I owe you all an apology. (No, it’s not for my long absence — I’ve been spending pretty much all my spare time with my son, and I have no regrets! 😀 )
I just finished reading this book about a week ago, and I highly recommend it. However, it knocked me squarely on my butt and showed me an area about which I have been wrong for so long. And I would like to apologize.
First off, though, the book itself: It is excellent. However, my reasons for thinking so do not include my belief that the book contains an airtight argument in favor of Christianity. (Hint: I don’t believe any such arguments exist, or ever could.) One need not go beyond the title of the book to realize its context: This is primarily a refutation, especially against Dawkins and his ilk who make metaphysical assertions and present them as though they were scientific fact. We are not, as a world, in a war between science and religion — we are in a war between two conflicting worldviews (naturalism/materialism and theism) that affect how people interpret the findings of science. Lennox does an excellent job, in my opinion, re-framing the issue and putting things back where they belong: facts to science, and metaphysics to philosophy.
I make this clear from the start because of this: In preparing my link to Amazon above, I took the liberty of reading all the reviews of the book that were rated 3 stars and under (there were relatively few, about 4%) to see what those who didn’t like the book had to say about it. What I found in most of these comments was the objection that Lennox failed to make an airtight case for theism, and that deism is as far as he went. I would largely agree, but with the caveat stated above that this was clearly not Lennox’ main purpose. I’ve ranted before against those who give something a poor review based on a misunderstanding of its purpose or function.
The reason why I say the book “knocked me on my butt” was because of the elucidation Lennox brings to the oft obfuscated topic of evolution — and it is this topic that brings my need to apologize to my attention. See, I admit that biology is a subject that falls way outside the purview of my expertise, and so I have generally kept myself out of the ring when it comes to questioning the tenets of modern Darwanism (though I have spoken out before against abiogenesis, feeling more at liberty to do so in light of the profound lack of evidence supporting the possibility of life arising by natural, chemical processes). Evolution, on the other hand — the idea that all the vast complexity within the sphere of life on our planet can conceivably be explained by myriad mutations over billions of years — was, as presented to me, something simply not to be questioned for the vast evidences to support it. Any time I even dipped my toe into the waters of skepticism regarding whether ideas like common ancestry and the power of natural selection and mutation to add new information to a genome had the evidential legs to stand up under the weight of our ever-increasing knowledge of life’s vast complexity and variety — any time I said anything that seemed to cast even the corner of a shadow of doubt upon this edifice of modern biology, I found myself the subject of such vehement and immediate ridicule and slander (or libel, I suppose, since most of such attacks came from online discussions) that I effectively found myself bullied out of developing my doubts any further and just gave that ground to the naturalists. (Such general lack of questioning against new-Darwinism, incidentally, is one of the topics Lennox tackles in this book.) It was good enough, in my mind, to demonstrate the lack of evidence provided to support a naturalistic explanation for the existence of the mutating replicator upon which evolution so strongly depends.
So, it is for this intellectual laziness , this apathetic turning of the other cheek (evidentially speaking) when it came to the claims of neo-Darwinism, that I would like to apologize. Surely, I thought, such statements of confidence in the ability of mutation and natural selection to account for the variety in our world’s ecology would not be so boldly and authoritatively touted unless the evidence supporting evolution’s ability to account for everything placed at its doorstep was airtight, beyond question, immaculate; surely such conviction would not be espoused — by professed skeptics, no less — for any explanatory model whose every step was not thoroughly well-documented and accounted for by the evidence, that included any room at all for conjecture or alternative interpretation. As it turns out, my faith in the intelligentsia may not have been entirely well-founded.
So, please, world, forgive me for allowing Darwin’s bullies to intimidate me out of questioning the status quo (which should be a major part of all science), for taking everyone’s word for it, for assuming that the emperor’s clothes are fantastically made without bothering to look for myself; forgive me for my longstanding appeal to authority and for taking the outspoken naturalists and materialists at their word. Because, as it seems, the jury may still be out on the ability of mutation and natural selection to support all that it is supposed to.
I especially appreciated Lennox’ analysis (as a mathematician, no less) of the capabilities needed from mutation and natural selection juxtaposed against the actual evidence of their capacity; the gap, as Lennox presents is, seems mind-boggling to the point of absurdity. In other words, it has always seemed somewhat conceivable that the highly improbable nature of life’s complexity might reasonably be mitigated by assuming vast amounts of time (cue the typing monkeys) — however, based on actual evidence, there’s a twofold problem with this explanatory model: 1) natural selection and mutation seem more likely, over time, to reduce information than to add to it, and 2) even disregarding the characteristically destructive nature of natural selection when it comes to information in the genome, the amount of time required to reach some level of reasonableness in light of observed complexity in biology exceeds the most generous estimations of the age of our universe (not to mention our planet) by several, several, several trillions of orders of magnitude.
I already had some suspicion that the scientific community in the West (especially regarding biology and Darwin) might have become somewhat of a “good ol’ boys” club –based on exposés like Ben Stein’s “Expelled” and Jerry Bergman’s “Slaughter of the Dissidents” — but, again, based on the firm assurance of those like Dawkins who so unwaveringly praise the evidential basis of the neo-Darwinian programme, I never dreamed that the evidence might actually be so contrarily against it. Maybe the bravado of the established Darwinian scientific community is really an over-compensation for an insufficiency of evidence (and, perhaps even more significantly, a fear of what an admittance of this lack would imply with regard to the comparative merits of alternative theories).
So… I’m still no expert in biology (and realize that Lennox is not one either), but reading “God’s Undertaker” has, at least, made me less accommodating of Darwinian claims in lieu of actual evidence, less apt to take the establishment’s word for it, less willing to cede biology to the naturalists without a fight. Science, after all, should welcome (so I’ve been told) dissenters, those who question the status quo — the fact that Darwin’s doctrine seems to be a glaring exception in the scientific community makes me all the more suspicious that the emperor may not be wearing any clothes after all.