Leeds Vineyard

The evidence of design

Sally’s cake – the limits of science and the need for revelation

Here we have a mysterious object – I’d like to know what it is and why it is here.

So we’re going to find out what different people have to say about it. What is this and why is it here?
(if you want to see the pictures, download the powerpoint)

First of all a mathematician: Carol Vorderman

What might she say? It seems to be almost exactly circular, 26cm across, weighs 2kg. Of all the objects on the earth, the probability of finding an object at random that is just this size, shape and density is very small. You’d be more likely to win the lottery five times in a row.

Now a Physicist: Stephen Hawking
He might say it’s made of atoms, which are made of electrons and a nucleus, and we’ve got quarks, leptons gluons in there – Because of the Uncertainty Principle we can’t tell give you precise information about where any of these subatomic particles are, but they definitely exist – we think. This is made of the same as everything else – it obeys all the laws of nature – that’s it, all we can say about the object.

Now someone who knows something about chemistry
Dr Lucy Holt might say there’s carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and a few other elements involved here. They all bond together to make some really complex substances. There are actually hundreds of different reactions have gone on in here – it would be too difficult and would take too long for me to analyse it all.

Gilly Meredith knows quite a lot about biochemistry.
Well this object has proteins and fats that have clearly come from living things like wheat and grapes and sugar cane, probably something from hens as well – and has gone through some kind of heating process. It is the remains of something that once was alive and is here because some time in its history things got very hot.

Then there’s a Nutrition scientist: Heston Blumenthal
This is good for humans, in fact it’s amazingly fine-tuned to their nutritional requirements – it’s got calories and full of energy. That’s its reason for existence. Amazingly it looks like the ingredients have been cooked by just the right amount. It’s food, so that’s why it is here.

Forensic scientist: Horatio Caine
We’re used to working out who did a crime by spotting little things that indicate that it didn’t happen by chance. This didn’t happen by chance – you can see by its nice circular shape, the little ridges on the side, the way it is perfectly cooked, the choice of ingredients. Someone intelligent had to be involved in making it and I’m sure they had a reason. I could guess why they might have made it, but I don’t think I can work it out.

Now if someone made this cake and you are there, could you reveal yourself to us.
And why is the cake here?

Sally Wallace: Because David asked me to make one and I love him.

So what is this (the earth) and why are we here?

What is the purpose of our existence? This question exercises the human heart. Scientific analysis of the universe cannot give us the answer any more than scientific analysis of Sally’s cake could tell us why she had made it. Scientific probing of the cake may tell us that it is good for humans, even that it is highly likely to have been designed specifically with humans in mind, since it is fine-tuned to their nutritional requirements. In other words, science may be able to point towards the conclusion that there is a purpose behind the cake; but precisely what that purpose is, science cannot tell us. Only Sally can reveal it to us.

There are limits to science.

Peter Medawar (an immunologist) says, “The existence of a limit to science is made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions to do with first and last things – questions such as “How did everything begin?” “What are we all here for?” “What is the point of living?”

Science is simply not equipped to answer such questions.

So if we are looking for the purpose of the universe and ourselves, it won’t help hugely to look at the ingredients of the universe – its material, structures and processes, to find out the purpose and what we are here for. The ultimate answer, if there is one, will have to come from outside the universe. We found out why the cake was there from Sally, its maker. So how do we find out about our purpose? From the Maker.

Shall we share the cake out?

Context in the series

The series

This is part of short series about science and faith. We can’t cover everything – it is a vast topic - but in this mini-series we are looking at just a few aspects of it:
• First it was: In the beginning – Layers of meaning in the creation account in Genesis 1 and how long it took - the age of the universe
• Last time we said “It’s life Jim” – we looked at Darwin’s big idea of evolution and how it is possible and common to reconcile the ideas of evolution with a Biblical understanding of creation.
• I was delighted that some of you took up the challenge of watching David Attenborough’s programme last Sunday evening, and I’ve got a clip from that to show later as part of today’s topic. Which is to look at the evidence of design.
• We’ve deferred the fourth topic: Would you Adam and Eve it? [and Erik will be looking at it at the Gathering next week maybe]

Aims of the series

I’ve set out a number of aims for the series:
• I’d like it help us to read the Bible properly. So we looked at layers of meaning in Genesis and tried to spot whether there really needs to be a conflict between science and the scriptures.
• Simply thinking about God and science together is good. Whether you are interested in science or not, we all come across this stuff on TV, particularly with the current season celebrating the anniversary of Darwin. It is in the news, in the bookshops, on the atheist bus adverts which have now made it to Leeds. And it is at school. Last week three of the young people separately came up to me and said that this was extremely relevant to what they face in school. You may remember we showed a video clip of a classroom confrontation between science and faith. They said that is exactly what happens.
• And so I think we all need to be able to Spot the bias – particularly in the way the history of science is commonly told as the triumph of science over primitive notions like faith. Last Sunday David Attenborough had some fascinating observations of the natural world and I hope you were able to spot the way he mixed in an atheist and anti-faith worldview in the way he told the story.
• You see I really enjoy studying science – it isn’t just for school – it is an ongoing passion as my bookshelves will show. We are thinking God’s thoughts after him. I hope you also will come to enjoy studying science
• We want to avoid the creationist caricature – there is a whole spectrum of ways of understanding God’s creation and our website has a page of resources you can use to explore the different interpretations. I’ve tried to give you language to explain the different ways of thinking, so that people can understand you and you can understand them.
• And finally I hope that our Worship will be enriched: inspired by science.

The evidence of design

So today we will look very briefly at some of the potential evidence of design. In other words what clues are there in what we can see around us that point to the existence of a designer, and the hand of a Creator in forming it all.
• The universe appears to be fine-tuned to allow life.
• Planet earth appears to be set up just right for complex life to develop
• But even the fact that Life has happened is amazing and remarkable
• And then we have the sheer complexity of animals and humans. How could such complexity as the human eye or language or consciousness just happen. Was there a designer involved.

And so you know where I’m going with this, here’s my conclusion – the rest of the talk is just to explain it.
• It’s a hint. The marvellous things we observe hint, or suggest, or speak to us or shout at us that there must be someone behind it all. It’s a hint.
• It fits. It’s not nonsense or contradictory rubbish to believe in the Creator. It is rational and coherent, and consistent with the evidence to believe in God. It makes sense. It fits.
• It inspires us. We can look at the world around us and ascribe greatness to God in worship, as many many scientists do. The creative variety out there inspires our creativity. We have feelings and sometimes a heart response. It inspires us.
• However it’s not a proof. This will be controversial to those who seek evidence of Intelligent Design as the basis for believing in God. It’s not a proof.
• We still need revelation. We couldn’t work out the reason why the cake was made by examining it, and it had to be revealed to us by the Creator. In the same way we may get hints that there is a purpose by looking at creation but we need revelation from the Creator to understand what that purpose is behind it all.

So let’s take a whistle-stop tour through the universe, planet earth, life and the complexity of animals and humans.

The goldilocks enigma

One of the really puzzling things about the universe is that it seems just right for life, and for something as sophisticated as us humans to exist. Why should that be? This is known as the Goldilocks enigma.

Remember the story of the blonde girl and the three bowls of porridge? One was too hot, another too cold, or was it too lumpy and too thin. Anyhow the third bowl was just right.

Our universe could have been too hot or too cold, too lumpy or too thin. So why is it just right? That’s the Goldilocks enigma.

How come the universe is just right for us?

The cosmos on a razor’s edge

Scientists this century have been investigating the universe with all the tools at their disposal. It appears to be a carefully designed universe, very suitable for human beings, a delicate balance of physical constants and rates of change that are highly improbable to be pure chance. Here are a couple of examples (and I promise to keep them brief):
• The exact energy of the big bang. Slightly too much and the universe would expand so rapidly it would never form stars. Too little and it would have already collapsed rapidly in a big crunch. In fact it’s just right with extremely fine precision. Why is that? Is it the first controlled explosion or what!
• If the ratio of electromagnetic force to gravitational force had been infinitesimally different, the universe would not have sustained life. You need a mixture of big and small stars. You need the big ones to explode to create the elements of life, and the small ones, like ours, to last long enough for life to develop. To give you an idea of the precision needed in this ratio, a marksman would need to hit a coin at the far side of the observable universe, 20 billion light years away. If he misses, we get no stars or all big stars or all little stars. But no possibility of life. The universe being like this is just a little bit more staggering than Goldilocks’ porridge being just right.

You can read more of the science in load of books. So has the universe been designed with humans in mind? If so what is the designer like?

It seems that are four possibilities:
• it was pure chance that all those things were fine-tuned to be just right (which not many people think is credible),
• Or there is an undiscovered Grand Unified ‘theory of everything’ that explains it (actually only part of it),
• Or there are trillions of universes, every possible which way (called a multiverse) and we just happen to be one where the very unusual conditions for life are met,
• Or it is by design; there is an intelligent designer, who made it “just right” for us.

Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare

Listen to Psalm 19

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Creation is suggesting something; it is speaking to us or perhaps shouting and yet without words. Are you listening? We’re here because of a wonderful God.
The fine tuning of the universe is a hint that there is a God.
It fits: Believing in God fits with the science. It inspires us.
It isn’t a proof: there are other possibilities that may one day explain how God did the fine-tuning.
And we still need revelation.

A privileged planet

Here’s another story.
Imagine you are an astronaut in a spaceship exploring a remote part of the galaxy. You come across an unusual object and change course to examine it. It turns out to be a sophisticated space capsule with controls, communications and scientific equipment. Clearly it has been designed with reliability in mind for there is lots of redundancy and if a fault develops it is able to repair itself.
Then you discover that there is room on board for creatures just like ourselves: the space inside is just right, there is breathable air maintained at exactly 21% oxygen, and temperature maintained within a few degrees of a comfortable average. It has a clever magnetic shield so harmful cosmic rays are deflected around it. In fact it seems to have been designed for humans. Where can it have come from? Who made it?
You send a message back home and there is enormous excitement. There must be intelligent life out there. But what sort of life? Is it conscious? Can it communicate? How significant is it that the space capsule design apparently had humans in mind?

A privileged planet

Earth is a very rare place indeed. Just like that space capsule, it seems to be set up to be just right for complex life to develop. Another Goldilocks enigma. Scientists used to think there must be loads of planets with intelligent life, but now realise just how unusual it is to find a place like Earth that supports it.
• It is just the right distance from just the right mass of star. The so-called habitable zone for carbon-based life (where water is liquid) is not very wide.
• The mass of the planet is just right so that the atmosphere retains water while losing ammonia and methane.
• Jupiter hoovers up the meteor bombardment, so we get 10,000 times less impacts – which have a tendency to destroy dinosaurs and things. It also keeps our orbit regular.
• The orbit is almost circular. If it wasn’t, or if the tilt was bigger, the seasonal temperature differences would be huge.
• The magnetic field protects us from radiation
And so the list goes on. Why is it that planet earth is so special; just right?

Isaiah: He formed it to be inhabited

Isaiah 45:18
18 For this is what the LORD says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
"I am the LORD,
and there is no other.

Why is it that planet earth is just right for life? Because the Lord God formed it to be inhabited!
Of course we could explain it as a chance event; we could have got our theories wrong and there are lots of planets like earth.

Planet earth is a hint, it fits, it inspires us. But it isn’t strictly speaking a proof and we still need revelation.

The mystery of life

Let’s take a look at the mystery of life. How is it that the first cells formed that could replicate themselves. Reproduction is an amazing feat. Despite decades of experiments, we have only a few clues as to some of the mechanisms that might have been involved. Denis Alexander’s book [show book] has a chapter that brings us bang up to date on the scientists who are trying to find out how God did it, in at least ten lines of investigation that I won’t go into now. It’s a puzzle that’s not been solved, but once again it seems mind-bogglingly improbable that it could have happened. It’s is amazing that life got started.

Antony Flew
You might remember I mentioned Antony Flew, a professor who taught Philosophy at university to none other than our very own Vernon Speed. He was a strong advocate of atheism until 2004 when he concluded that there is a God (though not one you can get to know). His reasoning was to do with the origins of life.

He said:
“My one and only piece of relevant evidence is the apparent impossiblility of providing a naturalistic theory for the origin of DNA of the first reproducing species”

Antony Flew is an example of this scripture:
Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Flew got the hint, it fits for him, it’s inspired him to change even though it isn’t a proof. But we still need revelation and that is something that Flew hasn’t come to accept.

The complexity of animals and humans

Now for the fourth area, and the one that has the most current controversy. The complexity of animals and humans.

Attenborough and design

Naturalist David Attenborough really does not like the argument from design. In his documentary about Darwin last Sunday night, here is how he tackled one of the often-quoted examples of design – the human eye:

Perhaps the biggest problem of all for most people was the argument put forward for the existence of God at the beginning of the 19th C by an Anglican clergyman called William Paley. He said, Supposing you were walking in the countryside and you picked up something like this (a watch). You would know from looking at it that it had been designed to tell the time. There must therefore be a designer. And the same argument would apply if you looked at one of the intricate structures found in nature such as the human eye. And the only designer of the human eye could be God. Anti-evolutionists maintain that the eye would only work if it was complete in all its details. Darwin on the other hand argued that the eye had developed becoming increasingly complex over a long period of time. That would only work if each stage of development was an improvement on the previous one. And today we know enough about the animal kingdom to know that that is indeed the case....[explanations and footage of eye development]
So the structure of the human eye does not demand the assistance of a supernatural designer. It can have evolved gradually with each stage bringing a real advantage as Darwin’s theory demands.
Above all Darwin has shown us that we are not apart from the natural world. We do not have dominion over it. We are subject to its laws and processes as are all other animals on earth, to which indeed, we are related.

Are you feeling uncomfortable yet? The science of the eye has been presented to try to persuade you not to believe in God.

Spectrum of views

Looking at spectrum of views I used before, David Attenborough is an atheist and he is saying that the complexity in animals and humans was entirely through evolution, which he understands as a purposeless random process with no designer involved.

Antony Flew who we mentioned earlier is now a Deist. He reckons an external being must have started off life. But he does not suggest there was any purpose – that external being is just not interested.

In evolutionary creationism, which we explained last time, there are shades of opinion too.
• All of them believe that God has a plan for the universe and for us.
• Some see his intervention in the initial spark of life.
• And there are a few different ways of interpreting the Adam and Eve story.

In progressive creationism, God intervened to bring about various leaps in complexity and God’s process of evolution did the smaller adaptations.

Intelligent design

Intelligent Design takes a slightly different tack, and you can see that it is shown as a diagonal box, because the movement includes everything from (in purple) the deists whose God cannot be known, to (in orange) the Young Earth Creationists who argue that the earth was created in six literal days just 6000 years ago.

Intelligent Design is not so much trying to work out what happened as to show or prove that some of what we see is so complex that there had to be an intelligent designer. The focus of the movement is to challenge the ideas of Darwin regarding evolution, so it looks primarily at the complexity of animals and humans.

On the website resources page I have put a few of the best links I can find for Intelligent Design. John Lennox, of Oxford
University, asks whether science has buried God in his strangely named book “God’s undertaker”. It is intended for scientists and is very well written. That’s where the cake idea came from.

John Lennox does a great video debate with Richard Dawkins which is on the internet and some people in other churches have used in housegroups – although it’s quite long.

And more locally, WYSOCS, the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies are doing a short evening course on this subject after Easter. Again the links are on the website.

Intelligent design as a battle

You may have seen Intelligent Design in the news, particularly with respect to education in America. But also in the UK. In 2007 the national curriculum was updated to say that 11-14 year olds need to discuss Intelligent Design as part of religious education but shouldn’t discuss it as part of science. And indeed one of our young people was telling me that she is writing an essay on Intelligent Design just at the moment.

Of course it is pitched as a battle: Richard Dawkins versus the Intelligent Design movement; science versus faith. And that is an unhelpful polarisation. Where can you stand if you don’t agree with either Richard Dawkins or the proofs of Intelligent Design, and if you do want to work with both science and faith.

You’ve already heard my attempt to find a middle ground.

When we look at the complexity of animals and humans: It’s a hint, It fits, It inspires us, but it’s not a proof and we still need revelation.

Scriptures in tension

In fact there is a tension in the scriptures here:

• Romans 1:20 says “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” So he is saying that since the beginning everyone has been able to see something of God from what they see around them. By the way that’s everyone, not just the research scientists. It doesn’t depend on esoteric knowledge. Just look around you. That’s natural theology, basic, simple and open to everyone. But it only gets us so far in knowing God.
• How do we know more about God? Hebrews makes it quite clear. It is by faith (not by the logic of Intelligent Design) that we understand that the universe was made at God’s command.

So that is why I say, from scripture, it’s a hint and it fits, but it is not a proof.

Strong hints: animals and humans

When we look at nature we find all sorts of amazing things. I have to say that I find them very compelling hints that point to a Creator God.
• Complex features. There is a long list of complex features in animals and humans from the eye to the brain to language, consciousness and abstract thinking. It’s tempting to say God must have made them specially, but as David Attenborough explained, for some of them at least there is an explanation of a mechanism.

Can I remind you of the story of the Martian and the Motorcar that I told last week.
The Martian sees the car and says Wow it must have been built by an intelligent creature. But then is told, no it was built by robots in a factory. But the Martian is still amazed at the clever mechanism that produced the car.

So when I see complex features of animals and humans, I’m not so bothered about whether God did it specially or whether he used a mechanism such as evolution to do it. It is all created and sustained by God.

But here’s something that amazes me about evolution. There are not many mutations that are beneficial. There are not many evolutionary pathways that work. It is amazing that there is an evolutionary pathway of tiny mutations to the kind of complexity we see, when almost every path is a dead end.

• Humans really are exceptional creatures. We may have 98% the same DNA as a chimpanzee, but our capabilities are hugely advanced. It just seems so unlikely.
• Information. Intelligent Design points to the huge amount of information in the DNA of every cell in your body. Where did all the information come from?
If we take a look at other scientific fields:
o When an archaeologist finds a few scratchings on a piece of stone he is confident that an intelligent person used it as a tool.
o In forensic science (like on CSI Miami on TV), the smallest detail counts as information and points to the intentions of the perpetrator.
o The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Life scans the universe hoping to find a pattern of information – because that would indicate intelligence out there. So if we find information somewhere like our DNA, is that also an indication of intelligence? Well I think it’s a hint.

• Some of the alternatives seem more far-fetched than the existence of God. Many of the things that have happened seem highly improbable, You will hear statistics that make the Lottery seem like a dead cert by comparison. Although there is lots of debate about the huge numbers involved.
So those are some of the strong hints.

Pitfalls in discussing evidence from design

Here are some of the pitfalls to watch out for if you are discussing evidence from design:

This debate is heated and hugely complex with lots of research science that I won’t be quoting!. I’ll just pick out a few:

• The first problem is that God is presented as the designer of the gaps in our understanding. Everything else was nature. And so as science progressively finds mechanisms in nature to explain the gaps, the idea of God gets smaller. If you say “There is a gap in our understanding, therefore there must be a God” you are hostage to what might be discovered next. It is an argument from ignorance – normally called “God of the gaps”

• God as an occasional meddler. With intelligent design, unless you are careful, you can end up picturing God as an occasional meddler in the universe, tinkering at irregular times in the making and functioning of the world. As we said last time a biblical view is that it is all created and sustained by God.

• There was a long correspondence in the British Medical Journal recently making the point that some things don’t seem to be very well designed. In our eyes the retina appears to be on backwards, for example. These are hotly contested. So the question is – if God has a plan, what kind of plan. Is it detailed and precise in every respect? Or is it more like a plot outline. When JK Rowling planned the Harry Potter series of novels in note form, the ending was always clear from the beginning: the wicked Voldemort would always get his comeuppance. But the details of each year at Hogwarts became clear as she started writing each book. Is it like that with God’s plan for us: a strong plot, with intentions and purposes, but plenty of detail to work out along the way – and by the way room for us to participate in his story.

• Irreducible complexity – This is the idea that some things are some complex that they would have had to be designed as a whole, not through little steps. Of course what happens is that people find the little steps for at least some of the examples. As David Attenborough showed with the eye in our video clip.

• Can you prove anything? It may surprise you that very little in science is accepted as “proof”. You can do proofs in mathematics and logic, but in science most of the time we are saying “the evidence is consistent with the theory”. In other words It fits.

So although there are some pitfalls there are also plenty of hints from all kinds of science. It fits. It inspires us. But it is not a proof.

We still need revelation.

The cake and the universe

I’ve been saying we still need revelation. What’s that about? Why are we here?

Why was the cake here? We looked at the cake in great detail. We could work out what it was made of and how it had been made. It seemed to be “just right” for human consumption so we had a very strong hint that it was created for a reason. But to get beyond guesswork the creator had to reveal the reason to us. The mechanism and the purpose are different answers to the question Why.

We also looked at the universe and our planet. Scientists have remarkable insights into some of the mechanisms by which it was made. It seems to be extraordinarily “just right” for intelligent to the point of being wildly improbable and that is a strong hint that it was created for a reason. But to get beyond guesswork, the creator has to reveal the reason to us. The mechanism and the purpose are different answers to the question Why.

So why are we here?

The kettle boiling - Two kinds of reason why

The cake story is just like the question of the kettle that Erik and Lucy both mentioned in previous talks, but a bit easier to remember than the cake story if you are trying to explain it to someone else. Why is the kettle boiling?

Answer#1: The kettle is boiling because the burning gas heats the metal of the kettle which conducts the heat to the water. True.
Answer#2: The kettle is boiling because I want to make a cup of tea

Actually I blame Polly ... and of course Suki is not there to take it off the hob.

This is an illustration of the two kinds of explanations of what is happening – the mechanism and the purpose. The purpose is the primary cause and the mechanism is the secondary cause.

The point of the story, of course, is that science and faith do not compete, rather they attempt to answer different questions - Science does its best to answer the 'How' questions - How did the universe begin? How do our bodies work?
Religion or faith does its best to answer the 'Why' questions - Why does the universe exist? Why am I self aware?
To tackle these questions, we need to consult the Maker, and he needs to reveal it to us. And that is what we spend most of our time together doing: working out with God the details of the plot as we go along and keeping aligned to his purposes for us: living in relationship with him and with each other, praising him, taking care of the earth, helping to bring in his Kingdom.

Summary: Evidence of design

We’ve looked very briefly at some of the evidence of design. Clues in what we can see around us that point to the existence of a designer, and the hand of a Creator in forming it all.

• The universe appears to be fine-tuned to allow life.
• Planet earth appears to be set up just right for complex life to develop
• The fact that Life has happened is amazing and remarkable
• The sheer complexity of animals and humans.

And rather than taking a view that tries to explain these things away or a view that they are cast-iron evidence for God, I’ve encouraged you to see it this way.

• It’s a hint. The marvellous things we observe hint, or suggest that there must be someone behind it all.
• It fits. It is rational and coherent, and consistent with the evidence to believe in God.
• It inspires us. We can look at the world around us and ascribe greatness to God in worship, as many many scientists do, or in creative expression as artists do.
• However it’s not a proof. The argument tends to come down to the “God of the gaps” argument. And the gaps in our understanding of God’s mechanisms are progressively getting smaller.
• We still need revelation. We couldn’t work out the reason why the cake was made by examining it, and it had to be revealed to us by the Creator. In the same way we may get hints that there is a purpose by looking at creation but we need revelation from the Creator to understand what that purpose is behind it all.

It’s a hint, it fits, it inspires us, it’s not a proof, we still need revelation.

Aims of the series

• I hope today’s talk and the others in the series help you to
• Read the Bible properly – especially when it touches on areas where science has something to say.
• We’ve thought about God and science together and shown how that can make sense
• I hope when you watch TV or read about science and faith you can spot the bias. Lots of kinds of bias - including your own.
• And enjoy studying science
• There is a spectrum of ways of understanding God’s creation – I think you now know there’s more to it than the caricature you see in the press.
• And finally...worship.

Postscript/Coda: Psalm 139:13-16

I have taken a thinking type of approach to creation, but there is a personal aspect to this, which is beautifully expressed in Psalm 139.

13 You created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

I’m not going to tease this apart from a scientific point of view.

I’m not going to discuss God’s knitting skills (you knit me together in my mother’s womb). I’m not going to argue about whether embryos grow in a hole in the ground (the depths of the earth) or what kind of loom was used to weave you together.

This is poetry. The images are beautiful. And I think you realise that there is some artistry in the language of the Bible. There are layers of meaning here which aren’t accessed by scientific analysis.

To give you a few moments to reflect and listen in a different way, we’re going to play a song that is loosely based on that Psalm, and Michele has put together some images as an artistic interpretation of it – you’ll see references to some of the things we’ve been talking about in this series. Don’t get distracted by the mechanisms. Look for the meaning. He made you. He knows you.

David Wallace, 08/02/2009
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