A Misguided Feud

Over at the Edge website, they have warehoused an extensive internet debate about whether or not Christianity is compatible with evolution. Ironically, this is a striking example where many atheists and Christians are in complete agreement, arguing that evolution is incompatible with Christian belief. The atheists think that once you accept evolution, you are intellectually obligated to abandon Christianity. The Christians think that because we are Christians, we need to deny evolution. And both sides enjoy pointing to people who claim they left their Christian faith once they understood evolution.

I have just shown that both sides are wrong:

It would not matter if Dawkins/Gould was correct. Because even if chance and natural selection brought us into existence, well, then that’s what would be needed to bring us into existence. God is still in control because this very reality where chance and natural selection brought us into existence would not exist and be sustained if God had not wanted to commune with us. God choose to create this reality whereby chance and natural selection brought us into existence because that is our reality and our history. From God’s perspective, beyond our space-time reality, our emergence was inevitable and foreknown because the very reason this reality was chosen into existence is precisely because God knew it would spawn us, regardless of the mechanism. Creation runs through us and exists because of us.

Look at it this way. Do you think God is surprised by all the lottery winners across this nation every day? Do you think God is surprised as to who was a winner at Las Vegas? If not, do you think it is because God somehow intervened in all those games of chance to determine the winners? I think not.

God, who transcends our space-time reality, looks upon it and knows. So even if all of evolution was one big game of chance, He likewise knows the outcome. And he chose this space-time reality precisely because of the known outcome.

So while the Hatfields and McCoys continue their feud, we know that, at least when it comes the question of chance and God’s intentions and plans, even the evolutionary views of Dawkins and Gould fail to show that evolution is incompatible with Christianity.

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16 Responses to A Misguided Feud

  1. kevin says:

    The problem lies in some of the necessary implications for literal Christianity:

    ie: if we evolved there was no Adam and Eve or original sin, and hence no need for a crucified saviour.

    If we evolved the account of Genesis is completely incorrect, raising the question of which other parts of the bible may be equally incorrect.

  2. Silouan says:

    Before the media trumped up its artificial “Science vs. Faith” debate, earlier generations of Christians had no problem reading Genesis in ways that mesh quite comfortably with an evolutionary reading of the fossil record. See Augustine’s Origin of Species in the May issue of Christianity Today.

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Kevin,

    That is a different topic that can be addressed in due time. Right now, we know that, at least when it comes the question of chance and God’s intentions and plans, even the evolutionary views of Dawkins and Gould fail to show that evolution is incompatible with Christianity. That is a very significant defeat to the claim that evolution and Christianity are incompatible.

  4. lookieLoo says:

    You’ve shown that you misunderstand the arguments made by both Christians and athiests. If you are a Chrisitan, you must regard the Bible as the complete and indisputable word of God. You do not have the luxury of picking out the parts of the you like and discarding the rest. The Bible is the Word of God, and it says that God created Adam from dust with His own hands. Deny this, and you deny the very foundation of your faith.
    From an evolutionary perspective, it makes no sense to imagine that an all-powerful God would need to devise this vast universal Rube Goldberg contrivance for the sake of creating life, rather than just doing it in one fell swoop of His mighty hand. What you are proposing is more akin to Aristotle’s Prime Mover than the God of Abraham, and is in no way supported by the Bible. Even if it was, you’ve not entitleds to that line of argument: your argument up to this point is predicated on the fact that that the Bible cannot be taken literally or trusted as infallible.

  5. GaryB says:

    What the science side does mean is that a literal reading of the Bible is out … not that anyone actually believed it literally anyhow or they wouldn’t be wearing wool and linen, would never touch pork and would give all their money away and become monks.

    Evolution does change the conception of God from a comic book big dad in the sky into something more subtle. Anyhow, Alfred Lord Whithead is probably along the lines that work better with science — his God is kind of the entire sum of a kind of fractal cellular automata.

  6. Michael says:

    Hi GaryB and lookieLoo,

    You have both failed to engage the argument I laid on the table. Instead of demonstrating that the contingent nature of evolution contradicts Christian teaching about God’s sovereignty, you both change the topic and argue that Christians are supposed to interpret the Genesis accounts literally. Why is that?

    An intellectually honest response would look like this:

    “Good point, Michael. Yes, I would agree that you have shown contingency poses no threat to Christian faith, but there is another problem….”

    Y’see, there is plenty of time to deal with other problems. But without first acknowledging the argument that is before your eyes, it is difficult for me to accept that your responses were offered in good faith. One thing at a time, people.

    The closet to such an acknowledgement comes from GaryB, who writes, “Evolution does change the conception of God from a comic book big dad in the sky into something more subtle.” What most changed our conception of God was Jesus. Not only did He teach us that God was our Father, but He also helped us appreciate the subtleness of God. And not only through his teachings, even more so with His life. While the religious leaders and common people expected a Triumphant, Conquering Messiah, Jesus was Christ crucified. Do you understand the deep significance on that gestalt switch?

    Finally, lookieLoo says something that is easily swatted down:

    From an evolutionary perspective, it makes no sense to imagine that an all-powerful God would need to devise this vast universal Rube Goldberg contrivance for the sake of creating life, rather than just doing it in one fell swoop of His mighty hand.

    Nonsense. There is nothing in evolutionary theory that mandates how God should behave. The “it makes no sense” statement is nothing more than the perspective of lookieLoo and should not be elevated and morphed into the “evolutionary perspective.”

  7. Anthony Casterlin says:

    Congratulations! You’ve discovered the theory of Intelligent Design, an idea well known to Christian milquetoasts and pseudo-intellectuals for the last century or so. Way to re-invent the wheel!

  8. Michael says:

    Anthony,

    In other words, you have no counter-argument. Snarky ridicule among “intellectuals” is indeed a way to impose conformity among a herd of “intellectuals,” but it’s an appeal to emotion and not the intellect.

  9. Anthony Casterlin says:

    There’s plenty of counter arguments, and no reason for me to beat a dead horse by rehashing them. I assume you’re ignoring them because they gave you and the rest of the herd too much trouble.
    A quick search with my magic computer-box on the inter-webs found these:
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2001-09/design.html
    http://www.talkreason.org/
    http://www.detectingdesign.com/
    or search for “Why Intelligent Design Fails” By Matt Young and Taner Edis on Google books.

    And anyone reading your comments will see that you’re the one who gets snarky whenever someone had the nerve to disagree with you.

  10. Michael says:

    Anthony,

    There’s plenty of counter arguments, and no reason for me to beat a dead horse by rehashing them.

    You claim to have lots of counterarguments but are unable to back up this claim with a specific example.

    I assume you’re ignoring them because they gave you and the rest of the herd too much trouble.
    A quick search with my magic computer-box on the inter-webs found these:
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2001-09/design.html
    http://www.talkreason.org/
    http://www.detectingdesign.com/
    or search for “Why Intelligent Design Fails” By Matt Young and Taner Edis on Google books.

    I saw no counter-argument to my argument, Anthony. Then again, did you read my argument, Anthony? It has nothing to do with “Intelligent Design.” What the argument shows is that the contingent nature of evolution is not incompatible with Christian faith. The only way to help your position is to provide the actual counter-argument(s). Since you claim there are many, pick the strongest one. And to keep you focused on the argument on the table, I will help and start your reply for you:
    Mike claims that the contingent nature of evolution is NOT incompatible with Christian faith. He is wrong. Christians cannot accept the contingent nature of evolution because…….
    Can you complete this counterargument?

    And anyone reading your comments will see that you’re the one who gets snarky whenever someone had the nerve to disagree with you.

    Really? Can you provide the actual quote that shows me being snarky because someone had the nerve to disagree with me?

  11. Anthony Casterlin says:

    THAT IS THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN ARGUMENT!

  12. Michael says:

    Huh? What are you talking about? So the “INTELLIGENT DESIGN ARGUMENT” would not have any problem embracing the evolutionary views of Dawkins and Gould?

  13. Anthony Casterlin says:

    (Ignore previous post-my mistake)
    Yes, I did read it, and call it whatever you want, but your argument is identical to the one made by ID advocates. The issues of contingency and divine sovereignty are just red herrings. If you’d rather argue with me than tackle a detailed and fully developed counter arguments (I hope you plan on reading these), then fine: here’s my thumbnail version:
    Creationists will feel demeaned by the argument because it reduces man to just another animal-there’s no evolutionary explanation for the soul. You also undercut the validity of the Bible with this approach (more on this later).
    On the other hand, why would people who accept the theory of evolution-scientifically minded as they are-need or want to tack on an unverifiable supernatural explanation to their empirical, self-contained theory?

    If your argument is only that the 2 approaches don’t openly contradict one another, you have made your point. But if you think that means you’ve found a happy medium between IE and evolutionary theory, I disagree. I see no reason (and you offer none) to hold both positions other than wanting to weasel God back into the equation.

    And as for snarkiness:
    “An intellectually honest response would look like this”-you’re suggesting that the posters are dishonest, and use this as an excuse not to address the important points they made. Like it or not, non-ilteral interpretation of Christianity is still controversial to a lot of people-these are the ones you need to convince for your solution to hold water, but you take it for granted that most Christians don’t actually believe those Old Testament fairy tales.

    Also, you do seem awfully smug when you believe you have bested a challenger: “Finally, lookieLoo says something that is easily swatted down”- Ouch! Again, you just dismissed a reasonable argument (“it makes no sense to imagine that an all-powerful God would need to devise this vast universal Rube Goldberg contrivance for the sake of creating life”) instead of addressing it. Why would an intelligent designer jump through evolutionary hoops like this when he could just wave his magic wand?
    “I will help and start your reply for you”. Now you’re being condescending. Your argument is just a paragraph long. I read it and I understood it. I even looked at the posts before deciding that and disagreed with you. There’s no need to be patronizing. I wrote a deliberately sarcastic post because I’m an @sshole- I’m sure that’s obvious enough. I think arguing to win, not to uncover the truth.

  14. Michael says:

    Anthony,

    Yes, I did read it, and call it whatever you want, but your argument is identical to the one made by ID advocates.

    No it is not. I have never met an ID advocate who thinks Christian faith is completely compatible with the views of evolution as outlined by Dawkins and Gould.

    The issues of contingency and divine sovereignty are just red herrings.

    No they are not. For many people, they are a core issue, where the random nature of evolution is supposedly irreconcilable with Christianity. That issue is being dealt with here.

    If you’d rather argue with me than tackle a detailed and fully developed counter arguments (I hope you plan on reading these), then fine: here’s my thumbnail version:

    There is no counterargument to the argument I have laid on the table.

    Creationists will feel demeaned by the argument because it reduces man to just another animal-there’s no evolutionary explanation for the soul. You also undercut the validity of the Bible with this approach (more on this later).
    On the other hand, why would people who accept the theory of evolution-scientifically minded as they are-need or want to tack on an unverifiable supernatural explanation to their empirical, self-contained theory?

    None of these arguments invalidate the argument I have laid on the table, as they all address distant tangents. As I mentioned, it would help if you acknowledged the validity of my argument before moving on to a different topic.

    If your argument is only that the 2 approaches don’t openly contradict one another, you have made your point.

    So let’s be clear. You do agree that I have shown contingency poses no threat to Christian faith?

    But if you think that means you’ve found a happy medium between IE and evolutionary theory, I disagree. I see no reason (and you offer none) to hold both positions other than wanting to weasel God back into the equation.

    I wasn’t telling anyone to “weasel God back into the equation.” I’m pointing out that the truth of evolution, even as outlined by Dawkins and Gould, does not give me reason to abandon belief in God, at least as far as the issue of contingency and God’s sovereignty goes. This may seem like a side issue to you, but for many, it is an important issue.

    And as for snarkiness:
    “An intellectually honest response would look like this”-you’re suggesting that the posters are dishonest, and use this as an excuse not to address the important points they made. Like it or not, non-ilteral interpretation of Christianity is still controversial to a lot of people-these are the ones you need to convince for your solution to hold water, but you take it for granted that most Christians don’t actually believe those Old Testament fairy tales.

    It is not intellectually honest to ignore that argument I propose and immediately change the topic. This is a very common tactic used by politicians. As I noted, we can move on to other arguments, and I have no problem with that, but we first should have some acknowledgment of my argument and either agreement with my argument or good reason to disagree.

    Also, you do seem awfully smug when you believe you have bested a challenger: “Finally, lookieLoo says something that is easily swatted down”- Ouch! Again, you just dismissed a reasonable argument (”it makes no sense to imagine that an all-powerful God would need to devise this vast universal Rube Goldberg contrivance for the sake of creating life”) instead of addressing it. Why would an intelligent designer jump through evolutionary hoops like this when he could just wave his magic wand?

    Yeah, I probably was being smug, but ny point was entirely valid, as lookieLoo was not expressing the “evolutionary perspective.” As I accurately noted, “There is nothing in evolutionary theory that mandates how God should behave.”

    “I will help and start your reply for you”. Now you’re being condescending. Your argument is just a paragraph long. I read it and I understood it. I even looked at the posts before deciding that and disagreed with you. There’s no need to be patronizing. I wrote a deliberately sarcastic post because I’m an @sshole- I’m sure that’s obvious enough. I think arguing to win, not to uncover the truth.

    Yeah, I was condescending because I was trying to get you to focus on the argument I laid out. I can’t tell from your replies as to whether or not you agree and if you disagree, I don’t see any argument to support such disagreement.
    I enjoy internet spars as much as the next internet junkie, but I’m really trying to stay focused on arguments, one at a time. I’m not sure how long I can keep that up, but for now, I am content in the belief that my argument has defeated the “contingency challenge” to Christian faith, as I see no evidence of any substantive counterargument. So, if I don’t reply, it just means that I don’t see anything to change this conclusion and am moving on.

  15. Tipsy McStagger says:

    Hi Anthony,

    Do you think/believe that things can have final causation?
    With Aristotle’s 4 types of cause: material, efficient, formal and final.

    I’m just curious what you think about the 4th one: final causation or purpose.

  16. Tipsy McStagger says:

    Hi Kevin,

    “If we evolved the account of Genesis is completely incorrect, raising the question of which other parts of the bible may be equally incorrect.”

    This isn’t true.
    1st, the Church Fathers (writing in the 1st-4th centuries) did not interpret it the way that it is interpreted today by young earth creationists or materialists who find it convenient to assume that they did.

    2nd, detail is left out from the story for intentional reasons. Because it wasn’t a biological story of how organisms came to be. Also, it never mentions the mode through which the creation occured (God attached one arm to one side of the body and the other to the opposing side……..).
    But this should all be clear enough.

    Let’s say the Genesis account was the whole story. Meaning, nothing left out at all. And that as it is written, so it was with respects to the biological aspect.
    It would be so vague still that it couldn’t possibly be used to support a YEC position. But again, that was never the purpose.

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