Converted by Evidence
By Jack Hoehn
Günter Bechly, PhD, is a German scientist. He was raised agnostic or atheist by his family, his schools, his culture. Given no religious training or exposure, this was a scientific, rational, non-superstitious world to him and his family. He was an excellent student and graduated summa cum laude (that means very smart!) with a PhD in geosciences from the Eberhard-Karls-University in Tübingen, Germany. His field of study was as a paleo-entomologist who specialized in the fossil history and systematics of insects, ancient and modern. His special emphasis was on dragonflies. He was employed as a curator for amber and fossil insects at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany (SMNHS).
His Wikipedia listing says, “Bechly described about 167 new species and numerous higher taxa, including a phylogenetic re-classification of dragonflies and damselflies. The description of the new fossil insect order Coxoplectoptera in 2011 provided new clues to the evolution of insect wings and received broad international media coverage.”
Life’s origin, complexity, and development were explained to him as some form of Darwin’s theory of naturalistic evolution, that all can be explained by “natural laws” (whose laws they were was not specified), chemistry, physics, mathematics (where these things came from was a bit fuzzy) and that wonderful elixir used to cure all improbability: time. The more time the better. Dragonfly wings were indeed wonderful, perfectly adapted to their function, appearing long ago in the geologic time clock, and amazingly persisting to the ponds and rivers outside of the Mercedes factories in Stuttgart and the jungles of Brazil alike.
So when the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s seminal book came in 2009, it was with great delight that Günter accepted his assignment to set up a museum display at the SMNHS in the palace that houses part of the museum celebrating this wonderful Darwinian foundation of everything scientific, or better said, everything.
Museum display cases were created showing that the Darwinian explanation of life had now conquered our previous ignorance and superstition. And as a dig at the residual superstitions of those that still clung to their disproved myths, Günter decided to collect a few of the anti-evolution tracts to display and discredit to the public. Showing that science had no fear of superstition, all had been debunked, he gathered a few anti-Darwinian books that he displayed along with the solid message that science had soundly discredited these throwbacks.
There was only one little problem. Günter made the mistake of being curious, and before arranging these discredited books into their display window in the museum he thumbed through a few of them. He read a few paragraphs. And was surprised to find that instead of blind dogma and superstition, some of these books challenging Darwinism were doing so with scientific evidence, not on religious grounds as he had been told. “Huh” became “Wow!” as he seriously began to grapple with the Intelligent Design arguments he read from fellow scientists who were Darwin doubters, and as his own training and experience with fossils began to fall into support with the arguments that life appears in the fossil records suddenly and complexly formed with no known ancestors and amazing stability for millions of years. Questions about life that his own mind had raised and then set aside with the assurance that someone else knew the answer came back with a realization that no one really had answers to the evidence of complexity and novelty, but relied on a huge amount of “might,” “could have,” “perhaps,” “would,” “should,” and “may” speculations.
There was no question that life had evolved. Small horses became bigger horses. Insect types proliferated and adapted to the changing circumstances of life in ancient as well as modern times. But his confidence in explaining that the complexity of life, the new body types and organisms, the same complex functions arising in unrelated organisms over and over again, could have happened by random mutations and unguided natural selection began to waver.
He presented his Darwinian celebration for his museum. It was a solid presentation titled “THE RIVER OF LIFE—150 YEARS OF DARWINIAN THEORY.” His presentation won an award for “Evolution Today” from the VW Foundation. He presented as superstition the anti-Darwinian books. But his scientific and fact-based mind had been opened to a new approach, one that made more and more sense the longer he thought. The more he wrestled with these conflicting ideas, the less sense naturalistic evolution seemed to make, and Intelligent Design seemed to suggest more and more the necessity for a source of information to make possible life and its complexity. The fossils were not on the side of Darwin.
CONVERTED TO BELIEF IN GOD BY EVIDENCE
Finally, in 2015 on a private web page he went public with his criticism of Neo-Darwinism and his support of Intelligent Design. This “doctrinal heresy” was not tolerated by his employers. He was relieved of his position as a director at the museum and became unemployed. Although none of his scientific work has ever been challenged, his reinterpretation of fossil evolution as requiring intelligence, information, foresight, and planning for life to expand, evolve, adapt, and diversify within limits was met with rejection of his worth as a scientist, and financial and professional punishment.
Last week I listened to Günter answer questions at the Discovery Institute Insider’s Briefing held in Calgary, Alberta, from Intelligent Design supporters. His answers were clear and thoughtful. Some short-term creationists probed him on his acceptance of the geologic column as showing an accurate age of life on earth, or on the possibility of a recent flood explaining the evidence seen in nature. Although the scientific evidence has made Günter accept that there must be a God to explain life and he is now a theist, he has not seen any possible evidence that life could have happened in the magical recent past or by a postulated recent single worldwide flood. He has found God in nature by good science. He has not found a short-term chronology of life in nature.
ADVENTISTS AND EVIDENCE
Once again Seventh-day Adventists have to recognize that the evidence rightly considered in the book of nature will lead an atheist to become a worshiper of the creator God. But the evidence, no matter how hard we try, will not lead a God-worshiper to join a church that has elevated one short-term, recent, chronology of the creation in six 24-hour days to the status of a doctrine. Or a church that dictates that this planet’s geologic record of life must come from a single recent year of a Noah flood to the status of a “fundamental belief” even while admitting that so far, the evidence does not support this.
We are good at denouncing naturalistic evolutionists for not paying attention to the facts. We are quite selective ourselves at not paying attention to the facts that challenge our simplistic chronology of created life.
The rashness to elevate one possible but unlikely scientific opinion to the level of a “fundamental belief” and the unwillingness of our administrators to permit the possibility that God could use the book of nature to help us correct our previous misunderstandings of the Bible will keep honest new God worshipers looking at us from a far distance. I’d love to invite people like Günter Bechly to visit his local Siebentags Adventisten Geminde. Sadly since the 2015 San Antonio General Conference retrogressive votes I can no longer in good conscience do that.
Jack Hoehn is a supporter of The Discovery Institute (http://www.discovery.org/id/ ), an organization studying and promoting the idea that the scientific evidence contradicts naturalistic Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolution. It does so based on good science, not on Biblical grounds and does not require Darwin doubters to take a position on where the Intelligent Design came from. While their science supports the possibility that the Biblical God is the designer, this is not the basis of their organization, and all religions or none can join this movement contradicting Darwin. Jack attended their recent Insider’s Briefing in Calgary, Alberta, August 11-13, 2017. Of the hundred or so supporters in attendance at this meeting he knows that at least five were Seventh-day Adventists and many of the others are Christians (as well as some Jews and Muslims and a few agnostics). The Adventist supporters all find strong scientific evidence of creation by our Intelligent Designing God from this well-managed organization which is very faith and belief friendly. It opens the door to belief for many previously agnostic or atheistic scientists kept away by the pseudo-science dogmas of naturalistic Darwinism.