Playing the Rebounds

"I never think I have hit hard," said the great 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson, "unless it rebounds." Dr. Johnson understood that when we challenge someone with hard-hitting arguments, he'll come back with counterarguments--and those "rebounds" can help us sharpen our own thinking. As I'll discuss over the next couple of days, the powerful arguments for "intelligent design" -- arguments that God created the universe -- have rebounded in recent books from scientists and philosophers who disagree with design. But design can handle the counterarguments with ease. And that's what's exciting -- for Christians, and for the future of science. Let me start with the book Finding Darwin's God, by Kenneth Miller. Miller is a professor of biology at Brown University who has long been a critic of intelligent design. He is also a devout Roman Catholic who rejects the atheism of many scientists. Miller thinks that evolution and Christianity can be reconciled. In fact, he says he believes in God "because of evolution." Because of evolution? Here's Miller's key argument. The God of the Bible, he says, is not an absentee landlord who set up the universe and then took a permanent vacation. Rather, "God's presence and His power," Miller writes, "are part of the continuing truth of existence." God could have, if He had chosen to do so, done all His creating entirely through natural processes. "Ordinary processes," says Miller, "ought to be sufficient to allow for God's work." Therefore, if science discovers that evolution solely via natural processes is true, then that's how God chose to work. God is free to do as He pleases. Well yes, God is free to do as He pleases, and that's precisely what's wrong with Miller's argument. We can only discover that God acted solely through natural processes if we give the other possibilities, like intelligent design, a real chance. God could have used natural causes, or He could have acted directly. If science is going to find the truth, it must be open to all the possibilities. Miller doesn't want to allow that. He says that science properly understood is only "mechanism and materialism." Even though a Designer might have influenced nature, we can never know that except as a matter of faith. Science cannot detect intelligent design. But this rebound totally misses the mark. As mathematician and philosopher William Dembski explains in Intelligent Design, his exciting new book from InterVarsity Press, science detects intelligent causes all the time. We know that the massive stone heads on Easter Island have an intelligent cause, even though we've never seen that cause directly. We know that the wind or dripping water could never have inscribed the Rosetta Stone. The shapes on Easter Island and the marks on the Rosetta stone exhibit what Dembski calls specified complexity: a distinctive pattern that reliably indicates an intelligent cause. But Miller thinks that a God who intelligently designed bacteria would be a magician or mechanic unworthy of our praise. As Dembski points out, however, saying what God would or would not have done is getting out in front of the evidence. Science ought to pursue the truth, no holds barred. If the evidence of biology indicates intelligent design, then that is where science should go -- and let the rebounds bounce where they will.


Chuck Colson


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