Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Giberson's "Wonder of the Universe"

Review: Karl W. Giberson, “The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in our Fine-Tuned World” (2012, Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, paperback, 216 pages).

Dr Karl W. Giberson has a Ph.D. in physics and taught at Eastern Nazarene College from 1984 to 2011. From 2008 to 2011 he was vice-president of the Biologos Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting evolution among Christians.

As the title suggests, the prime aim of this book is to show that the universe is fine-tuned to support life. To this end, the author notes that life on the Earth is highly dependent on a host of critical factors. For example, the Earth is at just the right distance from the Sun to have a temperature range suitable for life. Also, the Earth has an abundant supply of liquid water, which has amazing properties and is essential for life. Moreover, there could be no life if such constants as the charge of the electron or the strength of the nuclear forces were even slightly different. In short, the universe seems to be specially designed for life.

It should be noted that Dr. Giberson assumes throughout his book the essential correctness of mainstream science, particularly big bang cosmology and biological evolution. He defends this by asserting that science works by consensus. According to Dr. Giberson, only those ideas that are supported by a majority of scientists can properly be called “scientific”. On that ground, he favours the notion that evolution must be random and unguided; He dismisses as “unscientific” the Intelligent Design claim of Michael Behe that only a divinely guided form of evolution can account for the origin and development of biological life.

The difficulty with this is that scientific truth is then determined by a majority vote of scientists. But these scientists--qua scientists--affirm naturalism and ignore the Bible. Only naturalist causes can then be properly deemed to be scientific. This renders inevitable the "scientific" dismissal of any possible supernatural causes for historical events, as well as any Biblical history at odds with naturalist extrapolation.

In the second half of the book Dr. Giberson critiques design arguments. He argues, first, that design arguments are often based on gaps in knowledge that are later filled. Second, the apparent purpose of any alleged design is not always clear. Finally, he notes the problem of seemingly “bad” design (such as earthquakes, cancer, and other natural evils): How are these to be reconciled with a good Designer? Here it should be pointed out that Dr. Giberson-- and many Intelligent Design proponents—fail to take proper account of the fact that our present world is a fallen world.

The position that Dr. Giberson seems to take is that God created the world initially, after which it then developed by itself according to its given properties, without any further divine guidance. He speculates that the evolutionary process itself inevitably produces intelligent life, although we cannot predict the exact anatomy of any intelligent beings that emerge via evolution.

Dr. Giberson believes that there are no gaps in the ability of science to explain our origins. However, he does acknowledge that there are limits to scientific knowledge; there is more to reality than can be discovered by science. For example, science cannot tell us anything about morality or ultimate purpose.

Dr. Giberson is careful to conclude that the fine-tuning of the universe does not prove the existence of God. The most we can conclude, he argues, is that the observed fine-tuning fits well within a Christian worldview, which must be the starting point from which we examine the mystery of our existence. Yet, when Dr. Giberson briefly discusses the importance of a Christian worldview, the Bible does not play the crucial role that it should as the touchstone of truth. Instead, Dr. Giberson stresses that theology is always open-ended and prepared for revision.

Although this book does not specifically discuss human origins, Dr. Giberson has made it clear in other work that he does not believe in the historicity of the first chapters of Genesis, particularly not the story of Adam and Eve.

In summary, this book contains interesting material and makes some good points. Its fundamental shortcoming, however, is its promotion of the view of origins as given by naturalist, evolutionary science.

This book is subtitled “hints of God in our fine-tuned world”. Unhappily, the God that emerges from Dr. Giberson’s book seems to have more in common with the remote, detached God of deism, who merely kick-starts a self-evolving universe, than with the personal, compassionate God of the Bible, who works all things according to His glorious plan.

1 comment:

Trent said...

It absolutely amazes me how these Theistic evolutions see themselves as the new priests to their God of science! The most consistent evolutionists have abandoned Christianity...why don't they do the same if they think they're so smart.