Distinctions, Part 2: “God as a Scientific Theory?”
Today we debut the second video in our “Distinctions” series, a collection of short videos that look to clarify some of the important scientific questions at the heart of the science and faith dialogue. Today’s video looks at the idea of genetic information, and whether it can offer us “proof” of an intelligent designer.
Over the past two decades, the intelligent design movement has been working diligently to offer a parallel version of modern science, one that can scientifically show God at work in creation. In a way, it is similar to Christian music and Christian art, creating an evangelical version of science. But is their goal an admirable one?
So far, the efforts of the Intelligent Design movement have not been well received by the general scientific community. In this video, biologist Sean Carroll, currently Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin, focuses on one of the reasons for this rejection: the misdirected emphasis of the ID movement. Says Carroll:
To put it sort of in the simplest terms, it’s not the genes you have; it’s how you use them. And so these genes, which are involved in building bodies, you can sort of think of them like a carpenter’s toolkit. That while everyone may have a hammer and a nailgun and a whole set of wrenches… how you use them over time determines what structure you build, whether you build a hope chest or a whole house. So the genetic switches determine the use of those tools. And it’s the genetic switches that are evolving that are giving us the great diversity of, for example, the animal kingdom.
However not all objections to Intelligent Design are scientific. There are also philosophical obstacles. As Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes:
I think if you strive too hard for scientific proofs of God, you’re in danger of accidentally endorsing the scientistic position, of elevating science to be the supreme arbiter of what is intellectually convincing, because you are essentially giving them the deciding control over what is and is not to be believed.
He continues by saying, “I think ultimately you can’t know God in an abstract way. You have to get to know him.”
As believers, we might prefer Christian music or art, but that does not mean there needs to be an alternative set of scientific Christian facts. We agree with the Intelligent Design movement that there is a Mind who has created, established, and sustains the universe, despite the inability of the ID movement to “catch God” under a microscope or in a laboratory. God is at work in his creation, and science is not a challenge to that sovereignty.
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.