On faithroots Live this week, I was looking at the Theory of Evolution. Now, I’m a Young Earth Creationist which means I fundamentally disagree with Evolutionary Theory, however, I think that it is vital we evaluate the strongest form of an opposing argument. So, one thing that I took time to do was to respond to the claim that Evolution is JUST a theory.
Back in the day, Buffy The Vampire Slayer ran an episode in the style of a musical. All of the characters kept bursting into song and dance. They got together to try and work out what the cause was and each offered their “theory.” One character suddenly announces in song
“I’ve got a theory, it could be bunnies.”
They then go off into a rock riff about how suspicious bunny rabbits are including the brilliant line.
“And what’s with all those carrots, what do bunnies need good eyesight for?”
We tend to think of “theories” in those terms. “Just a theory” means something that has been hypothesised but without any factual basis. However, as I explained, this is not what we are talking about with many theorems. Rather, what Evolutionists are claiming is that we are able to make observations about rocks and fossils on earth and stars and planets in space. We can observe current behaviour and we can project trajectories to both predict forward and track back. This is how scientists reach the conclusion that the Universe as we know it
- Had a beginning (The Big Bang)
- Is finite
- Is expanding
Now, by a theory, what they mean is that they have a hypothesis which they would argue provides the narrative which best fits the data, the evidence as we have it. I disagree with that claim because a theory also depends upon some underlying presuppositions and it is my view that their presuppositions result in important information being excluded from our considerations. Stephen Hawking writes:
“Hubble’s observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions, all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One might say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined.”
I want you to notice there, the phrase “no observational consequence.” What Hawking is saying is that we cannot observe back beyond the Big Bang and that events happening beyond it therefore are irrelevant to our understanding of the Universe now. The presupposition is that of a materialist/empiricist. From that worldview, we can only make relevant conclusions based on what we can observe, what we can see, hear, smell and touch. Such a worldview discounts any potential evidence that might come in from outside of time and space.
But, I did not want to talk so much about evolution v creation today as to get us to highlight a spin-off point that I made during the talk. This approach where we work with a hypothesis and then determine if that hypothesis provides the narrative that best fits the facts is actually an approach we rely on in many areas of life. We weren’t actually there when patient 0 had COVID-19 in Kent and it mutated into a different variant but we can project back from all of our test data and how the virus behaved in the South East of England last winter, we have the working hypothesis of where and when the mutation happened and that hypothesis provides the best fit storyline for what happened. Similarly, detectives will often have to form a hypothesis in order to solve a case. The question will be, does that hypothesis or another best fit the evidence we have?
So, when we come to church life and pastoral work, this is important too. As a pastor or church elder, there will be times when you are concerned, alert that something isn’t right, something is going on. This could be that something doesn’t look right about a relationship, that a group in the church are becoming discontent or that someone is behaving in an unhealthy way. You will have a hypothesis about what is going on. You will probably share it with the other elders and immediately, someone will say “but where is the evidence.”
The problem is that by “evidence”, they mean the kind of comprehensive, slam dunk evidence that guarantees conviction, not just on the balance of probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt but with 100% certainty. Now, here’s the thing, it is highly unlikely for obvious reasons that you are going to have a video recording of the act of adultery, or a recorded conversation of the bully trying intimidate their victim or an email where the person who is seeking to split the church reveals their game plan. If you wait for those things, even if somehow, that kind of evidence turns up, it is usually too late.
So, what you have to do, is to work on the basis of “what narrative best fits the evidence that we have.” What you will realise is that there are a range of possibilities and at the extreme ends, some of those possibilities will be obviously ridiculous. Then within the centre of the range, you will identify a couple of possibilities and it might be that missing information will prevent you from identifying exactly which is the case, so you will have to pursue that. However, what you will see is that it becomes fairly clear, once the key information is in place what will have been happening. And what you will find is that the evidence from circumstances and witnesses fits with what you know about human nature in general and what you know about the character of the people concerned from past history.
There will also be one final factor. In my experience, how people respond when you challenge them and seek to address issues with them is a good clue. Now, be careful, I’m not talking about the individual’s immediate response. They may well react badly to an accusation. But I have found that if someone is genuinely seeking to pursue sanctification and to act in a loving and godly way that once the immediate shock is over, they will want to make sure that the truth comes out, they will want to ensure that others are protected and cared for, that hurt -even if unintentionally caused, is healed and that they are teachable and ready to learn.
In contrast you will get people who simply respond to the challenge by lashing out, by seeking to cover their tracks and by accusing others without care for the damage that such accusations might do.
Those things tend to all come together in order to give you a best fit narrative and will help you with pastoral care.
 Hawking, A Brief history of Time, 10.