I was born in 1960, and I’ve always felt that has had a lot of impact on my life — not in the astrological way, but because of the time in history, especially American history. Science, religion, and American culture were all at crossroads. But the biggest impact on my life from the circumstances of my birth was being born into a family of Fundamentalist Baptists.
Sadly, the media would have you believe that such a family would be a bunch of people who were boring, didn’t have any fun, and did terrible, ungodly things at home, or at best didn’t really believe what they professed in public. The media also would have you believe that in the 60s and 70s, all the kids (especially teenagers) were rebellious, crazy about rock-n-roll, probably sexually promiscuous, and experimenting with drugs (at least trying marijuana).
Well, NO, not in our case.
My dad strove to practice what he preached (literally, he was a pastor) and mom was his loving partner in ministry. I never sensed any hypocritical attitude of “do as I say, not as I do.” I personally repented of my sins and asked the Lord, Jesus Christ, to save me when I was about 10 or 11 (I’ve never been very good at remembering dates and such). Dad and mom also had a ministry of special programs for Christian summer camps and vacation Bible schools. I often helped with operating puppets, changing the slides in the old magic lantern show of Pilgrim’s Progress, and handling the sound and music enhancements when mom was doing her big chalk drawings.
I think at that time, my older brother had already started college, and my older sister stayed home to watch my younger brother and sister. Oh yes, I was a middle child, and that certainly had a lot of influence on me. Another big influence was growing up (from kindergarten to 11th grade) in Central Lake, Antrim County, Michigan, a beautiful rural area of rolling hills, valleys and lakes, with Lake Michigan on the west. We had lots of fun, making up games with our imaginations, keeping many different pets, sliding down snowy hills in various ways, fishing, swimming, beach-combing… Our TV set stopped working and dad removed it from the console and put our aquarium in its place, and we were blessed with doing without TV for a couple of years. We listened to beautiful classical music and hymns, of course, but also “easy listening,” musicals, and now and then even soft rock that had a strong melody.
And I was a bookworm. I especially liked science and science fiction. We had a subscription to National Geographic and it was full of things related to the Space Race of those days. Another favorite of mine was a children’s illustrated encyclopedia.
You might think that, in going to a public school, learning about evolution would have been a shock for me, especially back then, before Answers in Genesis, when the creation science movement was just beginning. Well, wrong again. For one thing, we did have some early creation science materials, for another, I had an older brother and sister so the science teachers already knew better than to try making a big issue of it, but most of all, I simply didn’t find the evidence for evolution of all life from single-celled animals at all impressive.
The evidence for Earth and the universe being billions of years old seemed pretty good, but I figured a lot depended on things we couldn’t be sure of, such as the assumption that everything had happened according to the course of nature as we knew it; and on the other hand, there might be room in the Bible for those to be old, with only the creation of life on Earth being relatively recent. Or perhaps there were things about nature that we hadn’t learned yet that would provide an explanation.
The fossil record could be read as showing evolution over time, but there were persistent gaps that seemed strangely selective in what they left out. Even if some intermediates showed up, the pattern did not reflect how evolution was said to work, and even if it had, it would be a moot point if natural processes couldn’t evolve microbes into men over time. That has always been the sticking point — if we can’t show how that could happen, we can’t be sure there is a natural way, which means it may not be something science can explain. The evidence presented — variations in peppered moth coloration, blind cave fish, ring species, experiments in mutating fruit flies — all seemed to fall short, or show that natural selection would be lucky to keep organisms from degenerating over time, much less helping them to develop into more complex forms.
According to the textbooks, there was a lot of promise in the Miller-Urey experiment which seemed to show the building blocks of life forming under conditions replicating those on the early Earth, but even as a child I knew there was a vast difference from having a bunch of blocks and having a fully-built house. If life couldn’t start naturally, maybe it didn’t evolve much naturally. The decades in which life was supposed to be produced from scratch in the lab, and several more, have come and gone, and scientists are still working on natural production of building blocks while we discover more and more complexities within bacteria and other one-celled forms of life.
I did struggle a bit when I learned of a new fossil hominid that appeared to be the ideal ape-man, very ape-like and yet capable of using tools, etc. It did seem strange that God would create such a creature, but I finally decided perhaps God had created them to be helpful servants to Man. At any rate, it seemed sensible to wait and see what further research revealed. I didn’t hear about it again for years, and then I learned that “Nutcracker Man” (the nickname of Zinjanthropous)had been downgraded — just another ape, after all, and out on a dead-end side branch.
So I’ve kept an eye on the developments in evolutionary science, new intermediate fossils such as Acanthostega, Tiktaalik, the and the bird-like dinosaurs. I’ve also seen other iconic transitional forms, such as Ichthyostega, end up set off to one side, or shifted away from the interesting part of the transition (e.g. Pakicetus turning out to be totally terrestrial). There are still no good intermediate forms for the origins of pterosaurs or bats, and the Cambrian Explosion is arguably more spectacular now than it was in Darwin’s day, with many earlier forms but still few if any showing the rise of the major phyla, and the Cambrian itself now contains phyla that weren’t known in those rocks before. Culturally, lawsuits have hardened government education’s ban on any hint that anybody could think there was something other than, or something besides random or deterministic natural processes involved in, evolution, and people have been fired after publishing things that implied there was. On the other hand, I’ve also seen the growth of creation science organizations and the addition of the Intelligent Design movement. I’ve “met” online an atheist who hasn’t the least doubt that evolution happened, while being convinced that the current theory is totally inadequate to account for the panoply of living things, especially human abilities and qualities. There’s also a small but growing movement among evolutionists to add to or replace mutations and natural selection as the major mechanisms of evolution, as they also find them inadequate.
Also over the years I’ve enjoyed watching developments in other areas of science. Space exploration cooled off a bit after the moon program ended, but now we have a probe from that era that’s gone beyond the heliopause, a newer one that’s visited Pluto (which has been downgraded and no longer considered a planet), comets and asteroids have been closely examined, rovers have shown us much more of Mars, there’s a fairly decent space station in place, and private enterprises are starting to get involved. I remember when a popular figure for the age of the universe was 20 billion years, now it is under 14. To make everything fit, scientists have had to postulate that most of the universe consists of something that we know nothing about except it somehow adds gravitational effects without (so far) being detected by other means, and a strange energy we know nothing about except something seems to be causing an acceleration of the expansion of the universe! When I was a kid, we were excited when handheld calculators with crude LED displays and basic math functions went on sale. Now look at the tablet computers and multi-function cell phones available! Sub-atomic and quantum physics studies have also advanced greatly.
So as I’ve watched and waited, studied and searched, I’ve seen science advancing on every front, science related to evolution appears to be at a relative standstill. We’ve learned a lot more about biology, but most of it shows how even “simple” living things appear to be extremely complex, and not in a chaotic way, but with molecular machines and coding, and coding controlling codes. Others may have faith that somehow natural processes can produce such things, and they may say it is “personal incredulity” not to believe it, but nobody has demonstrated by observation or experimentation that it is possible.