Dr. Jonathan Wells Returns to UTS
Dr. Jonathan Wells valued his student days at UTS (1976-78) as the occasion for finding out what God wanted him to accomplish with his life. "One of the things that Father advised us to do at UTS," he said during a recent interview, "was to pray to seek God's plan for our lives." Since then, Dr. Wells has been a man with a mission, a mission which first became clear to him in 1976 and which, 21 years later, is still the focus of his life. Now, equipped with doctorates in theology and biology from Yale University and U.C. Berkeley respectively, he is uniquely qualified to carry his plan to fruition.
The ambitious plan which began to take shape in 1976 can be stated today with precision and conviction; "To defend and articulate Unification theology especially in relation to Darwinian evolution," he said. It was a plan which took its first steps in his UTS thesis. "This was before there was any talk of going on for doctorates" said Dr. Wells. "My thesis was on evolution and I would spend two or three days a week at Columbia University using their biology library to do research on Darwinian evolution. I learned that the evidence supports Darwin's theory for micro-evolution, or slight changes which occur within a species or genus, but not for macro-evolution, or the major changes which mark the history of life on earth."
When the Founder chose several students to go on to graduate school and told them to study theology, Dr. Wells went to Yale where he made it clear that his interest w as the relationship between theology and Darwinian evolution. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Charles Hodge, a nineteenth century Presbyterian theologian who criticized Darwin. During his seven years at Yale, Dr. Wells lectured at New ERA conferences and when he graduated, he was asked to take over the directorship of the International Religious Foundation (IRF), the sponsoring organization.
Two years at IRF were enough to convince him that administration was not his calling. "I wanted to engage in debate and dialog and for those two years I was removed from the debate. I wanted to return to my passion which was the critique of Darwinian evolution." So in 1988, he submitted his resignation and announced his intention to return to graduate school to study biology.
That second Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Berkeley has been invaluable in helping Dr. Wells to fulfill his goal. With his academic credentials he is in a uniquely powerful position to attack Darwinian evolution and he has done so in many debates and discussions in recent years.
Also, during his studies in biology, Dr. Wells' disagreement with Darwinism became even more fundamental. "When I was at Yale," he explained, "my criticism of Darwinian evolution concerned its mechanism. Darwin's mechanism of random variation and natural selection excludes design. To quote one Darwinian evolutionist, George Gaylord Simpson, 'Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process which did not have him in mind.' Darwin's theory excludes design and therefore logically excludes God. That's the source of its atheism. And yet when I looked at the evidence, I didn't see sufficient evidence to support the claim that this mechanism produced macro-evolution. What I did not question in those days was the Darwinian tree of life, that is the idea that all creatures descend from a common ancestor. I accepted that and had no theological quarrel with it. Then I went to Berkeley to study biology and I got a look at the evidence for common descent and found that it was paltry," he said. "Where I was originally a critic of Darwinfs process, I became, on scientific grounds, a Eric of the pattern."
Dr. Wells concluded that Darwinism is actually philosophy masquerading as science as it imposes a philosophical viewpoint on the evidence. He sees in this realization a real hope of a successful conclusion to the battle he is waging. "This is very good news," he said "because it means that what's in conflict with Unification theology is not evidence but philosophy."
Dr. Wells' views on Darwinian evolution have not endeared him to the popular academic culture but his is not a lone voice. While at Berkeley, he met Prof. Phillip Johnson, the author of Darwin on Trial, who became a good friend. Through this friendship, Dr. Wells became involved with a group of conservative Christians with impeccable academic credentials who are attacking Darwinism primarily on the ground that it illegitimately excludes design. He speaks of them enthusiastically and warmly as colleagues and comrades in a vital battle. "They're top notch people involved in writing articles and books critical of Darwinian evolution and I'm proud to be associated with them," he said. These scholars are aware of Dr. Wells' religious affiliation but the emphasis in their relationship is on their common goals. "We agree on some very important issues," he said. "The main one is that God is our Creator. We have to settle that one first and we can worry about all the rest later."
These years of academic study have served to strengthen not shake his belief in Unification Theology. "The more I've learned," he said, "the more I appreciate Divine Principle both in the field of theology and biology. In theology, the more I study, the more insightful, profound and consistent DP appears to me; and the more I study biology, the more I see that biology itself does not contradict DP. Only Darwinism does, and that's philosophy rather than empirical science."
Dr. Wells is not surprised by the turn of events which has brought him back to UTS this term to teach Unification Theology. "Ever since Yale," he said, "it's been in the back of my mind that I was destined to teach at UTS." When he talks about the Seminary, his affection is clear and he is hopeful and excited about the future. "My vision for this place is twofold," he said. "Firstly, that it can be a training ground for men and women who can uphold God's standard and transform the world. Secondly, the vision of God and morality which made our culture strong to begin with is no longer a major force in our universities and it's also gone from many of our Seminaries. It has been replaced with atheism, confusion, relativism and intellectual sloppiness. I would like to see UTS raise a banner and become a model of what our educational institutions should be. I would be honored to be a part of that future."