Wednesday 21st February 2018

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Intelligent Design And Atheism: Some Remarks

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For years now, I have taken an interest in issues concerning the origin of living things, notably the controversy between Darwinists and proponents of Intelligent Design theory (A/K/A ID). What follows is a series of loosely connected reflections on these matters, a sort of potpourri, but one in which all the items relate to the same subject matter.

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Darwinists like to maintain that their theory does not in and of itself necessarily deny the existence of God, but merely stays neutral on the question. But is this really true?
If there is a God, and He is the Creator and designer of the physical universe, then neutrality is impossible. You accept Him or you reject Him. You are either a theist or an anti-theist (what we commonly call atheism is really anti-theism, because it is grounded in hatred of God). If you are not allowed to bring the existence of a Creator into your efforts to explain the universe, that prohibition is logically incompatible with openness to the possibility that God exists.
True neutrality about the existence of God would have to include openness to that possibility. But the dogma of atheism has come to be an integral part of evolutionary science and needs to be dislodged from that position if scientific efforts to find the origins of life are to go forward. But atheism (anti-theism) is, for Darwinists, a rigid dogma about which no debate is allowed, so it would be unwise to expect such a dislodging any time soon.

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Darwinists maintain that evolution takes place gradually, in increments, hence continuity runs through the whole process. Yet there are points in the process where there seem to be gaps or at least situations that involve the sudden emergence of species with no evidence of a gradual process of change preceding them. In these cases Darwinists would say that there must have been intermediate life forms and that science has just not found the fossil evidence yet — but of course the fossils will be found (presumably because otherwise the Darwinian system wouldn’t work, and that is of course unthinkable).
Now, when we find a gap like this in nature, there are two possibilities. First, it may be only an apparent gap, not a real one, because the evidence is out there and we just have not found it yet. But if we have enough brilliant researchers looking for that evidence and not finding it, eventually common sense would dictate that the reason we haven’t found it is that it’s not there. Logically, we could spend the next 10,000 years looking for the fossils and just keep saying, “Give us more time, and we will find them,” but chances are everyone will have stopped listening by that time.
Eventually, practical judgment (common sense) will take precedence over theoretical judgment. The Cambrian explosion is a key case here. Life on Earth had been limited to single-celled organisms for perhaps a billion years, then suddenly complex, multi-celled organisms appeared in a very short time, not preceded by any fossil evidence of intermediate forms. Darwin, in The Origin of Species, acknowledged this, and admitted that, if the fossil evidence was not found, it would be all over for his theory, but he was very certain it would be found, because otherwise the theory would be wrong (and we can’t have that).
At this point, more than 150 years have passed since the Origin was published, and, despite the efforts of many well-qualified scientists to find the fossils, they still haven’t shown up. In this regard, Darwinists remind me of Dickens’ Mr. Micawber, who always responds to his endless financial predicament by saying, “Something will turn up.”
All of this tells us that we need to at least consider the possibility of some agency outside the process and beyond the physical universe bringing the discontinuity about — i.e., that a new beginning is happening, not explainable in terms of what went before it. That is the second possibility. In that case, a hypothesis involving the action of a Creator would have to be considered.

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The Cambrian explosion is one case of a possible gap. The emergence of man is another.
When man appeared on the Earth, a leap was made. Suddenly, a being was there which was drastically different from any living thing that had preceded it, in having a rational intellect capable of grasping universal concepts, capable of grasping the beauty and the mystery and the order of the world, a being whose mind could in a certain sense grasp the universe.
Now, reason is one of those things that is either there or not there. To speak of any being as semi-rational is akin to saying that a woman is semi-pregnant, or that someone is semi-dead. It is or it ain’t. It is actually logically impossible for a being endowed with reason to emerge gradually from others not so endowed. So here we have a discontinuity which cannot in principle be resolved — something irreducibly new, a new beginning.

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And here is another discontinuity that involves the most radically new beginning of all, the Incarnation of the Word of God. Yes, there were developments in late antiquity that foreshadowed the coming of Christ: Greek philosophy, the prophets of Israel, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, things that arose in what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Time.
All of these developments, in different ways and with different mixtures of truth and error, brought men closer to a sense of what God is, even to the point of giving them brief glimpses of the mystery of transcendence, but for a God who is not limited to loving us but is Love itself to become a part of His creation, to take our nature upon Himself, not just appearing to us in human form (as Zeus and other gods were known to do, usually for lustful purposes) but becoming, not just human, but more fully human than any other man in history has ever been, yet without diminishing his divinity, becoming true God and true man, is a reality beyond anything any of us can imagine or comprehend.

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Science is a way for us to understand, or perhaps intuit, the order and beauty and mystery of the universe. Openness to the reality of the creation and its Creator takes nothing away from science, but helps us to understand the universe more deeply. The endless discussions about science vs. religion are nonsense. The problem isn’t science at all but scientism, a pseudo-scientific ideology committed to the dogma of atheism (again, anti-theism, really), a dogma which holds science back from its full potential, which is to help us to ascend to the love of being.

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Note: Scientists in the modern world form a kind of elite, which sees itself as having the authority to tell other people what they may legitimately believe, at least if they want to be respected by the sophisticated crowd. They are less than delighted when anyone questions their monopoly on that authority, and respond with dogma. Science is not, as such, the problem, so much as the social organization of science, which can be quite intolerant of those who think outside its dogmatic box. The wise man will do his best to cure himself of the desire to be respected by his peers (or to have a career) because the search for truth comes first.
Clearly, the objections of the scientific establishment to Intelligent Design stem not so much from science itself as from the really quite unscientific dogma of anti-atheism, as is evidenced in the tendency of that establishment to seek answers to the question of the origin of life and of the universe in bizarre hypotheses which those with common sense see as far less credible than a Creator, such as that of an infinite number of universes.

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“And this is the judgment, that men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.”
Atheism is a form of darkness as well as a prison, and atheists try to lock science up in that darkness, and try to keep the light out. That is why they try to keep ID theory out of science despite the fact that there is an overwhelming probability that it is true.
Fortunately, the same Gospel (John) tells us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
They use the darkness of atheism to cover their rebellion against God, to make it look like a dispassionate search for truth, even though it is actually the suppression of truth.

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There has never been a definitive, universally accepted definition of science. So if your search for the truth leads you in a particular direction, you follow that line of questioning without worrying about whether the answer would be considered “scientific.”
To those committed to the dogma of scientism, “scientific” means “materialistic.” But if the search for truth leads you to a non-materialistic cause, such as a mind, you don’t reject that answer because it isn’t material, you just widen the scope of your investigation to include the answer you’ve found.

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I recently recalled something I read in a freshman theology textbook in 1960 concerning the resurrection of the dead (a topic much more on my mind now, I must admit, than it was then, I being only 18 at the time and expecting to live forever). The book asserted that, when we rise, our bodies will be composed of the same matter as before we died. I quickly noted the obvious problem — that, in the course of a lifetime, the atoms and molecules that make up our bodies are replaced several times over. But there may be a sense in which it is true — i.e., that the same DNA is present — not, of course, the atoms that the DNA molecules are made of, but the information that the DNA contains. This is perhaps analogous to losing the hard copy of a document, but having the information stored on a computer.
Now, the soul is the form of the body. That suggests that, when the soul becomes incarnate in the body, the form which is that particular soul becomes, when incarnate in the world of matter, a code which communicates the details of the body to matter. The soul communicates form to matter as the DNA code — a reality mysterious beyond anything we can imagine.
Here I am reminded of Einstein’s quest to know the thoughts of God. Now intelligent design theory makes sense to me, with the qualification that God is not sitting at a celestial drawing board (as you might expect to see him doing in a Frank and Ernest cartoon) drawing up plans for our bodies, then converting these plans into binary code. God knows everything there is to know, including us, with all our complexity, in one act of knowing, one intuition, not a multitude of details seen one at a time. Yet what we would need to call the Thought of God (not the thoughts) can somehow communicate itself, to the soul as the form of the body, then to the body as DNA. If there is any line of thought that can evoke wonder and awe this is it.

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Some footnotes:
For years I have used DNA as an argument against abortion, on the grounds that the single-celled embryo, at conception, has the whole complex DNA code, the whole form for this particular unique human being, and how can it be anything else but a human person (personhood being implicit in the very idea of humanity)?
Also, DNA provides a good argument against reincarnation. To be reincarnated as the same person you are now would require that you be reincarnated with the exact same DNA you have now, and the probability of that happening is essentially zero. If the DNA were different, you would be a different being, and the idea of reincarnation would be meaningless. To say that you come back as a different being is to talk nonsense.
Of course, one could argue that in fact Christians do believe in reincarnation, but we call it the resurrection of the dead. In the resurrection, we will be the same creatures, the same persons, glorified, to be sure, but without the loss of our identity as the persons God created us to be.
(© 2018 George A. Kendall)

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