Edited transcript from a lecture given
Saturday, January 17, 2004, 10:00 a.m.
at Grace Valley Christian Center, Davis, California
As part of the Faith and Reason series
sponsored by Grace Alive! and Grace Valley Christian Center
I want to begin with a story about an experience I had over twenty years ago, in 1980, which gives motivation for why I am doing this. I had just become a Christian about a year earlier. While walking on the streets of Chicago one day, I met two young men. I was only nineteen at the time, and they were in their early twenties. I started engaging them with the claims of Christ, talking to them about what Jesus meant to me and what he should mean to them. They had had a bit too much to drink and as I talked, they started mocking me. But after a while they broke down in tears.
It turns out these men were graduates of Wheaton College and were now students at one of the seminaries in Hyde Park. Hyde Park is where the University of Chicago is, and there are about seven theological schools there. I think they were in their first year. But they had lost their faith, and now they were literally crying. They told me, “We wish we could believe the way you do, but we can’t anymore.”
What happened to their faith? After all, they had gone to Wheaton College, one of the premiere evangelical Christian colleges in the country, and now they were in seminary. Yet in a very short time their faith seems to have disintegrated. Since I have been through the educational curriculum at a mainline seminary (Princeton), I would propose that there are two things one gets at a seminary like theirs that will undermine one’s faith.
First, you get biblical criticism. You are taught that the Scriptures are a hodge-podge of various historical source documents put together by a religious community for various theological purposes. The idea that there is a God sovereignly directing these texts and putting them together, and that these texts are true, speaking legitimately about a God who has intervened in history, is totally lost. So if you take an Old Testament course on Isaiah, for instance, you will be taught that there were various Isaiahs, not just one, because from Isaiah 40 and following there is a predictive prophecy of a king named Cyrus. Because Isaiah is placed about 750 B.C., but Cyrus does not come on the scene until the sixth century B.C., Isaiah 40 and following had to have been written subsequent to Cyrus because no one can predict the future. This is the mindset of biblical criticism.
But, second, in addition to biblical criticism, you get a materialistic or naturalistic worldview. In fact, it is this materialistic or naturalistic worldview that accounts for biblical criticism. Biblical criticism is a corollary of this materialist worldview, which leads to a whole creation story and evolutionary picture of how we got here.
I would like to distinguish between orthodox Christianity and the materialist worldview. To frame the discussion, I want to read a single verse, John 3:12. The context is that Nicodemus has approached Jesus, and is asking, “We know you are a teacher sent from God. How do you do these things? What is going on here?” Jesus tells him, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus says next, “How can this be?” Then comes the verse I want to get to: Jesus responds, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”
I think there is a deep principle to be found there. Our salvation history given in the Bible comes through this physical world—through experiences, through history. So if we do not understand what is going on here and now in the physical world, then our knowledge of spiritual things is going to be undercut. So this ends up being very significant. If we get things wrong about natural history, thinking that a naturalistic or materialistic evolutionary story is the way things are, then we will have been wrong about earthly things. Such thinking has vast repercussions on our understanding of spiritual things.
Let us try to think of this in light of the story about those Wheaton College students. I mentioned that they got a materialistic worldview at seminary. This is very common, not just at the seminaries but across the academic world.
What is involved in worldviews generally, and what is the right worldview? There is a useful book that I would recommend to you by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live?, in which Colson makes the point that worldviews have four components.
First, worldviews involve a creation story that explains our origins: How did we get here? Second, they include some account of what the problem is: Why are we in the mess we are in? If everything was perfect, there would be no need even to think about worldviews. But there are problems; how did they come about? Third, worldviews ask: What is the solution? Finally, they ask: Where is this all going? So there are four questions, four components to a worldview. From a Christian perspective you could label them as creation, the fall, redemption, and eschatology, or where this is all going.
-- Christian Worldview
Within the traditional Christian worldview, God by his wisdom created the world. There is a purpose for us being here. The Fall is not just inherent limitations on the creation—that somehow the creation, in struggling to evolve, had to go through all these hard times. It is that humanity, by rebellion against God, has brought evil into the world, and this evil is not just personal evil, but it has translated into natural evil as well. So evil and suffering ultimately are not the result of some sort of natural forces or growing pains, but the result of conscious rebellion against God. That is traditional Christian orthodoxy.
The solution is the redemption in Jesus Christ. God becomes incarnate, takes the sin of the world upon himself on the cross, and dies for the life of the world. That is the means of our redemption. It is not a “fix” in the sense of psychotherapy or taking chemicals to help our brain processes go the right way. That is not the ultimate solution from the Christian vantage. The purpose of it all is union with God. The Westminster Catechism talks about enjoying and worshiping God forever. So the vision is that we will be united with God and will see him as he is, face to face. This is a glorious vision of the Christian.
-- Materialist Worldview
The materialist vision is not quite that good. It entails a world of mindless material entities that have always been here in some sense, and which, by a process of blind evolution, lead to us. What is our problem? What is the fall? What is our predicament? It is just that this evolutionary process is inherently clumsy. As we evolve, mistakes get thrown into our genetic mechanisms so that, for example, diseases occur. These are the growing pains of evolution.
Thus, now we even hear talk of transcending our bodies. Ray Kurzweil argues that in twenty years computers will exceed the power of the human brain for computation, at which point they will excel us and attain consciousness, so much so that we will be lucky if they keep us as pets. So, according to Kurzweil, the best solution is to upload ourselves onto computers and dispense with our present physical “wetware” entirely.
I kid you not—this vision is out there, and people buy it. But I think it is utterly misguided. I think our intelligence, our humanity, our consciousness, is not captured in our physicality. I am much more in agreement with the apostle Paul, that our bodies are a garment and that our fundamental reality is spiritual; it cannot be reduced to complexity and computation. In fact, I do not think there is any good evidence that complexity and computation captures consciousness. There is certainly correlation—we need our brains to think and do things. If a safe falls on our head, we will not be able to express our intelligence as well. But that is a separate issue. It is a whole correlation/causation question, which I think gets lost in much of the cognitive neuroscience community.
The materialistic solution to the mess that evolution has made of us is that we just have to get our physical beings into shape. We try to do so by therapy and chemicals. And what is the glorious future of all this? You may have guessed it—there is none! The future of the materialistic worldview is the dissolution of all things. Bertrand Russell talked about the heat death of the universe, where everything goes to some sort of entropic equilibrium, and all our aspirations and hopes dwindle away. Actually, we do not have to wait until the heat death of the universe. In our solar system, our sun is going to turn into a red giant within about five billion years and burn up the earth, so it is actually quicker than that unless we can move to other star system, which I do not think looks all that likely. This is what the materialistic worldview offers us.
Thus, the materialistic worldview found in mainstream seminaries clashes with that of orthodox Christianity. But now I want to put these worldviews into more of a historical context. I often think we get the sense that the materialistic worldview is a recent development, stemming from the influence of modern science, as if science has given us positive proof that this is the only right way to look at the world. But, in fact, science has done no such thing. Each worldview is a set of fundamental presuppositions, philosophical and metaphysical assumptions about the world, which go all the way back to the origins of philosophy. They also go back into various religious traditions.
-- Religious Traditions
Let me start with the religious traditions. If you go to a mainline seminary and study Genesis, you will be told that Genesis is really a hodge-podge of various Middle Eastern sources, with parallels in Babylonian and other Near Eastern mythologies. One myth commonly used is called the Enuma Elish, the story of how Marduk, the chief of the Babylonian gods, came to be the head god. And, certainly, there will be some parallels in these accounts, because the Bible as well as these myths occurred in the matrix of the Near East. But despite the common elements, there are some fundamental differences, which is what I want to focus on now.
“Enuma elish” are the first words of the poem. They mean “when on high.” The poem is talking about the origin of the world, and it ultimately tries to vindicate Marduk as the head god of the Babylonians. The poem starts out with Tiamat and Apsu, who are the salt and fresh waters. Notice that this starts with natural, material forces. As the salt and fresh waters mingle, there is a sort of cohabitation, and out of this comes a first generation of gods. As the gods go on, they kill each other and do various things. For generation upon generation you get new gods, and as you read along, you find that these gods are becoming more and more conscious and intelligent, until you finally get to the head god, Marduk.
Notice what is happening. It is not that you are starting out, as in Genesis, with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;” that God speaks the world into existence; that God, a conscious, intelligent, personal agent, is the source of all being, and then everything is created as a result of this intelligence. Rather, intelligence is emerging as a byproduct of natural forces working themselves out. So we see an evolutionary story in the Enuma Elish. I am not just imposing it; it is there.
We also find this in other myths and religious traditions of the ancient world. Hesiod, who came just after Homer, wrote his Theogony to explain how the gods came about. It starts with an abyss, or chaos, and then earth and heaven, Gaia and Uranus, who become husband and wife. This leads to one generation of gods, and which comes to more gods who end up being the gods of Mount Olympus. So here again we see a progression from natural forces and primeval simplicity to intelligent agents. This is always the trajectory of materialism. You have to explain the complex—the things meaningful and purposeful—as a result of primeval simplicity.
Christian worldviews and other theistic worldviews generally turn that around, saying it is not primeval simplicity, but a process guided by a conscious personal God. If there is an evolutionary process, God guides it also. You do not get something from nothing. That is what the materialists are looking for. They are looking for the ultimate free lunch.
-- Philosophical Traditions
What about philosophy? If you go back to its beginning, which is usually placed with the pre-Socratics, you find the same sort of polarity there, although it is expressed differently. There are some atomistic, materialistic philosophers, such as Democritus and Leucippus, who say that the world is fundamentally matter in motion, and that as these indivisible particles—atoms—bounce around, they organize themselves, giving rise to objects like us, among other things. Then there are philosophers such as Anaxagoras, who thought that the mind was the fundamental entity from which everything came.
Probably the most prominent representative of this materialist tradition is Epicurus, who lived at about 350 B.C. When most people think of Epicurus and Epicureans, they think of hedonism, the unbridled search for pleasure, and if they had to choose a contemporary representative of Epicurus, they might think of Hugh Hefner or someone like that. But that is really not the case at all.
What motivated Epicurus was peace and tranquility, which for him could only be purchased if two things were lacking: First, there could not be a god or gods who intervened in the material world, because there can be no tranquility in a world where a capricious god can interfere. Epicurus wanted a world operated by laws he could count on, so that his peace and tranquility would not be upset. The other thing was an afterlife with a God to whom one is accountable for how one lived. Epicurus did not want to spend eternity under some sort of judgment.
It is very interesting to read Epicurus, because he formulated a materialistic physics and metaphysics to prop up these two desiderata. He set up what by modern standards looks like a precursor to the sort of materialistic science that has emerged in this day. It was a world that operated on physical laws you could count on, with no interventions by God. By the way, he did not deny that the gods existed. He just believed they were far off somewhere and too high and ethereal to have any interest in what goes on on earth. That is why they did not get involved in our affairs. We see this tendency in modern theology as well, where there is no real power of God engaging the world. Deity is something “out there,” something that has really no rubber-meets-the-road impact on our lives.
Let me give one more historical note. Karl Marx, the materialistic philosopher and dialectical materialist whose ideas held sway for years over about maybe 1.5-2 billion people, wrote his doctoral dissertation on Democritus and Epicurus. I mention this just so you know that these ideas go way back. Marx also wanted to dedicate the English edition of Das Kapital to Charles Darwin. So there are some interesting connections there.
The materialistic philosophy of Epicurus was well represented in the ancient world. The people I have mentioned thus far are Greeks, but it also existed among the Romans. Lucretius is probably the best known representative to this day because of a poem that he wrote extolling materialism. But I would say that it was never really that popular of a philosophy of old. We have traditions from Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, which reject the materialistic worldview and assert that indeed there is fundamental purposefulness in the world; that there is teleology; that there are ends built into nature.
So Epicurus and his followers were actually reviled throughout much of the ancient world. By the time we get to the Church Fathers, maybe 300-400 years after Christ, Epicurus was in eclipse. By the time of Augustine and the Cappadocian Fathers, the intellectual elite of the Mediterranean world were Christians who had no time for this worldview. But the ideas still stuck around. I would say it was really with the Renaissance and then the rise of modern science that Epicurus and his legacy of materialism came back.
Why this sweeping historical overview? Because it is important to get a sense of history. The issues we are dealing with in confronting materialism and naturalism are not just the latest flash in the pan; they are longstanding issues that cut right across religion, philosophy and now even science.
How was Epicurus “resurrected” with the rise of modern science? I think it worked this way. With the rise of modern science there was a move to understand the physical world—the constitution and dynamics of matter. As science advanced, it became easy to model mathematically the idea of particles in motion, which was the atomistic, materialistic picture of Democritus, Leucippus, Epicurus, and Lucretius. For example, when Isaac Newton was trying to account for the orbits of planets around the sun, he thought of these as point masses and then did some mathematics to account for how one thing goes around the other so that he could come up with his theory of universal gravitation and his mechanics.
So when it became convenient for science to think in terms of particles in motion, a “mechanical philosophy” emerged. When I say “philosophy,” I am referring to what we call science. Our use of the word science as an inquiry into the natural world is only about 150 to 170 years old. It used to be called “natural philosophy,” to contrast it with moral philosophy or logic. It is natural philosophy, or the philosophy of the natural world. That is why, to this day, most of the advanced degrees that are given are Ph.D.s, whether they be in mathematics, chemistry or biology. It is a “doctor of philosophy” degree.
So originally science would have been called natural philosophy. But then a mechanical philosophy began to emerge, the science of mechanics, which asked how things interacted and worked together and moved about, and theories were proposed which agreed with the materialistic worldview.
Interestingly, many who were the main proponents of mechanical philosophy were Christians, or at least theists. There was Isaac Newton, who was an Arian who rejected the Trinity, but he certainly believed that the miracles of the Bible were true and was not trying to dismiss God. Then there was Robert Boyle, the notable chemist and devout Christian, who thought that this mechanical conception, at least for the purposes of doing science, was a good thing. He did so because he was concerned that if there were not a world of inert particles moving around and if there were no purposes or creative elements in nature, we would be tempted to embrace idolatry, because then we would want to worship these creative forces in nature rather than the God who is responsible for nature. So Boyle thought that this mechanical approach was actually a valuable way of preserving the faith.
I just want you to realize that this mechanical philosophy was being proposed by Christians, yet it had seeds of opposition which eventually ended up biting the Christians in the neck. Let me indicate to you how that happens, because I think it is an interesting historical study.
Robert Boyle, one of the main proponents of this mechanical philosophy, was a contemporary of Isaac Newton in the late 1600s. He was also a big advocate of what is called “natural theology,” although the best-known proponent of natural theology to this day is a fellow named William Paley, who actually wrote about 120 years after Robert Boyle. Paley’s famous book, Natural Theology, was published in 1802. The subtitle of that book, in which the project of natural theology is perfectly captured, is: On the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature. In essence, Paley was asking the questions: Does God exist, and what can we know about the nature of this God?
How did Paley go about answering that question? By looking to the appearances of nature. That is the project of natural theology. You look at the natural world and ask, “Are there features of the natural world which would point us to God, demonstrate the existence of God, or demonstrate the attributes of God, such as his omnipotence and benevolence?”
Can we do that from nature? For the British natural theologians from Boyle through Paley, that was a legitimate project. But it ended up backfiring, and I would say it did so in light of this mechanical philosophy.
As far as people like Boyle or Newton were concerned, matter in motion was not enough to explain the world. That matter also had to be initially organized by God. Deity had to make things. So if you look at a biological system, it is not enough just to explain it in terms of matter in motion, but God actually had to form it, had to provide the initial and boundary conditions. God had to do something.
The problem is, this view ended up being a kludge of a divine interventionism and material philosophy, and the marriage did not last. You can see why by looking at Paley’s best-known example of how the design argument works in natural theology. You have probably heard of the famous “watchmaker argument.” It serves as the opening of Paley’s Natural Theology.
The watchmaker argument is this: Imagine somebody walking through a field and coming across a rock. For all he knows, that rock could have been there forever. But now imagine that person walking through that same field and coming across a watch. He would not draw the same conclusion. Instead, he would think that this watch had been designed for a purpose—in this case, for the purpose of telling time. And so the rock and the watch have features which distinguish them. The watch you are going to attribute to an intelligent agent, but you will have no reason or warrant to attribute the rock to an intelligent agent.
That is the distinction. On its face it seems perfectly valid. In fact, we do this as part of basic human rationality—we try to distinguish between the product of intelligent forces and the product of purely natural forces. We may ask, is this an arrowhead or just a random chunk of rock? Is that mound a burial mound or is it just randomly formed? We draw these distinctions all the time.
But now start probing things a little bit. If God is a perfect, benevolent creator God, what sort of watch is he going to create? It will be a perfect watch, one that never needs winding and keeps perfect time. When we pose it that way, we realize there is no need for God to intervene once the watch is in place.
This watch metaphor was also used to represent the universe. In this Newtonian or mechanistic model, the universe itself is like a giant watch. But if the world or the universe is like a watch, and God is the watchmaker, then we expect a perfect watch which never needs winding.
We have suddenly moved from theism to deism. Deism pictures God as the absentee landlord who does not need to do anything with the creation once he sets it up, because it runs so perfectly.
I am a much bigger fan of the Church Fathers than I am of William Paley. I like Paley and think he has a lot of good insights. But I think the watch metaphor was in many ways unfortunate. It is faulty, because the world is not like a watch.
The Church Fathers did not use the watch. Instead, they spoke about a musical instrument. Gregory of Nazianzus, I think in his second theological oration, makes a design argument which is virtually parallel to William Paley’s, except in place of a watch he has a lute. The lute maker makes the lute, but that is not all. The lute maker is then also interested in playing the lute.
This has huge implications, because it is entirely appropriate to play, or interact with, a lute after it has been created. That is why I think this is a much better metaphor than that of the watch. As Christians, we believe that God is not an absentee landlord. God creates the world but then he also interacts with it.
The watch metaphor is the type of metaphor that we get from a mechanical philosophy, where things work automatically, one thing bumping into another as chain reactions, with things working themselves out. If you have a perfect watch that keeps perfect time and never needs winding, it will go on for ever. But with a lute, or with any musical instrument, you need a lute player; otherwise it is just sitting there. In fact, it is incomplete without the lute player.
Paley was a theist, but it is easy to see why with Paley’s natural theology it was a very short step from theism to deism. But now push it a little further: If a perfect watch is one that never needs winding, would an even more perfect watch be one that constructs itself? A watch is just an object in motion. Material objects move. So why not just set it up so that material objects build the watch and then allow the watch to continue indefinitely? There was a fellow named Kingsley who described evolution as the result of God, but he said, “God makes a world which makes itself.”
I think you see where this is going. You go from theism to deism, but once you have a perfect watch that does not need God except at the beginning stages, why not just take it further and just have a watch that constructs itself? I think that is where the logic of science went. By the time you get to Darwin you have a world in which everything makes itself. And what Darwin brings to the party, as it were, is an account of how you get biological organization and complexity.
There are really two things that Darwin gives us. First, he gives a theory of what natural history is like. He says that all organisms are related by universal common descent. This is his “great tree of life.” So any two organisms, if you trace back their ancestry, will converge on a common ancestor. But then there is the question of how this tree grew, so he offers his theory of natural selection and variation. I would say Darwin’s theory is a logical result of what happens when one takes natural theology and uses the wrong metaphor, such as the watch metaphor. It takes us away from even deism, and so with Darwin we end up with agnosticism, a not-knowing. If there is a God, you do not know what this God did. In fact, you cannot know anything about this God, because any God that is involved with the world is just too distant. The world is a place that essentially just created itself. I think that is where we have finally gotten to. The modern scientific world is very much in love with this conception of a world that creates itself rather than a world in need of a Creator.
Let me just say where I believe we are now. I think we are finding that this concept of a world that creates itself is no longer adequate. For the idea that the world created itself to be convincing, you are going to have to argue that material processes are adequate to explain everything in the world. To do that, there has to be a reduction to natural law. Basically, what you have to say is that for anything that happens, there is an antecedent circumstance and some law-like relationship that takes you from one thing to the other. You have this in Newtonian mechanics. For example, if you have a certain orbit, then there were some initial conditions, some properties of the matter which led to that. Or if you are trying to explain some instance of biological complexity, then there must be some background conditions, some natural selection pressures, or certain properties of variation that could account for that.
The way scientific explanation works within this materialistic framework is that there is always some sort of material mechanism, some law-like connection that explains how you got where you are. If you are trying to explain point B, there is a preceding point A which explains it.
But intelligence does not work that way. Why did Shakespeare write King Lear? Why did Michelangelo create his statue of David? What were the precise causal antecedents that led to that? What were the law-like relations? What were the antecedents for God creating the world? Whereas the world is an open book within materialism—everything has a proper explanation which can be entirely reduced to antecedent circumstances and law-like relations—intelligence does not operate that way. Intelligence is free.
It is not that the principle of sufficient reason breaks down. It is just that when intelligence is a sufficient reason, there is no reduction possible. If God in his wisdom creates the world, it makes no sense to ask: What is behind that wisdom? Who designed that wisdom? There is nothing behind it. That is how intelligence works. Intelligence is creative. Intelligence is not an open book; intelligences write books. They create novel information. You cannot reduce them to these material mechanisms.
If I had to characterize in a nutshell what is happening within the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, I would say this: We in ID are saying that this picture of a materialistic world, entirely controlled and capable of being explained by mechanisms is no longer adequate, and we have good solid reasons for showing the insufficiency of that worldview on scientific grounds.
A similar thing happened in the 1930s in mathematics, when a mathematician named Kurt Gödel showed that there were true mathematical statements that could not be proven. The things that are proven in science are those things that you can explain in terms of material mechanisms. Gödel’s result is called “the incompleteness theorem” because it is saying that there are truths that are not susceptible to this sort of mechanization of mathematics. Likewise, the mechanization of science is incomplete—it does not account for everything.
What we are finding now, through some of my own research and that of others, is that there are reliable ways in which we can detect intelligence. We do this in a lot of different contexts. I already gave some homespun examples from archaeology: Is it an arrowhead? Is it a chunk of rock? Why is Mt. Rushmore not the result of wind and erosion? What are the sorts of reasons we give for saying that one thing is the result of design and something else is not?
What I do in my work is offer precise mathematical criteria for how we can draw that distinction. Once we are able to identify these signs of intelligence, what happens when we start looking for them in biological systems? It appears we are now finding convincing signs of intelligence in biology, and if that is the case, these signs of intelligence are not going to be amenable to these sorts of material mechanisms. In fact, the very tools we use to show that these signs of intelligence exist in biology are precisely the sorts of analyses that also show the inadequacy of Darwinian and material mechanisms.
Let me give you one example. There are machines of extreme functional complexity in all cells. One which is very popularly pointed to in the Intelligent Design movement is known as a bacterial flagellum. It is a little outboard rotary motor with, basically, a propeller that spins very fast, around 20,000 rpm, and can change direction in a quarter turn. It sits on the back of a certain bacteria. When you look at it, it is clearly a molecular machine. It has a propeller joint, a drive shaft, various discs that mount onto the cell membrane, and an acid powered drive. All these pieces have to be in place. They are functionally integrated, so you cannot remove anything and have it be functional. But without all the pieces being in place there is nothing for natural selection to select. So how did this thing emerge?
Natural selection is the only designer substitute that the materialist biologists have. But when you start analyzing systems like this, you find that they are beyond the reach of these material mechanisms, and in fact they have these key indicia or markers of intelligence. It is these sorts of systems and analyses that are showing that the material mechanisms to which this mechanical philosophy and the materialists have looked are, in the end, inadequate.
Where is all this going, and what is riding on this? What we find is that there is a big disconnect between mass culture and elite culture. When I say “elite culture” I am thinking of the National Academy of Sciences, the media, etc. By “mass culture” I mean people out there, most of whom are believers in God, who are trying to make a living and not trying to subvert traditional Christian values and beliefs. Let me put it in those terms. Gallup polls have been taken, and the results have been consistent now for about twenty years, and what you find is that only about 10% of the population buys this materialistic Darwinian perspective. About 90% of the rest believe that God either directly, through some special act of creation, or by guiding an evolutionary process, brought about humanity and the complexity that we see in the world.
I have a colleague on the other side named Michael Shermer, a professional skeptic, who wrote a book a few years back called How We Believe. Before writing it, he commissioned a poll of ten thousand people. He asked various questions, but the two questions that stuck out at me were: “Why do you think other people believe in God?” and, “Why do you personally believe in God?”
When the question was posed: “Why do you think other people believe in God?” the following reasons were right at the top: “God is a crutch,” “God is a support,” “He helps them through the day,” “To provide a moral structure of the universe,” “To make sense out of life.” Those were not the top reasons, though, when people were asked: “Why do you personally believe in God?” Those reasons were further down. What was at the top of the list was “The design, order and complexity of the world.” So I think that is where we start out. That is where our intuitions are.
Richard Dawkins wrote a book titled The Blind Watchmaker, subtitled Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a World without Design. On page one he writes, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” That is page one. Then he needs three hundred pages to explain why it is only an appearance of design, why, when you know what really happened, it in fact is a materialistic evolutionary story that accounts for why we are here. This sentiment is widely held throughout the biological world. Francis Crick, Nobel laureate, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, wrote, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather, evolved.”
So what is going on there? Why are people saying that? Our natural intuition tells us that these systems are designed. But as you go through the educational programs of this country, through grade school, high school and then college, what you find is that education is a subversion, an indoctrination into a materialistic mindset where what should be evident and plausible becomes increasingly implausible, so that in the end, if you go through this education and buy it, you will not accept that there is design in the world. What you will accept is just material forces.
That is what happened to Michael Shermer. He used to be an evangelical Christian, but he got a good dose of Darwin and he is now entirely smitten by Darwin. In fact, if you look at the back cover of his books you will see a picture of a smiling Shermer with a bust of Darwin and books by Darwin behind him.
So what is the bottom line? What is the tangible benefit of Intelligent Design for the Christian community? I think minimally it is that it will prevent our young people from being swept away by this materialist ideology. But beyond that, and I think this is what really is the driving force for me, it gives us the truth of creation. I am wholly committed to the fundamental truth that God, by wisdom, created the world. It is only in acknowledging that that God will get proper glory for his creation. It would be a travesty and an insult if you met some wonderful artist, a Michelangelo or a Leonardo da Vinci or a Rembrandt, and they had their life’s masterpiece beside them, and you came along and said, “You just threw this together. There is nothing to it. I could do that.”
Now take it further. That is what we do when we take the marvelous designs that God has built into the world, things that far exceed anything by Michelangelo, and we do not just say, “I could have done that,” but we attribute them to some blind, stupid, material process. It is just galling to me when I see the nature programs on PBS where “nature did this” and “natural selection did that.” Where is God in all of this? He is dispensable. I think that is the real problem with naturalism and materialism.
There are the Dawkinses who are rabid in their atheism, but for the most part these materialists rarely come out and say, “There is no God.” It is not that there is an outright denial of God, it is just that God is not necessary. Instead of a heated denial it is benign neglect. And I think we are seeing that more and more. But I think Intelligent Design is going to turn this around. I think we are going to see the whole level of rhetoric and controversy ratcheted up more and more in coming days.
Just last December, Oxford University Press published two books, a total of seven hundred pages, against Intelligent Design. One of them, by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, is Creationism’s Trojan Horse, subtitled The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Another is a book by Niall Shanks, God, the Devil and Darwin, and then Prometheus Press put out Unintelligent Design, another four hundred pages there. So a lot of people are making their reputations and even getting tenure for dealing with this. It is an interesting time.