Debate: Is Evolution Blind or Guided?

Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times debating Jim Frederick, a secular Humanist on the topic, Is Evolution Blind or Guided? Atif Mir our Editor of Law Page is the Host:

In the very beginning of the debate, I claim that common lineage of all living beings is as well established as any fact in physics or chemistry.  There are two main proofs for this aspect of evolution:

1. Biogeography.

2. Molecular biology.

The theory of evolution should be understood as three different issues.  Firstly, the common heritage of all animals and plants, secondly, the mechanisms for evolution and thirdly whether evolution is completely blind or guided in some sense.  The truth of some facts in evolution does not imply the truth of every thing under the umbrella of evolution.  One needs to have a nuance position about evolution to be perfectly enlightened.   The implications that common lineage has for the Creator or lack there of, is metaphysics and not science, as the God of Islam and Judaism and God the Father of Trinitarian Christianity is Transcendent and beyond time space and matter and cannot be studied directly in a scientific paradigm!

Incidentally, evolution also exposes the vulnerabilities of Christianity.  For other details about theory of evolution and Christianity, see my other knols and articles on molecular biology and Original Sin.

To appreciate the implications of quantum theory for the concept of Personal God, who answers our prayers, click here.

In the debate I also talk about another of my Google-knols titled: A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

We can advance arguments from reasoning or rationality or authority.  What has preceded so far in written form in this post is arguing for a Creator from reasons, now to quote authority, let me first of all state that Einstein was a Deist and not an atheist.  Here are a few quotes from him:

Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.

When I see nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of ‘humility’.  This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.

That humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, which in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man.

Odds against our biophyllic universe:

We believe in a Creator, not because we have seen Him at work in our universe, creating through supernatural mechanisms or by breaking laws of nature.  We do not believe in a Creator because we want to find him in what is not known by science and as such proposing a God of the gaps.  We do not believe in a Creator because we are lazy and do not want to do scientific research.  We believe in a Creator because of the improbabilities that have gone into creation of our universe and making it biophyllic!

According to Sir Isaac Newton, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an Intelligent and Powerful Being.”

Stephen Hawking said, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.”

During the last 30 years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than any life-permitting universe like ours. How much more probable? The answer is that the chances that the universe should be life permitting are so infinitesimal as to be incomprehensible and incalculable. For example, Stephen Hawking has estimated that if the rate of the universe’s expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed into a hot fireball. P.C.W. Davies has calculated that the odds against the initial conditions being suitable for later star formation (without which planets could not exist) is one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes, at least.
John Barrow and Frank Tipler estimate that a change in the strength of gravity or of the weak force by only one part in 10 raised to the power 100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe.  There are around 50 such quantities and constants present in the Big Bang which must be fine-tuned in this way if the universe is to permit life. And it’s not just each quantity that must be exquisitely fine tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.
One time agnostic Alister McGrath says, “Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic dreams.”

Baron John Rees, President of the Royal Society of UK writes in his book, Just Six Numbers: the Deep Forces that Shape the Universe, describes:

I have highlighted these six because each plays a crucial and distinctive role in our universe, and together they determine how the universe evolves and what its internal potentialities are; moreover, three of them (those that pertain to the large-scale universe) are only now being measured with any precision.

These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if anyone of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?

To drive home the full force of the fine tuning of these six numbers from physics, Martin Rees further quotes a very useful metaphor:

There are various ways of reacting to the apparent fine tuning of our six numbers. One hard-headed response is that we couldn’t exist if these numbers weren’t adjusted in the appropriate ‘special’ way: we manifestly are here, so there’s nothing to be surprise about. Many scientists take this line, but it certainly leaves me unsatisfied. I am impressed by a metaphor given by the Canadian philosopher John Leslie. Suppose you are facing a firing squad. Fifty marksmen take aim, but they all miss. If they hadn’t all missed, you wouldn’t have survived to ponder the matter. But you wouldn’t just leave it at that – you’d still be baffled, and would seek some further reason for your good fortune.

In such coincidences and improbabilities, which made our universe biophyllic, Muslims see the Provident God, Who not only created them but also listens to their prayers!

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