Darwin's Discovery: Design without Designer
The strength of the argument-from-design to demonstrate the
role of the Creator is easily set forth. Wherever there is function
or design we look for its author. A knife is made for cutting
and a clock is made to tell time; their functional designs have
been contrived by a knifemaker and a watchmaker. The exquisite
design of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa proclaims that it was
created by a gifted artist following a preconceived purpose. Similarly,
the structures, organs, and behaviors of living beings are directly
organized to serve certain functions. The functional design of
organisms and their features would therefore seem to argue for
the existence of a designer. It was Darwin's greatest accomplishment
to show that the directive organization of living beings can be
explained as the result of a natural process, natural selection,
without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent.
The origin and adaptation of organisms in their profusion and
wondrous variations were thus brought into the realm of science.
Darwin accepted that organisms are "designed" for
certain purposes, i.e., they are functionally organized. Organisms
are adapted to certain ways of life and their parts are adapted
to perform certain functions. Fish are adapted to live in water,
kidneys are designed to regulate the composition of blood, the
human hand is made for grasping. But Darwin went on to provide
a natural explanation of the design. He thereby brought the seemingly
purposeful aspects of living beings into the realm of science.
Darwin's revolutionary achievement is that he extended the
Copernican revolution to the world of living things. The origin
and adaptive nature of organisms could now be explained, like
the phenomena of the inanimate world, as the result of natural
laws manifested in natural processes. Darwin's theory encountered
opposition in some religious circles, not so much because he proposed
the evolutionary origin of living things (which had been proposed
before, and accepted even by Christian theologians), but because
the causal mechanism, natural selection, excluded God as the explanation
for the obvious design of organisms.
The Roman Catholic Church's opposition to Galileo in the seventeenth
century had been similarly motivated not only by the apparent
contradiction between the heliocentric theory and a literal interpretation
of the Bible, but also by the unseemly attempt to comprehend the
workings of the Universe, the "mind of God." The configuration
of the Universe was no longer perceived as the result of God's
Design, but simply the outcome of immanent, blind, processes.
There were, however, many theologians, philosophers, and scientists
who saw no contradiction then nor see it now between the evolution
of species and Christian faith. Some see evolution as the "method
of divine intelligence," in the words of the nineteenth century
theologian A.H. Strong. Others, like the American contemporary
of Darwin, Henry Ward Beecher (1818-1887), made evolution the
cornerstone of their theology. These two traditions have persisted
to the present. Pope John Paul II has recently (October 1996)
stated that "the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis.
accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries
in various fields of knowledge." The views of "process"
theologians, who perceive evolutionary dynamics as a pervasive
element of a Christian view of the world, are well represented
in this volume.
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| Contributed by: Dr. Francisco Ayala