A Discussion on Evolution (elsewhere)

A discussion about some of the arguments between Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Creationism has been going on at Biologos for a while. Not for the first time. I am mentioning it here, now, because one of the Biologos commenters, Eddie Robinson, has moved this discussion to one of my favorite blogs “The Hump of the Camel”. This is a long running blog by Jon Garvey, to my mind one of the most interesting thinkers in the faith and science dialogue (who also often comments here). Eddie wrote a guest post directed specifically at some of the things I had said in the Biologos discussion. Readers here might be interested in following that developing conversation . Comments and questions can be posted there or here.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Science, a Crisis of Faith, and Biologos

On the Biologos forum on September 20th, a man named Nathan posted an eloquent and very moving cry for help. He confessed that he was a Christian who was undergoing a crisis of faith, and that he had been moved to doubt the religion he had grown up with after confronting a number of new scientific truths. His heartfelt essay led to many responses from Biologos commenters, and he answered most of them with humble and grateful spirit. The thread, called Navigating Uncertainty, can be found here.

I first saw this thread on October 3rd and decided to add my own words of encouragement, because I felt that as a former atheist, scientist, and now committed Christian, I might be able to offer a slightly different perspective from some of the other commenters. Yesterday, Brad Kramer, the moderator of the Biologos forum, excerpted some of the comments (including one of mine) and reposted them in a blog post about this thread in order to illustrate the kind of conversation that Biologos can stimulate, and to provide an example of Christian love and caring that is part of their mission, especially as related to the intersection of science and faith. That excerpt, along with Brad’s introductory comments, can be found here.

I feel honored that one of my own comments was chosen to be part of this brief synopsis, but I would encourage readers to look at the entire conversation, since so many wonderful witnesses to God’s grace and the power of Christian love are evident in it.

I have decided to repost here (with minor edits) the three major comments that I have made on this thread (so far), since I think together they paint a fairly clear picture of my thoughts on how we can deal with the pressure from scientific knowledge without losing our faith. The sections in italics explain how these posts relate to responses from Nathan.

So many others have posted such wonderful comments that I am not sure that a latecomer to this like me has much to offer. But perhaps my own perspective might be useful. I was raised in a militant atheist family, became a scientist, and remained an atheist or agnostic until well into adulthood. I was only baptized into the Christian faith 4 years ago (at a pretty advanced age). I certainly understand all too well the seduction of naturalism, with its logic, explanatory power, and reasonable sounding answers for all questions. But what turned me in the direction of God was my slowly growing awareness that those answers were not actually very persuasive in all of the areas that I felt to be important. And oftentimes, I found that the answers by some of the people you mention, like Dennett and Dawkins, were not actually valid scientifically.

With time, once my mind was opened, I was called by Christ, and my life changed immeasurably for the better. The fog of meaninglessness, purposelessness, and valuelessness dissipated, and I was left seeing both the scientific reality of this world (which I have never for a moment doubted) and the glory of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection as mutually supportive and complementary realities.

Of course all phenomena have natural explanations. Nature is God’s creation. But the more we learn about nature and life (I am a biologist), the more we see how immensely complex and difficult to understand it is. And of course, the same is true of the nature of God. But Christ was real, He came to us in the form of a simple man: a carpenter, not a king. A man who taught us and died for us.

I know little of theology, and I can’t tell you much about the Bible. Like many here, I believe the Bible is inerrant, once we learn how to interpret its message. Adam and Eve could have easily been real people without being the biological ancestors of all humans. And we know that the story of the fall is true, since we are all demonstrably sinners. That is what counts, and the rest are details. We needed and need salvation, and Christ offers that.

As for consciousness, please don’t take the naysayers literally. Consciousness is both real and beyond explanation. All of the claims you are seeing that neuroscience has found this or that are highly exaggerated and need to be taken with many grains of salt. Scientism is a scientifically failed philosophy that cannot replace, explain or make sense of love, spirit, humor, music, emotion, or meaning.

As for doubt, all have faced it. Don’t be afraid of it. Atheists like to say “Why don’t you test your faith and see if it’s true. Pray for something and see if you get it”. And they usually include an object of the prayer like a million dollars, or a miracle cure, or a good grade. But the test works if we pray for a peaceful soul, or for enlightenment, or just to get through the night. Does this prove God? No. There is no proof. And we will all learn the truth soon enough. But for now, I can rely on the evidence of my mind, the evidence of my heart, my knowledge of the reality of love, and worship God with complete certainty in my salvation. Peace of Christ to you on this World Communion Day.

Nathan answered this with more specifics about how some scientific knowledge in areas like neuroscience had weakened his faith, and asked me to expand on my previous comment about not taking all of the anti-theistic scientific arguments too seriously.

Thanks for your kind words. I fully understand your concern, and why you feel the way you do about the “nothing buttery” explanations of atheists (anti-theists is a better term) who use neuroscience in a clear agenda to destroy the concept of God or spirituality. I am a biochemist, not a neuroscientist – my expertise is in molecular biology, genetics, and I am now working in systems biology. I have had decades of experience reading and writing scientific papers, and I can tell the difference between a valid scientific result and a philosophical claim deriving from that result.

From everything I have read, including the work of Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett on consciousness and free will, I see nothing that “explains” away either as illusions or programming. The attempt to discredit religious feelings as nothing more than a neurological reflex has become a subfield of neuroscientific research, which is both a pity, and a sure sign that there is a strong agenda behind this work.

Let’s take an example. I am sure you have seen very impressive-seeming experiments that show that when someone is having a religious or spiritual experience, certain areas of the brain light up with neuronal activity. Does that show that such experiences are a mirage,  “only” a bunch of neurons firing that give you the illusion of Christ speaking to you? I don’t think so. What it shows is that if Jesus Christ does in fact speak to me, and I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I have a number of reactions, including the stimulation of some specific brain areas. In this case one cannot identify the cause and effect. And that remains true, even if the brain stimulation precedes the feeling of the experience, since there are time delays in neurological processing that make conclusions based on timing impossible. I will look for some links to share.

Dennett’s solution to the hard problem of consciousness is that it’s an “illusion”. But Dennett has also said (not often quoted) that this does not mean that consciousness is not real. When he says illusion, he means something that is quite difficult to define. This is in fact is not that different from saying “immaterial”, something with which we can agree.

So, be skeptical. There are a lot of people like Sam Harris (who I have no respect for as a scientist) and Lawrence Krauss (who verges on the irrational when he defends atheism so passionately) who will explain to you that everything is just a meaningless result of scientific laws, but they are wrong. Even the scientific laws they proclaim so loudly actually point in the other direction. Toward purpose, design, toward an underlying fundamental Will, ultimately to a Creator, and to us, meaning you, Nathan, and I, as majestic, beloved creations of God.

Nathan then asked me “You mentioned you only became a believer later in life. If you don’t mind me asking, how late? How did you step out of materialism? What kind of church are you involved with now?” My answer, posted here, was also included in Brad Kramer’s Biologos Blog post about the conversation.

Happy to answer you, Nathan. I turned slowly from atheism to agnosticism in my 30s and 40s. What happened was I saw that pure materialism didn’t work in real life (where does art and laughter come from), but mostly I found that it didn’t work in science either. But religion was not something I could embrace. I was born wearing those lenses you speak of. But I became more and more open to the idea of God, and slowly God began calling me. Very faintly at first. I won’t bore you with too many details. Around 15 years ago (in my mid 50s) I began to go to Churches on occasion. I liked what I found there. Goodness, love, peace. None of the horrors I had associated with religion. And then finally only a few years ago, Christ called me directly. I was baptized 4 years ago (in my mid 60s) and joined a United Methodist Church, where I am now the lay leader, and very active. I have preached the Gospel, and been welcomed into the body of Christ. For me all of this is nothing short of a miracle.

I too sometimes will find myself thinking, “it’s all so beautiful, but is it real?” Could a man have truly been raised from the dead? If Heaven is real, where is it? And so on. The questions I used to ask people who tried to convert me in the old days. When those questions come to me now, I take a walk. I look at the trees and the people I pass. There is no proof that God exists. And yes, that woman smiling at her baby might be simply acting out the evolutionary imperative to care for her child in order to pass on her genes. I am a trained biologist, and I fully endorse and support the idea of evolution, which I believe is God’s tool for creation of life in all its splendor, drama and diversity. But I will never think for a moment that the joy in that woman’s eyes, the smile that comes to my face at seeing the baby laugh, and all the other wonders I find around me, are not much more than selfish genes doing their thing. If you pursue pure materialism far enough, it becomes depressing, boring, and not very convincing.

I believe the Holy Spirit is everywhere, but sometimes hard to hear or find. In those times it’s better to stop thinking and debating and just reach out and be touched.

Yes, we do a lot of arguing and debating here on Biologos (and elsewhere). Not because we are trying to convince anyone that our version of the truth is right, and they are idiots for not agreeing. But because this work we are doing, trying to see how our new knowledge of God’s world of nature, His Book of Works, can be reconciled with His Word in Scripture, is so very important, and most of us feel pretty passionate about the whole thing. That is not an easy task; it is in fact very difficult, and nobody knows the answers. Yet. But the point is not to give up if there are difficulties. That is not what God wants.

I am convinced that it is our (all of us) mission to work toward the truth, not to proclaim it. To take as many steps as we can toward finding how our science and our theology can be improved by each other, and ultimately learn all we can about the truth of the natural universe and God’s purpose for us, individually and as a species.

Have courage. Do not despair. Faith, hope and love always win, even when it seems like this time they won’t. In the end they do.


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

My Grand Unified Theory of Everything

Despite the title, this is not a scientific post. It is metascientific, meaning its sort of like metaphysics, but not really. Metascience is when you talk about scientific stuff, but not really in a scientific way.

There are four forces in our universe. They are gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force. Physicists have managed to tie electromagnetism in with the strong and weak forces, but gravity can’t quite fit. Also, or maybe because of this (physics is not my bag, so I’m guessing here), gravity and quantum theory don’t go together. So all of this leads to the search for a single law or theory that will cover everything, electromagnetism, quantum theory and gravity. Such a theory is called a Grand Unified Theory (GUT), and there isn’t one yet. Some people think M theory, which could be related to string theory, might do it, but I have no real idea what either of those are, and apparently they can’t be tested at the moment anyway, so let’s just say the search is still on.

I have the answer. And now we can kiss any pretense of science goodbye, for what follows (while not totally original – I think I read something like this some time ago from some other fruitcake) is clearly way out there.

Here is my GUT feeling:


Yes, the Grand Unified Theory of Everything is love. Love is what gravity is all about. The attraction between two bodies. Love keeps the moon circling the Earth, and keeps the Earth enthralled by the Sun. We call it gravity, but it’s love. The stone or apple flies to its beloved ground thanks to the enormous pull of love for all things from all other things.

But love is weak in inanimate objects like stars and planets. So let’s look toward the atom. The protons and electrons are governed by completely different forces, but what do those forces do? They attract, they repel, again we see the effect of the single unified force of love. And magnetism? Well, clearly, a force of attractive (or its opposite) love.

Moving on to biology, the GUT of love is everywhere. DNA operates by “base pairing.” That is the technical term. “Pairing”. Adenine loves Thymine and Cytosine loves Guanine, but guess what, sometimes Thymine  will cheat and hang out with Guanine, and you know what happens then? Mutation!!!.

So how do the bases in DNA pair up? They form bonds (in this case they are called hydrogen bonds), but of course, there are bonds everywhere in chemistry and biochemistry. Enzymes work by bonding with substrates, acting on them and then letting them go. Everything interacts with everything else in biology – cells, hormones, nutrients, receptors… In fact, the science of chemistry is basically all about bonds forming and breaking – it’s all a giant soap opera.

Love explains gravity, electromagnetism, enzyme kinetics, DNA replication and coding, chemical bond formation, multicellular organisms, ecology, and, of course, human behavior. So when Christ preached his message of love, he was teaching us the fundamental natural law of the universe. Objects tend to interact with each other. In all different ways. But they all interact. The absolute value of the force of attraction between any 2 independent discrete objects is greater than or less than 0. The degree of attraction could be negative, leading to repulsion. But there is always interaction between any two objects. This law does not follow from anything else. It underlies gravity, quantum theory, chemistry and biology and psychology. It is the original law of the universe, and it is God’s law. God, himself told us this law in so many words. And all of science proclaims its truth.




Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Blog Banner, Walt Whitman, ID and the Genetic Code (and more).

I chose the banner for my blog mostly from an instinctive attachment to the idea of a parent passing on the wonder of science to a child (as my own father did with me). The fact that the subject is astronomy and not biochemistry did not strike me as important. But now, after reading a very interesting post by Dennis Venema at the Biologos blog, I was reminded of a famous poem by Walt Whitman, which I have never liked, about astronomers as exemplars of scientists.

When I heard the learned astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and
measure them
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

I never liked the poem, because Whitman got it wrong. Yes, the learn’d astronomer might have been pedantic, tiresome and boring. And perhaps listening to any scientist drone on and on with slides of data, figures and diagrams is soul deadening. But what Whitman leaves out of his poem is that the astronomer, when his lectures are done and his admirers have dispersed, also loves to look up and contemplate the beauty of the stars. In fact, that astronomer was very likely the young boy in my banner, following his father’s pointing finger to see the magic of the night sky.

I, and every scientist I have ever known, went into science for love, and only love. And what we love is the thing we study. I like the night sky, and I like animals, but what I love is the way the chemicals of life work. I have been blessed to be able to study and do research into the realities of how biochemistry operates in living creatures.

So what does this have to do with Dennis’ blog post about the origin of the genetic code? The post is technical. It concerns whether experiments showing that part of the code could have had a natural explanation (meaning that it might have had its origin in chemical interactions) were convincing or not. Paul Nelson and Stephen Meyer from the ID-supporting Discovery Institute have written that these experiments (done by the research group of Michael Yarus) are deeply flawed and therefore do not contradict their own idea that the genetic code could not have been “a natural” occurrence and thus must have been the work of an intelligent designer.

Dennis quotes a comment I made on an earlier post showing that many of Nelson and Meyer’s arguments are inaccurate (and he kindly shares a link to this blog). But the real problem I have with ID is more general and philosophical than technical. When we look at nature, any part of nature, our task should be to understand it within the context of our love for what we are studying. And this should be true regardless of whether we believe that all of nature is God’s creation or we’re convinced that it’s the accidental and purposeless result of blind forces. I know many religious scientists, and they all do their science in exactly the same way as our atheist colleagues.

But if we do believe in a God of providence, a God whose work includes purpose, and we believe that purpose includes us, then we should not be constrained by the philosophical assumption that whatever we find out about nature must be unguided, non-designed and ultimately meaningless. I don’t think even atheist scientists feel this way, or they would have become lawyers or bankers or doctors  instead of scientists. What sets believers apart is that they may understand that in all of nature, and especially in biology, there is a guide, a design, and a meaning for everything we uncover. All astronomers can gaze with wonder at the stars, but Christian astronomers can also see how the “Heavens proclaim the glory of God”.

So when Nelson and Meyer try to disprove the template model of code origin, insisting that there could be no possible natural explanation for the genetic code and therefore it must have been “designed”, I am left deeply disturbed and puzzled. Of course the genetic code is designed. Who could argue with that? The code was designed by God, whether it was constructed by some biochemical miracle in a micelle or protocell, or whether it was started by aptameric binding between an amino acid and its codon. To try to prove that so-called “natural explanations” are impossible is to fall into the trap of some of the new atheists who wrongly claim that if all phenomena have a “natural” explanation, then we don’t need God, so He doesn’t exist. The atheists are wrong, not because there are examples of non-natural explanations (which is what ID is constantly trying to find) but because all of nature is God’s work, so natural explanations are as divine in substance as are supernatural ones.

I have rarely looked through a telescope, but I have looked into microscopes for many years. I have seen cells dividing and growing. Yes, I was gathering data for my own charts and diagrams, but I never failed to be awestruck at the wonder of the life I was seeing. When I was an atheist, I didn’t think much further about how all of life had come to be; now as a Christian, I know that God is our creator. But I still want to know all the details about how it all works, and how it happened. Nothing I nor anyone else can ever find out could possibly disprove the beauty of the design of life (especially the majestic glory of the genetic code), and there is no reason at all to try to prove something that we know is true by faith.

So when this learn’d biochemist looks up from his charts of complex regulatory interactions and gazes at the flowers planted by his wife, he sees not only the deep beauty of the flower and the woman, but the glory of the God who made us all. And that is all I need.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Wisdom from Tertullian et al.

Among the blogs I follow is one called Resurrection Orthodoxy, written by Joel Edmund Anderson.


He recently had a post that I thought was a good accompaniment to my own last blog post on probability and theology. The post describes the philosophy of two early Christians, Tertullian and Irenaeus. I am reposting (with Joel’s permission, part of the post related to Tertullian. After a brief introduction we are told that Tertullian is often quoted as saying  “I believe because it is absurd.”

The post continues:

Ever since the time of Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), this quote has been held up as an example how Christianity is, at its very foundations, irrational, and how, in their stupidity, Christians actually hold up such irrational faith as a virtue. The fact, though, is that Tertullian never said such a thing. What he said was part of a larger argument regarding the truthfulness of Christianity. He said:

“The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed – because it is shameful.
The Son of God died: it is immediately credible – because it is silly.
He was buried, and rose again: it is certain – because it is impossible.”

What Tertullian said was not “I believe because it is absurd,” but rather, “It is certain, because it is impossible.” But what does that mean? Well, Tertullian was actually using an argument that he borrowed from, of all people, Aristotle. In Rhetoric 2.23.21, Aristotle says this:

“Another line of argument refers to things which are supposed to happen and yet seem incredible. We may argue that people could not have believed them, if they had not been true or nearly true: even that they are the more likely to be true because they are incredible. For the things which men believe are either facts or probabilities: if, therefore, a thing that is believed is improbable and even incredible, it must be true, since it is certainly not believed because it is at all probable or credible.”

Simply put, the argument is that if something according to convention is considered impossible or ridiculous, but people claim that they actually experienced that supposedly impossible thing occur, one must strongly consider the fact that what they’re claiming really is true, despite what convention accepts.

Convention says, for example, that dead people do not resurrect. If one person came out of Judea, claiming to have spoken to a resurrected Jesus, it would be reasonable to assume that person was insane. But if 5, 10, even 500 people claim to have witnessed the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ, then it would be reasonable to pause and consider the fact that perhaps such an “impossible” thing really, in fact, happened. That was what Tertullian was saying….

That ends the fragment I wanted to repost here. (Please take a look at the rest of the post for more insights).

In my previous post I said that believing in something that is impossible (with a probability = 0) is a sign of insanity. But Joel, (and Tertullian and Aristotle) make a very good point here. If many people witness something that was deemed impossible (or, if scientists do controlled, well-conducted experiments repeatedly showing the same thing) there is another alternative to insanity:  what was previously deemed impossible, is  actually possible. This has happened in science numerous times.

I will follow up on this theme in the future.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reason, Freedom and Doubt

I was quite pleasantly surprised when I became a Christian to find that there is a great deal of rational and logical analysis in Christian theology. Reading or listening to people like NT Wright or John Walton is not at all different in this regard from listening to a good physicist describe evidence for a theory. How far can we go in the application of logical tools to issues in theology? Let’s find out.

We can consider some theological ideas in terms of probability. Probability notation describes the likelihood of something happening. For almost all applications of probability theory, that likelihood is unknown and is somewhere 0 and 1.

Sometimes the use of probability is extended to truth statements, which are binary – they are either true or false. This allows us to include all statements under the general umbrella of probability. In this way, we can define three categories of probability P. P = 1 is a statement of certainty of truth, while P = 0 is a statement of certainty of falsehood or impossibility. For P = anything else (0<P<1), we have a statement of uncertainty.

As examples, the probability that the USA is a nation, P(the United States exists as a nation) = 1. That is a statement of certain truth.  P(the moon is made of jello) = 0. That is a statement known to be factually false. But for many interesting questions, like what is the probability that the stock market will rise in value tomorrow?  P(the stock market will rise tomorrow) >0, <1. For some things, we can calculate the probability – for example, we know the probability that a flipped coin will land on heads  is P(heads) = 0.5. This still doesn’t tell us how a particular coin toss will turn out, but it does tell us the likelihood of getting a head.

How does belief connect with probability? We have free will to believe in anything. We can believe in God, in Allah, in Christ, in aliens, in conspiracy theories, in a flat earth, or that we are Napoleon. However, there are limits to belief. It is not possible to believe that something is true if the P = 0, nor is it possible to believe that something is false if the P = 1. Such beliefs might claim to be held by some people, but this is the definition of insanity. For example a belief that you are in fact a dead historical figure like Napoleon violates the impossibility of believing that something with P = 0 (which is the P that you are in fact Napoleon) can be true.

As a corollary, it also makes no sense to say that we believe in things that are factually true. It doesn’t make sense to say “I believe in the existence of France”, unless of course, we were in a period where the existence of France as a nation were not a certainty.  We do not have the freedom to believe that the IRS exists, because we know that “the IRS exists” is a demonstrably true statement.

However, the exercise of free will does apply  to when it comes to belief in a statement for which P is greater than 0 and less than 1.  For example, we have free will to believe that God exists (or not) because P(God exists) > 0, but < 1. I know of no proof that God exists or does not exist. Atheists are fond of saying that there is no evidence for God’s existence, which may or may not be true, but it doesn’t matter, because evidence does not prove a proposition, and lack of evidence does not disprove it.

Since the probability of the existence of God is neither 1 nor 0, belief in God is subject to free will. Turned around, if we assume that belief in God is always subject to free will, then P for God’s existence can never be 1 or 0, meaning that God’s existence can never be proven to be true or false. What this is saying is that if free will exists, the existence of God can never be proven beyond doubt. If it were, then only insane people could not believe (or believe) in God, and therefore there could be no free will to believe. If our theology requires free will, which it does, then the existence of God cannot ever be proven.

We can use evidence for God’s existence (some of it scientific, some not) to allow us to assume that that P is large. This evidence can allow us to feel comfortable with the assumption that God exists. The more evidence for or pointers to God’s existence, the more likely it is that God exists. But there will always be room for doubt – there MUST be room for doubt. While there are pointers that increase the P of God (such as the fine tuning of the physical constants), it is to be expected (and welcomed) that atheists can find ways to demonstrate that such evidence is not conclusive and that alternative theories, such as the multiverse, are at least possible.

These alternatives allow an element of doubt and therefore allow free will to remain a reality. The same arguments apply to any attempt to scientifically prove the existence of the Creator. So that when some creationists say that life’s diversity is proof of God, because there is no other way to account for it, they are trying to prove the wrong thing. If they were successful, they would have destroyed the possibility of doubt, and with it, free will. God’s gifts to us of faith and freedom are precious. So is His gift of reason and logic. Let us not hesitate to accept them all with gratitude and humility.




Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Intelligent or Divine Design?

The appearance of design suggests a designer. But how can we define the appearance of design? William Dembski, one of the founders of the Intelligent Design movement (ID), has subjected this question to some rigorous statistical treatment, with the intention of showing that biological creatures fit the definition of designed objects and therefore were specifically designed.

I don’t think there can be much argument with the idea that biological entities show evidence of design. Darwinian theory of natural selection agrees that all living creatures appear to be designed, and provides a mechanism for how this design appearance came to be.

The ID argument goes that if the probability of such characteristics arising without any intentional (or intelligent) input is sufficiently low, then it will have been proven that some form of design that does not use chance processes must have been involved. If you find a sandcastle on a beach, it is safe to presume that the structure was designed and built by some form of intelligence, simply because the alternative, that the windblown sand formed what we recognize as a sandcastle by chance, seems to be impossible. (Now we know that in fact it isn’t impossible, but the probability of this happening is extremely small, and therefore it is as good as impossible.)


The difference between the sandcastle example (and its relatives, like the famous tornado blowing through the junk yard and building a 747 airplane) and Darwinian evolution is that with evolution, chance is only involved in the first step, the production of genetic variation. The enormous power of natural selection (as described by Dawkins in Climbing Mount Improbable) can indeed allow unexpected, very low-probability events to happen. But ID does have a valid point in focusing on the genetic variation part. Selection needs to have something to select. And it is not always clear how some biological structures or functions arose from previous forms simply by blind mutational chance. Some of the newer ideas in evolutionary theory (see previous posts on the EES) might go a long way to explaining this. In fact, the ID proponent Michael Denton acknowledges this in his latest book (see previous post on my review of the book at Biologos). So some parts of the ID worldview are not without merit.

In fact, and I don’t know if ID folks have used this argument, there is no question that ID exists in the world and has played a role in evolution. Nobody argues with this, and Darwin used it as the basis of his theory. Yes, I am talking about selective breeding for a purpose, and the intelligent agent in this case is us. We deliberately designed wine grapes, seedless watermelons, tasty tomatoes, faithful dogs, docile cattle, and so on. We haven’t created new species this way, nor whole new body plans, but we haven’t really tried to do that. With new genetic engineering techniques, we might get there. And of course, if we are believers, we know that whatever we can do, God can certainly do. But did He?

I think the real problem with ID is theological. It makes two assumptions about the nature of God that I believe are contrary to Christian (and other religious) thought. The first is that the existence and majesty of God as creator of everything is subject to scientific proof. I think that is a theological and scientific fallacy. The fact that ID has failed to convince most scientists that it has proven the existence of God is therefore beside the point, because such proof should in fact be impossible.

The second theological quarrel is with the nature of God as pictured by ID. If you found a complex watch, you could assume that the maker and designer of the watch was an intelligent human being, and you would be right. But suppose what you found was a rabbit. Paley didn’t know much about biology, not even a fraction of what we know today. But even in his day it was known that rabbits reproduce themselves, react to their environment, grow, consume food, and undergo very complex metabolic chemical reactions.

A rabbit makes a watch look pretty simple. Certainly no human, no matter how intelligent, could design a rabbit. I agree that life is designed. But by calling this design “intelligent”, the way a human designer of watches or computers or aircraft is intelligent, we demean its nature. The more we learn about life, the more we understand that the design of life is far more than that. Life was designed by the creator. It is divine design, not intelligent design, and the mechanisms by which life was designed and created are not currently within our ability to understand.

I don’t know if we will ever get there, but I do think it is worth trying to find pointers to the actions of the living God, because doing so will help us reconcile our faith with the truths that we learn about the universe using scientific tools. But not to prove the existence or creativity of God. That is not provable, and needs no proof. We start with the premise that God exists and created the universe, and that His presence is real in the world and in our lives.


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments