Human bioengineers are already able to tamper with the genetics of various organisms, and it is likely that they will eventually be able to produce organisms with entirely new features. Thus, beside the Darwinian mechanism for new genetic information resulting from mutations and natural selection, another valid mechanism is genetic engineering.
In essence, the way to study a supernatural hypothesis like Creation using methodological naturalism is to convert it to a natural hypothesis by assuming that the creation process was natural. In the case of organisms on earth, this would imply that an intelligent, technologically advanced, extraterrestrial entity used bioengineering to interfere with and direct the evolutionary process to some degree. (Noted atheist Richard Dawkins considers this an “intriguing possibility.”) By postulating an alien creator instead of a supernatural one, supernatural concepts like Creation can be looked at using methodological naturalism.
When I discuss this with atheist biologists, I explain it with a series of questions:
- Do you believe that one day science will advance far enough for us to be able to tamper with the genetic code of organisms and significantly alter the way those organisms and their offspring look?
- Do you think we will be able to bioengineer entirely new organs or features?
- What about entirely new organisms?
- If by that time space travel significantly improves and we discover a planet that is populated with very simple life forms, will we be able to use those life forms to bioengineer new, more complex ones, appropriate for the conditions on that planet?
If so, let’s just suppose that we do this and then leave the planet. Millions of years down the line, these life forms evolve to the point of intelligence, something that would not have happened had we not interfered. How would their scientists study the development of life on that planet? Would they have to assume it was entirely through evolution even though that’s not what actually happened?
If we can devise a way to study the possibility of intelligent interference in this hypothetical scenario, then we can apply that same methodology to life on earth. Again, I’m not saying here that I believe life on earth was created by aliens but simply that this is a way to formulate a naturalistic hypothesis addressing the possibility of intelligent interference.
I have on occasion run into evolution supporters who claimed that it would not be possible to come up with testable predictions if intelligent interference was postulated, even if this was done by a natural entity. But if that were true, that would be a much bigger problem for them than for us. After all, they are saying that it is necessary to assume evolution even in a situation where intelligent interference definitely happened (as in this hypothetical scenario). So what does that tell us about scientific assumptions regarding life on earth?
However, there is no reason to think that such a model would be unable to make testable predictions; after all, scientists study situations where they postulate intelligent interference (by humans) all the time.
In conclusion, while the scientific process is very effective at studying nature, it lacks the ability to look into the possibility of supernatural involvement. Therefore, in order to study this question, we have to find roundabout ways to do it, like the process described above. We need to look for ways to convert the supernatural aspects into a natural hypothesis that can make testable predictions.