The next two interviews in Science and Religion: 5 Questions are with William Lane Craig and William Dembski, both Christian philosophers. (See the post 5 Questions … And Some Answers for the questions posed in this book). William Lane Craig is trained in Philosophy (Ph.D. University of Birmingham) and Theology (D. Theol. University of Munich), while William Dembski is trained in Mathematics (Ph.D. University of Chicago) and Philosophy (Ph.D. Univ. of Illinois, Chicago) with an M.Div. from Princeton.
Both William Craig and Bill Dembski hold to an old earth and neither sees any reason to read Genesis as portraying creation over a literal six days some 6000 years ago. Both, however, find reason to question the “natural” evolutionary mechanisms for the origin of the diversity of life and argue against the sufficiency of natural mechanisms for the origin of life and the evolution of the diversity of life we see. Materialism alone simply isn’t a sufficiently powerful explanation. Both Craig and Dembski hold to a form of progressive creationism. Their arguments are interesting – especially in light of the post on Tuesday outlining the reaction to Darwin’s theory of evolution at Princeton college and seminary (Purpose Matters!).
William Lane Craig addresses question two “Do you think science and religion are compatible when is comes to understanding cosmology, biology, ethics, and/or the human mind? at length,” giving only short responses to the other four questions posed in this book. Each of the four areas in question two is considered separately.
Cosmology. Science and Christianity are compatible when it comes to cosmology. The Judeo-Christian view that the world was created a finite time ago is consistent with the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe. There is a beginning to time in our universe. The fine-tuning of the universe is not only consistent with Christianity but points to a Creator and Designer of the universe. He argues against the various multiverse type explanations, considering them incredibly improbable. The fine-tuning is not plausibly explained by either physical necessity or chance, leaving a designer as the best explanation.
Biology. Craig also argues that biology and evolutionary theory are compatible with theism. When scientists claim that there is no direction or purpose they have overstepped the bounds of science.
… science is just not in a position to say with any justification that there is no divinely intended direction or goal of the evolutionary process. How could anyone say on the basis of scientific evidence that the whole scheme was not set up by a provident God to arrive at homo sapiens on planet Earth? (p. 35)
God could intervene to control direction or he could set the initial conditions to arrive at the desired end. There is no way that scientific inquiry alone could determine that this is or is not so. Craig also argues that the religious scientist has a freedom to follow the evidence that the atheist committed to naturalism does not. The probability of the origin of life from inanimate chemicals appears so small as to be effectively impossible. The most natural explanation is that the origin of life is “an event which was supernaturally brought about by God.” (p. 36) He also argues at length that the evolution of the diversity of life by “natural” means is improbable.
But that raises the question, then, why think that it has evolved by these neo-Darwinian mechanisms? Indeed, doesn’t the evidence suggest just the opposite? A progressive creationist view involving periodic divine causal interventions seems to fit the evidence better than naturalism. (p. 39)
But this is an argument about mechanism, the sufficiency of natural mechanisms, and the presence or absence of divine intervention. It is not an argument against the general evolutionary process, which is well supported by the data. The argument makes a leap from “this proposed natural mechanism is improbable” to “the best explanation is God.”