Charles Darwin published the Origin of the Species in 1859. Up until then, said Richard Dawkins, atheism was “logically tenable” but from Darwin onwards you could be “an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (The Blind Watchmaker). Notice that philosophy might give you tenable arguments, but biology is the place for true intellectual fulfillment… according to this biologist anyway…
With the discovery of natural selection, biologists had a naturalistic explanation for the existence of brilliantly adapted (and therefore apparently designed) species, populating an intricate and flourishing bio-sphere.
Well, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the whole thing is explained according to this process (I mean it’s a bit like the old saying “If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”, but let’s go with the argument). Let’s imagine it explains the whole variation and adaptation of life on the planet. What we have here is a mechanism explaining the origin of species.
Notice first that mechanism says nothing about agency – a point John Lennox makes well in places like here.
But notice, second, that we’re talking merely of the origin of species. There are other origins questions to ask. Like – the origin of the cosmos, the origin of life (natural selection assumes the existence of life) and the origin of consciousness. These are not at all suited to explanations via natural selection and yet they pose even more fundamental questions for us. So if an atheist claims to have origins questions sewn up, tell them they have, at best, a mechanism to explain one of the least interesting of the origins questions.
It’s not just beginnings that are fascinating. What about before the beginnings? What are we assuming pre-existed these origins questions?
As we’ve just noted, natural selection assumes the pre-existence of ‘life.’ But when it comes to the even bigger origins questions, what about the pre-existence of things like laws of physics, logic and mathematics. Every attempted naturalistic explanation for ‘beginnings’ assumes plenty about ‘before beginnings.’ Take, for example, Hawking’s book from 2 years ago which said:
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,”
Besides the logical incoherence of the universe self-creating, we have here pre-existing ‘laws’. We have an ordered, self-consistent reality calling the tune for all the cosmos. Gravity is chief among the gods as he bosses around lesser deities like time, matter and energy, which in turn war to create the cosmos as we know it.
Now Christians also have beliefs about before the beginning. We believe in the pre-existence of Persons, of love, of minds, of purpose. And these Persons have brought forth laws, time, matter and energy. It was not matter that made minds, but minds that made matter.
When you consider that every minute of our waking life we’re confronted in technicolour by the reality of persons, love, minds and purpose. In fact, everything we hold dear consists of persons, love, minds and purpose. What should we believe about ultimate reality – about before beginnings? Gravity reigning as supreme being? Or love?
We shouldn’t fear questions of beginnings. And we should positively pursue questions about before beginnings.