Ned Bowden and Theistic Evolution

It is a recurring theme in the halls of academia, a professor who believes in God says what he thinks about evolution, and his colleagues create (or should I say evolve into) an uproar.  Ned Bowden, a chemistry professor at the University of Iowa, recently had the temerity to write an article for the university’s website that acknowledged his belief in the existence of God, and his opinion that evolution supports the biblical account of creation.  What Bowden did was like a Christian voluntarily throwing himself to the lions in Nero’s coliseum. 

     Twenty-five of his fellow academicians are crying foul and that is just at the University of Iowa.  But Bowden wrote, “I know some scientists who think we can understand everything in the universe without God.  I know some Christians who think we can understand everything in the universe without science.  They’re both wrong.”

     Ned and I agree here.  Adapting an Albert Einstein quote, I have often said, “Religion without science is blind faith, and science without religion is godless knowledge; mankind can ill afford either.”  So I agree with Bowden that much of the controversy between men of faith and men of science is because each fails to see the compatibility between the two perspectives.

     But when he goes on to claim “it is highly possible that evolution was the tool that God used to bring humans into being” he is beginning to sound like a theistic evolutionist, or what the guys at BioLogos would claim is evolutionary creationism.  Theistic evolution is the view that the Revelation of God’s creative act in Genesis must be syncretized with the theory of evolution.  Evolutionary creationism is the same thing dressed in a different semantic suit.

     I believe theistic evolution is poor science and even poorer theology and here’s why.  Science simply defined is a discipline based upon observation, and since science is not in possession of a single observable fact regarding the beginning of the universe and life, anything science has to say about them is based wholly upon conjecture and supposition.  I will share one example where scientists had the facts of a fossil record, but missed the truth in their speculations.

     Let me reintroduce you to the coelacanth, an ancient fish thought to be extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago.  Based solely on the fossilized remains, absent the presence of any sarcous material (the soft tissues of the body such as skin, muscles, internal organs, etc., which typically do not survive fossilization) ichthyologists once theorized the coelacanth was an intermediate life form (i.e., missing link) between fish and amphibians.  The coelacanth had three pair of ventral fins fasten to lobes that appeared to be legs beginning to form.  They speculated the coelacanth lived in coastal marshes, could walk on land, and had gills and lungs.

     Then in 1938 a native fisherman caught one in the waters between South Africa and Madagascar.  Ichthyologists’ theories about the coelacanth collapsed faster than a house of cards hit by a leaf blower.  Here is the first and it’s a biggy, the coelacanth is not extinct.  Oops!  In 1988, Hans Fricke working for National Geographic photographed the coelacanth in its natural habitat.  The coelacanth was discovered to be a pelagic, that is, it is a fish that lives in the deep water of the open seas, not in shallow coastal marshes.  Fricke observed (take note of this word observed) the coelacanth swam everywhere it went never attempting to “walk” with its three pair of ventral “limbs” even on the ocean floor.  Further study revealed the coelacanth is a true fish with gills and no lungs.

     Scientists are very good at reporting what they observe, but many times their speculative conclusions are more like science fiction than scientific fact.  Science is the discipline of observation, not speculation.  It is easy to theorize about a dead fossil, but facts revealed by the observation of a living specimen are hard to refute.

     Theistic evolution is poorer theology because it twists the truth of God’s account of creation around a theory incapable of being proved true.  This is why Paul warned Timothy “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding…the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge…which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith” (2 Timothy 6:20).

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