“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” 2 Pe 2:1 (NKJV)
Models are useful in science because they allow us to apply tests to a conceptual framework. Results are interpreted in terms of supporting or falsifying the framework or some part thereof. In the case of theories about origins, the best we can hope to do is see if the evidence we observe in the present is predicted by the theory about the past origin.
The Materialist model is built on an interlocking set of philosophical theories. The most significant of these are Evolution, Uniformitarianism, and Big Bang theory. Taken together, these philosophies form an overall model describing the origin and development of the universe, our planet, and life. It is important to keep in mind that these philosophies are nothing more than concepts invented by people.
The Materialist model requires origins came about through purely natural mechanisms with no supernatural influence or guidance of any kind. This include the universe, our planet, organic life, and organization at each of these levels.
The Big Bang theory is the most widely accepted theory for the formation of the universe as a whole. Big Bang theory suggests that all matter and energy came from nothing or else always existed, but either way that there was an initial explosion and out of that blast came the matter and energy we observe now. Big Bang theory accepts Einstein’s theory that space itself is expanding. Since the universe appears isotropic from our vantage point, we are either very near the center of the universe or the universe has no center and thus no boundary. Big Bang theory applies the Copernican principle which says we are not in any special or privileged location within the universe. In other words, Big Bang theory predicts we are not at the center of a bound universe but rather we are nowhere in particular in an infinite yet expanding universe.
Thanks to the groundwork laid by Einstein and Hubble, distance to extremely far away galaxies can be calculated. The most distant objects we can observe are nearly 15 billion light-years away. Since we can see objects near this distance in all direction, the diameter of the observable universe is about 30 billion light-years. The reasonable assumption – based on the Copernican Principle being applied to these observations – is that the universe is at least 30 billion years old. This time scale is useful to the philosopher who wishes to see vast ages made available to support the time required to form the earth and evolve life.
Materialist astronomers suggest our local solar system was born of swirling supernova debris something like 4 to 5 billion years ago. There are different theories about the origin of our moon and many of the details of our solar system, but there is general agreement among Materialist scientists that the sun coalesced into star form before the earth cooled into its present planetary form. Over a few billion years earth cooled and eventually the water and atmosphere stabilized to the point at which it could support life.
Charles Lyell published Principles of Geology in 1830. In it, Lyell wrote about his idea of Uniformitarianism. He believed that the geological processes we observe today have gone on essentially uniformly since the beginning of time. Lyell’s theory says there has never been a time when the entire surface of the planet was under water. Geological layers, particularly those layers including fossils, are the result of build-up over time. Many small events, such as local floods, glaciers and volcanic activity have occurred. Except where later events have churned the rock, lower layers are older than higher layers. This means lower fossils are necessarily older than fossils closer to the surface.
Evolutionists following in Darwin’s footsteps pursue a natural explanation of how life arose from non-life. This particular pursuit is called abiogenesis. Since life must have arose from non-life by natural means, the only question is how. Although the answer is elusive, evolutionary science is determined to learn how it happened if for no other reason than to prove the Creationists are wrong. If a process for abiogenesis were discovered, its proponents hope that we could learn how to control the process in order to engineer organisms for specific purposes. Some of these purposes could be noble, such as curing disease or cleaning up oil spills. Maybe some type of organism capable of surviving the harsh Martian surface could be used to generate a breathable atmosphere so man could eventually colonize space. At a minimum it makes for a good science fiction story. On the darker side, the ability to engineer life could also be used to engineer biological weapons. No matter how it is used, the ability of man to play God is dangerous – how can we know the consequences of such knowledge?
As Darwin prepared to embark on his famous four-year voyage on the HMS Beagle in December of 1831, he received a copy of Lyell’s book. In 1837 Darwin published his famous sketch of the tree of life. Darwin published his first book about his voyage in 1839, three years after the voyage. In that first publication he wrote more about his geological observations, placing his observations in the context of the principles he adopted from Lyell. In 1859 he published his most well known book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin published many books, but it was his 1859 book that has made him a household name throughout the world.
Darwin’s published ideas actually pick up where abiogenesis leaves off. Darwin’s idea of Evolution, simply stated, is that natural selection is the process by which mutations are accepted or rejected and that over long periods of time gradual changes take place where basic life forms transition into progressively higher orders. Assuming we start from some basic living organism, the theory of evolution relies on random beneficial mutations, environmental factors, and natural selection to transform life from simple to complex. The original theory has undergone many revisions since Darwin’s 1859 publication, but the essential principle of diversification of life through purely natural mechanisms, remains the heart and soul of Evolution.
Of course there are any number of subtle variations on the Materialist model, but the description above is substantially what is taught almost universally at all levels of public education. These principles are so broadly impressed on the psyche of western Academia that they are also taught in private schools from Christian primary schools to top seminaries. At the start of the twentieth century Creation was taught in schools and Evolution (and its associates like Uniformitarianism) were forbidden. By the end of the century Creation was replaced and forbidden. Is this reversal in popular public belief the result of scientific enlightenment or has the wool been pulled over our eyes?
The Materialism model makes numerous predictions possible. One prediction is that our biology is all we are. Another, that no great flood has ever covered the entire surface of our planet and that the geologic processes observed today are little changed from the remotely distant past. Another, that life arose from non-life through some reverse-entropy (order from disorder) process. Another, that the order of the universe arose from disorder through some other reverse-entropy process. The Materialist model also seeks to explain details like animal extinction, development of human language and culture, and any other branch of science which seeks to explain the past. These and many other phenomena we observe (or don’t observe) are subjects for future chapters.