Category Archives: Scientific

Teaching Evolution at a Faith-Based University (Faith and Science 7)

It seems to me that there are three main options for the faith-based scientist in the science classroom. 1) Teach science the way the average believer in the pew (and some church administrators) want you to teach it, disparaging evolutionary science and scientists, and highlighting only the evidences for creation. 2) Teach science the way you were taught in secular, graduate schools and let the religion teachers worry about the fallout. 3) Teach micro and macroevolution as significant and helpful scientific disciplines but also expose your faith to the students and show how you have maintained your faith in the face of what many consider overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The first option would probably be the simplest way out for scientists in a faith-based institution. But experience has taught scientists of faith that if you do that, most students and their parents will be comfortable, but the same students will often lose their faith when they move to graduate school at a secular university or to a scientific workplace. Easy and shallow answers can crumble overnight in the face of what comes at you as overwhelming evidence. To not prepare students of faith for graduate school and the workday world they will face later on is simply irresponsible, comfortable though it might be. The second option is also relatively simple, but is also irresponsible in my opinion. If science teaching in a faith-based institution is no different than that taught anywhere else, why should any aspiring scientist choose a faith-based institution for their studies?

So that leaves the third option as the most responsible approach. The problem is this, if you do teach evolutionary science in a responsible way, some students and many parents will be angered. And some students will likely lose their faith along the way no matter what you do. But if you prepare them well, the majority of students will withstand the scientific challenges of graduate school and the workplace and will be preserved to serve the church with their wisdom and talents. In many ways it is a thankless task, but I honor all scientists of faith who teach according to their consciences, in spite of criticism. Such teaching will be misunderstood, so it requires great courage. But I believe the outcomes of such courageous teaching will be celebrated in eternity.

Should the science professor be satisfied that fifty to seventy per cent of his or her students keep their faith in spite of the challenges of scientific evidence and theories? Of course not. Every student lost to the faith is a tragedy. Scientists of faith must constantly observe and experiment to learn the best ways to introduce troubling material to young and sensitive minds. In the process there will always be tension with those on both extremes whose minds are made up. But it seems to me that the effectiveness of scientific education in a faith-based university should be judged, not on what the professor teaches, but on the outcomes in the lives of the students and graduates. Students are relatively fragile creatures, easily broken. Scientists of faith who love people will care deeply about the impact of their teaching.

There is a strong tendency in today’s world to push to the extremes. This is very evident in political speech and often also in the theological and scientific realms. Instead of a genuine search for truth, people prefer to cherry-pick the evidence that supports a predetermined conclusion. This happens on both sides of the origins debate. A theologian of faith is easily tempted to ignore the problems by focusing only on evidence that challenges the prevailing theory and disparage all who disagree as perverse. The evolutionary scientist may, consciously or unconsciously, avoid experiments and evidence that don’t fit the prevailing theory, because a God who acts in history is not a working concept for him or her. Scientists of faith, I believe, will know and teach the assumptions on both sides, assumptions that color the evidence and the models one creates to explain the evidence. Scientists of faith will acquaint themselves with alternate interpretations of the data, so they can compare different ways of understanding the evidence. Helping students sort out the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the tension will prepare them to evaluate the arguments they will face in later years.

Both evolutionists and creationists tend to overstate their case to make a point. The less you know about the subject, the easier it is to buy in to one or the other of the over-statements. A truly informed view creates anomalies and challenges that are hard for less-educated people to hold together. So there will always be both value and shortcomings in a less-educated faith perspective. But all other things being equal, a more-educated faith is much to be preferred.

Teaching Evolution at a Faith-Based University? (Faith and Science 6)

With the story of Job in mind, it seems to me that we need to avoid two extremes in the debate over faith and science. One extreme is taking one’s cue from a faith tradition and assuming that every scientist who disagrees with that viewpoint must be perverse. Most scientists I have met are very open to evidence and discovering the flaws in their own thinking. To proclaim otherwise destroys one’s own credibility in speaking to the debate. The other extreme is to downgrade or mock the validity of Scripture because straightforward readings of Scripture point to a different view of the world than that of traditional science. Scripture has stood the test of time in so many areas and the last word in science is far from being spoken yet.

What does all this have to do with the teaching of evolution at a faith-based university? I recently met a conservative colleague from the Philippines who asked me what was going on at a sister institution. I told her that they were being accused of teaching evolution in science classes. Her immediate, unscripted response was, “Well, I hope so!” (Not what I expected from her.) What did she mean by that? Two things, I think. For starters we need to distinguish between microevolution and macroevolution. The former is taken for granted in horticulture classes, for example. All plants adapt to their environment or they die out in times of environmental change. Such adaptations are observable and can be tested and predicted. The model works. You cannot teach horticulture without teaching that form of evolution. Macroevolution takes such insights and extrapolates them to the distant past, which is not observable and is difficult to test. Should macroevolution be taught in faith-based universities? I think the best answer to this question is yes and no. Even if a scientist is unconvinced about the evolutionary hypothesis of origins, it is still necessary to teach the theories and the evidence they draw on in class. I think not to do so would be irresponsible.

In 2015 the Seventh-day Adventist world church in general conference session voted a new, tighter statement on creation, asserting a six-day, twenty-four time period in which creation took place fairly recently (thousands of years rather than millions or billions). I grant that the Bible doesn’t use such words to speak about God’s creation, but it is certainly the most natural reading of Genesis and related passages elsewhere in Scripture. I preferred the older statement, because of its reliance on biblical, rather than philosophical language. But I recognize that the new statement reflects the thinking of the majority of the membership of the church around the world. As such, it is an appropriate statement of what most Seventh-day Adventists believe. But one major piece is missing, as I have shared with church leadership. The statement does not address how the teaching of science should be done in light of the statement. I have recommended, and still do, a companion document, “In Defense of Science,” that spells out how a teacher addresses the tensions between the results of science and the results of faith and biblical research. Such a document does not exist, to my knowledge.

In the blog that follows, I will address the why and how of such teaching and also the consequences of teaching evolution and not teaching it in a faith-based institution. Perhaps it will be a step toward the kind of document I am suggesting above. What I share in the next blog may surprise you.

The Role of “Faith” in Science (Faith and Science 5)

As the author of Hebrews puts it, faith is an “inner conviction of things we do not see” (Heb 11:1, my translation). It is through faith we understand that “the universe was created by the word of God” (Heb 11:3, ESV). Faith is more than just knowledge of facts. It is an inner conviction of things we cannot always prove. If the scientific evidence perfectly confirmed our faith, it would no longer be faith in the full sense that Hebrews describes it. To live in faith is to live with a certain amount of tension. When it comes to matters of faith, we need to take the evidence of both the Bible and science seriously. Because of inspiration, I choose to give the Bible 51% of the weight in my personal faith decisions. But those faith decisions do not rule out a continuing openness to further study in both the Bible and science. Study of the Bible can suggest scientific options that an unbelieving scientist might not think of. Study of science and experience has led the church to read the Bible differently (think Galileo and Acts 15). The best definition of theology I have ever heard is “Faith seeking to understand.” Faith is both a standpoint and a process. When it comes to faith, both conviction and continuing process are a given. To repeat, people of faith must learn to live with a certain amount of tension.

Where one ends up in matters of faith seems to have a lot to do with experience. If life has pointed you to the beauty of flowers and bird feathers, mountain peaks and sunsets, if you have sensed the divine presence in small tokens of everyday life, you will likely be open to interpreting the Bible and science from a divine perspective. If life has confronted you with birth defects, disease as a result of genetic accident, cruelty, oppression and injustice, you may be tempted to either hate God or to explain the world in ways that leave God out of the picture. Because experiences of life are so different, I am reluctant to judge those who see the world and God a bit differently than I do. The world as we experience it projects a mixed picture. Faith can afford to be generous with the intellectual struggles of others. Perhaps the following statement is apropos here: “The perception and appreciation of truth. . . . depends less upon the mind than upon the heart.” (DA 455)

Perhaps the story of Job is helpful here. Job, his wife and his friends all were ignorant of the larger issues in the universe that led to the situation Job found himself in. The conflict between their view of God and the world they experienced created a tension that challenged their faith. Job’s wife saw the tension and gave up her faith in God. Job’s friends maintained their beliefs by denying that there was a tension. Job recognized the tension, struggled with it and still believed. His belief did not lead him to deny the reality of the tension, he believed in full awareness of the tension. And it was Job’s position that was commended by a God who chose not explain the tension in terms the reader already understood (chapters one and two), but left the tension in place (Job 42:7-8, see 38:1 – 41:34). This middle position is the one that healthy, mature Christians can and should embrace.

Why I Believe in Creation (Faith and Science 4)

For me personally the Bible and philosophical reasoning both point to a Creator and a relatively recent creation. I recognize that people who favor the scientific evidence can read Genesis in ways that differ from the traditional. But the best exegetical work on the Bible points to the idea that the ancients who wrote and read these texts understood them to be pointing to a creator God as the originator of the natural world and that God’s creative activity is fairly rapid and recent. And beyond Genesis, the Bible’s teachings on sin, salvation and resurrection all presuppose a God who actively intervenes in space and time.

Philosophically, I also find it easier to believe that the complexity and beauty of the world we know is the product of a loving and intelligent Designer than that it all is the product of random and chance events over long periods of time. While I am not a scientist, Steven Hawking has been sometimes called the Einstein of the 21st Century. And he has clearly demonstrated that the chances of human life developing on this earth in this universe is something like ten to the five hundredth. That’s one chance in ten followed by 500 zeros. In other words, not much of a chance. That this did not disturb his commitment to atheism makes the admission all the more interesting for me. At the minimum it tells me that scientific certainty on these matters is far from a done deal.

But while the preponderance of scientific evidence is not hostile to the possibility of design, it is very hard to square with the biblical idea of a recent creation of life. Believing, short-age creationist scientists tell me that there is currently no creationist model that is scientifically fruitful in its ability to predict observable outcomes the way microevolution does. We can act as if this is not the case, but it would not be a sound intellectual position. Humility requires honesty. A possible response to this dilemma, however: If God is as great as we believe Him to be, He is capable of doing things in a way that science cannot fully observe or understand. In any case, it seems to me that believers who are honest with the evidence must live with a certain amount of tension. And that is what faith is all about.

The Limitations of Science (Faith and Science 3)

Are there similar limitations to our knowledge of the physical universe? I have to believe so. There are many areas of science in which knowledge has vastly increased in the last few decades. It is, therefore, reasonably certain scientifically that evolution occurs at the micro level (small changes that we can observe over a human lifetime). This would have been an extremely troubling admission for people of faith a century ago and is still troubling to many today. But microevolution is within the direct purview of scientific method and few people of faith question its existence today.

But can we extrapolate from microevolution to large changes taking place over millions of years (macroevolution)? There is significant scientific evidence that points in that direction and one does not have to be a God-hater to see that. For example, the order in the fossil record suggests some kind of evolutionary progression and radiometric dating indicates a considerable amount of time for this progression. I have no compelling scientific data to counter the basic thrust of that evidence and my more conservative scientific friends reluctantly agree that macro-evolution has significant evidentiary support, while creation, at the moment, is not supported with anything as compelling as the two evidences above.

But that does not mean that creation by divine fiat is disproved. After all, science by definition looks for patterns in repetitive events. But creation as promoted in the Bible involves single acts by an intelligent Creator. Science does not offer the tools to explain such singular events in the distant past. A single act of creation would inevitably leave some very challenging evidence to the scientist and could not be proven or disproven by standard scientific methods. So in the absence of direct observation and experimentation, can we be absolutely sure of the way things occurred in the distant past? Is it possible that we have yet to discover the flaws in our current analysis? I think humility is an appropriate approach for both science and faith. We must not only bow before the evidence we have but also before the evidence we have not yet been able to examine.

The Ideal Starting Point (Faith and Science 2)

I begin this discussion of faith and science with a caveat. While I work at a faith-based health science university, I am not an expert in the specific, scientific issues related to the origins of life on this planet. So I think it would be wise for me to confine myself to some general principles that I find helpful in making sense of the debate over the origins of life.

Where is the center in this debate? It seems to me that scientists of faith come to this debate from one of three standpoints. At the risk of oversimplification, let me identify those standpoints as follows. 1) There are those who find the evidence for evolution (in the grand, macro sense) and long ages of life on this earth overwhelming. As a result they seek other than traditional ways of reading the Bible with regard to origins. 2) There are those who find traditional ways of reading the Bible perfectly clear and compelling and therefore put all of their energies into finding flaws in the contemporary scientific consensus. 3) There are scientists of faith who have a high and respectful view of both the Bible and the evidence of science. Such scientists recognize that at this moment there is no easy resolution of the differences that exist between the two bodies of evidence, so they bend all their energies to resolve the issues while maintaining a strong awareness of the limitations of evidence and of human understanding of the evidence.

As a biblical scholar who operates from the standpoint of faith I have all the more reason for humility. While I find the Bible an invaluable revelation of the will of God, I am painfully aware of the huge gap between my understanding of the universe and God’s (Isa 55:8-9). Let me share an analogy. Being a scholar is like a farmer digging a post hole at the edge of a field. I know everything there is to know about that contents of that post hole. But the deeper I go into my limited field of knowledge, the more I am aware of how deep the field is and how much I do not know. When all I knew was the surface of the field, I could imagine that I knew a whole lot about the field. But now that I have gone deep in a tiny portion of the field (writing a dissertation, for example), I realize how deep the entire field goes. So the mark of a true scholar is not how much he or she knows but to know how little one in fact knows. The more a scholar learns, the more aware he or she becomes of how much there is yet to learn. With great knowledge comes great humility. And I believe the reverse is also true. With great humility comes great knowledge. Most of us learn to the degree that we are open to learning.

That brings me to what I call the Ladder of Humility (appreciation to Fritz Guy, who first introduced me to the concept). As a biblical scholar who dabbles in many other issues, I have learned quite a bit in this life. Step one in my ladder of humility is how much I know. But step two is what everyone on earth knows. That is an almost infinite advance on what I know. Go into any university library and you will see that my knowledge is a minuscule fraction of what the human race as a whole knows. But step three on the ladder of humility is what everyone on earth could know, given an infinite amount of time and opportunity. Another infinite advance. Step four in the ladder of humility is what everyone in the universe knows. If, as most people suspect, there are lots of inhabited planets out there, all possible human knowledge is but a minuscule fraction of what everyone in the universe knows. And of course, step five is what God knows, truly another leap of infinity. Looked at from this perspective, everything I could possibly know about God and His ways are like the musings of a two-year old in comparison with what I don’t know. Even the knowledge of the prophets was limited (1 Cor 13:9, 12). So it behooves everyone interested in the issue of faith and science to demonstrate a strong element of humility in everything that is said and written on the subject.

Believing in Creation but Also in Science (Science and Faith 1)

One of the biggest challenges to a Bible-based faith in today’s world is the evidence we encounter when we take up the study of science. For one thing, while science has answered many questions and has provided many enhancements to our lives, it has not generally brought us closer to God. And it is impotent to prove that God exists (neither is it able to disprove that God exists). Furthermore, while Scripture does not itself set a date for creation, a plain reading of the text certainly implies that life began a relatively short time ago. Multiple trails of scientific evidence, on the other hand, imply that life began an extremely long time ago.

The relationship of faith to the evidence of science, therefore, is a very important point of discussion. Unfortunately aspect of this topic is that once an issue like this becomes politicized, and it has been politicized, the conversation tends to be controlled by extremists on both sides and those who represent the center are often intimidated into silence. But it is at times when courage begins to fail that those who “cannot be bought or sold” must be all the more prepared to speak. In doing so, however, we must not confuse rudeness and disparaging speech with integrity. Genuine integrity must be combined with respect for those who may disagree.

One way for believers to resolve the issues of faith and science is the “head in the sand” approach. Assume that there is something seriously flawed somewhere in the scientific enterprise and go on believing as if science never happened. Another way some believers resolve the issue is to assume that science has settled some of these ultimate questions and that the Bible is unscientific enough to be ignored on all issues where science has a legitimate voice. But neither of these approaches works if you are a Seventh-day Adventist. From the beginning, Adventists have been firmly committed to the teachings of the Bible, but also firmly committed to God’s “other book,” the book of nature, and therefore to the scientific enterprise. Adventists do not see these two tasks, understanding the Bible and understanding reality as exposed by science, as two parallel tracks that never intersect. Adventism has always been committed to integrating faith and the scientific enterprise.

Because of this passion for wholeness and integration, Adventists not only have institutions of higher education that focus on the humanities, like Andrews University, they have institutions of higher education that focus on science, like Loma Linda University and the Geoscience Research Institute. Given the challenges and the possibilities inherent in attempting to integrate faith and science, church leadership has encouraged me to ponder these issues afresh and offer some guidance and encouragement to all who struggle with these issues. As a professor of religion in a science-based university, I do not have all the answers, but I am in a place to understand some of the questions. This series of blogs is my own reflection. I have not sought feedback before putting these out there, so my choice of words and themes may be deficient. I have a lot to learn. So I welcome response and will not be offended by criticism. And in the process, I hope that this series will build faith in the God who I believe makes science possible and offers His blessing on our best efforts to understand His creation.

Appendix to Ben Clausen’s Series on Design

Below Ben shares brief summaries of leading scientists who share the conclusion that the universe gives abundant evidence of design:

Numerous scientists are recognizing the evidence that life is possible only because the universe is fine-tuned. John Barrow and Frank Tipler (1986) may have the most complete list of fine-tuning examples in their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Hugh Ross (1995), a physicist and Christian apologist, points out some of the coincidences in The Creator and the Cosmos. Paul Davies (1984), a theoretical physicist, has written a much shorter version entitled The Accidental Universe. Martin Rees, a professor of astronomy at Cambridge University, along with John Gribbin (1989) have written a book along the same line, Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Mankind, and Anthropic Cosmology. It has a leaning toward New Age philosophy. Many other books and articles emphasize similar ideas from both an agnostic and a religious viewpoint (e.g., Heeren 1995; Templeton 1994; Bertola and Curi 1993; Leslie 1989; Robson 1987)

Walter Bradley (1994), a mechanical engineer previously chairing that Texas A&M University department, has given a talk entitled “Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God” at most of the Ivy League and Big Ten schools. He says it is “one of the most exciting adventures of my life: challenging students and faculty alike to consider the overwhelming evidence from modern science for the existence of God.” In his talk, available online, he gives numerous examples of scientists with no religious motivation, who are emphasizing the evidence for fine-tuning:

  • Many scientists who were not long ago certain that the universe was created and peopled by accident are having second thoughts and concede the possibility that some intelligent creative force may have been responsible. — The Washington Post, describing an international conference held in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s
  • The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance, and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe. — Paul Davies in Superforce (1984)
  • Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them. — Sir Fred Hoyle, the famous British astronomer and agnostic, in The Intelligent Universe
  • Slight variations in physical laws such as gravity or electromagnetism would make life impossible … the necessity to produce life lies at the center of the universe’s whole machinery and design. — John Wheeler, Princeton University professor of physics, Reader’s Digest (September 1986)

Francis Collins (2006), head of the National Institutes of Health, points out some of these examples of fine-tuning in his book, The Language of God, and concludes that they provide “an interesting argument in favor of a Creator.” Speaking of our fine-tuned universe, Nobel prize-winner Arno Penzias (Margenau and Varghese 1992, p.78) says that the universe has “the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

Paul Davies (1992), in The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World, says:

  • … There is no doubt that many scientists are opposed temperamentally to any form of metaphysical, let alone mystical arguments. They are scornful of the notion that there might exist a God, or even an impersonal creative principle or ground of being that would underpin reality and render its contingent aspects less starkly arbitrary. Personally I do not share their scorn. Although many metaphysical and theistic theories seem contrived or childish, they are not obviously more absurd than the belief that the universe exists, and exists in the form it does, reasonlessly. It seems at least worth trying to construct a metaphysical theory that reduces some of the arbitrariness of the world. But in the end a rational explanation for the world in the sense of a closed and complete system of logical truths is almost certainly impossible. — p.231

And in God and the New Physics, Davies says,

  • The delicate fine-tuning in the values of the constants, necessary so that the various different branches of physics can dovetail so felicitously, might be attributed to God. It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out. – p.189

John Polkinghorne (1986), mathematical physics professor at Cambridge University and Fellow of the Royal Society, who also trained for the Anglican priesthood, says:

  • The rational order that science discerns is so beautiful and striking that it is natural to ask why it should be so. It could only find an explanation in a cause itself essentially rational. This would be provided by the Reason of the Creator … we know the world also to contain beauty, moral obligation and religious experience. These also find their ground in the Creator—in his joy, his will and his presence. — p.79

Heinz Pagels (1985), executive director of The New York Academy of Sciences and a theoretical physicist at the Rockefeller University, says that “the anthropic principle is convenient, but it’s not science”. In a 1985 article he concludes with:

  • There does exist a line of thinking that is in direct competition with the anthropic principle. Edward Harrison, in his textbook Cosmology, advises his readers early on: “We shall occasionally refer to the anthropic principle, and the reader may, if it is preferred, substitute the alternative theistic principle.” The theistic principle is quite straightforward: the reason the universe seems tailor-made for our existence is that it was tailor-made for our existence; some supreme being created it as a home for intelligent life. Of course, some scientists, believing science and religion mutually exclusive, find this idea unattractive. Faced with questions that do not neatly fit into the framework of science, they are loath to resort to religious explanation; yet their curiosity will not let them leave matters unaddressed. Hence, the anthropic principle. It is the closest that some atheists can get to God.

 

Conclusion to Ben Clausen’s series on Design

This is the last in a series of guest blogs on science, religion, and design by Dr. Ben Clausen of the Geoscience Research Institute, based near the campus of Loma Linda University. I am very grateful that he allowed me to present these at my blog site. The words that follow are his.

The argument from design for God shouldn’t be oversold and both sides of the argument need to be recognized, but it can be a useful argument. As long as one realizes that both evolutionists and creationists overstate their case to make a point, one has lower expectations about delivery on a promise. It is easy to make pronouncements that “man will never synthesize any organic molecules”, or “man will never set foot on the moon”, but they only make the Christian appear a fool when they happen.

The design argument is useful for the believer when evidence in the natural world is easily interpreted in harmony with a Designer; it is at least consistent with belief in the supernatural God of the Bible. The design argument can also be useful as an apologetic for the non-believer in at least suggesting that more than pure naturalism is needed.

Personally, I believe that the “heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork.” {Ps 19:1} The design that I see in nature is not proof for God – I have a choice –, but the evidence is good enough for me.

An Appendix will follow in a couple of days for those interested in further reading on this topic. It will expand on key works in the following bibliography.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler. 1986. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford Univ. Press).
  • Bertola and U. Curi, eds. 1993. The Anthropic Principle, Proceedings of the Second Venice Conference on Cosmology and Philosophy (Cambridge Univ. Press).
  • Bhaktivedanta Institute. 1984. Origins (3764 Watseka Ave., Los Angeles, CA).
  • Fred Bortz. 2010. “Hawking and Mlodinow return with a unifying ‘Grand Design’,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 5; http://articles.philly.com/2010-09-05/entertainment/24977039_1_leonard-mlodinow-quantum-mechanics-lucasian-professor
  • Walter Bradley. 1994. “Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God”, The Real Issue 13(September/October):3-6,14, [http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9403/evidence.html].
  • J. Carr and M. J. Rees. 1979. “The anthropic principle and the structure of the physical world”, Nature 278(12 April):605-612.
  • Brandon Carter. 1974. “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology”, in Confrontation of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data, International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 63, M. S. Longair, ed. (D. Reidel, Dordrecht-Holland), p.291-298.
  • Marcus Chown. 2001. The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms (Oxford Univ Press).
  • Francis S. Collins. 2006. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press).
  • Paul Davies. 1983. God and the New Physics (Simon and Schuster)
  • C. W. Davies. 1984. The Accidental Universe (Cambridge Univ. Press).
  • Paul Davies. 1992. The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (Simon and Schuster).
  • Richard Dawkins. 1987. The Blind Watchmaker (W. W. Norton).
  • William Dembski, ed. 1998. Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design (InterVarsity Press).
  • Gabriel A. Dover. 1993. “On the edge”, Nature 365(21 October):704-706.
  • Linda T. Elkins-Tanton. 2013. What Makes a Habitable Planet?, Eos 94(16):149-150, 16 April.
  • Owen Gingerich. 1995. “Is There a Role for Natural Theology Today?” The Real Issue 14(March/April):1,9-14, [http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9501/natural.html].
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. 2010. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (Pantheon).
  • George Greenstein and Allen Kropf. 1989. “Cognizable worlds: The anthropic principle and the fundamental constants of nature”, Am. J. Phys. 57(August):746-749.
  • John Gribbin. 1976. “Oscillating universe bounces back”, Nature 259:15-16.
  • John Gribbin and Martin Rees. 1989. Cosmic Coincidences: Dark Matter, Mankind, and Anthropic Cosmology (Bantam).
  • Stephen W. Hawking. 1988. A Brief History of Time (Bantam).
  • Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. 2010. The Grand Design (Bantam; Random House)
  • Fred Heeren. 1995. Show Me God: What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God (Searchlight Pub., Wheeling, IL); see review by Dennis L. Feucht. 1996. Persp. Sci. Christ. Faith 48(March):50.
  • Lawrence J. Henderson. 1913. The Fitness of the Environment: An Inquiry into the Biological Significance of the Properties of Matter (Macmillan).
  • Sir Fred Hoyle. 1959. Religion and the Scientists (London: SCM); quoted in: Barrow and Frank Tipler, op cit., p.22.
  • James Kasting. 2010. How to Find a Habitable Planet (Princeton Univ Press).
  • John Lennox. 2010. “As a scientist I’m certain Stephen Hawking is wrong. You can’t explain the universe without God,” Daily Mail, 3 September; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1308599/Stephen-Hawking-wrong-You-explain-universe-God.html
  • John Leslie. 1989. Universes (Routledge, NY).
  • Mario Livio. 2003. The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number (Broadway).
  • Casey Luskin. 2014. “Alister McGrath Mistakes Intelligent Design for a God-of-the-Gaps Argument”, October 15, Evolution News & Views (Discovery Institute); http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/10/alister_mcgrath_1090411.html
  • Henry Margenau and Roy Abraham Varghese, eds. 1992. Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo sapiens (Open Court, La Salle, IL).
  • Alister McGrath. 2014. “Big Picture or Big Gaps? Why Natural Theology is better than Intelligent Design”, BioLogos, September 15; http://biologos.org/blog/big-picture-or-big-gaps-why-natural-theology-is-better-than-intelligent-des
  • Simon Mitton. 2011. Fred Hoyle: a life in science (Cambridge Univ Press).
  • P. Moreland, ed. 1994. The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer (Intervarsity Press).
  • Heinz R. Pagels. 1985. “A Cozy Cosmology”, The Sciences 25(March/April):34-38.
  • Blaise Pascal. 1966. Pensées Translated with an Introduction by A. J. Krailsheimer (Penguin).
  • John Polkinghorne. 1986. One World: The Interaction of Science and Theology (Princeton Univ. Press).
  • Martin Rees. 2000. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe (Basic Books … Perseus Group)
  • John M. Robson, ed. 1987. Origin and Evolution of the Universe: Evidence for Design? (McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press, Montreal).
  • Hugh Ross. 1995. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God (NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO).
  • Joseph Silk. 2010. “One Theory to Rule Them All,” Science 330(6001):179-180.
  • Crosbie Smith and M. Norton Wise. 1989. Energy and empire: a biographical study of Lord Kelvin (Cambridge Univ Press)
  • Victor J. Stenger. 2011. The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is not Designed for Us (Promethus Books).
  • John Marks Templeton, ed. 1994. Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the Creator (Continuum, NY).
  • Michael Turner. 2010. “No miracle in the multiverse,” Nature 467:657-658.
  • Howard J. Van Till. 1995. “Special Creationism in Designer Clothing: A Response to the Creation Hypothesis”, Persp. Sci. Christ. Faith 47(June):123-131.
  • Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee. 2000. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe (New York: Copernicus … Springer-Verlag).
  • Steven Weinberg. 1992. Dreams of a Final Theory (Pantheon Books, NY).
  • Matt Young and Taner Edis. 2004. Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (Rutgers Univ Press).

Other Cautions with the Design Argument

This is the eighth in a series of guest blogs on science, religion, and design by Dr. Ben Clausen of the Geoscience Research Institute, based near the campus of Loma Linda University. The words that follow are his.

(1) Design arguments are good, but not an air-tight case for a Designer. Although I believe that the universe, Earth, and life were designed by God, I am careful (often uncomfortable) about using design arguments. Looking at the natural world and universe as a believer, I can see the evidence for God’s direct design; but looking from a scientist’s perspective who uses methodological naturalism, I realize that other explanations are often possible and at times may be better (Young and Edis, 2004; Stenger 2011). The design argument is a good one, but it must be used carefully. Dependence on it can be like Israel depending on Egypt (Isa 36:6). Using design to encourage faith in the believer is well-intentioned and probably useful; using design as an anti-evolution polemic to convert the unbeliever has pitfalls.

(2) Design arguments often use marketing flair and rhetoric over academic rigor and full intellectual honesty. Arguments that need to be used carefully are: chance and incredulity (how could this complexity have occurred randomly?) and the cool factor (it’s so neat that God must have done it); they appeal to the non-scientist by not giving the full set of data and interpretations.

(3) The design argument may leave one with a God who designed the evil in the world, or at least allows it. Weinberg (1992, p.250) says, “Although I understand pretty well how brightly colored feathers evolved out of a competition for mates, it is almost irresistible to imagine that all this beauty was somehow laid on for our benefit. But the God of birds and trees would have to be also the God of birth defects and cancer.” Are the catastrophes in the universe designed – colliding galaxies, exploding supernova, and what at times appears to be chaos? Does God use stellar evolution to design the necessary elements for the universe? Did plate movement form the continents before life existed on earth? Are the catastrophic earthquakes and volcanoes directly associated with plate tectonics part of the design?

(4) Design arguments do not necessarily require the God of the Bible. They can also lead to various other metaphysical philosophies: New Age, Eastern mysticism, pantheism, theosophy, Hare Krishna, etc (e.g., Bhaktivedanta Institute). The design argument can also leave one with a deistic God – a God who sets things up correctly at the beginning to have the right fine-tuned constants, habitable planets, and life-developing properties and then just lets history take its course without further intervention. Projecting from methodological naturalism to philosophical naturalism in its extreme form is insufficient, but in some modified form it appeals to some, e.g., Howard van Till (1995).

(5) One cannot prove the existence of God and shouldn’t feel the need for science to prove the Bible. That may be like expecting proof of Jesus’ Messiah-ship by asking for signs and wonders (John 4:48). The design argument is not a silver bullet; humans have a choice. As observed by Blaise Pascal in his Pensées:

“We have an incapacity for proving anything which no amount of dogmatism can overcome. We have an idea of truth which no amount of skepticism can overcome.” — frag. 406

 “God wishes to move the will rather than the mind. Perfect clarity would help the mind and harm the will.” — frag. 234

To be concluded. . .