An analysis of theistic evolution, Intelligent Design, and Naturalism
| Beyond Wikipedia:
Theistic Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Naturalism
This summer I investigated these three theories through various sources, books, and websites. In this investigation, I have found, as many before me, an intellectual basis for my faith as faith, proving, as scholars like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Isaac Newton that to choose God is not to forsake your sanity, indeed that God demands belief, due to what scientists such as Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, Steven Meyer, Michael Behe, and others have realized as evidence for an real, vibrant God who is beyond His Creation.
That being said I want to point out that until convinced otherwise I am heavily biased, and can only give a short (and I would like to emphasize short) synopsis of each. However, I will attempt to give an honest reflection of each theory and perhaps even a little bit of back round history on them. Also, I want to point out that every theory has it's thick and thin areas, and I cannot, for your sake, explore every one or every possible one. However, such an analysis begets a question: can Science, that is, as a study of the natural world and the things contained thereof, disprove a Creator? The answer is it cannot by it's essence totally eliminate God, but He is reduced by some to a master of disguise, a God-of-the-gaps belief, not a true active Lord of all. Also, please keep in mind that two of these theories call for the rising out of a solely naturalistic mindset. However, as Prof. Tolkien pointed out with his essay The Monsters and the Critics, everything ought to be put in it's context and kept that way, as I hope I will.
Theistic Evolution: the theory of Biologos
The theory of Biologos or Theistic Evolution is pretty simple, and if you're a scholar, you might recognize Bios from Greek 'life" and Logos or logos as Greek from "Word", that is, the Word of God that becomes the world, bios through logos. The term was coined by Director Francis Collins, a former atheist who became agnostic and then believer. He has an impressive set of credentials, including being the Director of the Human Genome Project which discovered the 3.1 billion DNA sequences as well as a medical chemist and biologist. He also has worked as a physician for many years, being drawn to science in general due to mathematical elegance.
He became a believer after meeting patients in the hospital who leaned heavily on their faith and then investigating God for himself. After the Human Genome Project, he published his book The Language of God, in which he outlines evidence for God, including but not limited to moral law, the search for God, and ethics in general. Such processes, he concedes, could not have come from evolution, or a completely naturalistic Bios. Thus he finds a God who is active, vibrant, and compassionate: one that fit Christ quite snugly with what Mr. Collins sees as His own Creation.
The basic science of theistic evolution is this: God created the world and then used evolution as an extremely elegant method of creating people, animals, and plants, ext., then infused mankind with both a search for Himself and a set of ethics known as Moral Law, in theology, the breath of life, in addition to a whole host of other items that cannot be produced by Naturalism alone that point men to Himself. The theology of Biologos is that none of this violates the classical view of God or faith, while he also argues against prolonged atheism with arguments and analogies such as the "rusty containers" argument, where he says that you can't judge God from Christians who sin because it's like clean water in rusty containers. Therefore it's not the water's fault that it's tainted, it's the containers'. All of this in Francis Collins' opinion points strongly at a Creator, and though he agrees that science is great for observing the natural world, it's of little use beyond that, and we need God to explain our creativity, morals, and a search for Him, as well as the millions of other psycological and philosophical problems with a solely naturalistic world.
A problem that a lot of people, believer and unbeliever alike, have with Biologos is that it's a god-of-the-gaps theory. In other words, it's putting God in gaps of science that very well may be discovered by naturalistic processes, also that such theories are shaved away by the philosophical principle of Occam's Razor, where you essentially choose the simpler idea if it makes sense and can work with the evidence. For instance, if I see a tree fallen down in the middle of the forest, I can say that a giant pushed it over, or I can surmise from the trunk that it was cut down by someone with a chain saw. Also, many people think that this is a supposition from wishful thinking or desire. However, as my mother thoughtfully pointed out, someone can believe in evolution and still be a Christian. It is a well-rounded theory, but some are questioning the role of important philosophical and theological ideals in the theory, while Mr. Collins insists (quite eloquently and reasonably) that none of the information challenges the truths of theology, but rather that the two are compatriots and perfectly compatible with one another and as history has proven, tend to stay that way.
Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity
Intelligent Design pretty much speaks for itself in the title: there are things that are just far, far too complicated to have arisen from purely naturalistic processes and as such demand an explanation, and that explanation is an Intelligent Designer. My main example for this is the book Intelligent Design by William Dembski. A mathematician by nature, he formulates (quite literally) the entire argument of this theory, though there is some dispute over whether or not the term theory is valid. Intelligent Design has been promoted by a legal lawyer, named Philip Johnson, a scientific professor, Michael Behe, several astronomers and a few other mathematicians/biologists as well as a cosmologist. In addition to the idea of Irreducible Complexity, they also employ the kalaam argument, the Cambrian Explosion, and the idea of the fine-tuning of the universe, just to name a few.
Mr. Dembski argues that science is bogged down in a naturalistic mindset, and to ascend that peak, we need to allow a new mindset: that of evidence. Wherever the evidence points to, that's true. Unfortunately for it, I.D. is currently classified as a pseudo science due to the assumption that it produces no new hypotheses or theories, it makes no experimentation, and so on. However, the basic scientific claims of I.D. are as follows: that naturalism is unable to explain fine-tuning, irreducible complexity, or any of the above mentioned arguments of I.D. Therefore if naturalism is unable to answer such inquiries, then we must turn to another hypotheses; that being an Intelligent Designer. It also makes the further argument, and here Dembski embroiders Collins, that not only are science and theology compatible, but they also can teach and benefit from one another. For instance, a scientist could learn that the world was created through divine logos, a Word of power, and the scientist could teach the theologian of the processes used therewith, such as the Big Bang. Even though I.D. does not itself emblazon who the Intelligent Designer is, it's leaders seem to be, for the most part, Christians who believe that Jesus fits the data best. Admittedly, unlike it's partner, Biologos, who's sort of shoved under the table, I.D. has been strongly and fiercely disavowed by most of the scientific community. They have debated hotly with atheists such as Richard Dawkins on the nature of God, or lack thereof, as well as with theologians, most importantly on the matter of faith. I.D. gives no point as to the Designer, and makes itself somewhat of a political image, especially with it's "wedge" tactic, which is really a grassroots operation. Many atheists have attacked this maneuver, saying how it claims to not be religious and then goes off and gains support, support, mind you, in churches and religious groups, that it's self-contradictory. Personally, I think it's just them using their common sense. If you want support for something, and you don't get it in one place, you have it from somewhere, for atheism it's the media and judges, whereas for I.D. it's in churches. Even though some say it's self-contradictory, I.D. is just being intelligent about their campaigning.
In fact, it seems to be the fact that I.D. seems to want science and religion in a positive, even helpful relationship that makes it impossible to oh so many people. I.D. argues that while yes, science and religion will not always agree or be able to have an opinion, for instance the boiling point of water at 7000 ft. above sea level and the nature of the Trinity, they do have some overlapping territory, such as Creation or lack of it. Intelligent Design is quite nearly more accurately referred to as a movement then a theory, perhaps because of it's political, theological, and scientific grounds that require a total change of mindset for nearly the entire intellectual science community, a change in a worldwide mindset. Change, and attempts at change, come hard and will always come hard. That alone is the problem of Intelligent Design is that it looks at both extremes and says, "You need to change." I.D. is still, in the words of one of Mr. Dembski, a "fledgling science."
Honestly, it's still too new to really tell, but they have both some interesting evidence and some questionable, such as the origins of the bacterial flagellum and the formation of the eye, both of which are incredibly complex, and that one cannot reduce the complexity thereof, and since one theory failed, another must take it's place. As a theory it's the shakiest, but filled with the most potential, and with it's eloquent, technical appeal to a technical generation, I think that it's at least earned a good, strong look at whether or not it's valid.
Evolution and Naturalism
First, I want to point out the difference between Evolution and Naturalism. Evolution is the theory thought of by Charles Darwin that life arose from small gradual changes over very long periods of time. Naturalism, on the other hand, is the belief (some might say religion) that everything comes from a naturalistic process and there is no need for God. This is another name for Atheism, except with a scientific reason. This theory is pretty simple, and it's scientific claims are that humans evolved from other creatures slowly with a lot of time, humans and the "great apes" are related, there is no God, and it is implied that humans aren't really any different then other animals at all.
The first point I would like to make is that I'm biased, and that I do not personally see any fruitful thought in this theory, so forgive my bias if you can. The second is that I have heard a great deal of skeptical inquiry as to the evolutionary evidence, and that one of it's top propagandists was actually disowned by his own university for fraud of scientific evidence. My third point is that Darwin himself was constantly confused as to whether or not God existed, calling himself an agnostic. Also science never has, and never will, be able to answer some questions, which is exactly the claim of atheists. For me, I have seen naturalism if not refuted then at least rebuked into stammering and silence by many important points, such as our own morality, which it doesn't seem to be able to answer. For another point, not many people actually subscribe to Atheism, it's just very very media-oriented.
However, evolution does have a few points in it's favor, such as the fact that almost the entire intellectual community at least thinks it's partially valid. Also that it can still be classified as science due it's constant experiments on animals of all kinds. While evolution has been the dominant theory, and perhaps because, right or wrong, that it was the dominant theory, we have unveiled not only important by vital facts about genetics and science, specifically anatomy, biology, and medicine. Perhaps this theory needs a revision, perhaps a second look, but whether it does or doesn't, it has and perhaps will continue to be the banner of science for a long time to come, but not if the other two theories are lucky!
In this day and age science is not complete, or even close. But it is progressing, and the world is curious to see where it's progressing to. Will science raise it's hand up to ascend the highest slope, the tallest mountain, expecting to see the valley of the wonder of nature, only to be greeted by a band of theologians who've been up there for thousands of years?
The fact of the matter is that science cannot and never will be able to answer important questions such as "what is my purpose in life? where did ethics come from? what is moral law? where do we go after we die? Science cannot disprove God, and the reason for this might just be because there really is One! To me, simply the idea of the fine-tuning of the universe is evidence enough to at least throw naturalism into doubt. If, for instance, the Earth were just a degree to either the left or right, we would either burn up or freeze. If gravity were just slightly weaker or stronger, vital elements would be unable to form! I cannot tell whether or not the Cambrian Explosion is in truth evidence against naturalism, but it does arise questions concerning validity. Physics has proposed numerous theories concerning time, saying that it either doesn't exist, or that it goes on forever, and so on and so on. But it cannot give definite proof of an eternal time. In fact, most now hold to the belief of a beginning in the universe, mainly in that of the Big Bang. This coincides with the belief that Something, or Someone, created the universe and everything in it. In fact, there really is no disproving of a Creator, or an Intelligent Designer. The thought of one of the greatest scientists is that perhaps the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
My conclusion is simple: naturalism cannot answer those vital questions that arise from it's own nature: namely the search for God and the existence of Moral Law. For instance, no one who knows that the Holocaust happened, (it did and we have it on tape) will say that it was right to murder hundreds of thousands of people, millions in fact, on simple racial prejudice. But there are anti-Semantics in the world. They might say it was right to slaughter those millions. This begets inquiry: is it right to murder? Is it right to steal? Is it right to destroy? The entire liberal left-wing extremists, the same ones who flaunt naturalism, plead that we must save the planet! The question many of us ask is why? They state that our carbon emissions are destroying the planet, but how do they know this is wrong? So far as I can tell, cat's haven't started a petition to save mice from their fellows. Anteaters aren't revolted at killing entire colonies of the vile insects. Why should we care? Because something other then naturalistic processes wants us to care about things, about people. We all know murder is wrong, we all know stealing is bad, we know morals! Naturalism cannot answer for that, but God can. The are other problems with Naturalism, such as the presence of strong emotions, intellectual inquiry, philosophy, and also simple things like Pleasure. The problem of pleasure is that it is not needed by naturalistic processes, in fact, it can be detrimental to them. What this leaves is the question: from what or Whom did these facts come from? Atheism can't answer that, but God can.
You might hear it said, "Emotions come from electricity in the brain." This very well might be a fact, but that still doesn't deteriorate the question of "why do we have an unnatural set of emotional triggers that aren't in the animals below us or needed at all? That, I believe, is the core of the issue.
Atheists will argue that people "want to believe in God." They admit that we desire to know God. But whence did this desire arise? Could it have arisen that we desire to know God because He desires to know us? It is almost impossible to believe that God would love us, a set of puny people on a lump of rock orbiting a run of the mill star in a run of the mill galaxy full of stars hundreds of times more massive then our sun. Yet this is the only theory that makes sense.
Finally, we have science itself. You see, Science has an inability to disprove God. Because of this, Science can also have an explanation that explains. However, it is also the case for naturalism, in most circumstances. There are of course some questions that it can't answer, but there very well could be a day when those are answered, but then, there also might not be. The problem that atheists have with this is that they think when they'll ask a question such as How do stars form? that the answer will be, God made it. However, they leave it at that, instead of waiting to hear the full answer, which is How did the Sun form? the answer will be, God made it. Now go and find out how.
So we end up with three criteria on which to judge two opposing hypotheses. There are of course hundreds of other points and questions we could ask or explore, but let's focus on these three.
1. Can the hypothesis answer the question of Moral Law and emotions, ethics and so on?
God: YES Naturalism: NO
2. Can it answer the question of the search for God?
God: YES Naturalism: NO
3. Can the hypotheses answer the questions of science?
God YES Naturalism: Mostly
In my opinion, God wins hands down.