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.