The Case for a Creator

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Overall comments

All of the people Strobel interviews for this book are connected with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC): William Lane Craig is a fellow at the CSC; Jonathan Wells, Guillermo Gonzales, Jay Richards, and Michael Behe are senior fellows; Stephen Meyer is program director for the CSC; Robin Collins has received support for his work from the CSC.

In addition, Phillip Johnson, whose work is often cited for support, holds the title of program advisor for the CSC.

Nonetheless, although both the Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture are mentioned several times, neither one appears in the index. Other people and concepts (such as Strobel's wife) do, despite being mentioned only once.

Chapter 1: White-Coated Scientists Versus Black-Robed Preachers

The first chapter begins with Strobel going through his early career as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune in the 1970's. At that time, he was not religious, but after covering a story in West Virginia about religion and schools, Stobel was reeled into religion. Stroble says he was a skeptic of Christianity and religion, but he does not give any evidence to support his story - so this may be just a ploy.

During his investigation, he learned that there were shootings and bombings at schools "all because some hillbillies are mad about the textbooks being used in the schools." Later, Strobel writes that when he attended an anti-evolution rally in rural Campbell's Creek and was recognized as a reporter, the crowd turned ugly and he was in real fear of physical harm (so much that Strobels knees were shaking) possibly because they thought the reporter would not portray them in a sympathetic light. An intense, dark-haired wife of a Baptist minister insisted,

"The books bought for our school children would teach them to lose their love of God, to honor draft dodgers and revolutionaries, and to lose their respect for their parents."

a local business man said,

"Let me put it this way," he said. "If Darwin's right, we're just sophisticated monkeys. The Bible is wrong. There is no God. And without God, there's no right or wrong. We can just make up our morals as we go. The basis for all we believe is destroyed. And that's why this country is headed to hell in a handbasket. Is Darwin responsible? I'll say this: people have to choose between science and faith, between evolution and the Bible, between the Ten Commandments and make-'em-up-as-you-go ethics. We've made our choice - and we're not budging."

Response: As you can see, the reason why the West Virginians were angry was due to religious reasons, it did not and does not matter if the evidence supports Darwin's theory of evolution (which it does). They preferred to choose their belief, and their children's beliefs, based not on what is true but on what they wanted to be true. Of course, everything the minister's wife and local business man stated about evolution is completely incorrect. The validity of evolution does not refute God or an afterlife, nor does evolution cause morals or meaning to vanish.

Was is really interesting and worth noting: Strobel never returns to these incidents, or draws any lessons from them. He never even explicitly condemns the violence. At best, he remarks about Christianity (from his back-then non-religious perspective) as an "archaic belief system." Remarks like this lead many to speculate that Strobel exaggerated about his past beliefs. Most atheists or reasonable people would remark at such violence like this as what it really was: violent irrational lunatics. Rather, Strobel seems to be implying their actions were somehow justified. A rational, hard-nosed journalist would point out that the possible social consequences of a scientific theory have no bearing on whether that theory is true. Strobel does not do this. Rather he supports the crowds notion that evolution refutes all possible beliefs about God (ignoring all the Christian evolutionists back then and of today).

Response: Despite the book being titled The Case for a Creator -which implies that the book's contents contain a set of factual arguments and supporting evidence worthy of the description "case"- Strobel here does nothing of the kind. In fact, what he's doing is exactly the same thing that his West Virginian interviewees were doing: trying to warn people away from accepting evolution by painting a frightening picture of its imagined consequences. Thus it is no surprise that Strobel does not attempt to cite supporting arguments for this staggering set of claims. Instead, the sole purpose is to provoke horror into Strobel's Christian readers.

Chapter 2: The Images of Evolution

The chapter begins with a quote by Richard Lewontin and Phillip Johnson. Johnson, the father of the modern intelligent design movement, makes the claim that science is identical to materialism and naturalism that purposely excludes god.

Response: The naturalism that science adopts is methodological naturalism. It does not assume that nature is all there is; it merely notes that nature is the only objective standard we have. The supernatural is not ruled out a priori; when it claims observable results that can be studied scientifically, the supernatural is studied scientifically (Astin et al. 2000; Enright 1999). It gets little attention because it has never been reliably observed. Still, there are many scientists who use naturalism but who believe in more than nature. Johnson, in 1996, made the statement "intelligent design debate is not about science, it's about religion and philosophy."

Strobel begins by sharing his experience as an atheist going through a biology class and how his curiosity for truth drove him into liking science. He retells how he grew up in a post-Sputnik era when education and science was held in a high degree. He mentions that in the 1960's relativism and situational ethics caused the nation to turn upside down.

Response: How could this be? If a person would prefer to life of hedonism and debauchery, then they can perfectly do that as a theist (and a lot of them do). Strobel said that those who still had faith in the supernatural were, in his view, weak and had no evidence to support their claims. This Red Herring led to the violation of science (science cannot make a comment on the supernatural).

He quotes Richard Dawkins, who said Darwin make it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

The Images of Evolution

Strobel recalls the images he frequently saw in a biology class.

  • Image 1: Tubes, Flasks, and Electrodes of the Stanley Miller Experiment. - This excluded God from having a role in creating life.
  • Image 2: Darwin's "tree of Life" -After reading the Origin of Species Strobel says this explained the diversity of life.
  • Image 3: Ernst Haeckel's Drawings of Embryos - Strobel says these drawings could be found in virtually every evolution book he studied.
  • Image 4: The Missing Link - Strobel mentions and sticks to using Archeopteryx as an example.

Strobels says he met many spiritual skeptics who started doubting in high school or college. Strobel mentions in 2002, a Boy Scout was not granted the Eagle Scout award because he refused to pledge reverence to God. This started when he had "been an atheist since studying evolution in the ninth grade."(Dean E. Murphy of the New York Times, "Eagle Scout Faces Ultimatum over Atheism," Orange County Register (November 3, 2002))

Darwin Versus God

Here Strobel lists many scientists and theologians who find no conflict in accepting evolution and hold a belief in God. Where was Strobel when several Popes openly stated the evolutionary theory does not contradict or refute God? This did not make sense to Strobel because he was taught evolution is undirected. Strobel brings up Phillip Johnson's book, Darwin on Trial, that explains evolution's whole point is to exclude God. (Read this article to see everything wrong in Johnson's book) Strobel says Ernst Meyer agrees with Johnson (quoting phrase word for word on page 23),

"the real core of Darwinism" is natural selection, which "permits the explanation of natural means, instead of by divine intervention."

Strobel takes the above quote from Stephen J. Gould, "Abscheulich! Atrocious! Natural History (March 2002). Strobel also mentions Fransisco Ayala, a Dominican priest for to his science career, claiming there was no need for a creator or external agent for the mechanisms of evolution. (Ayala refused to be interviewed for this book). Strobel goes on to quote several other sources, including Pulitzer Prize winners and Time magazine.

Darwin's Universal Acid

Here Strobel goes back to finding sources to support his "atheistic" youth, and summarizes this section with a phrase by Daniel Dennett that evolution is a universal acid that slowly eats through every traditional concept.

Strobel goes on that since God was excluded from his worldview, he would go on forth towards his ambitions and pleasures (even the ones that "God" supposedly does not favor). Strobel blames this behavior on religious authorities were unwilling or unable to help him get the answers to questions he had about God. He ends this section retelling his view of such people as "slaves to their wishful thinking."

The Investigation Begins

A friend of Strobel announced that she was becoming a follower of Jesus, which made Strobel go about asking deeper questions about faith and God. The big three questions were the following,

  • Are science and faith doomed to always be at war?
  • Does the latest scientific evidence point toward or away from the existence of God?
  • Are the images of evolution (which spurred him to atheism) still valid?

Strobel then goes of on his quest, saying that he would go were the answers took him. As a journalist, he is supposed to ask questions. He is also a lawyer, meaning he is skilled to make cases. The difference between those two and science is that scientists test and repeat their data, whereas lawyers make a case for a proposition whether it is true or not.

Response: This is false, because Strobel only sought out the Discovery Institute, who advocate intelligent design pseudoscience and cannot divorce itself from religion, making this book not based on scientific research.

Chapter 3: Doubts About Darwinism

Strobel begins this chapter with a paper from the Discovery Institute called "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism." He goes into detail which universities they are from and the several fields they expertise in. In the end, he concludes the "emperor of evolution has no clothes." He provides links to articles from the Discovery Institute criticizing PBS series presenting the evidence for evolution.

Response: Rather than make a case for a creator, Strobel decided to make a long non sequitor.

An interview with Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells is a senior member of the Discovery Institute, who stated his only goal in science is to "destroy Darwinism." Strobel begins to interview him and his book "Icons of Evolution." The "Icons" used by Wells denotes a religious reverence for a symbol.

  • Image 1: The Miller Experiment

Wells says the consensus is unclear what the atmosphere was like at the time, but it is generally agreed it is not like the one used in the Miller experiment. The experiment included methane, ammonia, and water vapor, but there is no evidence for methane-ammonia in the atmosphere and hydrogen was too light that the earth's gravity could not hold it.

Response: The Miller experiment tried to prove spontaneous generation was possible, not prove how life first arose. Wells argument is 50 years out of date. What Wells does not tell is that there have been more than 40 articles written since 1997 which cover nearly every imaginable prebiotic environment and still create certain types of organic material. As for his hydrogen argument, it is greatly misestimated.

Wells mentions that some textbooks mention organic material has formed, but says this organic material is Formaldehyde and Cyanide, and declares that these are toxic and life could not possible form from such substances.

Next, Wells develops a straw man: put a cell in a test tube, poke a hole in it, and all its contents will leak out.

Response: The reason why this is a straw man is because the earliest self-replicating systems were not modern cells. Lysing a cells in a test tube is only proof of Well's lack of understanding. Wells uses a non sequitor by labeling this star man putting humpty dumpty back together again.

  • Image 2: Darwin's Tree of Life

Here Wells argues that fossil evidence has not proven Darwin's theory and the Cambrian explosion refutes Darwin's tree of life, which states that populations will diverse over time whereas the Cambrian shows a sudden appearance of life.

Response: Sudden huh? What Wells forgot to mention was that this "sudden appearance" took 10 million years. 11 of the 34 phyla have their origins in the Cambrian (which lasted 50 million years) while many of the other phyla originated much later. How about the Ordovician radiation is much more dramatic. Or how about the many discoveries of transitionals within the Cambrian or the organisms that predate the Cambrian?

There are three stages ancient life of Earth's history before the Cambrian: The Athcean, Proteroic, and Vendian. The Archean, the age of bacteria, lasted approximately a billion years as blue-green cyanobacteria, which was best suited for a young planet with an atmosphere containing hydrogen, nitrogen, methane, carbon dioxide, and little or no oxygen. Their blue-green color was due to chlorophyll, which allows photosynthesis. The Proteroiz ranged 543 million to 2.5 billion years ago, during which bacteria flourished and the appearance of archaeans. Finally, the Vendian (543 to 600 million years ago)the first multi-cellular organisms appear. Darwin noted the apparent absence of life forms prior to the Cambrian, and he was correct. Wells lies when he said Darwin "knew the fossil record failed to support his tree. He acknowledged that major groups of animals - he calls them divisions, now they're called phyla - appear suddenly in the fossil record. That's not what his theory predicts." This is false, Darwin was well aware of the imperfection of the fossil record, and devoted an entire chapter of his book to explaining why we should not expect to see clear transitions preserved. When Wells speaks of "major groups", he subtly misleads the reader. Based on his examples, a lay reader might erroneously conclude that starfish, crabs, reptiles, insects, and the like all just suddenly appeared during the Cambrian. In fact, as already stated, most species of the Cambrian explosion were relatively similar, and none of them looked much at all like the modern groups that are thought to have descended from them. Here are several Cambrian animals that Wells claims represent "major groups" that are "fundamentally different in their body plans".

  • Image 3: Heackel's Embryos

Ernst Haeckel was a nineteenth-century biologist who lived around the same time as Charles Darwin. Haeckel is best remembered for his dictum "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", meaning that a developing embryo retraces the evolutionary history of its ancestors. Haeckel is also infamous for defending this claim by using his own drawings of developing embryos, which turned out to be faked to exaggerate the stages he claimed were there. Wells claims that these known fallacious drawing are still being taught in school text books today, even Strobel recalls seeing these pictures in his biology class.

Response: Wells, however, is lying again, making statements which he must know are false. P.Z. Myers quotes one of the books which Wells disparages by claiming that it is "resurrecting Haeckel", Campbell's Biology:

The theory of recapitulation is an overstatement. Although vertebrates share many features of embryonic development, it is not as though a mammal first goes through a 'fish stage', then an 'amphibian stage', and so on. Ontogeny can provide clues to phylogeny, but it is important to remember that all stages of development may become modified over the course of evolution.

Myers also cites a post listing a large number of other college textbooks[1] that point out the problems with Haeckel's hypothesis. Out of 15 books reviewed, only one presents recapitulation uncritically - and that one is from 1937!

  • Image 4: The Missing Link

In this section, both Strobel and Wells repeat the old creationist lie that there are no such things as transitional fossils. Strobel quotes Michael Denton,

[T]he universal experience of paleontology... [is that] while the rocks have continually yielded new and exciting and even bizarre forms of life... what they have never yielded is any of Darwin's myriads of transitional forms... The intermediates have remained as elusive as ever and their absence remains, a century later, one of the most striking characteristics of the fossil record.

Response: This is demonstrably false. Not only do transitional fossil series exist, we have a strikingly large number of them, bridging most of the major evolutionary changes in life's history. Of all of the settled lineages of animals and transitional fossils, this section focuses on Archeopteryx.

Wells points out "Besides, we see strange animals around today, like the duck-billed platypus, which nobody considers transitional but which has characteristics of different classes."

Response: This is another example of the things Wells should already know. In fact, the platypus is transitional - albeit a kind of living transition.

Wells calls Archeopteryx a bird with modern feathers.

Response: Other than its feathers and a few other subtle characteristics, Archaeopteryx is actually much more like a dinosaur than it is like a bird. The Talk.Origins Archive's All About Archaeopteryx FAQ lists its reptilian features, which far outnumber the avian characteristics. What about the many other feathered dinosaurs, such as Sinornithosaurus and Microraptor? Over twenty genera of feathered theropods are known. Wells steers well clear of these, other than to mutter an accusation that they're probably all fakes [p.59].

Chapter 4: Where Science Meets Faith

An interview with Stephen C. Meyer

Chapter 5: The Evidence of Cosmology: Beginning with a Bang

An interview with William Lane Craig

Chapter 6: The Evidence of Physics: The Cosmos on a Razor's Edge

An interview with Robin Collins

Chapter 7: The Evidence of Astronomy: The Privileged Planet

An interview with Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Wesley Richards

Chapter 8: The Evidence of Biochemistry: The Complexity of Molecular Machines

An interview with Michael Behe

Chapter 9: The Evidence of Biological Information: The Challenge of DNA and the Origin of Life

An interview with Stephen C. Meyer

Chapter 10: The Evidence of Consciousness: The Enigma of the Mind

An interview with J.P. Moreland

Chapter 11: The Cumulative Case for a Creator

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