The word biology comes from two Greek words bio (life) and logos (speech or word). So what it literally means is to talk about, or study, life. Thus, biology studies the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution of living things.
Now, there are a lot of things in biology that we can study directly. We can take living things and put them in a test tube, observe how they live in their natural habitat or view them under a microscope to learn about them. Doing these activities, we can learn about the structure, growth and distribution of living things.
There are those who believe that since the study of biology is in the realm of science, any belief system which is not Naturalistic and materialistic cannot rightly speak to this subject. This, however, is a false assertion. The fact is, there is more than one perspective from which to view the study of biology. In fact, each worldview has its own perspective – and each perspective is founded firmly on a set of faith assumptions about the nature of reality. Thus, it is not possible to simply study biology in a philosophical vacuum. Our purpose, here, is to sort out the basis for studying biology which most closely corresponds with the way reality is actually structured.
How Do the Four Worldviews Approach Biology?
Every aspect of human existence is informed by one’s worldview perspective. Every person has a belief which directs how they think about every part of life. Before we focus specifically on the Christian understanding of biology, lets look at how the different worldviews deal with it.
Naturalistic biology is based on the belief that there is no such thing as a supernatural reality. As such, those who hold this worldview position have no choice but to assert that the origin and development of all biological life had to have come about by natural means. In promoting this worldview position, Naturalists have latched on to naturalistic biological evolution as the only means by which life could have come into existence and emerged into the forms we currently see.
Animistic biology is based on beliefs which emerge out of mythological stories from ancient history. Each Animistic belief system has its own story, and typically these stories have been passed down through the generations. While there is a significant amount of variety from Animistic cultures around the world, in general the stories tell of gods in the spirit world who did something to create life on earth.
Far Eastern Thought
Biology in Far Eastern Thought teaches that physical reality is an illusion. In dealing with the concept of illusion, though, we must be careful not to get the wrong idea. We are not speaking of illusion in the sense that it doesn’t exist as an objective reality. Rather the assertion is that what appears to us to be biological life is actually nothing more than an expression of the impersonal life force which is separated from the main body of the life force and has the appearance, to those living in the material world, of a physical reality. In Far Eastern Thought, life forms, as they exist on earth, are pieces of the impersonal life force which are working themselves toward unity with the main body by means of cosmic evolution.
Theistic biology teaches that a transcendent God made an intentional decision to create life and built a material universe to house this life form. The many life forms which exist on earth are taught to be individually created entities by God himself. The various Theistic belief systems may have different stories as to the specifics of why and how God did this, but they all have the common belief that a transcendent God is responsible for the existence of biological life.
Biology from a Christian Perspective
Of course, every worldview has a default belief about the origin of life. This doesn’t mean that advocates for the various worldview systems necessarily understand their own position. There are many advocates of every worldview whose in depth understanding of the implications of their belief is undeveloped at best and totally unknown at worst.
That being said, in our current day in most western societies, there are primarily two viewpoints regarding the topic of life which are most prominent and are the battleground in the worldview struggle. These two are the Naturalistic view, which asserts that life emerged out of non-life and evolved to what currently exists, and the Christian Theistic view which says that God created life.
Our purpose here is not to delve directly into the non-Theistic worldviews or into non-Christian Theistic beliefs. Rather, we are particularly interested in looking at what the Christian faith teaches about the origin and development of life. This understanding comes directly from what is taught in the Bible.
Literal Creation of Life by God
God’s revelation in the Bible teaches that after God created the physical universe, and the earth in particular, he then created life itself. This creation includes non-animal life as well as animal life. Following that, he created mankind as a special creation “in his image.”
Scripture asserts that this creative activity by God was not done through the process of evolution, but that he created each life form fully constituted. Life did not emerge out of non-life, but God, who is the source of life, injected it into the forms that he created to hold life. This creative process is a literal creation of life by a literal, purposeful God who did his work intentionally.
Micro vs. Macro Evolution
As we try to understand the topic of the origin and development of material life, it is important to make a distinction regarding the meaning of the word evolution. The reason this distinction needs to be made is that the competing Naturalistic worldview confuses concepts in order to try and make its case. In fact, Christians often get a bad rap because those attacking us based on a Naturalistic philosophical point of view either do not understand this distinction or are deliberately muddling the concept in order to put down the Christian faith. There are two ways that the word evolution is used. One of these Christians fully agree with. The other is based on unsubstantiated philosophical presuppositions.
Let’s begin with the one we agree with. Micro-evolution is nothing more than what is often referred to as natural selection. It is the concept that a particular species of life is capable of making changes to adapt to its environment. This kind of evolution is very limited in that there is a point beyond which it cannot proceed. The limit lies within the boundaries of that life form itself. A life form, in other words, is not able to develop beyond a certain point.
In the wild, various plants and animals are able to survive as the climate or habitat changes over time. Using this principle, farmers, ranchers, and even plain folk have been able to breed new varieties of plants and animals to make them more suited for particular purposes. This process is common in nature and no one has any dispute with it.
Macro-evolution, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. This is the assertion that lower life forms can evolve to higher life forms over time, from one species to another. It is the assertion that evolutionary development is able to progress beyond micro-evolution. Macro-evolution assumes that there is no Creator God who is capable of creating life. That being the case, the only possibility is that life emerged out of non-life then evolved to higher and higher forms.
The only problem with this point of view is that there is no science to back it up. It assumes that life emerged out of non-life and that consciousness emerged out of non-consciousness. But there is absolutely no empirical evidence that either of these things ever happened, or even could happen. They are faith assumptions based on the belief that there is no God.
The Needed Distinction
The problem comes when people use the word evolution without making the distinction about whether they are speaking of micro or macro-evolution. It is not unusual at all for Naturalists to make fun of Christians by saying proof of evolution is all around us, then give only examples of natural selection. The fact is, there is ample evidence of micro-evolution and this in no way goes against the teachings of the Bible. The problem is with macro-evolution. It is a problem because it is strictly a faith position based on a set of presuppositions which denies the existence of God. There is no scientific evidence that macro-evolution is possible in any respect. Indeed, it is a religious position itself which directly opposes our Christian faith.
Design in the Universe
While the Naturalistic approach to biology currently holds sway in much of the scientific community, there is powerful evidence from science that the actual origin of life came about by means of God’s intentional creative activity. Let’s look at some of the evidence that points us to an intelligent creator.
There are certain components of biological organisms which cannot be reduced to smaller parts and still perform their required function within the organism. For instance, an eyeball is a complex combination of many smaller parts, but cannot perform the function of seeing unless all of them are put together properly. Evolutionary theory cannot account for how something this complex could have evolved to its present state. All of the parts would have had to come together simultaneously for there to be any evolutionary advantage for the organism. And the eyeball is only one small example out of literally millions of possibilities. The probability of this happening is beyond credible belief. It is simply impossible for something like this to naturally evolve. This very powerfully points to an intelligent creator.
DNA contains genetic information which is a crucial part of all living matter. This is not merely random matter, but is literally information which is compiled in a form that can actually be characterized as a language. There is no example anywhere in nature of this kind of intelligent information which does not have as its source some kind of intelligence. DNA can only be produced with the help of numerous proteins, but these proteins can only be produced at the direction of DNA. Since each requires the other, the origin of both require some outside source. And since DNA is intelligent information, an intelligent source is required. This is powerful evidence for the existence of God.
Limits to Change in the Gene Pool
There is a change barrier which cannot be crossed by living organisms. There is a certain amount of change which can occur (micro-evolution), but change cannot occur beyond a certain boundary (macro-evolution). This is very strong evidence that an intelligent designer created each organism.
Some scientists have proposed that mutations are the source of the critical jumps to new and higher life forms. However, mutations do not produce unlimited changes in a species. In fact, mutations tend to cause degeneration rather than positive change. Science has not been able to give any evidence that mutations can break through the limits.
Impossibility of Spontaneous Generation of Life
Science has demonstrated that life does not emerge out of non-life, it only comes from pre-existing life. The evidence for this is overwhelming and science has no serious theory as to how spontaneous generation of life could possibly have happened. This is but another strong piece of evidence that life was created by an intelligent designer.
Second Law of Thermodynamics
The Second Law of Thermodynamics asserts that though the total amount of energy in the universe remains constant, the amount available to do work is diminishing. What this means is that there are places in the universe where energy is concentrated and other places where it is not. What is happening is that the energy is dissipating from the concentrated sources into the places which lack it and are moving toward equilibrium. Eventually, the entire universe will run down. This is known as heat death.
The reason this law is so critical is that evolutionary theory requires the universe to move in a direction which contradicts the second law of thermodynamics. The only logical explanation for the existence of life is that it was put in place by a Creator from outside of the material universe.
Gaps in the Fossil Record
As scientists examine the fossil record, there are gaps which contradict a Naturalistic explanation of life. This gap is expressed in a couple of very important matters.
First, if Naturalistic evolution were true, you would expect there to be many intermediate forms which are evidence of a bridge between species – where one species of life evolved to another. However, there has never been any evidence of an intermediate form of any kind. Creatures without ancestors are evidence of creation, not evolution.
Secondly, we have what is referred to as the Cambrian explosion. This is the geological phenomenon which indicates the sudden appearance of many animals in the fossil record during a very short geological period. This sudden explosion of complex life is strong evidence against a Naturalistic approach to the appearance of life.
The Bible reveals that the existence and preservation of life is the direct result of the creative work of God. He purposed in his mind to create life, then made it a reality by his own hand. This approach to understanding the existence and nature of life is much more consistent with what we know from scientific inquiry than anything any Naturalist has ever proposed.
© 2010 Freddy Davis