“Evolution and Christian Though Today”

The volume reviewed in this article is a symposium on Evolution, edited by Russell L. Mixter, and published by tile Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959. Because of the importance of the subject we are placing this material as a special article instead of in our department of Book Reviews.

Editorial Committee

This volume has been prepared under the sponsorship of the American Scientific Affiliation, a group of some eight hundred evangelical scientists committed to Biblical Christianity. Written by thirteen members of the Affiliation and edited by its former president, who is Professor of Zoology at Wheaton College, the book has been issued in connection with the hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species and is an attempt to evaluate the theory of evolution from the Christian viewpoint.

Such a work, if satisfactory, would be timely and is urgent1y needed. The evolutionary philosophy now dominates nearly every sphere of learning and science and is basic in the thinking of the world’s intellectual and political leaders. Its conflict with the Biblical revelation of Creation and the Fall is neither peripheral nor superficial. and a book which would bring it into proper Biblical and scientific perspective would render an invaluable service.

But this book, in the judgment of this reviewer. does not meet this need. In their desire to establish a reputation of intellectual respectability for evangelical Christians. the authors have given us essentially a polemic for evolution, apparently with the primary purpose of “educating” their less-informed and more conservative brethren! It is feared that the result will be an acceleration of the already widespread defection of neo-evangelicals to evolutionism and its associated ills.

The authors attempt to evaluate current thought in each of several disciplines concerned with evolution. viewing it in light of the Bible account of origins. Each author writes as a theist, of course, and insists that God is the originator and sustainer of such evolutionary processes as may be operative in nature. Some of the writers retain the view, generally accepted among creationists, that evolution has occurred only within the originally-created Genesis “kinds” of organisms, but they do not commit themselves as to the particular limits implied by this term. Others in the Symposium appear willing to accept the evolutionary origin of all things, even life itself!



At the same time. several lines of evidence against evolution are very capably presented by at least some of the writers. But then the significance of these evidences is minimized or even ignored.

In Chapter One. Thomas D. S. Key, a high-school biology teacher, reviews the influence of Darwin on biology and theology. He lists a number of theories by which various writers have attempted to reconcile Scripture with evolutionary theory, but comes to no particular conclusion himself.

Dr. George Schweitzer. Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee, and a popular lecturer on science and religion, writes on the various theories of the origin of the earth and the universe. Although he admits that each of these theories encounters serious difficulties, he favors Gamow’s theory, which postulates the evolutionary development of the universe from a state of extremely high density, beginning some five billion years ago.

Most theistic evolutionists have, in the past, at least accepted the special creation of life itself. So it is rather amazing to find the authors of Chapter Three (Dr. Walter Hearn, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State and Dr. Richard Hendry, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Westminster College) now arguing even for a naturalistic origin of living matter from the non-living! They do not of course offer any real proof of such a biochemical origin of life. In essence they tell us that perhaps it might have been so, and therefore we ought to accept it!

The chapter on genetics is written by Dr. D. S. Robertson, Assistant Professor of Genetics at Iowa State, and John Sinclair, a graduate student at U.C.L.A. Although these writers do not definitely commit themselves to total evolution, they stress the importance of mutation and natural selection in the evolutionary process. And in typical evolutionist fashion, the highly significant fact that practically all mutations are either neutral or harmful in the struggle for existence is first admitted and then dismissed.

In Chapter Five, Dr. Irving Knobloch, Professor of Natural Science at Michigan State, cites numerous instances ()f biologic change through the process of hybridization. He recognizes, however, that this process must be within definite limits and affirms his belief in the special creation of the original ‘“kinds” of Genesis. Dr. Wilbur Bullock, Associate Professor of Zoology at the University of New Hampshire, takes a similar position, writing on the evidence from taxonomy. Bullock devotes most of his efforts, however, to demolishing the straw man of absolute fixity of species, which no informed creationist has advocated for many years.

Dr. V. E. Anderson, Professor of Biology at Bethel College, discusses the phenomena of geographical distribution as an evidence for evolution. His position on the creation of original kinds, with subsequent variation within the kinds, is essentially the same as that of Knobloch and Bullock. Anderson ignores the implications of the Noahic Flood, which is necessarily of profound importance in any Biblically-oriented consideration of animal migrations and distribution.

The most important “evidence” for evolution, that from paleontology (the study of fossils) is discussed by Cordella Erdman Barber, now a housewife but formerly a geology instructor at Wheaton College. Mrs. Barber accepts the fossil sequences as giving an actual documentary record of the history of life on the earth. In view of the limited and—circumstantial nature of all the other supposed evidences for evolution, this paleontological evidence has long been regarded by evolutionists as the one real proof of evolution. Mrs. Barber recognizes, however, the existence of serious evolutionary gaps in the fossil record, of basically the same magnitude and kind as those noted in the data from genetics, taxonomy, and other fields. The possible significance of the great Flood in the formation of any of the fossiliferous strata is high-handedly dismissed as unworthy of discussion.

Dr. J. Frank Cassel, Chairman of the Zoology Department at North Dakota State Agricultural College, discusses the anatomical, embryological and physiological resemblances between different groups of animals. He recognizes that these evidences are entirely circumstantial and can well be cited as evidences for a common Designer; he is nevertheless quite willing to accept them as of evolutionary origin.

The important problem of the origin of man is dealt with by J.O. Buswell, III, who is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wheaton College. Although Buswell believes in a real Adam, as a special creation of God, he accepts the modern anthropological chronologies of early man, which means that Adam must be dated as at least several hundred thousand years old! He dismisses any problems of Biblical exegesis which this view entails as negligible.

The concluding chapter, which summarizes the book and relates the whole to Christian theology. is by Dr. Carl Henry. editor of the periodical Christianity Today . Henry gives an excellent summary and analysis of the present status of evolution in modern thought. He incisively and with full documentation points up the paradox of the universal acceptance of evolution despite the basic deficiencies in its evidential basis. Like several of the other authors, he still favors belief in the special creation of life, of the major forms of organisms, and of man. One gathers. however, that these beliefs could easily be forfeited if the scientific evidence should become strong enough to warrant it.

The book has many commendable features and contains many useful data in conveniently available form. And of course the degree of accommodation of the Christian position to that of the evolutionist is less for some of the authors than for others.

Nevertheless, aU of the authors apparently agree on certain very important concessions to the evolutionary system. For example, the geologic ages are accepted in their entirety, implying an age for the earth of some five billion years, an age for life on the earth of perhaps a billion years, and an age for man himself of at least several hundred thousand years! In effect, this position repucliates any genuine historical validity of the Genesis account of creation, reducing it to the level of a poem or allegory. It stretches the chronological framework of Genesis 5 and 11 beyond all reason and ignores the testimony concerning the highly developed civilization of the immediate descendants of Adam and later of Noah.

This position rejects God’s statement (in Genesis 2:1–3 and elsewhere) to the effect that the processes of creation, whatever they may have been, were completely terminated after the six days of creation. It also ignores the fact of the Fall and its associated curse on the whole creation (Romans 8:20–22). The Biblical testimony of a completed creation, not continuing in the present, is scientifically supported by the first law of thermodynamics, the law of energy conservation, which states that there is no creation of energy (and this includes matter also) taking place in the universe at the present. Its testimony of present decay and deterioration in nature, resulting from the Fall, is supported scientifically by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that all natural processes tend to go in the direction of increasing disorganization and decreasing complexity, unless acted upon by external sources of energy and order. And these two laws of thermodynamics are without doubt the most firmly established of all known physical laws!

Thus, the Creation was not accomplished by means of the natural processes prevailing at the present time, those processes with which this Symposium deals—such as mutation, natural selection, hybridization, erosion, radio activity, etc. These processes are all subservient to the two laws of thermodynamics, and could not have been in operation in their present form in the period of the Creation. It is therefore quite impossible to deduce the history of the Creation from the study of these present processes. The plain testimony, both of Scripture and of the two laws of thermodynamics, is that real Creation could not have been, and was not, accomplished by means of natural processes bound by the present order of things.

Furthermore, the authors have quite ignored the Biblical witness of a universal, earth-shaking Flood in the days of Noah. The record of the Flood, if true, clearly implies tremendous geologic upheavals and profound disturbances in the continuity of even those natural processes in effect in the present cosmos. The dogma of geological uniformitarianism is automatically discredited if a Deluge such as the Bible describes has actually occurred on the earth since the Creation, and this uniformitarian assumption is quite basic to the evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record, which in turn is regarded by evolutionists as the one real proof that their theory is true. To reject, and still worse—to ignore, the implications of the Deluge in a work which purports to evaluate evolution from the Biblical perspective, is clearly indicative of a very low esteem for Scriptural integrity and perspicuity.

For these and other reasons, this reviewer cannot recommend this book, at least for the purpose for which it was intended. It will undoubtedly prove to be a very influential book, however, and this fact accounts for the rather extensive analysis devoted to it here.

Mechanically speaking, the book is very attractive in appearance and typography. The book is well-documented but, unfortunately, contains neither a Bibliography nor an Index of Authors. Furthermore, the Subject Index is so abbreviated as to be virtually useless. The illustrations are all inconveniently assembled at the back of the book and .are markedly of unequal value as far as the book’s purpose is concerned. One would suppose that more care would have been given to matters of this kind in a book of scholarly caliber.