I am continually impressed with the incongruity of our situation as Americans. We live in a country where the form of government (a constitutional republic framed to secure unalienable rights by implementing the principle that the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the people) logically and historically depends upon an idea of human justice that appeals to the authority of the Creator. But it is also a country where the most widely accepted and enforced paradigm for human knowledge (empirical science) is held to require the exclusion of creation as a rational explanation for the existence of human life. I again experienced this impression recently as I read an article about the controversy in which Stephen Meyer’s book “The Signature in the Cell” continues to simmer. Meyer is an expositor of the challenging questions DNA-related advances in the scientific account of biological mechanisms pose to those who have used evolutionary theory as the preferred WMD in their war against God, or what their atheist polemarch-in-chief has attacked as “The God Delusion.”
In his book, Meyer gives an account of the path of rational inquiry along which he encountered the questions he explores. They appear to be inherent in the peculiar characteristics of living matter that give rise to the distinction between physics and biology, and so far continue to justify that distinction even in the presence of the reductionist implications of contemporary nuclear physics. According to Meyer’s account, it was not his faith in the existence of a Creator that gave rise to the questions. Rather, it is the rational cogency of the questions that impels him and others like him toward the hypothesis of a “master programmer” whose intelligent predispositions would account for the complex encoding of material substances now identified as the key to explaining the activities of even the simplest living organisms.
At the very least, the deep encoding of matter that appears to underlie the mechanisms of life appears to cast a shadow over the significance of the supposedly wonderful achievement represented by Darwin’s theory of evolution. According to the evolutionists, this achievement involved empirically accounting for the panoply of life, the crowning glory of the intelligently ordered and consummately coordinated phenomena of the natural world, without positing the existence and will of a consummately intelligent being as the source of that order. But a dogmatic emotionalism seems to drive those who ridicule and seek to ban any consideration of the “intelligent design” hypothesis. This thoroughly unscientific dogmatism feeds the suspicion that the pride and satisfaction many of its admirers take in Darwin’s supposed breakthrough has nothing at all to do with its contribution to the progress of science. After all, biology is not the only natural science that greatly benefits from the assumption that natural events don’t “just happen” but instead reflect an ordered relation of cause and effect governed by a discoverable rule. Aristotle was probably right to see this assumption of intelligibility in nature as the key first step toward natural philosophy. It may in fact be the prerequisite for any and all scientific knowledge in the strict sense of the term.
Yet the evolution theorists have succeeded in imposing the view that the epitome of scientific understanding lies in accepting the notion that, given enough time, things just happen – marvelous things that seem to be the result of intelligence and intention but are in fact just random events. It has obviously proven useful to mark out fortuitous moments (stretches of the space-time continuum) in which a certain appearance of rule-governed order is allowed to contradict the reality of prevailing chaos. Indeed, the activities and inventions made possible by doing so are in other contexts the solid basis for praising and promoting scientific endeavors. But the predictability and precision that allowed people to fashion rocket ships and ride them to the moon; build electrical devices to make certain aspects of life vastly more convenient and comfortable; or devise electronic engines that digest and transmit vast quantities of data in a few instants; these are not the sine qua non of scientific validity. Instead, the true scientist must recognize the hallmark of scientific rigor as adherence to an understanding that reduces our explanation of the meticulous and orderly patterns we increasingly find, even in what we once thought to be the entirely random and unique flotsam and jetsam of natural events (like snowstorms or hurricanes or the lives of a cell), to the profound observation that, given enough time, an intricate, deeply improbable order of things just happens.
There is something comically irrational about this kind of dogmatism, something that reeks of the sort of willful intention that clouds and impairs rational analysis. It bespeaks a state of mind quite the opposite of the selfless reflectivity that keeps careful account of what happens so as to understand what is happening. This is what distinguishes scientific experiment from mere experience, and the achievements of human scientific knowledge from the merely cunning prowess of the less intelligent animals.
The general theory of evolution purports to explain the causal origin of life. But it does so ironically, as it denies both the external ordering essential to the concept of causality and the inward causality essential to the concept of life. The very idea of evolution implies arrangement toward a goal. Why, then, do evolutionists insist that in order to be scientific, one must deny that, as such, the goal exists? It exists, they might respond, but only as a convenient matter of perception. But if this convenient perception is the essential feature of scientific knowing, what is science but a convenient delusion, distinguished from other useful delusions mainly by the warrant it denies to Divine power? Perhaps, as Erwin Shrodinger’s example implied at the conclusion of his examination of the question “What is life?”, the true aim and achievement of evolution theory is this very denial, which makes way for the assertion that the only order worth knowing is the one we ourselves, all godlike, impose upon an otherwise pointless chaos. But if this is the aim, then the theory of evolution isn’t science after all. For the aim of science is to perfect what we know, not to assert, against all the evidence of our mind and experience, what our ambition drives us to become.