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Meyer: Is the Author of Nature’s Design Good? And Other Questions

David Klinghoffer
Photo source: Discovery Institute.

We have an exceptionally woke Congregational church in the neighborhood that has a marquee out front whose contents I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy. Twice weekly they change out the marquee messages, which are different depending on which direction you’re driving. In just a few words, they are like politically correct fortune cookies. They almost never have anything to do with God, or religion. It’s all about race, social justice, and environmentalism. Some are so perfectly daffy and clueless as to suggest the hand of a gifted parodist.

I wonder what the clergy and staff are trying to accomplish. It’s a church, for goodness sake, why not attract people by talking about God? John Zmirak at The Stream has a plausible answer, and he cites Stephen Meyer:

What’s the most important book for thinking Christians published in the past year? Many think it’s Stephen Meyer’s Return of the God Hypothesis. As I argued recently, the rise of Darwinist materialism was the single biggest factor in hollowing our churches. A panicked retreat from every aspect of Genesis led to a total collapse of confidence in the Church’s authority to describe how things really are

The God hypothesis was temporarily blunted by Darwinism, but has returned, thanks to more up-to-date science. Won’t someone please tell our neighborhood church?

Assessing Motives

Zmirak has become a fan of ID, so I want to recommend to you a profound Q&A with Stephen Meyer that he did. With reference to Return of the God Hypothesis, he asks questions of Meyer that typically don’t get asked, and elicits surprising replies. Read it all for yourself, but my two favorite questions are these.

Zmirak asks about the motives of those who deny the design in nature.

It seems to me that you — and the various other experts whom you cite — have done a magnificent job answering the standard rational objections to Intelligent Design. But there’s immense resistance in some people that goes beyond, and beneath, the rational. Some say that Charles Darwin himself was moved to reject divine Design after the death of his young daughter. Have you also found that the deeper motives of atheists or agnostics seem to be philosophical or personal, which explains many’s resistance to evidence and argument?

I think all human beings have competing internal motives for seeking God and for also suppressing the evidence of His reality. Clearly, a belief in God can give comfort to us in our human condition as we face our inevitable mortality. It also offers the prospect of finding lasting meaning and purpose in relationship to Him and the possibility of life beyond our short time on earth. On the other hand, none of us really like the sense of moral accountability that comes with an acknowledgement of the reality of God and his righteous law. Especially as we become more aware of our own moral failings.

Even so, pointing to the motives that we may have for either believing in, or rejecting, the existence of God does not help answer the question of what the relevant evidence tells us about the possible reality of God. Thus, in Return of the God Hypothesis, I try to analyze the relevant scientific evidence and assess which worldview or “metaphysical hypothesis” best explains it, irrespective of what any of us may want to be true.

Is the Designer Good?

And he asks how we know that the author of the design is good. That isn’t necessarily obvious from observing, for example, the information content of DNA. Our own suffering, and the suffering of others, naturally prompts the question, and it can be accompanied by great anguish.

Do you think that if we established the logical, scientific probability of a Theistic Designer, the next issue of controversy would be understanding how He is … Good, in any sense analogous to our own? Are doubts about that perhaps the strongest motivator for materialists, the unspoken objection that none of your scientific work addresses?

Different skeptics have different reasons for doubting the existence and benevolence of God. In Return of the God Hypothesis, I mainly address reasons for doubting the existence of God by showing that the evidence we have about biological and cosmological origins is best explained a transcendent, intelligence who is also active in the creation — i.e., a theistic, rather than a deistic, God. Nevertheless, I do think the creation itself, in the beauty and intricacy of its design, provides plentiful evidence of the goodness of God. So in the book, I also address the problem of “natural evil,” the problem of explaining those aspects of nature such as harmful viruses and bacteria that call into question God’s goodness.

In a long footnote at the end of Chapter 14 (for your readers who want to do do further study!), I argue that those proponents of intelligent design who also accept a biblical theology of nature have reasons to expect find both evidence of original design and subsequent decay of nature.

I further note that recent work in molecular and microbiology has shown evidence of both. The functional digital information in the genome provides powerful evidence of the past activity of a designing intelligence. And recent microbiological studies have shown that virulent strains of bacteria and viruses typically result from a loss or decay of an original endowment of genetic information. Thus, at the molecular and biological level we now see evidence of both original (good) design and subsequent decay, just what we should expect in light of the theory of intelligent design coupled with a biblical theology of nature.

Until I read Zmirak’s interview, I also did not know that Steve Meyer had won grudging praise from his opponent in the Toronto debate that prompted him to look more deeply into the evidence of physics and cosmology — the implications of which the opponent, atheist Lawrence Krauss, had not entirely thought through himself. Actually, I take that back. I don’t know that the praise was grudging. So let’s say…heartfelt!