Concerning Philosophers and Moths
If philosophy is a search for wisdom, then a true philosopher who philosophizes long enough will surely find at least a glimpse of the enticing goal that first animated his search.
Philosopher Anthony Flew, formerly known to the academic world as a leading proponent of atheism and defender of Darwinian Evolution, has told the Associated Press in a recent interview that he has now come to believe in the existence of God.
Professor Flew, who taught for several years at Toronto's York University after retiring from full professorships in England, has come to the conclusion that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. He had stated in the September issue of Philosophy Now that, “It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.”
Flew reasoned that a god or divine intelligence of some kind must exist in order to explain extremely complex biological systems, such as the DNA molecule. The recognition that the irrefutable evidence of design implies the existence of a Designer is a major step in the pursuit of wisdom.
Nonetheless, Professor Flew's god, as he explains, is the god of deism, the Enlightenment's divine “watchmaker” who, after he creates the world and winds it up, abandons it. This is a clever but heartless god, one worthy of admiration but certainly not adoration.
When we examine the evidence a little more closely, however, we will find that there is more to design than meets the mind. As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, in his fifth proof for the existence of God — the argument from Design — there is a purpose for the design, namely, to bring about the id quod est optimum (best result). In other words, God is not simply producing highly complex machines that reflect merely his intelligence. Rather, he is showing us how his creation works for good.
Michael J. Behe states in his marvelous book, Darwin's Black Box, that the mathematical probability of the right genetic factors getting together to help ensure successful blood clotting is one in 30,0004. If lottery ticket holders had this kind of chance of winning, and one million bought tickets each year, it would take an average of 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) years before anyone would win.
We are amazed at the complexity of the blood-coagulating process, but more importantly, we are grateful because it is good for us and prevents us from bleeding to death whenever we sustain a cut.
Our immune system contains 100 billion immunological receptors, each one of which is capable of distinguishing between the self and the non-self. The human zygote has an information content equivalent to 1,000 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And the amount of DNA needed to specify the genetic characteristics of all the people in the world is approximately 1/17 the weight of a postage stamp.
The highly respected political analyst, George Will, was not being either facetious or unphilosophical when he made the following comment:
“When Thomas Aquinas was ginning up proofs of God's existence, he neglected to mention the ash tree. It is the source of the Louisville Slugger, and hence conclusive evidence that a kindly mind superintends the universe.”
Indeed, God is not merely a “mind” but a “kindly” one. Will's argument, though not scientifically detailed, leaps from the Big Bang to planet Earth and then to an atmosphere that causes rain to patter on Pennsylvania ridgetops where ash trees grow. These trees grow surrounded by other trees that protect the ashes from wind-twisting so that they grow straight and produce wood that is the ideal strength for making the musical “crack” that signals a well-hit baseball. This is the sound that fills not only a young's lad's ears but his heart as well. God is both architectural and benevolent.
Human taste buds can detect the presence of strychnine when it is but 1 part in 2,500,000. Some moths are able to pick up the scent of their female mate as a distance of a mile or more. The moth being attracted to the flame pales in comparison with the male moth that is attracted to and can find his mate over such an extraordinary distance of separation. This is a design that prefigures a love story.
Philosophers seek wisdom just as naturally and providentially as moths seek their mates. It is a step in the right direction to know that there is a design in the universe that reflects the hand of the Designer. But it is a crucial additional step to realize that this presence of design leads to the unraveling of a love story.
God is both intelligent and loving. He wants moths to find their love mates as well as philosophers to locate the fount of wisdom. And he wants his human creatures to find his Heart.
We urge Professor Flew to journey onwards.
Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.
- October 23-29, 2005