Suppose you are on trial for murdering your partner. I’m going to be generous and assume you didn’t actually do it. In other words, you’re not really a murderer.
Just before the trial begins, the judge declares that the love letters you wrote are to be excluded as evidence. Statements by your friends and family about your character are to be ignored. The judge also instructs the jury to assume you did indeed murder your partner, and to interpret evidence on this basis alone.
Would you consider the trial to be fair? Of course not, because it isn’t. If jury members are only allowed to interpret evidence in one way, it will hardly come as a surprise if they find you guilty. I will refer to this as “The Crooked Trial” because it will serve as a useful analogy in this letter.
One of the assumptions of the modern scientific establishment, particularly in the life sciences such as biology, is that all things in nature must be explained without resorting to things that are outside of the laws and forces of nature, such as God or the supernatural. I will call this “The Naturalistic Assumption.” As a result of this assumption, crediting any part of nature to a Creator outside of nature is usually considered to be unscientific.
Now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for science to strive for explanations of the natural order beyond the wave of a divine magic wand. However, if some kind of creator did turn out to have a hand in things at some point, then the Naturalistic Assumption would lead scientists astray beyond that point. For example, if the first living cell was actually put together by design, then all attempts to explain how it must have formed by natural means will be wrong.
The Naturalistic Assumption also creates a dilemma for atheists. Not unreasonably, an atheist demands evidence for claims regarding the existence of God, and expects the evidence to be based on science. At the same time, the modern scientific establishment excludes God, because attributing anything to God is considered unscientific.
As a result, it’s easy to think there is no scientific evidence for God, but this is because the underlying assumption of modern science is that everything must be explained without God.
In other words, the situation is similar to the Crooked Trial, where the jury has been instructed to look at the evidence through only one lens. In this case, the lens would be the Naturalistic Assumption. If the jury had to assume nature produced everything by itself, then they would naturally conclude there was no need for God.
Furthermore, since God has, in effect, been banished from modern scientific thinking, we can’t be surprised that we don’t see scientific papers with titles such as: “Stop Press: DNA Discovered To Have Been Designed By God!” This doesn’t mean there is no scientific evidence for God. It just means that, if it exists, we will need to dig a little deeper to find it, like a person with a metal detector looking for treasure beneath the sand. I will present some of the buried treasure a few short chapters from now.
This also highlights the importance of the assumptions we bring to the table, which can make a big difference to how we interpret evidence. For example, forensic scientists don’t see a dead body cut into twelve pieces and automatically assume the knife must have fallen naturally across the body twelve times. They examine the evidence to determine whether the death was accidental or deliberate.
However, when biologists peer into the cells of our body, they are not allowed to ask the same questions as forensic scientists, because when working in a scientific establishment they are expected by their peers to accept the Naturalistic Assumption, even if it is not a formal rule.
They do not consider the possibility that something was brought into being by intelligent design. Therefore, every new biological discovery must be accompanied by some variation on basically the same question: “What natural processes caused this to be?”