Written by Vladimir Moss


Between a True Believer and an “Orthodox” Darwinist


Orthodox Darwinist (OD). My friend, do you mind if I ask you a direct question?

True Believer (TB): Go ahead.

OD. Why do you not believe in science?

TB. What makes you think that? Don’t you know that I have two scientific degrees, and have published scientific papers in recognized peer-reviewed journals?

OD. I know, but you don’t believe in Darwinism…

TB. And so? Does one have to believe in Darwinism in order to believe in science?

OD. Yes, because it is accepted by the establishment in all scientific disciplines.

TB. Since when does conformity with the establishment constitute the criterion of truth and science?

OD. The great majority believes in Darwinism.TB. Perhaps not as big a majority as you think. In the United States alone there are thousands of Ph.D. scientists who have openly confessed to not believing in Darwinism. And I believe there are thousands more who do not believe in it but who do not say so for fear of losing their jobs. In any case, where would science be if we all followed the majority? Are not the great discoveries made precisely by those who are prepared to think “outside the box”? Was Einstein in the majority when he proposed his theory of relativity?

OD. No, but when he provided experimental proof for his theory, everybody followed him.

TB. Well, we’re still waiting for the experimental proof of Darwinism. And one has to say: it’s been a very long time coming… Oh, and by the way, Einstein remained in a minority to the end of his life.

OD. How so?

TB.  He never accepted Niel Bohr’s interpretation of quantum mechanics, which the majority of physicists now accept. So if Einstein can remain in a minority on fundamental issues of physics, and yet remain honoured as one of the great geniuses of science, why should the large and increasing minority of scientists from various disciplines who reject Darwinism not be accorded the title of “scientists”?

OD. Are you talking about the creationists? But they’re just Protestant fundamentalists!

TB. Some of them call themselves creationists, some do not. As for many of them being Protestants, why should that disqualify them from being scientists?

OD. But we are both Orthodox. We must not be influenced by Protestant ways of thinking.

TB. So Protestant scientists are no good, but atheist ones are okay?! But is it really worse to be a Protestant than an atheist?! Was not Darwin himself a Protestant Anglican?

OD. Alright, I take your point. But modern Protestants have fundamentalist ideas about the seven days of creation, etc., that we as Orthodox reject.

TB. Do we? I agree that we as Orthodox should avoid heterodox ways of thinking. But before we can say that such-and-such a teaching is “Protestant” or “fundamentalist”, and not Orthodox, we need first to establish what the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church said about the subject.

OD. The Holy Fathers lived before the theory arose, so they could have no opinion on it.

TB. Not so. Several Holy Fathers who lived after Darwin rejected his theory. I’m thinking of the Optina Elders Ambrose, Barsanuphius and Nektary, and St. Theophan the Recluse. St. Nectarios of Aegina rejected it in especially strong terms, saying that anyone who believed that man came from the apes had lost the Holy Spirit! And he described the Darwinists in the words of the Psalm: “Man, being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them” (48.12).

OD. Perhaps these Fathers should have restricted themselves to theology and kept away from science.

TB. But that’s the question: is it really science? Or, as Fr. Seraphim Rose said, is it not in fact philosophy – atheist philosophy – clothed in the garments of science?

OD. How can anyone deny that it is science?!

TB. If it is not based on empirical facts, and is in fact contradicted by many empirical facts, and worse still if it is not even in principle verifiable (as are all theories about the beginning of the world), then it is false science. After all, it only takes one stubborn, unassailable fact to disprove a scientific hypothesis, but evolution is contradicted by a whole mountain of facts in many disciplines.

OD. Can you tell me some of those facts?

TB. I obviously can’t give you an adequate answer here and now. What I can say very briefly, however, is, first, that Darwinism contradicts the best-tested law in the whole of science, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Secondly, nobody has ever empirically confirmed the central tenet of the theory – that a new species can give birth to another. Even attempts to create new species in the laboratory – the famous fruit-fly experiments – have failed miserably. And thirdly, the main engine of evolution, mutation, has never been shown to produce anything positive, let alone that fantastic miracle, the human genome. And there are many other more specific problems which I will not go into here: the famous “missing links”, for example, the impossibility of explaining sexuality through evolution, etc.

OD. How do you explain its popularity then? Are all these scientists stupid?

TB. Certainly not. Just as the greatest heretics of old, such as Arius and Origen, were very intelligent men, so many – most – evolutionists are very intelligent. But intelligence is not the same as wisdom. And no man is as clever as the devil, who weaves his web and leads into error even the most intelligent of men. But the appeal of Darwinism is in the last analysis not scientific. Its appeal lies in the fact that it provides a justification for atheism, for not believing that God created the heavens and the earth. So the reason for the popularity of evolution is not the stupidity of scientists, but their desire to find an intellectual justification of their atheism.

OD. Nevertheless, the questions surrounding evolution are still scientific questions. Even the creationists say they are doing science, not philosophy. As such, these questions are not theological, and the Holy Fathers should have nothing to say about them.

TB. I disagree. Are not the Holy Fathers glorified by us precisely for their spiritual gifts, such as those of knowing the will of God, of wisdom and of prophecy?

OD. Prophecy looks to the future, not the past.

TB. If prophets know the future through the Spirit of God that is in them, why should they not be able to know the past? Are not the first chapters of Genesis precisely God’s revelation of the past, of the creation of the world, to the Prophet and God-Seer Moses? And did not Christ Himself, the Wisdom and the Power of God, not confirm his account, and also the existence of Adam and Eve, of Paradise and the Fall, and of Noah’s Flood? Whether you call this subject-matter scientific or not, it concerns facts – historical facts. And I see no reason why the Holy Fathers should not have been enlightened about them.

OD. But you must not understand Genesis literally, as the Protestant fundamentalists understand it! I warned you about that! So much of the text is myth and allegory!

TB. St. Basil the Great, the most famous interpreter of Genesis, whom nobody can accuse of being a Protestant fundamentalist, had this to say about allegorical interpretations of Genesis: “I know the laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others. There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the literal sense. For I am not ashamed of the gospel..... It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written.” (Hexaemeron, Homily 9).

OD. Great man though he was, St. Basil could not benefit from the researches of modern scholars, who have shown that Genesis 1 derives from ancient Babylonian myths.

TB. So why should we pay any attention to it at all, if it’s just a pretty legend derived from pagan sources? Not that I attach much importance to the findings of “modern scholars”. Again and again, they have been shown to be wrong by new findings of even more modern scholars. And yet every new generation of “modern scholars” sees itself as infallible…

OD. Orthodoxy does not despise the findings of scholarship.

TB. So long as they do not contradict the Law of God. But they so often do! And when they do we have to be very clear about what is our ultimate authority: “modern scholars”, or Christ, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2.3). What we must always be careful not to do is to attach greater authority to the so-called discoveries of “modern scholars” than to the words of the Holy Fathers, of the Apostles, and of Christ Himself…

OD. No, no, you misunderstand me! I have great respect for the writings of the Holy Fathers. I just think that if they had known more they would have modified their theories to take account of it.

TB. But St. Basil was probably the most intelligent and best-educated man of his time. And yet in his Hexaemeron he openly pours scorn on the “modern scholars” of his time, always preferring to them “the plain sense of Holy Scripture”. Thus already in his time there were people who believed, like the Darwinists, that the world was not created by God, but emerged spontaneously, by chance. To these the saint replied, right at the beginning of his work: “I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imaginedbut drew its origin from God. Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance. To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God: ‘In the beginning God created.’” 

OD. But why could God not have created the world through evolution?

TB. Because creation is a deliberate, purposeful act, whereas evolution is a chance process. And an act cannot be purposeful and by chance at the same time. It is a philosophical error to confound purpose and chance, or in any way to try and mix them. In any case, as St. Basil says in another place, there is no such thing as chance. The laws of nature are created by God, Who willed all their consequences to the smallest detail. Only the free will of men and angels are to some extent independent of His will.

OD. Perhaps God guided the process from within…

TB. You mean He filled in all the missing links, all the bits that the scientists can’t explain?

OD. Er… yes…

TB. But then He would have had to do all the work! Because there is in fact nothing that evolution explains! Even the emergence of the simplest living cell is inexplicable by chance mechanisms such as mutation and natural selection.

OD. But God cooperates with human actions. Why not with material processes?

TB. Because human actions are free – and as such, of course, completely inexplicable by evolution. Or to put it the other way round: if evolution is true, then freewill does not exist. Nobody has explained, or ever could explain, how you get from chance processes to purposeful, willed acts. This freedom is part of the image of God in man, and it was imparted directly by God to man when He created Him, saying: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1.26, 27).

OD. But chimpanzees look so like men!

TB. I grant you that Charles Darwin looked very ape-like. But there is a huge gulf between even Darwin and the most intelligent ape.

OD. I believe that apes have 95% or more of human DNA.

TB. And bananas about 90%.

OD. (shocked) You’re not being serious!

TB. Perfectly serious! But if you start playing this percentages game, you reach some laughable conclusions… In any case, if the whole of human nature were in his genes, you might have a point. But Christians believe that man is composed of a soul as well as a body.

OD. Let’s leave the soul out of it… I think it can be hardly coincidental that the higher mammals share so much DNA.

TB. I agree. And there is no coincidence, for, as I said before, there is no such thing as chance. The higher mammals share so much DNA because they were created by God as a single family of species. The likenesses were created deliberately by their common Creator. And why should apes and men not have, for example, very similar hands if they use them for similar purposes? Just as car-makers make, for example, the steering wheels of different kinds of cars of almost identical materials and shape, so God makes the hands of apes and men out of similar spare parts, as it were. But again, just as two cars with identical steering wheels can have very different performances because of subtle but vital differences in other departments, so God has made apes and men similar in their hands but very different in their mental and spiritual capacity.

OD. When I said it can hardly be coincidental, I meant that the increasing commonality of DNA as we go up the chain of being must indicate a single causal process propelling the evolution of one species into another. And I am not excluding God from this process. First the lower animals emerged. Then the apes. Finally, something more perfect came into being in the shape of man. And all with the cooperation and help of God.

TB. You mean He couldn’t get it right the first time, but by an enormously long and costly process of trial and error involving the cruel and painful deaths of billions of creatures He finally got the man He wanted?… Is this not close to blasphemy against the omnipotence of God, for Whom all things are possible? Why could not God have created man perfect from the beginning as the Scripture says?

OD. (irritated). No, that’s not what I mean! And of course He could have created man perfect from the beginning! But the scientific record shows He didn’t. You’re not suggesting that man is perfect, are you?

TB. He was in the beginning… But then came the Fall… Don’t you believe in Adam?

OD. Er…

TB. The Lord Jesus Christ did.

OD. (hesitantly) Right…So do I.

TB. Good. I thought for a moment you might believe in an allegorical interpretation of Adam and the Fall, as if “Adam” stood for the whole human race, and the Fall was a mythical attempt to account for its imperfections. But the whole of Christianity rests on the historicity of Adam and the Fall.

OD. How so?

TB. Well, let’s take Christ’s genealogy in Luke 3. It traces the origin of His human nature through 42 generations of individual men, ending with Adam. It makes no sense to say that the middle and later generations (let’s say, from Abraham onwards) were truly His ancestors, while Adam and the early patriarchs were mythical.

OD. But I’m not saying they were mythical. I just don’t see why Adam could not have been the product of evolution.

TB. So how did Adam evolve from the apes? And how is that compatible with the account of His creation from the earth and the breath of God in Genesis 2?

OD. Well, perhaps “earth” stands for the embryo of an ape-man, and God’s “breath” stands for His creative transformation of the embryo into a human being.

TB. An interesting idea… Of course, there is no Darwinist scientist who would suggest anything of the kind… So you seem to me to be in danger of finding yourself in agreement neither with the Holy Fathers nor with the Darwinist scientists.

OD. Archimandrite A. put this idea forward to me in a letter.

TB. And is Archimandrite A. a Holy Father?

OD. That was a nasty jibe! Don’t you know that Archimandrite A. is a disciple of the famous theologian Fr. John Romanides, who was a Darwinist?

TB. You mean the divorced new-calendarist ecumenist whose heretical ideas on a whole series of subjects has now infected most of World Orthodoxy?

OD. You have no respect!

TB. No, none at all for those who corrupt the teaching of the Holy Fathers…

But let’s explore your idea for a moment. So Adam, according to you and Archimandrite A., is derived from the embryo of an ape-man. Why, then, do we read in Luke 3.38 that Adam was “the son of God” and not the son of an ape?

OD. Well, perhaps he was the son of God in his soul, but the son of an ape in the body.

TB. Aha! Did you know that this was the teaching of Pope John-Paul II?

OD. (hesitantly) No…

TB. Well, let’s leave aside the soul for a moment and concentrate on the body of Adam. What you’re saying, as I understand you, is that Adam’s body derived from the embryo of an ape-man. So he had an ape-man father and an ape-man mother? Or were they Neanderthals?

OD. (hesitantly) Er… yes. Or whatever creature the scientists now consider to be the immediate ancestor of Homo Sapiens

TB. Yes, it is a problem, isn’t it! The scientists are always changing their mind about so many things! But let me ask you another question. Assuming that the scientists don’t change their minds yet again, can we also assume that Eve, too, was created from a Neanderthal embryo?

OD. (hesitantly) Er… yes.

TB. So Mr. and Mrs. Neanderthal got together and miraculously created the embryo of Adam. At the same time, another Mr. and Mrs. Neanderthal got together and no less miraculously created the embryo of Eve. And then Adam and Eve got together and created Cain and Abel…

OD. Something like that…

TB. But Holy Scripture says that Eve was created from the side of Adam…

OD. I don’t think we have to take that literally.

TB. So how, in your opinion, should that Scripture be interpreted?

OD. To be honest, I haven’t thought about this much.

TB. I congratulate you on your honesty! Most “theological evolutionists” like yourself have also not thought these problems through… One thing is clear, however: if we are not to treat the Genesis account, not merely as an allegory, but as a complete fairy-tale, like something out of Hans Christian Andersen or Harry Potter, then we must accept that Eve was not made in the normal way, through sexual intercourse between two human beings or ape-men.

OD. I can’t accept that.

TB. What can’t you accept? That Eve was made from Adam?

OD. Yes.

TB. Do you accept the Virgin Birth of Christ from Mary the Mother of God?

OD. (indignantly)Yes of course.

TB. Then why not the virgin birth of Eve from Adam? After all, it has to be considered a far lesser miracle, since it did not involve the incarnation of God... Remember that the two events were seen as exactly parallel to each other by St. Paul and the Holy Fathers. Just as Adam was created out of virgin soil, and then Eve out of his side, so the new Adam, Jesus, was born out of the virgin soil of the new Eve, Mary, and then gave birth to the children of the Church through the blood and water that flowed from His side on the Cross. In this way the new Adam “recreated” the human race that came from the old Adam by a closely similar process of parthenogenesis. However, if Adam and Eve were not real persons, or symbols, or the descendants of Neanderthals or what not, the whole pattern breaks down, to the detriment of the understanding of the whole doctrine of the Incarnation.

OD. Alright, I see the logic of your exposition. But you don’t seriously believe the whole story of Eve and the apple and the serpent, do you? That’s obviously symbolic, isn’t it?

TB. A mere symbol cannot explain the origin of sin and death.

OD. Why is any explanation necessary? Are they not just facts of life?

TB. You mean facts of death! But death requires an explanation.

OD. Why?

TB. Because, as we read in The Wisdom of Solomon, God is the author of life, and did not create death. For what part can death have in God, Who is Life Himself? “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1.4). He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14.6)

OD. Death is not a problem for evolutionists. All living things die, and that’s all there is to it.

TB. I agree that death is not a problem for evolutionists, because their whole system is based on the primacy of death, just as Christianity is based on the primacy of life, that is, God. These facts are axiomatic for the two systems; just as they can’t explain death, and shy away from any attempt to do so, so we can’t explain God and condemn as blasphemy any attempt to do so. Evolutionists believe that all things came from a tiny quantity of super-heated dust, which then inexplicably gave birth to living organisms, which then even more inexplicably gave birth to more and more complex and “lively” organisms. “Inexplicably”, because these higher forms of life came about through two bearers of death – mutation and natural selection.

OD. Yes, it is a bit strange that destruction – for mutation and natural selection are essentially destructive forces – should be the engine of creation…

TB. Strange indeed! And which explanation sounds intuitively more plausible: that life should come out of death, which is itself a nothingness, negation, sheer emptiness, or that death should come from saying “no” to life – that is, to the unimaginable fullness of God and His commandments? In Romans 5.12 St. Paul writes that death entered into the world as a result of the moral fall of one particular man, Adam, when he said no to God and the single commandment that God had given him. Sin and death then entered into all his descendants through heredity. This is the doctrine of original sin. But then the new Adam, Jesus Christ, Life incarnate, reversed the fall of Adam, said “no” to the devil, the true author of death, and all his works, and offered the perfect sacrifice for sin on the Cross. He then communicated this new life, lived by Him in His human soul and body received from the Virgin, to all those who believe in Him and receive Holy Baptism, wiping out sin and death in the process. ”So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5.21).

OD. That makes sense…  But I still have some nagging doubts… What about the age of the earth? And is not humanity many hundreds of thousands of years old, much longer than the few thousand from Adam if we accept the genealogies?

TB. We must not doubt the Holy Scriptures, even when “science falsely so-called” teaches something different. Do you believe in Noah’s flood?

OD. (hesitantly) I’m not sure.

TB. The Lord did (Matthew 24.36-39). So did St. Peter (II Peter 3.5-6).

OD. Well then I believe in it.

TB. Good! Well, if there was a universal flood in the time of Noah, we can safely assume that the dates given for the age of the earth and the age of mankind in accordance with most dating methods based on chemistry are wildly wrong, since they assume that there has been no such flood. For if there was a universal flood, the chemical composition of the earth must have been radically changed by it, upsetting all calculations. However, there is one dating method that does not assume that there was no flood: the magnetic field of the earth, which is not effected by such events as floods. Now a physicist from Texas has calculated that if the magnetic field has been decreasing at a constant rate over time, which seems extremely likely, then human beings would not have been able to live on the earth more than ten thousand years ago, because the magnetic field would have been too intense. This brings the age of the earth much closer to what we would calculate on the basis of the genealogies.

OD. What about the fossils?

TB. The best explanation of the fossils is an old one, but one confirmed by a modern saint: Elder Nektary of Optina. He pointed out that many fossils are to be found on the tops of mountains. How did they get there if they were not deposited there by flood water?

OD. So the fossils are not millions of years old…

TB. No, only a few thousand. They are the remains of the victims of the flood. Incidentally, anthropologists have discovered that just about every tribe and people they have studied has stories about a universal flood and a Noah-like figure in their folk memories… Intriguing…

OD. So would that explain the extinction of the dinosaurs?

TB. Perhaps… It certainly explains the sudden deaths of many thousand of woolly mammoths in Siberia, who have been found frozen in the permafrost with undigested grass in their mouths. Evidently they were killed by flood waters while they were still eating. Then the waters froze when the climate suddenly changed after the cloud cover surrounding the earth was removed… And there are many, many other facts discovered by scientists that are much more easily explained if we reject evolution and accept an account of the history of the earth that includes the flood.

OD. So we can put our trust in science after all?

TB. No. All science is fallible. The only infallible source of knowledge is the Word of God. However, if we are presented with two scientific systems, one of which is evolution with all its holes, missing links and vast theoretical problems, on the one hand, and on the other a system that overcomes the problems presented by evolution while being in accord with the Word of God and the Tradition of the Church – is it not more rational, and certainly more Christian, to prefer the latter?

OD. You have a point. More than a point. You have the truth!

TB. Glory to God for enlightening us with the truth! Indeed, it is only in this truth that we can glorify Him in a fitting manner… “How magnified are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all, the earth is filled with Thy creation” (Psalm 103.26).


September 29 / October 12, 2015.

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