Indeed, given the facts of molecular biology, the axioms of informa- tion theory, the laws of thermodynamics, the high- energy state of the early universe, the reality of unpredictable quantum fluctuations, and what we know about the time that elapsed between the origin of the universe and the first life on earth, explanations of the origin of life that deny the need for new information after the beginning of the universe clearly lack scientific plausibility.
And since deism denies that God could have or would have acted to add any such necessary information after an original act of creation, deistic and other truly front-loaded design hypotheses cannot account for the origin of the first life. Since, on the other hand, theism does posit an intelligent agent who acts in a creative way (in addition to sustaining the laws of nature) after the beginning of the universe, theism provides a better explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first cell as well as subsequent innovations in the history of life.
Thus, of these two worldview hypotheses, theism provides a better overall explanation than deism of the three key facts about biological and cosmological origins under examination: (1) the material universe had a beginning; (2) the material universe has been finely tuned for life from the beginning; and (3) large discontinuous increases in functionally specified information have entered the biosphere since the beginning. Deism can explain the first two of those facts; theism can explain all three.
A More Respectable Hypothesis
In their books, television interviews, YouTube videos, and lectures, the New Atheists and others have assured millions that scientific evidence, especially as it concerns the origin of life and the universe, supports a materialistic or atheistic outlook. They have claimed or assumed, as Sean Carroll and Michael Shermer have done, that the fundamental laws of nature alone will prove sufficient to explain the most salient features of life and the universe. They have argued, as Richard Dawkins has done, that “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose … nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
But the evidence examined so far suggests the need to reassess such claims. That the universe had a beginning, that it was finely tuned from the beginning, and that our planet has experienced dramatic discontinuous increases in biological form and information since the beginning are not at all what proponents of a naturalistic worldview would most “naturally” expect. Yet theists might well expect evidence of such discontinuity and design. Theism does, in any case, offer causally adequate explanations for the origin and fine tuning of the universe and the origin of biological information. Consequently, many scientists and philosophers have begun to question a default commitment to scientific materialism and to consider what physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne has called “a new natural theology.” As the historian of science Frederic Burnham observed, the God hypothesis “is now a more respectable hypothesis than at any time in the last one hundred years.”29 Or as astronomer Allan Sandage commented in 1985, “If God did not exist, science would have to … invent the concept to explain what it is discovering.”30
Burnham’s comment, offered in 1992, came in response to the discovery of the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) by the COBE satellite, providing another dramatic confirma- tion of the big bang model and its implication of a beginning. Yet it is not only cosmology that has rendered the “God hypothesis” newly respectable. As one surveys several classes of evidence from the natural sciences — cosmology, astronomy, physics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and paleontology — the God hypothesis emerges as an explanation with unique scope and power. Theism explains an ensemble of meta- physically significant events in the history of the universe and life more simply, more adequately, and more comprehensively than major competing metaphysical systems, including not only materialism and naturalism, but also pantheism and deism31 (Fig. 14.2).
Again, this does not prove God’s existence, since superior explanatory power does not constitute deductive certainty. It does show, however, that the natural sciences now provide strong epistemic support for the existence of God as conceived by Judeo-Christian and other traditional theists.32