Bryan was backing me into a corner and I didn’t like it.
We were riding a bus in southwest Asia near Viet Nam. Bryan had moved there 4 years before. He was half English teacher, half missionary.
A few months before he’d bailed on the missionary part.
Not only was he no longer a missionary, he was teetering on the edge of atheism. He was tossing his old beliefs out those bus windows.
It was like a country song where the lady throws the guy out of the house and dumps his clothes in the front yard. All Bryan’s previous beliefs about a loving God and miracles and salvation were laying in the grass like dirty socks and underwear.
I was trying to talk him out of his new-found skepticism. The standard catalog of Christian comebacks was not working on him.
Everything I said was backfiring in fact. He was well armed and angry. Had an answer for everything. And a never-ending supply of more tough questions for me.
Eventually I found myself retreating to my own “comfortable and familiar” … my hard-wired instincts as an engineer.
“Bryan, look at the hand at the end of your arm. You don’t think all those muscles and tendons are the result of some series of accidents, do you?”
He was ready for that too.
“Let’s say there’s 500 million falcons flying around for 500 million years. That’s a lot of falcons, Perry.”
I nodded. “That’s a lot of falcons.”
“Now let’s say one of them has a mutation in its DNA. Just by chance it has better eyesight. It can catch its prey better. Now it out-hunts all the other falcons. Pretty soon the ones with superior eyes out-hunt all the other ones. The whole falcon population gets an upgrade.
He looks triumphant and serious at the same time. “Multiply that by a few hundred million years and a few million species. Viola, you get life on earth as we know it. Natural Selection does the job. No God necessary.”
My mind races for a response to this. I could say, “That violates entropy.” But I knew what he would say next if I did.
He’d say, “If that’s such a big problem, then how come most biologists accept the explanation I gave you just now?”
And when he says that, I’m going to have to admit I don’t know.
I might as well save face and admit I don’t know right now.
I remembered how many things in engineering school seemed counter-intuitive or downright impossible, until I peeled all the layers of the onion. I could have never guessed those imaginary numbers from high school were actually very real and quite useful, for example.
I knew I simply did not know how to answer Bryan. I was so far from the bottom of this question it wasn’t even funny.
I knew I was going to have to find out.
And I was seriously worried where my search would take me. My stomach roiled.