Does Darwin Destroy Design?

Since Darwin's "The Origin of Species" was published more than a hundred years ago, the theory of evolution in its broad sense has gained acceptance by all but a scarce handful of scientists who have studied it. The theory elegantly connects together so many otherwise inexplicable quirks of nature, that its success within the scientific community is well merited. Richard Dawkins has spent the latter part of his career in attempting to convey the beauty as well as scientific merits of evolution to the larger community of non-specialists. He names a common reason people give for not accepting evolution theory as the "Argument from Personal Incredulity", which I would expand as follows "I don't understand how it can happen that way, therefore it can not be as the scientists say." Writing this paper using a computer, whose workings are understood, I am sure, by few non-scientific specialists makes me think about why the public might accept a scientific explanation (my explanation) for how computers work (or aeroplanes, televisions, eyes, thunderstorms etc.) but not for evolution. The explanatory power of science has raised human understanding, and hence human power and creativity to heights barely dreamt of in previous eras. However, a large proportion of the American population, while living in one of the most scientifically advanced cultures of all time, refuses to accept the scientific explanation of our existence, namely evolution.

The reason is clear - the theory interferes with their religious beliefs. Those, whose idea of faith is to accept a Biblical text (declared allegorical by most theological experts) as a scientific paper handed down by God, find evolution theory to be a threat to their religion, and act accordingly. They attempt to portray their Creationist beliefs as science, but their arguments are mostly disingenuous. Some more valid criticisms are raised by Michael Behe. He claims that "the field of origin of life studies has dissolved into a cacophony of conflicting models, each unconvincing, seriously incomplete and incompatible with competing models." Much of this statement portrays the uncertain nature of scientific research, but the final outcome nearly always proves the scientific methodology to be worthwhile. As an analogy: suppose, yesterday Jack was seen in Arlington, Virginia, and today in Georgetown, Washington D.C. Somehow Jack crossed the Potomac River. There are many theories as to this process. Jack could have taken the metro, under the river. He could have rowed across on a boat. He could have walked across Key Bridge. He could have flown to BWI and driven back in to Georgetown. All four theories, while "a cacophony of conflicting models", incompatible with each other, and not provable if nobody saw Jack, could still be the explanation. To say that God picked Jack up and miraculously whisked him across the river, while possible, is not a fruitful line of reasoning from a scientist's perspective! Those who prefer the latter methodology should perhaps, to avoid hypocrisy, go and dwell in a culture free from the constraints (and advances) created by those who have followed the scientific method!

To conclude, though, given that evolution theory provides a beautiful framework which is still expected to explain the physical attributes of all that we see around us (though the details, being so complex and intricate in nature, will always require further explanation and modification) is a designing God ruled out? Of course not! - at best, science can say that God is not a necessity to explain the physical world we live in. To many, the beautiful patterns and complexities that arise out of nature speak of a broader visioned, more profound God than One who is forever having to alter this and change that to get His will carried out. Yes, evolution suggests that pain and suffering is a part of God's plan, but religion has known that suffering is ubiquitous since the time of Job or Maccabbees. Religion, like science is a quest for truth, and taking on board the ever-deepening understanding of God's creation can only help deepen our understanding of God.

Paul Miller
Last modified: Wed Oct 13 17:56:44 EDT 1999