The Case for a Creator: Another Non-Authority

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of Case is about the cosmological fine-tuning argument, but before I get to that, I want to say a few words about Strobel’s next choice of interview subject.

The interviewee in chapter 6 is Robin Collins, another prominent ID advocate. Granted, the areas of Collins’ interest lie mainly in physics and cosmology. But Collins himself is not a physicist, nor a cosmologist, nor even a practicing scientist. His undergraduate major was physics; he began a physics Ph.D program which he did not complete, and ended up getting a Ph.D in philosophy instead. He’s now an associate professor of philosophy at a private Christian university, Messiah College.

Of course, Strobel describes Collins’ background in the most glowing terms possible:

He went on to earn degrees in physics and mathematics at Washington State University (with a grade point average a scant 0.07 points shy of perfection)… Collins delved deeply into the subject and soon found a perfect wedding between his expertise in physics and philosophy… his training in physics equip[ped] him to understand the often-complex mathematical equations in the field… Collins has written about the topic for numerous books, including God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science; The Rationality of Theism; God Matters;… and Reason for the Hope Within. [p.128-129]

My intent isn’t to cast aspersions on Collins’ academic background, nor am I claiming he doesn’t have the ability to speak knowledgeably about cosmology. What I’m doing is pointing out the increasingly wide gap between Strobel’s claimed intentions and the reality of whom he’s interviewing for this book. Remember what he said in chapter 2:

My approach would be to cross-examine authorities in various scientific disciplines about the most current findings in their fields. [p.28]

If the term “authorities” means anything in this context, it must refer to practicing, qualified scientists with a preeminent degree of achievement and expertise recognized as such by other workers in their field. No other definition makes sense. But even by an extremely generous accounting, Strobel is nowhere close to meeting that standard. So far, he’s interviewed:

• Jonathan Wells – holder of a legitimate degree in biology, but spends far more time doing PR for the intelligent-design movement than actual science. Even the Discovery Institute‘s C.V. page lists only one peer-reviewed publication by Wells in the past eighteen years, in an obscure Italian journal called Rivista Biologica (but plenty of press releases and editorials in non-peer-reviewed popular press outlets).

• Stephen Meyer – worked as a geophysicist for a time, holder of a degree in the history and philosophy of science. As far as I know, has written only one scientific paper ever, which was a literature review presenting no new data, and which was only published because an ID-sympathetic editor sidestepped the journal’s normal process of peer review.

• William Lane Craig – professional Christian apologist and theologian. Not a scientist.

• Robin Collins – professional Christian philosopher and theologian. Not a scientist.

I’m not saying that Lee Strobel can’t talk to these people. For a Christian apologetics book, they’d be perfectly understandable choices. But this book isn’t presented as an ordinary, run-of-the-mill apologist tract listing philosophical arguments for Christianity made by theologians. It’s presented as a book about science, one that shows how scientists are making discoveries that support the existence of God. Consider these quotes from the dust jacket:

“Could it be that the world looks designed because it really is designed? Increasing numbers of scientists are coming to that conclusion.”

“…Strobel shares what more and more scientists are saying about the complex, manifestly purposeful order that pervades nature.”

The Case for a Creator shows how science itself is steadily nailing the lid on atheism’s coffin…”

And then there’s the subtitle of the book itself: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God. The vast gulf between this lofty, triumphalist rhetoric and the reality of Strobel’s interview subjects – a motley collection of Christian philosophers, spin doctors, and professional apologists, with no scientific output to speak of – is something that ought to be hammered home at every opportunity.

In the introduction to this chapter, Strobel tries to dazzle us by listing all the scientific luminaries who allegedly find the fine-tuning argument persuasive – Paul Davies, Fred Hoyle, Owen Gingerich, and more, not to mention Allan Sandage from a previous chapter. But this begs the question, why isn’t he interviewing any of these people? Why isn’t he interviewing prestigious scientists working on the cutting edge of their fields, people who’d be happy to explain how their peer-reviewed research gives dramatic support to intelligent design?

In fact, the reality is the opposite: the more outspoken an advocate for ID is, the less they publish and the less real science they do. Strobel does his best to inflate his subjects’ credentials, but to someone who’s not impressed by Templeton fellowships and Washington Times editorials and wants to see actual scientific research and accomplishment, not only are these people far from being “authorities”, their résumés are paper-thin. Real scientists don’t spend all their time writing press releases; real scientists spend their time doing science – running the experiments, writing papers, publishing in peer-reviewed journals. None of the most prominent ID advocates seem to have any interest in those activities.

Other posts in this series:

Repost: The Age of Wonder
Anti-Vaccination Fever Rages On
Weekend Coffee: December 7
Prayer Can't Fight Ebola
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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