Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Book Review: Random Designer

In September of last year, Olivet Nazarene University Professor Richard G. Colling found himself embroiled in a controversy over views expressed in this book. Random Designer (Browning Press, 2004) had been used as a textbook in some of his science courses, and recommended by other professors at the university. When certain church members and pastors learned of the content of Random Designer, they objected to Colling’s views on evolution loudly and persuasively. Despite the support of the administration and faculty at Olivet, several of these denominational leaders wielded their influence (read “threatened to withhold their financial support”) to intervene and compel the removal of Colling from the biology department.

One unintended consequence of their action is that I picked up and read Colling’s work. Hopefully, the controversy will spur many such new sales, because I believe that many will benefit from reading
Random Designer. The book targets some of those very pastors that led the charge against Colling, as indicated on this slip cover blurb:
"Written in easy-flowing personal narrative for working professionals, pastors, religious leaders, public school teachers, college students, and people of all faiths, Random Designer is a story of a loving and caring Creator who miraculously harnesses the random and chaotic forces of nature to accomplish his ultimate purposes. And now, after faithfully laboring for billions of years to bring His creation to an awareness of Himself, He calls to us from the deepest recesses of our minds. Will we hear His voice?"

Random Designer is divided into two sections. Section I deals with the science of randomness. Randomness is the necessary consequence of the laws that govern our cosmos, particularly the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, or entropy. Colling shows how entropy works as a randomizer, and how this same law suffuses the earth with a constant flow of energy which in turn serves to being order to randomness. Hence, in Colling’s view, the natural rise of life on earth through evolutionary processes. Randomness becomes the necessary fodder for natural selection, and it is apparently the Designer’s tool of choice. If like me, you have contemplated the place of randomness in Creation, you will benefit from Colling’s descriptions of these processes.

In Section II, Colling turns from science to the theological and practical considerations of randomness. I want to highlight two of the chapters. One seeks to answer questions that surround Adam. Is Adam an historical figure? Is he a metaphorical “stand-in” for the human race? Colling explores these and other possibilities. A chapter which fascinated me is entitled “The Ultimate Creation”. Colling cites science which suggests that the human race may have arrived at the pinnacle of evolution. The same processes of randomness that increase complexity must also serve to maintain complexity. The complexity of the human genome may have reached a balancing point. Or to put it another way, the human genome may be nearing full capacity. If this is true, as genetics suggests it may be, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that we are the ultimate creation of the Random Designer!

Random Designer is written for undergraduates, and as such is an easy read. If you are seeking understandings which bring purpose and order to a world of apparent randomness, you may find Colling’s book helpful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article. Thanks.

The book looks like it would be a fascinating study.