Why Are Many Unconvinced?
MANY people observe the design in nature and yet do not believe in the existence of a Designer, a Creator. Why not?
Is this lack of belief due to someone’s having disproved the argument that design requires a Designer? Is there evidence so contrary to this that the design in nature no longer convinces the informed, reasoning mind?
Or does the argument still stand, stronger than ever? Is it, instead, what the apostle Paul said, that persons who refuse to accept what is obvious are “inexcusable”?
Design in History
A brief look back into history on this matter can be helpful. To begin with, there have been many atheists down through the years. But up until about a century ago they were not able to influence religious and scientific thought seriously.
Great scientists of the past, such as Isaac Newton (called by science writer Isaac Asimov “the greatest scientific mind the world has ever seen”), believed in God. They did not consider disbelief a necessary credential of their scientific ability.
To the contrary, Newton and many other scientists, as well as great thinkers in other fields, pointed to the design in nature as proof of the existence of the Master Designer, God. That was the prevailing idea for centuries.
The Violence in Nature
Then something happened to the concept that the universe is the work of a loving Designer.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, writers such as Darwin, Malthus and Spencer were calling attention to the violence in nature. Was it not true, they said, that the big animal was eating the little animal? Was it not true that on the jungle floor each day and night there was a pitched battle for survival?
Certainly it was a fact that animals preyed on one another. Hence, this line of reasoning continued: Was not this savage battle for survival the real truth about life on earth? Why, even in the realm of mankind, were not animalistic wars, selfish struggle and ‘the law of the jungle’ the real forces that shaped history? There was not the harmony and peace manifest in nature that one would expect of a loving Grand Designer.
George Romanes, a friend of Darwin’s, described nature this way: “We find teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers moulded for torment—everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in deaths of cruel torture.”
Darwin’s theory of purposeless struggle and survival of the fittest—not design by God—was swept into popular acceptance. And from this a new historical concept was born: Social Darwinism.
Notice how H. G. Wells evaluated the situation in his Outline of History: “There was a real loss of faith after 1859 [the year Darwin’s Origin of Species was published]. . . . Prevalent peoples at the close of the nineteenth century believed that they prevailed by virtue of the Struggle for Existence, in which the strong and cunning get the better of the weak and confiding . . . And just as in a pack it is necessary to bully and subdue the younger and weaker for the general good, so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.”
Many were quick to accept this line of thought. One reason why was the deserved antagonism that they already felt toward many churches for suppressing scientific inquiry. Worse yet, they could see that the prominent religions fomented and justified wars and bloodshed. Hence, Wells accurately commented: “The true gold of religion was in many cases thrown away with the worn-out purse that had contained it for so long.”
‘God Is Responsible’
As to the argument that design proves a Designer, it was then reasoned: ‘If you say that those talons, hooks and teeth, the reign of terror, hunger and sickness were designed by God, then you must accept that this God of yours is responsible for suffering and violence. Yet you say he is love. Which is it?’
Such persons thus concluded: ‘You see, the only plausible explanation is struggle, survival of the fittest, blind, unguided evolution.’
Thus the design-equals-a-Designer argument was supposedly laid in its grave. To use that argument was to bring charges of cruelty against God. And, pitifully, in their usual fashion, the religious leaders of both Christendom and heathendom gave no real answer to this problem.
Since that time the pattern has remained much the same. When the question of a Designer comes up, often the violence-in-nature dilemma is invoked. For example, philosopher Bertrand Russell said in his book Why I Am Not A Christian:
“When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists?”
Let us analyze more deeply this line of thinking, since it is often used against the idea of the design in nature requiring a Designer.
[Pictures on page 5]
How does the “law of the jungle” among humans and animals fit in with a loving Designer?