Gray matters

Paul Arveson (
Fri, 31 Jan 97 14:19:42 EST

Terry Gray quotes Hodge quoting Asa Gray who quotes from another writer the
sentence, "It is a singular fact, that when we can find how anything is done,
our first conclusion seems to be that God did not do it."

(This reminds me of the old story about the drowning man who came up and
cried, "Lord, save me!" He went down and came up, crying "Save me!"
A third time he came up, and a log floated along which he clung to, saying
"Never mind, Lord. I found a way.")

Dr. Gray goes further. He says, The proposition that the things and
events in nature were not designed to be so, if logically carried out,
is doubtless tantamount to atheism." Again, "To us, a fortuitous Cosmos
is simply inconceivable. The alternative is a designed Cosmos.... If
Mr. Darwin believes that the events which he supposes to have occurred
and the results we behold around us were undirected and undesigned; or
if the physicist believes that the natural forces to which he refers
phenomena are uncaused and undirected, no argument is needed to show
that such belief is atheistic."

We have thus arrived at the answer to our question, What is Darwinism?
It is Atheism. This does not mean, as before said that Mr Darwin
himself and all who adopt his views are atheists; but it means that his
theory is atheistic, that the exclusion of <bold>design from nature
</bold>is, as Dr. Gray says, tantamount to atheism.


There is no question that the concepts of teleology and purpose are
consistent with the Biblical concept of God as sovereign, good, and in control
of His creation. If 'design' is taken purely in this sense, then
I think all of us would agree that absence of design is tantamount
to atheism.

However, usually I find the concept of design loaded with additional
baggage, such as mechanisms, favorable outcomes, intelligence, etc.
which are not accepted by all theists and not taught in Scripture either.
God is not an engineer.

We as theists are all believers in design, we just see design in different
places in natural history. Some see design in natural structures,
which places them at odds with non-teleological evolution theory and some
interpretations of quantum mechanics. Some see biological changes as a
messy way for God to fiddle with creation, and place design further back,
at the setting of physical constants, for instance. Or, with less of a
concordist viewpoint, the overall work of providence in general, as is
taught in the Psalms.

We should each clarify what we mean by design, but we are really all on the same
side. A universe without design on any level would be formless, which is
clearly counter to the evidence. The real debate thus seems to reduce to one of
parsimony; i.e. how many miracles need to be assumed? At what level or in what
way is God's wisdom and sovereignty expressed in nature?

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
9500 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-4511 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)