“A Religious Man with a Scientific Mind”
Written by Samantha Paulin. Media by Kelsey Kuethe.
This past Wednesday, Greenville College had the great privilege of hosting a colloquium by Dr. Jack Collins, a renowned Intelligent Design proponent, as he presented his views, both scientific and theological. Now I, along with 40 other students in Dr. Iler’s COR 302 class, were familiar with this concept of Intelligent Design, or ID, before attending the colloquium and Q&A with Dr. Collins later that evening in class, so I was extremely curious and more than a bit skeptical when it came time to listen to this man discuss his personal beliefs and opinions.
At this point, some of you may be asking what this idea of Intelligent Design is and why we should even concern ourselves with this point of view. ID is the theory that the universe and everything in it were designed and created by the purposeful action of an intelligent agent. Basically, the standard concepts assumed by most proponents of this theory believe that the universe is too complex and intricate to have been created from nothing, by nothing. This theory comes under much speculation in both the scientific and theological worlds for coming across as vague and unreliable. We had learned in class that to the scientific community, ID seems like a cop-out to those who want to fill in the blank spots of science by saying a “creator” was responsible. To theologians, ID is viewed as harmful to religion because if people are filling in the blanks with a “God” answer, what happens to this statement and the implications behind it when scientists discover a natural process or solution with which the mystery is then solved? Religious communities look down upon ID as a theological theory because it seems to be discrediting faith and giving science even more of an edge in this “great battle” between science and religion.
So what happens when one who supports this very idea steps onto the grounds of a Christian institution? I came into the colloquium and especially the discussion in class wanting him to come out and defend against the many critiques of Intelligent Design. Where is the evidence/support for this theory? Why aren’t there some peer reviewed articles out there? Isn’t this idea just a “God of the Gaps” theory that seems favorable to those who want to give the “it must be God” answer to those mysteries that haven’t yet been solved by modern science? I expected Dr. Collins to be one who gave all these reasons as to why ID made sense and who would try to win over the audience to agree with this set of beliefs that I thought were standard to anyone who claimed to support this theory. I honestly couldn’t have been more wrong. Dr. Collins presented his points of view towards both the natural and spiritual world, but nowhere did he attempt to push ID down upon us or desperately defend his beliefs. What he did do was lay out the facts, definitions, and ideas behind Intelligent Design, describe what it means to be a good theological theory, and show those present many of the quotes and views of the leading names in the fields of science and religion that came before him.
Throughout this presentation, I didn’t just learn how many scientists find many components of the theory of Intelligent Design favorable, but also how Dr. Collins doesn’t necessarily support 100 percent of the views that more conservative ID proponents believe in. He is first and foremost a believer in the Lord, not a scientist. He doesn’t define his life by what he has discovered or written about, but rather by where his heart is and how he acts through his beliefs. So what does this all mean? I went into his presentation and class that evening determined to somehow prove his views on creation were unreliable and flimsy and came out with a cleansed mindset.
The bigger picture was made clear to me through Dr. Collins; the relationship between science and theology, especially on a personal level, is never black and white. For people of faith, the field of science is never viewed as an objective field where we have to shed our personal beliefs and values in order to become good scientists. Dr. Collins is a prime example of this. From his presentation and answers provided in class, I came to the realization that he isn’t one who, by claiming to be a supporter of ID, feels obligated to confirm every position taken by what is seen as the “standard” Intelligent Design proponent. He doesn’t let his scientific values govern his core religious beliefs, and why should he? If someone is serious about following the Lord, then conforming to a certain scientific theory and all that comes with it seems extremely limiting because science itself is limited to the study of the natural world.
So, as far as the idea of Intelligent Design and all theories for that argument goes, there will always be critics and rightly so. But, as Dr. Collins showed, just because a scientist claims to support a certain theological idea, doesn’t make him or her an unreliable scientist or a weak believer. It makes him or her a broken human saved by grace who uses this salvation to honor God through the study of the natural world.