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FIRST-PERSON: An awesome cover-up

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–God created the world, but the opponents of Intelligent Design (ID) would have us believe that, if He did so, He did it without a trace — or that it would be unscientific to admit that you found His fingerprints on nature.

They are ideologically, or at least methodologically, committed to a certain blindness should indicators of divine handiwork present themselves. To keep things strictly kosher, according to their form of secular legalism, you have to stick to a purely materialistic, naturalistic account of things if you are to continue to minister in the temple of science. Never mind that God built the temple of science, providing the natural laws and the scientists’ wits.

“Friends of science” urge ID proponents to limit God talk to Sunday School if they can’t help themselves, but to shut up about God on the public school field trip. Instead, they must stick to some version of “it just happened” -– proteins clumped, enzymes flexed, primordial soup bubbled, winds blew, things mated, mutants soared, and Voila! — you have Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. While evolutionists may not be able to say exactly how we got from trilobites to the Reformation using only natural selection, we just have to give them time. Time, that is, of two sorts: 1. gazillions of years to allow for all the happy and unhappy accidents it took for raw carbon (wherever that came from) and other elements to form single-cell organisms and then develop into Harvard professors; 2. gazillions of years (if necessary) for scientists to figure out a purely materialistic yarn. They demand a blank check wherewith to buy all the time they need, no matter how obvious it is to most that they’ll never succeed in marginalizing God’s contribution.

I’m reminded of the popular TV show, “CSI” (Crime Scene Investigation), where forensic scientists track down criminals who do their best to cover their tracks. Try as these felons might to swab up the blood, burn the documents, or bury the weapons, the sleuths (I’ve always wanted to use that word since reading the “Hardy Boys” mysteries in my childhood) track them down, whether with black light, DNA analysis of a single hair, carpet-fiber provenance or microscopic scrutiny of scratches on a thigh bone.

Imagine a CSI cop announcing, without so much as a glance, that the corpse in the park “just died” and then shushing anyone who suggested it wasn’t simply from natural causes. When a rookie suggests that someone else might have been involved, he’s quickly told that good CSI men don’t talk that way, that the only proper explanation involves something like a blood clot in the brain, a falling branch, or potassium imbalance. To suggest otherwise is simply unscientific. Of course, that would be ridiculous, yet biologists get away with this sort of imperious behavior all the time.

In suggesting that a purely physical explanation is possible, they, in effect, credit God with the most amazing cover-up in history. Though the Lord has created everything and sustains the universe with His unflinching attention, he has done so without giving away His activity. On their model, one can study the eye or the food chain for a lifetime and find not a trace of intelligence to it; it’s just chance circumstance. What a master God is at masking His providence! Of course, I’m being sarcastic. Signs are everywhere, as countless scientists and poets have declared throughout the centuries.

But surely I’m missing the point. It’s not that scientists deny the existence of God. (Actually many of them do, from Oxford’s vituperative Richard Dawkins to 90 percent of the membership of the National Academy of Sciences, who obviously favor agnostics and atheists in choosing their colleagues.) It’s that they have to stick to testable hypotheses while doing science. And, so their reasoning goes, God’s presence is not verifiable by experience.

But wait. In real life, CSI people don’t always have closure; they don’t always get their man or woman; sometimes they don’t even succeed in confirming their hypothesis that someone did it. Does that make their unverified claims unscientific? No, for there is conceivable confirmation of their beliefs if not actual confirmation. They can imagine what it would be like to catch the culprit. But, so the evolutionists’ argument goes, there is no conceivable way to confirm experientially a claim that God is/was involved in nature’s workings.

Technically, that’s not true. In the Judgment, before every knee bows and every tongue confesses, the Lord could say to scientists and non-scientists alike, “By the way, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I made the universe.” That would be confirmation, wouldn’t it? But today’s evolutionist would retort, “But not confirmation during this present age, when science must do its work.” OK, so try this. Imagine that one day at noon, every engine and motor on earth shuts down. When people run outside to see what happened, a booming voice proclaims, “I am the Lord God, and I have stopped things to announce my sovereignty!” That would be sweet confirmation in this present age.

But again, they would say something like, “That would be a miracle, and not the stuff of science. We have to work with regularities.” Hold on. They asked only for conceivable verification, not for actual verification, and not conceivable verification using only ordinary physical laws. Now they’re arguing in a circle, or question-begging. They’ve excluded intelligent design by definition. It’s like proving the illegitimacy of intelligent design by stipulating the illegitimacy of intelligent design.

Besides, the noon-time announcement would not simply be a physical miracle, like the arbitrary reversal of a river’s flow and the mid-January budding of a pear tree in sub-zero weather. God is not a thing. He’s a person, an all-powerful person, and He can do what He jolly well pleases when He jolly well pleases.

You really don’t need astonishing mid-day announcements from the heavens to understand somebody is behind the universe. Most people can tell just by looking. And ID theorists are working to show that you can demonstrate personal involvement in nature using the standard canons of science. But above this, what’s wrong with a good dose of academic humility? Doctors can have it, and they’re scientifically respectable. Don’t we hear them saying from time to time, “There’s nothing that can explain this except divine action”? They know there is more to the universe than the domain of endoplasmic reticula, synapses and mutagens. And they don’t lose their licenses or reputations when they admit this. So what’s with the evolutionary biologists and their imperious or craven parrots?
Mark Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and distinguished professor of apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Reprinted from the Illinois Baptist newsjournal, online at www.ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist.

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  • Mark Coppenger