, surely).

This is not to say that science makes no progress. It is to say that it makes no progress when it feigns dogmatic certainty, not to mention when it leaps beyond its own boundaries (the observable world) and seeks to provide all-encompassing explanations for life, the universe, and everything. (And no, the iPad is not life, the universe, and everything, despite the fact that it seems all-consuming.) And that's what Darwinian orthodoxy is all about: an all-encompassing materialist explanation of life, the universe, and everything. There is plenty of reason to be skeptical of scientific orthodoxies. In fact, that's been the animating spirit of all great progressive science.

Here is an obvious fact: the study of ancient history is fraught with conjecture, whether that history is civilizational artifacts, geologic columns, the fossil record, or (gasp) even the history of the genome. And here's a dirty little well-kept secret: the recent track record of science with respect to explaining anything of any significance about DNA, its origins, its development, and even its function (how it works), is... non-existent. Yes, you read that correctly. Scientists have no absolutely no idea whatsoever how DNA works. You can read all about it in this book (another with which well-educated people should be aware).

I get rather vexed when I am condescendingly told that scientists "know" that the human race could not have descended from a single human pair. This is abject nonsense. They may believe that. They may have some theories and models backed by some evidence to support the idea. It might even be a hypothesis that merits further study. But "know"? Hardly. Two decades ago they "knew" (as Le Fanu documents in the book I just linked) that DNA explained the difference between a man and a mouse. Today they know (with equal dogmatic certainty, of course!) that DNA doesn't explain the difference between a man and a mouse, or a man and a monkey, or a man and a mosquito, or a man and anything else. An interesting exercise, by the way, to go back and read Richard Dawkins's classic papal bull on how DNA "proves" Darwinian dogma (The Blind Watchmaker) and compare it to what we now know about DNA. Another classic example of one decade's "fact" being the next decade's fantasy. (Not many have noticed how badly Dawkins's book has held up. He gets a pass: he's received Huxley's mantle as "Darwin's Bulldog.")

I will not be bullied into accepting the dogmatic deliverances of scientists when it comes to the past on the basis of conjecture any more than I will be when it comes to the future (e.g., "Global Warming," RIP).

Far less will I be lectured to and told that I must redefine and reinterpret Judeo-Christian orthodoxy on our origins, an orthodoxy that has remained firm for some-odd 4,000 years, on account of the latest (likely fleeting) scientific fad.

Augustine once warned Christians not to be hasty in denouncing scientific study because they might unwittingly make themselves look foolish. The converse should be said, as well: Christians should not be hasty to embrace scientific study, because they might make themselves look foolish. I think the recent parade of evangelicals desperate for the respect of the scientific guild is foolish.

Darwin's always had his bulldogs. Now he's got his lapdogs, too.

Brian Mattson