If you were asked, “Would you like an apple or a banana?” would your answer be pineapple or strawberries or kiwi? No, you would choose either an apple or a banana. Why? The question you ask—or even the way in which the question is asked—often affects the answer.
Consider this: Evolutionary theory begins with the premise that God does not exist--or at least is not involved. If you ask the question, “How did life originate without supernatural intervention?” you will not get an answer that involves supernatural intervention.
This was the point of a classroom exercise on day one of a biology course for college freshmen. Groups of students were given a pile of individual shoes and were tasked with classifying them by physical characteristics, similar to a field guide for trees. Does it have laces? Does it have tread? What is the length-to-width ratio? Is it closed-toe? Does it have a heel?
Each group independently determined which questions to ask and then used their classification criteria to determine how each shoe was related to the others and to the “ancestral shoe” (a tenet of form-based classification is that closely related organisms will tend to have more physical characteristics in common with each other, and distantly related organisms will share fewer characteristics). Each group then constructed a cladogram—a branched tree diagram that illustrates the order in which characteristics would have developed (changed over time) based on the students’ classification scheme. This is part of the process for classifying fossils, as only the form remains of a fossilized organism.
Then came the big reveal: “Another group in the classroom has the matches for your shoes. Go find them and study their work.”
Without exception among my students, the results were different between the matching groups, often wildly so. Two shoes that determined to be “closely related” in one group were far apart in the other group. Both cladograms were possible and reasonable. Neither group was wrong, and neither group was exclusively right. Why? The questions you ask determine the answers you receive. If you ask different questions, you can arrive at different answers.
If you were asked, “What fruit would you like?” what answer would you give? It might still be apple or banana, but then again it might be pineapple or strawberries or kiwi.
Consider this: Evolutionary theory begins with the premise that God does not exist--or at least is not involved. If you ask the question, “How did life originate without supernatural intervention?” you will not get an answer that involves supernatural intervention. Therefore it is logically impossible for the conclusion of evolutionary theory to be God who is the Creator. You will never conclude that God created life if you assume from the beginning that God does not exist—not without changing your assumption first.
"For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God" (Romans 1:20, New Living Translation). And yet we can fool our own heart into believing that there is no God (Psalm 14:1).
If we can, by our own human reasoning, create plausible patterns of relatedness with shoes, which do not live or reproduce and therefore cannot evolve in a natural sense, what does that say about the patterns of relatedness we can create for organisms? It is a human tendency to look for patterns in order to make sense of the world around us, and it is necessarily what scientists must do when evaluating data after the fact. However, just because an idea makes sense to us does not make it true.
Absolute truth does exist. Everyone can agree that life does exist and that it had a beginning at some point, so everyone can also agree that life began in some actual way. Knowing or not knowing the process does not change what the process actually was. What questions we ask determine how close we can come to knowing the true answer.
Answers don’t exist in a vacuum. They can only appropriately be interpreted in the context of the question and the underlying assumptions that led to that answer. Forty-two is, in fact, an answer. What it means depends entirely upon the question that was asked.
When you consider an article, don’t just take the answer given at face value. Be a smart consumer of information. Look for the question. Does the question itself prefer one answer to the exclusion of other possible answers? Look for the assumptions. Are the assumptions true or false, or perhaps unknowable? Then evaluate the answer in light of that context. You might find that the answer tells you a completely different story.