signs of ignorance?
Wed, 21 Apr 1999 11:54:06 -0400

Jon Warren wrote, regarding signs of God in nature:

"Could this not also operate in reverse? If we have systems that
seem not to be thought out very well, does that argue against their
having been designed by an intelligent agent, whether directly or
indirectly? I give the example of the sex life of the female spotted
hyena - refer to the following link for details;


If this system does not have the hallmarks of intelligent design, but
instead seems to have arisen by chance, does this constitute a "negative

That's a good counterexample for the traditional argument from design,
which in a biological context implies that all creatures great and small
are perfectly fitted for their environments by the Creator. It's also a
counterexample for evolution, which implies that all organisms are
well-adapted to their environments by natural selection.

Since the facts appear to indicate otherwise in this case, there is only
one possible conclusion: these assumptions about creation and evolution
are too simplistic. A more sophisticated definition of both of these
theories is

On this net, Van Till has continually asked for a better working definition
of 'design', and this is another example of why this is needed -- if the
word is appropriate at all.

Creationists have a very simple explanation for the imperfections of nature:
we live in a fallen world. All the wonders and beauties of nature are
attributable to the Creator; all the imperfections, pain and suffering are
attributable to the Fall. This is very neat and simple, but unfortunately
it is non-falsifiable, and we have no realistic conception of a pre-fallen

On the other hand, Dawkins must be able to argue that the selfish genes
always win, despite the appearance of excessive suffering and death of
the phenotypes. But other biologists question this approach, and not
for religious reasons -- they say that often 'cultural' factors dominate
over natural
selection in determining what genes survive. Hence the 'birds of paradise'
who seem more influenced by colorful plumage than food, etc. 'Selfishness'
may exist at many levels: the gene, the cell, the organism, the clan ....

The upshot is that BOTH creation and evolution are reductionistic programs
that do not do justice to all the observations. Both views need a lot of
clarification and refinement. In particular, I believe that the appearance
natural evil and imperfection is real, and in some cases makes no sense
whether one is a creationist or an evolutionist. The world is a lot more
than we thought -- and this observation is intended neither to disparage the

Creator nor to exalt chance. It is to underscore our ignorance. When the
make no sense, that implies that we don't have a good theoretical
of biological reality.

Of course, such ignorance is to be expected whether due to the 'noetic
effects of sin'
or to the inherited selfishness in our ancestry.