Month: April 2020

Darwinism or design? COVID-19 “evolution” references evaluated

GRAPEVINE—There has been much talk about “evolution” of the coronavirus. A Google search for “COVID-19” and “evolution” yields 180 million results. Media outlets from The Washington Post to The New Yorker have addressed the evolution of COVID-19, and a team of scientists at the Scripps Research Institute stated that the virus may be “the result of natural selection.”

So is the present pandemic evidence for Darwinian evolution? Hardly, say scientists and philosophers who have spent their careers critiquing naturalistic evolution. They urge Christians to carefully evaluate media references to COVID-19 “evolution” because the term has multiple meanings.

“People just need to be discerning when they watch the media and even read articles,” said Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist with the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis. While some commentators may attempt to cite the coronavirus as “evidence for molecules-to-man evolution,” COVID-19 actually arose from “change within a particular virus, not a mechanism that over time could lead the virus to becoming something else.”

COVID-19 has caused some 800,000 infections worldwide and nearly 40,000 deaths. It is part of a larger family of viruses known as coronaviruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds.

The evolutionary picture “really falls apart” when scientists attempt to explain the origin of COVID-19, said Paul Nelson, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think tank which argues the universe is the product of intelligence rather than chance. “This is a major puzzle in evolutionary theory right now. The origin of viruses is totally unsolved.”

Nelson, a philosopher of biology, explained that COVID-19 arose through microevolution as RNA viruses mutated in ways that enabled them to bind more effectively to human cells and integrate into the respiratory system. But that is a far cry from molecules-to-man macroevolution.

Appealing to the concept of “irreducible complexity,” Nelson said viruses must possess multiple complex components to function. For a virus to originate, those components must all come together at the same time—a phenomenon that cannot occur through the random, undirected processes asserted by Darwinian evolution.

“The most powerful evidence the coronavirus is designed comes from the absolute impossibility of telling the step-by-step Darwinian story of how it could have arisen,” Nelson said.

But if something as deadly as COVID-19 was designed, does that suggest the designer was evil? Not necessarily, said Scott Minnich, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho and a fellow at Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture.

COVID-19 may have come into being through the loss of genetic material from a virus with a good purpose in the universe’s design, Minnich said. That is similar to the development of bubonic plague, which has killed more than 300 million people in recorded history. In a 2007 article, Minnich offered a counterargument to prevailing scholarly opinion when he suggested bubonic plague’s deadliness stems from the loss or mutation of genetic material from a more mild disease.

“Natural evil is derivative of good,” Minnich said. “It’s a perversion of good. It’s a perversion of the original design we still see in creation. From a Christian perspective, you would expect to see that in a fallen world.”

Purdom agreed that viruses “have been created by God, and originally they were very good.”

“The vast majority” of bacterium and viruses “still perform a lot of really good functions” like breaking down nutrients for plants and animals, she said. “Some viruses that are inside DNA in some mammals are responsible for the ability to reproduce.”

Although Christians and other proponents of design are at odds with Darwinists about the origin of COVID-19, they can still find common cause in combatting the deadly virus, said Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College and a philosopher of science. Compassion and self-sacrifice might appear inconsistent with the Darwinian tenet of survival of the fittest, he said, even while evolutionists themselves believe in helping suffering people.

“I want everybody to be saved,” said Creamer, who does not himself believe in evolutionary theory. But “if an evolutionist is out there saying, ‘Hey, we ought to be caring for those who are weak among us,’” Creamer says he appreciates “the moral value of that altruism.”

Christians and Darwinists should unite behind the science calling for social distancing, hand washing and limiting social gatherings to combat COVID-19, Nelson said. “The wise thing in this broken world is to take your knowledge” of science, “couple it with” Scripture’s teaching on love “and then behave yourself.”

Yet even as Christians partner with evolutionists to combat the coronavirus, they should remain leery of claims the pandemic validates Darwinism.

“The term evolution can mean lots of things,” Nelson said. “Be very careful when you use this word.”

Disaster relief: More volunteers wanted

Looking for something meaningful to do while sheltering at home during the COVID-19 pandemic? In about two hours you can be trained in basic disaster relief by accessing the free online course Introduction to Disaster Relief, available at

Visit the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention website (, scroll through the Church Ministries option and select the Disaster Relief link to go to the DR page. There, click on Training and then Online Training. You will be prompted to register, supply login information and create a password for the online course.

Before beginning the course, you may want to download and print the Intro to DR Manual, available at the bottom left of the page.

During the course, you will be required to answer questions after each section before advancing.

After completing the course, you must submit required documents using the links provided. This includes a Personal Information Form that may be submitted electronically via PDF; a volunteer agreement; release and waiver of liability; and an authorization for a background check. You will also need to submit a photo for your SBTC DR badge.

Once you have completed the course and submitted the documents, you will be a credentialed SBTC DR volunteer, able to deploy with a team.

All SBTC DR volunteers must be at least 18 years of age, members of a Southern Baptist Church, and willing to serve.

Online training in DR feeding and recovery—specialized courses available for those who have completed the introductory course—is expected to be available in mid-April, said Kelsey Melvin, SBTC DR ministry assistant.

All online classes are free.

Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, told the TEXAN that efforts are currently ongoing among DR task force members to encourage college-age groups to pursue the online training.

Wally Leyerle, SBTC DR associated, expressed enthusiasm about the coming advanced training in feeding and recovery: “In times of large scale disasters, like Hurricane Harvey, we will be able to train new volunteers quickly, without taking our most experienced people from the field to do the training.”

“The Intro to DR class kicks all the doors wide open,” Stice said. “Students become credentialed DR volunteers at the completion of the course. We would like them to take advanced training, too.”

COVID-19 deployments will be different

Disaster relief deployments during the coronavirus crisis may look different than usual Stice said, even if there is a tornado or flood.

“Mass feeding as usual with our large kitchens is unlikely while the coronavirus is a threat,” Stice said. “We may engage in deployments with the QR (Quick Response) kitchens. Our deployments may involve smaller groups and be more localized, using facilities in area churches.”

The QR kitchens may be used to support medical or law enforcement personnel or first responders, Stice added. 

“We won’t have contact with those receiving the food and we must carefully handle the food in such cases. It can be done,” Stice said.

SBTC DR chaplains continue to staff prayer hotline

Concerned about the coronavirus or know someone who is worried? The SBTC DR chaplain prayer hotline at 1-800-921-3287 has expanded its hours, now open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. seven days a week, with voicemail capability. Callers may speak with a trained chaplain and receive comfort and prayer.