Did Evolution Occur Naturally?
by Steven R. Hemler
Naturalistic evolution holds that life evolved naturally, without any divine design or guidance. It is widely taught today, more often as fact than as theory, in our schools and universities.
The prevailing worldview in the scientific and academic community is that the material world of nature, that which can be observed, measured and quantified, encompasses the whole of reality. This philosophical conviction that nature is "all there is" is called materialism or naturalism.
Naturalism is the basis of what is taught about the origin and development of life in our schools and universities. Our children are taught that the extraordinary complexity and variety of life on this planet evolved over very long periods of time only through natural processes, such as natural selection acting on random variations and "survival of the fittest," without any divine guidance or design.
It is understandable for scientists to have a naturalistic perspective. Scientists are charged with pursuing a rational understanding of natural occurrences according to their best judgment. For scientists to admit that "God did it" is sometimes seen as giving up on science.
However, many in the scientific and academic community adamantly and rigidly hold to a nature-only (naturalistic) basis for the evolution of life on earth. Many are dogmatically certain they are right and no other alternative is even worth teaching young people.
Dogmatism, however, is a human characteristic that grows out of insecurity. It seems that naturalistic evolutionists fear the obvious. Namely, that the complexity and wonder of human and all earthly life gives the appearance of having been intelligently designed because it was! They would rather have us believe:
The Theory of Naturalistic Evolution: Hydrogen is a gas, which given enough time, naturally turns into people.
Common sense tells us this cannot be true. Hydrogen, the basic primordial element after the Big Bang, could not have just naturally (without any divine guidance) turned into people, even over very long periods of time!
Furthermore, the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection has only been demonstrated to produce changes within a species (e.g., finch beak size, moth coloring). This type of evolution, which produces variations within a single species, is called micro-evolution.
On the other hand, macro-evolution is the idea that a totally new type of animal evolves from another type of animal over very long periods of time (such as amphibians evolving from fish). However, there is compelling fossil and other scientific evidence (such as the Cambrian Explosion and irreducibly complex biological systems) that questions whether macro-evolution can be fully explained by natural causes only, such as the neo-Darwinian mechanism of natural selection acting on random genetic mutations.
Surely, there is more to reality than what can be explained by natural causes only. Since we are confined by the "space-time continuum," it is impossible for us to preclude the possibility of any reality outside of that continuum. We are unlikely to be able to perceive the whole of reality because we are limited by our five senses and the tools we've designed to enhance them.
For example, imagine if humans did not have the sense of sight. How would we ever know the beauty of a magnificent, red sunset? That red sunset is reality. Nevertheless, how could we describe that reality, or the colors of a rainbow, to a person who has been blind since birth? For without our sense of sight we would be totally unaware of that reality. In short, we are too blinded by human limitations to know for certain that the natural world encompasses the whole of reality.
So, evolution per se is not the main challenge to faith in God. Rather, the main challenge to faith is the widespread assertion within the scientific and academic communities that the material world of nature is all that exists and that natural causes alone are fully adequate to explain the origin and development of life on earth. However, a science that considers only natural causes for the origin and complexity of life on earth is a crippled science. It is unable to discover the whole truth, since intelligent causes are artificially ruled out. Thus, a science based on naturalism is unable to determine if evolution was designed to happen or if it could have been God's method of creation.
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Copyright © Steve Hemler. Steve Hemler has been involved in youth ministry, pro-life political activism and religious education. His articles have been published in America, Liguorian, Church, Modern Liturgy, Religion Teacher's Journal, Liturgical Catechesis, and National Review.