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Part II: Scientific Determinism & Divine Intervention Chapter 3
Some Tentative Conclusions
WE SEE THAT there is much evidence of mechanism in nature. The fact is undeniable. The processes of life itself as well as much of the behaviour of living things are largely determined by laws which are not different from those that govern reactions in the realm of physics and chemistry and electricity. It seems that Lavoisier was close to the truth in saying that all life is ultimately chemistry and subject to the same rigid determinisms of chemistry.
The current climate of opinion among biologists is exemplified in a volume by Dean H. Kenyon and Gary Steinman with the interesting title Biochemical Predestination. The authors explain their title by saying, with respect to the origin of life, that the coming together of the molecules which lead to the development of the living cell is predetermined by the physico-chemical properties possessed by the "simplest starting compounds" from which these living systems evolved. In other words, "the ultimate characteristics of the living cell can be traced back to the nature of the starting compounds from which it was produced. Therefore we should not look upon the appearance and development of the living cell as an improbable phenomenon but rather as one which followed a definite course governed and promoted by the properties of the simplest compounds through which the process began." (64) It was all predestined, by which they mean that once the basic component atoms had come into being and had formed themselves into simple compounds, the appearance of life was automatic
.64. Kenyon, Dean R., and Steinman, Gary, Biochemical Predestination, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1969, p.265, 266. pg 1 of 17
Now the essential truth of this end-result may be admittedreadily enough provided we allow that God designed and created the elements out of which the compounds "formed themselves" according to laws of combination for which God had designed them to begin with. Thus we too can re-create in the laboratory the same kinds of compounds by producing the appropriate environmental conditions. But at this point we run into a serious oversimplification of the matter.
Prof. Hans Gaffron of the University of Chicago presented one of the opening papers in the 1955 Darwin Centennial celebration conference held in that city. His subject was "The Origin of Life." This conference called together some of the world's leading authorities in a number of fields with a vested interest in Darwinism in its broader aspects, including Harlow Shapley of Harvard, Sir Charles Galton Darwin (grandson of Charles), Sir Julian Huxley, Bernard Rensch (of Munster), and a number of others. The discussions were reported in full.
In the discussion of Gaffron's paper, it was natural that mention should be made of Miller's early experiment in which a number of amino acids essential to life had been artificially produced in a laboratory in a simulated early earth environment. There was an interesting exchange in this connection between Shapley and Gaffron which was reported as follows: (65)
Shapley: It is marvelous. I predicted not long ago ‹ a year ago ‹ that this Miller experiment is something the youth of our own high schools and secondary schools in general might do within a very few years. Two weeks ago at Dayton Ohio, I was told of a youth who actually carried it through. Now I don't think he has fully analyzed the organic material involved, but he carried out the Miller experiment in the high school laboratory. And this is going to become commonplace.
To which Gaffron replied at once: "Unfortunately!" And then he explained:
Because, contrary to notions which are becoming popular, it does not solve the problem of life. These substances are quite dead. From the point of view of a misleading oversimplification, it would have been even better if we had not found anything so easy to do, because then the difficulty of the true question would not have been obscured at the very beginning [my emphasis].
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- This was a most appropriate warning. Merely to assemble the components does not give us a living substance unless something else is added. The components themselves, even when all are present and ordered and arranged in the correct manner, do not constitute life. They constitute the housing but not the occupant,
- 65. Shapley, H. and H. Gaffron, in a panel discussion on "The Origin of Life" in Evolution After Darwin, edited by Sol Tax and Charles Callender, University of Chicago Press, Vol.III, 1960, p.78.
the framework but not the animation. A moment's thought makes this obvious: when a body has just died, for a few seconds at least, the organization remains even though animation has gone. It is a vast oversimplification to say that life is "nothing but" physics and chemistry.
In what is perhaps his most widely read book, Man on His Nature, Sir Charles Sherrington poses the question, Why, if life is potentially in the atoms themselves, does an organism even die? And he can reply only in the words of one of his confessed medical heroes, Jean Francois Fernal (1497-1558): "You omit the 'cause'; the cause is withdrawal of the 'principle of life' ". (66) Subsequently Sherrington agrees that perhaps it is better to accept the dualism implicit in this statement and leave it at that.
If the principle of continuity, so important to all evolutionary theory, is rigidly maintained, life must be resident not merely in the particles when placed in a certain relationship to one another, but also (in some very lowly form) in each of the particles individually before they come together. This principle of continuity is quite fundamental in evolutionary philosophy, as Arthur O. Lovejoy pointed out in his well known study, The Great Chain of Being. (67) There can be no discontinuities, no new factors introduced into the system which were not already latently present in the components The consequence of this logic has been openly admitted by a number of notable bioscientists in recent years. Even atoms themselves must to some diminutive degree, be considered alive.
Theodosius Dobzhansky, reviewing Jacques Monod's Chance and Necessity, referred to several biologists, including Bernard Rensch, who ascribe some rudimentary forms of life, sensation, and even volition to entities such as molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. He wrote: "This is vitalism made to stand on its head". (68) What else can one believe if one will not accept the fact that God is the creator and the sustainer of all life, and not merely the creator of the building blocks which form the housing for it.
We thus have more than one problem of origins here. The building blocks had to be fashioned appropriately to accommodate life, and the life principle then had to be introduced into the building We have here two separate occasions of "divine intervention" to reckon with. The attempt to make the principle of life inherent in
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- 66. Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p.76.
- 67. Lovejoy, Arthur O., The Great Chain of Being, Harper & Row, New York, 1936.
- 68. Dobzhansky, Theodosius, in Science, vol.175, 1972, 49. See also Bernard Rensch, Evolution Above the Species Level, Methuen, London, 1959.
the elements themselves is a maneuver which is intended to evade the problem of the origin of life; but it merely shifts it back one step and adds it to the problem of the origin of matter itself. And it becomes unreasonable, because much of that which has just died is still composed of the same elements as are essential to living systems, and clearly the living system can be reduced to non-living components.
We run into the same problem in considering consciousness. Whence did consciousness arise? Consciousness must be distinguished from irritability, which is a characteristic of all life: plants show "irritability" by their tropisms and even more remarkably by the muscular activity of the Venus flytrap, but this cannot be equated with consciousness. For plants do not have a central nervous system that would permit them to take avoiding action when hurt. It is clearly a mark of benevolence on the part of the Creator that plants do not suffer pain, for it would serve only to make their lives unbearable. Imagine trees feeling the cut of the axe, flowers the wrench of the gatherer, grass the trampling of many feet or the teeth of the sheep or cattle which tear at it. So the irritability of all living things is necessary for response (of root systems, etc.) and co-operation (for pollination, etc.) and indeed for survival: but consciousness could only be a useless and insufferable burden, for it necessarily includes the feeling of pain. This is why we use anesthetics before operating on people or animals, but not on plants ‹ as in pruning a tree.
Now, again, if the principle of continuity is to be preserved at all costs, we cannot ask, At what point was consciousness introduced? It must always have been there, latent in every atom, just as life must have been.
In a paper dealing with these issues, Cyril Ponnamperuma felt it necessary to make the following sweeping statement which he must know nevertheless is by no means as unanimously accepted as his words suggest: (69)
Today we are gradually learning to accept the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis that life is only a special and complicated property of matter and that au fond there is no difference between a living organism and lifeless matter.
This statement, which appeared in the prestigious British journal, Nature, brought an exchange of letters to the editor, one of which was from D. F. Lawden of New Zealand. Lawden wrote: (70)
69. Ponnamperuma, Cyril, "Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life" in Nature, 25 January, 1964, p.340. pg.4 of 17
70. Lawden, D. F., letter to the editor, Nature, 25 April, 1964, p.412.
If consciousness is a characteristic of this aggregate of matter, by the principle of continuity it must also be a feature of every aggregate and ultimately of the fundamental particles. If this were not the case, at some level in the hierarchy mentioned earlier, consciousness would arise discontinuously and it would be possible to draw a sharp dividing line separating conscious from unconscious forms of matter.
So we are again faced with another problem of "origins." When did consciousness arise? We are driven to conclude either that atoms and even subatomic particles are "conscious" and not merely responsive to one another, or that the introduction of consciousness at some later stage is a third "divine intervention." Both life and consciousness are found in all creatures capable of moving themselves even in the lowliest unicellular forms, as H. S. Jennings demonstrated so aptly. (71)
Sherrington struggled with this problem too. He wrote: (72)
We have, it may seem, to admit that energy and mind are phenomena of two categories. Mind as attaching to any unicellular life would seem to be unrecognizable to observation; but I would not feel that permits me to affirm it is not there [Sherrington was not aware of Jenning's work]. Indeed I would think that, since mind appears in the developing soma, this amounts to showing that it is potential in the ovum (and sperm) from which the soma sprang.
The appearance of recognizable mind in the soma would not be creation de novo but a development of mind from [the] unrecognizable into [the] recognizable.
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- In short, mind is present in all matter, only it is not recognizable as such until it reaches a certain level of complexity. Such are the lengths to which scientists must go in order to avoid the slightest admission of evolutionary discontinuity or divine intervention.
Seymour Kety, chief of the Laboratory of Clinical Science, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, in a paper entitled, "A Biologist Examines the Mind and Behaviour," supports the determination to reduce everything to chemistry and physics. He quotes with approval Claude Bernard, who had observed that "determinism in the conditions of vital phenomena should be one of the axioms of experimenting physicians...Determinism becomes the foundation of all scientific progress". (73) But then Kety comments
- 71. Jennings, H. S., Behaviour of the Lower Organisms, Columbia University Biological Series X, Columbia University Press, 1915.
- 72. Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p.251.
- 73. Kety, Seymour S., "A Biologist Examines the Mind and Behaviour" in Science, vol.132, 1960, p.1863.
frankly, "Although I share this faith, I cannot avoid pointing out that it is in fact faith rather than proof which forms the basis of this Olympian generalization." pg.6 of 17
Kety then proceeds to reduce "mind" to brain, and brain to electrochemical machinery. He points out that this machine operates with a power consumption of about twenty watts, and he observes that the difference between the fully conscious brain and the brain in a coma is a difference of power consumption amounting to about seven or eight watts! This seems to quantify consciousness; but he is fair enough to confess, "I am not at all sure that this proves the physical nature of consciousness".
So we seem to be driven increasingly to a recognition of at least in three places, in the scheme of things with which science considers itself uniquely competent to deal, at which God must be presumed to be actively involved, not merely at some time in the past (though this is true of the origin of matter) but continuously ever since. For life is His to grant or withhold, since "in Him we live." And consciousness rests in the animating spirit that He is free at will to introduce or take back to Himself since "in Him we live and move". And sometimes it is removed from those who once had it without at the same time removing the principle of life, thus demonstrating that the two can be considered as independent phenomena. And finally we perhaps have to add a fourth point of intervention with the appearance of self-conscious life, since "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). But having said all this, we have by no means exhausted the places where divine intervention has been observed throughout history.
The Bible shows that God did and still does intervene providentially in the course of events to overrule them according to His own good pleasure. At times miracle, as well as the providential overriding of human behaviour, is clearly to be seen. The raising of Lazarus was manifestly a case of miracle; the provision of the great fish which saved Jonah was clearly a case of Providence, where timing was crucial. The first defied the natural order, the second overruled the actions of both a man and an animal to bring them together at the right moment. Providence, as I see it, is the divine supervision of the freedoms which exist in the natural order without interfering with natural law. Miracle, by contrast, does interfere in the operation of natural law, sometimes to suspend it (the floating of Elisha's axe head in II Kings 1:7, for example), sometimes to accelerate it (the turning of water into wine in John 2:1-11, for example), and sometimes to reverse it (as in the case of Lazarus, John 11).
Some may feel that all our experience of God's intervention on our behalf is miraculous. Personally I don't think it is. It may be super-natural, but it is not un-natural; it is really only what we would expect, knowing our heavenly Father for what He is. Though we cannot predict what He will do in any particular circumstance, we ought not to be the least bit surprised when He does act. In my own experience I have often, in a time of need, prayed that the Lord would do such-and-such a thing to help me, and then made some quick calculations as to the likely people from whom the help will come . . . and my calculations have almost always been wrong! But afterward, when help has come, it has always seemed in retrospect to have come from the very best possible source. Thus, when we come to reflect upon the ways in which God intervenes in our lives in a redemptive way, we find that strict logic breaks down ‹ that past experience may give us confidence when we ask, but seldom supplies us with the kind of predictive insights that a few experiments in a laboratory can supply in the realm of natural law. We are clearly dealing with two separate areas in which God is operating ‹ the one being strictly cause-and-effect, which is so perfect and precise that we cannot actually see His operation at all, and the other in which the element of freedom makes all our standard methods of achieving understanding by the use of reason and logic quite inadequate. pg.7 of 17
In John's Gospel we find evidence that on more than one occasion the Lord deliberately healed people on the Sabbath day, much to the annoyance of the Jewish authorities. In one particular place (John 5:17), by way of partial explanation of this circumstance the Lord said, "My Father works hitherto and I work . . . ." The word hitherto is found in the original Greek as two words which together mean "up to the present moment," i.e., "until now." I think it means a little bit more than simply that the Father had been working now and then throughout history. I suggest that the Lord really intended, by His action (healing on the Sabbath day) and by His explanation, to say that from the moment Adam fell and the disruptive effect of sin was introduced into the natural order, God has been actively engaged continuously throughout history, constantly at work in a way which, if man had not fallen, He would not have needed to be. The cessation from work which followed immediately upon the completion of the six days of Genesis would have continued to this day. As a consequence, the pattern of six days of work followed by rest ‹ which was based upon God's original program and was appointed as a guide for human behaviour thereafter ‹ had broken down so that redemptive activity had to be carried on whether it was a working day or a rest day, whether it was a weekday or a Sabbath. It
seems to me very evident that the healing miracles of the Lord were often deliberately structured to show that the repair necessary to organisms which might otherwise have operated mechanistically and faultlessly was necessitated because of the disruptive effects of the Fall, of the presence of sin in life. Hence, the Lord could repair the damage equally well by saying either "Be healed" or "Your sins be forgiven you" (Mark 2:3-12). pg.8 of 17
I think that we must assume from the statements made in Genesis 3 that there was some need for Adam to be on guard, though in his unfallen nature he was living in a perfect natural order. Perhaps there was a potential disrupter in existence, Satan. As long as a man remained sinless, the natural order was safe, for Satan was existing as it were in a vacuum, sealed off by man's purity and virtue from effecting any evil design in the created order. But once man sinned, Satan was free to act again effectively within the material order through man ‹ a circumstance which may well be reflected in the desire of evil spirits for human embodiment, they being evidently largely impotent except through material agency. Satan tempted Eve through the serpent and the fruit. If Adam and Eve had not succumbed either then or later, and their descendants had likewise preserved their virtue, his power to do evil would surely have been rendered ineffectual; neither Satan nor man would have disrupted the natural order.
In that golden period of the world's history before man fell, God had so ordered nature and natural law that they needed no divine intervention. Yet they were capable of being acted upon usefully by man to draw out their potential for good, the good of himself and the rest of the creation. But once man introduced the element of sin into the world, not only did he disturb the natural order thereafter, but Satan also had acquired in man a mediating agent for the working out of his own hostile designs. The interaction of these two agencies of disruption has turned what might have been a global paradise into a vale of tears. When He shared this vale of tears with us, the Lord constantly acted to restore and correct and re-organize ‹ to repair what had been damaged. He did not replace the order; it could still go wrong again. Thus He warned the paralytic in John 5:14 not to repeat the cause of his paralysis, for it would leave him worse off than ever if he did. And Lazarus returned to the grave again in the end. One day there will be a replacement, a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).
Now, all this results from the fact that, since God had created a man endowed with a measure of freedom of action, the created order over which he was given command naturally had to allow for some degree of
freedom also, otherwise the one would have been inappropriate to the other. The building-in of some indeterminacy ‹ an indeterminacy which appears to exist even at the very basic level of the behaviour of the elementary particles of matter ‹ does not mean that there is anything wrong with the machine. Actually, if we deliberately try to construct a machine that, when it is working properly, functions with a degree of randomness, we find it difficult to succeed! (74) We have all kinds of machines that don't work properly ‹ but not by design. Such machines are unpredictable in performance by accident, but unintentionally. When we try to design one on purpose, we run into unexpected problems. What we tend to overlook is that there is a peculiar refinement to any mechanism which leaves the way open for some freedoms and yet operates perfectly unless it is deliberately disturbed. The natural order is exquisitely refined, the introduction of indeterminacy at the atomic level in no way disrupting the web of life itself. It only looks faulty because of human interference for ill.
Recent research in the coding mechanism of living things has shown that the transcription of the code may sometimes go wrong here and there. These errors in transcription are what have in the past been labeled mutations. But even here there seem to be some limitations, and it cannot be said that they are entirely uncontrolled by law, since it is known that many mutations can be reversed. The reversal precisely restores the original order. (75) It all appears to be random, yet perhaps when we know enough we shall find some more profound law governing it all. Meanwhile, the freedom is there in embryo; when it comes to light in the order of living things, we can appreciate what potential was wrapped up in the original stuff for a creature such as man to exploit. It is undoubtedly the basis upon which is built the present fascinating variety of life. As Bateson said, in 1914, the emergence of this variety is like "the unpacking of an original complex which contained within itself the whole range of diversity which living things present." (76) Or as Medawar more recently put it,
74. This was in connection with experiments in extrasensory perception. The prejudice of mechanistically oriented scientists against the whole concept of ESP has been so strong that it has driven them to demand a degree of randomization of the target sequence which is far more rigorous than would be asked normally. The problem has been to devise a means of predicting such completely randomized programming in order to avoid the slightest departure from true randomness. See New Scientist, "ESP -- New evidence?", 16 October, 1969, p.107 pg.9 of 17
75. See footnote 12.
76. Bateson, W., Inaugural address: Australian meeting of the British Association, in Nature, vol.93, 1914, p.640.
"The genetical mechanism is such that there are deep resources of hidden variation, of possible animals only awaiting the occasion to become real." (77)
The child of God finds no difficulty in seeing purpose and design everywhere, whereas the scientist appears to be much more skeptical about such things. However, in fairness to the latter, it should be said that their skepticism is not necessarily a reflection of any incapacity to exercise faith. G. G. Simpson put it this way: (78)
A second point often left implicit but requiring meticulous attention is that the materials of science are literally material. The observations of science are of material, physically or objectively observable phenomena. Its relationships are material, natural relationships.
This is not to say that science necessarily denies the existence of non-material or super-natural relationships, but only that, whether or not they exist, they are not the business of science.
This requires, if you like, a measure of self-discipline among scientists, a recognition that their methods do not work properly in the absence of this restriction.
More recently, W. H. Thorpe, writing in The New Scientist, notes that Theodosius Dobzhansky in his book, The Biology of Ultimate Concern, has also acknowledged the fact that science takes only a limited view of reality. As Thorpe puts it: (79)
There is a lack of understanding or realization of the fact that science by itself cannot give a coherent world picture, and that merely to believe in and have faith in science requires faith in something else which guarantees the value of our experience of the world and of ourselves. All this calls to my mind a current jest to the effect that a humanist is a person without any invisible means of support!
Put another way, it all ties up with the humanist's alleged disbelief in the supernatural. I am convinced that what we perceive as the "natural world" is both natural and yet at the same time a dependent part of a supernatural world---the supernatural including that which is independent of the natural and which underpins our basic faith in the value and significance of our total experience.
And to quote one more of the great figures in the gallery of science, Claude Bernard, as noted with approval by Ernst Mayr in Science: (80)
There is, so to speak, a pre-established design of each being and of each organ of such a kind that each phenomenon by itself depends upon the general forces of nature but when taken in connection with the others, it seems directed by some invisible guide on the road it follows and is led to the place it occupies.
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- 77. Medawar, Sir Peter B., The Uniqueness of the Individual, Basic Books, New York, 1957, p.15.
- 78. Simpson, G. G., "Biology and the Nature of Science" in Science, vol.139, 1963, p.82.
- 79. Thorpe, W. H., reviewing The Humanist Outlook, edited by A. J. Ayer, in New Scientist, 20 March, 1969, p.646.
- 80. Mayr, Ernst, "Cause and Effect in Biology" in Science, vol.134, 1961, p.1503.
We admit that the life phenomena are attached to physicochemical manifestations, but it is true that the essential is not explained thereby; for no fortuitous coming together of physicochemical phenomena can construct each organism after a plan and a fixed design (which are foreseen in advance). . . .
Determinism can never be [anything] but physicochemical determinism. The vital force and life belong to the metaphysical world.
Although Mayr would probably like to evade the implications of Bernard's statement, he agrees that for all the advances made in our understanding of life processes, the answer to the question "What is life?" still eludes us. Toward the end of his article, he has this observation, which is relevant to what we have been saying about the existence of "freedoms": (81)
In view of the high number of multiple pathways possible for most biological processes (except for the purely physicochemical ones) and in view of the randomness of many of the biological processes, particularly on the molecular level (as well as for other reasons), causality in biological systems is not predictive, or at best is only statistically predictive.
There is no escaping the fact that whether we want to or not, we must bifurcate our view of reality in order to come to grips with it in a way that is intellectually satisfying. When the time comes to design any experiment from which we hope to derive understanding in quantitative terms, we cannot take God into the laboratory. It is perfectly true that this may make logical nonsense out of scientific activity itself, for the biologist who is studying an organism which he commits himself to believing (for experimental purposes) is a purely physicochemical mechanism is himself a physicochemical mechanism by his own standards of assessment. We thus have the curious anomaly of a mechanism which has consciousness studying a mechanism operating on the same principle as himself to which he denies the possibility of consciousness. But as George Corner of the Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institute, Washington, observed: (82)
We anatomists, physiologists, and biochemists are for practical reasons bound to work on the assumption that the animals and parts of animals we study are indeed mechanisms. We must try as hard as we can to bring all animal and human behaviour under observation and measurement. If the premature acceptance of non-physical "vitalistic" forces leads us to abandon physical and chemical investigation, we shall only wander in a no man's land of conjecture.
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- 81. Ibid., p.1506.
- 82. Corner, George W., "A Glimpse of Incomprehensibles" in Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institute, 1954, Publication 4190, Washington, 1955, p.243.
But the temptation to reintroduce some conscious guiding hand is still almost overwhelming. For all his insistence on strict determinism, Jacques Monod speaks eloquently of the complexity of living systems: (83)
From a glance at a diagram condensing what is now known of cellular metabolism we can tell that even if at each step each enzyme carried out its job perfectly, the sum of their activities could only be chaos were they not somehow interlocked so as to form a coherent system. We have indeed the plainest evidence of the extreme efficiency of the chemical machinery of living beings, from the "simplest" to the most complex.
And this extraordinary efficiency prompts Monod to say: (84)
These phenomena, prodigious in their complexity and their efficiency in carrying out a preset program, clearly invite the hypothesis that they are guided by the exercise of somehow "cognitive" functions. The nineteenth-century physicist James Clerk Maxwell attributed such a function to his microscopic demon.
It is indeed a challenging exercise to toe the line of strict reductionism in the face of the evidence. Although biologists today take this stance, it is strange that for more than a century the older biologists did not feel duty-bound to be practicing atheists, yet they laid the foundations of our modern understandings. It obviously is possible to be an effective biologist without being effectively an atheist. The plea that science demands absolute exclusion of religious convictions is really only a cover-up for the present spirit of rejection of God in life and self-serving indifference to any eternal verities. Science is now pursued without reference to the overwhelming evidence of design in Nature and the very word Nature is beginning to appear without a capital, as though there was a horror of acknowledging even a guiding force ‹ let alone a guiding Person. As Susanne Langer puts it, (85)
Purpose and admirable ingenuity can only be imputed to an agent, which is none other than the "unscientific" and disavowed God, transvested into a goddess named "Nature" (with a capital N).
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- Thereafter, as far as she herself can escape the habit of centuries, she tries to drop the capital N! As Aldous Huxley pointed out some years ago, scientists quite properly for their own purposes have found that they can
- 83. Monod, Jacques, Chance and Necessity, Collins, London, 1972, p.65.
- 84. Ibid., p.63.
- 85. Langer, Susanne, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1967, vol.1, p.361.
with a very high degree of success ignore that side of reality which their instruments and methods were not designed to handle. (86) The picture of reality which they construct is quite coherent and there is no denying the success of the method. The public, impressed by this success, has gone one step further and tended to deny what the scientists have merely ignored. But the scientists themselves are part of the public, so that they too have frequently tended to take the same second step and thus to reinforce public opinion. While the Christian continues to struggle much less successfully with his own spiritual life, the scientist strides forward with confidence in his handling of the material side of life. Since nothing succeeds like success, it has seemed increasingly, until recent years, that the scientific approach was the only promising one, and accordingly those who dealt with human nature ‹ the psychologists, psychiatrists, and sociologists ‹ all adopted the same approach. So long as they adopted the strictly objective approach of the physical sciences, they were tentatively accepted into the scientific community. But only by effectively making psychology a branch of biology could they approach the desired measure of precision. Thus, by reducing psychology to the terms of physiology and pharmacology, it was possible to build a body of truly scientific knowledge with some predictive value. Unfortunately, this body of knowledge seemed to bear little relationship to the problems created by human nature in real life. Yet the feeling persists that the success achieved by "exact" science will only be reflected in the social sciences by adopting the same methods and the same basic premises, and the result has been to dehumanize man so that he ceases to be a person and becomes a reacting thing, interesting chiefly because of his complexity.
Leon Kass has eloquently underscored the dangers involved in treating man objectively in this way. He suggests that before we begin to re-engineer human beings in the light of the latest biological findings we should ask, "What is a good man?" and "What is a good life for man?" (87) And he acknowledges that while these questions about means and ends "are never unimportant or irrelevant, they have rarely been more important or more relevant." He traces with compelling logic the probable consequences of adopting the principle that man should automatically undertake to do whatever he now finds he can do merely because it is possible, underscoring, as many others have done, the frightening prospect that we shall yet live to see the realization
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- 86. HuxIey, Aldous, Science, Liberty, and Peace, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1946, pp.35-37.
- 87. Kass, Leon, "The New Biology: What Price Relieving Man's Estate?", Sience, vol.174, 1971, p.779.
of society re-engineered along the lines of Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. pg.14 of 17
Increasingly it is becoming apparent that the scientific method has profound limitations when it is applied to the solution of human problems. I believe there are at least two reasons for this. To begin with, sin ‹ which is responsible for these problems in the first place ‹ has not merely disturbed the machine itself but has fatally damaged man's intellectual understanding and made him curiously unaware of his own limitations in this area.
The second reason is that in the very nature of the case, the scientific method demands that the investigator be strictly objective, dissociating himself entirely from the phenomena which he is investigating. Precisely the opposite is needed in the human situation. Objectivity simply will not work, a difficulty compounded because the investigator is himself part of the problem. Sin is in every act and in every thought: and God is acting supernaturally and in a redemptive way so that the pattern of human behaviour is seldom amenable to reduction to those terms appropriate to the rest of the workings of nature where sin has not disrupted the original integrity of God's creation. There are two orders ‹ the one which is untouched by sin where natural law continues to operate predictably, and the other where the disruption of sin has left its mark. The problem of marking the boundary remains. These two "kingdoms," as it were, are not easily distinguished except empirically and in a particular situation. Wherever the scientific method is entirely effective in achieving understanding and control, there we are clearly dealing with the still self-regulating and "ceased-from" realm of God's creation. Where such tools and methods are not successful, where they fail dismally (as recent history has shown in the area of human behaviour) there we have entered the realm in which God must become, and is, super-naturally active to preserve His creation from total ruin. Did He not intervene either directly or through some chosen vessel, corruption would probably become total, disorder would be everywhere apparent, and evil would be manifest in its most vicious forms, as 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 implies.
These two kingdoms coexist, therefore, for they can be thought of as kingdoms: the realm where God's sovereignty (natural law) is still wholly operative, and that other area where spiritual evil, whether originating with man or Satan, has still much success in disrupting the purposes of God. From Scripture we surmise that not only the non-living but even the animal world still remains for the most part within the first kingdom: it is
man who seems to stand apart from it, alien to it. (88) Unredeemed, he is not part of the kingdom of God. Only when reborn can he either perceive or enter again into God's kingdom (John 3:3, 7) and become a member of it, a citizen of it, obedient to its originally appointed laws, with these laws written in his heart (Hebrews 8:10) as they are written "within" all creatures below him which continue to be guided by instinct. For instinct is surely nothing less than the law of God written within them, (89) built into their life style and perfectly designed for it, ideal both for them individually and unfailingly good for the whole economy of nature save where man's sin disrupts its normal operation.
Before man sinned, there was presumably only one order, one realm, all things and all creatures being then part of the kingdom of God. Unfallen man was free to intervene in the working out of the laws of this unified kingdom, not to correct it, but to explore its wonders and to exploit its potential. No miracles, in the sense of departures from natural law, were called for, because no corrective measures were needed, since miracle is related to redemption from the effects of sin and sin had not yet entered.
Harmony reigned everywhere ‹ perfect obedience to perfect law which was perfect freedom. Nothing was outside this precise and orderly system which nevertheless allowed some freedoms, designed by God to support man's freedom to use nature and to govern it and to re-arrange it for his own special pleasure and benefit. In this way he was invited to dress the Garden and have dominion over the earth.
Our present mastery over the forces of nature would probably have seemed merely child's play had history continued from Adam to this day without the chaos introduced by man's fallen nature. There would not have been, as there are now, areas of untamed wilderness, areas of desiccated desert, areas of uninhabitability due to infestation with insects or disease or wild animals inimical to man; rather, there would have been a beautiful garden where all is peace and where the lamb and the wolf would lie down together, and the lion and the ox would eat straw side by side. Then would man have fulfilled his original calling of dressing and keeping the Garden of Eden, enlarging its borders until it covered the earth. The process of doing so would have matured
his spirit, turning innocence into virtue, until he could be translated into a higher order of existence without
pg.15 of 17
- 88. See "Nature as Part of the Kingdom of God,"
Part II in Man
in Adam and in Christ, vol.3 of The Doorway Papers Series.
- 89. Fabre termed instinct in animals "inspired activity." On this, see W. R. Thompson, "The World of Jean Henri Fabre" in Canadian Etymologist, vol.96, no.1, 2, 1964, p.70.
experiencing death, passing straight into glory free from sadness or pain or fear. This seems to have been the option which was offered to the first Adam in the Garden of Eden as it was to the Second Adam on the Mount of Transfiguration. (90)
While I think such an approach to the problem of mechanism and divine intervention may possibly help to bring some satisfaction to the intellect, there are more important reasons for seeking a resolution. In the final analysis, the philosophy underlying the theory of evolution is fundamentally mechanistic. Everything that exists, including man, is rooted in the physical order of things; man is essentially no different from the animals from which he is derived, and animals are essentially nothing more than specialized forms of matter.
There are three consequences if this is true. First of all, man is an animal and if he chooses to behave like an animal, he cannot be judged. The setting up of moral standards by which to judge human behaviour is a purely artificial device arising solely from the fact that man's animal mind has become so complex that he has found it necessary for his own preservation to adopt certain agreed-upon standards of social behaviour. Morals become merely mores, and morality is purely utilitarian.
The second important thing is that since the whole gigantic spectacle is fortuitous and without foreseen purpose, life is fundamentally meaningless. Bertrand Russell believed this wholeheartedly, and his faith is shared by a very large number of otherwise well behaved and honorably intentioned philosophers and scientists who have reflected upon their own presuppositions with honesty.
This is starkly revealed in Jacques Monod's book, Chance and Necessity. Monod speaks, as Dobzhansky puts it, "with admirable clarity, and eloquence verging on pathos, of the mechanistic, materialistic philosophy explicitly shared by most of the present 'establishment' in the biological sciences." (91) Monod holds that "no other science has quite the same significance for man [as biology]; none has already so heavily contributed to the shaping of modern thought, profoundly and definitively affected as it has been in every domain ‹ philosophy, religion, politics ‹ by the advent of the theory of evolution." Monod sees "pure chance, absolutely free
pg.16 of 17
- 90. See "If Adam Had Not Died," Part
III in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 of The
Doorway Papers Series.
- 91. Monod: quoted by Theodosius Dobzhansky, in his review of Monod, Chance and Necessity, in Science, vol.175, 1972, p.49, 50.
but blind, at the very root of this stupendous edifice of evolution. . . ." He concludes: "Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe's unfeeling immensity out of which he emerged only by chance."(92)
How pathetic such a conclusion is - a conclusion based on the scientific method, which by its own very structure is limited to insight into only part of the total picture, leaving us, as Monod says "nothing . . . but an anxious quest in a frozen universe of solitude." (93)
The third thing is that if men are merely animals, they will die like animals, and it is absurd to suppose that there can be any prospect of a hereafter with either the promise of rewards to encourage or punishment to discourage as we walk through this vale of tears. There will be no final balancing of accounts. We must insist on our rights now, in this life.
The fact is that once ideas are lodged in the mind and are assented to as logically compelling, it is almost impossible for the thoughtful individual to avoid working them out to their ultimate conclusion. People who start by accepting evolution as a philosophy, even though they are filled with idealism (a heritage of a vital Christian faith of their own or of their predecessors), all too often find their faith is dimmed and their idealism is surrendered. The step from a little doubt to no faith may take a long time to make, but it is apt to be made in the end, whether deliberately or merely by default.
Scripture is an adequate revelation of that which man could not discover unaided. If its statements are taken and believed with complete seriousness, the child of God who rests upon it has the only defense capable of preserving his faith in the face of the implacable offensive of science. Science may tell us the mechanism of it all: Scripture tells us about the meaning of it all.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
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- 92. Monod, Jacques, Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology, translated by Austryn Wainhouse, Collins, London, 1972, p.167.
- 93. Ibid., p.158.