‘In the Beginning Were the Particles’

It's a classic story of creation -- one you may be familiar with, but probably have never heard spelled out quite this way. Here's how it goes: "In the beginning was no intelligence or purpose; there were only particles and impersonal laws of physics. These two things plus chance did all the creating. Without them nothing was made that has been made. The particles combined to become complex living stuff through a process of evolution. Primitive humans, not having science to tell them what had happened, dreamed up a Creator they called God." As Wilberforce Forum Board of Reference member Phillip Johnson writes in his new book The Right Questions, this is the "creation story" of evolutionary naturalism. And once we understand that -- really what they're saying -- we will have the enforcers of Darwinism on the run. As Johnson explains, there is "an unacknowledged creation story" at the root of all secular learning which is the precise opposite of the biblical one. But don't expect to hear it told forthrightly at Harvard or Berkeley or anywhere else. To state its elements this explicitly would be to reveal that it is merely a story. "A foundational story," Johnson writes, "is much more powerful when it is pervasively assumed." If its elements, you see, are never evaluated, it appears to be an unavoidable implication of reason itself. The secular creation story originated with Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theories appeared to make God unnecessary as Creator. Religious belief, intellectuals assumed, would die out as soon as people became better educated. A modern evangelist for the secular creation story is Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin. The primary job for science educators, Lewontin maintains, is to get the public "to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world . . . and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, science, as the only begetter of truth." At least he's honest about what evolutionists are up to. Today, Johnson writes, the grip of materialism has become so strong, and respect for traditional Christianity so weak, that even when people become dissatisfied with materialistic explanations for life, they tend to turn to an unbiblical compromise, like process theology, in which God evolves with the world. And unfortunately Christians sometimes tend to argue just over scientific facts. Now we should do that, but you can't be trapped into arguing about the details when you should be focusing at the same time on the fundamental assumptions that generate the evolutionary story. "To put it simply," Johnson writes, "Christians have been losing because they have not found the best way to state the question. They do battle on ground that favors the agnostics." We must understand that the debate is not a clash between science and religion, or between reason and faith. It is a clash between two religions -- Christianity and naturalism -- and two definitions of science -- evolution and intelligent design. When we talk with our children and our neighbors, we must focus on the fundamental assumptions that generate the evolutionary story. We must make sure they understand that the real debate is between two creation narratives: between one that says, "In the beginning were the particles," and one that says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; all things were made through Him . . . " For further information: Phillip E. Johnson, The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning, and Public Debate (InterVarsity, 2002). Phillip E. Johnson, The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism (InterVarsity, 2000). Nicholas Wade, "In Nature vs. Nurture, a Voice for Nature," New York Times, 17 September 2002 (free registration required). The video "Icons of Evolution" features professional and engaging interviews with scientific experts, focusing on the incorrect assumptions and data used by Darwin and the scientific facts that refute them. William A. Dembski, "Skepticism's Prospects for Unseating Intelligent Design," BreakPoint Online, 24 June 2002.


Chuck Colson


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