by Denyse O'Leary
When I first encountered Biola adjunct prof Cornelius G. Hunter's Science's Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2007), I was intrigued by the possibility that it might help me understand the people who want to destroy the careers of anyone who doubts that Darwinian evolution can produce mind from mud, and ultimately you from goo.
I fear it is somewhat like trying to understand the jihadis. Friends have told me that, to understand jihadis, I must try, at least briefly, to see the world as they do. Similarly, to understand Darwin's most committed followers, I must undergo a similar mental exercise. For me at least, such exercises do not result in conversion to the alien belief system; rather, they help me make decisions about how to deal more effectively with the believers.
Blind Spot led to a surprising discovery: According to Hunter, the Darwinists are much more religious than I am. Many of them - especially the ones who attend church - are zealous for God's honour in a way that I would never think of. For them, God is too great to provide evidence for his work in any sense that I could view and understand. And this universe is not good enough to have been created by him.
From the book, a brief explanation:
The theological mandates for naturalism fall into several categories. Their common theme is that God ought not to intervene in the creation and care of the world. Nature should operate primarily, or even exclusively, via actual laws, and it is not exclusively God's design. Naturalism in the sciences did not arise from an empiricist urge; it arose from several theological axioms and concerns. These concerns were not antireligious. Though at times they were raised disingenuously by religious skeptics, more often they were raised quite seriously by theists who were trying to elucidate the relationship between God and creation. (p. 20)
Theological naturalism is not opposed to all things religious - it IS religious. Theological naturalism mandates a nonintervening god; it does not mandate no god. It means that divine action must not be empirically detectable. Hence theological naturalism mandates methodological naturalism-the idea that science ought to pursue naturalistic explanations. It is not that there is no god but that creation must always operate according to uniform natural laws. (P. 31)
And then there is the question of evil and suffering: The idea that God would actually design the world we see, where inelegance sometimes rules, the cat plays with the mouse, and children sometimes die from painful diseases is unthinkable. Theistic naturalists believe that they honour God and rescue his reputation when they insist that there is no detectible design in nature. Things happen because of random mutations and natural laws.
If God would have made nature perfect according to our sensibilities, and it obviously was not, then God must not have created nature. This was Hume's, and after him Darwin's, powerful argument. Too often commentators today miss the crucial point. Darwin advanced naturalism with religious arguments rather than with compelling scientific explanations. (P. 107)
Put simply, God is not a designer, because if he were, he would have to take credit for things that no reputable designer would do, at least in the theological naturalist's view. Defending his interpretation, Hunter quotes many instances of such views from the writings of Ken Miller, Francisco Ayala, Howard Van Till, Ian Barbour, and Keith Thomson. God sees the sparrow fall, but he hasn't explicitly chosen to create a system that lets it fall. The system evolves with no help from God.
Yes, God is somehow behind it all. But he is apprehended by faith alone - faith that requires no evidence, or even despises it. And if you point to any apparent evidence of design in nature ... well, the theistic naturalist asks, what is going to happen to your faith when science proves you wrong? You will lose your faith in God, right? Because science can always show that there is no design in nature. Always.
Part One: Theological naturalism: Why we owe it to God to believe in Darwin
Part Two: Rationalism vs. empiricism: What must be true vs. what the evidence shows
Part Three: Why rationalists cannot live with uncertainty
Next: Part One: Theological naturalism: Why we owe it to God to believe in Darwin
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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