I was really expecting a train-wreck when I first saw the title of objection #3: Evolution explains life, so God isn’t needed. I’ve studied evolution for some time, and thought I’d easily be able to cut-though all the misinformation and misunderstanding Strobel would dish out. I was really expecting a bunch of bad arguments like Kreeft’s statement on page 47:
“[If the universe is infinitely old, then that] means the universe has been evolving for an infinite amount of time — and, by now, everything should already be perfect. There would have been plenty of time for evolution to have finished and evil to have been vanquished. But there still is evil and suffering and imperfection — and that proves the atheist wrong about the universe.”
Well, despite the earlier summary of the objection on page 27:
If God really created the universe, why does the persuasive evidence of science compel so many to conclude that the unguided process of evolution accounts for life?
Strobel barely spends any time talking about evolution in this chapter. He also doesn’t really attempt to answer the question, “why does the persuasive evidence of science compel so many to conclude that the unguided process of evolution accounts for life?” Instead, he talks about the related subject: abiogenesis – how did the very simplest, earliest cell come into existence. Apparently, he wrote the introduction to the book outlining the questions he wanted to address, but got sidetracked.
Strobel begins the chapter with a story of a man who was wrongly convicted of murder. One of the pieces of evidence was based on hairs found at the crime scene which were deemed “consistent” with the suspect. He was convicted, but exonerated years later by DNA evidence. The hair evidence, which was thought to be persuasive, was not as accurate or reliable as people had thought. Strobel wants to use this as a metaphor for evolutionary evidence – you think it’s persuasive, but we’re all going to find out it isn’t. Of course, his story can be tacked onto any position that has scientific consensus and used as a metaphor to hint it’s wrong. Global warming? You’re using hair evidence. HIV causes AIDS? You’re using hair evidence. The Nazi Holocaust happened? You’re using hair evidence. It’s a one-size fits all apologetics, but it seems to be a good rhetorical strategy to get people thinking in the direction you want them to go.
The next section reads like something like a motivational speech to get Christians to ‘join the fight’ against Darwinism. I couldn’t help but imagine it being read out-loud at a Discovery Institute meeting to inspire and motivate each other to continue their godly crusade against evolution. And I have to wonder how much of it was inspired by the Discovery Institute material once I read that Strobel’s expert on this subject would be a Discovery Institute fellow.
Although there was much that led up to it, I guess you could say I lost the last remnants of my faith in God during biology class in high school. So profound was the experience that I could take you back to the very seat where I was sitting when I first was taught that evolution explained the origin and development of life. The implications were clear: Charles Darwin’s theory eliminated the need for a supernatural Creator by demonstrating how naturalistic processes could account for the increasing complexity and diversity of living things.
My experience was not uncommon. Scholar Patrick Glynn has described how he took a similar path that ended up in atheism:
I embraced skepticism at an early age, when I first learned of Darwin’s theory of evolution in, of all places, Catholic grade school. It immediately occurred to me that either Darwin’s theory was true or the creation story in the Book of Genesis was true. They could not both be true, and I stood up in class and told the poor nun as much. Thus began a long odyssey away from the devout religious believe and practice that had marked my childhood towards an increasingly secular and rationalistic outlook.
In the popular culture, the case for evolution is generally considered shut. “Darwinism remains one of the most successful scientific theories ever promulgated,” Time magazine said in its recap of the second millenium. To Charles Templeton, it’s simply beyond dispute that “all life is the result of timeless evolutionary forces.”
Biologist Francisco Ayala said Darwin’s “greatest accomplishment” was to show how the development of life is “the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator.” Michael Denton, the Australian molecular biologist and physician, agreed that Darwinism “broke man’s link with God” and consequently “set him adrift in the cosmos without purpose.” He added:
As far as Christianity was concerned, the advent of the theory of evolution … was catastrophic … The decline in religious belief can probably be attributed more to the propagation and advocacy by the intellectual and scientific community of the Darwinian version of evolution than to any other single factor.
Quite a rousing speech about the need for Christians to destroy the theory of evolution, isn’t it? Kinda makes you feel like getting together with a bunch of your friends and writing a Wedge Document, and then denying that Intelligent Design has anything to do with religion – because that would undermine your war against the religion-corroding theory of evolution.
Fortunately, Strobel is there to tell us that it’s not a conflict between science and religion. It’s a conflict between hair-evidence science (i.e. evolution) and newer, better science (i.e. intelligent design):
Like the hair-comparison evidence in the Williamson case, did the evidence for evolution purport to prove move than it actually does? The more I investigated the issue, the more I saw how I had glossed over significant nuances in a rush to judgement, reminiscent of the Oklahoma murder trial.
More and more biologists, biochemists, and other researchers — not just Christians — have raised serious objections to evolutionary theory in recent years, claiming that its broad inferences are sometimes based on flimsy, incomplete, or flawed data.
“The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell — to investigate life at the molecular level — is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!'” biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University said in his ground-breaking critique of Darwinism. (p.125-126)
Now, this is the part where he does a complete expose on all this evidence. Oh, wait – no he doesn’t. You’ll just have to assume it exists and is every bit as solid as Strobel says. But, if you knew what it was, you’d totally realize that evolution is built on ‘hair-evidence’.
It must be wonderful to live in the insular world of a Christian believer – where everything comes out just right, and people tell you what you want to hear. Reading the book, you get pretty used to seeing Strobel heap praise on people who share his opinions (e.g. “his ground-breaking critique of Darwinism”). Nevermind that ID has been struggling to get anyone in the scientific community to support them, his claims have very good counterarguments, and that Behe’s colleagues at Lehigh have publicly stated that they don’t support his results (despite being a Mormon university):
“It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.” – Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences
Then Strobel briefly comments on why people are so eager to embrace the godless theory of evolution:
Behe: Many people, including many important and well-respected scientists, just don’t want there to be anything beyond nature.
Does Behe think his colleagues at Lehigh University fit that category?
Strobel: That last sentence described me. I was more than happy to latch onto Darwinism as an excuse to jettison the idea of God so I could unabashedly pursue my own agenda in life without moral constraints. (p.126)
And Strobel repeats the whole ‘I denied god so I could be immoral’ stuff – playing into the myth that non-believers deny God’s existence just so they can be immoral, and evolutionists are just “latching onto” evolution as a way to legitimize that lifestyle. I also don’t trust Strobel’s reflections on his past atheism. People often reinterpret their memories in a way consistent with their current worldview.
In a page and a half, Strobel does a quick rundown of the evidence against evolution:
Claim: “microevolution” happens, but “macroevolution” is controversial; there’s a lack of transitional species in the fossil record.
Ken Miller quoting the National Academy of Sciences:
“So many intermediate forms have been discovered between fish and amphibians, between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and mammals, and along the primate lines of descent that it is often difficult to identify categorically when the transition occurs from one to another particular species.”
(Ken Miller video on transitional species and Intelligent Design, which is very good, by the way)
Claim: There’s a sudden, inexplicable appearance of animals 570 million years ago (Cambrian explosion). Wrong.
Stobel then claims that “Darwin’s theory presupposes that nonliving chemicals, if given the right amount of time and circumstances, could develop by themselves into living matter.” Actually, “Darwin’s theory” doesn’t presuppose that. Instead, it describes the origin of the different species, not the origin of life. But, I’ll let it slide since the idea of a ‘Creator God’ is connected to the question of life’s origin.
And, so, begins Strobel’s interview with Walter L. Bradley, PhD in materials science and Discovery Institute fellow. After roughly a page description of the things Bradley has worked on, research he has done on abiogenesis, the companies he’s worked for, how long he was a professor, and telling us that he is “soft spoken” and a “strong family man” who is “concerned with accuracy … making sure to acknowledge nuances and not overstate his conclusions” (Strobel always works to build the reputation of his like-minded experts), they begin talking about abiogenesis.