Sometimes the choice is between beliefs. When it comes to Darwinian evolution and the challenge it presents to belief in God, a lot of thoughtful men and women seem intent on not facing up to a tough but necessary choice, between Darwin and God.
Thus, over on The New York Times bestseller list is The Language of God, a book by evangelical Christian and genome scientist Francis Collins. He cheers for Darwin, both in his book and in an interview with Beliefnet, while recounting sticky-sweet memories of how he accepted Jesus on a nature hike.
Meanwhile, here at Beliefnet, Rabbi Natan Slifkin, author of "The Challenge of Creation: Judaism’s Encounter with Science," singles me out for criticism. Slifkin finds “profoundly problematic” what I have written about Darwinism -- namely that it would render Judaism’s claims about God null and void.
The key point is whether, across hundreds of millions of years, the development of life was guided or not. On one side of this chasm between worldviews are Darwinists, whose belief system asserts that life, through a material mechanism, in effect designed itself. On the other side are theories like intelligent design (ID) which argue that no such purely material mechanism could write the software in the cell, called DNA.
ID supporters find positive evidence of a designer’s hand at work in life’s history. The Discovery Institute, where I’m a senior fellow, has compiled a list of more than 600 Darwin-doubting doctoral scientists representing institutions like Stanford, Yale, and MIT. The bibliography of Darwin-doubting works in peer-reviewed and peer-edited scientific publications continues to grow.
To put it starkly, Darwinism would put God out of business. God’s authority to command our behavior is based on His having created us. By this, I don’t mean that He formed the first person from clay less than six thousand years ago, but that His guidance was necessary to produce the chief glory of the world, life. If the process that produced existence and then life was not guided, then God is not our creator.
Less clear-minded are those who labor to reconcile God with Darwinian belief.
Slifkin thinks maybe God “set up the natural world and program[ed] its laws such that seemingly blind processes would produce life as we see it.” However, such a “programmed” world has no scientific support. On the contrary, Harvard paleontologist Stephen J. Gould showed that the evidence actually supports a view that, given the natural laws alone, it was highly, highly unlikely that intelligent life would ever emerge.
For his part, Collins thinks because God is outside of time, He may have initiated an unguided process which He could know would produce life. But an unguided process is still unguided. In this scenario, God is not the creator.
Other religious Darwinists have their own various pet theories of reconciliation. For such thinkers, there seems to be no way, even in principle, that evidence could overturn their religious beliefs. Faced with a challenge, they’ll just come up with a clever way of twisting out of the contradiction.
I admire Collins and Slifkin with their determined commitment to God. I also understand why their stance appeals to many laymen, who may be overly impressed by the prestige of secularism in academia with its attachment to Darwin.