Science that Backs Up Faith
There is overwhelming evidence for a creator, says Lee Strobel.
Interview by Rob Moll | posted 06/01/2005 10:45 a.m.
Lee Strobel, the former investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune turned apologist, recently won a CT book award for his latest work, The Case for a Creator . Similar to his other books, Strobel interviews several academics and scientists in order to investigate the evidence for a creative intelligence. CT online assistant editor Rob Moll spoke with Strobel.
You dive into some deep philosophical and scientific waters as you make this case for a creator. How did you make the book accessible without dumbing it down?
That was the major challenge of the book. I wanted it to be a resource that both seekers and Christians could use to see how evidence discovered over the last 50 years points toward the existence of a Creator.
I would read probably 10 books before I'd write a chapter. I tried to select scholars who were credentialed and yet able to speak in accessible terms. Then I just had to sit down and force them to communicate at a level that I could understand.
Many intellectuals say that Intelligent Design isn't science, because you start with the presupposition that God or something created the universe.
That's not true. It follows the evidence wherever it leads. Do you rule out at the outset the possibilities of a creator, and then only look at evidence that tries to create a naturalistic explanation for the data? Or, are you open to the possibility of an intelligent designer?
I think of Anthony Flew, probably the world's greatest philosophical atheist, who recently turned away from atheism and said he now believes in a creator. He said, "I had to follow the evidence."
I think if you do look at cosmology and physics and biochemistry and genetics and consciousness and astronomy, the arrows point in a direction and I think that direction is toward an intelligent designer.
Give me an example of an area of science or philosophy that points that direction.
To me, cosmology and physics are two of the most powerful areas that point toward a creator. The evidence over the last 50 years that points toward the beginning of a universe allows an old Muslim argument to kick into gear, which says that whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause.
We have scientific data that indicates the universe did have a beginning, and so that argument takes on new meaning. Couple that with the fine-tuning of the universe, the dozens of parameters of physics that are so tuned to allow life to exist. Just those two areas of science point powerfully toward the existence of a creator who's beyond time and space, who's immaterial, who's powerful, who's smart.
You talked to a lot of scientists, many of them atheists, who studied the facts and came to conclusions other than the standard evolutionary explanation for life.
Exactly right. If astronomy and physics and biochemistry suggest an Intelligent Designer, should we not have the freedom to consider that as a possibility? Linus Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize twice, said science ought to be the search for truth. Let's not limit our search to only a naturalistic explanation. Let's leave open the possibility that we may not know everything about the universe. There may be a dimension that we don't quite comprehend. If the evidence points in that direction, let's pursue it.
It didn't seem hard to find top quality scientists and researchers who came to that conclusion.
Absolutely. My problem was trying to pare it down to who I thought would be someone who would be able to articulate the evidence powerfully and persuasively and in a way that everybody could get. There's more than 300 scientists with doctorates from major universities who've now signed this statement saying that they are skeptical of the claims of neo-Darwinism.
I quote somebody in the book as saying that one of the fastest growing phenomenon is scientists who are doubtful of the claims of Darwinism.
You write about being taught as a student evidence for evolution that actually wasn't true. Can you talk about some of those myths that are often taught?
I walked away from my education in science convinced of the truth of Darwinism based on different facts than I had been taught at the time. I learned everything ranging from the famous origin-of-life experiment back in the 1950s that supposedly recreated the atmosphere of the early Earth and shot electricity through it to create amino acids; to the side-by-side comparisons of the different fetuses that Ernst Haeckel drew back in the 1800s, which everybody now knows are frauds; and Darwin's tree of life, which is this idea that there's a common ancestor and that neo-Darwinism can account for all of the flowering branches of different species of animals through time.
When I look at all of that and begin to examine each one of those case by case, and critically analyze whether or not neo-Darwinism really does explain this stuff, I walk away with great skepticism.
If you define evolution as change over time, everybody agrees there's been evolution. The question is, what about the grandest claims of neo-Darwinism, that a common ancestor and natural selection acting on random variation over eons of time can account for all this diversity of life? Those grandest claims don't withstand scrutiny.
We look at the Cambrian explosion, the sudden appearance of virtually all of the phyla of the animal kingdom with no predecessors. That flies in the face of neo-Darwinism.
You start your book with a scene with you as a young reporter. You're sent to West Virginia, where a bunch of religious townspeople are protesting the teaching of evolution in their textbooks. I was wondering if you thought that some of the things going on in public schools today would be similar to that.
If you look at public opinion polls, the public at large is generally skeptical about Darwinism. It just doesn't ring true to a lot of people. There's an underlying widespread skepticism that neo-Darwinism could explain the diversity of life.
I take a different approach to that than some people do. I want more evolution to be taught, not less. What I mean by that is, right now, students are only getting one side of the coin. They're only getting a cursory overview of what neo-Darwinism is and being told some facts that some people believe support it. I want them to hear more about it. I want them to hear the evidence that challenges neo-Darwinism. I want students to be able to critically think about whether or not this makes sense. I want them to be free to follow the evidence wherever it points. That, to me, is academic freedom, that they should be able to pursue the evidence.
I'm not saying that Intelligent Design ought to be taught in public schools. I am saying that kids ought to be open to possibilities and pursue the evidence wherever it points, including in that direction.
When journalists cover the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools, they do a quick summary of Intelligent Design by saying it's the idea that life is so complex it must have had some sort of designer. Does that do justice to the theory?
It really doesn't, because mere complexity is not the issue. There are complex things that don't point toward Intelligent Design, things like salt crystals. What that leaves out is the cosmological evidence for a beginning of the universe that begs the existence of a creator. It leaves out the fine-tuning of the universe, which looks at the way in which the universe is finely tuned to allow for life. It leaves out the biological information segment. It isn't just that life is complex; it is that life has information. It's not just raw complexity. It's a message that we find in biological information such as DNA.
If you walk down the beach and you see ripples in the sand, it's logical to say that's a complex arrangement of the sand that the waves produced. But if you walk down the beach and you see "John Loves Mary" and a big heart around it and an arrow through it, you wouldn't think the waves produced it. It's information with content. The biological information of a living organism is biological information. Nature can't produce that. It takes intelligence to produce information. Whenever we see a novel or a cave painting or data on a computer, we know there's an intelligence behind it. When we look at the four-letter chemical alphabet of DNA and how it spells out the precise assembly instructions for every protein out of which our body is built, to me that points in the direction of an intelligence behind it. It isn't just complexity.
How can Intelligent Design get past the creationist label?
It's always the Darwinists who bring that up. I've done this on my TV show, Faith Under Fire, where we'll have a debate between someone who is convinced of Intelligent Design versus a Darwinist. The Intelligent Design person brings up scientific data and arguments based on scientific evidence to support his or her beliefs. And then it goes to the other side, and that person is immediately accused of injecting faith and injecting religion and trying to be a subterfuge to teach the Bible in schools.
Well, time out here, who's bringing up religion? I didn't hear the Intelligent Design advocate bring up religion. It's being brought up by the other side. It's an ad hominem argument that Darwinists use to throw sand in people's eyes to suggest that this is just biblical creationism in another disguise. What I'd like to see is the debate centered on the evidence and the data. Why are people so afraid of evidence that happens to point toward an affirmation of what the vast majority of people on the Earth believe in the first place?