Monday, September 20, 2004

Colson on Strobel

Over at Breakpoint, Charles Colson has weighed in with yet another piece attacking evolution. This time he is puffing up Lee Strobel, author of the books The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, and the newly released The Case for a Creator. (As Stephen King once wrote, once you've done Frankenstein what's left to do but Bride of Frankenstein?).

I've read Strobel's first two books. Somehow I'm not optimistic that the newest one will be any improvement. Let's consider some of Colson's comments:

The most powerful image involved the Stanley Miller experiment. In 1953, Miller, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, attempted to artificially create the building blocks of life. Miller reproduced what he believed was the atmosphere of the primitive earth. He then shot electric sparks through it to simulate lightning. The result? Amino acids.

Strobel says that when he learned of this experiment, “My mind flashed to the logical implication: If the origin of life can be explained solely through natural processes, then God was out of a job! After all, there was no need for a deity if living organisms could emerge by themselves out of the primordial soup and then develop . . . into more and more complex creatures.”

I'm sure it will come as news to the many proponents of theistic evolution that the possibility of life forming by natural processes from simpler components puts God out of a job. Of course, there is no such logical implication as Strobel describes.

Strobel was delighted to put God out of a job, because no God meant he could behave exactly as he wanted. And that’s how things remained for quite a few years. And then, one day, an unexpected witness led Strobel to reconsider the possibility that God might exist, after all: Strobel’s wife Leslie announced that she had become a Christian. Strobel was horrified. He could not understand how a rational person could believe such nonsense.

I think there's a lot of “tending to the legend” going one here. Strobel's description of his life before becoming a Christian sounds like something straight out of a religious tract.

As for that first sentence, if fear of God's wrath is the only thing keeping Strobel in line, then I'm very happy that he's found religion. I guess the rest of us will have to make-do with more mundane considerations, like, say, basic civility and social responsibility. Of course, the idea that there's no sound basis for morality outside of religion is just a slur against atheists, albeit a depressingly common one.

Strobel’s story is a warning of why Christians need to teach their kids how to apply worldview thinking to every aspect of their lives. We can start by telling them that much of the so-called evidence for evolution is fraudulent or has been proven false, like the Miller experiment that so influenced Strobel. Strobel discovered all of this when he began searching for answers.

That middle sentence packs an impressive amount of nonsense into a very small space. First, there is nothing either fraudulent or false about the Miller experiment. It was the first experiment to show that natural processes could craft complex molecules from simple components. This result came as a surprise to most of the scientists of the day. It deserves mention in every biology textbook for those reasons. As it happens, more recent research has shown that the mixture of gasses Miller used to simulate the atmosphere of the early Earth is probably unrealisitc. However, his experiment has been repeated with mixtures of gasses more in line with modern thinking, and similar results have been obtained.

Furthermore, Miller's experiment relates to the origin of life, and consequently has nothing to do with evolution. Biology texts usually include the Miller experiment in the section on evolution, because the two subjects are obviously related. But the fact remains that the Miller experiment is not evidence one way or the other for evolution.