Last week I wrote a review of the excellent new book Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews. This book is an intelligent, insightful response to many of the claims of today’s new atheists. I recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Andrews and wanted to share that interview with you today.
What do all of those letters after your name actually stand for?
The first three (BSc, PhD and DSc) are earned academic qualifications while the remainder (FInstP, FIMMM, CEng and CPhys) are professional qualifications. My Bachelor’s degree was in theoretical physics; the ‘doctor of philosophy’ degree was awarded for research, and the ‘doctor of science’ degree is a higher doctorate awarded for eminence in a given field, as judged by the quality of peer-reviewed publications.
The professional qualifications are firstly Fellowships of the Institute of Physics and of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining respectively — these being the national bodies that regulate the relevant professions in the UK. A Chartered Engineer (CEng) is a professional engineer registered with Engineering Council UK (the British regulatory body for engineers) and the status indicates both academic achievement and professional competence through training and experience. Chartered Physicist (CPhys) is similar but relates to physics rather than engineering.
Your biography says you are an international expert on the science of large molecules. First off, who determines who qualifies as an international expert in such things? And second, what does it mean to be an expert on the science of large molecules?
Good question! ‘International expert’ signifies that a person is both known and ‘in demand’ for his or her expertise internationally. This in turn is reflected by invitations to lecture at conferences, universities and industrial organizations in different countries, and by such things as international consultancy and advisory activities (for example, I was a consultant to the Dow Chemical Company for over 30 years, serving their research community throughout USA and Europe).
I use “large molecules” rather than “polymers” because I think it is easier to understand. Polymer science covers everything from the synthesis of long-chain or network molecules to their industrial use, and from plastics and rubber to biomolecules like proteins and cellulose. The way a polymer’s properties depend on its molecular structure is one of my chief fields of interest.
Can you share how you came to be a Christian?
I became a Christian as a 19 year old university student when, for no obvious reason, I was seized with a strong desire to read the New Testament — in which I had previously had little interest. Such was my urgency that I had no time to buy a Bible but borrowed one from a friend. As I read the Gospels I became aware that Jesus Christ was a real and living Person. Such was the sense of His presence that I found myself praying spontaneously, as if simply talking to Him. I went on to discover that the whole Bible is ‘the Word of God’ through which he speaks to me, imparting an understanding of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone along with wisdom for life and hope for the future in this life and the next. I also found both a joy and necessity to gather with other Christians in worship and fellowship. I might add that the passage of 58 years has done nothing to diminish that faith and joy.
Why did you title your book Who Made God?
Simply because I grew tired of atheists continually asking the question as if it is unanswerable — ‘the ultimate question of ontological mass destruction’ as I call it in the book. My website whomadegod.org carries the slogan, “Find the answer; read the book!” I wanted to show that the answer opens up surprising windows on ‘life, the universe and everything’.
Why is your book subtitled “Searching for a Theory of Everything?”
Many fine books have been written opposing the “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others, but they all tend to attack atheism without putting anything very persuasive in its place. My book also seeks to dismantle atheistic pretensions but at the same time it promotes a positive biblical world-view as the logical and scientifically respectable alternative. The “theory of everything” is borrowed from physics where theorists are continually trying to unify our understanding of nature by a single overarching theory. However, my “theory of everything” is what I call “the hypothesis of God” — a concept that embraces not only the physical world but those non-material realities like love, joy, peace, beauty, justice and human community that lie outside of science.
In 22 words or less, describe string theory.
String theory: fundamental particles (electrons, photons etc) are not point objects but strings which vibrate in different modes to produce different particles.
How do faith and science relate to one another? Are they completely separate fields governed by different rules? Or are they closely related to one another?
Science investigates the material universe; faith is holistic, embracing both material and non-material realities. Science does not of itself tell us anything about God but it does lead us to its own boundaries and hand us over to religion and philosophy. A good illustration of this is the fact that science discovers, studies and applies the laws of nature but can never tell us where those laws came from or why they are as they are. I sometimes express this truth by saying that science offers only half an explanation of the universe because it cannot explain itself! (i.e. science would not exist if there were no laws of nature). Similarly, Intelligent Design is an inference from science and stands at the boundary between science and faith (which side of the boundary is a matter of debate, of course). Theistic faith provides a world-view that recognizes the material universe as something created and sustained by God and operating according to natural laws that He has put in place (I explain how miracles come into the picture in my book).
Could you share a brief overview of your understanding of creation? Old earth creationism? Young earth creationism? Intelligent design?
I deliberately avoid dealing with these matters in “Who made God?” because this is not a book about creationism but about two conflicting paradigms — atheistic and biblical world-views respectively. Just as there are many conflicting ideas within atheistic materialism, but all materialists agree that evolution is a fact, so also there are conflicting versions of creationism but all agree that creation was miraculous (that is, it cannot be explained as the result of a natural evolutionary process). This, therefore, is a different debate, one on which the book barely touches.
I really don’t like terms such as “young earth”, “old earth” and “Intelligent Design” (with ID in capitals!) because when you look more closely they are actually very ill-defined. I therefore don’t apply any of these labels to myself. My own non-negotiable position is that (1) the early chapters of Genesis are historical not mythological; they describe things that actually happened; and (2) the universe and all that it contains was created ex nihilo by God, who continues to sustain it. Beyond that I have my own theories (for example, that ‘Big Bang’ cosmology is consistent with a historical view of Genesis One) but respect the views of those who differ from me.
In the book you interact briefly with the writings of Francis Collins. What would be your main critique of his book The Language of God?
Francis Collins is a distinguished scientist who makes no secret of his Christian faith, and for that I applaud him. But I do have a problem with his book which adopts “theistic evolution” as an explanation of the world of living things and, of course, mankind. His position becomes clear on p.200 of his book: “While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity over long periods of time. Once evolution got under way, no special supernatural intervention was required”. He implies that even life itself originated by a purely natural ‘mechanism’ rather than a creative act of God, and he confirms this view elsewhere. I don’t think this can be reconciled with the biblical account of creation — it undermines the very basis of the biblical understanding of God’s relationship to the created world.
In The Greatest Show on Earth Richard Dawkins says that no credible scientist believes in creationism. Yet I think it is fair to assume that his definition of credible scientist would already exclude such a person. Is it possible to believe in the work of God in creation and still be a credible scientist (by a definition less unfair than Dawkins’)? Is there marginalization of those scientists who hold to creationism?
Some of the greatest scientists have been “creationists” in the sense that they believed (or believe) the Bible’s account of creation. Michael Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, George Washington Carver, rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun and Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias come immediately to mind. There are probably thousands of living scientists who are “creationists” and who reject the theory of macro-evolution — witness the support for intelligent design theories and the many scientific creationist organizations world-wide. (Many Islamic scientists also reject macro-evolution). Marginalization certainly occurs, especially in the field of biological science where evolution is almost an article of faith.
Can you explain the popularity of Richard Dawkins and the other scientific new atheists today? What is it that makes them so popular, leading so many people to read their books?
This is indeed a major phenomenon, but it is not difficult to explain. In Romans 1:28 Paul tells us that men do ‘not like to retain God in their knowledge’ because as sinners we try to side-step the fact of our accountability to Him. Science-based atheism provides us with the perfect excuse to put God out of our thinking and reject his very existence; it is highly attractive to the mind of man in his fallen state. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can really put our thinking right and enable us to give our Creator the worship that is due to Him.
It is difficult to be a Christian today in the face of the constant claims that faith is opposed to science. Is there anything innately anti-scientific about the Christian faith? What do Christians need to do in order to have confidence that they can hold fast to Scripture and still be confident in what they believe about the world’s origins?
I agree that it is difficult. But that is why I have written this and several previous books on science and faith (see my ‘profile’ on www.amazon.com). The mass media are hostile to a biblical view of creation, so it is through books like this (and similar books by other authors) that, in a scientific and skeptical age, Christians can best gain confidence in the Bible as the totally reliable Word of God without trashing or ignoring genuine science.
What is your hope for this book? How will you know whether it has been a success?
My hope is that the book will not only encourage and equip Christians to take a clear biblical stand on these matters but that it will also reach out to the uncommitted person-in-the-street. The style adopted in writing the book is designed to engage the attention of such folk. We already have evidence that this will happen but it still needs Christians to treat the book as a strategic resource and promote it (and others like it) to the general public by encouraging their non-Christian friends and relatives to read it and by giving copies to libraries, schools and colleges.