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Eden zoo

August 2013 | by Andrew Rowell

Adam was the world’s first ‘taxonomist’. A taxonomist is a person who seeks to organise all the living organisms into a logical system.

As well as the task of serving and guarding the Garden of Eden, Adam had the great task of naming all the animals and birds. Eden became the first zoo. Taxonomy should not be dull and boring; it should be worship!

It is striking that Adam’s call to glorify God should involve him in caring for plants and animals. It seems that, in a special way, these living organisms display something of God’s glory, which it is right we should examine and proclaim. True biology is worship.   

Worship

God’s call to worship him in the study of living organisms does not end with Adam. When God answers Job, it seems as if Job is again put in Adam’s position. God gives him a lesson in zoology. He tells Job to ‘look now at the behemoth’ and asks him, ‘Can you draw out the Leviathan?’

Jesus tells us to consider the ravens and the beauty of the lilies. Prof. John Murray, when he first observed a Giant Redwood tree, slapped his knee and said with deepest reverence, ‘Isn’t that grand!’

The primary sin of modern biological science is not abortion, euthanasia or the attempt to redefine human sexuality. It is more fundamental. It is the sin of failing to worship the owner and creator of all life.

In Acts 3:15, the apostle Peter accuses the Jews gathered outside the temple of killing the ‘architect’ of life. Modern biology does the same thing, but in a different way.

The biblical view of life puts the mind and power of God behind the variety of life. It is true that all biology ‘under the sun’ is fallen biology and reveals all life as enslaved to decay (Romans 8:21). Nevertheless, its findings still speak of the glory of God.

Modern biological enterprise seeks to gag the testimony of biology to its designer, to remove any intelligent and artistic input from a divine architect, and to join all of life together in a single family.

It would have all of life’s variation caused by genetic mistakes interacting with natural selection. But modern taxonomy is struggling to make the reality of life fit into the materialistic evolutionary straightjacket that it is committed to. Atheistic taxonomy just does not work.

Scientists’ doubts

Renowned biologist Lynne Margulis was known as something of a heretic in evolutionary circles. She regarded the neo-Darwinist view of life as basically wrong. She described natural selection as simply a stabilising influence.

She agreed with the geologists Eldredge and Gould that gradual change is absent from the fossil record and argued for rapid evolutionary change being the result of symbiosis (interaction between two different living organisms).

In an interview toward the end of her life, she made a number of revealing comments. She admitted (as an evolutionist) that, ‘The critics, including the creationist critics, are right about their criticism. It’s just that they’ve got nothing to offer but intelligent design or “God did it”. They have no alternatives that are scientific’.

She described one of the moments which caused her to abandon neo-Darwinism as the complete explanation for life. ‘Population geneticist Richard Lewontin gave a talk here at UMass Amherst [University of Massachusetts Amherst ]about six years ago, and he mathematised all of it [neo-Darwinism] — changes in the population, random mutation, sexual selection, cost and benefit.

‘At the end of his talk he said, “You know, we’ve tried to test these ideas in the field and the lab, and there are really no measurements that match the quantities I’ve told you about”.

‘This just appalled me. So I said, “Richard Lewontin, you are a great lecturer to have the courage to say it’s gotten you nowhere. But then why do you continue to do this work?”

 ‘And he looked around and said, “It’s the only thing I know how to do, and if I don’t do it, I won’t get my grant money”. So he’s an honest man, and that’s an honest answer’.

Margulis became famous for proposing a radically different view of taxonomy to all that had gone before. She proposed that more complex cells had originated by engulfing simpler ones. Eventually her ideas became mainstream.

More recently a Scientific American article had the provocative title ‘Uprooting the tree of life’ and a still more recent New Scientist front page carried this heading, ‘Darwin was wrong — cutting down the tree of life’.     

A new biology

In June 2012, the prestigious journal Nature published a review of the work of Kevin Peterson, who uses a new technique to classify organisms. His new technique uses a special family of genes which are thought to be able to give a good insight into the relationships between organisms.

In describing his results, Peterson says, ‘I’ve looked at thousands of microRNA genes, and I can’t find a single example that would support the traditional [evolutionary] tree. The microRNAs are totally unambiguous, but they give a totally different tree from what everyone else wants’.

Surely the reason that modern taxonomy is having such a struggle to produce a settled, single tree of life is that no such tree actually exists!

According to our gospel, not only will the single tree of life explanation ultimately fail, but the whole of biology is set for a grand new start.

A solitary human death of a real man, who was more than a man, will not only redeem a countless multitude of human beings from sin and death, but will also have glorious consequences for the whole of created reality.

The apostle Paul tells us of the final emancipation of creation — with a special emphasis on its biology — and how it will be released from its current position of slavery to death and decay, and swallowed up by life.

Psalm 8 speaks of the final glorious position of humanity ‘crowned with glory and honour’. It speaks of Christ, the second Adam, with a restored new creation, whose united voice, with all its multitude of restored living creatures, will bring glory to its maker. ‘O Lord our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!’

Andrew Rowell