Designing Chaos: In Dialogue with Christopher Hitchens (Part Two)

**This is reposted from a previous blog with a few minor edits.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” -Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

“But the process by which the results are attained is slow and infinitely laborious, and has given us a DNA ‘string’ which is crowded with useless junk and which has much in common with much lower creatures. The stamp of the lowly origin is to be found in our appendix, in the now needless coat of hair that we still grow (and then shed) after five months in the womb, in our easily worn-out knees, our vestigial tails, and the many caprices of our urinogenital arrangements. Why do people keep saying, ‘God is in the details’? He isn’t in ours, unless his yokel creationist fans wish to take credit for his cluminess, failure, and incompetence. Those who have yielded, not without a struggle, to the overwhelming evidence of evolution are now trying to award themselves a medal for their own acceptance of defeat. The very magnificence and variety of the process, they now wish to say, argues for a directing and originating mind. In this way they choose to make a fumbling fool of their pretended god, and make him out to be a tinkerer, an approximator, and a blunderer, who took eons of time to fashion a few serviceable figures and heaped up a junkyard of scrap and failure meanwhile. Have they no more respect for the deity than that?” (Hitchens, “god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” Pg. 85)

Christianity in modern times has been full of fads. Some annoying and some thoughtful. The latest fad that may date back about twenty years or more is the intelligent design movement. There are many great thinkers in the intelligent design movement and not all of them are Christians or necessarily traditional believers in God (no matter what the media or Hitchens tells you). The theory of intelligent design goes something like this: “The assertion or belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected natural processes.” (from answers.com)

One may observe that this definition of ID does not talk about who this “intelligent being” might be nor do the words lend credence to any particular faith.

Hitchens especially attacks the idea of intelligent design or any kind of purposeful direction in the universe. To make his argument, he lists off several examples of seemingly purposeless things in our universe and even items that, in his opinion, could have been designed better had there been a Designer.

Hitchens attacks the pinnacle of the design argument, the human eye. “Now we are being told that astonishing features, such as the human eye, cannot be the result of, so to speak, ‘blind’ chance. As it happens, the ‘design’ faction have chosen an example that could not be bettered…There is further proof of the evolution of the eye, as (Dr. Michael) Shermer points out. This is the ineptitude of its design: ‘The anatomy of the human eye, in fact, shows anything but ‘intelligence’ in its design. It is built upside down and backwards, requiring photons of light to travel through the cornea, lens aquaeous fluid, blood vessels, ganglion cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells, and bipolar cells before they reach the light sensitive rods and cones that transduce the light signal into neural impulses- which are then sent to the visual cortex at the back of the brain for processing into meaningful patterns. For optimal vision, why would an intelligent designer have built an eye upside down and backwards?'” (pgs. 81-82)

Hitchens certainly has some provocative thoughts to add to the argument. He fails to talk about design as an ordered universe, i.e how do random chance processes account for gravity or the orbits of planets or the perfect characteristics on earth that allow for life. An observer, with these arguments, can be caught in a conundrum. To a layperson, there are aspects of our universe and world that display remarkable systems that one would find hard to believe arose from purely blind chance processes. On the flip side, and as Hitchens points out, there are random aspects of creation that seem embedded in chaos or that seem completely random and senseless. How does one explain this?

These points serve to further the viewpoint that I will espouse in this writing. Intelligent design cannot be proved by scientific arguments alone. Rather, we need theological interjecting to help us. My point is: one cannot be an evidentialist and argue for a particular viewpoint (atheism or religion). One rather chooses what to believe (the point I made in my first Hitchens’ post) and as an outworking, begins to see the world this specific way.

Hitchens has read Genesis and is of course as biased against the Creation account as I am biased against unguided, blind naturalism. The worldview of Christianity (when looked at as a whole) fits the description of our present world and the ages past. Over and over again in Genesis 1, God pronounces the creation “good”. But if the creation is “good”, how do we explain all of the points that Hitchens brought up about a faulty universe. When God pronounced the creation good, this was before the fall. Here are some accounts:

Genesis 3:17-18 gives an account of the curse of sin upon the world, “To Adam He said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.'” (NIV)

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:20-22, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

These accounts provide a worldview that fits with our world. God created the world very good- systems, planets, stars, animals, human beings, etc BUT because of sin, the world has fallen. The world has become imperfect. There are elements to the creation that seem random or useless. The theology of the fall affects not just humanity’s morality but all of creation.

The intelligent design movement will falter if they try and explain the universe strictly by science.  There will not be a holistic conclusion. Science is valuable, yes and so is theology in helping us arrive back around to a stated worldview.

Hitchens has an interesting comment and an interesting quote in regards to this topic of design. “There is an intriguing paradox here: evolution does not have eyes but it can create them. The brilliant Professor Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the double helix, had a colleague named Leslie Orgel who encapsulated this paradox more elegantly than I can. ‘Evolution,’ he said, ‘is smarter than you are.'” (pg. 82)

So goes the paradox. An atheist giving characteristics to the process of evolution that make this naturalistic method almost seem like the process has a personality. It must be hard to believe that the world, indeed the universe entire is the result of random, chance processes that seemingly came from nothing. If atheistic naturalism were true, it would not have a personality and could not even comprehend eyes or no eyes. It would just be.

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About dangeroushope

Striving to follow Christ, love people and learn more about the world.
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