The Case for a Creator – Review

Lee Strobel. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 2004. E-book.

The Case for a Creator follows a pattern that journalist Lee Strobel has successfully used in other works. He interviews various experts to present his “cases”: for Christ, for Faith, for Easter, and so on. Here he interviews a series of scientists and philosophers on the problems and significance of evolutionary theory. In addition, he quotes many other authors and speakers on the subject.

In the beginning of the book, Strobel notes:

Science has become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. (17)

He also notes that according to pro-evolution debater William Provine there are “five inescapable conclusions” if Darwinism is true:
(1) There is no evidence for God
(2) No life after death
(3) No foundation for right and wrong
(4) No meaning for life, and
(5) There is no free will

As an aside, I would be interested in seeing this proponent of evolution debate Jason Lisle or Greg Bahnsen. If there is no meaning, no right and wrong, and no free will, how is it possible to know that anything is true, even evolution? It appears to be a self-defeating argument. But that is a different discussion.

In other words, for Strobel and most people the issue of nature creating itself is not just about science. It is philosophical and moral. Strobel then shares his own experience of how, like so many Westerners, he became a religious skeptic when he studied evolution in high school. As I would note from my own experience, I believed in evolution because it was the only show in town.

Strobel gets it. As an adult, he has been on both sides of the issue. He knows the arguments for both. Now he is an evolutionary skeptic. He presents a fairly detailed case for why he is.

First, he explains or tries to show that belief in a different origin story does not mean one is unscientific. Indeed, there is very little religion in this book until close to the end because that is its purpose. At one point he notes that creationists often quibble over the age of the earth. Strobel explicitly tells the reader that that discussion is beyond the scope of this book. He does seem to accept the uniformitarian idea that the earth is very old, but for his case that is beside the point. He presents challenges to Darwinism.

There are many challenges to Darwinism. Most have been discussed in other works, but Strobel puts many of them together.

One idea we read about is the anthropic principle—that if there were even very slight differences in the measurable forces in the universe, life and even matter could not exist. Strobel cites the work of many on gravity, atomic forces, the presence of elements heavier than helium, among other things to show how it appears that the universe must have been ordered by a very skillful mathematician. This is similar to Ivey’s argument, though Strobel’s language is plain and more direct. Even the Solar System’s location in the Milky Way is significant for the existence of our “privileged planet.”

Strobel discusses the Cambrian Explosion with scientists. The sedimentary layer known as the Cambrian layer has virtually all new species appear at the same time. Even Darwin recognized this and said that if people could not find earlier examples of transitional and intermediate forms, his theory was doomed. 170 years later, people are still looking. Strobel shows that the “punctuated equilibrium” theory to explain this was simply an attempt to avoid bringing creation into the discussion.

There are a couple of chapters on biochemistry. Back in Darwin’s day people knew next to nothing about microbes and biochemistry. I recall reading a book from the 1950s saying that all cells were basically made of the same organic jelly called protoplasm and that the only difference between plants and animals was that plant cells had a stiff “cell wall” surrounding the protoplasm and animals had flexible membranes around their cells.

Now we know that cells are very complex. They have numerous organelles and their biochemistry is often irreducible. In other words, if one piece of an organelle or one step in a biochemical process is left out, the cell dies. For one creature to change into another would require multiple changes at the same time that were successful and recurring at relatively high rates. We have never observed either. Indeed, most such changes or mutations are deadly. And the probability of even one such change is infinitesimal.

At one point one of Strobel’s interviewees briefly discusses and effectively dismissed the multiverse theory, which this reviewer mentioned was espoused by Josh Gribbin. To sum it up, there is no evidence.

Strobel also does readers a favor because one of his interviewees debunks a popular myth about evolutionary thought. When I critiqued The Beak of the Finch, I pointed this out, but I thought it was just an error on the part of the author of that book. Apparently it is a widely held belief: Received Academic Tradition tells students that the scientific revolution, which began around the time of Copernicus when Westerners began using the scientific method, put an end to a religious perspective. That was just not so. Copernicus was a monk. Galileo was a lay brother. Newton was a devout Bible believer who wrote books on Bible prophecy. Later, Priestly was a Unitarian minister.

The Case for Creation correctly points out that the early scientific astronomers tended to see the scope of the universe as a sign of God’s greatness and man’s relative insignificance. Newton saw the mathematical precision of the motions of the heavenly bodies as a sign of intelligent design. (If you have any doubts, read the conclusion of his Principia.)

It was the skeptics of the so-called Enlightenment like Rousseau, Hobbes, and Voltaire (later Kant) who emphasized that “man is the measure of all things.” The evolutionary interpretation of cosmic history that both the universe and mankind are some kind of random accident was (and still is) more of a challenge to that man-centered enlightenment thinking than to any traditional or Medieval religious thought. Man is no longer the measure of all things, but even his thought processes are suspect.

To this reader, the most original argument is one that Strobel saves for last. How do we explain consciousness?

Although many people (including Darwin) see consciousness as simply neural activity in the brain, it is pretty clear that there is more to it. We do make choices. We do have wills. Even people with severe brain damage still have awareness. And there are too many out of body and near death experiences which testify that people are more than just “computers made of meat.” (We reviewed a great book written by a brain surgeon on this subject a few years ago.)

Strobel quotes a Darwinist who asks rhetorically, “Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability?…The point is there is no scientific answer.” (247) One interviewee said:

A scientist could know more about what is happening in my brain than I do, but he couldn’t know more about what was happening in my mind than I do. He has to ask me. (259)

As he makes his case for a creator here, Strobel notes that just as man’s mind is rational, intelligent, creative, sentient, and invisible, so is the Creator. Superficial thinkers dismiss the idea of God because He cannot be seen. Neither can our thoughts, creativity, and sensations. We see their evidence. So it is with God.

Strobel also notes that all living creatures contain and pass on genetic information. This is what DNA, RNA, genes, and chromosomes are all about. “Information is the hallmark of mind,” said one scientist being interviewed, and “no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means.” (282)

There is a lot more to this. The Case for a Creator presents a solid challenge to the believer in evolution. Ultimately, the experience of most scientists who believe in design note that “some people don’t just disagree; many of them jump up and down and get red in the face.” (215) For what is supposedly an intellectual scientific theory (and it is still only a theory), the issue of evolution seems to create a lot of emotional responses. Readers with an open mind can learn as Strobel himself did. Read it and see.

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