Science in Christian Perspective


On Intelligent Design, Irreducible Complexity, and Theistic Science

J. W. Haas, Jr.
Gordon College
Wemham,  MA 01984

From: PSCF 49 (March 1997): 1

Readers may have noticed that discussion of these themes has emerged from the halls of the ASA and evangelical academic enclaves to draw the attention of the popular religious and secular press. Recent conferences at Biola University ( and the University of Texas ( have released torrents of words on what is seen by some as "a move to a new paradigm" and others as the latest maneuver by those "who don't want evolution to be true." The Biola meeting originally billed as a small "invited only" working session for the faithful ended up with a much larger audience which included many skeptics. The University of Texas Philosophy Department sponsored conference (not yet held at this writing) pits advocates of "theistic science" against those of "naturalistic science." With sixty accepted papers (available on their web site), the issues should be clearly defined. The ASA List Serve has provided a heavily used discussion forum for these ideas.

How is the discussion going? Most evangelical observers - especially working scientists - are deeply skeptical. They have no objection to developing world views about science and faith but draw the line when asked to add "divine agency" to their list of scientific working tools. Also, it seems that the methodological discussion centers only on certain areas of biology. The rest of us as physicists, chemists, mathematicians, or geologists, are allowed to go our `godless' ways in spite of the complexities we face at the quantum level or with the weather. Britain's most prominent defender of evolution, Richard Dawkins calls Michael J. Behe's conclusion that the flagellum of bacteria are too complicated to have evolved (in Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, 1996) "a pathetic cop-out of his responsibilities as a scientist." Behe in turn chides Dawkins for attempting "to popularize non-existent science." Clearly, snappy come-backs are not going to resolve the issues. Instead, hard work on the part of the scientific community is needed to provide data and develop lower level mechanisms.

There is a long history of science-religion relationships. Advocates of theistic science would do well to examine the past in the light of their new paradigm. Also, each of us should be willing to examine their conclusions with an open mind. If the ideas are flawed work toward improvement; if fatally flawed, drop them. Our responsibility to the Christian community demands no less.