Do Life And Living Forms Present a Problem for Materialism?
A comparison is made between how well materialism and the Genesis creation account explain life and living forms; the analysis reveals serious problems for materialism’s explanations. The comparison is organized around the first three uses of the Hebrew word bara in the first chapter of Genesis – where it is translated as ‘created’, and means‘to create out of nothing’. Science is then used to test the materialist and biblical explanations for the origin of the universe, the origin of plant life, the origin of creature life and the origin of human consciousness. All four of the materialist explanations fail the test of science while all four of the biblical explanations pass.
The fact this question is even asked demonstrates that materialism has problems explaining life and living forms. Interestingly, no one asks if life and living forms present a problem for biblical theism; therefore, why is it today so many highly educated people accept a materialist explanation and reject a biblical explanation? Likely, it is because they believe the biblical explanation is an ancient myth, or that it has already been examined and found wanting. And, they truly fear that if they invoke God as a Creator, it would mean they would have to abandon reason and science.
But materialism has major problems. The idea that ‘physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter’ defies common sense. And, it will be demonstrated that materialist explanations concerning the origin of the universe, the origin of plant life, the origin of creature life and the origin of human consciousness, fail the test of science. The materialist is ultimately left with only philosophical speculations, not scientific explanations. Also, the materialist is trapped by his worldview. As Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton observed over a hundred years ago, ‘The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle.’
This is also admitted by evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin. In a review of Carl Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, he observed:
‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’
Thus, for the trapped materialist, nothing can present a true problem for materialism, not life, not living forms – nothing. Having rejected the‘Divine Foot in the door’, the materialist speculates there must still be an explanation out there – somewhere; he just concludes it has not been found yet. As we will see, there is a good chance his speculations are wrong. Life and living forms require explanations, not speculations. Therefore, let us take a close look at an alternative, the Genesis creation account and compare materialism with it. After all, the Bible has an excellent historical record in regard to science.
James Hannam, in God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (2009), clearly documents the consensus view of historians of science that the religious conviction God created nature led to the development of the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages. He then shows how this led to the achievement of modern science. Hannam also describes how the Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, whom he refers to as ‘God’s philosophers’, made the crucial distinctions about how God uses secondary causes or natural laws to affect his will, which encouraged the study of nature. Without such distinctions theology becomes fatalistic and no science ensues. Rodney Stark, in his book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery,
concurs. He concludes his section on science with two points: ‘First, science arose only once in history – in medieval Europe. Second, science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator.’ Interestingly, one does not abandon science when one accepts biblical theism; one invents it. Continue reading