EVOLUTION EXPLAINS LIFE, SO GOD ISN'T NEEDED
Charles Darwin didn't want to murder God, as he once put it. But he did.
[Evolutionary theory] is still, as it was in Darwin's time, a highly speculative hypothesis entirely without direct factual support and very far from that self-evident axiom some of its more aggressive advocates would have us believe.
Michael Denton, molecular biologist 2
Investigators were desperately searching for some piece of physical evidence to link suspect Ronald Keith Williamson to a brutal slaying that had shocked the tranquil community of Ada, Oklahoma, three years earlier.
They were having a difficult time building a solid case against Williamson, who vigorously denied strangling twenty-one-year-old Debra Sue Carter. So far their only evidence consisted of a witness who had seen Williamson talking with Carter earlier on the evening she was slain; an admission by Williamson that he once dreamed he had killed her; and the testimony of a jailhouse informant who claimed she had overheard him talking about the crime. Obviously, police needed more proof if they wanted to convict him.
Finally, detectives came up with the clincher. An expert took four hairs that had been found on the victim's body and elsewhere at the crime scene, examined them under a microscope, and concluded they were "a match" with samples taken from Williamson, according to a newspaper report. Their case bolstered by scientific evidence, investigators arrested Williamson and put him on trial.
It didn't take long for a jury to find the former minor league baseball player guilty of the slaying and to dispatch him to Death Row. With the ghastly crime finally solved, the people of Ada breathed a collective sigh of relief. Justice had been done. The killer was going to pay with his life.
There was, however, one big problem: Williamson was telling the truth about his innocence. After he languished in prison for twelve years-nine of them awaiting execution-an analysis of DNA at the crime scene established that someone else had committed the murder. On April 15, 1999, Williamson was finally set free.3
But wait a second-what about the hair-comparison evidence that pointed toward Williamson's guilt? If his hair was found at the scene of the crime, didn't that implicate him in the slaying? The answer is disconcerting: hair evidence often purports to prove more than it actually does.
The newspaper report had glossed over some important nuances. The hair from the scene didn't really "match" Williamson's. A criminologist had merely concluded they were "consistent" with each other. In other words, their color, shape, and texture looked similar. Thus, the hairs from the crime scene could have come from Williamson-or perhaps they could have come from someone else.
Far from being as incriminating as fingerprints, hair analysis has been called "pseudoscience" by some legal analysts. Often jurors hear impressive-sounding testimony about what appears to be scientifically valid proof, and they conclude-incorrectly-that it establishes the defendant's guilt. Some prosecutors, in the heat of courtroom battle, have even been known to mischaracterize or subtly overstate the value of hair analysis during their closing arguments.4 In the case of Williamson, a federal judge called the hair evidence "scientifically unreliable" and said it never should have been used against the defendant. Even more troubling, hair evidence had been used against eighteen Death Row prisoners who subsequently were declared innocent in the last quarter century.5
The case of Ronald Keith Williamson is an eye-opening example of justice gone awry. His unwarranted conviction demonstrates how easy it is for jurors to draw sweeping conclusions that aren't really justified by the actual scientific facts. And in a sense, Williamson's story paralleled my own investigation into one of the most potent bits of scientific evidence that's commonly used against the existence of God.
Although there was much that led up to it, I guess you could say I lost the last remnants of my faith in God during biology class in high school. So profound was the experience that I could take you back to the very seat where I was sitting when I first was taught that evolution explained the origin and development of life. The implications were clear: Charles Darwin's theory eliminated the need for a supernatural Creator by demonstrating how naturalistic processes could account for the increasing complexity and diversity of living things.
My experience was not uncommon. Scholar Patrick Glynn has described how he took a similar path that ended up in atheism:
I embraced skepticism at an early age, when I first learned of Darwin's theory of evolution in, of all places, Catholic grade school. It immediately occurred to me that either Darwin's theory was true or the creation story in the Book of Genesis was true. They could not both be true, and I stood up in class and told the poor nun as much. Thus began a long odyssey away from the devout religious belief and practice that had marked my childhood toward an increasingly secular and rationalistic outlook.6
In the popular culture, the case for evolution is generally considered shut. "Darwinism remains one of the most successful scientific theories ever promulgated," Time magazine said in its recap of the second millennium.7 To Charles Templeton, it's simply beyond dispute that "all life is the result of timeless evolutionary forces."8
Biologist Francisco Ayala said Darwin's "greatest accomplishment" was to show how the development of life is "the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator."9 Michael Denton, the Australian molecular biologist and physician, agreed that Darwinism "broke man's link with God" and consequently "set him adrift in the cosmos without purpose." 10 He added:
As far as Christianity was concerned, the advent of the theory of evolution ... was catastrophic The decline in religious belief can probably be attributed more to the propagation and advocacy by the intellectual and scientific community of the Darwinian version of evolution than to any other single factor.11
As the textbook Evolutionary Biology declares: "By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous."12 British biologist Richard Dawkins was speaking for many when he said that Darwin "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." 13
In fact, prominent evolutionist William Provine of Cornell University candidly conceded that if Darwinism is true, then there are five inescapable implications: there's no evidence for God; there's no life after death; there's no absolute foundation for right and wrong; there's no ultimate meaning for life; and people don't really have free will. 14
But is Darwinism true? I walked away from my formal education convinced it was. As my spiritual journey began taking me into the realm of science, however, I started to have an increasingly uneasy feeling. Like the hair-comparison evidence in the Williamson case, did the evidence for evolution purport to prove more than it actually does?
The more I investigated the issue, the more I saw how I had glossed over significant nuances in a rush to judgment, reminiscent of the Oklahoma murder trial. When I examined the matter thoroughly, I began to question whether the sweeping conclusions of Darwinisms are really justified by the hard scientific facts. (A similar journey, incidentally, helped lead Glynn back to faith in God.)
This is not, I soon discovered, a case of religion versus science; rather, this is an issue of science versus science. More and more biologists, biochemists, and other researchers-not just Christians-have raised serious objections to evolutionary theory in recent years, claiming that its broad inferences are sometimes based on flimsy, incomplete, or flawed data.
In other words, what looks at first blush like an airtight scientific case for evolution begins to unravel upon closer examination. New discoveries during the past thirty years have prompted an increasing number of scientists to contradict Darwin by concluding that there was an Intelligent Designer behind the creation and development of life.
"The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell-to investigate life at the molecular level-is a loud, clear, piercing cry of 'design!"' biochemist Michael Belie of Lehigh University said in his groundbreaking critique of Darwinism. 15 He went on to say:
The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself-not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs The reluctance of science to embrace the conclusion of intelligent design . . . has no justifiable foundation Many people, including many important and well-respected scientists, just don't want there to be anything beyond nature."
That last sentence described me. I was more than happy to latch onto Darwinism as an excuse to jettison the idea of God so I could unabashedly pursue my own agenda in life without moral constraints.
Yet someone who knows me well once described me as being "a sucker for the truth"i7 My training in journalism and law compels me to dig beneath opinion, speculation, and theories, all the way down until I hit the bedrock of solid facts. And try as I might, I couldn't turn my back on nagging inconsistencies that were undermining the foundation of Darwin's theory.
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