My son needed some help the other night on social studies. He was working on the Paleolithic Age – the Old Stone Age – a time when man first started working with stone and bone tools. That got me thinking about the greatest “tool” of all – the human hand. It’s something that most people take for granted, but I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that modern civilization would never have arisen without it.
How can the atheist explain something as complex as the hand? Like the human reproductive system that I discussed in my last post, in his worldview, the hand is the product of random mutations over time. We just happened to be lucky enough for everything to fall into place. But think for a moment about the staggering complexity of the hand. Consider first the intricacy of the nerves that allow not just for feeling but for the fine sensitivity of feeling that exists in the fingertips. Consider its placement at the end of a flexible wrist on an arm that is also flexible. Five fingers provide the ability to grip and to manipulate objects, and the five can be used in unison or individually. Two matching hands are vastly superior to one, and the hands just happen to match in size, shape and function. The opposable thumb may be its greatest feature, as it allows for tools to be gripped. There is a versatile muscular system that allows for objects to be firmly, or lightly, gripped, and a feedback mechanism in the nervous system that allows us to know whether we are gripping something so hard as to crush it or softly enough to caress it. All the while, it provides information on warmth and cold, as finely distributed oxygenated blood keeps the tissue healthy and alive. On and on the list goes. It is truly breathtaking as an engineering accomplishment, and despite the best efforts of modern day scientists and engineers, there is no way at present to even begin to replicate its complexities.
Yet we are to believe, according to the atheist, that this amazing feature of human beings is not the product of an intelligent designer, who foresaw and anticipated our use of the tools all around us, but the result of natural, mindless processes occurring over vast periods of time. By why should this be so? Well, the atheist will say, the hand is simply the descendent of more primitive appendages. Small, random changes conferred an advantage on some descendents, which allowed them to succeed and pass on this modification. Really? If this is so, then why haven’t monkeys, and these other even more primitive forms, gone extinct? Clearly, development of a hand that could use tools, as opposed to one suited for climbing trees, was not needed by them in order to thrive and reproduce. Or conversely, why haven’t modern monkeys, which apparently predate humans, not yet evolved human hands, hands finely suited for using and manipulating tools? Why haven’t at least some monkeys, somewhere, shown up in some intermediate form, on the curve from primate to human?
More importantly, what happened before our “ancestors” with primitive, not-quite-yet-human hands evolved? What was that earlier mammalian life form from which the arm and hand emerged? A squirrel? A rodent? What were these life forms doing when they had mere stumps on the ends of their limbs? Or no limbs at all? How did they survive? And why aren’t there other examples in nature of animals who randomly produced hands? Or animals that have partial hands that are somewhere on the road to evolving a complete hand?
To be fair, atheists probably think they are doing the believer a favor by arguing that science is the source of all knowledge. Since believing in God is simply primitive superstition, there must be natural processes which account for the complexity in life we see today. We just need to keep looking, confident that science will one day provide all the answers. What other choice is there, after all, if an intelligent designer is ruled out a priori. I suspect that most who hold this position have not considered deeply the difficulties it presents. After all, the human hand is just one of dozens of fine-tuned systems in the body, each of which is following millions of lines of coded DNA information that direct the body to grow from a single cell to an adult person capable of intelligent thought. And each system is interconnected and interdependent, operating autonomously which such precision that if called up to consciously control each of our body’s myriad actions, we would not survive. To conclude that all this complexity “just happened” may have made sense in Darwin’s day, when they had no idea that information-rich DNA was directing the process, giving substance and shape to the digital blueprint for a completed life form contained in each cell. If the hand were simply malleable “stuff,” like some type of clay that could be pulled and pushed into shape and retain its vitality, perhaps Darwinism would make more sense. But you can no more reshape the hand by external force than you can make a giraffe’s neck longer by having it reach for the high fruit.
True, science can tell us many things about DNA and how it works. And science will continue to add to that base of knowledge. More and more of nature’s secrets will be revealed about how already existing species undergo change over time, what we recognize as micro-evolution. But macro-evolution? That life generally, or the human hand in particular, assembled itself without any guidance from a pre-existing mind?
No, in the end, it is the atheist position that is in need of a hand.
Posted by Al Serrato