What do the body’s molecular structure and car engines have in common? Both are clearly made by someone, argued biochemist Dr. Fazale Rana at a recent Reasons to Believe (RTB) conference, titled “What Darwin Didn’t Know.” The organization’s stated purpose for the Washington, D.C. conference was to demonstrate that if Charles Darwin were living in the modern era, his Origins of Species might have concluded something quite different.
The son of a Muslim professor at North Dakota State University and a Catholic science and math teacher, Dr. Rana described what it was like to learn biochemistry in the university setting:
When I went to college, I found myself in a very secular environment… I fell in love with biochemistry. That’s what I wanted to do with my life was become a biochemist, so you can tell right away what kind of nerd I must have been…And in the professors I admired the most were my biology and chemistry professors. Many of them were staunch atheists and some of them were actually anti-Christian in [their] perspective. I felt comfortable in that environment and they taught me how to accept uncritically the idea that life’s origin of life’s history was the work of evolutionary processes. I felt satisfied with that explanation.
Dr. Fazale later became a Christian and joined RTB as the vice president for research and apologetics. “The mission of Reasons To Believe is to show that science and faith are, and always will be, allies, not enemies,” states the organization’s website.
Other academics differ on the non-exclusive roles of faith and science. According to a 2008 study by professors from Rice University and Baylor University which compared 1969 and 2005 surveys of scientists’ faith, elite scientists are more likely to attend church sporadically (a few times a year) than the overall population, and are more likely to claim no religious affiliation than members of the overall population (51% v. 15%).
Titled “Secularization and religious change among elite scientists,” the study also found that elite scientists have experienced more religious attrition during this time period. “Important as well, we see field differences with respect to religious attrition, the most striking changes being among natural scientists,” the authors write. “In 1969 much less than half of those raised Protestant or Catholic switched to no tradition. By 2005, 52 percent of natural scientists who were raised Protestant and 58 percent of natural scientists raised Catholic had switched. Social scientists’ attrition rates were either stable or dropped modestly between 1969 and 2005.”
According to Dr. Rana, William Paley’s 18th century watchmaker argument provides a sufficient analogical framework for his belief in creationism. “William Paley argued that just as a watch requires a watchmaker, life requires a creator. Now in William Paley’s day, the watch was the pinnacle of engineering achievement,” argued Dr. Rana at the conference.
“People today look at this argument as being a quaint historical argument for God’s existence that was pertinent at the time but really has no relevance to the question about whether or not God exists, and the reason why people take that position is because they think that” the logic of the argument is faulty because the analogy is weak, he said. But, he argues, the analogy becomes newly relevant today as scientists are discovering more and more how organisms’ complexity mirrors that of man-made machines.
Proteins are essential to life and biochemists have studied these proteins to “understand their structure and [their] function and it turns out that many of these proteins function as molecular motors,” said Dr. Rana. Molecular motors are molecules that “behave like motors and that in and of itself is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is the fact that some of these motors bear a remarkable resemblance to man-made machines,” he argued, displaying pictures of a bacterial flagellum, F1F0-ATPase, myosin, dynein, and other biomolecular structures.
“And about six or seven years ago a team from Boston College synthesized the first ever single molecule rotary motor. But when you look at the way this rotor rotated, it was crude and cumbersome compared to those we see inside the cell,” he said. “And this thing consisted of only 78 atoms and it took over four years to design and synthesize.”
Ironically, Reasons to Believe has in the past found itself in the opposite side of the intelligent design movement, which has pushed for evolution to be taught within the science classroom as one of several scientific theories, including intelligent design. In a 2005 RTB press release celebrating the court’s December 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District ruling, Dr. Rana argued, “As currently formulated, ‘intelligent design’ is not science. It is not testable and does not make predictions about future scientific discoveries.”
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.