We’ve been working through Denis O. Lamoureux’s book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution – a book that describes a way to move beyond the creation and evolutions debates. In the posts Tuesday we discussed the question of divine action in creation. Today we will look at another topic from the third chapter of the book, The Creator in a Designed and Evolving Universe. After his discussion of divine action Dr. Lamoureux covers the question of intelligent design in creation. This topic is sure to incite some difference in opinion and perspective – it should be exciting. (He also has a good discussion of the anthropic principle – but this we’ve discussed in the past, and Dr. Lamoureux offers no significantly different perspective, so I am not going to revisit it in the context of this book.)
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world
Five features of natural revelation are identified in this passage. It is active, intelligible, incessant, universal, and divine. The creation is active as it tells and declares, the message is intelligible as it reveals knowledge, the declaration is incessant day to day and night to night, it is universally available through all the earth to the end of the world, and it is divine or transcendent being written in the heavens and expanse.
Romans 1:18-23 affirms these five features and adds a sixth – the natural revelation in creation judges. Here we see not only the nature of general revelation in creation, but the consequence of this revelation. Natural revelation is not merely awe at the majesty and intricacy of the world, but is written into our being as moral understanding.
What do conclusions do you draw from these passages.
What are the features of design in the world around us?
Dr. Lamoureux takes his discussion of design in creation one step further with a position that he admits is somewhat controversial. Intelligent design in creation is conclusive to the point of legal, but not mathematical, certainty – it is not proven, yet it is beyond a reasonable doubt. When the intelligent design embedded in creation is not seen for what it is, pointing to God, the reason is is not the insufficiency of natural revelation, but the impact of sin on human thinking. Spiritual state shapes the receptiveness to design.
In refusing to acknowledge God, religious skeptics need to concoct reasons to explain away the powerful impact of intelligent design in order to maintain their own psychological stability and comfort. However, the Bible affirms the sufficiency of nonverbal revelation in nature, and the proficiency of the human mind to understand it fully, if used judiciously. I contend that a fair and honest assessment of the character of the physical world leads to the truth that design is real and that it reflects the general characteristics of an Intelligent Designer. (p. 75)
Dr. Lamoureux is not looking for gaps in the current or potential explanatory power of evolutionary biology. In fact he suggests that looking to undermine evolution in order to prove design misunderstands the nature of the design. The concept of design is not defended by opposing evolution but by looking, with eyes that can see, at all of the world around us. There is a balance between artistic character and engineered character that points to design and Designer; beauty, harmony, and utility all play a role.To flesh this out a bit Dr. Lamoureux makes the following points about a biblically based view of design in creation (p. 78-79):
The artistic and engineered features in nature are not proof for intelligent design. In fact the search for proof “overlooks the fact that there is an intellectual-spiritual jump from the physical evidence to its metaphysical assessment.”
The world is not merely suggestive of or consistent with design and a designer. To water down the claim to this level is inconsistent with scripture – especially Psalm 19 and Romans 1. “Moreover, these epistemological positions fail to recognize human experience throughout history. Every generation has been powerfully impacted by nature, and almost everyone has accepted that it affirms the existence of an Intelligent Designer.”
Romans 1 states that all are without excuse. “Thus natural revelation is within the intellectual grasp of humans in such a way that we are all accountable for its identification and implication.”
These three points lead to an important conclusion …”intelligent design in nature is knowable by all men and women to the certainty level of an argument. This knowledge is neither absolutely certain nor merely arbitrary. Rather, everyone is responsible for dealing with design and its consequences.” There is a metaphysical jump from evidence to the meaning, to religious assessment, but the leap is based on reason and logic. We have the ability to assess the artistic and engineered aspects of creation, but this ability is impeded by the impact of sin on human reason. Here Dr. Lamoureux points in particular to the first and second commandments – “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol.” Anyone or anything placed worshiped before God will cloud the ability to recognize purpose and design in the world.
In sum, evolutionary creation presents an ontologically balanced model of intelligent design that is epistemologically rooted in human accountability before God. It affirms both the sufficiency of natural revelation and the proficiency of men and women to understand the non-verbal Message written into nature. This approach to design is consistent with Christian tradition and is based firmly upon the Bible. Evolutionary creationists view modern science as a gift from God and contend that as scientists probe deeper into the physical world, greater and more magnificent revelations of the Creator’s glory, power, and divinity will emerge. This origins position asserts that the evolutionary sciences are also a divine blessing. Evolutionary creation predicts that as these disciplines advance, discoveries will reveal a design-reflecting world that features unimaginably more planning and splendor than previously believed in earlier generations. (p. 81)
There are some interesting thoughts here, well worth considering, so lets start a conversation.
What do you think of this view of intelligent design in creation? Does it go far enough? Too far?
Does sin color human ability to recognize God’s artistic and engineered design in the world around us?
It you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.
For those who find the full book (400+ pages) somewhat daunting Dr. Lamoureux has condensed the book into a more accessible version, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution. He also provides audio and slide summaries of each chapter of Evolutionary Creation online.
Picture Credit: Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen (Arizona State University), and NASA (public domain). Star-Birth Clouds in M16: This eerie, dark structure is a column of cool molecular hydrogen gas and dust that is an incubator for new stars. The color image is constructed from three separate images taken in the light of emission from different types of atoms. Red shows emission from singly-ionized sulfur atoms. Green shows emission from hydrogen. Blue shows light emitted by doubly- ionized oxygen atoms.