Julian Charles: Today is the 17th of May 2013 and I’m very pleased to be speaking to Professor Edgar Andrews who is Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London in the UK, and an internationally acknowledged expert on the science of large molecules. In the late 1960s Prof. Andrews set up the Department of Materials at Queen Mary College where he served, first as head of department, and later as Dean of Engineering. In addition to over one hundred scientific research papers and books, his publications also include Bible commentaries, various works on science and religion and theology. In 1986 he was brave enough to debate Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union, and he is currently Acting Pastor of the Campus Church Welling Garden City in Hertfordshire. Prof. Andrews, welcome to TMR, and thank you for talking to us.
Prof. Edgar Andrews: Thank you very much for your invitation to take part.
JC: When I first contacted you, I said that I would like to ask you about your book Who made God, and about your life as a scientist and a Christian, but that was before I was reminded that you’d had this debate with Richard Dawkins, so I’d like to ask you about that as well.But before we get onto that in any detail, could I ask you first to tell us a little more about your life and your work?
EA: Well it’s a long story. I’m eighty years old, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge during that time. I’ll start with my university experience. I began to study Physics as an eighteen-year-old student at University College London, and it was at the end of the first year at university that I became a Christian. I had been going to Church recently, but for social reasons rather than any spiritual interest. But I suddenly received a very compulsive desire to read the New Testament - something I had not been interested in before. I began to read from page one. And it was as I read through the Gospels in the New Testament that I discovered that Jesus Christ was a living person. At times I even felt his presence in the room with me. And, as I read, I became convinced, not only that he was even now a living person, but that he was the one who had died on the cross to forgive my sins, and had risen from the dead to vindicate his work upon the cross. In other words, I was converted - not by the activity of any other person, but directly by reading the New Testament scriptures.
I went on to complete my undergraduate degree in Physics, and I obtained a First Class Honours degree at the end of that time. It was my desire not to go into research, but to get into industry and management. I tried to do that, but it didn’t work, because the company I applied to, and who employed me, immediately put me into research. So I got into a life of scientific research in that way. I spent just two years with them. I would have stayed longer, but they moved their HQ up to Yorkshire, and I had by that time become involved in the conduct and operation of a small local Baptist Church, and I felt I should not leave the church; I should leave my job rather than give up my Christian work. So I found another job with a research company, and I spent eight years with them - very productive years. I was able to publish quite a lot in scientific journals, and that publication record was sufficient to gain me the place of Reader in Materials Science at Queen Mary College, as it was then called - part of the University of London. And I was charged with the job of establishing a department of Materials Science. I became the first Professor of Materials, and I served as the head of department for something like thirteen years. [Also] I was for over thirty years consultant to the Dow Chemical Company in the USA and to the 3M Company also there.
But then another opportunity opened up. I was asked to act as an expert witness in the British High Court in respect of patent cases and product liability cases. Finally, throughout that time I’ve been writing books, trying to help people to understand Scripture, and particularly to understand the relationship between science and religion, because so often science is put forward as anti-religion, and religion as anti-science.
JC: Indeed, yes.
EA: That is nonsense, of course, because many scientists are Christians, and we try to make that clear in some of the books that I’ve written.
JC: Have you felt over the years that your work as a scientist has been a calling?
EA: I believe that my life and my various experiences have been ordered by God. So, yes in that sense, everything I have done I have considered to be in one sense or another a calling from God.
JC: Your experience in science has allowed you to write and publish with regard to the science-faith debate and help people in that way.
EA: That’s right. There aren’t many people who have experience and knowledge in both science and theology. There are some, of course, but the opportunity I have had has been to write material that helped to clarify these matters for the layman. My main emphasis has been to explain technical matters to people who don’t have a technical background.
JC: Yes, I’m going to ask you about your book in a few minutes. I think it's an excellent example of how that can be done. But I would like to ask you about this debate you had with Richard Dawkins back in 1986. This was the Huxley Memorial Debate at the Oxford Union in which you, and the pharmacologist Arthur Ernest Wilder-Smith, were pitted against Richard Dawkins and the geneticist John Maynard-Smith. You were debating whether the doctrine of creation is more valid than the theory of evolution. I’d like you to give us an idea of how that debate went.
EA: It was a very interesting experience. There must have been at least two hundred and fifty people present. At these debates the audience changes; people come and go because they last for hours. The rules that they follow at the Oxford Union (or that they followed in those days) were that the seconder of the motion (which was myself) would speak first. I think we had something like twenty five minutes to present our case. Then that was followed by Richard Dawkins who was seconding the opposition to the motion. Then the other two speakers, who were the proposer and opposer in chief, finished up the debate.
Having the opportunity to start the debate had advantages and disadvantages: I had no idea what the other people were going to say, but it meant that I had a clean slate. I took the line that science is not able, by its very nature, to explain everything; therefore there were things that were beyond the competence of science to explain, and those things are explicable - best explained, indeed - in terms of theology - in terms of the existence of a God who created all things and who also maintains and sustains all things. So I spelt out the various areas in which I felt science was incapable, not because it hasn’t reached a sufficient state of advancement, but science was incapable of explaining by virtue of its very nature and the nature of the phenomena concerned.
JC: Yes, this is something that you also bring out in your books. Weren’t you somewhat surprised at the outcome of this debate?
EA: There were a number of surprising things. During his contribution Richard Dawkins actually praised a book that I had written. The book was called From Nothing to Nature, and was written from a creationist viewpoint; but he praised it as being well-written, although of course he didn’t believe a thing that was in it. That raised quite a laugh. I think the problem he had was that he had expected me to base my presentation on the book. Of course I didn’t do that; I went for a completely different position - philosophical position, if you like - in which I outlined the limitations of science, and that we must not expect science to be able to explain the universe life and everything. So I think he was caught off his guard; he was on the wrong foot and wasn’t able to respond in any way to my arguments.
JC: He sounds as though he was a little more relaxed back then. I get the impression he’s a very angry man these days. Was he like that in the debate?
EA: That is another interesting factor. He was, in fact, quite polite and reasonable in the exchanges that he and I had; not only during the debate, but also in the recesses and coffee breaks. I found him a reasonable man. I actually thanked him for being reasonable, which could not be said of the other speaker speaking against the motion. He has changed a great deal since then. There was nothing of this bitterness against religion, nothing of the ridicule that he tries now to pour upon those who believe in God and in the whole concept of creation; that was completely absent.
JC: That must have made for a much more interesting debate than he would conduct these days.
EA: I think so, because it wasn’t clouded by ad hominem attitudes. The outcome [of the debate also] was a little surprising, because the evolutionists didn’t win the debate with the overwhelming majority that was expected. In fact, the actual result is strictly unknown. Although we have it on a tape recording read out by the chairperson, the recording is not totally clear. It was something like one hundred and ninety-five against the motion (that is for evolution), and either one hundred and fifteen for creation, or possibly (some argue) one hundred and fifty. That matter is unresolved, and the minute book in which the result should have been recorded was subsequently lost or stolen - disappeared. And the other point was that, although in those days the Oxford Union debate was always featured in the national press, the following day it didn’t happen with this debate. There was no mention, so we’re pretty clear in our minds that the union specifically requested that the debate and result should not be reported. We think that there was a little bit of skulduggery involved there, but it’s very difficult to prove these matters.
JC: It does sound like it. I understand that this recording is still available, so people could listen to it and decide for themselves whether they think it was a hundred and fifteen or a hundred and fifty.
EA: Yes, all they need to do is put “Huxley Memorial Debate” into their search engine and the recordings will come up.
JC: I'd like to ask you about your book, Who Made God : Searching for a Theory of Everything, which was published in 2009. Before you kindly sent me a copy, I was expecting it to be essentially another rebuttal to the writings of the so-called New Atheists. You do rebut physicist Victor Stenger, [but] I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much more than just a response to the New Atheists. In fact, you in fact make a positive case in the book for the existence of God. So, could you introduce us to the book, and tell us what motivated you to write it in the approachable way that you did?
EA: Yes, there was a specific reason: the style of the book is designed to be comprehensible, and even entertaining, for the 'person in the street' who is not a scientist, but who has - and this is the key feature that stimulated me to write the book - who has been exposed to an endless stream of atheistic propaganda via the mass media; especially the BBC, who have given Richard Dawkins several series of his own to promote his atheistic beliefs.
The background assumption in all BBC science and nature programmes, that there is no place for God or for creation, is sometimes subtle, sometimes more obvious. Many of the leading newspapers also, The Times in particular, have backed Richard Dawkins, given him a tremendous amount of free publicity, and will not of course even look at doing a review - even a hostile review - of books like my own. We have a situation in which there is wall-to-wall coverage in the mass media of atheistic positions, sometimes a little nod in the direction of God, but nothing much more than that. The 'person in the street' and the 'child in the classroom' have been exposed to this now increasingly for several decades, but particularly in the last few years. How do you respond to this? You cannot get a hearing in the media anymore. Going back twenty years or so, I was able to participate in one or two broadcasts on local radio, and national radio, and even one appearance on Newsnight on BBC television. But you can’t even get a reply, or acknowledgement, from the mass media today; it’s just impossible.
So what do you do? Well, the only thing you can do is to write a book, which, as you say, sets out the case for God and for creation. It is written for the very people who are subjected to this saturation coverage of atheism. So it had to be for the layman; something they could understand, [but] also of sufficient depth and rationality to avoid being rubbished in reviews. It was quite a challenge, but a challenge that I feel I was able to meet.
JC: Yes, I think it’s very well done. I suspect your years of teaching - and preaching, indeed - have something to do with the way you convey the information. You use humour, illustration and many [other] techniques that make it easy to follow and enjoyable to read, but all the time you're conveying the message. How is the book doing? Has it had much of an impact?
EA: For a Christian book, it has done very well in the USA, Britain, Australia [and] generally internationally. It has probably sold about twenty-five thousand copies, which for a Christian book is quite a respectable figure.
JC: Is it getting into mainstream bookshops?
EA: Well that's the other side of the coin; it has not broken into the mainstream, which makes me sad. But I think it has had a very positive effect for Christians – [and generally] for theists - who have been encouraged by it to realise that they can stand up to the New Atheists and the propaganda stream that I referred to earlier on. There are Christian answers based in sound science and reason that address many of the issues and questions people have in a very rational way, but also in a very biblical way. One of the features of the religious scene today is that many of the people who write against the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, write very good rebuttals, but [they] themselves are not Bible believers. They attack atheism very well, but they don’t really put anything really Christian in its place. Now that is what I have tried to do. How far I have succeeded, I don’t know, but I do know that it has been a real encouragement to many Christians.
JC: I must ask why you called it “Who made God”. My suspicion is that’s partly your response to people who think they have a ready-made, knockdown argument: if they’re ever debating the existence of God, all they need to do is say, “Ah, but who made God?”, and that’s the end of the issue. Is that why you choose the title?
EA: Yes, it really is the question that atheists ask. Of course, they don’t ask it as a question. It’s a rhetorical question; it’s a statement. “Who made God?” - that’s a question that you cannot answer. Richard Dawkins, in his bestselling book The God Delusion, asks the question repeatedly in different ways, not necessarily using the very same words. It seemed to me a good question to put on the front of a book, because so many people ask it. It’s there to attract people’s attention and make them look a little more closely.
JC: And you deconstruct the question itself and show how, in reality, it’s a circular question.
EA: That’s right, yes. In a sense, a Christian can answer the question in about five seconds flat: Nobody made God. God is self-existent, otherwise he wouldn’t be God. You don’t need a book really to answer the question. I simply use the question as a springboard for launching into what you described earlier as a positive presentation, often in scientific terms, of the reality of God and of the reasonableness of faith in the biblical God.
JC: Yes, and you make the case by developing the idea of the God Hypothesis. In building the case, before you come to the hypothesis itself, you address the question: Can science explain everything? (This is in Chapter Two, which you intriguingly call “Yoghurt, Cereal and Toast”.) You don’t mention him, but somebody who immediately comes to mind is the Oxford chemist Peter Atkins, who has stated many times that he believes one day science will be able to explain absolutely everything; it’s just a matter of time. Could you tell us why you think science will not, in principle, be able to explain absolutely everything?
EA: Yes, it really goes back to the Oxford Union debate. As I said then, and repeat in the book at much greater length, [there are] four things that science, by its very nature, will never explain: first, the origin of the universe; secondly, the origin of scientific or natural law (the laws that govern the way the universe operates); thirdly, the origin of life; and fourthly, the origin of mind.
The reason that science will never explain the origin of the universe is that science is based upon the laws that govern the universe. I mean, there would be no science if there were no laws that were operating continually and in every place. The laws of nature are the data and the ground of science. Now I’ll come to them in just a moment, but the point is this: the laws of science are part of the created order. Of course, a hundred years ago people thought there was no beginning to the universe. They thought the universe had always been there. But we know now that the scientific evidence is that the universe did have a beginning: the so-called Big Bang. Now, whether the standard model of the universe - the Big Bang Theory - is correct in all its details is still under debate. But nevertheless, there’s no question that the universe had a beginning, and people who don’t believe in creation are trying very hard to get around that, but I don’t think you can.
Now, if the laws of nature are a description of the way the universe works - which is what they are - then before there was a universe there could have been no laws of nature. And that being the case, science, which depends upon explicating and investigating the laws of nature, really has nothing to say about what was there before the universe was there. In other words, it has nothing to say about how the universe came into existence. Science can theoretically at least trace the origin of the universe back to the first micro-second, if you like, but it can’t go back beyond the time zero - beyond the beginning of the universe. Therefore it can never scientifically explain what caused the universe to come into existence. That’s the first point.
The second point is the laws of nature. The laws of nature are really remarkable in that they are mathematical. To a physicist, the laws of nature (or the descriptions that we put up to describe, and to some degree explain, how the universe operates) are mathematical.
Now that’s a great curiosity. Mathematics is something that has been developed by human minds, [so] why has mathematics anything to do with the nature of the universe? The universe has been created, says one cosmologist, by a Mathematician. It seems to me that the laws of nature have to be taken as granted by science; we discover them, we investigate them, we put them to use in technology, we often work upon them so as to gain a more sophisticated knowledge of them. The famous search for the Theory of Everything is the holy grail of physics to find a physical theory from which all other physical theories can be derived - an over-arching explanation, if you like.
JC: But even that wouldn’t be a total explanation. In popular imagination that really is an explanation of absolutely everything, but even if it united the various aspects of physics that need to be understood it still wouldn’t explain everything, would it?
EA: That’s right, it would only explain everything in the physical, material universe. But even if such a theory were developed and proven to be successful, you’ve still got to ask: Where did that theory come from? Where did that law of nature come from? What brought the laws of nature into existence?
JC: But there are people who speculate that there are some kinds of cosmic Darwinian processes by which the laws of nature evolve into being. Do you give any of those credence?
EA: No, none whatsoever. In fact, that cannot possibly be the case. All the scientific investigations into the nature of the cosmos, all cosmology, depends upon us being able to reply upon the fact that the laws of nature always were what they are now. Now there is something that has been promoted, and is perfectly legitimate, and that is the idea that you have a law of nature...
Let’s take the laws of force just to make it a little more clear. There are four forces in nature that have been studied: the strong force, which holds atoms together; the weak force, that pulls them apart; the electromagnetic force, which controls electricity and magnetism, or which functions in those phenomena; and finally the force of gravity. For a long time people have been trying to unify these forces into a single theory, and they’ve had some success. For example, the weak force and the electromagnetic force can be represented as having derived from a single force kind in the early stages of the evolution of the universe. The idea is that forces, which once were a single force, became different types of force as the universe cooled down from the Big Bang. So it is possible to produce these theories of everything, or partial theories of everything, which embrace and break down into other laws which are the ones we recognise today. In that sense there could have been a change in the nature of the laws of science, but it’s not really a change, it's simply a separation of things that were implicit in the original law.
Now that is not evolution in any Darwinian sense. Evolution in a Darwinian sense doesn’t speak of getting out the various components of one over-arching reality with the progress of time; in fact that’s much more like creationism. Darwinism believes that new structures and more complex systems can evolve from simpler ones, whereas the things we are talking about in cosmology are simpler things devolving from more complex, or all-embracing, theories; so it’s really quite the opposite.
JC: What you say there seems to chime in my mind with something that I believe St. Augustine said, that the creation had potentialities that unfolded through time...
JC: ...which is very different, as you say, from the Darwinian view. The third thing that you point to is the origin of life. You say that naturalistic science won’t be able to explain that either.
EA: That’s right. The reason I maintain that is not a chemical reason, although there are lots of chemical reasons why life as we know it - the chemistry of life - could not have arisen spontaneously. I go into those in the book. The ultimate reason why I say life can never be explained on purely scientific grounds is that the essence of life - the fundamental characteristic of life - is information. D.N.A. has written upon it a language, a code; it uses a code just as we use an alphabetical code to write messages. That code and those messages, or instructions, are written upon the D.N.A. Molecules. Then they are reproduced from that to perform their functions in the living cell. Well now, science cannot explain the origin of information; information just does not happen. The only origin we know of scientifically, or any other way, for information is intelligence – mind. And it is the complete inability of random chemical or physical processes to generate information that means, in my mind at least, we shall never explain the origin of life scientifically. Now people will deny that, and they are working very hard on finding ways in which information could have been generated accidentally by random or chaotic processes, but they will never have any success in my view because of the nature of information; it has its origin in mind.
JC: Are you at this point employing the God Hypothesis that you develop in the book? It seems to me you're saying that one of the predictions of the God Hypothesis is that there will be limitations: we will find ourselves running up against limitations of naturalistic science, and when we find those limitations, and they persist no matter how much research we engage in, this then serves to confirm the hypothesis. I that how the logic works?
EA: Yes, [but] I would perhaps put it a little bit differently. I would say that we have the God Hypothesis... (of course I use the word hypothesis in a strong sense: a foundation upon which to build our ideas and understanding of the universe). We have the God Hypothesis, which, when it comes to these issues we have been discussing that science really can’t handle, provides us with a very rational, and what is more, a unified picture. You see, it’s quite possible for the atheist to come up with explanations for certain phenomena. I mean, let me take an obvious example: the fine tuning of the universe that makes it suitable for life. Even evolutionists say: “Well, life has evolved, because the universe is finely tuned to accommodate that process.” So the fine tuning of the universe is not disputed, or not strongly disputed. I do know of one or two books which try to dispute it, but nobody really denies that the universe is finely tuned to support the existence of intelligent life, or life of any kind.
Now the creationists like myself will say: “Of course it's finely tuned; it's suitable for the existence of life because that’s the way God designed it to be.” Now the atheist comes back and says: “Oh well, now what we have to take into account is that there is not just one universe, but there is a multiverse. In other words there are untold millions of different universes. Of course we only know about one: the one in which we live. But there are lots and lots of others, and sooner or later, just by accident out of this vast number of different universes, there will be one universe where things are just right for intelligent life to exist. And that happens to be ours.” In fact, they offer the multiverse as an argument against creation. So, they have an answer.
I won’t go further, but there are other points where we say: “Well, that demonstrates the reality of creation.” (And) they say: “Oh no, I have an alternative explanation.” But each of the atheistic interpretations, or explanations, is an ad-hoc one; it doesn’t bear any relationship to the previous explanation of the previous phenomenon. So, whenever you come up with one of these arguments for creation, they say: “Ah well, we have an answer for that.” But those answers are incoherent. In other words, they don’t hang together. They don’t have a single source; whereas the hypothesis of God provides us with a single explanation for all of these things, and that to my mind is philosophically much more satisfying, and therefore much more likely to be true.
JC: It’s interesting that, in part of this discussion, you seem to be moving slightly in the direction of intelligent design theory. You say in your book that you are sympathetic to some of their arguments, but that there are weaknesses with their approach as well. Could you describe your attitude towards intelligent design?
EA: I believe in intelligent design for obvious reasons, because I believe that God has designed the laws of nature, and nature itself, and everything we find in nature. He is the One who upholds all things by the word of his power, as we read in Hebrews chapter 1 verse 3. That means, in a sense, that God is instantaneously responsible for the laws of nature. They are, if you like, the utterances of His purpose and intention. So I do believe in intelligent design.
But those who advocate intelligent design are not coming at it from it from a theistic point of view. What they are trying to say is that there is evidence in nature of design - of intelligent design. Of course, the prime example of that is the one we have already talked about: the genetic code, and the fact of information lying at the root of life itself. So they are deliberately not invoking theistic ideas; they are not invoking God. (Although, of course, by invoking an intelligent designer they are opening the door to a supernatural being.) But the chief weakness, I think, is simply that they do not identify the designer. To some extent, there is a danger in that. The latest thinking in intelligent design – as it seems to me, reading the publications - is that evolution can be credited with almost everything, just as evolution itself claims that life and its complexity and the emergence of intelligence and mind can be explained in terms of evolution, just as Darwin said it could be. But somewhere in there you’ve got to incorporate a tweaking of situations and things - on a molecular level for example. One of the leading exponents of intelligent design, Michael Behe, has written a book quite recently in which he says lots of things can happen by evolutionary mechanisms, but there are certain things that could not have possibly happened on the relevant time-scale just by Darwinian mechanisms. For example, too many mutations of the right kind would have had to happen within a short time to produce a new organ - a real advance in the complexity of life. So they finish up by swallowing the theory of evolution 'hook line and sinker' and saying evolution was guided at various points. And it seems to me that is a very weak position. Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat gradually disappeared leaving only the smile behind. It seems to me [that by] minimising the creative acts of the intelligent designer, they’re trying to get them down to the absolute minimum. Whereas the approach I have taken, which is a full-blooded biblical [and] theistic case, is quite the reverse: All things are the work of God, and you can’t explain the origin of natural law and the mathematical nature of the laws that govern the universe by intelligent design. Intelligent design is a very limited theory - limited to certain aspects of evolution. So it doesn’t, to my mind, provide a satisfactory answer to the big question.
JC: I see, but you would nevertheless think it useful within the scientific establishment to ask questions of this nature.
EA: Yes that’s right, it has a contribution to make. I read the intelligent design literature with great interest, and find it very stimulating, because they’re asking the right questions: How did the genetic code arise? How is it that information could be generated from chaos? Well it can’t. Therefore we must ascribe these things to an intelligent designer. To some extent they are doing the same that I am, in the sense that they are coming up against the boundaries of scientific explanation and finding that science cannot take them across those boundaries. Then they say: “Well, you’ve got to explain these in a different way.” Of course, it does lay them open to the charge of evoking the 'God of the gaps' - just when you come to something science cannot explain, you say: “That must be God”.
JC: Well, is that quite fair? Because they don’t actually…
EA: No it’s not at all fair; it leaves them open to it.
JC: Yes indeed, and you haven’t done that. (That would certainly be to mischaracterise their position.) What you’re saying about creation does seem to entail that miracles take place in the real world, and in the book you suggest that there are many theologians today who think that miracles are indecent. Many people say that, [to hold such a] view, diminishes God in some way; it makes him out to be an imperfect creator. But you don’t have any problems with miracles do you?
EA: No, not at all. I’m sceptical of many things that people claim to be miracles today. I’m quite a sceptic as far as a particular event being described as miraculous. But it seems to me you have the origin of the universe; that’s got to be a miracle, in the sense that there’s no scientific explanation of it, (and the other things we’ve been talking about). But my position is a very radical, biblical position, which I think many theists even would hesitate to adopt. That is, not only miracles, but everything that happens, is directly under the moment-by-moment control of God. I base this on biblical statements such as the one I quoted earlier from Hebrews 1:3, where we are told that Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of his power. Another verse in Colossians 1 says: In Christ all things consist, or hold together they’re integrity. The integrity of all things, [which] is clearly speaking in a cosmological sense, owes its existence to Christ and his will. Therefore, if you follow these verses, it means that the normal operation of natural law is the moment-by-moment operation of the mind and will of God.
JC: So, in a sense, they should be called regularities rather than laws.
EA: That’s right - operating in a regular way. If you adopt that position then the miraculous falls into place; it is no longer some special intervention by God into a self-sustaining natural order. Most people think of miracle as God interfering with a natural order that he has set in place and doesn’t usually have any control over. But if you see the natural order and the normal workings of the universe [as] emanations, if you like, of the mind of God, then miracle is exactly the same; it’s just an irregular, or non-repetitive, situation that God ordains momentarily in time and space to achieve a certain purpose, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s a great central miracle of the Christian faith.
JC: This would presumably lead you to deny the kind of view of somebody like, say, Stephen Jay Gould, with his 'non-overlapping magisteria' position, where he says that there are equal explanations: some are religious explanations, and others are scientific explanations, both equally valid, but they have nothing to do with each other.
EA: Yes, the non-overlapping magisteria (sometimes referred to as complementarity)... you know, you can give a scientific explanation of something, you can give a divine explanation of something, they are quite compatible with the position I am advancing. It’s just that the position I am advancing takes a higher, more over-arching ,view of the whole thing.
JC: Do you subscribe to a Six-Day/Young-Earth Creationist position?
EA: Well, I don’t know how long you want to talk about this. This is getting us into [territory in which] Christians, and even creationists, don’t see eye-to-eye.
EA: The reason is, of course, there are different ways of interpreting the Genesis account - particularly Genesis chapter one. What I like to say is this: While I have my own views, I respect any view that can genuinely be justified from Scripture. [But] I have two red lines, if you like. I insist that the account of creation given in the book of Genesis is historical. It actually happened; it is not mythological. And the second point is that you cannot explain creation without invoking miracle. (We could define that as an event that cannot, and never will have, a scientific explanation.) Those are my sticking points.
When we come to the interpretation of the days of creation - the sequence of creation – [and consider] whether or not Genesis 1 is compatible with a Big-Bang kind of origin of the universe: I believe it is. Because I think that the origin of the universe is described in verse one of Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, and from verse two onwards the narrative is restricted to the earth.
It is an earthbound viewpoint from verse two onwards, and I think actually that is a much more coherent interpretation of Genesis 1. By the way, this isn’t just my own idea; I am following the esteemed Hebrew scholar E. J. Young. He said that the first verse was a description of the original creation, including the heavens and the earth, which allows of course for a Big Bang, and he insisted from verse two onwards the description was earthbound. So for example, the appearance of the sun and the moon and the stars on Day Four was an appearance; it wasn’t a reference to the de novocreation of those heavenly bodies. So, I have my own coherent interpretation of Genesis, one which does allow for a Big-Bang type of creation.
Whether the days are literal days or not is another big issue. We have to bear in mind that the chapter we’re interpreting, Genesis 1, actually defines what it means by a day: it says, “God called the light day and the darkness he called night”. So, when we read about days in Genesis 1, using the internal definition of day, we are talking about periods of light and not necessarily periods measured in hours as we understand them today. But again, I do try not to be dogmatic on this, because I do recognise that there are variant interpretations which are equally valid, so I don’t start a fist fight with a person who differs from me.
JC: Many people say the Hebrew [word] yôm refers to many different periods of time, so therefore it could be great expanses of time rather than just twenty-four hour periods. But presumably, you would say that God did actually engage in special creation on those particular days, [or] those particular periods of time.
EA: Yes, well, I think there’s a mixture. [Let me say more about] my view that the heavenly bodies appeared on Day Four rather than were created on Day Four. That is the emphasis in the text: God set the heavenly bodies in the heavens. People then say, “Ah well, you're diminishing the miraculous element, talking about cloud cover clearing so things become visible; that’s not miraculous.” Well, it can be miraculous, depending on how fast and in what manner the cloud cover cleared, but earlier you got the separation of the land and the waters which is a separation. The appearance of dry land was an appearance; the land was there already; it only became visible as the waters receded from it. That, to my mind, is completely analogous to the heavenly bodies becoming visible; they were there to become visible.
JC: There are people who talk about a pattern of separations that appear in the text.
EA: Yes, that’s right.
JC: So, this would be a separation here of the lights in the sky, and a separation of them from the cloud cover that might be there. So, it could be just another instance of a literary device being used throughout the text.
EA: Yes indeed, but equally, the creation of the different kinds of organism, or life, I see as miraculous. I see a mixture of miraculous and natural in Genesis 1; I don’t think you can say it’s all miraculous, and I don’t think you can say it’s all non miraculous.
JC: I must ask you how people can most easily get hold of a copy of your book. I suspect it's available on Amazon. Is there any other way that people can get hold of it? From what you’ve said it’s not easily available in local bookshops.
EA: I think Christian bookshops will have it, but they’re not all that thick on the ground these days. It’s available by mail order from the publisher; that’s www.epbooks.org, and its available from a number of online book suppliers. The orange, hard-cover edition is sold out. Now it's available in yellow-cover paperback, and it's available in electronic format which is much cheaper.
JC: And you have a website too, which I think is named after the book. Could you tell us the name of that website?
EA: Yes that is easy to remember: www.whomadegod.org, and on that website there are a number of articles which go beyond the book and deal with, for example, books which have been published by atheists, like the more recent book by Steven Hawking “The Grand Design”. I have a review of that book on the website. (That was published after my book, so it's not mentioned in the book, although many of the topics are dealt with in my book, because the Hawking book is not actually very original, reproducing a lot of arguments that were already out there.)
JC: I really do think that your book would be very useful for anybody who's looking into Christianity and asking the kinds of questions that you address: Is it true that Christianity presents a coherent world view? I think it would be very helpful for that, but also very informative for the believer, in helping to give us confidence that what we believe does cohere with the real world. And I think it also models a persuasive and appealing apologetical approach. I’m very grateful to you for sending me the book; I enjoyed it very much. Prof. Andrews it has been wonderful to speak to you. It’s not always easy territory for a lay person like me to deal with, so thank you for sparing the time to talk to us.
EA: It’s been my pleasure.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by Professor Andrews in this interview are his responsibility alone; they do not necessarily reflect those of The Mind Renewed.