Following the Evidence

Author Greg Koukl Published on 03/21/2013

Can the argument really be made that the Christian view is less biased than your average scientist’s or historian’s?

How open are you or what is it that compels you to make particular decisions about your beliefs? Two or three weeks ago I talked about a book I was reading called The Moral Animal by Robert Wright, and he made the case that morality is a result of the process of evolution. I think he’s wrong.

The author makes the point that the world does seem designed. This is why he feels comfortable using design and function language to describe the process of naturalistic evolution. If a thing has a function, it was meant to accomplish a particular end; and if it’s meant for or designed for something, there is an intent of how it is to be used, or an intent involved in what it is to accomplish. Intent is a function of mind. You can’t have design without intent, and you can’t have intent without mind. That seems to suggest that every time you use design language to describe the universe, you’re really talking about a mind behind the universe. Many people call that Mother Nature, which is no mind at all, but just accident and natural selection.

This is what Robert Wright believes. My question is, if the universe looks designed, why do we opt for a naturalistic, non-intentional explanation for the so-called design features, rather than saying that somebody, someone, designed it? He essentially admits that a design explanation is as adequate in itself to explain the features we find in the natural universe, as is natural selection. I don’t think it’s a toss-up, though. I don’t think natural selection is really capable of explaining the universe as we find it. But even if I were to grant that, or say, “Yes, natural selection can explain this, and supernatural design can explain it.” We have two empirically equivalent explanations for the same effect—when I say “empirically equivalent,” I mean the evidence equally justifies either one.

The question is, why must we opt for natural selection? The answer is that in the minds of Robert Wright and many others who hold this view, design is simply not an option. He makes this point in his book, “What other options are there?” He argues like so many others, Here we are, so we must have evolved, which shows that they don’t even consider the option that God might have created as a viable one. The question is why? Is it the case that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of God, and it’s just a ridiculous presumption, a function of wishful thinking of religious people? That it’s just a mere invention, and since it’s only an invention and we have no reason to believe it at all, we are stuck with the natural order of things? No, that isn’t the case at all.

What’s being done here is philosophy first, and science second. This is very important because wasn’t this what we were just talking about with the Jesus Seminar? You read in the papers, “The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” or the miracles in the Bible, or the sayings of Jesus, and there is no evidence. It’s just not there. Or conversely, they will say, “New Evidence Proves the Stories are Fiction.” Of course, they’re not talking about real evidence at all, and what they offer is not new at all; it’s the same old thing. When we look at the details of why the scholars would believe this, not just what one believes, then we see a different situation. We see philosophy done first before history is even attempted.

A lot of these discussions—the scientific discussion I just mentioned, the historical discussion we talked about last hour—are preceded by a prior discussion that is not scientific or historical at all, it’s philosophical. The difference between a J.P. Moreland, or a Greg Koukl, or any other informed Christian arguing the case is not that we are biased so we must conclude what we do, but it’s that our philosophy broadens the possibilities of things we might consider, depending on where the evidence leads us.

I’m a Christian, I am open to either a naturalistic explanation or a supernatural explanation. Both are possible in my world view. I can follow the evidence where it leads me. That’s the case whether we’re talking about cosmology or the historicity of the Gospels. I can follow where the evidence leads me. Someone who has removed the possibility of God acting in a certain way prior to examining the physical evidence has started out with the idea that God is not involved and there are no miracles, whether applying to science and cosmology or to the historicity of the Gospels.

If you start out there, guess what you’ll never be able to find, even if the evidence shows it? You will never be able to find a miracle. Why? Because before you’ve started you have arbitrarily excluded that from the possibilities and, I might say, without proper justification. You see, bias on a Christian side (meaning that he has a point of view) doesn’t inform the conclusions in the same way that these biases inform the conclusion in the case of a Marcus Borg on the Bible or Robert Wright on the issue of evolution. They must come up with a conclusion that leaves God out of the picture because their philosophy demands such a thing. I don’t have to come up with that conclusion. I can follow the evidence where it leads me, and that’s the most critical distinction.