Part 5 of this series examines the primary topics within the current science and Bible discussion. Geology was the first primary topic of this discussion. The topic of Geology was followed by biology and later by astronomy. Geology, biology, and astronomy are all linked to each other as well as to physics, chemistry and mathematics.
Each of the primary topics of the science and Bible discussion originated with one simple theory that was in conflict with the Bible. Thorough the years the discussion within each primary topic has continued to grow and expand. For example in the topic of geology, the original discussion was on the theory was uniformitarianism. Today, this discussion has broadened to include fossils, plate tectonics, radiometric dating, rapid rock formation, catastrophic geologic events, and flexible tissue in dinosaur bones. Before going into the main portion of this article, the Galileo controversy is described from a reformed perspective.
The Galileo Controversy – From a Reformed Perspective:
The Galileo controversy was not a controversy between science and the Bible but rather a controversy between science and the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo Galili (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer, who was also active in other areas of science. Galileo championed the concept of a sun centered solar system and that teaching was at odds with the Roman Catholic Church teaching of the time.
Several Bible verses mention the “rising of the sun.” This is a case of relative motion – motion being defined by the location of the observer. Relative motion is a basic principal of physics. The sun “rises” when one is considers the earth as stationary.
From a Reformed perspective, “the rising of the sun” is not a conflict between the Bible and science. This is due to the fact that what is often termed a “literal interpretation” in reality means an interpretation based on perspicuity and a plain reading of scripture. These are both elements of the Reformed view of Scripture. The plain reading of Scripture and perspicuity allow literary devices and relative motion.
The Galileo controversy is still cited by some as proof that science can prove the Bible to be wrong. However, from a Reformed view of scripture, relative motion is not controversial. Galileo was correct. The expression, “rising of the sun” is also correct in terms of perspicuity and a plain reading of Scripture.
Uniformitarian geology was developed in the late 1700’s and quickly replaced flood geology as the view of the scientific consensus. It is based on the premise that all physical features of the earth were formed by uniform processes. Since, in the 1700’s, observed geologic processes were gradual, it is concluded that the earth is very old. Uniformitarian geology introduced long periods of time which were in conflict with a six day creation. An old earth seemed to make the theory of evolution possible. Uniformitarian geology was the first conflict between science and the Bible.
In the 1920’s catastrophic geology was rediscovered. Turbidities were found to move vast amounts of sediment across the ocean floor and then deposit these sediments in uniform layers. Also, in the 1920’s the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington State were first theorized to have been formed by a catastrophic flood. Initially, this theory was ridiculed by the scientific consensus. However, by the 1980’s the catastrophic origin of the channeled Scablands was accepted by the scientific consensus.
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 showed that multiple layers of rock could be formed from a single volcanic cloud in a very short time. The eruption also demonstrated that deep canyons could be formed in a matter of hours. New observations and data lead geologists to the conclusion that catastrophic events are a significant element of the geologic record.
The theory of uniformitarianism was based on very limited observation yet it dominated the scientific consensus for the next 200 years. Catastrophic and rapid geologic processes are now recognized by the scientific consensus.
Charles Darwin’s famous book, On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, was published in 1859. The title of this book reflects Darwin’s theory of evolution that all life originated from simple organisms that evolved into complex ones “by means of natural selection.”
Continued research in genetics has shown that natural selection is a process of favoring certain genetic material at the cost of losing or other material. Later, it was found that natural selection does not result in a net gain of new genetic material. In the 1940’s “Beneficial mutations” were also considered to be a possible means of evolution. However, mutations were found to result in a loss of genetic material. Continued research into DNA has found that the human gene pool is actually declining due to birth defects passed on with each generation.
The word “species” is different from the Biblical term “kind.” Biblically, God created living things according to their kind; Biblically living creatures reproduce according to their kind. Within a kind, the genome has a vast pool of available genetic information which allows variation within the kind.
Another issue in evolution is the formation of life from non-life. Initially this was considered to be a strictly chemical issue. Today, this issue is known to be much more complex. Life is now known to require genetic information as well chemicals. Darwin’s theory was based on limited information. As science progresses various mechanisms were proposed to achieve evolution but none of these “solutions” has been successful.
Today, the scientific consensus still considers unguided evolution to be the explanation for all life. However, there are many within the scientific community who disagree with this consensus.
The discovery of “red shifts” in the 1930’s let to the conclusion that the universe was expanding. It was further concluded that the universe then had a time and place of beginning. This led to the general acceptance of the “Big Bang” by the scientific consensus. Prior to the Big Bang the scientific consensus supported a steady state universe model.
Initially, the Big Bang appeared to be verifiable. However, as time and research progressed, more and more questions arose within the scientific community.
The creation discussion is constantly changing and expanding. In the first 200 years of the creation discussion some lessons learned as follows:
- There will never be a resolution to the discussion between the scientific consensus and the Bible. The scientific consensus is built on a presupposition of naturalism; this presupposition will not change. The presupposition of the Christian is that the Bible is God’s special revelation to humankind. The presuppositions are not compatible.
- Initially scientific theories that disagreed with the Bible, such as uniformitarianism, evolution, and the “Big Bang”, were received by scientific community with enthusiasm. These theories quickly became the positions of the scientific consensus. Later, all of these theories began to be challenged by those within the scientific community.
- The scientific consensus is somewhat changeable. A noticeable change in geology has been the relatively recent recognition of the role of catastrophic events.
- The creation discussion continues to expand and becomes more accessible to all.
To be continued…….