Paradigm Shifts

My good friend Fred Coolidge, professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, has done research in paleontological psychology and discovered that at some point in human history, toolmakers began decorating their tools. Not only were they making useful things, they began to care about how those things appeared. It was the beginning of art and signified a paradigm shift in human development. 

Paradigm shifts have occurred throughout history.

They are often mentioned with regards to economics.  The shifts from hunter-gatherers to agrarian farmers, from agrarian to industrialization, from industrialization to information, and now from information to artificial intelligence are familiar examples of cultural shifts that had profound impact on humanity and nature.  

From a universal cosmic perspective, there have been three major paradigm shifts[1]:

  1. What is normally referred to as “the Big Bang” was the shift from nothing to something, from no matter or energy to the existence of matter and energy. That occurred about 13.8 billion years ago.
  2. Next, about 3.5 billion years ago, there was another paradigm shift from non-life to life. Living, reproducing cells began to appear and evolve by natural selection.
  3. Then, somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 million years ago, ancestral humans became self-conscious, able to reflect about life. 

None of these paradigm shifts can currently be explained by science, although speculative ideas abound.

We who are Christians need to be careful not to fall into the “God in the gaps” fallacy. The temptation is to plug God into anything we don’t currently understand. It is a logical fallacy because it is an argument from ignorance, assuming that God is the explanation for anything we don’t understand. Theologically, it presents a problem because as knowledge increases and fills in the gaps of knowledge, our “god” gets smaller and smaller. It is the basic problem with Intelligent Design.

Now, all Christians believe God exists and that God is intelligent and that God designed and brought about creation. But Intelligent Design (in capital letters as a title) refers to the pseudoscientific arguments of Charles Thaxton, A. E. Wilder-Smith, Michael Behe, and others, that attempt to prove the existence of God by reasoning that some things in nature are irreducibly complex and cannot be explained by evolutionary biology. 

Like all God in the gaps theories, it suggests that God must have caused something currently unexplainable to science. Time and again, evolutionary processes have explained that which was presented as irreducibly complex. Moreover, ID doesn’t do much for Christians because, even if you could prove the existence of a divine intelligent being, you still would not have proven anything resembling the God revealed in Jesus.

The fact that we have three major cosmic paradigm shifts (from nothing to something, from something to life, and from life to consciousness) that cannot currently be explained by science does not prove that there must be a God. We don’t need to stick God in the gaps, nor should we fear that scientific inquiry might someday provide a rational explanation for how nothing became something, or how inanimate matter became living, or how beasts became human. It doesn’t change our faith one way or the other.

Once living things appear on the scene (about 3.5 billion years ago), the evidence is overwhelming from multiple independent fields of study that evolution by natural selection is taking place. The fact that the building blocks of life – the genetic codes written into the DNA – are essentially identical in all living organisms, is strong evidence for evolution.

That bothers some Christians. It contradicts a wooden literalistic reading of the opening chapters of Genesis. And, the evolutionary science is complex and difficult for non-scientists to understand. On top of that, we have fundamentalist preachers insisting that if we don’t read Genesis in literalistic simplicity, we have to throw away the Bible.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no problem with the Bible. The problem is how we interpret the Bible.

The Bible is an amazing, God-breathed collection of 66 books filled with drama, poetry, sacred myth, folklore, biography, history, prose, parable, and apocalyptic genres. No one takes the Bible literally. No one believes God has wings like a chicken or that when we see Jesus He will look like a slaughtered lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. Without exception, every Bible passage leaps to life when we understand the context and genre. 

We stand in awe of a God who created matter from nothing, life from non-life, and human beings with freewill from beasts. How God did it is interesting but not vital to faith. 


[1]An interesting book on the subject is The Three Big Bangs by Philip Dauber and Richard Muller.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather

Posted on July 19, 2019, in apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, Theodicy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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