There's Something About Mary Schweitzer, Part 5

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, December 1, 2022 3 comments

by Steve Risner

In my post last week, we took a look at some statements from Dr. Mary Schweitzer (famed North Carolina State University paleontologist who is noted as the person to bring to light soft tissue found in fossils allegedly tens or even hundreds of millions of years old) that I thought we could all agree on —God is awesome, and His creation praises His name and points us to Him (more or less). I like to find common ground if possible, and this was a pretty easy bridge to connect. But moving on in the same article found in Discover Magazine, Dr. Schweitzer says some things I fundamentally disagree with. Let’s take a look.

Some of this quote is from the article and not directly from the good doctor. But the article reads as follows: “Unlike many creationists, she finds the notion of a world evolving over billions of years theologically exhilarating: ‘That makes God a lot bigger than thinking of Him as a magician that pulled everything out in one fell swoop.’”

Although I’ve been criticized for thinking I know more about “science” than this professional who is an expert in her field, this article in Discover Magazine tells us up front here that this paleontologist’s opinion on theology is what we’re talking about. It says, “Unlike many creationists, she finds the notion of a world evolving over billions of years theologically exhilarating.” This is where the argument lies—in differences of opinion on theology and not on the “science,” if we’re going to be gracious enough to call it that.

Why someone would think that death and destruction over billions of years of struggle is theologically exhilarating is something I can’t connect with. To be fair, creationists understand that life can evolve. But we have to be careful to understand what “evolve” means; it means different things to different people and in different contexts. We all know organisms can adapt over time in many cases. We all understand that epigenetic changes, population isolation, genetic drift, and predominantly degenerative mutational changes can cause a population to be slightly different over large periods of time. This has nothing to do with universal common descent or evolution from a single common ancestor. So, I suppose, understanding that creationists understand and acknowledge that over time there can be slight genetic changes in a population means the theistic evolutionist doesn’t have a monopoly on the topic.

But since there isn’t a shred of evidence to show us that one kind of organism can mutate over time into a completely different type (for example, a multicellular glob of algae will never develop over time into tube worms or an anemone which will never evolve into a fish that will never evolve into some sort of walking/slithering fish on land that will become an amphibian or some other such nonsense), we don’t believe that. We know the Bible makes no mention of deep time or universal common descent beyond whatever God created during creation week being the common ancestor of that particular kind of organism. Later, whatever walked or flew off of the Ark was ancestral to all the various species of organism that are part of that kind. We’re getting in the weeds here. The point is that struggle and death over billions of years doesn’t sound “theologically exhilarating” to me at all. It sounds awful, and it has no support from the Bible in terms of how God brought life to earth.

They go on in this article to quote Dr. Schweitzer saying, “That makes God a lot bigger than thinking of Him as a magician that pulled everything out in one fell swoop.” Again, we’ll have to disagree here. First, no one claims “magic” is involved unless they’re trying to make their opponent look weak and foolish. That’s not what anyone says who wants to be taken seriously. God is not a magician. If Dr. Schweitzer believes anytime God moves supernaturally that this is Him being a magician, doesn’t that mean she lifts her nose to all miracles found in God’s Word or around the world since? The Resurrection would be some magical moment that the Great Magician pulled the wool over our eyes, right? We all know magicians are fake. We all know the magic we see on stages done by magicians are just illusions and slight of hand. Is that what God is? Does He just trick us all into believing He’s all powerful? I would hope she doesn’t believe this. I’m sure she doesn’t, but it’s the implication in her statements that lead me to this. We also don’t believe He “pulled everything out” all at once. It took Him 6 days, not because He needed the time but because that’s how He chose to create and so He could model the work week for us, among other things.

But what seems more awe-inspiring? That God sort of wound up the universe and is just sitting back watching as the it evolved and then life, without His creative hand, spontaneously just began? It slowly changed and diversified over billions of years, again without His input, to become all we see around us including humans—the apple of His eye and pinnacle of His creation. Or does it seem a little more impressive that God just spoke everything into existence, and it was? Which requires more power and wisdom? Which demands a God that is beyond all imagination? Which requires God at all? When I look at the awesome beauty in nature—especially the night sky but the amazing creation can be appreciated all around us at all times—I join with the Apostles in Acts 4:24 and say, “Sovereign Lord… You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” He alone is worthy of that sort of praise, and He alone is capable of such unimaginable feats.

Dr. Schweitzer is saying she thinks billions of years of struggle and death is some elegant form of creation. I think it’s horrifying. She seems to believe that mutations, which are usually unnoticed but can often times create terrible developmental issues and put an organism into the bondage of some terrible disease or disorder, are “theologically exhilarating.” To be fair, I’m sure she didn’t think all that through when she made this statement, but it is what her statements logically lead us to.

Previously, we noted that Dr. Schweitzer had said, referring to seeing God in nature, “I see His compassion in the world around me.” How are billions of years of struggle and death with developmental issues and disease compassionate? This is logically inconsistent and theologically not in line with the Word of God at all. Again, I do not believe this is what she was thinking about when she made these statements, but it is the conclusion we must draw logically and necessarily from her comments.

In my estimation, not only is theistic evolution devoid of any support from Scripture (which is pretty important), but its implications about God are repulsive as well as unbacked by actual physical evidence. But in all this, the fact that the Bible has nothing to say about such processes is remarkable. To suggest universal common descent is in harmony with the Bible, and especially with Genesis, is laughable. It’s like saying after you read a Weight Watcher’s cookbook, you saw no conflict with that book and with using ice cream and large amounts of sugar in all your recipes. The two are obviously at odds with each other. How seriously would you take someone who suggested they are not?

We’ll continue to dissect Dr. Schweitzer’s discoveries and what she had to say about them next time. Thank you for reading.

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Greg Kiser said...

Saying that death and destruction over billions of years of struggle is theologically exhilarating is ridiculous. Which is more impressive? Yes, I designed an awesome electronic circuit. How long did it take you? Fourteen years with many failures. Hmmm. Or... Yes, I designed an awesome electronic circuit. How long did it take you? I did it last night. lol... When I teach on origins I often call God's creative act in six days "a bigger bang" than the "Big Bang." After all, we got all this stuff in six days! Atheists believe it took 14 billion years! Isn't that a bigger bang? It certainly is.

The first thing to notice about viewpoints not based on God's thinking, is they will contradict themselves, blow up their own worldview, and make the person blind to their own hypocrisy even after you clearly demonstrate the contradiction! Good stuff, again, Steve. Thanks!

Steve Risner said...

Thank you, Greg, for reading and the comment. I thought that was really odd and I always find it weird when I see TE's say things like this. For example, "When I realize that God used evolution to create life and the biodiversity we see in the world, I'm in awe because it's such a beautiful process" or some such crazy talk. Or it is MORE amazing that God used death and mutation over billions of years to create life as we know it than when He just thought life and it was so.
It's also very degrading, I think, to suggest that God is pretending to be some sort of magician when He claims to have spoken all that there is into existence. Uh...magic? And these are believers saying these things. Firstly, magic is a supernatural event that has no known source. That is not describing the God of the Bible. Secondly, we understand a great deal of "magic" today is fake. Are they suggesting God tricked us all into believing He's all powerful? "Magic tricks" are called that for a reason. Illusion and slight of hand. How can a person who claims to love Christ refer to His miraculous works like this?
Was Jesus a magician, too?

And...suggesting that universal common descent has anything remotely in common with the Bible is a massive failure in comprehension skills. Massive.
Take care, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article Steve
Magic is an interesting word, having several different meanings, motivations and intents.
One conveys supernatural powers, usually associated with non-God events, and the other is sleight of hand, deception.
What audience was she speaking to in using that term?
Maybe both, her peers on the evolution side, to dissuade any ideas of tenure or dismissal, lampooning the God of Genesis as a magician, if you are foolish to take it literally, and those on the creation side, making a case for a more "intelligent" "scientific" view of origins.
If her intent was to not denigrade Genesis, the more appropriate term would have been miracle.