Book: Evolution: Possible or Impossible? by Dr James F Coppedge
Note: This online copy of Dr J.F. Coppedge’s book is offered by Creation-Evolution Headlines. Not for distribution or reposting.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The book, Evolution: Possible or Impossible?—Genes, Proteins and the Laws of Chance, was first published by Zondervan Publishing House in 1973. It was reprinted 8 times by Zondervan, and then ownership transferred back to the author. Dr Coppedge printed more copies privately in 1993 and 2002 with minor revisions. This online edition contains the latest (2002) version.
Evolution: Possible or Impossible? had a profound influence a number of creationists and leaders in the intelligent design movement (IDM), as well as Christian leaders and laypeople. The IDM was still future in the 1970s when few creation books were in print. This book was one of the first publications in the late 20th century to use the phrase “intelligent design” before the phrase became the calling card of a new movement of Darwin skeptics.
Dr Coppedge’s approach was to use probability calculations to show conclusively that chance was utterly incapable of achieving the degree of specificity in one usable protein molecule or gene, let alone in a living cell. Because his argument was easily understandable to laypeople (though developed rigorously), Dr Coppedge’s preferred title was “Shortcut to Certainty on Evolution.” Zondervan, however, prevailed with its title and cover image. His picturesque “amoeba illustration” in chapter 7, portraying the waiting time for chance to build a simple protein, was later animated by Illustra Media in their documentary Origin and in a short film titled First Life.
Though some of the material contained in later chapters is dated, most of the information is “evergreen” and still sound. In fact, a case could be made that Dr Coppedge was too generous to evolution. Subsequent probability calculations by others have intensified the position that unguided chance is hopelessly unable of assembling the simplest parts of a living entity. It’s important to note, as the book explains in chapters 5 and 6, that critics cannot appeal to “natural selection” to overcome the probability hurdles, because natural selection depends on accurate replication. Before the origin of life, there were only two causes evolutionists can appeal to: natural law and chance.
Another noteworthy fact was that molecular biology was fairly new when this book was written. The structure of DNA was elucidated in 1953. The DNA code was deciphered in 1966. Dr Coppedge’s book came out just 7 years later. Knowledge of biochemical complexity has mushroomed since then—another reason that this book understates the powerful evidence against life by chance. If evolution was hopelessly impossible then, it is even more so today.
READ THE BOOK HERE
The following links to the book chapters are presented for wider distribution to online audiences. They are not for distribution or reposting outside of Creation-Evolution Headlines, although links to this page are permitted. The last remaining print copies of the book are held by David F. Coppedge, Dr Coppedge’s son, who also scanned the entire book to make this online edition available. Inquiries for obtaining a print copy can be made to editor [at] crev.info.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr James F. Coppedge (1920-2004) was trained as a minister of the gospel, getting his BA and MDiv degrees at Asbury Seminary. He received additional training in the US Navy Chaplaincy program near the close of World War II. Born on a farm in Tennessee, he moved west after graduation to seek his ministry goals. There he met Elsa and married, faithful to her for 59 years. Entering the Navy the year the war ended, he served as a Navy Chaplain on aircraft carriers, witnessing the 4th and 5th atomic bomb explosions while stationed in the South Pacific. With the arrival of his first daughter in 1946, he continued serving in the Naval Reserve but took a pastoral position in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.
There he heard of a need to serve poor veteran families in the north valley. He and Elsa moved to Sun Valley and built a church at Basilone Homes, a hastily-constructed government housing community for veterans after the war. “Chaplain Coppedge” and Elsa held services in a metal community building, using multi-media effects he had learned working on Christian radio and TV programs in Hollywood when TV was still new. There he also became acquainted with a number of Christian actors and performers. He himself was a musician and songwriter, talented on the Hawaiian guitar. His second daughter and son were born while they were at Basilone Homes.
At Basilone, Chaplain Coppedge founded youth clubs in 1948 with a military flavor and an emphasis on learning the gospel and developing Christian character. James and Elsa continued their youth ministry for 48 years, rescuing thousands of children and teens in poor families from lives of crime and poverty, including those from black and Hispanic neighborhoods, and leading them to abundant life in Jesus Christ. In 1954, benefactors who had seen the success of the youth clubs enabled them to obtain a property in Northridge that became a youth center. The Coppedges operated the youth center from 1954 to 1997. The 10.5-acre property treated the youth clubs to horseback riding, swimming, and all kinds of fun activity, but the focus was always on leading the youth to Christ and training them in Christian character. One unique feature of Chaplain’s approach was “reaching youth through youth” by training the older teens to teach the children. With the clubs’ military rank system, young teens could rise through the ranks by learning the Bible and demonstrating leadership skills. Chaplain also took the young people, both children and high school teens, on very rigorous backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains from the late 1950s until 1972. After that, he began to concentrate on the book and his scientific studies. By then he had been to every river and river fork in the entire Sierra Nevada (96 in all), some of them very remote and hard to reach. He always carried the heaviest load.
Chaplain had always been a lover of nature and creation. One day in 1968, though, when he saw what his son’s high-school biology textbook was teaching about evolution, he became alarmed. The textbook made a naturalistic origin of life look simple. It also gave no hint that anybody doubted evolution or believed in a Creator. Someone needed to be able to answer the claims, he thought. That someone would be him. He returned to college to earn a PhD in theology, and “Shortcut to Certainty” became his thesis. He submitted it to Zondervan with additional chapters; that became Evolution: Possible or Impossible? in 1973. While still running the youth center with the help of his family, Dr Coppedge continued his education in chemistry. He earned a Master’s in chemistry from UCLA and most of the requirements for a PhD in biochemistry by 1983. For reasons he kept to himself, he was unable to complete the doctorate at UCLA, possibly because of age discrimination (he was 63 by then), but most probably because his advisor had learned he was a minister and was biased against Darwin skeptics, even though as a student “Jim” (as he was known there) did not make that an issue, because he wanted to earn his credentials fairly. For whatever reason, Dr Coppedge did not write any more books, but always considered Evolution: Possible or Impossible? his magnum opus, and republished it all the way to 2002. He was also a big fan of Creation-Evolution Headlines when it started up in 2000. Dr Coppedge died in 2004.
I hope this brief look at the author’s life helps readers appreciate for a truly unique, multi-talented individual—military leader and counselor, TV and radio host, minister, musician, backcountry explorer, youth leader, scientist—but most importantly, a servant of the Lord with a heart for the gospel and a spirit in awe of the wonders of creation. That spirit will undoubtedly become evident in the pages of this book.
David F. Coppedge
See also Spacecraft Earth: A Guide for Passengers (2017) by Dr Henry Richter and David Coppedge.