Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Küng on Intelligent Design (1)

Review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, section D, part 3.

That's all the alien talk finished, I'm afraid.

"Achmagtag, shmee flaymashcou"
(That's Klingon for 'what a pity, evil Vulcan scum')

Not to worry, as now Küng turns to address the issue many of us purchased the book for, the debate concerning Intelligent Design (ID)*. In this first post, I'll describe why he rejects ID, and in the following posts discuss how Küng attempts to affirm God as creator and 'director' of the evolutionary process in the light of this denial.

We turn then now to Küng's second subheading in section D:

2. How did life come into being?

Coming back to earth, Küng notes and elaborates on the astonishing success biology has had in the last decades in showing that all terrestrial life is related, having the same molecular structures, same dependency on genes, and same four fundamental building blocks. From this, he lays the groundwork for arguing that the evolutionary theory of Darwin can be seen as ‘physically grounded and experimentally checked’ (p. 154-55). We really have to do with good science when it comes to evolution, and not merely one among many competing and almost as good options.

In the light of this, Küng asks again: ‘Can we suppose, behind the development of life, a secret and divine act of creation? Doesn’t the fact that life evolves higher and higher suggestive of a divine intervention?’

Under the heading, ‘Material organises itself’, Küng, and now we are getting to the real hot issues, insists that the development and improvement of life should not be associated with a divine intervention, rather, and at the experimentally checkable molecular level, the principles of ‘natural selection’ and the ‘survival of the fittest’ are the driving forces. Küng admits that there are big holes in our knowledge of exactly how this natural evolutionary process happened, nevertheless, a plausible scenario can be presented without assuming a ‘divine intervention’ at any point (here Küng follows the suggested summary of the process given by the Director of Tübingen’s Max Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology, Alfred Gierer). He concludes:

‘Sicher ist: Daß es bei diesen höchst komplexen Prozessen eines besonderen Eingriffs des Schöpfergottes bedurft hätte, ist nach den neuesten biochemischen Ergebnissen nicht einzusehen’. Evolved life is, in other words, ‘trotz aller noch ungeklärter Fragen ein physikalisch-chemisch verständliches Geschehen (p. 158).
Thus, and without even mentioning it, Küng with all of this sets his hand firmly against those in the ID camp.

How, then, does one conceive of God as creator of life if all appeared just by the random complexities of chemical chance? How can a Christian affirm God as creator of the earth and all that is on it, if all can be explained with recourse to natural processes? I would like to discuss these most fascinating issues in the next few posts.

*(ID is the theory that ‘certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection’ - cf. the definition as suggested by the Discovery Institute, Center for Science and Culture, and the centre for modern ID proponents)


At 5/18/2006 7:55 AM, Anonymous dan said...

Discussions of ID, evolution, etc., aren't really my cup of tea, but I will say that the comic you included in this post made me laugh so hard I almost crapped in my pants.

Also, I had a couple of very interesting conversations with Tom Wright last week and I'm hoping to post about them on my blog. Thought you might be curious.

At 5/18/2006 12:18 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

You bet I am!
Perhaps my interest in things ID/evolution shaped are linked to the fact that it was listening to a Ken Ham ( tape on creationism that I first became conscious of the fact I was a Christian. Moving away from creationism - stop smiling - was a big step for me!


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