Friday, March 26, 2010

Is God sitting on his thumb, watching

Nature has always perplexed me. It didn't make a lot of sense with my religious understanding of a God who loved us more than we could possibly know. I had to believe He loved me in spite of what I could see in nature. When I watched nature documentaries about predator and prey I found it terribly disturbing. I would challenge myself to watch them because it IS what happens countless times daily. The terrible suffering of a prey just seems more than I could bear and yet there was a God in heaven who watched all this with apparent disinterest. Surely He had the power to stop it. If a human parent did this to his child we would call it neglectful abuse.

I am reading Richard Dawkin's wonderful book on evolution called "The Greatest Show on Earth". In the light of evolution prey and predator simply makes sense. In Chapter 12 he demonstrates that evolution is like an arms race.

One thing about arms races that might worry enthusiast for intelligent design is the heavy dose of futility that loads them down. If we are going to postulate a designer of the cheetah, he has evidently put every ounce of his designing expertise into the task of perfecting a superlative killer. One look at the magnificent running machine leaves us in no doubt. The cheetah, if we are going to talk design at all, is superbly designed for killing gazelles. But the very same designer has equally evidently strained every nerve to design a gazelle that is superbly equipped to escape from those very same cheetahs. For heaven's sake whose side is the designer on? When you look at the cheetah's taut muscles and flexing backbone, you must conclude that the designer wants the cheetah to win the race. But when you look at the sprinting, jinking, dogging gazelle, you reach exactly the opposite conclusion. Does the designer's left hand not know what his right hand is doing? Is he a sadist, who enjoys the spectator sport and is forever upping the ante on both sides to increase the thrill of the chase?

But if you remove an intelligent designer and look at it as natural selection it simply makes sense. The cheetah needs to be fast to kill the gazelle to survive and to feed its young. Those that are successful are able to pass on their genes. A slow cheetah will not catch prey and starve to death and so will it's young so that those genes will fall from the gene pool of cheetahs. The gazelle that is slow will be caught and eaten. It too will not send on its' genes to future generations. The gazelles that are fast and have endurance to eventually out run the short burst of the cheetah will live to breed and pass on its' genes.

I still am sad to see this, but completely understand this is how natural selection works. And better I don't wonder why a personal being would sit up in heaven with indifference.

Evolution is a fact. For those who don't agree they don't understand it.

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