"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter" (Eccles.12.13) >>back home
What is the ultimate truth about our existence? Two views are locked in mortal conflict in the West: "Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis" (Nobel laureate Jacques Monod, in CHANCE AND NECESSITY); and, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"; "All things were made through Him" ‑ the Word, Who came in the flesh as JESUS CHRIST. Which shall we choose?
In this summing‑up we have to compare two quite incompatible views about the essential nature of our human existence. The first, which I have called 'Darwinian fundamentalism', is energetically and ably publicised by such well‑known writers as Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett and many others, including of course the late Jacques Monod; the second has been the one held traditionally for ages by many ordinary men and women. The first implies that (in the ultimate, rock‑bottom sense) existence comes to us all solely by 'chance' and thus as something empty and meaningless: we ourselves have each to devise a content and meaning for it as best we can before we descend into final oblivion. The second is that life is a gift from a wise and gracious God, a gift for whose use we must one day render an account ‑ and receive (or lose) an everlasting reward. The 'selfish gene' is the 'agency' named in the first (see RIVER OUT OF EDEN, pp.131,133); JESUS CHRIST the divine Agent in the second (John 1.1‑5; Co1.2.9). Here is a great divide; it is clearly vital that we get our thinking on the right side of it. For clarity, I will first recall the biblical teaching on some main items, and in doing so relate them to what corresponds in neo‑Darwinism.
Has man descended biologically from an animal stock?
On the 'natural' or 'physical' level (i.e. one based on what could have been, in principle, recorded on video), the Bible does not rule this out. Man's 'formation' [sic] from 'the dust of the ground' was linked, on the sixth day, with that of the land animals, and it is described in almost identical terms (Gen.2.7,19). It is only when the Bible speaks of his 'creation' [sic] that it brings in 'the image of God', unique to man (1.26). Together with the 'inbreathing of the breath (Heb. nesama) of life' (2.7; cf. John 20.22), this points to something over and above mere animal existence, (a sort of spiritual 'software'?), the act of inbreathing being something not accessible to video‑recording. It was doubtless something non‑physical, like Paul's 'inexpressible' experience in 2Cor.12.2f, or Satan's unseeable entry into Judas (John 13.27). Such things are quite outside the cognizance of science. So my answer to the question heading this paragraph is, "Yes, quite possibly; but nevertheless, there is a deep‑seated, profound difference between man and the animals". The discontinuity is of a type paralleled by what the New Testament calls the "new birth" (John 3.3-8 NIV; 2Cor. 5.17 NIV), an experience claimed a little light‑heartedly by many today. However, the two are not to be simply equated.
Physical genetic continuity may have extended right back to the most primitive organisms: the biblical record does not positively rule this out either, nor even that there may have been primitive life elsewhere in the universe.
Were Adam and Eve a solitary pair?
I believe the Bible allows us to conclude that Adam had 'collaterals' (of whom Eve was one), who became fully human as, following him, the 'image of God' was imparted to them also. The formation of the human race from Adam may have followed a pattern to which Abraham's fatherhood (Rom.4.11,16; cf. Gen.17.10,13), and the building of the church on Christ (Matt.16.16ff; Acts 10.44ff; Rom.8.29) both conformed. Many of Abraham's 'collaterals' for instance were incorporated with him into the nation he founded; and the same Hebrew pattern of one key figure singled out at first is also present in a miniature way in the appearance of the Risen Lord to the women; see John 20.1, followed by the 'we' of v.2, and finally, the many of Luke 24.1‑10. I would not insist on this exegesis of the biblical record, but I would maintain nevertheless that it is a reasonable one and demonstrates that the biblical and scientific accounts, where they overlap, cannot be regarded positively as incompatible. That man may have arisen in Africa and from there moved to the Near East is comparable to other instances in the Bible (Gen.2.8 NIV; 12.1,2; Isa.41.8f).
The nature of the Fall, and the problem of suffering
The nature of the sin of Adam and Eve was not bound up essentially with sex, as some have suggested. It consisted rather in their presuming, in the face of the divine instruction, their ability to decide for themselves what was right or wrong, good or bad for them. That was the significance of the act symbolically described as taking and eating (as a 'human right') the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this casually disobedient, self‑pleasing act Adam and Eve forsook unconditional obedience to God their Creator; henceforth they would, at least sometimes, make up their own minds about what they did (contrast Luke 22.42; John 8.28,29). God's reaction to this was to allow them (in measure) to learn the consequences of their self‑chosen direction; He gave them up to find out what would inevitably follow (note Ps.81.11,12 and Rom.1.22,24,26‑32). That, the Bible says, is the answer to the persistent demand "Why does God allow all humanity's suffering?" He is permitting men and women to have their own way (as the majority still do), till they learn alas! through bitter experience, its folly (as the Prodigal Son did ‑ Luke 15). Wise parents may still follow the same line with rebellious and self‑willed children, (and the more loving and concerned the parents are the more they themselves suffer pain as a result). Disobedience to wise and loving moral directives has of logical necessity painful ethical consequences, just as fooling near the edge of a cliff (in spite of 'Danger; Keep off!' signs) has painful physical ones. This is precisely what the Bible is implying.
Man turns to Reason: the quest for the Absolute
As a result, man struggles inevitably with the consequences of the moral autonomy that he had presumptuously assumed, and which for his own good has for the present been conceded. Still a rebel, he turns hopefully to Reason to think out a way forward. Reason must, he realises, employ sound logical principles; but what are they and where can they be found? These are by no means trivial questions; enormous efforts have been made in the history of thought to run them to ground1. Do they just float about eternally in some imaginary hyperspace like Atkins' "dust of structureless points" waiting for a Universe containing rational creatures to turn up and want them? Or do they only then come into existence? Would they be the same in all other possible universes? These might be dismissed airily as "vacuous existential questions" 2; but many thinkers would heartily disagree. Most would affirm that 'sound principles of logic' would be the same in all universes, having the fundamental property of perfect self‑consistency, of having no in‑built contradictions. Here then is an important clue to their whereabouts; is there any connection we can name in which such self‑consistency is an absolutely fundamental thing? Yes indeed. In an earlier chapter the Bible's emphasis on the righteousness of God was noted, a stress foreign to other contemporary religions. The 'righteousness of God' has long been understood in exegetical circles as God's changeless self‑consistency. He cannot deny Himself (2Tim.2.13 RV); He cannot lie (Titus 1.2); His righteousness endures for ever (Ps.111.3); Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb.13.8) are typical expressions of this3. Here, long before the present arguments with Darwinism arose, it can be claimed that those vital logical principles had been firmly run to ground. Belonging unarguably to the realm of mind (rather than matter), they existed eternally in God. Is not this an answer to the problem of the Absolute for thought far more acceptable than blind chance toying with "a Borel set of points" floating around no‑where? 4.
Has human Reason any limits?
We come now to another pressing matter: are there any vital questions irresolvable by the human mind? "Yes", says the Bible, there are: The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever 5. "No", say many Darwinian fundamentalists, "there aren't". Richard Dawkins' own 'aside' ("Yes, but we're working on it" 6) is one such occasion; and listen to Prof Atkins:
"I shall take your mind on a journey. It is a journey of comprehension, taking us to the edge of space, time, and understanding. On it I shall argue that there is nothing that cannot be understood, that there is nothing that cannot be explained, and that everything is extraordinarily simple"7.
Ten years later he writes:
"I do not budge from the view . . that the human brain is an instrument of limitless power and . . the scientific method (permitting its cautious development), a technique of limitless applicability and (speculatively) limitless success". 8 (my italics).
His colleague Dawkins agrees 9. However, in spite of this the latter also writes that man is merely "a robot vehicle blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes . . which neither know nor care" about anything 10. I find these combined remarks astonishing, for the human brain evidently had powers comparable to those it now has aeons ago 11; Atkins himself fully acknowledges this. How then did "genes which neither know nor care" manage to produce offspring capable of handling advanced mathematics ages before this could have been of any obvious use to their robot vehicles? Man probably had acquired a brain able to deal with quadratic equations millennia before symbols like x had even been thought of; do they really think the careless genes13 were responsible? "The process of natural selection which produced skills like swinging to the next bough for fun had a non‑linearity about it, you know; you'll find it all explained by Chaos Theory", they might reply 12. Really? I am afraid that many (like myself) would have to plead guilty here to a bad attack of Dawkins' despised weakness – personal incredulity 13.
Reason again: What about randomness?
Darwinian fundamentalists have claimed confidently in an offhand way that the mutations offered to natural selection are 'random'. In view of the fact that their whole position hangs heavily on this slender thread, it is essential to ask what they mean by 'random'. Prof Dawkins writes clearly enough:
"It is only if you define 'random' as meaning 'no general bias towards bodily improvement' that mutation is truly random", he says.
"Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could" make it so 14.
What about Prof Atkins? He says that the fluctuations in the "absolute void" (without matter, energy, space or time) giving rise to our universe were "by chance", "absolutely without intervention", "unmotivated", "no purpose" 15. Prof Dennett in his DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA 16, (a book his friend Dawkins regards as "surpassingly brilliant", "where critical . . devastating", and "positively inspiring"), has in his Index twenty‑four references to 'randomness', fourteen more to 'chance' and another eleven to 'luck'; but nowhere in its 550‑odd pages is there even an elementary definition of what he means by these terms. This is an otherwise impressive book, but it is empty here about this supremely critical matter. Its treatment is quite farcical; see the Postscript to my Chapter XII.
These far‑reaching claims about 'randomness' and 'chance' are in fact pure guesswork or mere wishful thinking. The eminent mathematical physicist Prof Paul Davies 17 has written, with careful substantiation, that it isn't possible in general to prove that a string of digits is random. What might be proved is its non‑randomness; all this needs is the discovery of a suitable 'algorithm' (a mathematical recipe) to generate it. But alas, there is no certain way of finding out if there is one; an algorithm may always be lurking hidden round a corner! So the assumption of 'randomness', even in a simple string of digits, may turn out against all appearances to have been wrong (the expansion of pi offers good examples). There is every reason to believe that something similar holds for a string of events. But the problem before us here springs from a level far deeper than this. What we are concerned with is the question "Is there a Mind behind things with thoughts in principle in‑accessible at will to us?" (cf. chap. II, n31). If there is (as the Bible says there is, Deut.29.29; Ps.77.19), then we can neverever know that mutations are truly random, due to pure no‑nonsense chance. And this is what Dawkins, Atkins and Dennett light‑heartedly build their whole case upon! Especially is it important to remember this when what they oppose is an instinct strong, ancient and almost universal, some sort of divine Creation; and when in addition what is threatened are such profoundly precious things as meaning and hope. There is a shallowness in their ultimate foundation here which Darwinian fundamentalists must come to terms with.
The significance of the choice
Of the two choices as the final origin of all things (a divine Creator, or Chance), the former has vastly more potential significance; for one thing it would suggest that man is subject to moral law as well as to physical. The Bible certainly insists on this: All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account; We shall all stand before the judgement seat of God (Heb.4.13 NKJV; Rom.14.l0f RSV). The decision we make on the present issue is thus, in the Bible's view, a fateful one, not something of which we can lightheartedly say, "Well, everyone to his own fancy!" It is noticeable that Darwinian fundamentalists seem to hold very loosely (if at all) to any absolute distinction between the ethical categories of right and wrong 18. As with the principles of sound logic, it is difficult for them to run either of these two things ('right' and 'wrong') to earth, since mind (not matter) is the obvious locus for both, at least most people would think so; and this could hardly be acceptable to them. The biblical position in both cases is however straightforward and clear19.
Reason perplexed: how can we comprehend the whole thing?
When we have such a tremendous and complex situation to understand as our creaturely existence in a Universe like this, it is worthwhile trying to think of some suitable analogy with which to compare it (though we must remember that all analogies have limitations and must not be pressed beyond their close parallelisms). What about a great realistic novel like Dostoevsky's THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV? This is one of the greatest novels ever written, and Dostoevsky "has become the Russian writer most widely read and influential in England" 20; but any other great novel will do as well.
All through the tale unexpected things happen in unexpected ways, sometimes 'randomly'. How they are woven together constantly excites admiration. Great novels like this start with no prior indication of where they are going; 'chance' plays a great part in them (who meets who, and in what circumstances); individual character is often centre‑stage; repeated patterns occur (love, marriage, and family life); and so on. As the story proceeds, it proceeds of itself. When we come to the end, things which were a mystery are a mystery no longer. The story has run its course realistically. Unpredictable as a whole, there were nevertheless many occasions when the expected did happen.
Now all this raises some interesting points. A novel like THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV can be appreciated without knowing who the author was. There is no sign of any "authorial intervention" in it, even of an author exercising a "supervisory role", or "master‑minding" it, to use Dawkins' phrases 21. The story makes perfectly good sense by itself; its developing action is "self‑explanatory". In all these ways, Dostoevsky's story runs in similar tracks to the fascinating history of our Universe as the neo‑Darwinians think of it. Why do they not conclude also that Dostoevsky may be a mythical figure then, quite "superfluous"? To put it another way, if our Universe could have originated by chance (as fundamentalist Darwinians claim), a realistic novel could also have done so. It could conceivably have appeared in a large colony of monkeys shut up with some typewriters say, even if the probability is infinitesimal. "This is utterly ridiculous", I can hear an opponent saying: "the probability of even a hundred thousand monkeys producing a tale like THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by chance in their few brief years is the craziest suggestion ever made". I might agree, even if the monkeys were allowed to breed for a hundred thousand years as well. "Darwinism's 'chance' would have natural selection to help it as well 22; the monkeys would have nothing equivalent to match. A novel's author understands the laws of history too, and this helps him shape his plot; monkeys have no comparable brain power". Yes, these are two highly significant objections to the parallel I have raised. But 'natural selection' only goes back as far as the first appearance of living things, when the Replication Bomb went off 23; beyond that the 'laws of nature' we now count on only reach further back still to the Big Bang. How likely to have appeared then was the "exquisite adjustment" 24 of the great physical constants necessary to make the whole expanding cosmos vastly‑later a home to welcome life? And what was the probability even before that of something to cause the Big Bang itself? If still another question has any meaning, was there anything to raise the probability (above absolute zero) of Prof Atkins' "really nothing . . a Borel set of points not yet assembled" founding by chance the entire theatre of Spacetime and matter? 25. It is the multiplied 'improbabilities' of all these 'chance' happenings, each awaiting the one before that has to be compared with the monkeys' frolics on typewriters. I personally would still put my bet on the monkeys. To summarise: if it is unacceptable to view a great novel as a mass of separate letters thumped by chance (given innumerable monkeys, aeons of time, billions of typewriters, etc., etc.), it should be unacceptable also to imagine our ordered and life‑bearing cosmos arising from imaginary structureless dust (of Borel sets!) thrown together by chance ‑ this time given no mind to do the initial imagining nor a hand to do the throwing, etc., etc. (I hope my opponents will regard all this as friendly but nevertheless serious leg‑pulling.)
I strongly recommend any reader with the time to do so to get Atkins' two books and to satisfy himself that I have quoted him (and by implication, Prof Dawkins) fairly: I have genuinely tried to.
Is the analogy of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV reasonable?
The claim that a great, well‑crafted and true‑to‑life novel is a valid analogy for the story of our Universe can clearly tell strongly against the atheistic case. It can be easily defended on biblical premises of course. First, both the novel and the cosmos come into being through the use of words (spoken, Gen.l.3; Ps.33.6,9; or written, Exod. 31.18; 1Cor.14.37). Second, like the divine Author, a human author fashions his novel as he wills: he transcends it. Yet he is immanent in it too; the story as it unfolds necessarily bears his imprint. His transcendence and immanence correspond in miniature to God's. Third, living men and women have 'free‑will': they can influence current history as God's fellow‑workers 26 or not. In a novel there is a similar thing. As Dorothy Sayers (herself a considerable author and playwright) remarked, "the free will of a genuinely created character has a certain reality, which the writer will defy at his peril". If he does so, his narrative loses authenticity (Mr Micawber at the close of DAVID COPPERFIELD is a case in point 27; I owe a great deal here to Dorothy Sayers). Of course, a human author's characters cannot oppose his will in a fully independent way; living men and women can and do oppose the will of God ofthemselves. The grounds for this latter difference involve the 'higher dimensionality' of God's Being compared with man's; it has already been noted in connection with the 'double agency' so often figuring prominently in the Bible 28.
Finally, and of supreme importance, an author is sovereignly responsible for everything that goes into his story 29. This does not mean that Dostoevsky was a blameworthy confederate in the evil practices of the eldest Karamazov brother of course; neither does it mean that God was similarly implicated in Judas's act of betrayal (Acts 4.27,28). Both the eldest Karamazov and Judas had perfectly 'free wills' in the sense we all accept; their evil acts were of themselves. I do not pretend that we are not out of our depth here; there is great mystery involved. But the difficulty of reconciling such 'double-agency' is not one which confronts the biblical theist only; it has already been pointed out (chap. III, and its note11) that the secularist faces a similar thing too. How can man's 'responsible free will' be reconciled with the physico‑chemical machinery of the brain? Theism's profounder 'dimensionality' opens more explanatory doors for the theist than mere 'quantum indeterminancy' does for the secularist.
I believe these considerations justify the conclusion that the 'author' analogy for history is here a sound one, despite its limitations.
To what judgement should this lead us?
The Preface to THE BLIND WATCHMAKER begins (p. ix): " . our own existence once presented the greatest of all mysteries, but it is a mystery no longer because it is solved. Darwin and Wallace solved it . "
What would Dawkins think if someone spoke similarly about Conan Doyle's famous novel THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES? "What once presented a great mystery was a mystery no longer because it was solved; Sherlock Holmes solved it". Would this make an author behind it all "superfluous" too? Yet that is the sort of thing he is suggesting (ibid. p.316).
"A fever of excitement"
A very common trouble today (even among deeply religious people) is that 'their god is too small'. The God of the Bible is sovereign over all; if anything happens in nature He is the doer of it (Jonah1.4,17). He is sovereign too over history (2Chron.36.22f; Acts17.26f; Appendix I‑iii). One of the great disappointments in reading an author with such a gifted mind as Prof Dawkins is that he sometimes commits himself in a self‑confessed "fever of excitement" 30. The biblical doctrine of God the Creator is widely held today even within bodies like The Royal Society, and any critic should make sure he properly understands it before he writes in such a fever. Dawkins writes of it: 31
"This is the theory that life was created, or its evolution master‑minded, by a conscious designer. It would obviously be unfairly easy [sic] to demolish . . the Genesis story . . [which] . . has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants".
He goes on to speak of God being
"smuggled in by the back door", of "being allowed some sort of supervisory role. . or even meddling more comprehensively in day to day events",
"We cannot disprove beliefs like these, especially if it is assumed that God took care that His interventions always closely mimicked . . natural selection".
All this from one of his academic distinction certainly sounds like something written in "a fever of excitement". It fails to recognize the profound difference between the deism it expresses and the theism overwhelmingly the emphasis of the Bible32. It is like suggesting that an author has "been smuggled into" the history of his own book, that he is "consciously master‑minding" his own writing, "giving himself a supervisory role in it", "meddling comprehensively" or taking care that his "interventions" always "mimicked himself". As a Professor of Public Understanding of Science Dawkins is letting his own side down badly! I myself have studied carefully his own 'gene's‑eye view' (actually with considerable sympathy) to avoid (I hope) unjust misrepresentation; but Prof Dawkins appears to have ridiculed the biblical doctrine on trivial impulse. The 'selfish gene' account rightly focuses on mechanism and its physical adjuncts: the biblical account focuses on the purpose and beneficence of the Creator. A single purpose has choice of a variety of mechanisms, and a single mechanism can serve a variety of purposes; they do not define one another. Prof Dawkins' comments as a consequence are a let-down; they display little but personal antipathy. Denying purpose as they do abolishes hope as well; one should think more thoughtfully before pressing one's own "blind faith" in Darwinist fundamentalism on others and risk plunging them into hopelessness and despair. Listen to this from his friend Prof Atkins, introduced by Dawkins to his own readers with approval:
"We are the children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we pore deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe" 33.
Was it poring "deeply and dispassionately" into such a prospect that caused his "fever of excitement"? In many ways that would seem a strange reaction for a 'deeply dispassionate' thinker. I speak for many who honour the Bible, when I say that we aim to assess the 'gene's‑eye view' with thoughtful interest, and can go quite a long way with it. Certainly, mechanism is of absorbing interest. There are however questions which concern us far more, for we regard life as a gift, to be received gratefully from a Giver; further, eternity has great significance for us too. We thank God that (here in Genesis) He has given us His answers, and given them to us in concise, 'user‑friendly' and enduring style 34. As for mechanism itself, the Bible reassures us satisfyingly, that God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph.1.11).
Now abideth faith, hope and love, these three" (1Cor.13.13)
We must now for a moment discuss what the Bible means by 'faith' as many seem to be confused about this. In an important experiential sense common to us all, 'faith' has priority among 'these three'. Does any sensible man marry a woman if he has no faith in her, even if he is madly inlove and hopes he will be happy? That is the aspect of things Paul is talking about. Dawkins is thinking rather about whether the object of faith is an actuality and not just a figment of the imagination; I will speak more about that aspect in a moment. But in connection with Dawkins' main interest, biblical faith does have some purely propositional content: it has statements about actuality to be believed. In that sense, the demons also believe, and tremble (James 2.19). But it towers above this elementary level. It is far more importantly the response of trust and obedience towards a Person: Abraham believed God (Gen.15. 6) ; faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20.21; 26.19); I know whom I have believed (2Tim.1.12). It is not concerned primarily (as it is in science) with sense evidence publicly available to all; indeed the latter aspect, while valued, is placed considerably lower in the scales (John 4.48; 20.29; cf.11.25‑40). The great New Testament chapter on faith (Heb.11) makes all this plain. 'Doubting Thomas', Dawkin's admired paradigm, is wrongly named: he didn't say "I can't believe" but "I won't believe" (John20.25); Dawkins forgets this. He glories in science (rightly I think) because it builds on evidence "accessible in principle at will to man as man": but he must face the fact that such evidence dries up sooner or later as he goes backwards in time. What does he do then? His ultimate bedrock foundation would have to become something like his friend Prof Atkins', who has to believe that concrete reality has materialized of itself out of absolute nothingness (see refs. 7,8,9). But this is, by very definition, beyond the pale for science, will or no will! It's no good replying that significant pairs like +l and ‑1 (say) can result from 'absolutely nothing', because +1 and ‑1 are not concrete realities (like matter, antimatter and radiation, let alone space and time), but only abstractions of the mind ‑ and (quite incidentally) on his view of things there was at the very beginning no 'Mind' for them to be abstractions of (if my grammar can be pardoned). If Dawkins now disagrees with Atkins in what I have attributed to him, he should publish his own alternative view quickly; otherwise his position collapses in confusion.
The foundation of thoughtful faith
Most of our own personal knowledge in scientific matters has come to us through a simple form of faith, i.e. believing what we have heard in lectures or read in books. We did so because we decided that our sources were people we felt confidence in. 'Doubting Thomas' could have reacted responsibly in the same way; it was probably pride or pique which led him to do otherwise. Dawkins and his friends seem to be acting similarly. The New Testament reports of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ 35, (probably the most publicly accessible and well‑attested of any happenings to an individual in history) are entitled to be taken seriously, and there is no reason now (except an inexcusably rigid Darwinian fundamentalism) for not doing so.
A challenge to Prof. Dawkins
I have referred repeatedly to Prof Dawkins in this essay. This has not been from any sort of personal animosity ‑ God forbid ‑ but solely because he has chosen foolishly, unashamedly, and with the widest publicity, to ridicule the faith which centres on JESUS CHRIST (John 1.1‑14). Referring inter alia apparently to the accounts of the Crucifixion and Resurrection he writes:
"[to] its victims . . . blind faith can justify anything . . Faith is . . a successful brainwasher in its own favour . . a state of mind that leads people to believe something ‑ it doesn't matter what ‑ in the total absence of supporting evidence . . overwhelming . . publicly available ." . "evidence is explicitly eschewed"36. (my italics)
With this rather intemperate recital in mind I would like to put to him three or four plain questions:
(1) What is the "supporting evidence, overwhelming, publicly available" for the spontaneous origin of time, space and matter from absolute nothingness? This appears to be his own "blind faith" held with firm conviction 9.
(2) What is the "supporting evidence, overwhelming, publicly available", that mutations for natural selection are "random" in the rock‑bottom sense he and Atkins positively demand 15?
(3) He writes, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music"37. Would he stand by this when he suffers a grave personal injustice or injury?
(4) What rational arguments can he mount against the New Testament evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, boldly and repeatedly proclaimed35, not "explicitly eschewed" as he asserts from either simple ignorance or careless indifference 36?
The biblical teaching follows such absolutely fundamental pronouncements as Deut.29.29 and Ps.139, which insist on man's creaturely finitude and constitutional limitations. While scientific knowledge is anchored to evidence from the physical senses, that of real faith is anchored to the Word, the Divine Revealer. Thus in fundamental contrast to the former, the latter is available only to those who will respond in obedience (Exod.3.12; John 7.17). This is really the Bible's last word on this matter: those who think that by searching they can find out God (Job 11.7) as and when they like are doomed to discover that however far they go, they will never reach their goal.
Postscript ‑ the Uniformity of Nature
One widely held conviction of Darwinian fundamentalists is that not only has our Universe originated through "statistical fluctuations in absolute nothingness", but vast numbers of others, each with its own particular spacetime and physical constants, have similarly 'happened' 38 (most without the extremely fine tuning of their physical constants required for life to appear). But once any universe has sprung into being, its physical constants seem to remain 'frozen'; their pattern remain fixed over all its time and space. Evidence for this is that in our own Universe the hydrogen spectrum remains recognizable with exactitude when it comes over inconceivable distances and lapses of time. This leads to belief in the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature; 'our own' hydrogen atoms for instance behave exactly the same always and everywhere. With 'statistical fluctuations' apparently frequent enough to produce vast numbers of physically different universes, why should this be so? Here comes a profound distinction: to the secularist, this is simply (at the moment, and it may be for ever) a 'brute fact'; to the biblical theist it is now and for ever one expression of the unchanging faithfulness of God, for His creatures would be hard‑pressed if it were not so (if gravity or chemical affinities say, varied unpredictably within human lifetimes). In spite of Richard Dawkins39, The faithfulness of God is the Bible's firm answer to such questions as Why is the rainbow always in the sky when there is rain and sunshine? What lies behind the promises about seedtime and harvest, summer and winter and day and night? Why is the moon called the "faithful witness"? and so on 40. While the biblical answer is full of meaningful truth for both mind and heart, the secularist's is empty of anything for either.NOTES
1 For a good idea of this see the numerous articles on 'Logic' in THE OXFORD COMPANION TO PHILOSOPHY ed. T. Honderich 1995 pp.496‑511
2 RIVER OUT OF EDEN p.97; for Atkins, see 4.
3 See chap. II; add also Exod.34.6f; Deut.7.9; Ps.146.6ff; Ma1.3.6; Heb.6.18; James 1.17; and a host of other refs.
4 Prof Atkins refers to "a Borel set of points not yet assembled" into a space‑time manifold (THE CREATION,p.98); just ideas then in a Mind? Whose?
6 UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW, Dawkins, p. xiii 1998. His rejoinder was to those who quote Hamlet's "There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy"!
7 THE CREATION, Atkins, Preface 1981 p.119
8 CREATION REVISITED, Atkins 1992, here p.3; later, pp.viii,115,125,149
9 THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, Dawkins, pp.14, 15, 1986
10 THE SELFISH GENE Preface 1976; RIVER OUT OF EDEN pp.131‑3. Dawkins assumes mutation is 'random'; see the end paragraph of my chap. XIV.
11 Thales of Miletus lived from 624‑565 B.C.; Anaximander, 611‑547 B.C.; Pythagoras, c.582‑ ; Plato, c.428‑348 B.C.. The brain must have been highly developed long before these. Abraham lived about 2000 B.C. "The first exactly dated year in history is 4241 B.C." (ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF DATES AND EVENTS, English Univers. Press, 1968).
12 CREATION REVISITED p.119. See further 'Chaos Theory', Appendix XI
13 RIVER OUT OT EDEN pp.70,95,133
14 THE BLIND WATCHMAKER pp.307, 312
15 P Atkins, THE CREATION, p.119; CREATION REVISITED, pp.109f,149. Atkins' ''suggestions'' have (he believes), come‑into‑being from "absolute nothingness" in terms of space, time and matter. That seems to mean that non-physical Mind must exist prior to all? One reader at least thinks so!
16 DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA Daniel C. Dennett 1995. Dawkins' estimate is from the cover. The noted author is trying to prop up a bad case.
17 Paul Davies THE FIFTH MIRACLE: The Search for the Origin of Life (Allen Lane, London 1998 p.212): also THE MIND OF GOD (Simon and Schuster, 1992, pp.130,132). The author, an eminent physicist and science writer, is agnostic.
18 RIVER OUT OF EDEN pp.131,133; see also the excellent discussions in
HOW NOW SHALL WE LIVE? Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, Marshall Pickering, 1999
19 2 Tim.2.11‑13
20 THE OXFORD COMPANION TO ENGLISH LITERATURE Margaret Drabble 1985
21 THE BLIND WATCHMAKER p.316
22 THE BLIND WATCHMAKER p.317
23 RIVER OUT OF EDEN chap. 5
24 THE ACCIDENTAL UNIVERSE Paul C. W. Davies op.cit. This introduces the interesting but controversial subject of 'The Anthropic Principle': see Appendix X
25 THE CREATION, Peter Atkins p.98
26 Mark 16.20; Acts 15.28; 1Cor.3.9 etc.
27 See THE MIND OF THE MAKER Dorothy L. Sayers Methuen 1941 chap.5
28 See Chap. III on the paradox of "double agency", especially note 11.
29 Exod.9.16 with Rom.9.17; Dan.4.35; Eph.1.11
30 THE SELFISH GENE Preface to 1989 edn.
31 THE BLIND WATCHMAKER p.316
32 For the distinction between Theism and Deism see chap. II
33 From THE SECOND LAW (Atkins) in UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW, Preface p. xi
34 For the early significance of eternity see Gen.3.22; 5.24 (cf. Heb.11.5). The remark about 'user‑friendly' style is very important too: see Deut.30.11‑14; Isa.28.9ff; Hos.11.3f; Hab.2.2 RV; Matt.11.25f; 2Cor.1.13 NIV
35 John 20.1‑31; Acts 1.3,9‑11; 2.32; 1Cor.15.1‑8ff. For the "explicit eschewing" of key evidence cf. Luke 24.37ff
36 THE SELFISH GENE, 1989, pp.198, 330
37 RIVER OUT OF EDEN p.133f. As an answer to the question about an 'absolute' posed here, what about You shall love your neighbour as yourself? (Matt.19.19). Does Dawkins deny this is 'absolute', i.e. not just a matter of personal preference?
38 This is a widely canvassed 'Many Universes' theory.
39 UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW 1998 p.312
40 For the biblical attitudes see Ps.89.1,2; and also Gen. 9.12ff: 8.22; Ps.89.37. Unfortunately, the faithful keeping of promises has a low profile today.