Life would be less stressful if we didnt have to make so many tough choices. For example, you love eating pizza, but you also value keeping your arteries unblocked. You must choose—though lots of us refuse to do so, the result being arteriosclerosis.
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: Judaisms Encounter with Science,” singles me out for criticism. Slifkin finds profoundly problematic what I have written about Darwinism — namely that it would render Judaisms 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 designers hand at work in lifes history. The Discovery Institute, where Im 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. Gods authority to command our behavior is based on His having created us. By this, I dont 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.
Some atheists recognize this. Ive been reading a forthcoming article, Intelligent Design and Biological Complexity, scheduled to appear in the distinguished, peer-reviewed academic journal Gene. The author is Emile Zuckerkandl of Stanford University. Prof. Zuckerkandl ferociously attacks ID and any belief in a designer, God, or other superghost. Clear enough?
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, theyll 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.
Their attempts to mesh God with Darwinism—two contradictory ideas—are not necessitated by science or the scientific method but instead are merely science-flavored rationalizations. Other religious people dont need to feel obliged, intellectually or spiritually, to follow where these two well-intentioned men would lead us.
David Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a columnist for the Forward, and the author, most recently, of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History.