Redefining Life | The Institute for Creation Research
Redefining Life

by Brian Thomas, M.S. and Christine Dao*

“Life is that which replicates and evolves,” begins a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1 This definition may be convenient for those with a naturalistic worldview, who deny the possibility of a supernatural involvement in the origin and maintenance of life. Such a description does not, however, reflect reality.

A similar shift in meaning occurred in the 1940s with the publication of Chester W. Wright’s Economic History of the United States.2 According to David Barton of WallBuilders, the integration of this economic view of history into American public classrooms began a slippery slope to redefine that history: “Taxation without representation” grossly overshadowed the 26 other grievances appearing in the Declaration of Independence that pertained mostly to “certain unalienable Rights” with which all men were “endowed by their Creator.”3 The American Revolution suddenly became a war about money, not the morals and convictions that so many people had died to uphold.

Likewise, science has witnessed the “evolution” of evolution’s definition. In recent years, scientists have strayed from Charles Darwin’s original terminology of “descent with various degrees of modification”4 and instead favor the more ambiguous “change over time.”5 This phrase is meaningless in terms of supporting an evolutionary view of development. An oak tree growing from an acorn demonstrates change over time, as does a rusting car. But the oak is still an oak, the car is just decaying, and although each one is changing, neither of these scientifically observable phenomena demonstrate any verification of Darwinian evolution.

Life forms reproduce and are capable of certain genetic changes between generations. However, these observable phenomena do not represent macroevolution. Defining life as “that which replicates and evolves” presupposes macroevolution in order to illustrate macroevolution. An analogy of natural selection, however mathematically postured, that is attempted from a wholly non-real “prelife landscape” would seem a very poor substitute for what life really is, yet that is the essence of the PNAS paper’s argument.1

In contrast, a scientifically and biblically accurate description of life includes three categories, the first of which is material. Organisms consist of materials so well organized that they can perform biological functions—like obtaining, converting, and processing energy; protecting their own integrity and identity; information storage; and reforming another generation prior to the death of the parent generation.

On day five of the creation week, animals received an additional metaphysical component. Observation confirms that many animals have rudimentary versions of mind, will, and emotion, all of which are immaterial and represent a clear, qualitative jump from the merely physical.

Last, God created humans, the only beings in possession of another qualitative difference: a spirit, capable of expressing faith, hope, and love.6 Observation again clearly indicates that only mankind can decide to reckon as true an abstract and verbalized concept, and thus exercise faith. Many people have faith in the testimony that a living God created life even though no human was there to witness its inception. Evolutionists exercise an even greater faith when they believe the less credible story that nature created life from non-living materials.

Science has not observed life evolving today at any of the three levels—body, soul, or spirit. To redefine life as “that which replicates and evolves” is inaccurate. People may change definitions to suit their worldviews, but the Bible is clear that life came from God the Creator and was redeemed by God the Savior.7


  1. Nowak, M. A. and H. Ohtsuki. 2008. Prevolutionary dynamics and the origin of evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105 (39): 14924-14927.
  2. Wright, C. W. 1941. Economic History of the United States. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  3. Overview. Posted on
  4. Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray, 423.
  5. Huxley, J. 1942. Evolution: The Modern Synthesis. London: Allen & Unwin.
  6. Morris, J. Spirit, Soul, Body. Days of Praise, September 20, 1994.
  7. John 10:10.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer and Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.

Article posted on October 31, 2008.

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