The final chapter in this book tells a modern Creation story, serving as a summary to the entirety of the book. Following this is a (well) annotated bibliography which should, on its own, provide ample reading and ideas for further research and theological formulation. But, before this final bit is the chapter which deals expressly with human life. Are we simply accidents or is their a teleological aspect to our existence?
Any understanding of evolution is based in scientific fact. It must be, else, it wouldn’t long survive. There is objective evidence, identified after experimentation, documentation, and comparing possible outcomes one with another. It is here that we find more than enough room to ground Christian theological speculation and our core tenants of the sanctity of life and actually find that some of our very arguments are actually strengthened. Our authors, professing to be scientists and not theologians, nevertheless, give us fodder for our continued understanding of just how valuable life is and indeed, the presence of God’s order in our universe. This chapter will be the least popular among both atheists and YE-Creationists alike because it dismantles their philosophical arguments rather succinctly.
What are we to make of Life itself? Our authors, and others, call it the grand narrative (p198) and truly it is. It is the tale of how evolution points us towards life, and the unique characteristics which all life shares. It is about consciousness, and indeed conscience, but it is about the fact that from the very ‘in the beginning’ to the last ‘and it was good’, Life has been the focus of the universe. In the previous chapter, the issue of fine tuning was dealt with; in this chapter, the authors examine Gould’s (201-202) and Conway Morris’ (202-204)theories on the role in which Life occupies. The former sees it as a random chance, while the latter sees Life – our life – as the predetermined course which the universe had to follow. To provide a reason for this is the theologian and the philosopher’s task, but to provide the systematic examination and order of this process is the scientists’ task. As they note, once you stand outside the process, their is a certain trajectory which is inexplicably noticeable (p199). They give the example of the eye, which has developed at last seven noticeable times. They take this example and use it as a ‘full frontal assault on the standard picture of evolution as a random and meandering path to nowhere.’ (p204). This ‘favored pathway’ of Morris’ thought should be explored by scientists, and they are being explored, but understood by the theologian as the telos of the universe. If there is a telos (purpose) and a logos (the foundational order) to the universe, then to the open mind, we have pointers to a very plausible God.
By now, most Christians have ceased to believe that the ‘image of God’ in Genesis 1 actually means that God looks like us, or we like Him. The authors note this and call attention to the fact that there are indeed other explanations to Genesis 1 than what the Young Earth Creationist proposes. They tackle this issue in the later half of the book, offering several different explanations, ending with ]]’s view that the story of Adam is the story of Israel.
I will follow these reflections up with a review later in the week.