Sunday, October 22, 2006

Random Acts of Design

The October, 2006, issue of Touchstone has a review by Jonathan Witt of a new book by Francis Collins. In The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins argues that Christianity and evolution are not incompatible.
Overall, it seems that book takes some positions similar to Stephen Barr his book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.

Witt, in his review, claims that Collins "makes a scientific case for intelligent design."
It seems that this claim depends upon the definition of intelligent design.
It can be taken broadly, as in "an intelligent cause is the best explanation for certain features of the natural world."
A more limited definition focuses on how evolution cannot produce irreducibly complex machines; God must have designed them.

Witt's review discusses the "backward wiring" of the vertebrate eye.
Witt quotes Collins as saying that this structure seems "to many anatomists to defy the existence of truly intelligent planning of the human form."
Witt then states that others have demonstrated that this structure has some advantages.

I find this type of argument irrelevant. The "excellence" or "perfection" of some aspect of our body's design (or the entire thing) is an subjective judgement.
To rely upon such judgements to argue for or against a theory of evolution or intelligent design is a very weak position.

Later, the review uses the word "specified" in a confusing way.
Witt quotes Collins as saying that "from God's perspective the outcome [of random evolution] would be entirely specified."
Witt then claims that "If God merely knew about future events ... then God would not have specified the various outcomes as Collins suggests."
However, to me, Witt is confusing two different aspects of this word and thus misunderstanding Collins' argument.
Collins is using the word as "known" or "stated" (a more passive sense) while Witt seems to think that it must mean "determined" or "decided" (a more active sense).
Cannot God create a random process and know its outcome?

Finally, does the design of our bodies really matter to God?
Is there something about "backward wiring" that is necessary to God's plan?
Certainly we need ways to communicate and to think but does it matter what they are or how they work?
Our resurrected bodies will take a form that we cannot imagine - only then will they be perfect.