Concerning the Origin of Life and the Creation Days

In our previous article we divided the discussion of evolution into the following propositions:

1. Matter has existed from eternity.

2. The earth and at least some stars are billions of years old.

3. Life in the form of one-celled organisms evolved from non-living matter.

4. All animals and plants evolved from one-celled organisms.

5. Man’s body evolved from animals.

It was maintained that these propositions do not stand or fall together, that they must be discussed separately, and that in each case Scripture must be consulted first.

We saw that Scripture teaches that man did not evolve from animals. Therefore, Proposition 5 is not true. We wish in this article to look at certain aspects of two other propositions. These are the questions of whether or not animals and plants evolved from one celled organisms (Proposition 3) and whether or not “day” in Genesis 1 means “period” (part of Proposition 2).

Did Animals and Plants Evolve from One Cell?

We first examine Scripture. The first life created is that of plants: And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon

the earth : and it was so (Gen. 1:11). We read “after his (their) kind” nine more times in Genesis 1, with this phrase referring to grass, herbs, trees, marine life, birds, cattle, creeping things, and other beasts of the earth. The very nature of Genesis 1 is such that the reader is told that which he could not normally know. It is not legitimate to argue that some parts of this chapter, of all the chapters in Scripture, add nothing to our knowledge. Since the phrase “after his kind” appears so many times in Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit is obviously telling us something o( importance, far beyond what we would normally know. One important part of what we are being told is that what we know about cattle now begetting cattle, etc., has also been true from the beginning.

The theistic evolutionist suggests that “after his kind” is but a “popular” way of expressing what we observe takes place now, i.e., cattle now beget cattle, winged birds now beget winged birds, etc. We are not told, says the theistic evolutionist, about biological processes which took place before man was created.

The theistic evolutionist is certainly correct on one point: we may not equate the Scriptural “kind” with our modern definition of species. Yet, since the Scripture is for our understanding, we would like to know what “kind” means. It is quite possible, given only our present knowledge, that we might not be able to define “kind” accurately. What is so often lost sight of, as considerable effort is put into denouncing those who identify “kind” with species, is that Kind” refers to some group smaller than the whole group of living things. Therefore, Genesis 1 teaches—for example that “creeping things” did not by any series of evolutionary changes produce “cattle.”

What does “kind” mean in Genesis 1? We might have difficulty in arriving at the proper definition. Yet the term “kind” meant to Noah something definite, some group of living things smaller than the whole group of living things. Repeatedly in Genesis 6 and 7 Noah is instructed to put into the ark beasts “after their kind” (alternately, “of every sort”). Very likely our inability to arrive at a precise definition of “kind” was not shared by Noah.

In addition, Adam had a knowledge which we do not share which enabled him to name the kinds. Possibly with his knowledge we could know what the Scriptural “kind” means. We could then speak with authority concerning the boundaries beyond which begetting could not pass. In defining such a boundary, we would be stating not only that there has been no evolution of plants and animals from one-celled organisms, but we would also be giving the limits beyond which change cannot occur. Unfortunately Our fuzziness in defining the Scriptural “kind” has been used to blur the distinction between the kinds.

We who oppose biological evolution should be charitable. Some will not agree with this interpretation of Scripture. The Scriptural argument concerning man is very clear, but perhaps we cannot construct as universally-convincing an argument concerning animals and plants.

What about the scientific aspects of the question of whether or not all animals and plants evolved from one-celled organisms? Perhaps those who are not convinced that Scripture answers this question will be convinced by scientific considerations.

As we examine this situation, we must realize that there has been a tremendous effort to prove, with a lesser effort to disprove, that there has been evolution from one-celled organisms. The apparent reason for the great effort since Darwin is that much of the debate has been philosophically oriented. The investigator, with his world-view, his philosophy of reality, at stake, bases his research on his fundamental ideas. It is significant for our purpose that most research biologists have been convinced that biological evolution is a fact. Consequently, the body of biological knowledge which has accumulated has been fitted to an evolutionary framework. Therefore, many outside the discipline of biology receive the impression that belief in biological evolution is a scientific necessity.

The very intensity of the effort to prove biological evolution may lead to the eventual discarding of the theory. Virtually every conceivable scientific weapon has been available to the evolutionist. He has had men, time, and money. The powerful faculties of the world have largely been on his side. Yet, after a century of effort, the biologists are uncomfortable with evolutionary theory. Wiebe, a Christian zoologist, writing in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, gives us a picture of the state of opinion among a certain group of biologists who accept evolution.1 The opinions of some whom Wiebe quotes are discussed here.

(1) Martin of Me Gill University wrote in 1953 in the American Scientist that the mutation-selection theory, the theory almost universally used to explain how evolution occurred, seems to be inadequate, Martin is disturbed by “…the almost total lack of scientific caution and self-criticism current in genetical circles, in regard to the accepted theory of evolution by mutation.”

Evolutionists almost always assume that evolution occurs by means of mutation, with the mutant having greater survival value. According to the theory, mutations accumulate until one species has become something entirely different. One objection Martin and others make is that mutations leading to a stronger species are not frequent enough; most mutations are deleterious.

The theistic evolutionist might respond, “This means that the method of evolution is in question, It does not mean that the fact of evolution is in question.” However, the very question the theistic evolutionist seeks to answer is, “How did God create?” The theistic evolutionist says again and again that Scripture tells us that God created, but it does not tell us how he created, If there is no scientifically-accepted how for evolution itself, the theistic evolutionist has lost the very ground he has chosen to defend.

(2) Libbie Hyman, a well-known zoologist with the American Museum of Natural History, changed her views between 1940 and 1959 so that she could no longer—since new evidence became available understand how certain evolutionary steps (for example, from Protozoa to Metazoa ) could have occurred, By 1959 she had become very pessimistic about the possibility of our ever learning how these steps were achieved.

(3) Bonner, in discussing Kerkut’s Implications of Evolution in the American Scientist in 1961. said there are “unseemly cracks in the foundations” of evolutionary theory. Concerning the views of experts on the evolution of invertebrate phyla, “one can find qualified, professional arguments, for any group being the descendant of almost any other.” In addition, he said, “Apparently if one reads the original papers instead of relying on some superficial remarks in a textbook, the affinities become extremely clouded indeed.”

(4) Romer, a zoologist at Harvard, said in 1941, “The oldest ancestors of the vertebrates are unknown and may always remain unknown.” In a similar manner Simpson, of the American Museum of Natural History and widely respected as a spokesman of evolutionists, said in 1955, “as for the ancestry of the chordates, all is left in darkness without even the dream of 60 years ago.”

(5) In 1930, Clark of the U. S. National Museum made numerous statements concerning this problem which are still valid, He said, “…the animals of the very earliest fauna of which our knowledge is sufficient to enable us to speak with confidence…were singularly similar to the animals of the present day.” He added, “…it is much more logical to assume a continuation of the parallel interrelationships further back into the indefinite past, to the times of the first beginnings of life, than it is to assume somewhere in early pre-Cambrian times a change in these relationships and a convergence toward a hypothetical common ancestral type from which all were derived. This last assumption has not the slightest evidence to support it. All of the evidence indicates the truth of the first assumption.” (In spite of all this, Clark accepted evolution; he maintained that the original single cells developed in all directions simultaneously. He apparently felt there was no strong evidence against this theory, although at one time he said the creationists have the belter argument.)

(6) Zirkle, a botanist at the University of Pennsylvania, called attention in 1960 to several prominent biologists who were critical of evolutionary theory. Referring to the natural-selection theory of evolution, he reported that there is a group of biologists who are silent and “…who are in disagreement with the current theory but who feel that it is futile to combat the generally accepted view.”

The problems raised here are not .trivial ones, Evolutionary theory is not merely unable to explain some small fact here or there, If the inability to explain some small fact were the problem, these scientists would not worry. Unexplained facts are not so uncommon in science, and such facts usually fall into place sooner or later. Rather, we see that some of those who work in this field worry about the very foundations of the theory. These opinions have been formed in spite of the prevailing climate and the tremendous effort to verify Darwin and his followers. One suspects that the scientists cited would not be evolutionists if an alternative other than creation were available. Furthermore, their comments lead one to believe that this uneasiness involves many more than the small number of biologists cited here.

There seem to be sufficient scientific reasons to doubt the main tenets of biological evolution, so that it is not necessary even from a “scientific respectability” point of view to hold to the idea that animals and plants evolved from one-celled organisms. These scientific arguments are not given here to strengthen a weak Scriptural argument; they are given to strengthen those who may examine Scripture a bit too superficially.

What kind of scientific argument has been used here? Specific scientific data—concerning, for example, certain fossils—have not been presented. An article in this magazine is not the place for such data. It is questionable procedure to present charts, graphs, etc., to the reader who may be a non-scientist, in an attempt to prove a controversial point. Such efforts are unfortunately common and they usually have little more than the outward form of a scientific presentation. They seem to be born of an effort to impress rather than to express. W hat has been attempted here is a presentation of the conclusions of some first-rate experts who have been able to analyze the charts, graphs, etc., which have appeared in the appropriate place. The admittedly minority opinion of these experts carries enough weight to teach caution even to one who does not listen to Scripture. Their opinion renders meaningless the advice of those among us who suggest we should accept biological evolution because we are behind the times if we do not. Such advice probably comes from some who are not as conversant with what is going on as their credentials would indicate.



Does “Day” in Genesis 1 Mean “Period”?

This question is related to Proposition 2. Can creation have begun billions of years ago? Some say that it did, and that the days of Genesis 1 were long periods. They say “day” was used by Moses to denote a period of time longer than 24 hours, and that it was used in the sense we might use it when we say, “In Lincoln’s day the country was in turmoil.” To determine whether creation can possibly be as old as some say, we must again turn to Scripture first.

Sometimes those who debate this issue arc not agreed upon just what the issue is. We therefore attempt to clarify a few matters.

(1) Those who hold to the “period” concept do not mean that there was a long period of light, followed by a long period of darkness. “Day” in this interpretation does not mean “long day.” “Day” refers to a long, somewhat indefinite period of time in the sense that “Lincoln‘s day” is indefinite. Similarly, “evening” and “morning” in Genesis 1 are the corresponding parts of this period “day.” “Evening” and “morning{ are thus used much as we use similar terms in “on the eve of the French Revolution,” “the twilight of his life,” and “at the dawn of history.”

(2 ) An argument against biological evolution is not an argument against the “day-equals-period” concept. This mistake is often made, and it is often mistakenly thought that an argument in favor of the “day-equals-period” concept is an argument for biological evolution. Strangely enough, both evolutionists and antievolutionists tend to make this mistake. Too many have said or implied that finding a two-billion year old rock proves biological evolution. It is a serious error not to divide the larger question of evolution into its component parts, such as the five propositions we have suggested.

(3) In discussing a short or long period for each day of Genesis 1 the ability of God to create in a short period is not in question. All Christians must

Continuing his discussion on Creationism versus Evolutionism, Prof. Russell Maatman of Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, here considers the important issues of the origin of life and the length of the creation days.

hold that God could create everything in an instant. Creation is miraculous, and it does not become more miraculous by being completed in a short time, as compared with a long time.

As the argument is developed in what follows, a position will be taken which is different from that taken by many others who also love Scripture and who also believe Scripture to be hoIy, inerrant, and infallible. It is not a happy situation to find it necessary to differ with these defenders of Scripture, for their view of Scripture is precisely the view that all Christians should take. What is given below concerning “day” and “period” is offered in the hope that we can become more faithful in our defense of the Scripture as holy, infallible, and inerrant. The position is taken that Scripture teaches the days to be periods, and that our defense of Scripture will be more effective if we adopt that view.

How can we ascertain the meaning of “day” in Genesis 1? We may not look to astronomy or geology and then impose some meaning on “day” in the text. If Scripture teaches a meaning, astronomy or geology must be understood in this light. Only if Scripture docs not teach a meaning, may we decide by using science.

Another method we may not use is to conclude that merely because “day” is mentioned in Genesis 1 that a 24-hour period is meant. This term is used to denote both longer periods (e.g., Gen. 2:4) and the ordinary day. In accepting the literal meaning of the text, we must use care in ascertaining this literal meaning.

We might possibly ascertain the length of a day mentioned in Scripture by noting what took place on that day. If we were to use that criterion, we might since so much happened on the creation days—conclude that those days were very long. However, those who hold to the 24-hour day maintain that part of the miracle of creation lies in the rapidity of the creation act, even though it is difficult to see how rapidity can be a factor. Apparently the adherent of the period concept cannot argue with any success that the large number of things which occurred on those days indicates they were long days. Some Genesis 1 statements, such as, “Let there be light,” seem to refer to instantaneous acts; others, such as, “Let the earth put forth grass,” seem to be capable of either the instantaneous or slow-process interpretation.

If we cannot conclude from observing what happened on those creation days to how long they were, we turn to other parts of Scripture. We then notice that God’s day is not like man’s day. God acting independently of specific human events acts in a clay quite unlike man’s 24-hour day. The most obvious example is the seventh day of rest of God which followed the six creation days. God’s rest consists of a cessation from creation, a cessation which continues even until now. Hence, we are not surprised to discover that the still-continuing seventh day is the one day for which the “evening” and “morning” are not indicated. If God’s seventh day is a long period, it seems extremely likely that God’s six days of creation—days which were God’s days, not man’s—were also long periods.

Some have said that the creation days are indicated to be 24-hour days because of the way they are treated in the giving of the law. Israel was to work six days and rest the seventh.

For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day. (Ex. 20:11)

Therefore. many have said, God’s creation days were no longer than the days in man’s working week. Yet the Hebrews surely understood the seventh day which God rested to be a long period. The commandment seems to say that even as Cod created in six of his clays and rested on his seventh day, so man is to work on six man-days and rest on the seventh man-day.

Thus, if we take the view that God’s activities are not like man’s, that the relation between God and his creation since the time of creation has been a constant, providential relation, and that this providential relation has been a day of rest—if we take this view, we are likely to conclude that the creation days were something quite different from man’s ordinary days.

If this is a correct interpretation of what Scripture teaches, then it is possible that Proposition 2, which states that the earth is billions of years old, is true. Naturally, if Scriptures teach that the creation days were long periods, it does not necessarily follow that these days add up to billions of years. It does mean that the concept of billions of years is a possible, a permisSible, one. (Some Reformed persons who accept the 24-hour creation day concept, such as J. Vos, admit that the period concept is not absolutely ruled out by Scripture.2)

Care must be taken in stating what the period concept means with respect to the creation of life. The creationist who accepts long periods and who denies biological evolution holds that at various times during the long periods God created instantaneously various “kinds” of plants and animals, and each reproduced “after his kind.” Long periods in no way imply biological evolution.

What of the scientific aspects of the age of creation? Two statements must be made first. First, we may not take a great-age conclusion from science and then impose it on Scripture. No doubt many follow that wrong procedure, but we must insist that Scripture comes first. Second, it is as true here as it is in a discussion of biological evolution that it is not quite fair to present in this place impressive-appearing scientific data. In a certain sense, we do less than what was said in the beginning of the first article we must do—namely, examine the idea itself. We must try to evaluate the testimony of the experts.

The significant point here is that the expert doing research in his own field—whether it be astronomy, geology, or the study of radioactivity whether he is a Christian or a non-Christian—is completely convinced that the evidence points to a very great age of creation. One very important point is often missed. Only an astronomer carrying out research in astronomy may speak authoritatively about the research in astronomy. Only one who has personal experience concerning the nature and use of radioactivity can be relied upon to interpret radiological dating methods. When we listen to research men, we find no astronomer who denies we are today receiving some star light which left the stars billions of years ago. We find no expert in radioactivity who sees any possibility that the rock-dating method could have been affected by the flood. Furthermore—contrary to what many tell us—when we listen to these experts we do not receive the impression that all is uncertain and that the scientific “party-line” follows a tortuous path.

Relying upon these scientists is very distasteful to some. Yet if we are going to discuss science at all. where can we go but to the expert in the relevant field? We should not consult doctors of medicine concerning astronomical problems. We should not ask engineers to present us with new theories in geology.

Perhaps the most telling argument here is that in the one place in which the Christian anti-evolutionist is certain that prevailing scientific thought is wrong—in biological evolution—there is an important, respected minority which seriously doubts the validity of important elements in the thought of the majority. Concerning the age of the earth, there is no such minority. There are not astronomers and experts in radioactivity in positions comparable to the positions of the biologists cited earlier (such as Martin of Mc Gill, Romer of Harvard, etc.) who comprise a dissenting minority. Those who have some knowledge of the problems involved in both biological evolution and in determining the age of the earth consider a dissenting minority in the age question to be almost—perhaps entirely—unthinkable. The level of certainty in the two cases is very, very different.

Some methods of obtaining the age of the earth and the universe are understood by scientists to be crude methods, and only of secondary value. Some opponents of the great-age concept have attacked these secondary methods. It is a mistake to point out the crudity of these methods for the purpose of debunking the great-age concept. The best methods, such as the one using the speed of interstellar light and the one using uranium, thorium, and potassium radioactivity, are the methods to scrutinize. (Many times in scientific work several methods of varying worth are used to achieve the same end. For example, an extremely important quantity to the chemist is the quantity known as “Avogadro’s number”; because of its importance, its value has been determined by about sixty independent methods of varying accuracy.)

The use of interstellar light in determining the age of creation arises from the long time—millions of years in some cases, billions in others—it takes for light we now see to travel from distant stars. If it is assumed the light we see actually left these stars, some stars are billions of years old.

Studies of the radioactivity of uranium, thorium, and potassium indicate great age of the earth. Uranium and thorium disintegrate into products eventually yielding “isotopes” of lead; potassium disintegrates yielding argon. The time necessary for a given amount of disintegration is easily measured in each of these three cases. By measuring the relative amounts of uranium, thorium, or potassium and lead or argon in a rock, the age of the rock can be calculated. There are methods of determining whether or not element ratios have been disturbed by extraneous factors. Ages are considered reliable when independent methods check each other. There are now a large number of independent, reliable determinations, all indicating some rocks are billions of years old.

The carbon-14 method is limited to ages less than about forty thousand years, while the earth age discussed is in the range of billions of years. Consequently, discussion of carbon-14 is quite irrelevant in the earth-age discussion.

Could it not be that God created the universe only thousands of years ago, with a built-in apparent age? God could have done so, and we can never have scientific evidence to the contrary. If we think he created the earth with an apparent great age, we should not attempt to prove that the evidence indicating great age is weak. God would certainly not create weak evidence. It is very difficult to understand why some teach that God created the universe with great apparent age, while they also attack the dating methods which indicate great age.

The apparent-age question must be evaluated theologically, not scientifically. Would God have created clues leading us to something other than the truth? Probably he would not. Probably creating Adam as an adult, assuming this is how he was created, is not the same as creating rocks appearing to be billions of years old and creating star light on the way from the stars. If God did create only thousands of years ago star light on its way to us, and if we believe he tells us this, he is also telling us we have no evidence of the existence of anything outside a small fraction of our own galaxy. It would then be improper to speak of other galaxies.

It is not pleasant to find it necessary to differ with those who accept 24-hour creation days. For their concept of Scripture, a concept which includes the idea that Scripture teaches the scientist certain scientific matters, agrees with our view of Scripture. We may not accept the Scripture-tells-us-very-little concept of the theistic evolutionist. Perhaps those of us who have a high view of Scripture can help each other and in the foreseeable future arrive at the same conclusions.

In these two articles we have discussed three of the admittedly arbitrary five component parts of evolutionary theory. In each case we have discussed the testimony of Scripture, which takes precedence over the evidence of science. In two of the three cases the scientific aspects of the problem have also been discussed, and in both cases the evidence is consistent with Scripture. We have concluded that biological evolution, including evolution of man, is not true, whereas the great age of the earth is a likelihood.

Is it not meaningful that the very question raised by the evolutionists are questions answered in Scripture? He who believes Scripture learns certain things about science which the unbelieving scientist learns only after arduous years of work. With more diligence in ascertaining the meaning of Scripture, we may in the future be better equipped to meet the onslaughts of those who accept biological evolution, and whoever else attacks the infallible Scripture.


1. H.T. Wiebe, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 18, 112 (1966).

2. J. Vos, Torch and Trumpet, 16 (10), 4 (1966).