As you are probably already aware the feature article for the August Acts & Facts magazine is called It’s Alive!, by Henry Morris III. The point of the article is in fact rather muddled. On the one hand, he says:
The more we dig into the mechanics of molecular biology, the more our awe increases at the amazingly complex processes on which life is based.
Plants are indeed marvelous, beautiful, complex, and able to reproduce “after their kind,” but they are designed by the Creator to be a source of energy to maintain life. Plants are food—they are not alive.
The point of Morris’ article is to argue, on the basis of flawed scientific arguments and likely equally flawed biblical ones, that only animals (and only some of them at that) are actually alive. Which is rather unfortunate given two of the other arguments the Institute for Creation Research likes to put forward.
These two arguments are first that “life only comes from life, not non life,” and second (as Morris has already said) that life is too complex to be natural. A problem with both of these is the status of Viruses, which are… things, which usually aren’t considered to be alive and yet can be rather complex and in some cases larger than bacteria. This blurring of the line between life and non-life is bad enough for that kind of line of argument as it is, but shifting the definition in this way (aside from being simply absurd – did I mention that this article was absurd? I think I’m getting too used to the crazy) just creates more problems. If animals are “alive” but plants are not then there are no differences between the two groups. Only Morris thinks he has some – let’s see what he’s got:
Life is unique.
“And God created…every living creature that moveth” (Genesis 1:21).
Obviously, animal and human life are different from plant life. In fact, the Bible uses the Hebrew word chay (life) and its derivatives 763 times in the Old Testament, never applying that term to plants or vegetation. No place in Scripture attributes chay to plants; only living creatures possess life.
There are some key things to recognise here. First, the Genesis quote is from the 5th day. The Genesis 1 story continues on to the 6th day, where the explicitly ‘living’ cattle etc are created, as are humans – in other words, Morris has quote mined the bible. Good job!
Now, this ‘chay’ word. My research seems to suggest that chay has been used in the bible to mean both ‘green plants’ and, for that matter, ‘running water.’ It seems to imply activity more than things actually being ‘life’ in the strictest sense – but then I’m no bible scholar.
Life has independent movement.
This may seem like either an obvious point or an irrelevant one. However, one of the descriptive terms that the Creator applied to living creatures was “movement.” The Hebrew word is ramas, used 17 times in the Old Testament—never about plants or vegetation of any kind. Living things move.
And living things eat plants! Plants do not travel from one location to another, except on the backs of animals, blown on the wind, or transported by men. They are “rooted.” They do not have the power of ramas. Living things have the ability to move independently, but plants do not.
Yes, but it’s not true that you can define life as having independent movement, and some plants have better ‘independent movement’ than some animals. An infant in a marsupial pouch isn’t going far, while a tumbleweed (if not exactly independent) has a bit of an edge. “And living things eat plants,” you say? Living things eat living things, plants included – indeed some plants eat animals, after all. Also, did you know that the Ameoba does have the ability to move independently? Yet the Bible never mentions them as having ‘ramas’ either! (It doesn’t mention them at all, that’s the point here.)
Life has blood.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood,” God announces in Leviticus 17:11. The Mosaic law was centered on blood sacrifice, requiring the “shedding of blood” by killing (executing) an innocent animal for a temporary substitutionary atonement (covering) of the sins committed. Blood is the life source of all living things.
God rejected Cain’s offering because plants were not living creatures that could function as temporary sacrifices—the covering for sins (Genesis 4:3-5). The pattern and teaching were clear from the very beginning. God made a covering from the skins of animals for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). An innocent living creature (recognized as living because its blood could be shed) was the only God-ordained substitute for the sin condition of humanity.
The whole Christian gospel is founded on the necessity of the shedding of the Messiah’s blood during the crucifixion as evidence that His life was given on behalf of the “sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The death of Jesus Christ was made necessary because “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The concept is simple. If a moving creature has blood, then it is alive.
Yes, well, I hope you realise that your “whole Christian gospel is founded” on primitive superstitions surrounding the role and nature of blood. This blood fixation, by the way, rules out a large amount of the animal kingdom as well as everything else. Insects are apparently ‘not alive,’ as while they have an equivalent they don’t use blood itself – ditto Jellyfish, which don’t do that kind of thing at all, and an awful lot else. Once again, it makes no sense to use this definition, as you miss a lot out. “If a moving creature has blood,” then it is a moving creature, that has blood. No more, no less. And life > creature, ok?
Life has soul and spirit.
There are two other properties identified in the Bible that living things do not share with plant material. The Hebrew word nephesh is used 753 times in the Old Testament and is most often translated as the English word “soul.” There is no doubt that the term speaks of a noncorporeal part of life—perhaps best equated with the self-conscious awareness that “I” exist. We may talk to the spinach in our salad or the tree that we climb or the flowers in our garden, but they do not hear us.
The other noncorporeal Hebrew term is ruwach. Of the 389 times the word or its derivatives appear in the text of the Old Testament, it is most often translated “spirit.” These two terms seem to differentiate between an emotional part of life and an intellectual part, and neither of these terms is ever connected in the biblical text with plants or vegetation in any way.
Can you do a test that will take two organisms and tell me which one has a soul and which does not? No? I didn’t think so – this wont help us here.
The next question we have, of course, is why do we care about this silly definition of life?
Why the distinction?
Evolutionary dogma insists that everything that exists is connected to the basic elements of the universe. Evolutionists claim that life is connected through a “common ancestor” in the distant eons—through the first cell that became enabled to reproduce itself by the random interplay of atoms. According to that definition, “life” is anything that can reproduce. Thus, everything that grows on our planet is our brother, and humanity is nothing more than a highly evolved arrangement of organic chemicals.
You could put it that way – my chemistry teacher last year certainly did. Though the ‘cell’ may or may not have been the first thing that could reproduce itself, depending on how it all started. The definition of life has more to it than reproduction – viruses are, again, not usually called ‘alive,’ but reproduction is one thing they do well – but that’s a good starting point.
If that were the only battle to fight, the scientific accuracy of the creationist model would be rather easy to demonstrate. In spite of the generations-long effort of the academic world to foist evolutionary naturalism on the world, 46 percent of the U.S. population still believes that “God created human beings in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years” (Gallup poll released June 1, 2012). Intuitively and observationally, people “know” that plants and animals are not the same and that human beings are vastly different from everything else on the planet.
A) science is not a popularity contest, especially not based off polling results in the US where the country regularly demonstrates itself to be full of idiots. B) people intuitively “know” that plants are alive, too – I dare Morris to go out onto the street and ask people this, even in America he will surely be dissapointed.
The challenge comes within Christian scholarship. Groups such as BioLogos and a growing list of Christian schools and universities have bought into the terrible lie that plants are just as much alive as humanity—that we “kill” plants before we eat them. While that idea may seem innocuous (after all, we do kill animals before we eat them), the implications and applications are enormous!
I’ll say it now: that is the funniest thing I have read while doing this blog. That is all.
If we do indeed “kill” (take the life of) plants as we consume them, then God Himself authorized that killing. He specifically designed plants as food (Genesis 1:29) and drew a strong distinction between food and the “life” of everything else (Genesis 1:30). If God authorized the “killing” of plants, then God designed death into the very essence of the creation—and pronounced it all “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Well He later did “authorise” it, and what’s more an article by James J.S. Johnson in a previous Acts & Facts was of the opinion:
Why does all of this work out the way it does in each life cycle of this particular kind of wasp? Because, before Adam’s fall in Eden, God cleverly and carefully planned out (consistent with His infinite foreknowledge) the innumerable details that would be needed, after Eden, to make this air-to-ground system operate successfully enough to propagate tarantula hawk wasp populations from one generation to the next.
In other words, the adaptations that organisms have in order to kill each other were designed by God at the beginning. I suppose it’s too much to ask to expect consistency from the ICR?
Here’s the heresy: If God designed death into creation, then death is as “good” as all other factors—and the atheistic evolutionary doctrine is right. Death is the “good” force that brings about the ultimate “fittest” in our universe. Death, therefore, is not “the wages of sin,” and our Lord Jesus’ death was not necessary for salvation—it was just the wasted effort of a deluded martyr.
Once again, I’m sure many Christians would disagree that the very fact that plants are alive destroys their religion. Many of them are probably young Earth creationists, too.
These teachings cannot be harmonized. Either the Bible is Truth (capitalization intended) or it is Error. The choice is clear. The message is clear. The effect is eternal!
Yes, I’m glad you pointed out that you didn’t make a typo there – I might have missed it otherwise.
So, in summary, Morris thinks that his theology demands that plants not be ‘alive,’ and that both the bible and science agree with him on this. He’s wrong on the last count – any definition of life that doesn’t include plants is off. Note that we develop in the womb from a single cell that does not have movement and does not have blood. If Morris’ definition were correct then the cells that make us up would not be ‘alive,’ only the collective. It’s nonsensical.
Even if the bible really was of this opinion, which I doubt not least because it’s hard to say whether its authors meant by ‘chay’ and other words exactly what we mean by their translation, then – as Morris said – it would have to be in error. Because that would be wrong.