Table of Contents
Part I: The Preparation of the Earth
The Setting of the Stage
THERE IS little doubt that the first step in preparing the
earth as a habitation for man must have been to clothe it with
vegetation as a source of food for the animals which preceded
him. The earth's earliest atmosphere was almost certainly not
suited for the support of animal life of any kind on land, though
the seas could do so. All animals which live on land must have
free oxygen as a source of energy. This oxygen can be breathed
(or taken in through the skin, as it is in insects) mixed with
other gases such as hydrogen or nitrogen, for instance. It appears
that in the earth's atmosphere, at the beginning, even after
noxious gases had been removed chiefly by loss from the earth's
gravitational field, the available oxygen was combined with carbon
in the form of carbon dioxide. In order to free the oxygen, plants
were created to perform this role by photosynthesis, taking in
carbon dioxide and setting the oxygen free in the atmosphere
again, converting the carbon into usable form. Since all flesh
is grass (1 Peter 1:24) in the sense that all animal life depends
upon plant life for energy, plant life had to precede animal
life not only to make the atmosphere respirable for them but
to supply them with food energy.
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But the first plants obviously
had to be able to survive without soil, since soil is composed
of decayed vegetation. Once vegetation of such a kind had multiplied
sufficiently to create humus, then higher forms of plant life
more effective as sources of energy for animals ‹ and later
for man ‹ could be created and planted. That God should create
and plant is not strange, for this is what we are told He did
with respect to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8).
The course of events was, then,
somewhat as follows. The rock at the surface of the earth was
broken down into gravel and sand by the action of waves, wind,
gravitational shock (i.e., falling and breaking), and by alternating
heat and cold, which would fragment the rock by expansion and
contraction. In addition, volcanic action
contributed ash and certain
chemicals. In due time such combined forces provided suitable
beds for the creation and planting of vegetation capable of growing
without soil. As W. Bell Dawson pointed out, to begin the process
of clothing the earth, God designed plants that could grow in
pure sand; and these gradually made soil for plants of higher
classes to grow in. There is, for example, one species of pine
which is used extensively in France in the dunes along the coast,
for the purpose of preventing them from drifting back over the
cultivated fields. (35)
These first plants were reeds,
rushes, and ferns, and although they often grew as large as trees,
they were not the kind of vegetation which higher forms of animals
use as food. They served a dual purpose, however. While they
lived, they began to remove from the atmosphere its excess carbon
dioxide; and when they died, they created a humus which when
it had accumulated sufficiently provided the bed into which higher
forms of plant life were introduced by creation. Lichens also
enter this picture as fundamental to all that followed. "Lichens
have no need for soil, but, preparing it, they lay the cornerstone
for flowers and trees. They are the plant world's pioneers, bringing
life where none existed." (36) When the time was fully come that animals should
move out of the sea on to the dry land, there was both air fit
for them to breathe and food suitable for them to eat.
George Wald, Professor of Biology
at Harvard, speaks of the preparation of the atmosphere by plant
life in the following way: (37)
The atmosphere of our planet
seems to have contained no (free) oxygen until organisms placed
it there by the process of plant photosynthesis. . . .
Once this was available organisms
could invent a new way to acquire energy, many times as efficient.
. . This is the process of cold combustion called respiration.
Wald spoke of
"inventing" a new way to acquire energy far more efficient
than the methods by which plants acquire it. The word "invent"
is inappropriate since it attributes to inanimate things a consciousness
of purpose which they surely do not have. But his remarks serve
to point out that the liberation of free oxygen for cellular
respiration allowed for the introduction of living forms with
immensely increased energy potential. The lowest, and thus
35. Dawson, W. Bell, Forethought in Creation,
The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1925, p.18. See also
Dale Swartzendruber, "Wonders of the Soil," in The
Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by J. C.
Monsma, Putnam, New York, 1958, pp.188f.
36. Platt, Rutherford, "A Visit to the Living Ice Age,"
National Geographic Magazine, April ,1957, p.526.
37. Wald, George, "The Origin of Life," Scientific
American, August, 1954, pp.49, 52.
presumably the oldest,
deposits of minerals are found in non-oxidized form, which seems
to demonstrate the initial absence of free oxygen. It is evident,
therefore, that animal life could not have existed until the
plants had transformed the atmosphere.
This step thus opened the way for
the introduction of creatures which were far less tied to their
environment, one further step in the unfolding of God's purposes
in the ultimate creation of man. As Wald put it: (38)
made organisms self-sustaining; coupled with respiration, it
provided a surplus (of energy). To use an economic analogy, photosynthesis
brought life to the subsistence level, respiration provided it
But this is
not all. The new atmosphere thus generated had an equally important
function of another kind:(39)
The entry of oxygen into the
atmosphere also liberated organisms in another sense. The sun's
radiation contains ultraviolet components which no living cell
can tolerate. We are sometimes told that if this radiation were
to reach the earth's surface, life would cease. That is not quite
true. Water absorbs ultraviolet radiation very effectively, and
one must conclude that as long as these rays penetrated in quantity
to the surface of the earth, life had to remain under water.
With the appearance of oxygen,
however, a layer of ozone formed high in the atmosphere and absorbed
this radiation. Now organisms could for the first time emerge
from the water and begin to populate the earth and the air. Oxygen
provided not only the means of obtaining adequate energy for
evolution, but the protective blanket of ozone which alone made
possible terrestrial life.
of preparation reinforce the concept of purpose, because they
indicate the timed introduction of the requisite elements in
the economy of Nature at each step as required -- and very frequently
without predecessors. The appearance of lichens, for example,
looks much more like deliberate creation than the outcome of
pure chance. Similarly, later on, lungs seemed to be in the making
at the same time that the atmosphere was being prepared for creatures
that could make full use of such structures, a circumstance which
again looks much more like planning than the operation of pure
Everything is orderly and purposeful,
there is nothing accidental about the order in which forms of
life appear from amoeba to man.
38. Ibid., p.53.
for a Succession of Forms
In giving introductory
courses in the life sciences, which are naturally presented from
the evolutionary point of view, university professors often refer
to the "Evolutionary Base Line." By this is meant a
succession of forms of life which are chosen to represent what
are believed to be the basic steps in the process of development
from amoeba to man.
This base line begins with unicellular
forms such as Paramecia, but it is worth noticing that an authority
like Gaylord Simpson considers the step from no life to amoeba
as being as great as the whole passage from amoeba to man. In
order to make the picture more or less complete, the Evolutionary
Base Line will be given very briefly with a note explaining the
advance represented by each form in the series.
The line is traced from the invertebrates
to the vertebrates through Amphioxus, a creature which stands
lowest in the phylum Chordata. This creature lacks a brain in
the accepted sense, all its controls being distributed along
the dorsal cord. It differs from other invertebrates in the possession
of a pharynx perforated by gill slits which, however, serve to
strain food rather than to provide an oxygen supply. Next in
this base line it is customary to place the Lamprey, which has
its notochord apparently encased in part in bony segments. Lampreys
have "nostrils," rudimentary eyes, ears under the skin,
and a single nasal pouch. These animals have a brain, but no
movable jaw and no fins. Next comes Climatius which, like the
former, is quite small but now has a kind of primitive jaw. Then
comes Cladoselache, with paired fins, fully developed jaws, jointed
and muscled, and with both upper and lower segments free to move.
We are then introduced to Crossopterygians. Here we find the
presence of bony structures underlying the fins constituting
genuine limbs. These are viewed as the forerunners of legs in
amphibians. Unlike the animals which preceded, they possessed
a simple lung. Associated with these representative creatures
in the base line are the Dipnoi, or lung fishes, which are at
a similar level of development except that they have a modified
mouth construction in which there is an opening from the nasal
sac (now a kind of lung) to the inside of the mouth. This enabled
the animal for a limited time to dispense with the use of the
gills and use oxygen stored in the nasal sac. In conjunction
with the development of fins with a bone sub-structure, it became
possible for these creatures to make short trips out of the water.
It is generally held that, in Devonian times, extended drought
dried up many rivers leaving only stagnant pools.
When these became depleted
of oxygen, the lung fishes were able to move to new pools. Thus
began, supposedly, the conquest of the land.
The most primitive amphibians appear
in the Carboniferous Era, namely, the labyrinthodonts, in which
appear rudimentary legs with five webbed digits and a more highly
developed olfactory sense. Later in the Carboniferous Era, the
Cotylosaurs are first discovered. One particular species, the
Seymouria, have genuine legs which, however, were very squat
and suggest that the possessor was not really at home on land.
Nevertheless, the Seymouria produced the first land-type eggs
in which the water environment is contained within the egg and
surrounded by a "shell."
Up to this point, all living creatures
were cold-blooded. So long as they stayed in the water, this
was no disadvantage, a water environment being probably the most
stable environment conceivable. In very hot weather, the deeper
waters remain cool and in sub-zero weather, the ice which forms
on the top protects the water beneath from dropping too low.
It is generally thought that this accounts for the persistence
of many fishes, such as Coelacanths, through millions and millions
of years with virtually no change in form. However, when the
environment over land areas had been prepared by plant life and
the atmosphere had been made fit for animals that breathe air,
it was then possible for living creatures to leave their watery
home and come up to stay on the dry land. At first these had
been forays only, then some of the first pioneers began to lay
their eggs on the land, though they and the young returned to
the water as a natural habitat. Longer and longer stays were
made by such creatures in this new environment, but so long as
they were cold-blooded, they were at the mercy of the elements,
for when the sun went down or cold weather came, their energy
was reduced to a very low level.
There is an early creature occasionally
mentioned in the Evolutionary Base Line, the Dmetrodon, that
was apparently supplied with a strange sail-like structure along
its back supported by a number of "masts." Sometimes
it looks as though God took delight in experimenting. It is not
certain what purpose these served, but it has been thought that
they were heat exchangers, a kind of network of arteries set
in a thin membrane stretched out to present the maximum surface
area to the sun, thus providing the animal with heat more rapidly
than otherwise. Presumably, when cold temperatures came, the
reverse process was avoided by a form of vasoconstriction so
that deep body heat was not lost to the cool air
through the heat exchangers.
But no cold-blooded animal can remain active and alert outside
of a fairly narrow range of temperature variation. Such creatures
could never, therefore, become complete masters of the environment.
At this point, it is customary
to follow a sideroad in the Evolutionary Base Line. Warm-blooded
animals as a class bear their young alive. The egg, as such,
is never "laid." But there was a stage ‹ and representatives
still exist ‹ in which the transition was not completely
made, as represented by the Duckbilled Platypus and the Spiny
Anteater, both of which are egg-laying mammals. These creatures
are truly mammals and warm-blooded, yet the young they bear appear
first as reptilian eggs. A further stage is represented by the
Marsupials. These are pouched animals which, like the Duckbilled
Platypus and Spiny Anteater, are not included in the base line;
but they are also referred to as transitional forms, because
although the egg is never laid in this case, the young are nevertheless
hatched "too soon" and have therefore to be returned
to a kind of "shell" to complete the full process of
embryonic development. They are not included because they are
too "late" in the series.
Transitional forms between cold-blooded
animals and mammals are sometimes represented by the Therapsids,
of which one particular species, the Cynognathus, is customarily
singled out. It is not necessary here to detail the reasons why
this species is considered transitional, except to mention that
it has a number of mammalian features, especially in the mouth
region. And although it is coldblooded, it appears to have been
highly active -- which most coldblooded land animals are not.
Among the earliest representatives
of the Placentals, which bear their young in a fully developed
state are Hedgehogs, Ground Shrews, and Tree Shrews. The Evolutionary
Base Line is traced through the Tree Shrews for several reasons,
one of which is its completely unspecialized form. These little
animals enjoy the privilege of being able to sit upright and
use prehensile front feet to feed. While they have an exceedingly
simple brain, they are highly mobile, with limbs capable of complex
movements and a fair range of stereoscopic vision.
On a rung nearer the top of the
ladder are placed the Lemurs, in which there is a development
of fingernails and well-formed "hands," with opposable
thumbs widely separated and separable from the rest of the fingers.
They appear to have a wide range of vocalization and their eyes
are closer to the front than similar mammals which preceded them.
They were quite common in Eocene
times. Their facial appearance
was somewhat foxlike, a fact which has led some authorities to
question whether they should be classed as Primates.
Soon after the appearance of the
Lemurs, we find the Tarsioids. These creatures are placed much
higher in the scale of evolution and are classed as Primates.
Their eyes are turned completely forward, the nose is very short,
and the flattening of the face is taken to mean that the sense
of smell has become less important and stereoscopic vision has
now taken over.
We come, then, to monkeys and apes
which appear next in the geological time scale and seem to stand
quite close to man in many interesting ways. It is now customary
to complete the Evolutionary Base Line tentatively by passing
from monkeys and apes through the South African man-apes (Australopithecinae)
and certain Far Eastern fossil men (Sinanthropus and Pithecanthropus)
to modern man.
In looking over this thread of
progress, which is presented in slightly variant forms depending
upon the authority, one can discern a certain purpose throughout
the story. Sir Julian Huxley formulated a very simple definition
of what is meant by progress from this biological point of view.
He said: (40)
We have thus arrived at a definition
of evolutionary progress as consisting in a raising of the upper
level of biological efficiency, this being defined as increased
control over and independence of the environment.
are many faults in this provisional base line. The order may
be incorrect, and it is admitted at once that some of the stages
are represented by animals which are still with us, though "ideally"
they should long since have left the scene, having once fulfilled
their role in the chain of events. But one can discern an apparently
orderly progression which is intellectually satisfying and not
at all unreasonable. This allows us to see that God may have
acted in setting the stage for man through a series of steps
which, if we ourselves had had His creative power, we too might
have adopted as being entirely appropriate. If one thinks about
it, there is really no reason why we ourselves should not have
been so designed that embryological and foetal development, instead
of taking nine months to complete, might have been completed
in a matter of minutes. It is a startling thought and one can
think of all kinds of physiological difficulties, but with His
infinite design capacity God could easily have overcome any such
difficulties, and this accelerated gestation would seem the most
natural thing in the world. There are
40. Huxley, Sir Julian, Evolution: The
Modern Synthesis, Harper, New York, 1942, p.564.
of course, in such a program, and I am entirely ignoring these
by this proposal. But the fact remains that God could have appointed
this as the normal method. That He did not do so, that He made
it a drawn-out process, suggests to me that He also had a good
reason for making the preparation of the earth for man a drawn-out
process. It is not altogether impossible that David, by inspiration,
may have penned his words in Psalm 139:14‹16 in such a way
that they could have a kind of double meaning to reflect some
such thought as this:
I will praise thee; for I am
fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth
My substance was not hid from thee,
when I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance,
yet being unperfect;
and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance
were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
of the preparation of the earth for the coming of man was not
altogether unlike the process of the preparation of the organs
and tissues in the womb which, when the time has come for birth,
will all be perfectly suited for the role they are to play in
the introduction of a human being into the world.
If there is any sense in which
later forms of life were "higher" than earlier forms,
it may not be so much in their complexity as it is in their increasing
independence of the environment. With the appearance of man,
we have a creature who, though by no means wholly independent
of the environment, yet is so constituted structurally and functionally
as to be superior to the environment in an entirely new way.
He is, or may be, more independent geographically by being ubiquitous,
dietetically by being omnivorous, environmentally by being master
of land and sea and air ‹ and now even of space also ‹
and governmentally by his acquisition of superior means of achieving
dominion over all other contestants. In a manner of speaking,
each of these areas of superiority was apportioned a little at
a time to animals which preceded him, though to none of them
was given superiority in them all.
The nearer the time came for the
playing out of the final act of the drama, the more nearly can
the stage be seen to have achieved its final setting. It is not
therefore surprising that just before the appointed time for
the creation of man, there were already in existence man-like
creatures whose presence demonstrated how nearly ready the setting
of the stage was. Such creatures were in existence by then not
because some blind evolutionary process was about to cast man
up as a final gesture in fulfilling its own destiny, but rather
God had now deliberately
and purposefully brought the world to that condition of preparedness
appropriate for the introduction of man, the crown of creation.
The idea that this vast display of creative activity in thus
setting the stage, occupying an inconceivably great span of time,
could be likened to the gestation period in the birth of a human
being, may seem far-fetched indeed, and yet it is an idea that
has appealed to many minds in the past -- until Darwin turned
men's thoughts into the barren channel of atheistic evolution.
Somewhere during the Middle Ages an anonymous writer, without
benefit of the knowledge of the past which we now have, set forth
this concept very simply and with great beauty when he said,
"The Cosmos was pregnant with man.'' (41)
41. Ramm, Bernard, Thc Christian View of
Science and Scripture, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan,
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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