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Random Designer I

A while back I blogged a bit about Richard Colling, an evangelical Christian, microbiologist and a supporter of the theory of evolution. The major item of controversy at the time was his book, Random Designer, which seeks to combine his Christian faith with his acceptance of evolution.

I’m going to blog my way through his book, because I think he expresses some important points for Christians who are considering how to respond to the issues raised by evolution and other scientific discoveries on the one hand and their understanding of scripture on the other. Dr. Colling is exceptionally well qualified to comment on these issues.

In this first post I just want to make some general remarks on his introduction. I share some experiences with Dr. Colling in encountering and dealing with the issue of evolution in a church environment. As I understand his theology, he comes from a Wesleyan background, and teaches at Olivet Nazarene University, thus Wesleyan theology provides some connection

But to a large extent we come at this from completely different perspectives which makes this very interesting reading. He encountered creationism in a debate between a creationist and an evolutionist at the University of Kansas, and was shocked at the poor arguments presented by the creationist (p. 6). I was a convinced young earth creationist until I encountered material on evolution and started to compare the quality with the creationist literature I’d grown up on. There was simply no comparison.

The following quote gives the flavor:

This book, then, contains the ideas and perspectives of one broadly trained scientist who is not satisfied with religious platitudes or scientific dogma. I am just like you, attempting to fit the pieces together. The goal is straightforward–to develop a personal faith and cultivate a close connection with God, while at the same time fully acknowledging the scientific laws and processes that plainly govern our existence. [emphasis in original]

I think this provides a valuable perspective for Christians. It is also hardly threatening. I will make a more complete evaluation as I continue reading, but thus far this looks like an excellent book to put into the hands of someone who is seriously asking questions about this issue.

On pages 16-17, in discussing science and faith, Dr. Colling makes a strong case for teaching evolution in public schools saying that it is “an integral component of biology.” He also emphasizes that evolution and atheism are not necessarily connected. “The problem arises,” he says, “when the interpretation and meanings of evolution are extended too far.”

At the conclusion of chapter 2, Dr. Colling has laid out the claim that evolution is not necessarily theistic or atheistic; those conclusions go beyond the actual science involved.

When next I blog, I’ll be looking at chapter 2, in which he discusses thermodynamics in a way that is very accessible to lay people. For all those who think the 2nd law means that evolution is impossible, Dr. Colling would disagree–he says that the 2nd law is essential to evolution.

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  1. Corkscrew says:

    I understand what Dr Colling means by “those conclusions go beyond the science”, but can I log a personal plea for people to use a different phrase? Every time I hear it it sounds like they’re putting forward some horrible antirealist argument: “atomic theory is all very well and good, but saying that atoms actually exist when no-one can see them goes beyond the science“.

    A better (IMO) way of framing it would be something like: “evolution undermines one proposed argument for God, but that’s not a problem unless that argument was your only reason for believing”.

  2. Good point. It’s not like there’s something horrible about extrapolating.

  3. Richard Colling says:

    Hello Henry,

    Thanks for the chapter summary. If you are this thorough with the remaining chapters, I will direct those with questions to your site. I know many religious leaders who could benefit from this type of constructive analysis. I genuinely appreciate that you would take the time to do this. If you like, I would be happy to respond to questions and discussion from time to time as I have time.

    Regarding the latest controversy here at the university, the situation is not bright. The truth must matter, and right now, that seems to be a casualty.

    I attended the National Association of Biology Teachers Conference in Atlanta last week and gave out nearly 600 copies of Random Designer. ( A generous former student, now a successful head/neck surgeon made this financially possible) The message of peace between science and faith/biology and the Bible was well-received and the feedback was so overwhelmingly encouraging. Students want and deserve the real stuff, and educators appreciate hearing from a biologist saying that science and faith need never be at war.

    We must teach the very best biology, including evolution and do so in ways that are faithful to the integrity of biology AND faith. Random Designer is an attempt to do just that.

    Anything less is a disservice to both.

    Thanks again for your interest.

    Rick Colling

  4. Larry B says:

    Thanks for summarizing this. I look forward to the next post with something for the physical scientists to sink their teeth into.

  5. I would be delighted to have you answer some questions and perhaps correct some of my impressions as I go through this. I am really more journaling the process of reading the book than attempting to review it, but I hope this gives some people good reason to read it.

    I am definitely enjoying my time with it thus far.

  6. Well, you can sink your teeth in provided I can give a good enough summary to work with.

    They didn’t teach me any of this stuff in Hebrew class!

  7. Richard Colling says:

    I will enjoy seeing how you see it all.


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