Scientists reflect on their faith (VII)


Sy Garte

Dr. Sy Garte is biochemist and published more than 200 scientific publications in genetics, epidemiology, the environment and other areas. He has been a Professor of Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences at New York University, UMDNJ, and the University of Pittsburgh. He recently retired as Division Director of Physiological and Pathological Sciences at the Center for Scientific Review of the National Institutes of Health. In this position he had overall supervision of the review of about 15,000 biomedical research grants per year.  He is currently Visiting Professor of Toxicology and Pharmacology at Rutgers University and President of the Natural Philosophy Institute.

He is a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), he was a member of the Board of Advisors of the John Templeton Foundation, and has consulted and blogged for the Biologos Foundation.  He has contributed to the ASA publications God and Nature and Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith. He is the Editor in Chief of God and Nature. He is a Certified Lay Servant of the United Methodist Church. He blogs at The Book of Works and his twitter account is @sygarte.

Dr. Sy Garte is a colleague of mine as administrators for the Facebook group Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection and I have read – and shared on the SMF facebook page – many excellent contributions. Here comes a brief summary:

In the article Stochastic Grace (2015, resp 2010), he said:

What sort of journey led me from my youth of fervent atheism to where I am today? The answer is simple: God called me, insistently and clearly, though it took me decades to finally listen and hear.”

“But in order to fully accept the gift [of God’s grace], and to know that I belong to Christ, body and soul, I needed to reconcile this new faith with my scientific sense of reason.”

“We know from physics that our world is stochastic, not strictly deterministic. In other words, it changes according to seemingly “random” influences, allowing for—even insisting on—creativity and surprise at every turn. It is beautiful, not dull; highly complex, not simple. Biological organisms appear to have been formed with the innate ability to evolve. And human beings, organisms with a soul, represent the grandest mystery of all.”

In our facebook group, he said in September 2014 that yes, there is design in biology, but it is not intelligent design. it is Divine Design:

“Evidence certainly is consistent with design in biology. Of course we, and jelly fish and oak trees, are designed. But the design is not intelligent. Instead there is an unconscious design process that is inherent in Darwinian evolution. What we see on this planet is an amazing and unspeakably beautiful diversity of life, all of clearly designed to perform at a peak of function. This is far beyond mere intelligence. And then, when we consider the miraculous, majestic processes that govern how life evolves without any need for a creative act for each separate species of beetle or termite, we can only sink to our knees in worship at the glory of the creator of life and all of its processes. Therefore, what we see behind that Creation of the universe and life on this planet is better characterized as Divine Design. To call God, the ultimate designer, “intelligent” as if He were a clever engineer is insulting, making God too small.”

In his essay Evolution and Imago Dei (2012), he said:

“The concept of Imago Dei is under attack. Some militant atheists have tried to use evolutionary theory (among other things) to show that there is nothing at all special about human beings. Mistakenly thinking that science supports this view, some Christian philosophers have put forward the idea that Imago Dei is not limited to the creation of human beings but to all biological creation. I believe that this is not only bad theology, but also terrible science.”

Man, himself, is an exception to the primacy of genetics on behavior. The behavioral phenotype (or visible characteristics of organisms) of human societies has been changing continuously for at least 40,000 years, and while the direction of that change has been constant, the rate of change has been increasing in an exponential manner. At the same time, there have been very few changes in genotype to account for these phenotypic modifications. Humans have also brought about behavioral phenotype changes in domesticated species like dogs and cattle, through training, genetic selection, and breeding, and in some wild animals by environmental alterations.

To our knowledge, we are the only species that has done this. Our evolution is no longer genetic, but cultural. And our cultural evolution is driven not by our genes but by our unique brains. The ordinary processes of genetic evolution gave us these brains, but then the brains took over. As a result, the way we live is completely different from the way human beings lived 40,000 years ago. It is different from the way human beings lived 400 years ago, and even 4 years ago. For all other species, this is not the case. From what we can tell, the chimpanzees of today live exactly as they did 4 million years ago.”

In Science and Scientism in Biology: The Origin of Morality (2013), Sy Garte analyzes the limits of science in explaining morality:

“[T]he scientific consensus, especially in evolutionary biology, has always been that nature is morally neutral. We know, as scientists, that sharks are not “bad” any more than dolphins are “good.” The true evolutionary view (I always thought) was that fitness is related to success, not goodness.”

And to conclude, Sy is building bridges:

“I don’t believe in God of the gaps, but in God of the bridges. When science builds a bridge over a gap in knowledge, that’s where God is.”

(shared already previously on this blog)

sy garte divine design


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