One of man's most vexing problems today is the conflict between energy and ecology, between conservation of jobs and conservation of nature. The need for expanded energy sources and more goods and services for mankind seems completely at cross-purposes with the maintenance of an unpolluted environment.
Is there a way out of this dilemma? If not, what is wrong with a world that forces us into such a situation?
As with all great issues, the way in which a person views a problem and the course of action he follows in handling it depend fundamentally upon his basic philosophy of life. The ecological crisis, in particular, points up the evolution-creation conflict in a surprising light.
Evolution and Ecology
Evolutionists in recent years have tried to claim that our environmental problems result from man's exploitation of the world's resources in the Bible-founded belief that they were all made for him and that he was to develop and use them solely for himself. The Bible, however, teaches no such thing. If there is to be any placing of blame for the problem of pollution and related ills, it should be assigned to the philosophy of evolution, where it really belongs. Furthermore, effective remedies for such problems can be found only in the context of a sound creationist philosophy.
The essence of evolution, of course, is randomness. The evolutionary process supposedly began with random particles and has continued by random aggregations of matter and then random mutations of genes. The fossil record, as interpreted by evolutionists, is said by them to indicate aeons of purposeless evolutionary meanderings, the senseless struggling and dying of untold billions of animals, extinctions of species, misfits, blind alleys. The present-day environmental-ecologic complex then is nothing more than the current stage in this unending random struggle for existence.
Those populations of organism which have survived to this point therefore must represent the "fittest"—those that have been screened and preserved by the process of natural selection. In spite of its randomness, therefore, evolutionists believe that the net result of evolution has somehow been the development of higher and higher kinds, and finally of man himself.
This development is believed by most evolutionists to have been made possible by a peculiar combination of small populations, changing environments, and accelerated mutational pressures, a combination which supposedly enables natural selection to function in its remarkable role as "creator" of new and better kinds of populations. It would seem therefore that anything that would change the environment today (for example, by altering the chemical components of the atmosphere and hydrosphere through pollution), decrease populations (perhaps by war, famine, or pestilence), or increase mutational pressures (such as by increasing the radioactive component of the biosphere through nuclear testing), would contribute positively to further evolution and therefore should be encouraged, at least if evolutionists are correct in their understanding of evolutionary mechanisms. In other words, the very processes which modern ecologists most deplore today are those which they believe to have been the cause of the upward evolution of the biosphere in the past. The conclusion would seem to be that evolution requires pollution!
More directly to the point, however, three generations of evolutionary teaching have had the pragmatic result of inducing in man an almost universal self-centeredness. God, if He exists at all, is pushed so far back in time and so far out in space that men no longer are concerned about responsibility to Him. As far as other people are concerned, doesn't nature itself teach that we must struggle and compete for survival? Self-preservation is nature's first law. Race must compete against race, nation against nation, class against class, young against old, poor against rich, man against man.
Two thousand years of Christian teaching linger on to some extent, in modern social concerns and in the diluted esthetics and ethics of the day, but these are easily forgotten when one's self-interests are at stake. Conservationist groups may inveigh against the ecological destruction wrought by petroleum and utilities barons, but they do not personally wish to give up their automobiles or electrical appliances, nor to pay the higher prices required if these commodities are to be produced without damage to the environment. Furthermore, during the past 150 years especially, the very exploitation of nature—its flora and fauna, its resources, and even its human populations—against which environmentalists are protesting, has itself been carried out in the name of science and evolutionary philosophy. Thus the modern ecologic crisis is not a product of Biblical theology at all, but rather a century of worldwide evolutionary thinking and practice. It is significant that the environmental problems developed entirely within a period when the scientific and industrial establishments were totally committed to an evolutionary philosophy!
The Creationist Perspective on Nature
Recognition of the world as God's direct creation, on the other hand, transforms man's outlook on nature and his attitude toward other men. The creation is God's unique handiwork and displays His character and glory (Psalm 19:1; Psalm 148; Rev. 5:13). The design and implementation of this marvelous universe and its varied inhabitants were to God a source of great delight (Genesis 1:31; Job 38:4-7; Revelation 4:11). Man was created, not to exploit God's world, but to be His steward, exercising dominion over it (Genesis 1:26,28) and "keeping" it (Genesis 2:15).
The primeval world as it came from God's hand was beautiful beyond imagination and perfect in every way as man's home. There was ample food for both man and animals (Genesis 1:29,30) and each kind had its own ecological niche. Even when God stopped creating (Genesis 2:1-3), He provided abundantly for the maintenance of the creation (Nehemiah 9:6; Hebrews 1:3).
What Went Wrong?
With man's fall and God's Curse on his dominion, this pristine perfection changed (Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20,22). Every process henceforth operated inefficiently, and every system tended toward disintegration. Although the earth's resources remained constant in quantity, their quality could thereafter be maintained only with great difficulty and only at the cost of drawing excess energy from some other source.
Not only was the quantity of matter and energy to be "conserved" (as expressed formally now in our Scientific Law of Conservation of Energy), but presumably also the "quality" of energy was to be maintained. Not only was energy conserved, but entropy as well; the universe was not designed to "perish," "wax old," and "be changed" (Psalm 102:25; Psalm 148:6), but to be "stablished for ever and ever." In some unknown manner, no longer operating, the sun's energy probably was replenished cyclically from that radiated into space after some had been used to maintain terrestrial processes. On the earth itself, none of its resources were ever to be depleted and all processes were to function at perfect efficiency. A great abundance of plant and animal life was soon produced, in response to God's commands (Genesis 1:11, 20,24), and continued to multiply, storing energy from the sun in an enlarging biosphere. All necessary disintegrative processes (e.g., digestion, etc.) were presumably in balance with the increasing numbers of highly-structured organisms. Order and entropy were thus everywhere in balance, as well as matter and energy. Everything was "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
The Bible gives little information as to such specific energy sources before the Flood, except for the sun itself. At the time of the Deluge, however, the earth's energy balance changed drastically. Its greenhouse-like environment, which had been maintained by "waters above the firmament," (Genesis 1:5) was destroyed when the great canopy of vapor condensed and deluged the entire globe. The tremendous stores of chemical energy in the biosphere of the antediluvian world were partially converted in the resulting cataclysm into great stores of coal, oil and gas, the so-called "fossil fuels." Much of the incoming solar energy thenceforth would be needed to drive the atmospheric circulations and to maintain the post-diluvian hydrologic cycle for the earth.
It is significant to realize that today's pollution problems are derived mostly from using energy stores that were produced in the Noachian Deluge! Coal is the fossil product of the terrestrial plant life, and oil largely of the marine animal life, of the rich biosphere that had been created and developed by the Creator in the beginning. These organisms were not designed to serve as fuels for man's machines, and it is not surprising that the efficiency of heat engines using them is low and the waste products are high. Furthermore, they are exhaustible and, even now, the imminent end of economic oil and gas production is a matter of great concern.
In a sense, of course, the burning of these fossil fuels is merely hastening the process of "returning to the dust," which is the present fate of all organic life, under the Curse. The waste products, both of the processes of life and of the phenomena of death, have always posed a pollution problem to the environment, but the normal cycles of nature are able to accommodate them in part, and even utilize them (e.g., in the enrichment of the soil, etc.) as long as they are sufficiently dispersed in time and space. When concentrated in abnormal numbers of either men or animals, either in living communities or massive extinctions, however, such wastes cannot be assimilated and initiate various abnormal reactions which accelerate and accentuate environmental decay.
Retarding Environmental Decay
These deleterious changes can be corrected to some extent, but only at the cost of excess energy from other sources and therefore only at great labor and expense. Nuclear energy is one possibility but this of course creates its own pollutional problems. Geothermal energy may be a partial answer, in the few regions where it is available. Hydroelectric energy has already been developed to nearly its maximum potential in many parts of the world and is seriously limited in all parts of the world.
Solar energy is undoubtedly the best ultimate hope for an adequate energy supply, since the sun is the ultimate source of energy for all of earth's processes anyhow. To date, however, no economically efficient solar converters have been developed, except for special and limited applications. Since the sun was created to "give light upon the earth" (Genesis 1:17) and since "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof' (Psalm 19:6), we may well believe that it is possible to find ways to utilize solar energy to meet all man's legitimate energy needs and to do so with a minimal amount of further damage to the environment. Cost of the needed research should not be prohibitive, at least in relation to other energy and environmental costs.
In any case, a creationist orientation can certainly contribute more effectively to the alleviation of such problems than can an evolutionary perspective. The creationist recognizes that the world is God's handiwork and that he is God's steward. The divine commission to "have dominion over" and to "subdue" the earth is not a license for despotic exploitation of its resources, but rather a call to service, encouraging him to understand its nature ("science") and then to utilize its resources ("technology") for the benefit of all men, under God.
Eventually, however, if the present world (no matter how carefully its resources were guarded) were to continue indefinitely operating under the present laws of nature, it would die. The "whole creation" is under the "bondage of decay" (Romans 8:20-22).
But this bleak prospect will never be reached. God's eternal purpose in creation cannot fail. The creation, therefore, must be somehow redeemed and saved. Although in the present order, the Curse is universal and inexorable, the One who imposed it can also remove it (Revelation 22:3).
The Earth Made New
The redemption price has in fact been paid in full (Colossians 1:20) and this "redemption of the purchased possession" (Ephesians 1:14) will be completely implemented when Christ returns. At that time, everything, including the earth and its land-water-air environment, will all be "made new" again (Revelation 21:5), and will then last forever.
In the meantime, every person who has appropriated this redemption individually through an act of faith in his Creator and Redeemer has the privilege of sharing in God's work of reconciliation, for "He hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:18). The work of redemption and reconciliation involves the reclamation and saving both of individual man and of man's dominion, for the eternal ages to come. We seek not only to win scientists to Christ, but even to win the sciences themselves to Christ.
"O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.... The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in His works" (Psalm 104:24,31).
*Dr. Henry Morris is Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.