Evolution v. Creation: An Important Debate for Theology and the Law

Albert Mohler just posted a great essay to his blog regarding the importance of the evolution v. creation debate in our time.  He does a wonderful job presenting the history of and issues in this debate in a concise and useful way.  Further, he clearly and cogently argues that theistic evolution (despite its appeal) is a disaster (and worse than a compromise, it is actually a capitulation to Darwinism.)  Here is a quote from his post:

Given the stakes in this public controversy, the attractiveness of theistic evolution becomes clear. The creation of a middle ground between Christianity and evolution would resolve a great cultural and intellectual conflict. Yet, in the process of attempting to negotiate this new middle ground, it is the Bible and the entirety of Christian theology that gives way, not evolutionary theory. Theistic evolution is a biblical and theological disaster.

I would encourage you to read the entire post here.

Obviously, this debate has implications that run far beyond theology into almost every other area of thought and life.  The law has been particularly impacted by evolutionary theory, as Herb Titus ably points out in his book God, Man, and Law: The Biblical Principles.

In Law’s Quandary, Stephen D. Smith presents this issue in terms of differing “ontological inventories.”  He discusses three such inventories: everyday experience, (popular) science, and religion.  He rightly notes that most of us live most of our lives using the everyday experience ontological inventory.  It is simpler and less sophisticated than the other two, but it adequately handles the vast majority of our everyday activities and thoughts.  One of the basic categories in the everyday ontology is “persons.”  (22-26)

Obviously, the religious ontological inventory (which he associates rightly in the West with the Judeo-Christian worldview) is far more robust than the everyday or scientific ontology.  It contains many if not all items found on the other two inventories, and many, many more besides including God, angels, spirits, souls, etc.  (29)  Further, the religious ontology, contains a very robust understanding of persons as made in the image of God.  (Genesis 1:28-30)  This robust view of persons has given rise to the concepts of liberty and human rights in the West.

After discussing the everyday ontology, but before he turns to religion, he discusses the scientific ontology.  (26-29) In that discussion, quoting John Searle’s The Construction of Social Reality, he writes:

[T]wo features of our conception of reality are not up for grabs: They are not, so to speak, optional for us as citizens of the late twentieth and early twentieth century.  It is a condition of your being an educated person in our era that you are apprised of these two theories: the atomic theory of matter and the evolutionary theory of biology.

…  The world consists entirely of entities that we find it convenient, though not entirely accurate, to describe as particles.  These particles exist in fields of force, and are organized into systems.  The boundaries of systems are set by causal relations.  Examples of systems are mountains, planets, H2O molecules, rivers, crystals, and babies.  Some of these systems are living systems; and on our little earth, the living systems contain a lot of carbon-based molecules, and make a very heavy use of hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.  Types of living systems evolve through natural selection, and some of them have evolved certain sorts of cellular structures, specifically, nervous systems capable of causing and sustaining consciousness.  Consciousness is a biological, and therefore physical, though of course also mental feature of certain higher-level nervous systems, such as human brains and a large number of different types of animal brains. (26-27)

The huge problem here is obvious.  In opposition to both the everyday and religious ontologies, “the scientific view appears to dissolve ‘persons’ as a discrete ontological category.”  (28)  As I have pointed out in another post here, Prof. Smith later notes that the scientific ontology has taken the field in law and many other disciplines.  (31-37)

Human rights is all the rage in the law these days.  Just follow the coverage of the unrest in the Arab world if you don’t believe me.  However, I wonder how long a people who hold a worldview that cannot possibly support a concept such as human dignity or even uniqueness can retain a robust doctrine of human rights.  Arguably, the current massacre of unborn infants in the womb demonstrates that we cannot, and that the slide to barbarism has already begun.