Take you kids to the park, the backyard, the beach and think about some of the wonders you can see, touch or hear. Observe the complexity and ponder:
How did it all get here?
Is it enough to think it is just nature doing its own thing starting from very small beginnings and over long periods of time producing the world we see? Can nature do all that by itself.
Is that all there is?
If science can explain a great deal about how our world is formed, is it foolish to believe in God? Is He necessary?
Conversations with our kids No.2 to protect them from atheism: Intelligent Design
In this post we're going to take a look at 'design', one of the common arguments used both for and against God's existence.
It is interesting to note that both atheists and Christians use the same information to conclude that a God does not or does exist, respectively. This should give us pause for thought; maybe it’s possible to be a good scientist and believe in God and maybe its possible to be a good scientist and not believe in God? Are we at a stalemate?
Let’s put it another way: Does the sophisticated and orderly world we know fit best with a purposeful and orderly creator? Or can the natural word sufficiently explain its existence without the need for a great designer?
Atheist may like to emphasise the vastness of the universe, suggesting we are merely an accident, wonderful but utterly insignificant in the overall scheme of life. For them, the sense of order and design is easily explained by natural forces at play, going about their business:
“Thanks to Darwin, it is no longer true to say that nothing that we know looks designed unless it is designed. Evolution by natural selection produces an excellent simulacrum of design, mounting prodigious heights of complexity and elegance” (The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, p103)
On the flip side, others, who are not atheists, like John C. Lennox argue that the world’s complexity weighs in favour of a creator. They observe that the world seems to have an incredible orderliness to it and the sheer unlikely hood of such a planet as earth existing, makes more sense with a ‘great designer’, than without.
Who is right? Does the evidence lean more one way than another?
Agency and Mechanism (Theology and Science)
When we realise that both atheist and believing scientists are arguing in different directions from the same material, we should also remind ourselves of the difference between agency and mechanism and the limits of science and theology. Science is good at explaining mechanism, the ‘how things work’. But very limited or unable to explain the ‘why things work, what is their purpose’. Theology aims to explain the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ but is less interested in the mechanism or science of ‘how’ it all works. So, be wary of either discipline ‘overreaching’ its area of expertise!
I remember reading The God Delusion for the first time and being swept along with its easy, down to earth style. But very early on I was struck by Dawkin’s childish objection to God’s existence, namely that God can’t just exist. For Dawkins the only way out is for God to be part of infinite regress, that is, a God who was made by someone or something else and so on into infinity.
Hmmm. I thought, is that the best you got?
What is more reasonable, eternal God or eternal stuff with the power of God?
As Lennox points out quite sharply…Dawkins needn’t have bothered, and his book could have been reduced to a pamphlet since he is attacking a God for whom very few of us believe…that is a created God. Instead we believe in an eternal God, just like he wants to believe in eternal matter.
You see, for Dawkins to have his theory, that the natural world has everything it needs to make and shape the universe, he has to believe in eternal matter…that stuff, that made the world, no matter how primitive or small...always existed. So logically there’s no problem for him to believe in ‘eternal things’. The irony is he can’t seem to allow the same philosophical grounds to the eternal existence of a divine being. Sorry folks, at worst, we have a stalemate.
For matter to just exist eternally, we can’t prove it scientifically, so it is a philosophical decision made, some would say, based on prejudice against a Christian worldview. Lennox also highlights the circular argument of Dawkins. He wants everything the world needs to only be provided in natural random processes, but then for it to achieve the end we see, allow it to have non-random purposeful actions, without offering much evidence to support how it gets ‘purposefulness’ and not just randomness as a result. Natural selection has to be in and of itself ‘intelligent’ knowing what to pick and what to neglect and how to store that information and move forward. To suggest that natural selection always had purpose, in built, if you like, is really, without cause, no different or more scientific than suggesting a creator gave cells their purpose. Both are necessarily ‘gaps’ in our knowledge, neither of which science can prove or disprove.
Are we believing in a God of the gaps?
Either way the theologian or the atheist are both starting with a ‘it just is this way’ point. God is there, or matter is there replete with all it needs to make the world, without God. So, Lennox goes to reason…wouldn’t it be more reasonable for an intelligent mind to lay behind the intelligent biology? He likens it to the writing of a book …you can explain the paper and ink and what they’re made of and how the work…but you still have a story…and you expect there to be an author, and don’t dismiss him or her as ‘an author of the gaps’ as you might call God a ‘God of the gaps’ since you can’t prove his existence.
Good gaps, not bad gaps
Sometimes Christians are ridiculed for believing in the ‘god of the gaps’, meaning a God who is responsible for all the bits we can’t understand. The atheist makes sport of us, posing the question of where God will have to hide next, once science’s knowledge expands. However, what Lennox proposes allows science to have its full force while acknowledging its limited ability, allowing for not ‘bad gaps’ (stuff science can’t yet explain but probably will) but ‘good gaps’ (stuff science can never answer, but may be inferred based on evidence). That is based on science’s knowledge, not ignorance, we infer that an intelligent mind exists that gave rise to the orderly world we see (p188). The good gap then lies in the identity of the intelligence, not that intelligence is there as that is strongly evident in what we can observe.
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Resources: God's Undertaker by John Lennox/ The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins