Evolution Fails to Support the Argument from Evil

Jason Rosenhouse argues with Michael Ruse, trying to show that evolution somehow amplifies the argument from evil.  Yet he fails.

Rosenhouse introduces Ruse’s argument as follows:

After quoting Darwin, who plainly did think that the general awfulness of nature militated against a belief in God, and after writing a bit about free will Ruse continues:

“In the case of physical evil, the dreadful earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, the traditional Christian answer, for all that Voltaire parodied it, is that of Leibniz — working by law results in good things and bad things, but overall the good outweighs the bad. God is constrained in what He does and in total He does the very best possible. Now of course there are questions about whether God had to create through law, although if He had not done so, it would be a very different world (and not arguably better) than the one we have now. For a start, He would have had to eliminate the thousands of pieces of evidence of evolution, or He would be a deceiver along the lines that Philip Gosse rather foolishly welcomed in the nineteenth century (on the grounds that God was testing our faith).”

The key point is this: “Now of course there are questions about whether God had to create through law, although if He had not done so, it would be a very different world (and not arguably better) than the one we have now.” This point is key because those who push the argument from evil almost always assume God could create our world in a way such that it retains all that we cherish (including ourselves), yet have all the evil cleanly stripped out of it.  Yet this cannot be done.  Rosenhouse’s reply fails because he has not come to this realization yet.  Watch.

Rosenhouse responds to Ruse:

I’m afraid I don’t see how this makes any sense at all. Imagine the state of the universe at some moment shortly after evolution has produced modern human beings. God, presumably, could have created the world supernaturally in a state that was identical in every morally relevant way. That world would contain free human beings embedded within a natural world adequate for their needs. Had He done so we would have been spared the millions of years of evolutionary bloodsport that has horrified everyone who has ever considered it. That universe would differ from ours only in that it would lack that awful history, which seems to me a clear improvement over the world we have. There would be no evidence of evolution to erase because evolution would never have occurred.

Let’s emphasize:

  • Imagine the state of the universe at some moment shortly after evolution has produced modern human beings. God, presumably, could have created the world supernaturally in a state that was identical in every morally relevant way.
  • That universe would differ from ours only in that it would lack that awful history, which seems to me a clear improvement over the world we have.

This is simply false.  If God created our world “shortly after evolution has produced modern human beings,” then for it to “differ from ours only in that it would lack that awful history,” it would have to be endowed with multiple features that made it look like the product of evolution when it was not.  This is because our world has all the features of its evolutionary past.  Even to the point where this history is recorded in our very genomes.  And our genomes are a necessary ingredient to our identities.

Think of it this way.  Imagine we could get our hands on the genomes of the modern humans that Rosenhouse envisions being created without an evolutionary past.  Would the genomes show an evolutionary relationship with primates, then mammals, then vertebrates, then chordates, etc.?  Would the genomes contain mutations, some being responsible for diseases?  Would the genomes contain pseudogenes, retrotransposons, and gobs of non-coding DNA?  If they answer if yes, then God would be the deceiver that Ruse mentions.  He would have created beings with an apparent history of an evolutionary past when none existed.  On the other hand, if God created without deception, and created human beings specially with no history of evolutionary descent, then those human beings could not be OUR ancestors.  In fact, if those humans were the founders of the human population, none of us would exist.  Because our genomes show an evolutionary relationship with primates, then mammals, then vertebrates, then chordates, etc.

So Rosenhouse is simply wrong when he insists “that universe would differ from ours only in that it would lack that awful history.”  If we rule out the notion of God as Deceiver, it would differ from ours to the great extent that none of us would exist in it.

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