This is probably the most controversial question which relates to science
and the Bible. In fact, many Bible believers have divided along the lines
of this controversy. In addressing this question, one would do well to
remember the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:23,24; “Don’t have anything to
do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce
quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be
kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”
Nevertheless, this is a good question, and it deserves an answer, so do
our best to present a reasonable one. Bear in mind that this answer is
being produced by a scientist with a PhD in chemical physics, not biology.
The author is not a trained evolutionary biologist.
What about evolution? Is there any way evolution and the Bible can both be
true? The answer would depend on your definition of evolution. The simple
answer is no! If one takes as his or her definition the full-blown
atheistic version of evolution, it might go something like this. From some
early inanimate environment on the earth, a living thing spontaneously
arose by some sort of random, natural process without any interference by
any supernatural power. The atheistic version of this theory would
continue to claim that this one-celled initial life form was transformed
into every species of plant, animal and so forth which has ever inhabited
through a process of organic evolution.
This definition is really more a dogmatic, semi-religious assumption than
a provable scientific hypothesis. Nevertheless, if it is true, then there
is absolutely no way that the atheistic full-blown neo-Darwinist
evolutionary assumption can be reconciled with the Bible. Genesis chapter
one, and indeed the entire Bible creates the clear impression that life
was created by the supernatural command of God. Genesis one further seems
to imply that at different times, God created various “kinds” (to use the
non-technical Hebrew term) of plants, animals and so forth. Again, this is
absolutely irreconcilable with the atheistic definition above.
So the radical atheistic formulation of the evolutionary concept is
incompatible with the Bible. A better question, perhaps, is whether some
sort of limited evolution is compatible with what the Bible teaches. The
answer would depend on one’s view of Genesis one (see question 1). If one
interprets Genesis chapter one to imply an earth only a few thousands of
years old–one which was created in six literal twenty-four hour periods,
then the answer is again no. There is no way that any really significant
evolutionary change could occur in such a short time frame. Perhaps a dog
could have been “evolved” from wolves in that time frame, but certainly
humans and chimps could not have evolved from some common primate ancestor
in that amount of time, never mind mammals from fish.
If, on the other hand, one allows for the “days” of Genesis chapter one to
represent great periods of time for God’s creation, then perhaps some sort
of limited evolution may become possible. The question of the actual
mechanism by which evolution occurs would still remain, but that would be
something for the scientists to solve. The fact is that the fossil record
is quite consistent with a forest rather than a single tree of evolution.
In other words, the fossil record would be consistent with the possibility
that a creator produced various species at various times in the distant
past of the earth, followed by some sort of evolution of those created
species. In fact, Darwin himself, in his earlier editions of Origin of
Species allowed for the possibility that there may have been a number of
different original species. The most famous example in the fossil record
of species seeming to appear virtually out of nothing on geological
timescales is what is known as the Cambrian explosion. At a point in the
very distant past, every major body form appears in the fossil record,
seemingly with no obvious precursors, in virtually zero time. Naturalistic
evolutionary theories struggle mightily with the fossil record.
Do cats and lions have a common ancestor? Perhaps. Could all fish have
evolved from some sort of original created fish? Possibly. Did the
original one-celled organism evolve into human beings? The Bible clearly
seems to say no! The fact remains that the Bible does not answer each of
these questions in detail. Therefore it would be wise for individuals to
investigate the question carefully and reach their own conclusions, but to
not be overly dogmatic about areas which are debatable.
This is obviously only a very cursory introduction to answering this
question. The interested searcher may want to look at some more detailed
Is There A God? by John Oakes, PhD (GCI Books, 1999) chapter 8.
The Science of God Gerald L. Schroeder, PhD (Broadway Books, 1997)
Nature’s Destiny Michael J. Denton, PhD (The Free Press, 1998) Part 2.
(also by Denton, Evolution, a Theory in Crisis)