Conclusion: What is at Stake Theologically?
We have in the intelligibility
of the universe and in its suitability for life arguments from design that are
emerging from within the scientific community. From this scientific picture of
the universe, theologians make the interpretive leap to the existence of an
intelligent designer - a Creator with an investment in life, and an even,
apparently, intelligent life.
Do we see design in this highly
improbable "unified system of mutually adjusted and mutually supporting
adaptive structures" (Alston 1967, p. 86). Is it reasonable from this to suppose that an intelligent being
created the universe? If we do see
design it is hard not to make the leap to thoughts of an intelligent
designer. It is a Cheshire cat sort of
thing. While we may imagine a designer without a design a design; without a
designer would be a surprising thing indeed!
Even if we grant that this is a
reasonable inference, it is still a bit of an interpretive leap not something
all impartial observers would automatically conclude. The evidence of design does not coerce a conclusion that there is
a designer. But if it is a reasonable
inference, theologically it gives us something.
But it does not give us
everything. Natural theology can take
us so far and no further. Evidence
of design gives us a designer but not
yet "God" in the sense of the creator of all things visible and
invisible, infinite in goodness, wisdom, and power.
If I were to answer my own
question posed in the title, what is at stake here theologically, I would have
to say not as much as we might imagine.
In the argument from design we have a pointer toward God, not a proof
Whether one believes or does
not believe, is a question of interpretation.
Any conclusion we reach is "underdetermined by the data." But what do we make of the fact that design
is everywhere apparent?
For believers...it feels like a
substantial confirmation of our belief in God.
There is a consonance between what we see here and what we believe. There is a reason to believe that it is not
unreasonable to believe.
For the person who does not
believe in God...the evidence of design in the universe is a source of
fascination and wonder - not unlike the experience to which believers refer when
they talk about encounter with the mysterium tremendum.
Does the universe as a whole
have an "end' in the sense of a telos, a purpose? In actualizing maximal value? In the evolution of conscious being capable
for relation and moral development? In
the glory of God? What is a suitable
candidate for "in Tennyson's words, the 'far off divine event, toward
which the whole creation moves'?
(Alston 1967, p. 86). And how
would we show that the process manifests progress toward this end? Many questions remain here. I look forward to our exploring them
Contributed by: Dr. Anna Case-Winters