“Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22 RSV).
Education should always find a way to explain things without mentioning God. When it comes to explaining how the universe began or where life came from, God should not be in the picture at all. The world and all its creatures come from a natural process, not from a Creator. As the Encyclopedia Britannica has put it, natural selection is “automatic, with no room for divine guidance or design.”
This view is common among some educated people, especially those in the education establishment. The National Association of Biology Teachers has issued a statement declaring that all life arose by an “unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable, and natural process.” This doctrine also rings forth from the public school textbooks of major publishers. For example, Prentice Hall’s textbook Biology says, “Evolution is random and undirected… without either plan or purpose.”
That’s the prevailing view of textbooks and encyclopedias and teacher’s associations, and promoting that view is one of the great tasks of education. Every living thing exists by accident, without plan or purpose. Belief in a supernatural plan or purpose is like belief in magic. It’s fantasy, not fact. Belief in God is like belief in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. It’s okay for little children, but educated adults should know better. Somewhere between kindergarten and graduate school, God should disappear from your mind. The realistic, educated person says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Or so we are told by experts and educators. But that’s not what the Bible says. According to the Bible, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1). Unbelief is not a mark of the wise; it’s the mark of a fool. It takes a fool to say there is no God.
But isn’t that rather harsh? Isn’t it unfair to call an unbeliever a fool? After all, many unbelievers aren’t stupid. They’re brilliant. They’re intelligent and educated. How can the Bible call them fools?
Well, it’s possible to be an educated fool. You can have a high I.Q. and lots of education and still be a fool. You know lots of information and not have much wisdom. You can learn more and more details and yet never see the big picture. You can have overwhelming evidence of God right in front of you and yet concoct a theory to explain him away. That’s educated foolishness. In Romans 1 the Bible says,
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… they exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:18-25).
What a description of educated fools! “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” How can you look at a universe filled with so much matter and energy and think that it popped into existence from nowhere? How can you see the structure and design of things and not believe there is a Designer? How can you see so many different forms of life and not believe there is a life-giver, a God who is a great fountain of life?
You have to be a fool to look at creation and not believe in the Creator. The evidence is right there in front of you. Some people ask, “How can you believe in a God you’ve never seen.” But a better question is, “How can you not believe in God, with so much evidence all around you? Take a look around!
One of the most blatant cases of educated foolishness in our world today is the notion that our universe and all living things on our planet come not from a divine Creator but from an accidental, purposeless process.
Let’s begin with a few simple facts about the planet we live on. The earth is about 93 million miles away from the sun. If it were much closer, we would all fry. If it were further away, we would freeze. But it’s exactly the right distance from the sun. Is that just an accident?
The earth spins around once every 24 hours. If it took, say, 5,000 hours for each rotation, as some planets do, no living thing could survive. The days would be so long and hot that all moisture on the planet would boil away. The nights would be so cold that if anything had survived the day, it would certainly freeze to death during the night. Fortunately for us, however, earth rotates once every 24 hours. Is that just an accident?
And what about the origin of life? Could living things come from dead matter as the result of a purposeless process? Has anyone ever observed such an event? Never. In fact, scientists have completely discredited spontaneous generation, the notion that living things spring up from dead matter. It just doesn’t happen. Scientists and educators know this, and yet they cling to their faith that somehow, long ago, spontaneous generation did take place, that dead matter did somehow produce living things.
They’ve run all kinds of experiments, trying to produce a living cell from non-living material. They’ve spent a great deal of research, time, and money trying to show how it could happen. They still haven’t succeeded. But just suppose they finally did succeed. Suppose they somehow produced a living cell from dead matter. What then? What would that prove? That life is an accident, with no creator or intelligent designer? Far from it! Obviously, any life form that resulted from years of study and work would be the product of intelligent design and creativity, not a proof that life evolved by accident. Meanwhile, no such experiment has worked.
Now, if so many brilliant scientists still haven’t been able to produce even the simplest life form, doesn’t it make sense to conclude that it would take someone with power and intelligence far greater than ours to design and create the fantastically complex forms of life that we see on our planet?
Molecular biologist Michael Behe speaks of “irreducible complexity” in his recent book, Darwin’s Black Box, and Nancy Pearcey has written a helpful review of the book. What is “irreducible complexity”? It’s when something can’t begin to work until all of its parts are present and working together. Behe uses a mousetrap as an example. You can’t take part of a mousetrap, such as the wooden base, and catch a few mice, then add a spring and catch a few more, add a hammer and catch a few more, and so on. The mousetrap needs to be designed and built with each part in place and connected to the other parts before it can catch its first mouse. In the same way, an irreducibly complex system in the body must be assembled all at once before it can do its job. It can’t appear gradually, piece by piece.
An example of this is the eye. The eye has a lens, an adjustable focus, a variable diaphragm which controls the amount of light, light sensors, and so forth. None of these parts can do its job unless the other components of the eye are also present. Darwin spoke of natural selection as the force that drives evolution, but creatures that evolved only some parts of an eye would have no adaptive advantage over their relatives. The eye would be useless in natural selection until all its parts were present and working together. Darwin himself wrote, “When I think of the eye, I shudder.” “To suppose that the eye … could have been formed by natural selection,” said Darwin, “seems absurd in the highest degree.” But despite the absurdity, Darwin went ahead and preached his doctrine, and people put their faith in him.
Back in Darwin’s time, the complexity of the eye made him shudder–and Darwin didn’t know the half of it. He didn’t know a thing about biochemistry. At that time, the cell was thought to be nothing more than a blob of jellylike protoplasm, and so when it came to questions like how the eye could have evolved, people might tell tales of a light-sensitive spot accidentally evolving into a group of cells cupped to focus light better, and so forth until eventually a complete eye somehow appeared. But the fact is that even something as seemingly simple as a light-sensitive spot is not simple at all. It is irreducibly complex.
Here’s a glimpse of what Michael Behe says about the molecular biology of a light-sensitive cell. Let me warn you, though: for the next thirty seconds or so, you might not understand a thing you hear. “When light strikes the retina,” says Behe, “a photon is absorbed by a molecule called cis-retinal, which causes it to change to trans-retinal. The change in retinal forces a corresponding change in the protein rhodopsin, which allows it to interact with another protein called transducin. Transducin dissociates from a small molecule call GDP and binds to a different molecule called GTP, and this complex binds to a protein called phosphodiesterase…”
The explanation goes on and on, but you’ve heard enough. Obviously, a single light-sensitive cell makes a mousetrap look downright simple. It’s irreducibly complex. A cell isn’t light-sensitive until all these aspects of molecular biology are working together–just as a mousetrap can’t catch even one mouse until all the necessary parts are in place.
Some educated people still believe myths about a light-sensitive cell accidentally and gradually turning into an eye, and some educators still teach these myths as fact. Such tall tales are hard enough to believe, but it would take even taller tales to explain things at the biochemical level. In fact, nobody is even trying. Michael Behe points out that there are virtually no professional papers that propose any detailed, testable hypotheses about the evolution of the irreducibly complex molecular structures of living things. The silence is deafening.
Nevertheless, people still talk in broad terms about living things accidentally and gradually evolving one organ or body part, then another, then another. Michael Behe compares this to thinking you’ve explained how a stereo system works when you speak of “plugging a set of speakers into an amplifier and adding a CD player, a radio receiver, and a tape deck.” It’s easy to talk about adding one black box, then another, and then another, to a stereo system. But inside those black boxes are all sorts of interrelated parts arranged in a very complex design.
So it is with the organs and cells of living things. The more you discover about what’s inside, the more complex and intricate the design turns out to be. It’s easier to believe that mousetraps and stereo systems evolve by accident than to believe that complex organs and cells and biochemical processes evolve by accident. It never did make much sense to believe that a random, purposeless process could produce the world and its amazing creatures. And the more we learn, the less sense it makes. Darwin once wrote, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” With what we now know about biochemistry, Darwin’s theory does indeed face absolute breakdown. Perhaps, says Behe, the only alternative is to speak in terms of intelligent design, even if that implies a designer of some sort–a Creator.
If you look at a carefully crafted watch, the only sensible conclusion is that a watchmaker designed it. So when you see far more intricate designs in creation, what should you conclude? Amazingly enough, some people continue to conclude that there is no designer, no watchmaker. Biologist Richard Dawkins writes:
All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics… Natural selection, the blind, unconscious automatic process … which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind.
Notice the phrases Dawkins uses here. He says “all appearances to the contrary,” thus admitting that his faith in the blind forces of physics goes against what seems to be obvious design. He speaks of the “apparently purposeful form of all life,” thus admitting that his belief in a purposeless process goes against what seems apparent. Here we have a world-renowned scientist who spends his life studying the design of the universe, admitting that design is apparent, and yet insisting that there is really no design and no designer.
And he’s not the only one, as we’ve seen. Many educators and educated people have somehow convinced themselves that everything can and should be explained without mentioning God. They see design and complexity all around them, but they invoke the miraculous powers of chance, and they take a leap of faith. They believe the doctrines that nothing produces something, that randomness produces design, that lifelessness produces life, that blind accident produces eyes. And they preach these doctrines as an indisputable creed for all sound education, the accepted dogma of public schools and universities. Claiming to be wise, they become fools and make fools of others.
In Romans 1 the Bible says that the power and divine reality of God are “clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” But how do people respond to God’s evidence in creation? They “suppress the truth,” says the Bible, and “they are without excuse.” They become futile in their thinking. Their senseless minds are darkened. Instead of believing in the Creator God, they use their intelligence and education to find ways of denying the obvious. Claiming to be wise, they become fools, and they exchange the truth of God for a lie.
British author John Young tells a parable about a community of mice. These mice lived in a place that opened into a music room with a grand piano. Sometimes, through the door of their home, they could hear beautiful music coming from the piano. They sighed in amazement at the beauty of the music. Soon, however, they got into a disagreement.
Some of the mice said, “There couldn’t be music like that unless there was a musician.” But some of the other mice said, “Nonsense. There is no musician.” Still others were agnostics: “We’ll never know whether there is a musician or not. Now get on with sharing the cheese.”
One day, when the music began to play, a particularly bold and curious mouse decided to venture into the music room and see for himself. He scurried across the floor and scrambled up the shiny black leg of the grand piano. He peered into the piano for a few moments, and then hustled back home to the other mice, breathless with excitement at his discovery.
“I have seen how music is made. I saw many tiny hammers striking tight wires. But I saw no musician.”
The atheist mice nodded and smiled with satisfaction. The agnostics shrugged and continued eating their cheese. Those who had believed in a musician were disappointed. At least they knew the truth now, but life seemed a lot less interesting.
The mice have had their question answered. Now they are educated. But they are educated fools. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The mice know a bit more about hammers and wires, and they think they know everything. They know something of the way a piano makes music, and they think they’ve proved that nobody designed the piano and that the piano can play itself. True, the mouse can’t see a designer or musician inside the piano, but does that mean he doesn’t exist? No, it just means he’s not part of the piano.
In the same way, when we look at creation, we won’t see a Creator, but does that mean he doesn’t exist? No, it just means he’s not part of his creation. We don’t see him, but the intricate designs of creation are clear evidence of a Designer, and the music of creation is clear evidence of a Great Musician.
We live in one great universe which is designed, created, and operated by one great God. Every new discovery should impress us even more with the power and divine nature of God. The only fitting response is to glorify him and give him thanks. We must adore and worship the Lord who gives us a glimpse of his splendor and wisdom in the things he has made. And we must acknowledge that everything we have comes from him. Every breath we take, everything we have, is a gift from the hand of God. We owe him everything, and so we should be grateful to him. We can’t simply believe that there is a God out there, and leave it at that. We must glorify him as God and give him thanks.
What happens if we know about God but don’t glorify him or thank him? Romans 1 says that our thinking becomes futile and our foolish hearts are darkened. When we turn from God and live life on our own, sin clouds our minds and ruins our lives. Romans 1 goes on to describe how, when people reject God, the Lord hands them over to the consequences of their sins. We wallow in foolish theories, sexual perversions, social breakdown, cruelty to each other, and a host of other evils. When we don’t have a personal relationship of awe and thanksgiving with our Creator, things go from bad to worse. We become fools, both in our theorizing and also in the way we live. We ignore our Creator and destroy ourselves.
Once we’ve begun doing this and have provoke God’s wrath, there’s just one way back to him, and we won’t find that way just by studying the creation. The creation can help us to take the reality of God seriously, but only the Bible can show us a fuller picture of what this powerful, magnificent God is actually like.
The Bible tells us that every created thing was made through Jesus Christ and in him all things hold together. Through our sin, we have damaged ourselves and God’s creation. The only one could rescue God’s people and restore his creation is the one through whom everything was originally made. God’s Son, Jesus, the source of all creation, became a creature, a human being. He died on the cross to break the grip of sin, and he arose from the death to crush the power of death and decay.
Only Jesus can give you a personal relationship with the God who created you. Only Jesus can restore God’s creation to perfection when he returns to earth. When you trust in Jesus, God adopts you as his child. His Spirit opens your eyes to see God’s power and majesty and love shining in the things he has made. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” The Christian sings, “This is my Father’s world.”
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.