Before starting this next post I want to offer a short disclaimer…
This is not the typical “How does Judaism deal with evolution when it clearly contradicts the literal reading of Genesis” post. For my opinion on this question I refer you back a few blog posts ago here to one about the age of the universe, you can assume my opinion on Judaism and Evolution is the same.
In this post I want to talk about a more general question – the interaction between God and Evolution.
This topic was initially inspired by my recent finishing of the book Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe. In this book Behe argues for an idea that he coins irreducible complexity. Without going into too many of the intricate details that make up the majority of his book, Behe attempts to show that our classic model of evolution is not able to explain the complicated creatures existing on Earth today. To paraphrase an example that Behe gives:
Imagine a mousetrap with all of its different parts working together to complete its goal (trapping a mouse), now if one takes away any of the parts from this mousetrap it obviously would not be able to complete its goal. Now let us try to imagine a scenario in which an object like a mousetrap could evolve step by step from another object. Well if we take away any of the parts (the hammer, the bait, the wooden base, etc.) it would not work. So how could a random mutation (which evolution needs to do its thing) from a previous object result in a complete mousetrap? If there was somehow a mousetrap that did not have the hammer (which eventually mutated and gained a hammer) it would have died out in nature very quickly because it would have been useless. Following this logic, a mousetrap could be deemed irreducibly complex and we can conclude that there is no way that gradual evolution could result in a complete mousetrap.
Behe then introduces many biological structures ranging from the human eye to flagellum repeating the same argument while describing each of the important sub-parts of these objects. While Behe does not dispute the ancient age of fossils or even the idea of common ancestry, he concludes that the holes in evolution must be the workings of a designer that was present and giving “input” at each and every step of the evolutionary process. This basic argument that Behe uses is argued for by many different advocates for both Creationism and some of Intelligent Design.
While the above argument and analogy may seem genius to some and stupid to others, I think that either way it is very dangerous. While Behe is correct in the fact that there are many holes in our knowledge of evolution, he mistakenly concludes that holes in knowledge means that God must be present. This is a dangerous and historically fallible argument known as God of the Gaps. The basic argument is – there is something we do not understand in nature, therefore the hole in our understanding must be a force beyond our comprehension (aka God). One can easily see that as our scientific knowledge continues to grow this argument continues to lose its credibility. Imagine one using this argument a few hundred years ago, only to be continuously disappointed as our society has had one amazing scientific breakthrough after another. When one invokes a God of the Gaps type argument they are completely susceptible to faith breaking disappointment as their idea of God becomes smaller as scientific knowledge gets larger.
Arguing that gaps in evolution prove God is about as ridiculous as arguing that a complete knowledge of evolution would disprove God (cough cough Richard Dawkins and co). Rather than looking for God in our lack of knowledge, our community, as believers and healthy skeptics, should begin to look for God in what we already know. We know that the process of Evolution is a crazy process which can take something dull and low level and through a slow and complicated process make that thing great. We know that although most of nature is subject to entropy, somehow mammals continue to become more complex eventually creating human beings. I find that my belief in God is much more enhanced when I look for him in the whole of nature rather than in our gaps of knowledge in it.
So please- let’s not say that Evolution is wrong or stupid because not every single fact about it has been figured out, but rather we should look at processes in the world, specifically evolution, and marvel at the beautiful ways in which God has set them up.