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In the Light of Evolution Volume IV: The Human Condition
autobiography [see Barlow (1958)] that Paley’s logic “gave me as much delight as did Euclid” and that it was the “part of the Academical Course [at the University of Cambridge] which … was the most use to me in the education of my mind.” Darwin himself was a natural theologian when he boarded the Beagle in 1831 on what would be a fateful voyage into previously uncharted scientific waters. Darwin’s discoveries were revolutionary for philosophy and theology as well as science because they identified a nonsentient directive agent (natural selection) that apparently could craft complex and beautiful biological outcomes that otherwise would be interpreted as direct handiworks of God. In Chapter 10, John Avise asks whether the human genome displays the kinds of artistry of molecular design that natural theologians might wish to claim as definitive proof for ex nihilo craftsmanship by a caring and omnipotent Deity (Behe, 1996). To the contrary, modern genetic and biochemical analyses have revealed, unequivocally, that the human genome is replete with mistakes, waste, dead-ends, and other molecular flaws ranging from the subtle to the egregious with respect to their negative impacts on human health (Avise, 2010). These are the kinds of biological outcomes that are expected from nonsentient evolutionary processes, but surely not from an intelligent designer. Avise argues, nevertheless, that theologians should welcome rather than disavow these genomic discoveries. The evolutionary sciences can help to emancipate mainstream religions from the age-old theodicy dilemma (the theological “problem of evil”) and thereby return religious inquiry to its rightful realm—not as the secular interpreter of biological minutiae of our physical existence, but rather as a respectable counselor on grander philosophical matters that have always been of “ultimate concern” (Dobzhansky, 1967) to theologians, and to humanity.