Darwinists are celebrating this month the 150th anniversary of the publication of their hero's breakthrough book, On the Origin of Species. Christians who respond with ridicule of Darwin get nowhere—but understanding a few terms of the debate can help to start a dialogue.
(1) Let's start with the distinction between types of evolution. Back in 1859 everyone knew that changes could occur within a species; that's how we breed dogs. Darwin's theory was that a process analogous to artificial breeding also occurs in nature; he called that process natural selection, and he postulated that one species could change into another species. (To put it biblically, since God talks about "kinds" of creatures, one kind could become another kind.)
It's important to know the difference between change within kinds (microevolution) and change from one kind to another (macroevolution). Darwinists who argue for macroevolution often give microevolution examples to "prove" changes. The famous "proof" of moths changing colors as pollution darkened trees was actually a fake, but it could have happened—and that would prove nothing about Darwinism.
Bottom line: Critics of Darwin should not be anti-evolution. Microevolution clearly happens; we should always specify macroevolution.
(2) Let's emphasize how complicated DNA is: In the words of Bill Gates, "DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we've ever created." So how did DNA come into being? In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick discovered that DNA stores information in the form of a four-character digital code. Strings of precisely sequenced chemicals called nucleotide bases store and transmit the assembly instructions—the information—for building the crucial protein molecules and machines the cell needs to survive.
The chemical constituents in DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. In other words, DNA functions like a software program—and software comes from programmers who intelligently design it. Bottom line: The makeup of the DNA molecule provides strong grounds for inferring that intelligence played a role in the origin of DNA.
(3) What kind of a role? The Bible clearly says that God created and sustains the universe. Science has now shown that God's creation is more marvelous than Darwin suspected. With no knowledge of the world of nanotechnology within living cells, Darwinians until recent decades saw living cells as somewhat like Lego blocks. Now we know that cells have complex circuits, sliding clamps, energy-generating turbines, rotors, stators, O-rings, U-joints, and drive shafts.
Here's what is key: Each little engine depends on the coordinated function of many protein parts and doesn't work unless all the parts are present. Could all those innovations arise sequentially, or would they all have to happen at once? That's the "irreducible complexity" biochemist Michael Behe wrote of in Darwin's Black Box. Francis Collins in his Socrates in the City (see "Mission to Metropolis," Feb. 14, 2009 [http://www.worldmag.com/articles/14951]) lecture pooh-poohed that notion, claiming that in the beginning God created the universe and programmed His creation so that everything would play out. It would be great for Collins and Intelligent Design theorists to debate—and perhaps find more in common than they think.
If "irreducible complexity" is proven, Darwinian materialism is dead. If it's not proven, materialists still have to find some way to account for the existence of human life and a universe congenial to it. They mutter about the role of chance mutations, but mutations are rarely advantageous, and it takes far greater faith to believe that you or I could arise by chance via millions of mutations than it does to believe in the Bible.
(4) Let's admit that the Darwinists are right about one thing: We're in a predicament. We don't ask to be born, but here we are. We normally don't want to die, but we do. Not knowing why we're here, we look for hope. Christians hope in God saving sinners, but evolutionists must have faith in other things unseen to be saved from a sense of meaninglessness.
Let's have compassion for Darwinists as they develop desperate theories positing the existence of an infinite number of universes. Many cloak themselves as objectively scientific, but that can't dodge even what secularists like novelist Kurt Vonnegut acknowledge: "My body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as to how we got this way when natural selection couldn't possibly have produced such machines."