Why does water boil? Fred and Ethel have different explanations.
- Fred says that heat causes the vapor pressure within the water to rise to the same level as the atmospheric pressure on its surface. That causes bubbles to form, which rise and break the surface.
- Ethel says that’s nonsense. The water was boiling because Aunt Tillie wanted a cup of tea.
Fred and Ethel get into an argument about this.
Ethel says that Fred is wrong. She can’t feel any ‘atmospheric pressure,’ so she claims that it doesn’t exist and that Fred made it up. She also claims that a cup of tea, which results from the boiling water, is so complex that it must have been created by an intelligent entity, in this case, Aunt Tillie.
Fred says that Ethel is all wrong. Atmospheric pressure does exist, as proven in numerous scientific experiments, boiling is a process thoroughly understood by physics; and furthermore, the fact that tea is the result is not remarkable, because certain chemical compounds in the tea leaves readily dissolve in boiling water.
Ethel gets very angry. She claims that Fred’s atmospheric-pressure theory is just a theory. She adds that he has insulted Aunt Tillie, who will be angry when she finds out. Fred says that the boiling water and the resulting tea are entirely natural phenomena that don’t require an Aunt Tillie. Then he gets angry and goes so far to say that the evidence even proves that Aunt Tillie doesn’t exist!
Then Aunt Tillie walks into the room, fetches her tea, and wonders why Fred and Ethel are having such a silly argument. I’m sure you agree that the argument was silly, because both of them were right and both of them were wrong.
Fred properly understood the physics of boiling water, but he was wrong when he thought he could use that information to prove or disprove the existence of Aunt Tillie. Ethel properly understood that Aunt Tillie exists and wanted a cup of tea, but she was wrong to assume that she had all the information necessary to explain the physics of boiling water.
Now how is this debate any less silly than the debate about evolution and creationism—or as creationism is called in its new non-sectarian variant, “intelligent design”?
Scientists are wrong to say that evolution proves or disproves the existence of an intelligent designer. The reason is that if there is an intelligent designer, it had to have existed before it created the universe, and that means it necessarily stands outside the universe. Scientists cannot examine anything that may or may not exist outside the universe. Therefore it is not possible to use empirical methods to prove or disprove the existence of God. In scientific terms, the existence of God is neither verifiable nor falsifiable; it lies outside the domain of empiricism. Scientists can only validly say that the existence of God is unknowable by scientific methods.
Creationists are wrong to say that the existence of an intelligent designer rules out any process of evolution. If God created the universe and pronounced it good, physical evidence cannot lie to us. If there is a Satan, he cannot plant false evidence unless he had the power to do it (which would mean that God did not create all things) or unless he had God’s permission to do it (which would mean that God is not truly good).
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
—Genesis 1:31a, NIV
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made
—John 1:3, NIV
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
—Psalm 19:1, NIV
The Bible says in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Therefore empiricism is a valid method of finding truth. To religious people, scientific investigations that reveal complex evolutionary processes only reveal that God’s cleverness and glory is greater than they thought.
Creationism (or intelligent design) is not scientific, because it requires scientists to stop investigating as soon as they are stumped. Scientists cannot validly maintain that just because they cannot understand something, it intrinsically cannot be understood, just as they cannot say that because they cannot test the existence of something, it cannot exist.
Now let us imagine that we are talking about fish in an aquarium. If you have had an aquarium, you know that some fish feed at the surface, others feed at the bottom, and still others feed in the middle. The fish who feed in the middle or at the bottom do not believe in the aquarist, because they have never seen him, and because they can explain everything that happens in the aquarium as a natural process. One day, one of the small surface-feeding fish gets sucked up into the filter. The aquarist rescues him, puts him back in the water, then walks away to do other things. The small fish excitedly goes around telling all the other fish that there is an intelligent creature who set up the aquarium, maintains it, and drops their food into the water. The other fish ask him to prove the existence of the aquarist, but he cannot. No matter how hard he looks or where he searches, he cannot find the aquarist in the aquarium. The skeptical fish all go to the surface to look, but they don’t see anyone there.
So who is right? The scientific fish who have deduced the natural processes that occur within the aquarium, or the little fish who claims to have experienced the aquarist? Both are right, but both have incomplete knowledge.
Ask any creationist or advocate of intelligent design, “Did God create you?” and they will answer yes. However, none of them decline a sonogram during pregnancy on the grounds that if God creates the baby, embryology must be false! And none of them protests the teaching of embryology in the school system. If embryology does not disprove the existence of a creator God, evolution cannot, because evolution is the same thing on a larger scale. God created vegetation by commanding the land to bring it forth; God created sea creatures by commanding the sea to bring them forth; God created the land animals by commanding the land to bring them forth—and in the same way, God creates the baby by means of embryology. So there is no reason why God can’t create evolution to bring forth life; in fact, the Bible said He did! Notice what it says in Genesis, with my added emphasis:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
—Genesis 1:1, 11-13, 20-24, NIV
Now you may say that Genesis says that God created human beings directly, without using a process, and you would be right. You would also be right if you said that Genesis does not explicitly say that God created vegetation, so one method of creation does not exclude the other.
God is not obligated to share all His secrets with you. The Bible does not give you all knowledge—for that you have to go back to the Garden of Eden and commit Adam’s sin by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. However, the Bible does contain everything that is necessary for salvation:
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
—John 20:30-31, NIV
The creationists (or the advocates of intelligent design, if you will) are committing the sin of pride and they are attempting to add to it the sin in the Garden of Eden—they are trying to know all things. There are creationists who complain that they don’t understand their wives, yet they claim to have got God all figured out! They can know and love their wives, but they cannot comprehend them. In the same way, they can know, love, praise, thank, worship, and obey God, but they cannot comprehend Him. In the same way, scientists who claim to have disproved the existence of God have overdriven their headlights; they have claimed to possess knowledge they intrinsically cannot possess.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?”
—Job 38:1-11, NIV
Which is right, evolution or the Bible? I wouldn’t be surprised to find that both are true, but in a way that will surprise and amaze us all:
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
—1 Corinthians 13:9-12, NIV
Addressing Common Misconceptions
- Creationism is not ‘the Christian view’
- The closest Christianity comes to having a central authority who can set official positions is the pope, he has not taken that position, and quite a lot of Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox Christians don’t regard him as having that authority anyway. (Orthodox Christians would say that only an ecumenical council in which all Christian bishops can vote would have that authority.) Quite a lot of Christians do not agree that evolution is at odds with Genesis. So the statement that creationism, or intelligent design, is the ‘Christian view’ is overstating the case.
- Evolution is not controversial
- There is no controversy at all about evolution in peer-reviewed science. It is only controversial among creationists, advocates of intelligent design, and a number of Christian lay people.