In the last post, I gave an overview description of the design argument as applied to the life on earth, further expanding the positive case for the existence of a Designer. This time, I want to address some of the explanations proposed by materialistic and evolutionary theories, and how I think they fail as adequate alternatives.
Time + Chance
If you recall from last time, two strong arguments, specified complexity and irreducible complexity make a compelling case in favor of intelligent design of life on earth. Scientists committed to materialism have fewer tools available with which to construct alternative theories, and thus have (at least) two very large problems: 1. origin of first life, and 2. diversity of complex life forms we observe today. In this space today, I’m not going to address the origins of life problem; suffice it to say that producing life from non-life has proven daunting, at best, even with intelligent agency (the scientists) manipulating initial conditions. If anything, any success in this area seems to give more credibility to the need for intelligent agency.
Materialists have only a few tools with which to construct complex life: natural selection and random mutations operating over a long period of time. Extrapolating from observable and non-controversial micro-evolution, time plus chance are proposed as adequate to change the (elusive) first single-celled organism to the highly diversified life forms throughout the earth today (macro-evolution). The trouble is, “time plus chance” are articles of blind faith, not words which provide any adequate explanatory power.
Our uniform and repeated experience tells us that higher complexity does not flow from lower complexity; water does not rise higher than its source. Adding time and chance does not help, either. Consider the following example paraphrased from Frank Turek. Consider a fellow taking with him a large bag of red, white, and blue confetti into an airplane. At 5,000 feet, he dumps the bag over a football field; how good do you think are the chances that the confetti lands in the pattern of the American flag? Probably not too good. What about if the plane goes to an altitude of 30,000 feet? If he empties the bag from there, is it more or less likely to form the flag than at the first altitude? It’s pretty easy to tell that adding extra time for random chance to act to produce something orderly is so unlikely to work that it is hard to imagine that adding any amount of time would produce success. Applying this intuition to the issue of development of life forms has led some to refer to Darwinian evolutionists as “young-earth evolutionists,” meaning that the amount of time needed for probabilities of random mutation to have acted appropriately to get where we are now is exponentially larger than the same scientists estimate the age of the earth to be.
The Philosophy of Science
Why is it that materialistic scientists have fewer explanatory tools than do theistic scientists? They limit themselves to only naturalistic explanations; no supernatural explanations are even allowed as possible. This results in many a round-peg-in-square-hole scenarios. This approach is called philosophical naturalism, and as its name suggests, is not a statement of science, but one of the philosophy of performing science. It is a commitment to providing a naturalistic explanation for all things. Methodological naturalism, by contrast, is a more modest approach to science which says one must presume and investigate the object of study as if it has a naturalistic explanation; most things will comfortably fall into this category. However, if the evidence leads to a supernatural explanation as being the best fit for the evidence, the scientist is free to consider such a theory.
From this discussion, it should be clear that science is not the final authority on truth and fact; science itself rests on philosophy. The methods of scientific testing and inquiry set the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is out-of-bounds. Science cannot be done without philosophy, and even faith (used broadly); we exercise faith when we apply the scientific method that the natural laws will provide consistent results and can reliably assist to explain scientific mysteries. The philosophical assumptions brought in to the experimentation process can drastically impact the conclusions a scientist makes about data gathered. After all, science does not say anything; scientists do, and their interpretations are influenced by their prior philosophical commitments. Of course, none of this is to denigrate science or the scientific method, but one should be somewhat skeptical when the monolith of Science is said to proclaim the truth. A good scientist must be able to recognize his or her own presuppositions and attempt to mitigate its influence on the interpretation of scientific data.
In my next post, I’ll move into another area of argument for God’s existence, the moral argument. I hope you’ll join me!
Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!