Finding Our Roots

  When several Christians were elected to the school board in Vista, California, a few years ago, national groups immediately swooped down for the kill. The American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way relentlessly attacked the board members as bigots and religious extremists. What is their crime? Why, the Vista board actually asked schools to teach students the scientific evidence against evolution. The uproar that ensued highlights the rigid dogmatism with which evolution is treated in the schools today. To question the ruling orthodoxy of Darwinism is dismissed as out of bounds. To go further and suggest that life may be the product of design or purpose is regarded as really outrageous as some oddball invention of the Religious Right. But design in nature is no recent invention of religious extremists. In fact, it has a long and respectable history. As Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton show in their book The Soul of Science, for nearly three centuries biology was dominated by the Christian concept of creation. Take, for example, John Ray, in the seventeenth century. Ray is credited with offering the first biological definition of species based not on how organisms look or behave but on reproduction: No matter how much variation an organism may exhibit, it belongs to the same species as its parents. To modern ears, this sounds obvious. That's because reproduction the ability to interbreed has become the standard definition of species. But where did it originate? From Genesis 1. John Ray proposed that a species consists of all the descendants of a male- female pair created by God just as the human race consists of all the descendants of the original human pair, Adam and Eve. Another famous believer in creation was George Cuvier in the nineteenth century. It was said that Cuvier could reconstruct an extinct animal from a single bone. His stunning accomplishments flowed from his conviction that God created each organism as an integrated system with each part adapted to its way of life. So carnivores have claws and sharp teeth for catching prey, while grazing animals have hooves instead of claws, and flat, rough teeth for grinding. Cuvier was adamantly opposed to any notion of evolution. He argued that since an organism is an integrated system, you cannot create a new organism by random changes. It would be like letting a child randomly move a few wires around in your computer. Obviously, that would be much more likely to destroy the computer than to create a new and better one. If these arguments sound familiar, it's because they have been revived in recent years by the design movement. The idea of design is not a recent fabrication by religious zealots. It has a rich and respectable history. Groups like the ACLU will continue to inflame public fears, warning that any mention of design in the classroom will destroy science. But our response ought to be that for centuries the majority of biologists believed in design in creation and biology survived very well indeed. As Christians, we desperately need to recover our history and to reclaim our rich heritage in science.


Chuck Colson


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