God and Evolution

Author Greg Koukl Published on 03/24/2013

What is the problem with evolutionists referring to “Mother Nature?”

I’ve got tons of fishing magazines at home; they’re laying everywhere. This one is entitled In-Fisherman and it is one of the best fishing magazines around. It’s very helpful in educating you about fishing—fresh-water fishing in particular. But they have these short sections in the beginning—snippets, side-bar type things. This one is entitled “New View of Eye-Spots.” It talks about how they are reassessing why these creatures have eye-spots. The purpose for eye-spots, according to evolutionary theory, is to trick the larger fish into attacking the eye-spot and away from the vulnerable spot on the fish in order to give the shad a chance to get away. But now there’s a case of a shad, which is a small bait fish that larger fish eat, that has an eye-spot right in the middle of its body, which seems to be the most vulnerable spot. Why would they have an eye-spot there if the purpose of an eye-spot is to provide a protective advantage for the shad?

There’s a comment made in the article, “The spots on the sides of shad may have evolved as a way to help the species maintain formation while schooling or spawning and not for defense against predators.” Here’s another case where you have the evolution language mixed with design language. It “may have evolved as a way to help.” In other words, there is a purpose for this and that’s to help schooling fish. It’s so interesting when one explanation based on evolution doesn’t work and they try to come up with another explanation, but both of these explanations imply design and purpose.

I then began reading a book called Big Bass Magic. This author is quite a conservationist, and I’m glad for that. He advocates catch and release, which is big among bass fishermen because we catch our fish for the sport of it and then let them go unharmed. Of course, then they can return to their natural habitat, spawn and enjoy a long life there and maybe be caught again, so we have a resource that is maintained.

The author writes this unusual paragraph. Listen carefully to the words: “Generally, today’s fish management has its roots in the agencies and programs of the forties. The purpose at that time was to determine how to exploit what was considered the lavishly over-abundant fish resource.”

Let me pause for a moment. He used the word “purpose.” Who has the purpose? Fish management people, right? “The purpose at the time was to determine how to better exploit what was considered the lavishly over-abundant fish resource.”

He continues, “We often still find that attitude in fish management today, and it is typified by the much publicized statement that any fish that grows up, dies of old age and is never caught is a wasted resource. Well, that presumes that in nature no purpose is served by the complete life of that fish, and it is too much for me to take when that is denied. Nature would not allow a bass, for instance, to reach ten pounds if a bass that size served no purpose in the balance of the ecosystem.”

He’s saying, look, older bass, bigger bass, the ones that people catch and hang on their wall really serve a purpose in the ecosystem. Notice how he used the word purpose to describe the intent of fishery management and then he used the word purpose to describe the intent of nature. Now, what the heck is that? Nature is not a person, therefore nature cannot have intent. Only agents have intents. Nature doesn’t. Nature is just a general way of describing the accident of cause and effect in a naturalistic system. So to say that nature has a purpose that is served by the complete life of the fish in the ecosystem is to say something that is nonsense. It’s ironic that it is said so glibly without a blush by a man who is deeply committed to evolution.

Now, I think that his gut-level observation is accurate. I think it seems clear that there is some purpose for the full life span of different species, but we can only make a comment like that if there is someone behind the scenes that is purposing, such that the things that we see have purposes. I think it is obvious there is a designer and that’s why it is very easy for this man to talk about the purpose of individuals in wildlife management in the same breath as talking about the purpose of nature. It appears that both nature and wildlife management individuals are people that purpose. I think he is right, but nature is not like a mother nature that is to be worshiped. What we call nature is really the purposes of God. It is so obvious that even this evolutionist can’t speak in such a way as to avoid that conclusion, which goes to make another point.

If you are an evolutionist, you are not a theist in the sense that your theism has anything to do with the real world. If you want to believe in God and believe in evolution, fine, go ahead and do that, but don’t act like your belief in God has anything to do with the real world. It doesn’t. Your belief about the real world is evolution, and that means time and chance. If you believe that God has something to do with the real world, then you can’t be an evolutionist because evolution is run by chance, not by God, by definition.

Secondly, if you are an evolutionist, then please be honest with yourself and everyone else and abandon this Mother Nature language and all of this purpose talk that you invariably allow to be smuggled into your language when talking about the natural realm. You are rationally obliged, if you want to be intellectually honest, to refer to the rest of the time/space continuum world in entirely chance terms. No more Mother Nature language. No more purpose language. No more design language. Nothing.

I think if you consistently talk in a way that fits your basic world view you will see how ridiculous that world ends up being. It becomes untenable. It can’t be held because the world is obviously designed. Things obviously fit into ecosystems with a particular purpose. They obviously have their place. Bodies are obviously artifacts. Mouths were made for eating. Hands were made for grasping. Legs were made for walking. They don’t just happen to do that because they accidentally formed that way through the forces of nature acting on mindless matter. That, by the way, is the thing that gives human beings purpose. Not only are their bodies purposeful but their lives are purposeful as well.

Why? There is an intelligent Creator who is behind everything. A Creator we see quite obviously, as Paul says in the book of Romans, and as you say consistently every time you use the words Mother Nature.