From time to time I receive letters on the subject of evolution from, presumably, readers of my Catholic Herald column. One which I received this week starts:
Evolution is a lot of nonsense… and the consequence of sexual sins.
Man, each man, as we know him, is an uniquely created being with an inbuilt intelligence, memory, and soul. All made possible by the almighty power of the Father Creator: God, One and Triune, and not by an evolutionary one. The soul always carries a remembrance of its Origin: God. Evolution is an offence to God.
“And what iniquity is greater than deducing that God, the Almighty, had to wait for spontaneous evolution to create His masterpiece, which is man? What thought is more senseless than that of someone thinking that God was powerless to create the most beautiful work of His creation directly?…”
There is usually no useful way of answering this approach since I have to assume that such writers are guided by such a strong personal view that any reference I make to empirical evidence such as the fossil record or DNA sequences is likely to be unacceptable.
I have rather more sympathy with those who broadly accept evolution but hold that there are examples in biology which could not have come about through a biological development. Four common examples crop up from time to time.
The first is the bombardier beetle. In brief, this beetle shoots out an explosive charge in self defence. Since this is caused by two chemicals which are inert on their own but explosive when mixed, it is argued that the beetle could not have developed itself without being blown up in the process.
A second example is the flagellum. This is a rotating tail to be found in some bacteria. The claim here is that there is no evolutionary sequence which could plausibly provide the steps necessary for this ingenious development. Similarly the very complex process whereby blood clots in order to staunch a wound requires stages which would not in themselves contribute to survival.
Perhaps the most attractive example is provided by the eye. Anyone who has studied the biology of the eye will know that it is marvellously complex and efficient. The idea that it could have developed thus through the random processes of evolution beggars the imagination. No wonder that such examples are described as irreducible complexity. Surely, some would argue, the direct hand of the Creator, sometimes known as Intelligent Design, is needed here?
Even if we accept that these difficulties can in some instances be explained, or that an absence of explanation may be the result of incomplete scientific knowledge, we are still left with the deeper question of why God, who could presumably have created directly if he chose, selected a method which depends on random outcomes, albeit filtered by the need for such outcomes to promote survival. It is almost as if he used a method of creation devised to conceal his work. A test of faith, perhaps?
In our secular and scientific age such doubts about evolution, or its particular aspects, are unfashionable, Indeed to state them publicly is to invite a scoff rather than applause. So I think it would be interesting to know whether any contributors, old or new, have difficulty with the question of evolution, and if so, whether others can correct them, or accept that they have a powerful point.