In an earlier article we defined the concept of hypernaturalism and justified it through the biblical text. We strove to provide scriptural evidence that God has acted hypernaturally—that is, He sometimes performed miracles by manipulating natural law, rather than by supernaturally overriding it.
Now we will discuss evidence that suggests that God’s hypernatural activity is a more plausible explanation for the origin of the universe and of life than spontaneous, random, undirected natural processes.
Overcoming Vanishingly Small Probabilities
Our earlier article suggested that any highly improbable event that occurs to serve God’s purpose might be considered the result of His hypernatural activity. It seems improbable that our universe would be governed by immutable natural laws if it had evolved in a random fashion. As Albert Einstein said, “The harmony of natural law reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”1 An orderly universe has traditionally been seen as “proof” of a creator-God who ordained natural law.
This is in contrast to naturalistic theories of origins that are based on undirected, random activities. Our thesis is based on the fact that random activities are governed by the natural law of probability. We are suggesting that low-probability natural events might be the result of hypernatural activity by God, manipulating natural law to overcome their improbability. The lower the probability, the more likely God was involved; and if the probability is vanishingly small—to the point of being virtually impossible—God’s hypernatural activity seems especially likely.
For example, after the big bang, the overwhelming probability was that the nascent universe-to-be would collapse.2 Yet it overcame the odds to evolve into the universe we see today. We could argue that this reflects God’s hypernatural activity. Genesis 1:2 says, “The Spirit of God was hovering [râchaph] over the waters.” The Hebrew râchaphis used in Deuteronomy 32:11 to describe an eagle nurturing her young.
The exquisite fine-tuning of the universe to allow for life as we know it seems to demonstrate a similar tender care. If any of the approximately 100 cosmology or nuclear parameters were changed even slightly we could not exist.3 It is extraordinarily improbable that all this came together through undirected, random, natural processes—it may, however, reflect hypernatural manipulation by a creator-God. Physicist Paul Davies has observed, “The universe does look as if it has been designed by an intelligent creator expressly for the purpose of spawning sentient beings” (emphasis original).4
The Evolution of Life
Let’s consider, then, naturalistic theories of life’s origin in the context of the natural law of probability. The fundamental question is: Are such theories statistically plausible? In Darwin’s day, the cell was barely visible under a primitive microscope. Scientists thought of it as only a blob of protoplasm. In the 1940s, when neo-Darwinism originated, it was accepted that the universe is eternal. This offered infinite time for infinite evolution and made probability considerations irrelevant.
But since the mid-twentieth century, science has adhered to the big bang theory, which states that the universe had a beginning. Hence there was only a finite time for evolution. Modern science estimates the universe is about 13.8 billion years old, Earth about 4.5 billion years old, and life about 3.6 billion years old. These time limitations make probability considerations crucial.
It is statistically improbable that life could spontaneously emerge from a primordial soupin a billion years. We may eventually be able to “create” life, but only with extensive intervention. This will not prove abiogenesis; it will show how God might have done it hypernaturally.
Once life is created, the standard theory predicts a gradual evolutionary process in which simpler life-forms would be expected to appear first, followed by the more complex. Instead, the fossil record suggests punctuated equilibrium, long periods of stasis followed by short bursts of change. For example, the Cambrian explosion began about 500 million years ago; and within 50 million years, “all of the main phyla and divisions of organisms that exist today—except for the land plants” appeared.5 Then stasis returned. The Cambrian pattern “creates the impression that [animal] evolution has by and large proceeded from the ‘top down’”6 rather than from the bottom up.
Yet God’s hypernatural activity could overcome the vanishingly small probability of abiogenesis. Divine hypernatural involvement during the periods of change via gene manipulation (including regulatory gene triggering) is a plausible explanation for the “punctuated equilibrium” in the fossil record. This has been suggested by evolutionary biologist Kenneth Miller: