Monthly Archives: February 2012

Life: “It’s scientifically too improbable; therefore God must have done it”

By Charles Rulon

Improbability arguments re: design in nature

Creationist: “Look, if I found a watch on the beach I would obviously know that all of its parts didn’t fly together by accident.  I would know that there had to have been a watchmaker.  Well, the human eye is much more complex than a watch.  So is a beautifully camouflaged butterfly, plus millions of other species. All of this design obviously proves the existence of an unbelievably intelligent and enormously powerful designer.” 

Response:  It sure looked that way….until 1859.  Then came along Charles Darwin and On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.  Over the years that followed, scientists increasingly demonstrated that God was no longer required as an explanatory factor for all of the design in nature.  Instead, life on Earth turned out to be a four billion year old story of random genetic errors followed by an automatic, blind selection of the more fit and extermi­nation of the less fit.  With this natu­ral selection pro­cess, all the so-called “design” in nature was not purposeful design, but instead came about through a no fore­sight automatic sifting process.

Today, rejecting our biological evolution is like rejecting the fact that the sun gives off heat.  It requires rejecting major chunks of biol­ogy, anthro­pology, geol­­ogy, bio­chem­istry, genetics and phy­sics, plus essentially the scientific method, itself.  Every major sci­en­­tific organi­­za­tion in the U.S. and in most of the world has published state­­­ments support­ing the fact of our evolution.  That roughly 40% of Americans still reject evolution in favor of ancient creation stories speaks volumes.

Improbability arguments re: cows turning into whales

Creationist: “Based on a few fragments of bone, evolutionists are now claiming that whales evolved from cows or hippopotamuses.  What could be more ridiculous or scientifically impossible?”  (In the 1960s and 70s, creationists would show a cartoon slide of a half-whale-half-cow to the audience to loud laughter.) 

Response:  Since the 1970s an ever increasing number of fos­sils have clearly documented the evolu­tion of whales from a four-legged land mam­mal.  In 1989 a 45 mil­lion year old whale fos­sil with small hind legs and feet was found in the sands of Egypt.  A short time later a 50 million year old semi-aquatic pre-whale fos­sil named Pakicetus was found in Pakis­tan with both mammalian fore­arms and hind­ limbs.  Molecular evidence now indicates that the closest living relative to the whale is the hippo, with the whale lin­eage splitting off from the hippo lineage about 54 mya.  A quick web search reveals many sites documenting numerous fossils and the story of whale evolution.

Improbability arguments re: the origin of life

Creationist: “The probability of amino acids randomly hooking together to form even the sim­plest enzyme protein is so small as to be essentially impos­sible. No enzymes, no life.  There­fore, an Intelligent Designer was essential for the creation of life.”

Response: First, since no one can know how life actually began or what form it took, all such improbability arguments by creationists are meaningless nonsense.  Second, “im­pos­sibil­ity” claims of amino acids hooking together to form functional proteins was actually proved wrong over 50 years ago.  Amino acids spon­tan­eously attach to one another in a some­what non-ran­dom fashion and form small chains as determined by their individ­ual molecular structures.  Furthermore, once these small chains have formed they will often automatically self-replicate and double in length.  Indeed, many of the mole­cules found in living organisms today bear evi­dence of having evolved in exactly this way.

In the mid-l950s, Dr. Sidney Fox, a spe­cialist in pro­tein biochem­istry at the Univer­sity of Miami, and his colleagues heated a mixture of amino acids.  The amino acids automatically hooked together to form chains of from 30 to l00 amino acids long.  These “pro­tein­oids,” as Fox named them, were strik­ingly similar to true proteins and, according to Fox, could have served as the raw material from which life evolved.  Furthermore, when these proteinoids were exposed to water they automati­cally formed little spheres which have many properties similar to living cells.  Today there are num­erous published research­ed reports showing that many modern proteins appear to have been derived from a few such ancestral proteins. The error made by creationists is to require that a specific protein enzyme form all at once and give perfect results.  They omit the gradual improve­ments of usable, but imperfect en­zymes by natural selection and the fact that many amino acid sequences may give the same enzyme function.

Improbability arguments re: the existence of living cells

Creationist: “Living cells are the simplest components of life.  Yet, they are much too complex to have evolved, for unless all of the cell components are present at the same time, cells can’t function.  The probability of this happening is vanishing small without intelligent intervention.”

Response: First, microscopic fossil evidence indicates that ancient cells were far simpler than most cells found today.  Second, cells are not the simplest components of life.  In fact, there never has been a clear-cut distinction between what is obviously alive and what is not.  Instead, a continuum exists.

For example, there are viroids which are just short circles of genetic material. Then there are viruses, which consist of genetic material surrounded by a protein coat.  Viruses are not considered alive by most (but not all) scientists.  Recently there was the discovery of a truly monstrous virus known as Mimivirus and which is much more genetically complex than a number of parasitic bacteria.  With the Mimivirus, the boundary between viruses and bacteria became officially blurred.  There is now considerable evidence that viruses were involved very early on in the evolutionary emergence of life.  Most of the genetic material on this planet is viral. Their ability to interact with organisms and to move genetic material around makes viruses major players in driving the evolution of new species.

In addition to viruses, there is a major branch of life composed of an ancient line of microbes without a nucleus known as the Archaea.  The Archaea may make up as much as one-third of all life on earth.  Then there are simple bacteria without a nucleus and more complicated bacteria with a nucleus.  By 1993 scientists had succeeded in creating “creatures” that looked and acted very much like living organisms.  They grew, ate, repro­duced, mutated, fought with each other and died—and they did all this spontane­ously, with­out inter­ference or help from their human creators.[i]  The scientific evidence currently supports the hypothesis that life gradually appeared through an accumulation of genetic typos committed by hordes of mindless microscopic “replication machines”.

Furthermore, the more scientists have learned about liv­ing things, the clearer it has be­come that all of life’s processes, from fertili­zation to the evo­lu­tion of the human brain, appear to be based entirely on chem­ical and physi­cal laws.  No laws of nature have been bypassed or bro­ken. No extra mira­cles or “vi­tal forces” seem to be required.  It just doesn’t seem neces­sary (and hasn’t for a long time now) to posit super­natural inter­ven­tions for the origin of life, or for that matter any aspect of human evolution.[ii]

Improbability arguments from irreducible complexity

Creationist: “All living cells contain complex micro­scopic biochemical machines which have many parts that must all be present at the same time for these machines to work; they can’t function if even one part is missing.  Since the parts do not have any survival value by themselves and since they could not possibly have come together all at once through any known natural evolutionary means, these biochemical machines must have been abruptly designed by an Intelligent Designer.”[iii] 

Response:  All of the examples of supposed irreducible com­plexity have been scientifically refuted.[iv]

In conclusion

People who make the exist­ence of their gods stand or fall based on improbability arguments regarding still unanswered scientific mysteries risk having their gods destroyed in the wake of scientific advances.


Charles Rulon is an Emeritus, Life Sciences, at Long Beach City College


[i]Levy, S., Artificial Life: The Quest for a New Creation -1993.

For current updates, see:

Also follow Craig Venter’s progress:

[ii] Key web sites for progress on the origin of life problem: <>: Devoted to the astro­nom­ical, chemical and biological aspects of the origin of life problem. <>: This is NASA’s “Origins” program page.  <>: A “Scientific American–Ask the Experts” site where concise, up-to-date information on what we know about the origin of life is given.

[iii]Behe, Michael, Darwin‘s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evo­­­l­­u­tion (1996)

[iv]Why Intelligent Design Fails by physicists Mark Young and Taner Edis (Editors).  For extensive web material dealing with the flaws of Behe’s argument, see: <>.  Also <www.miller /km/evol/DI/Design.html> and  <>

The Universe: “It’s scientifically too improbable, therefore God must have done it”

By Charles Rulon

Even if it looks to our limited minds that the only possible answer to some current mystery regarding life or the universe is that “God must have done it”, it’s arguably bad theology to claim as much.  This is because the strength of one’s faith now depends on whether or not scien­tists can fill this gap in our knowledge.  Since science has been extremely suc­cess­ful over the last few centuries in replacing “God did it” answers with fruitful naturalistic explanations, the risk of one’s faith being undermined is quite high.  The following are four such examples from the non-living realm.

Planetary orbits

Theist: Our solar system is very stable, with all the planets orbiting the Sun in the same direction and in roughly the same plane.  It’s highly improbable that this could have happened just by random chance, since there are no laws of physics that would have prevented the planets from revolving every which way around the Sun with disastrous effects.  Even Issac Newton believed God was needed to keep the planets from eventually flying away into space or falling into the Sun.  Isn’t this evidence that our solar system had to have been designed and finely tuned by an intelligent creator? 

Response:  But then along came Pierre-Simon de Laplace a century after Newton.  Laplace demonstrated mathematically that our solar system didn’t need God’s intervention to remain stable after all.  In addition, modern theories of solar system formation explained away all of this so-called miraculous planetary motion.  Our planets formed from a pancake-like disk of material that orbited the early Sun.  Conser­vation of angular momentum also explains why such pancake-like disks are so common throughout our universe.[i]

Besides, to make matters worse for the “God did it” folks, the structural details of our solar system are sloppy from an engineer­ing perspective, but just what one might expect if only the blind laws and forces of nature were involved. Plus, modern studies have even demonstrated that contrary to Laplace’s claim the orbits of our planets may eventually become chaotic after all.

The “Big Bang”

Theist: Our universe couldn’t have exploded into existence from nothing.  Therefore, it had to have had a creator.

Response:  According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the energy of a gravitational field is negative and the energy of matter is positive.  Calculations adding up all the matter and all the gravity in the observable universe come out to equal zero.[ii]  As one cosmologist put it: “The universe could come from nothing because it is, fundamentally, nothing.”[iii]

Furthermore, writes physicist Victor Stenger, the laws of physics are those that would be expected to exist if the universe arose mostly by chance from no matter, no energy, no structure and, most significantly, no infor­mation.[iv]  And cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, author of the book, A Universe from Nothing, writes: “The discoveries of modern particle physics and cosmology over the past half century allow not only a possibility that the universe arose from nothing, but in fact make this possibility increasingly plausible.  Every­thing we have measured about the universe is not only consistent with a universe that came from nothing…, but in fact, …makes this possibility ever more likely.”  “The old idea that nothing might involve empty space, devoid of mass or energy, or anything material, for example, has now been replaced by a boiling bubbling brew of virtual particles, popping in and out of existence in a time so short that we cannot detect them directly.”  Krauss further adds that “nothing”, meaning no space, no time, no laws of nature, is an unstable state and would collapse into something.  “Modern science has made the something-from-nothing debate irrelevant… Empirical discoveries continue to tell us that … ‘something’ and ‘nothing’ are physical concepts and therefore are properly the domain of science, not theology or philosophy. (Indeed, religion and philosophy have added nothing to our understanding of these ideas in millennia.)” [v]

Cosmological coincidences

Theist: Our universe is exquisite­ly fine-tuned for the evolution of life.  In fact, the famous astronomer Fred Hoyle even commented that our uni­verse looks like a “put-up job,” as though some­body had been “monkey­ing with the laws of physics.”  An apt comparison is a safe which can only be opened by registering a complicated series of numbers.  The mathematical odds against opening the safe by randomly spinning the dial are astronomical.  This is strong evidence for an intelligent creator of the universe.

Response: As cosmology and astrophysics continues to advance, a naturalistic expla­nation for all of this apparent fine-tuning has emerged.  It is the multiverse, a gigantic number of universes, each with differ­ent randomly appearing fundamental constants and, therefore, differ­ent proper­ties.  Our uni­­verse just happens by chance to be one of these universes in which the evolution of carbon-based life was pos­sible.  No supernatural designer is now needed; no “amaz­ing coinci­­dences” now need to be explained.

Of course, many theists see the multiverse hypothesis as merely a desperate attempt by atheists grasping at straws to explain away all the amazing cosmological coincidences.  But according to astronomer William Jefferys, the proposed existence of a multiverse is not a response to the apparent fine-tuning of our universe, but a consequence of the current leading theory in cosmology — a theory best supported by the evidence — the theory of chaotic inflation.  One possible consequence of inflation is that the universe contains an infinitely of regions that have each inflated into expanding universes much like ours, but perhaps with physical constants different from ours.  As further evidence, the concept of a multiverse is consistent with a leading model of string theory, which suggests that there could be 10500   possible universes, all with different self-consistent laws and constants.

When asked if scientists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, physicist Andrei Linde responded that nothing else fits the data.  He explained that physicists don’t have any other explanation for the dark energy, or for the mass of the electron, or for the many properties of various particles.  Besides, if nature can produce one universe, why couldn’t it produce many universes? Indeed, it might even be expected.  Physicists know nothing in principle to prevent it.

The “fine-tuned” Earth

Theist: There is a staggering amount of evidence that Earth is not some average planet, but is exquisitely fit to support life.  This amazing evidence all but proves the existence of an intelligent designer.[vi]

Response: In 2010, Geoff March, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley estimated that, judging from his observations, our galaxy may contain tens of billions of planets roughly the size and mass of Earth.[vii]   Thus, with so many planets it’s not surprising that here or there is a planet friendly to life.

Besides, how human-friendly is Earth in the first place? After all, it took over two billion years for even simple multi-cellular life to evolve.  Then it took another two billion years for humans to evolve, an event that included so many accidents and contingencies of history that, were evolution to start over, the big money is on space-age intelligent beings never evolving again.  In addition, catastro­phic events such as meteor impacts, gigantic volcanic eruptions, ice ages and plate tectonic movements tearing apart entire continents have devastated Earth’s surface for eons, resulting in at least five major mass extinctions over the last 600 million years.  Surely there might be other planets much more suited for the evolution of advanced species than Earth was.

Has science disproved God?

There are still a number of cosmologists who believe that the arguments for a multiverse are questionable.  Also, they observe that the “multiverse answer” still leaves ultimate questions unresolved, such as did the multiverse come into existence through necessity, chance or purpose?  Furthermore, they point out that proof of other universes radically different from our own may permanently lie beyond the domain of science.[viii]

Perhaps modern science is not incompatible with the idea that there could be some kind of “higher mind or intelligence or purpose” behind our universe’s existence.  But so far no such purpose or “intelligent designer” seems apparent or necessary.  Besides, as Krauss, Dawkins and numerous other non-theistic scientists have emphasized, there is no logical connection between some kind of “intelligence” behind the universe and the interventionist, genocidal, sin-punishing, prayer answering God of the world’s major religions.

Besides, if humans actually are central to some kind of master plan then, skeptics ask, why is our universe so unfathomably huge and old and violent?  Black holes suck in entire star systems.  Gigantic explosions at the center of galaxies destroy millions of worlds.  Also, why does this “master plan” have our universe expanding faster and faster, only to eventually once again become “nothing”?

Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in physics, sees no evidence for God in our universe and observes: “If we were to see the hand of a designer anywhere, it would be in the funda­mental principles, the laws of nature.  But contrary to some assertions they appear to be utterly impersonal and without any special role for life.” [ix]

Of course, many major scientific questions remain and always will.  Of course, scientists can only attempt to answer empiri­cally testable questions.  Of course, just because a phenome­non can be explained naturally doesn’t mean that some kind of “god” had nothing to do with it.  Yet, as scientific know­ledge has continued to advance over the last 400 years, supernatural explanations for events have con­tinued to retreat and retreat….and retreat. Today all relevant scientific evidence—from astrophysics, evolutionary biology and bio­chemistry, to the lack of any solid evidence for the existence of paranormal or supernatural events—strongly supports the conclusion (at least in the minds of non-theists) that there never were any gods in the first place, certainly not in any kind of mani­festation that is of interest to the overwhelming majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religious folk.

———————————————————————-                                                Charles Rulon  is an Emeritus, Life Sciences, Long Beach City College



[i]See “A Universe of Disks” by Omer Blaes in Scientific American, October 2004, p. 50+.

[iii] Lemley, Brad. “Guth’s Grand Guess”, Discover, April 2002.

[iv] Stenger, Victor; God: The Failed Hypothesis—How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. < philosophy/vstenger/VWeb/Home.html>.  Also:

[vi]For example, see the 2000 book Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee and the 2004 book The Privileged Planet by Gonzalez and Richards.

[vii] Discover, Jan./Feb. 2011, p. 34

[viii] Ellis, George. “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?”; Scientific American, August 2011.

[ix]Weinberg, Steven, 2001, A Designer Universe?  Skeptical Inquirer, Sept./Oct. 2001.

Six reasons for avoiding “God did it” answers to scientific questions

by Charles L. Rulon


 ”God did it” answers have historically yielded to scientific explanations

Repeatedly, super­natural explanations for physical events (such as comets, eclipses, earth­quakes, lightning, plagues, design in nature, Cambrian fossil explosion) later turned out to be scientifically explain­able. Even questions surrounding the origin of our universe, its apparent fine-tuning and the origin of life are yielding to scientific investigation. As scientific know­ledge continued to advance over the past 400 years, supernatural explanations for events con­tinued to retreat and retreat.  Many scientists faced with such a consistent trend have extrapo­lated to the conclusion that all of our earthly gods are non-existent and our holy books merely human creations.

 Today, some Christian, Jewish and Islamic theologians still reject all scientific findings that disagree with a literal reading of their holy books.  Others spend considerable time re-defining and reinter­preting words and phrases in their holy books to try to make the Genesis creation stories, Noah’s Ark and other miraculous events fit established scientific discoveries.  Still others have accepted the findings of science, but still see God as somehow intimately and actively involved in all natural processes.  But the efforts of these theologians are all one-sided; it is they who are continuously reacting or adjusting to scientific advances, not the other way around.  If some supernatural intelligent entity does exist, this entity seems to be working strictly through the laws of nature.

“God did it” is bad science

 Scien­tists don’t fall back on supernatural interventions to explain mysteries about the physical universe, not because they are closed-minded or non-theists, but simply because “God did it” answers are dead ends.  Such answers don’t open doors to new discoveries, new pre­dic­­tions, or productive research.  We’ll never get closer to discover­ing how life and the universe work by rubber stamping our gaps in scientific knowl­edge with “God did it” proclamations.  By insisting on natural­istic answers our reliable scientific knowledge has exploded. Over one million scientific research papers are now being pub­­lished yearly.

“God did it” is bad theology

 Even if it looks to our limited minds that “God did it” is the only possible answer to some physical aspect of our existence, it’s still bad theology to claim as much.  This is because the strength of one’s faith now depends on whether or not scien­tists can fill this gap in our knowledge.  Since scientists have been extremely suc­cess­ful over the last few centuries in replacing “God did it” answers with fruitful naturalistic explanations, the risk of one’s faith being undermined is quite high.

“God did it” answers can border on blasphemy

 Some liberal Christians have written that it borders on blasphemy to claim that their all-loving God would personally and purposely place His favorite creations on a planet destined to experience catas­trophic disasters that can even result in global mass extinctions.  Or consider our biological evolution.  Rejecting evolution is like rejecting the fact that the sun gives off heat.  It requires rejecting major chunks of biol­ogy, anthro­pology, geol­­ogy, bio­chem­istry, genetics and phy­sics, plus essentially the scientific method, itself.  Today, every major sci­en­­tific organi­­za­tion in the U.S. and in most of the world has published statements support­ing the fact of our evolution.  Yet, roughly 40% of Americans still reject evolution in favor of ancient creation myths.  Such widespread denial not only speaks volumes regarding our educational systems, but also borders on blasphemy.  Consider:

It borders on blasphemy to claim that God would purposely deceive liter­ally hundreds of thous­ands of dedicated scientists by making it look in every last detail as though evolution has occurred over the last several billion years.  It borders on blasphemy to claim that an all-wise, all-good God would have purposely created the overwhelming majority of all His species to be deadly parasites, which they are.  It borders on blasphemy to claim that God specially created us to have dozens of what appear to be poor engi­neering designs and anatom­ical defects, including our human brain with enough serious defects to fill neurology and psychi­atric text books and is now endangering our entire biosphere.  Prominent evolutionary biologist (and theist) Francisco Ayala had this to say regarding all of our apparent designer defects: “Not only can natural selection account for the ‘design’ of organisms, but also it amounts to blasphemy to attribute it to God’s special action.”[i]

“God did it” answers encourage the rejection of rationality

Another problem in fostering belief in “God did it” answers to scientific questions is that humans then find it much easier to reject the scientific method, take leaps of faith and believe in an amaz­ing diversity of disproved or highly question­able para­normal and super­natural things such as demons, angels, hell, purgatory, auras, virgin births, resur­rec­tions, faith healings, exorcisms, voices from Atlantis, omens, spirit signals, reincarnations, judg­­ment days, astro­logy, voodoo, fairies, vampires, zombies, witches, telekinesis, warlocks, ghosts, poltergeists, tarot cards, ouija boards, num­er­ology, and on and on and on.  

Also, once we grant the possibility of “God did it” answers to the workings of the universe, then we’ve strengthened the possibility of God’s miracles being in everything all the time.  For example, perhaps this god really did create the world only 6,000 years ago, but made it appear exact­ly as if it had evolved natu­rally over bill­ions of years, fossils and all.  Or maybe the earth is flat after all, according to the Flat Earth Society’s reading of selected biblical passages (see Dan. 4: 11, 20; Rev. 7:1; Is. 41: 5 and 40:28), but God makes us believe otherwise to test our faith.

“God did it” answers buttress justification for atrocities

 Throughout history humans have used their gods to justify slavery, the oppression of women, holy wars, inquisitions, crusades, jihads, the torture and burning of witches and homo­sexuals, the stoning to death of non-virgin brides and those caught work­ing on holy days, and even the extermi­na­tion of entire heathen cult­ures and inferior races.  Maybe God even manipulated events and people so that the United States would go to war with Iraq and then Iran in order to speed along the Apocalypse.


Charles L. Rulon,    Emeritus, Life Sciences,       Long Beach City College


[i] “Arguing For Evolution” by Francisco Ayala, The Science Teacher, February 2000 (vol. 67, no. 2), pp. 30-32. Ayala is in the Department of Ecology and Evol­u­tion, University of California, Irvine.

C Rulon: Biological Evolution: Replacing scientific fact with creationism can border on blasphemy

By   Charles L. Rulon,  Emeritus, Life Sciences

Long Beach City College

To insist that God abruptly created all of the different major kinds of life can be tantamount to blasphemy in the minds of liberal theists.  Consider:

Violent earth: Doesn’t it border on blasphemy to claim that an all-loving God would purposely place His favorite creations on a planet destined to experience catas­trophic disasters, including gigan­tic vol­can­ic eruptions, ice sheets cover­ing much of the planet, devastating tsunamis and earth­quakes, plate tectonic move­ments that tear apart entire conti­nents and asteroid bombardments that have resulted in global mass extinctions?

 Evolution: Doesn’t it border on blasphemy to claim that God would deceive liter­ally hundreds of thous­ands of dedicated scientists by making it look in every last detail as though evolution via natural selec­tion has been at work for the last several billion years? This includes data converging from a dozen different scientific disci­plines, along with millions of fossils spanning billions of years that all but spell out evol­u­tion. Isn’t it tantamount to blasphemy to even imply that the God of the Jews and Christians would personally carry out such a monumental deception?

Parasites: Doesn’t it border on blasphemy to claim that the all-wise, all-good God of Abraham would have purposely created the overwhelming majority of all His species to be deadly parasites, which they are?  Indeed, the study of our living world is, for the most part, the study of parasites.  To insist that the God of the universe created a parasite that blinds millions of people, or 10,000 dif­fer­ent species of tape­worms, or 2000 different species of disease-spread­ing biting lice, or thousands upon thousands of dif­ferent species of harm­ful bacteria, viruses and protozoa, or dozens of species of mal­aria-transmit­ting mosqui­toes is tantamount to blasphemy.  On the other hand, an abundance of parasites is just what one would expect if only natural selection were at work.

Blood sports: Consider cheetahs: they seem perfectly designed to kill gazelles.  Their eyes, teeth, claws and muscles are all what one might ex­pect if God’s pur­pose in designing cheetahs was to maximize their ability to catch and kill gazelles.  But now look at gazelles.  They also have been optimally designed to escape from cheetahs.  It looks just like cheetahs were designed by one god and gazelles by a rival god.  Either that or God made both because He’s a sadist into blood sports.  So, doesn’t it border on blasphemy to claim that God instantly created cheetahs and gazelles rather than to accept their evolution through natural selection?

Extinctions: Over 99% of all the billions of species to have ever inhabited earth sooner or later went extinct. Also, several mass extinctions in which up to 90% of all species on the planet went extinct have been documented in the fos­sil record.  If this is God’s purposeful handiwork, doesn’t that suggest a god that’s waste­ful, inept, care­less and uncon­cerned with the wel­fare of his cre­a­tions?  But since such thoughts are considered blasphemous, many Christians refuse to accept that ex­tinctions have actually occurred, or try to explain away the evidence with mythologies like Noah’s flood.

Oddities and Defects: The human body defi­nitely seems to be a marvelous ‘feat of engineering’.  For those who don’t understand the awesome power of natural selection working on continuous genetic variability over hundreds of millions of years, it’s easy to conclude that God specially created us.  But then that also means that God Almighty, Lord of the universe, must also be given the credit for all of our anatom­ical oddities such as nipples in males, plus dozens of what appear to be poor engi­neering designs or anatom­ical defects.

Examples of defects include an appendix that can be life-threatening; a birth canal that’s too small in females resulting in ex­tremely painful and often dangerous deliveries, with the deaths of untold numbers of women and new­borns throughout history; a miscarriage rate of over 60 percent; males with a pro­s­­tate gland that enlarges with age, blocks urination and inevitably becomes cancerous; a windpipe right next to our esophagus so that we can choke to death on a bite of food; males with extremely sen­si­tive testes vul­nerably exposed all the time instead of being withdrawn into the body as is done in numerous other mammals; our human brain with enough serious defects to fill neurology and psychi­atric text books and is now endangering the entire biosphere.

Rationalists can’t help but comment that if the above anatomi­cal and physiological ar­rangements really did originate from God, then God is either a sadist, a practical joker with a sick sense of humor, or needs to go back to design school.  On the other hand, if only natural selection is at work, then all of the above oddities and defects have perfectly natural explanations.

Prominent evolutionary biologist (and theist) Francisco Ayala had this to say regarding these apparent designer defects: “Not only can natural selec­tion account for the ‘design’ of organisms, but also it amounts to blasphemy to attribute it to God’s special action.” Ayala adds: “The defective design of organisms could be attributed to the gods of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, who fought with one another, made blunders and were clumsy in their endeavors. But, in my view, it is not compatible with a special action by the omnis­cient and omni­potent God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.”[i]


[i] “Arguing For Evolution” by Francisco Ayala, The Science Teacher, February 2000 (vol. 67, no. 2), pp. 30-32. Ayala is in the Department of Ecology and Evol­u­tion, University of California, Irvine.

C Rulon: God, Natural Theology & the Argument from Design

By Charles L. Rulon     Emeritus, Life Sciences   Long Beach City College

A favorite argument for the existence of God(s) from the ancient Greeks up to 1859 was the argument from design. The incredible design of the human eye, the bird’s wing, the human brain and all the harmony in nature could not have happened by chance. Where there is design, there must be a designer. After all, what are the odds of all this design happening by chance? It’s like believing that scraps of metal could be randomly thrown together to create a 747. God was truly everywhere.

As a result, in the 1700s and early 1800s many in England turned to nature to study the products of God’s Creation in an attempt to learn more about the mind of God. Butterfly and shell collections were proudly displayed in homes as the equivalent of the Bible laid open on the coffee table. Those who would study God’s works (nature) began to be seen as theologians as much as those who would study His word (the Bible). Natural history became transformed into Natural Theology and in the early 1800s nature books even outsold novels. Humans and nature belonged to an almighty purpose and the study of nature’s biological wonders revealed God’s personal concern for humanity.

The English theologian William Paley in 1802 became well known because of his comparison of the complex design in nature to that of a watch. To loosely quote Paley: “Look, if I found a watch on the beach, I would obviously know that all of the parts of the watch didn’t fly together just by accident. I would know that there had to have been a watchmaker. Well, the human eye is much more complex than a watch. So is a beautifully camouflaged butterfly. All of this design obviously proves the existence of an unbelievably intelligent and enormously powerful designer. He had to have been incredibly precise and creative in order to make a livable habitat for all the creatures He designed. The human mind, in particular, is a product of such high quality and complexity that it had to have been designed by a craftsman of infinite skill. That means that He has to be a personal being who cares for his creatures. This designer has to be the Christian God!”

However, there were many critics of Natural Theology, in particular the two famous philosophers and empiricists of the late 1700s, David Hume (1711-1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). In addition, criticisms of Natural Theology continued to grow as more and more scientific discoveries were made related to faulty biological designs, to the appearance of fossils of extinct species, and to earth being extremely old. Some of these criticisms were as follows:

Critic 1: “Even if there is a designer, that doesn’t mean he’s your Christian God. Suppose I find a watch that has design flaws. Doesn’t that tell me the watchmaker is inept? So what about all of the design flaws in humans, like our useless appendix that ruptures, or our wisdom teeth that are mostly impacted, or our wind pipe right next to our esophagus so that we can choke to death on a bite of food, or the birth canal being too small, resulting in hundreds of  thousands of deaths at childbirth? And what about nipples in males? Doesn’t all this prove that your designer god is inept and maybe even mean-spirited?”

Critic 2: “Also, to use your watch analogy, there are lots of different watch-makers, so maybe there are also lots of different designers. Besides, just because all watches have watchmakers, why should it follow that a butterfly has to have a butterfly maker? After all, everyone’s seen a watchmaker, but no one has ever seen a butterfly maker. Maybe there’s some unknown law of nature responsible for making the butterfly and we’re just not smart enough to figure it out.”

And so it went – back and forth – back and forth. Supporters of Natural Theology absolutely knew that God’s goodness and intelligent design was real and, for hundreds of years, continued to present arguments as proof. And for hundreds of years these arguments were rebutted by the critics who pointed out all the cruelty and suffering in the animal world — and all the parasites — and all the extinctions. But the believers had answers for everything.

So why wasn’t either side able to convince the other? Was it because believers had some secret proof unknown to the skeptics, or vice versa? No. Was it because one or the other had just carelessly overlooked the invalidity of their arguments. No. If it were any of these, this issue would have been settled long ago. All the cards were on the table for everyone to see, yet intelligent human beings still continued to disagree over them.

So why wasn’t either side able to convince the other? One reason was blind faith. Another was the fact that well-designed species actually existed. What other possible explanation than “God (or a universal mind) did it” could there be for the existence of all these different species (including us), each with intricate adaptations and designs? If we weren’t created by some kind of super intelligent designer or designers, then how did we get here?”

As a result, even though many scientists and philosophers, especially on the European continent, no longer believed in Natural Theology, biology was still very much tied to theology. How could it be otherwise? All the design in nature obviously demanded a Designer. All of the different species obviously demanded a Creator. As a result,

almost all scientists and philosophers in the early 1800s were either Christian men to some degree, or at least were deists. Also, virtually all the naturalists in England in the early 1800s were ordained ministers, as were the professors at Cambridge who taught botany and geology.

 The Origin of Species

Then in 1859 Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published. The Origin seriously challenged several major pillars of Christian dogma, in particular special creation, the design argument and man’s unique status. God was no longer required as an explanatory factor for all of the design in nature. Instead, The Origin contained considerable argument and evidence to show first, that the evolution of species had really occurred and second, that species could evolve naturally and automatically without guidance or foresight through a process called natural selection. Natural selection could explain the evolution of eyes, of wings and of all the different species, including their many defects. It could explain why species go extinct and why there are far more parasitic species than free-living ones.

The Origin sold out on the first day of publication and subsequently went through six editions and the world has never been the same since. It was the book that “shook the world.” It was to eventually bring about one of the greatest paradigm shifts in scientific, philosophical and religious thinking in the history of the world!

From the moment of its publication Darwin’s fundamental ideas inspired intense reactions ranging from ferocious condemnation to ecstatic allegiance. Most of Darwin’s Victorian contemporaries bitterly opposed and ridiculed the idea that man might have descended from an ape. For scientists and philosophers alike, from Aristotle to Descartes to Kant, man was a creature above and apart from other living beings. He held a unique position in God’s Creation. He had a soul. There was no possible transition from animal to man.

But there were many who supported Darwin. One was Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin and one of the founders of meteorology. On reading Darwin’s book, Galton wrote him the following letter: “My Dear Darwin, I always think of you in the same way as converts from barbarism think of the teacher who first relieved them from the intolerable burden of superstition. I used to be wretched under the weight of the old-fashioned arguments from design, [which I felt were worthless, but unable to prove it]. Consequently, the appearance of your book drove away the constraint of my old superstition as if it had been a nightmare and [gave] me freedom of thought.”