God And Mr. Darwin

William Murchison's picture

As Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday (Feb. 12) looms, evidence mounts: No way is all the furor over the teaching of evolution going to disappear, or even abate. Not in our own time, brothers and sisters.

A Gallup Poll of June 2007 found Americans equally divided as to whether they believe or disbelieve Darwin’s theory of evolution. Just a month ago, another poll showed belief in the devil running stronger among Americans than belief in the teachings of Darwin, who, to some opponents, is himself a sulfurous figure in red tights.

Then there’s the foofaraw over the Texas state education board’s narrow failure last week to preserve a 20-year-old rule requiring classroom exposure of the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. Champagne and cake passed among the proponents of Darwinism. The New York Times declared, charmingly, that, “scientifically illiterate boards of education should leave the curriculum to educators and scientists ...“

Proponents of the idea that an “intelligent design” informs the universe breathed more easily when the board voted to allow arguments having to do with the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of gaps or contradictions in the fossil record. The Times wondered, “how that differs from the old language of ‘strengths and weaknesses.’” And so on. And so on ....

What we all intuit about the debate, to the degree it really is one, rather than a shouting contest, is what our Victorian forbears intuited: that evolution is less about fossil records and genetic adaptations than it is about the Lord God Almighty.

It’s the great religious controversy of our times: Did He or didn’t He? Because if He did, major consequences ensue; if not, same story.

“With Darwin,” a columnist in Britain’s Daily Telegraph observes, “secularization and atheism began to have momentum.” The pushback, which began immediately, goes on to the present day, immortalized, in American history at least, by the Scopes Trial in 1925, and by the invigorating movie based on the play about the trial, “Inherit the Wind,” starring Spencer Tracy and Frederic March.

Neither the trial nor the movie/play settled anything. How could they have? The two camps — biblical and Darwinian — merely bellowed past each other. The judicious judgment of John Henry Cardinal Newman that Darwinism “may simply be suggesting a large idea of divine providence and skill” left too much ambiguity to suit most. Ambiguity, when it comes to evolution, is a thing many people dislike strongly. On go the furor and the anguish.

It’s hard, with it all, to see why the scientific types cling so feverishly to the creed — alien to the whole of civilization, prior to the 19th century — that God couldn’t have dealt the cards originally. Well — they respond — it’s because there’s no evidence to show it.

Possibly not. There is something else, though: a thing called common sense. Everything here and all around us just happened, without the intervention of a Designer? Isn’t that just a little ... improbable?

Whittaker Chambers, observing his baby daughter’s ear one day, sensed the argument for creation. Through volumes of fossil evidence his mind hacked with a dazzling blade. “No God” made no sense. I have thought the same thing about the body’s digestive faculties. It all just — you know — happened? Tell me another one.

How you introduce God to classrooms armored in the secularism of the past century — with pedagogues and politicians wary of breaking down some mythological “wall” between church and state — is another matter entirely, one on which I don’t expect to see us make much progress in our present mood.

So what happens now? “God knows” could be a cop-out — or a scintillating revelation. Maybe we just leave the Darwinian theory to lie there and gather appreciation, or the reverse, as we await a Final Word.

A God capable of making the world (assuming, as I do, that He did so) would seem capable of prying open fast-shut eyes that they might see His handiwork, and, seeing, come to know how it all happened.

[William Murchison is a senior fellow of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.] COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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Geno Ardi's picture
Submitted by Geno Ardi on Sat, 01/31/2009 - 4:01am.

"A God capable of making the world (assuming, as I do, that He did so) would seem capable of prying open fast-shut eyes that they might see His handiwork, and, seeing, come to know how it all happened."

I agree wholeheartedly, although I do profess ignorance of God's intent, but I suspect He had other plans. If a face in the clouds appeared, even once, to reveal Him/Herself to me, I would become unglued. I would never be the same. I much prefer it this way, that I would need to seek G-d, rather than the other way around.

To pry eyes would be to cajole. Bad enough that the preacher might do the same, but to have direct knowlege ... it would be more than I could handle.

One thing that bothers me with ID, is that what if irrefutable proof were found? How could we deal with that? I strongly believe, however, that that will never happen. We are here, alone or not, and I do suspect not, but our acceptance of a higher authority was surely intended to be as it is ... faith based.

A great piece, with thought provoking comments as well.


Lee Bowman's picture
Submitted by Lee Bowman on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 11:13pm.

"Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution" I wonder if Theodosius Dobzhansky knew when he said that that scientists would hold him to his word, literally, and without exception. I get that feeling, since they tend to fall back upon that phrase when backed into a corner. Doby said it, that settles it. I might agree, but phrase it more succinctly, like "To understand phenotypic progressions, bio diversity, and species survivability, evolution describes and defines the process."

But can the biolife processes by summed up with words? Hardly, and that is part of the reason that the sparring contest goes on. Words, arranged in any order, tend toward ambiguosity, and seldom accurately convey the speaker's thoughts to an observer. Add to that the fact that the speaker himself is confused regarding evo processes 'in toto', and the ensuing shouting matches are not just understandable, but inevitable. Evolutionary Theory (TOE) is an ongoing project that seeks to understand the life process, both historically and mechanistically. While there has been much progress in unearthing and cataloguing the former, the latter remains in a state of flux.

Biologists have attempted to tie up the process neatly, which they like to call a stochastic process, i.e. the result of "chance and necessity". Again, words fail, since they often will ask more than they answer. Given the acquired knowledge we now have regarding cellular complexity and genomic coding, and yes, even a baby's ear, a better statement might be, "Nothing in the genome makes sense except in the light of intelligent design."

So is it possible to reconcile the two views? Having done extensive research online, and some 'hands on' projects as well, my take at this point, and subject to modification if new evidence presents, is that the evolutionary process is itself a 'designed in' process, both to aid in survivability of species, and to produce diversity. In no way, however, does it explain complexity, synergy of systems (visual, auditory, digestive, enzymatic, reproductive, cognitive .... ), and aesthetic qualities (symetry rather than visual appeal) that do not offer a reproductive or survival advantage. Random mutations, however selected upon, do not begin to explain the source of novelty and complexity that even Dobzhansky might agree if asked today, was merely the result of "chance and necessity."

Life forms show evidences of design. The questions of who, when and why remain, but not the evidences thereof. Predator/prey and parasite/host are somewhat enigmatic, but need we assume that life on planet earth was intended to be Utopian? Competitive and with perils is more likely, and with an extended existence who-knows-where.

A further point to consider which is often tossed about: How does one explain failed body parts and extinctions? I say what of it. The cars I have driven over the years have both failed to operate at some point, and have become extinct. We are more than just DNA and body parts, and at some point, they are relegated back to their source. Picture if you will a world where nothing that that is born dies. Ever.

So my words to the committed evolutionists are thus: Evolution is a process, yes, but more of a tool to consummate and maintain biologic life than to 'invent' it. It also produces diversity, so we don't all look the same. Intervention at points in time to alter genomic coding, a form of genetic engineering but on a cosmic scale, is my hypothesis. If this is too much to wrap your head around, fine, but evidence of purpose, while not empirical proof, trumps the simplistic and outdated model put forth by Charles Darwin. That said, I highly respect the man, and honor him on this, his 200th birthday.

Lee Bowman
biomedical engineer and CEO
Westlab Scientific

muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 10:17am.

Whittaker Chambers, observing his baby daughter’s ear one day, sensed the argument for creation. Through volumes of fossil evidence his mind hacked with a dazzling blade. “No God” made no sense. I have thought the same thing about the body’s digestive faculties. It all just — you know — happened? Tell me another one.

This sort of thing frustrates me.

No, I do not believe that it all just--you know--happened. And I do wish to go on to speak of evidence of God's handiwork.

But neither do responsible proponents of Darwin's theory suggest the equivalent of, say, an explosion in a slaughterhouse resulting in body parts fusing together to form new and complex organisms and organs. To suggest that Darwin's theory implies that complexity "just happened" is to fail to take into account the subtleties of the theory of natural selection.

Read, say, Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea or Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker and then go on, if you will, to urge criticisms of these more sophisticated accounts of the theory.

More interesting, perhaps, is the discussion of the so-called "anthropic coincidences" at the cosmological, as opposed to the biological, level. Darwin's theory does not even come into play here.


"Puddleglum" by Weatherwax (one of the Muddlings).

Jeeves to the Rescue

Submitted by island on Sat, 01/31/2009 - 12:36pm.

More interesting, perhaps, is the discussion of the so-called "anthropic coincidences" at the cosmological, as opposed to the biological, level. Darwin's theory does not even come into play here.

We don't know that, and a true strong anthropic constraint on the forces of the universe will necessarily include the human evolutionary process, which, can be extended to indicate that there exists a mechanism that enables the universe to "evolve".

This cosmology actually resolves all of the so-called anthropic problems without gods or IDs, as well, it explains the arrow of time and causality... among other things... ... ...

muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Thu, 02/05/2009 - 10:07am.

Whatever would that amount to?

Either the "constraint" is antecedent to the life-permitting set of fundamental constants or it is a consequent of them.

If it is antecedent, one might think that this naturally suggests teleology. That is, the notion of a prior "constraint" upon the combinations of fundamental constants that may come into play may seem to negate Bertrand Russell's assertion that "man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving." The Watchmaker may not be so blind after all.

But, presumably, you desire a "mechanistic" antecedent constraint--one that functions via efficient causes and no final causes. Let's call your mechanism "M." The functioning of M thus ensured that, at the inception of the universe, the alignment of constants would be life-permitting.

But this merely moves the question back a step: Of all of the logically possible universes that might have been, why is it that the one that exists includes an anthropic constraint such as M? Even if it is true that, given M, it is nomologically necessary that the resulting universe is life-permitting (and includes the algorithm that is natural selection), M itself is logically contingent.

Call an entire universal sequence, beginning with an M-like constraint and then unfolding with its inevitable results, a nomological package. A vast array of nomological packages are logically possible. And it is, of course, nomologically indifferent as to which package obtains since nothing whatsoever is nomologically necessary until laws and constants are already in place. Necessity, of course, reigns within each nomological package, but no one of them is necessary in toto. And so, positing M thus does not do one whit towards reducing the astonishment factor regarding the anthropic coincidences.

On the other hand, suppose that the "constraint" is consequent upon the initial alignment of the fundamental constants. Here, M might be said to be embedded within the universe. Assuming that the universe is deterministic upon its inception, then we must suppose that it was inevitable that it would "evolve" as you say, so as to include rational and moral agents such as ourselves. And, again, perhaps Darwin's discovery was of something that could not have been otherwise given that initial alignment. The improbability that you and I should have been here to think about such things is staggering.

So either you have an antecedent constraint or a consequent constraint. If it is antecedent, then it operates either via final cause or efficient cause. If by final cause, then you may wish to reconsider ID. If by efficient cause, then nothing is gained towards rendering it more probable that the universe should include things like astronomers and philosophers. If the constraint is consequent and embedded, then, again, the question of the day is why it should have been that the universe was finely tuned for life.

Finally, while M is, no doubt, a logical possibility, to posit it as a way of countering the sort of probabilistic argument that is urged in the fine-tuning argument is to fail to understand the force of such inductive arguments, which were never alleged to entail their conclusions. After all, while there is, I think, good evidence for Big Bang cosmology, the conjunction of that evidence does not entail that conclusion. The young earth creationist might come along and observe, correctly, that is is logically possible that we could have all of the apparent evidence that we do for the Big Bang despite the fact that universe is slightly older than six thousand years.


"Puddleglum" by Weatherwax (one of the Muddlings).

Jeeves to the Rescue

Submitted by dollaradayandno... on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 2:48pm.

I would appreciate your thoughts, or certainty if it be, about what "evolution" means in detail, and what "creation" means.

The Old Testament has pretty much been thrown out hasn't it? Or is it permissible to use those parts deemed by just anyone to still be applicable? Learned people deciding such things is also dead!

Let me tell you where I am on this:
There was some kind of power (intelligence or whatever) that started all of the known and unknown--which is beyond our telescope or what is posted in books.
The starting point and what we have now could very well be different as far as intelligent creatures are concerned. I do think original people and animals were different than us and evolved to now.

Many things in our world are started by a power (religion) but evolves to a different situation (New Testament).

When we discovered that the sun and moon weren't God, it threw us a curve for awhile, but we got over it.

Fact is, we don't want to die because we are unable to KNOW it all.

I don't trust certain groups of "scholars" picking and choosing just what happened! Rules are rules---only if I help make them.

muddle's picture
Submitted by muddle on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 4:48pm.

Minimally, I think that "evolution" means something like "change over time" and "creation" implies that there is a Creator who is ultimately responsible for what we see.

On the face of it, these are not incompatible. After all, as many have observed, God's creative activity might very well have involved some process or other (why not?) and what we observe as "evolution" might well be a part of that process.

But things get stickier when we ask what various groups mean by the terms. In the hands of a Richard Dawkins, "evolution" appeals to a set of efficient causes that preclude any sort of "teleology" (purposive design) whatsoever. As Bertrand Russell once put it, "Man is a product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving This account of evolution is flatly incompatible with "creation" on any standard reckoning of what that term means.


"Puddleglum" by Weatherwax (one of the Muddlings).

Jeeves to the Rescue

Submitted by Nitpickers on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 5:45pm.

So, God created our predecessors and they have changed over time under his supervision?

However, evolution without any purposeful design is incorrect?

Not far from me!

I'm not sure how interested the Creator is in details, however.

Main Stream's picture
Submitted by Main Stream on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 1:23pm.

Chambers and Murchison's simplistic views, remind me of Ray Comfort's "scientific" theory that the banana *proves* intelligent design:


Lee Bowman's picture
Submitted by Lee Bowman on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 9:45pm.

The banana, and virtually all other fruit, are evidence of intentioned (created) nutritional support for phyla. A tongue, teeth, digestive enzymes, stomach, intestine et al whould have had no selective advantage during the evolutionary process. were there no items to consume for nutritional support. One more example of a 'synergy of systems.'

But the banana, in particular, shows evidence of design for the sole intent of being consumed by mammals. Comfort was spot on in his assertion, even if he is a silly Creationist.

Main Stream's picture
Submitted by Main Stream on Sat, 01/31/2009 - 2:23pm.

"But the banana, in particular, shows evidence of design for the sole intent of being consumed by mammals. Comfort was spot on in his assertion..."

The common yellow banana, that Comfort is holding in his video and also the same type that we see in our grocery stores, is the result of human domestication and cultivation, not a miracle of God/god to provide humans with the perfect super food complete with an easy flip-top opener. But let's play devils advocate and introduce God/god into the mix like you intimate. If God/god created bananas *knowing* humans would need to access the nutritious innards easily, thus creating the fruit with easy-to-open skin and flip-top, I ask then why did God/god make coconuts? Mammals also eat coconuts but God/god has made them so difficult to open, without a screwdriver and hammer, that most mammals don't even try. Did God/god "make" coconuts, knowing that we as humans would one day invent machines to be able to open them and eat their fleshy insides?

Locke's picture
Submitted by Locke on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 10:21pm.

Have you ever seen a wild banana?

Atheists nightmare debunked

Lee Bowman's picture
Submitted by Lee Bowman on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 10:59pm.

Absolutely! The seeds were removed by selective breeding making the cavendish one of many asexual cultivars, along with watermelons and other fruits. This is the extent to which man genetically altered the result, but ALL of the genetic information to make it what it is today (cavendish and others) was in the banana prior to our breeding efforts. All we did was to perform an artificial selection process.

Replanting cuttings does not create a species. It merely helps to 'select' desired features, which are already present in its genome.

Submitted by jdoe41 on Sat, 01/31/2009 - 8:02am.

We humans can only process that which our 5 senses can detect; therefore, we will NEVER know if we have all of the information to enable us to answer the question "why". Darwin answers 'how". Darwin answers "what". He doesn't attempt to answer "why". Even our understanding of death is a product of that which we can detect with our senses but we dont really know.

As for religion, literal interpretation of the bible doesn't leave wiggle room for creation to be reconciled with Darwinism. However, many organized religions attempt to frame answers to the question "why" in a way that can co-exist with evolution. It is my understanding that the bible was passed along verbally for thousands of years before it was finally written down by monks. So for those who intepret the good book literally I would recommend you simply contact the editor of this paper and ask him/her how blurred the facts of a particular story become when passed down the chain.

For those of you have lost a parent or someone very close to you, you probably are closer to the answer "why" than others not having gone through the experience. That parent literally becomes a part of your being and impacts how you live your life. So it becomes clearer one of the reasons why you are here on Earth is to have a positive impact on those you will someday leave behind and there is happiness in doing so. One realizes that what lies beyond death is unimportant, uncontrollable, and there is no point in dwelling on what your senses won't allow you to get your arms around. Imagine what a different world it would be if every human lived life centered around legacy versus some grand prize after we die.

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 11:17am.

Just to really stir the pudding I spoke to a person who is arguably one of the greatest scholars on religon I know..
He surmised a theory that Creationism and Darwinism are both correct..
The Bible in Genesis according to him never states there where never anyone else walking the Earth at the time of the "Garden of Eden" Just that God created "Man" in his own image.. There are references of Adam's surviving son populating the earth.. Just how did he do that.. With Eve? No don't think so.. It makes a certain sense if you think about it..
He also said there are several references in the bible about Angels "knowing" the people of earth.. Knowing in the bible is considered "Carnel Knowledge" it is surmised if a very powerful being such as an angel sires a child with a "mortal" then could they not have some special abilities of their own? Could these be the gods of the romans? Every myth has some basis in fact..
Just throwing this out.. It all really means we just don't know.. but then again that is why it is called faith.

Lee Bowman's picture
Submitted by Lee Bowman on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 10:32pm.

We know that the Universe is older than an interpolated age (6-10k years) based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis account, as most Biblical scholar today concur.

"Created man in His own image", if we strip away a temporal interpretation, would allude to a spiritual lineage. We should know by now that we are more than DNA. If God is man's progenitor, that would point to His spiritual essence, and certainly not the biologic form man inhabits during temporal existence.

This makes it more logical to accept evolution and common descent prior to man's mating with God. There is genomic evidence of prior phyla being related to man (chromosomal 2 fusion in both humans and chimps to name one). Creationists (and some ID supporters) have a problem with this, but I do not. Although there is evidence that both the hominid and chimp phylum are in a common lineage with earlier phyla (common ancestor), the genesis account may be true regarding a 'spiritual confluence' with God at that time, but inhabiting an evolved biologic body.

I also feel that the although there are homologies between chip and man, there are a number of refinements in design which could have evolved by chance mutations, OR by genetic alterations by the creator/ designer, or by surrogates working in the field (angels, spirit beings, what-ever). You mention references to angelic 'familiarity' with humans. That, along with my stated hypotheses (above) fit together well.

One more point. We think in human terms, limited by what we can see and perceive. No one would have ever conceived of atoms, let alone sub-atomic particles (quarks), were they not revealed via sophisticated instruments. Just because the spiritual essence is not obvious to the physical senses does not preclude its existence. There is ample evidence of a spiritual realm, which I would classify is 'natural', rather then supernatural. It could well be a quark based construct, but non-the-less an essential part of the observable physical world. Don't rule it out

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