If one felt that the emergence of life itself in the warm pond was simply because the Universe was designed in such a way that life will arise wherever the conditions are appropriate, this still does not really undermine the idea of a grand design. Creationism is different. I think the problem with creationism is that it says that God does some parts, and other parts are the result of natural processes. I think that argument is completely without merit for all the reasons which Professor Dawkins has amply illustrated. But if you were to say that divine providence has structured the universe in such a way that life is inclined to proliferate wherever the conditions are suitable, I think this is a perfectly valid outlook on life. And in fact I think this is what mainstream theologians believe.
---------- Post added 01-15-2010 at 07:44 PM ----------
to which I should add, that the very best theoreticians cannot, as far as I can tell, provide a plausible account for how living cells spontaneously came about from non-living matter. If the 'principle of natural selection' applied to matter before it was actually alive, then it must be a metaphysical principle (because it cannot be ascribed in this case to any kind of behaviour) and therefore no longer a naturalistic explanation.
---------- Post added 01-15-2010 at 09:27 PM ----------
I also want to reflect a little on the different meanings religion has for different people. I think that many who can't stand it, associate it with rules and rituals and boring goody-two-shoes people who are holier than thou and want to tell you what to do all the time. I am pretty sure all Dawkins anti-religious writing is just that he thinks of it this way. He associates it with anti-science creationists, which is understandable, considering the types of experiences he has had.
But there are many other varieties of religious experience. I think most of the antireligious haven't had any of them. Religious experiences, or spiritual epiphanies, or whatever you want to call them, can be completely life-changing. I am sure many Christians really do experience a relationship with Christ, and I don't think they are kidding themselves or making it up.
Once you do start to open to the spiritual side of existence, your perception of it changes. I have been 'practising meditation' since the late 70's, and it has changed my attitude towards the whole thing. As I have said, I am not a church member or conventionally religious. But now I have much more affinity with religions - many of them, actually.
So if whenever you think of religion, you just think of harrasement or ancient superstition, just consider this might be just your experience talking to you. There are many for whom the experience is completely different.