The Case for a Creator (Book Review)

case-creator“Equal time.”  Sometimes when the other side of an issue is presented, opponents decry that both sides were not given the chance to argue their case.  “Bias!  Give us equal time.”  But this kind of objection is usually special pleading.  We who don’t buy the scientific establishment’s story that “evolution is a fact” and “believing in a Creator is anti-science” are used to having our position ridiculed and dismissed by evolution proponents.  It appears the shoe is on the other foot.

The theory of naturalistic, materialistic, purposeless, unguided evolution has such a privileged position in secular cultures that there is no hope for “equal time” for those who think the scientific evidence points to Creationism or Intelligent Design.  Critics of evolution only hope for respect in the discussion.  Popular Christian apologist Lee Strobel hopes to bring a semblance of “equal time” to the discussion of science.  In his book, The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God (CFAC), the reader is treated to a challenging yet fast-paced narrative of the author’s interviews with noted scientists in various fields who question the evolutionary dogma commonly accepted by the public.  The third in his original trilogy of apologetic works (the other two are The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith), CFAC makes an informative, interesting, and (for many) compelling case that the Christian God is the author of creation, and that science gives evidence of this.

Like so many students in America, Strobel recounts his journey from child-like faith in God to atheism.  When presented with the teaching and evidence for evolution in middle school, he intuitively understood that if Darwin’s theory of evolution were true, then God would be out of a job.  His school textbooks and the march of scientific progress convinced him to trust the scientists and abandon the preachers.  But years later, his wife’s conversion to Christianity spurred him to use his journalistic training to reinvestigate the evidence for the Christian truth claims.  Among other topics, Strobel studied the scientific evidence for the competing theories of evolution and creation.  During this quest, he discovered that the “icons” of evolution in which students are indoctrinated in (e.g., Stanley Miller’s experiment, Darwin’s tree of life, Haeckel’s embryo drawings, and archaeopteryx) were now-discredited by many scientists—including proponents of evolution. This discovery led the author to learn that many scientists have serious doubts about Darwinism which they are willing to voice and publish to the detriment of their professional reputations.  Then Strobel pursued these scientists who are able to articulate and maintain an intellectual position that holds science and faith together in harmony.  With seeds of doubt planted in the theory of evolution, which he thought to be truth universally held by everyone with a brain and proper education, Strobel embarked on a journalistic investigation to pose tough questions to experts in various branches of science who hold the position of Intelligent Design.  Chapters 5-10 of CFAC narrate his search:

Chapter 5.  The Evidence of Cosmology: Beginning with a Bang.  Expert: William Lane Craig.

Chapter 6.  The Evidence of Physics: The Cosmos on a Razor’s Edge.  Expert: Robin Collins.

Chapter 7.  The Evidence of Astronomy: The Privileged Planet.  Experts: Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards.

Chapter 8.  The Evidence of Biochemistry: The Complexity of Molecular Machines.  Expert: Michael J. Behe.

Chapter 9.  The Evidence of Biological Information: The Challenge of DNA and the Origin of Life.  Expert: Stephen C. Meyer.

Chapter 10.  The Evidence of Consciousness: The Enigma of the Mind.  Expert: J.P. Moreland.

The final chapter presents a summary of Strobel’s investigation that serves as a “cumulative case” for a Creator.  Although the “cumulative case” strategy for arguing one’s position is vulnerable to the “leaky bucket defense” (see fn. 2) it is an appropriate strategy when the alternative theory of Darwinism has reached a crisis in current scientific thinking.  So what is Strobel’s cumulative case for a Creator?  It is a two-pronged case.  First, he attempts to establish doubt of the positive evidence of evolution.

  1. Evolution demands naturalism as its underlying premise.  Philosophical naturalism implies that “nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason” (277).  Is this worldview plausible?
  2. The biological scientific requirements for evolution to occur are increasingly understood within the scientific community as insurmountable.  As the fossil record has filled out since Darwin, the evidence for evolution has grown significantly weaker, particularly in light of the Cambrian Explosion.  The origin of new and increasingly complex biological information is unexplainable within the Darwinian paradigm.

Second, he attempts to foster belief in the positive evidence of design.

  1. The Kalaam Cosmological Argument concludes the universe has a cause that brought it out of non-being into being (existence).  Nothing is self-caused, for that is illogical.
  2. The laws and constants of physics that govern the universe are finely-tuned to make life habitable on earth.  The anthropic principle strongly points to a designer.
  3. Earth seems to be positioned in such a location in the universe to make it a unique environment capable of sustaining life.  Not just any life, but teeming with life.  Furthermore, the earth resides in the rare habitable zone in our galaxy that makes our astronomical vantage point exceptional for scientific observation and discovery.
  4. Modern biochemistry reveals the inner working of cells in which we observe irreducibly complex biological machines.  Some of these are cilia and bacterial flagella.  These (among other) biomechanical wonders render evolution unbelievable.  Not to mention the certain existence of other cellular wonders we have not discovered yet!
  5. DNA is in the realm of biology.  This genetic information code contains immense amounts of specified complexity.  No know evolutionary process is able to even begin to produce new and increasingly complex biological information.  On the contrary, the only know source of specified complex information known to exist is creative, purposeful intelligence.
  6. Human beings differ from all other creatures in their ability to think about their thoughts.  This is consciousness.  Although the empirical science of exploring the relationship of mind and body is still in its infancy, preliminary findings suggest there is a mind separate from the body (i.e., we are not at bottom computers made of meat).  Some research suggests empirical evidence that the mind may continue to exist apart from the body.  If this is the case, then naturalism and materialism are not true by definition.

This two-part case makes up the bulk of the book.  But Strobel, as a Christian, wants to guide the reader from a theistic position to the Christian position.  Due to space and scope limitations, in CFAC he can only point the way forward.  Strobel notes that the scientific case (natural revelation) yields information about the universe’s designer that is in complete harmony with the God of the Bible.  For each of the following attributes of nature’s Intelligent Designer, he quotes a Bible verse to demonstrate their compatibility.  What are these attributes?  “Creator, unique, uncaused and timeless, immaterial, personal, freedom of will, intelligent and rational, enormously powerful, creative, caring, omnipresent, given humankind purpose, provides for life after death” (284-285).  Strobel’s steps from this theistic proof to Jesus and Christianity are documented in his two earlier books.

In my reading of various hostile reviews of CFAC, I note that Strobel’s critics lambast his method as shoddy, biased, hypocritical, sham journalism.  The criticisms tend to fall into two categories.  Some will seek to discredit his project altogether a priori due to a presupposition that science is only allowed to pursue naturalistic, materialistic answers.  This is a bit like a detective refusing to interview plausible suspects because they don’t fit his rules of investigation.  “It can’t be him because it can’t be him!”  Others will complain that Strobel’s case did not give evolutionists a positive hearing.  “We demand equal time!”  Come on.  On the grand scale of things, evolutionists have the least to whine about.  The Case for a Creator isn’t equal time, but it’s a small step in the “equal time” direction.

Resources

Read full text of book online

Summary article by Lee Strobel

Summary of key chapters by Alex Damon

Scientists who endorse Strobel’s argument

Reviews

Amazon

Brightest Day

Creation.com (Young-Earth Creationist)

Faith and Science Resource

Goodreads

Word Slingers

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5 Responses to The Case for a Creator (Book Review)

  1. Hrafn says:

    RFLMAO!

    Strobel isn’t a “journalist”, he’s a full-time Christian Apologist, who hasn’t worked as a journalist for more than thirty years.

    What he presents is not “scientific evidence”, but a bunch of tired old religiously-motivated pseudoscientific arguments, that have long since been rejected by the scientific community.

    The vast majority of his “scientists” aren’t scientists at all — Michael Behe and Guillermo Gonzalez being the only two exceptions (though both of their scientific outputs have cratered since their involvement in ID). The rest are not “experts” in any scientific field, but are rather philosophers, apologists and/or theologians.

    Strobel’s purported ‘discovery’ of “Icons of Evolution”, is in fact a regurgitation of Jonathan Wells’ debunked arguments (from the book of the same name). Evolutionary Biology does not in fact rest on these ‘icons’, nor are the nearly as flawed as Wells purports.

    This isn’t an “investigation”, but merely a regurgitation. A more accurate subtitle would be ‘A Christian Apologist Parrots the Discovery Institute’.

    • Hrafn. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Have you read CFAC? I get the sense your objection is ad hominem and not so much to what Strobel argues.

      • Hrafn says:

        Brian:
        Why would I want to read the ‘parrot’ when I can read his faux-experts, and the voluminous work debunking them, directly?

        1) I’ve enough of a background in philosophy, logic and science to know that Craig’s Kalaam Cosmological Argument is worthless. (i) Quantum theory (and even random nuclear decay) casts considerable doubt on there being any iron-clad ‘law’ of causation, (ii) the “begins to exist” wording is a blatant get-out-of-jail-free-for-God play, (iii) Craig’s definition of ‘universe’ is generally taken to be a misrepresentation of current cosmological understanding. Craig has in fact been widely criticised by cosmologists for misrepresenting their work. He may be a rock star in the Christian Apologetics community, but is not held in high regard in either scientific or philosophical circles.

        2) Far from being solid “scientific evidence”, the “anthropic principle” (and related claims as to the Earth’s positioning) is a nebulous concept, subject to a wide range of formulations and viewpoints, and far more controversy than points of agreement. Taking the views of somebody who never finished their physics PhD, an astronomer who was just out of his post doc and theologian with no scientific background as authoritative on the matter is ridiculously credulous.

        3) Michael Behe’s ‘Irreducible Complexity’ argument is an ‘Argument from Ignorance/Personal Incredulity’ logical fallacy. This is even more obvious due to the fact that he is literally “ignorant” on many of the fields that he calls upon for his examples, never having performed research in his fields, and has in fact had his claims contradicted by those whose research he used as a basis for them. He has admitted, under oath at Dover, that he has never performed research on the “bacterial flagella” that is his most famous example. So why would we take his ill-informed word for it, that they cannot have evolved?

        4) Stephen C. Meyer is not an “expert” on “biological information”, biology or information. His claims on the matter (contained in his own book ‘Signature in the Cell’, which I have read), is simply a regurgitation of William Dembski’s long-debunked claims about “specified complex information”. If you want to know what the mathematical community thinks about Dembski’s claims then I’d suggest you read a review aptly titled “Written in Jello”, by a prominent mathematician whose work Dembski was attempting to base his book on (and whose theorem Dembski actually used as the title of the book under review). So in this case, we don’t just have parroting, we have parroting a parrot (who was himself parroting a discredited source).

        5) Moreland has no expertise in any neurological field, let alone any qualified to offer an opinion on comparative inter-species cognition. I have studied Philosophy of Mind in university, and can assure you that the field is largely divorced from modern science. The contents of that field are far too nebulous and ill-grounded to allow such striking conclusions. I’m sure however that, cherry-picking both that field, and the neurosciences, it would be possible to give the superficial appearance of evidence for Moreland’s position (or any other, even if mutually-contradictory, position for that matter).

        Now tell me again why I need to read this not-investigation by a not-journalist on the not-scientific claims of not-experts, before laughing at it and anybody who thinks I should be taking it seriously.

        Oh and by the way, it is ***NOT*** an “ad hominem” to point out that far from acting as an ‘investigative journalist’, he was allowing himself to be spoon-fed arguments that fit his own preconceptions, from a single, discredited source (the Discovery Institute). Such partisan myopia would, by itself, be strong reason for skepticism of the arguments he parroted. Given what I already know about the arguments’ champions, and their contents, I have more than enough information already do draw a conclusion.

      • Hrafn: Thanks for visiting Dangitbill and responding to me on my little corner of the blogosphere.  From what I can tell your mind is pretty made up on this issue, so I don’t really see any point in further dialogue for either of us.  If you care to respond I’ll let you have the last word.  Cheers.  

  2. Hrafn says:

    “From what I can tell your mind is pretty made up on this issue…”

    And yours isn’t? My point is that Strobel’s shtick, and that of his woefully-faux “experts”, is only useful for “preaching to the choir”. Anybody who wasn’t basing their acceptance purely on ideological sympathies would see that this is an ‘evidentiary’ house of cards.

    Have you read the criticisms of their work, many of them from people who (unlike Strobel’s faux-experts) actually have expertise in the areas under discussion? Or were you willing to be satisfied with the fact that their arguments sounded impressive, and were consonant with your own preconceptions? Your whole OP was an Appeal to False Authority.

    Your credulity is laughable, hence my initial reaction (“RFLMAO”) in my first post.

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