I’ve mentioned multiple times the informal intelligent design club we had when I was a university student, back before the young-Earth crowd hijacked the term to try to smuggle horrid science and bad theology into public schools. I’ve also mentioned that the field of study with the largest contingent in that group was biology as former atheists and agnostics encountered the elegance of the theory of evolution and concluded there must be a Designer.
Reading other posts this morning I got to wondering if people really grasp what that epiphany was like for those students, and decided to try to get it into words. This doesn’t cover all of them because not all became Christians, but it covers the majority, and in fact includes some who were not biology majors but who had taken enough biology electives to have encountered the profundity of the biological world. It’s a take-off from something one of them actually said; hopefully this will get the idea across of how they felt:
A Psalm of the Designer
Evolution declares the glory of God, and the chromosomes in cells proclaim His handiwork! Day to day pours out research, and night to night reveals studies. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them, yet their message has gone out to the whole earth, and their words to the ends of the world. He has set a tent for DNA, which sends its messengers out from its chamber like strong men they run their course with joy. Its reach is from the birth of the Earth, its circuit all around it, and there is no life apart from that reach. selah
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory within the cell. When I look at all life, the work of your fingers, the nucleus and the mitochondria§, which you have set in place – What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
*the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, * all that swim the paths of the seas. Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
This is neat! Particularly in light of your introduction and reminder that the idea of a designer wasn’t always the formalized, highly contentious that it is right now. I’m listening right now to Dorothy Sayers’s “Letters to a Diminished Church” which is deeply informed by your “traditional” view of a designer.
When the test wasn’t looming in my biology and physics classes, I felt much the way your psalm expresses.
I like the perspective here and the implied level of responsibility we bear. We haven’t been given leave to just burn the place down or treat it with disregard or use it up.
I feel that, regardless if it’s young earth, or old earth , the concept of there being evidence beyond reasonable doubt that supernatural forces are required for the cosmos or biology to work is just not there.
I can’t exactly claim responsibility for the line, in fact I sort of expected someone would pounce on the source right off.
That said, I agree: all life and created things aren’t our property, they’re God’s; at most we are managers, and I’ve always thought – ever since I learned the word “extinction” – that part of our job was supposed to be making sure that all of God’s species continued to thrive.
Too many people think that “have dominion” was a transfer of title rather than an assignment of stewardship.
Indeed once they concluded there must be a Designer, some of my fellow students would weep at the news of a species going extinct, which kind of put me to shame; I only got sad at the loss of species familiar to me.
I’ve also mentioned this in various ways. As a university student I had the good fortune of having Paul Draper as a professor of philosophy of religion. He had a unique argument for agnosticism based on the high probability God exists with respect to the design argument and the high probability God does not exist with respect to the argument from evil (or more correctly stated as apparently needless and horrific suffering). I have always appreciated how he handled both of those arguments.
There was also a memorable event when Draper invited our class to a debate between Michael Ruse and someone representing ID. During the Q&A Draper brought up an issue that was not raised during the debate about competition between organic compounds, and the ID person admitted this was a real issue and a challenge against his position. I still remember the unpretentious coolness with how he raised the question, if someone didn’t know better, you’d think he was just some average guy.
I also managed to work my way up to Ruse afterwards and had a short but engaging conversation with him as a couple of his fanboys were twisting and turning to get their books signed by him. @Paulm12 may remember me telling him some of this.
There was also an informal philosophy club that I was a part of. We often watched philosophy films together. One film we watched was about a nun from the 16th century I suppose. She had a scientific mind and ran into trouble with the church for her thinking. The church persecuted her, destroyed her laboratory, and I don’t recall if she was imprisoned or worse.
After the movie there was a general disgust amongst us. One person spoke up about how terrible, how abominable, the church is. The group leader knowing that a couple of us were Christian, asked if anyone wanted to respond. I was speechless. No one said anything. I still think about how I could have said the church is a whore, but she is also the bride of Christ whom he has and will one day fully redeem. But those words didn’t come to mind at the moment.
I think it stands out in your version in a very different way from what we have in our Bibles. Because of the way your versions of the two psalm you paired include details about the contrmporary grasp of how nature works, all of the work that went into and continues to go into descovering the natural world, it’s harder to gloss over the magnificence of what that handiwork is. Like in art history, when you learn how a work is made, it’s much harder to take it for granted.
“Handiwork” or “work of your hands” gives God credit as creator, but brings to mind very relatable handwork that humans do. Your variations on the psalms remind us that that handiwork is way beyond our skills.
And yet God says, “Here. Take care of this for me.”
I think the fresh context makes a big difference in how it reads.
Okay, so where is the design in evolution? It would seem to be self regulated. Natural Selection or Survival of the Fittest would seem to be reactionary rather than design.
I want to see God’s designing in evolution but it escapes me.
Its not in the Bible. God is never described as a designer in the Bible, and certainly not in Psalm 8.
Psalm 8 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted
2 by the mouth of babes and infants,
thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
4 what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?
5 Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.
6 Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
Nor does it agree with science, which has shown that evolution is the origin of the species.
So why a designer?
When you want to use religion for power over people then God in the role of advisor, teacher, and shepherd is not enough, because that limits the religionists to giving advice, teaching and offering guidance. It is thus far more convenient to tell people that God has made them as a designer makes a machine defining the very nature and purpose of their existence. Thus they should forget about their dreams, love, and passions in order to give themselves totally over to the service of the church 24/7. Work to earn your church money and spend all the rest of your time pushing the rhetoric of your church to expand membership and increase the power of your Christian army to dominate the entire world.
God does not need to show power. He has it. That is the definition of God. We, as followers, might basque in reflected power but that does not actually give us any. There is no alterial motive for claiming God as designer, or creator, it is just the expected role of (a) God. And it is scriptural.
I do not see how claiming God as creator diminishes (or negates) HIs other roles as shepherd, teacher, and guide.
Indeed! Which only goes to show this obsession with power comes from human beings!
No it does not. No more than people are defined by the color of their skin. It is what we choose which defines us. God chose love and freedom. He did it in the creation of life and He did it again when He set all power aside to become a helpless human infant. No. This is the declaration of those enslaving God to their own theological obsession with power. It is not human theological declarations which define God. It is the will of God which defines God. And the will of God is for love not power. So… God is love.
On the contrary, the use of religion for power has been frequent and quite abusive.
The ulterior motive is found in the origin of things not in the perpetuation of them. And I have a rule of thumb: when something serves a purpose well then that purpose is the most likely origin. The use of religion for power is so blatant in human history many have decided that is all it is and nothing more. The only way to see the contrary is to acknowledge the reality and make a distinction between those aspects which serve the ulterior motive and those which don’t.
People have claimed that slavery, racism, misogyny and abuse is scriptural. I think this designer view of God belongs with that list as well. As you have pointed out and I have agreed, it doesn’t agree with the findings of science. But the evidence is clearly behind the science and I see no evidence scriptural or otherwise behind the notion of God as a designer of living things.
God is the creator. But the creation of living things is fundamentally different from the creation of machines.
It means discernment is required. You have to see the aspects which serve the use of religion for power and distinguish them from the aspects which do not serve this abuse of religion.
Let me remind you of my non-religious background steeped in criticism of the Christian establishment. One of the things which helped me to see value in Christianity was a realization of how much of the Bible is devoted to the problems of religion. I may have come to the conclusion that religion is important for human life, but it is founded on an acknowledgement of the danger of religion also. Without such discernment, the status of religion as a positive element of human existence is not assured.
No it means wisdom. That is the correct use of any theology and or power that may or may not be a part of it. There is no excuse or place for abuse in Christianity so to do so excludes that person from membership.
And the stubborn blindness to the problems in religion with this kind of no true Scotsman rhetoric is why religion has been declining. Without discernment people cannot see the value of Christianity amidst all the abuses, and thus decide to have nothing to do with any of it.
Without correcting the source problem, a punitive approach like you have described looks like sacrificing a few members to whitewash the religion. But the easy use of Christianity for such things remains and people see no reason to put any trust in it.
It’s system design, which is what brought those atheists and agnostics to see a Designer, as opposed to unit design. The concept of a Designer who devised each item of Creation individually was what we called the toy farm animal model of Design; evolution, on the other hand, is a system designed to bring forth more and more living things – and what would be more impressive in engineering, drawing up new blueprints for every individual structure in a vast urban area and constructing them individually, or drawing up a set of rules that once set in motion didn’t just draw up a whole array of blueprints but once the first simple structure was built it proceeded to initiate the construction of all the other structures without need for any additional construction crews?
One view has the Designer/Creator drawing up new blueprints individually and forming the creatures individually, the other has Him/Her/It drawing up a blueprint that generates other blueprints and produces the creatures from them. It’s why there were computer programmers in the club: it’s one thing to write a program that tediously lists all the options the programmer can think that might be needed; it’s a complete other level of elegance to write a program that develops a multitude of options by itself – the difference between writing trillions of lines of code bunched in sections that each turn out a result or writing several dozen lines of code that turn out trillions of varying results; the second is so much more elegant that it got named the “Argument From Elegance”.
So that “self-regulated” aspect you mention IS the design – a design that turns out more and more variety as time passes. As for natural selection being “reactionary”, a system that reacts to circumstances and provides for adjustment is design so superb it is mind-boggling, besides which it’s exactly what the first Genesis Creation account indicates as God’s method for creating life: living creatures resulted from God commanding the earth and sea to “Bring forth!” living things, and the earth and sea reacted to that command – and as I’ve noted before, that command is still in effect so that each new generation brings forth another that is slightly different. After all, earth and sea bringing forth life was a matter of chemistry bowing to the Word, and DNA is just another form of chemistry.