Collins on Evolution/Theism

Christianity Today has posted this interview with Francis Collins. Collins’ goal is to persuade us that evolution and Christianity are compatible. Let’s see if he’s right:

How does evolution fit with your Christian faith?

[Evolution] may seem to us like a slow, inefficient, and even random process, but to God–who’s not limited by space or time–it all came together in the blink of an eye. And for us who have been given the gift of intelligence and the ability to appreciate the wonders of the natural world that he created, to have now learned about this evolutionary creative process is a source of awe and wonder. I find these discoveries are completely compatible with everything I know about God through the Scriptures.


Let’s take this in order. However things seem to God, the fact remains that from a human viewpoint evolution is precisely the slow, inefficient and random process it appears to be. Certainly when compared to the alternative approach, in which God simply poofs us into existence, at any rate. Worse, evolution proceeds in a manner that requires huge amounts of suffering, torture and death. It is a process that flouts standard moral intuitions at every turn. And, if the conventional understanding of the process is correct, then it does not lead to human-like intelligence as its inevitable endpoint.

I once heard Hank “The Bible Answer-Man” Hanegraaf describe theistic evolution as the worst of all worlds: Not only do you have evolution, but now you’re making God responsible for it as well. He’s right about this. It is well-nigh impossible to reconcile a God of infinite love and justice with evolution by natural selection. Collins’ proposed reconcililation, like all such proposals, does not confront the problem squarely.

Moving on, I suppose it’s matter of taste what inspires awe and wonder. Evolution by itself is pretty cool. It does give you pause to marvel that a process as profligate and wasteful as evolution ever leads to anything good at all. But as a window into the workings of God’s mind I’m left unimpressed. When I learn that upwards of 99% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct, that the survivors have earned their place only by being more brutal and merciless than their competitors, and that the rare instances of cooperation and altruism in nature ultimately turn out to have selfish motives, I do not think of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God as the source of it all. It is a mystery to me how anyone can see God in all that carnage.

Collins’ last statement is simply false. Evolution and its related sciences are not completely compatible with everything we learn about God through the Scriptures. For example, the first chapter of Genesis outlines a crystal clear story of the creation of the universe that is in conflict with the scientific picture at almost every turn. The fundamentalists are not wrong to find that signficant.

If evolution is true, don’t atheists have a point?

No. To simply rule out of order any questions that go beyond the natural world is a circular argument. This leaves out profoundly important spiritual questions, such as why we are here, if there is a God, and what happens after we die. Those are questions that science is not really designed to answer. You have to look in another place, using another kind of approach. And for me that’s faith.

The point that atheists have, thanks to evolution, is that the argument from design as applied to the biological world is invalid. This kills the most persuasive reason ever offered for believing in God. It also reveals that the natural world is created via a process of misery, pain and bloodsport, which, as already noted, is hard to reconcile with a God of love.

Atheists do not rule questions that go beyond the natural world to be out of order. They claim merely that it is significant that we haven’t a shred of evidence for the existence of anything beyond the natural world. If Collins finds it satisfying to resolve ultimate questions by faith then he is free to do so. But he shouldn’t be surprised that to the rest of us it looks like he is just making it up as he goes along.

Why did you write this book?

I encounter many young people who have been raised in homes where faith was practiced and who have encountered the evidence from science about the age of the earth and about evolution and who are in crisis. They are led to believe by what they are hearing from atheistic scientists on the one hand and fundamentalist believers on the other that they have to make a choice. This is a terrible thing to ask of a young person.

Some of them simply walk away from both, convinced that science is godless and that faith is not to be trusted, because it asks them to disbelieve facts that now seem absolutely incontrovertible. This is an unnecessary choice. I don’t think our future will be well served by having either science or faith win this battle.

My heart goes out to sincere believers who feel threatened by evolution and who feel that they have to maintain their position against it in order to prove their allegiance to God. But if God used this process and gave us the chance to discover it, then it seems anachronistic, to say the least, that we would feel we have to defend him against our own scientific conclusions. God is the author of all truth. You can find him in the laboratory as well as in the cathedral. He’s the God of the Bible; he’s the God of the genome. He did it all.

P. Z. Myers has already shredded this one. I’ll simply make one further comment regarding that last paragraph.

I find it amusing that Collins accuses atheists of ruling certain questions out of bounds. Actually, it is he who refuses to consider certain important possibilities. His argument here only makes sense if you take it for granted that God exists. If you assume that God exists and that He created the universe, then it is, indeed, unreasonable to feel he has to be defended against scientific findings.

But what if we don’t take theism as our starting point?
What if our scientific findings point to the very real possibility of God’s nonexistence? What if we find that (a) There is no need to invoke supernatural forces to explain natural history and (b) Science provides positive evidence against the possibility of a just and loving God by showing that natural history is shaped by the awfulness previously described? Now Collins’ argument looks pretty silly, don’t you think?

Atheists are not the ones refusing to confront difficult questions. Rather, it is people like Collins who offer facile reconciliations of science and religion. Your average young-Earther provides far more sophisticated arguments on this subject than Collins.

If evolution and the Christian faith go together, then what’s all the fuss about?

One of the main reasons I wrote The Language of God was to try to put forward a comfortable synthesis of what science teaches us about the natural world and what faith teaches us about God. Yet it seems to be a pretty well kept secret these days that the scientific approach and the spiritual approach are compatible. I think we’ve allowed for too long extreme voices to dominate the stage in a way that has led many people to assume that’s all there is. The thesis of my book is that there is no need for this battle. In fact, it’s a destructive battle. And we as a society would be well served to recover that happy middle ground where people have been for most of human history.

Such nonsense. Well kept secret? Please. The argument we atheists get fed more than any other is that in arguing with fundamentalists we are treating only a caricature of religion, and that the serious version made its peace with science long ago. It is the people who make the self-evident point that evolution and Christianity are in conflict who are admonished to keep their mouths shut.

The extreme voices dominate the stage? There are far more books, newspaper op-eds and television appearances devoted to presenting the facile, accommodationist view than there are to the extreme views. When Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris present the atheist case forcefully, and have their books spend many weeks on the bestseller lists, that’s big news. (And of course, they are immediately bashed for criticizing the fundamentalist version of religion, when everyone knows that real religion is peaceful and science-loving.)

It’s a destrucitve battle? Indeed it is, but, at the risk of being childish, who started it? All science has ever done to religion is to uncover certain facts that are difficult to reconcile with baseless religious dogmas. In return, religion has used its considerable societal influence to stand in science’s way at almost every turn. And please, no lectures about the importance of the church in getting organized science off the ground. The days when scientific invesitgation can live comfortably with divine revelation have long passed. Any warm feelings between the two went out the window as soon as science started discovring things undreamed of by the theologians.

The middle ground is where most people have always been? When science was in its infancy and everything remained mysterious, perhaps. But since then the demographics have changed considerably. The fact is that the middle-ground is untenable, and Collins’ arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive. It might be nice if everyone chose to live there nonetheless, but the fact remains that most people are more willing than Collins to face reality.

Comments

  1. #1 J. J. Ramsey
    January 17, 2007

    “Science provides positive evidence against the possibility of a just and loving God by showing that natural history is shaped by the awfulness previously described?”

    Mark Vuletic had pointed out that this is not that strong an argument:

    But isn’t the wastefulness and arbitrariness of evolution incompatible with the existence of God? Atheists, naturally enough, tend to think so; but for the believer, the wastefulness and arbitrariness of evolution can present no special problem not already presented by the events of everyday life. Consider, for instance, the wastefulness and arbitrariness present in the rape and murder of a child: on the one hand, a person who is inclined to view such things as incompatible with the existence of a loving god is already at the doorstep of atheism, and will hardly be moved by the comparative tameness of the evolutionary history of life. On the other hand, it would be a sick joke beyond measure to suggest that anyone capable of genuflecting at the altar of God after considering the rape and murder of a child could possibly have his or her faith shaken by the cruelty of the evolutionary process. As far as the matter of atheism versus theism goes, the wastefulness and arbitrariness of evolution is either redundant or irrelevant.

    I might also add that Christians don’t have that many problems with animals causing each other to suffer.

  2. #2 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 17, 2007

    Thanks for the link to the Vuletic article, which I found very interesting. But his treatment of this point will not do, I’m afraid. He seems to be saying that explaining the cruelty of the evolutionary process is really just a variant on the problem of evil, so that a Christian who has previously solved this problem to his own satisfaction should not be put out by evolution.

    I see two problems with this. The first is that I regard the problem of evil as insoluble for Christians. I have read many attempts at theodicy, and have found them all to be inadequate. So simply labeling the cruelty of nature as a sidebar to the larger problem of evil does not help. The problem of evil must still be solved.

    That aside, likening the cruelty of nature to the cruelty inherent in rape or murder is a poor analogy. Murder and rape can at least be explained as the result of God’s willingness to grant us free will. To have free will we must be free to choose the evil course. I find problems even with this explanation, but at least it’s something.

    The cruelty of nature can not be explained in this way. To accept theistic evolution you have to accept that when it comes time to create a universe, a God of infinite love and justice chooses a method that actually requires suffering, pain and torture. This, when he had other, non-cruel options available to him.

    I think Vuletic will have to work a bit harder if he wants to refute this argument.

  3. #3 Jason (a different one)
    January 17, 2007

    J.J.Ramsey,

    I would have thought you’d know that “sophisticated” Christian apologists typically distinguish “moral evil” (evil resulting from human free will) from “natural evil” (evil resulting from diseases and natural disasters). The obvious response to Vuletic’s argument, then, is that while the rape and murder of a child may be “explained” as moral evil, the suffering and violence of evolution cannot be. (As an aside, I don’t think the “there must be moral evil if we are to have free will” argument is remotely persuasive, but that’s another discussion.)

    The evil of evolution might be considered a component of the broader problem of natural evil, but theists have never been able to come up with a solution to that problem anyway. In my experience, the more honest and thoughtful ones will acknowledge this, and content themselves with appeals to divine mystery and the need for faith. The usual cop-outs.

  4. #4 Kevin
    January 17, 2007

    “Worse, evolution proceeds in a manner that requires huge amounts of suffering, torture and death.”

    That’s a feature not a defect…Christers love that stuff.

    “It is well-nigh impossible to reconcile a God of infinite love and justice with evolution by natural selection”

    You’re not reading your KJV1511 if you think that God is nice.

    “that the survivors have earned their place only by being more brutal and merciless than their competitors, and that the rare instances of cooperation and altruism in nature ultimately turn out to have selfish motives”

    Well sure, God is a Republican!

    “they have to make a choice. This is a terrible thing to ask of a young (or any) person.”

    No! Not that! Not a decision! aaaghhhhh! Sounds like the design team at work…

    Great post…

  5. #5 divalent
    January 17, 2007

    Hey, lighten up on the hostility, folks.

    Theistic evolution is a slippery slope away from illogical blind faith, not towards it. To accept this position means accepting the legitimacy and coherency of the scientific enterprise that produced our understanding of the geological and biological evolution of this planet.

    In a country where more than half the adults doubt evolution through natural selection, that would be a welcome achievement.

  6. #6 Greta Christina
    January 18, 2007

    “No. To simply rule out of order any questions that go beyond the natural world is a circular argument. This leaves out profoundly important spiritual questions, such as why we are here, if there is a God, and what happens after we die. Those are questions that science is not really designed to answer.”

    Piffle.

    Here are some science-based, atheistic/agnostic answers to these questions.

    What happens after we die? In all likelihood, we disappear. There’s certainly no good evidence to the contrary. (Therefore, whatever we want to accomplish and experience, we’d better do it while we’re alive.)

    Is there a God? Probably not. Again, neither evidence nor reason supports the idea of God — especially the idea of the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, personal interventionist creator God with a morality that’s relevant to our own.

    Why are we here? Well, it depends on what you mean by “Why.” If you mean “What caused us to be here?” the answer is “Natural selection, and in the larger sense the processes of physical cause and effect.” If you mean “What is our purpose?” the answer is “We don’t have a purpose” — or perhaps more accurately, “Our purpose is whatever we choose it to be.” (If anyone’s interested, I’ve actually gassed on more extensively about the atheist/agnostic answer to “Why are we here?” on my blog, at http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2006/11/why_are_we_here.html )

    It isn’t circular reasoning to rule out the supernatural. It’s pretty damned evidence-based. The history of the world is loaded with supernatural explanations for phenomena being supplanted by natural ones. There are *no* instances of it working the other way around (not in any kind of rigorous, replicable way, anyway). The odds are very much on our side. We don’t have to definitely prove that the supernatural doesn’t exist to rule it out — we just have to show that it’s extraordinarily unlikely.

    It isn’t atheists who have the circular reasoning. It’s Collins and other theists who think like him. The only way that reason and evidence point to the God hypothesis is if you assume the existence of God in the first place.

  7. #7 Thinker
    January 18, 2007

    divalent:

    Theistic evolution is a slippery slope away from illogical blind faith, not towards it.

    I beg to differ. Consider what Collins writes:

    One of the main reasons I wrote The Language of God was to try to put forward a comfortable synthesis of what science teaches us about the natural world and what faith teaches us about God.

    (emphasis mine)

    Theistic evolution is, first and foremost, about comfort, about have-your-cake-and-eat-it, not having to be confronted with pesky facts or challenged with making difficult choices. Essentially, it is about creating a padded cell, and not as some temporary lodging, but for permanent residence.

    And while a padded cell may certainly be comfortable, it is not what I would associate with the phrase “room for improvement”. That, by contrast, is the domicile of science.

  8. #8 Geocreationist
    January 18, 2007

    In the beginning, God created the cellestial bodies and the earth. Then, 3.9 billion years ago, the last in a series of large meteors struck the earth, decimated the atmosphere, raised the temperature, and vaporized the ocean. As the temperature dropped though, the water rained back down. It was pretty dark over the deep, between the rain, the black sky, and the dim sun.

    That’s when God was hovering over the deep. There may have another meteor on its way, but God said, “Let there be light,” and so no meteor hit the earth again, at least not on that scale for billions of years.

    As the earth rotated beneath Him, God saw the earth begin to lighten, as the atmosphere began dispersing the sunlight through the clouds. He saw that it was good, and let the evening overtake Him. Then the morning. One day.

    And so it goes. The scripture is quite literal and matches the scientific record. Nature proceeding as it will, and God reigning it in. With that as a starting point, an explanation for good and evil isn’t too far off.

  9. #9 divalent
    January 18, 2007

    Thinker: “Theistic evolution is, first and foremost, about comfort, about have-your-cake-and-eat-it, not having to be confronted with pesky facts or challenged with making difficult choices. Essentially, it is about creating a padded cell, and not as some temporary lodging, but for permanent residence.”

    So what if the aim is to provide comfort? As I read it (and I could be wrong), theistic evolution accepts *all* of what we know about the evolution of the planet, where such knowledge is based on observable facts and sound experiments. God may be inserted into the voids of our current knowledge. But their acceptance of the basics strongly suggests that, if confronted by new facts, God’s place will be yielded.

    In other words, unlike the dunderheaded flat earthers, proponents of theistic evolution acknowledge the legitamacy and primacy of our scientific understanding. Half of all americans apparently don’t acknowledge this. Theistic evolutions gives them a way to do this.

  10. #10 Blake Stacey
    January 18, 2007

    (Reposted, with edits, from PZ’s comment thread.)

    When we consider what role theistic evolution plays in our drama, we face the old problem of “peace in our time”. What happens if we get the school boards, parent-teacher associations and preachers of this country to accept theistic evolution? They all sign on with the Catholic position of “ensoulment”: all life before ourselves arose according to natural selection, but when H. sapiens came to be, God was there. (It’s arrogant, but it’s what they believe.) What happens, then, when the next great dethronement comes along?

    For thousands of years, we’ve been accumulating evidence that emotion, thought and all other activities of the mind are material in nature. Beer is as old as civilization, and so too without doubt are children conceived in drunkenness. Psychedelic mushrooms also have a pedigree stretching back into dim antiquity. We are now giving pills to children in order to modify their behavior and stamp out phenomena which we aren’t even quite sure are diseases. Yes, all our pills have side effects, and yes, we don’t know the details of how they work, but our culture is now replete with the evidence for a very big idea: that which we call the soul is an arrangement of matter.

    That awestruck memory of the night sky, that warmth from a lover’s smile, that fear for the species’ future — they’re all yesterday’s chocolate bar. Nothing exists, save atoms and the void. We take in atoms and make them part of us, each bit of the molecular dance remembering what the steps were when the dance was performed by the previous set of partners.

    I have the strong suspicion that we will learn more about cognition and consciousness before we’re done. Our drugs will change our souls in ever more involved ways, and our computers will execute many more of the functions once believed to be humankind’s sole property. You don’t have to go all the way to the Singulatarian, upload-your-mind-into-software view; even a “weak AI” scenario is theologically troubling. Just as we’ve imperiled traditional religions by shrinking the margins of physics back to the first instants of time, though not all the way, so too are we imperiling mysticism by advancing towards our own consciousness. We have already encountered the God of the Gaps. I have little doubt that in coming years, we will move into a worrisome presence, a growing awareness of the Ghost of the Gaps.

    I suppose it comes down to a simple problem: I just don’t know!

    I don’t know, for example, whether in psychological terms, the gap between theistic creationism and theistic evolution is actually any smaller than that between creationism and straight-up nontheistic, skeptical humanism. We tend to draw a straight line and make a continuum out of it, with PZ over here, Miller one step over, Collins one step beyond that. . . and Bill Dembski out there in the hinterland, steeped in sin. But, convenience aside, is that continuum a valid model? We can sort views any which way we want, but which spectrum reflects the way that not-so-reliable machine known as the human brain can handle the ideas involved?

    Remember, in giving up creationism in favor of “ensoulment”, one might also have to abandon intercessory prayer. That’s a big step, but it’s probably part of the package. You’d have to be a theologian to disentangle the two. If you scale back the amount of intervention you’re willing to say God has made in the world, doesn’t that mean prayer no longer brings about change? We then enter the regime where we pray for guidance, which is quite a different matter.

    I don’t know! We need empirical data on this kind of problem. Have psychologists looked at the issue? What systematic case studies have been done, and with what methods? We see a few people who are able to build walls, who can quarantine their scientific principles from their Sunday theism — at least in print, and with what unknown doubts they hide from their audiences? — but we are not mathematicians seeking an “existence proof”. We’re looking not just for possible states of human experience, but rather for states which can spread throughout entire populations. We need, perhaps, to learn the infectiousness of these memes.

    I have the suspicion, perhaps the fear, that the states of belief we place in the middle of our arbitrary continuum will not host stable populations. With at least one more dethronement waiting in the wings, I worry that our troubles have hardly begun.

  11. #11 Thinker
    January 18, 2007

    divalent: I agree that flat earthers (and their ilk) are quite simply laughable, and I have at least some respect for those who promote theistic evolution, in that they try to assemble coherent arguments for their position.

    However, I don’t find their arguments to be convincing, nor do I find their position particularly worthy of respect.

    If, as you suggest, they clearly accepted “all of what we know about evolution” and the “primacy” of science (that is, a claim not supported by observable evidence should not be assumed to have any truth value, and certainly not more than a claim that is supported by evidence), I wouldn’t have a problem with anyone filling gaps in our knowledge with whatever fantasies they like.

    However, I don’t think this is the case. Instead, they equivocate, accepting scientific statements, but then promptly tacking on a big Post-It saying “But God still did it” over it all.

    The problem I have with the “comfort” stance is not just that it attaches a truth value to the unsupported claims of religion, but also that it gives a false impression of science. By saying that their is no conflict between science and the Eternal Truths of religion, and at least implying there won’t be one either, you are essentially saying that science is static. On the contrary, science is dynamic, constantly changing, testing new ideas and discarding old ones. Because of this, even if you happen to think your present interpretation of the results of science can coexist with religion, it is dishonest to claim that state will persist.

    Only those who are comfortable with change can be comfortable with science.

  12. #12 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 18, 2007

    divalent-

    I agree that people who hold the theistic evolution position are generally more reasonable and moderate than religious fundamentalists. So in terms of who I’d rather live with and who I’d rather have serving on school boards, they are preferable. But the fact remains that I find grave difficulties in the position they seek to defend. I don’t think I should have to refrain from criticizing their position simply because there are other positions that are more harmful to society.

  13. #13 MG
    January 18, 2007

    From Red State Rabble:

    Interesting debate involving Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan developing (slowly over days it seems) about moderate religion vs. fundamentalism. Looks like it could be entertaining and informative to follow along.

    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/209/story_20904_1.html

  14. #14 Charles
    January 18, 2007

    This is warped and twisted. Many of you are defending evolution as if it were a religion. And it is, of sorts…

    Consider what we call “The missing link”. It requires some ‘faith’ to believe that somewhere out there in the hundreds, if not thousands of years we’ve been digging that we would have found something. CLEARLY, there was a huge UNACCOUNTED for evolutionary jump.

    It is clearly funny to me that in “50 million years”, most every animal on the earth has evolved so little in comparison to ourselves. Elephant- Mastadon Saber tooth tiger- tiger (smaller teeth woop), sharks- mainly size changes- THESE my friends are ACCEPTED scientific fact. Sure, Darwin proved that some birds ‘developed’ specialed beaks for chewing some seeds.

    I am not denying what evolution really is. It happens everyday. Evolution means change- no more. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad. Consider why a healthy normal couple would have a child with down syndrome. THAT is evolution. Slight genetic mutations over time that is filtered through by the more important factor- “NATURAL SELECTION”.

    2 Peter 3:8 (New International Version)

    8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

    A similar post is also in the old testement.

    I would hope, of all the issues in this very complex world, that THIS one is keeping people out of churches. It’s ridulous- coming from someone who has studied the issue nearly all my life.

    I think the low ‘poll rating’ of the recently published ‘believe in evolution poll’ is right on. You know why? We don’t f’n care. I certainly don’t, and I hope it goes down more. As far as I can prove, the earth is just as old as I am. Point to some rocks and some carbon dating- blah blah blah. Who cares? We’re here, let’s do it, lets evolve our spirit and will. I certainly cannot will my pecker to be twelve inches long, but I can change so much more.

    The ole genetics vs environment debate. I’ve always called it 90/10 in favor of environment. If you don’t believe this, then you accept you have very little control over your own will- and justly I would say you are a wimp and should dig your hole now.

    “that’s all I have to say about that”
    -Gump

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    January 18, 2007

    If evolution is a religion, can I be the Pope? Don’t worry, I’ll let everybody sleep in on Sundays.

  16. #16 J. J. Ramsey
    January 18, 2007

    “That aside, likening the cruelty of nature to the cruelty inherent in rape or murder is a poor analogy. Murder and rape can at least be explained as the result of God’s willingness to grant us free will. To have free will we must be free to choose the evil course.”

    But not all theodicies depend on free will, and it’s not as if there haven’t been theodicies that do address natural evil. For those theodicies, the cruelty of evolution is nothing special.

    Either the problem of evil–and this includes all evils, moral and natural–is solved or it isn’t. If it is solved, the cruelty of evolution is just another natural evil. If it isn’t solved, then the cruelty of evolution is just one among many evils. I’d say Vuletic’s right; irrelevant or redundant are your two choices.

  17. #17 Jason
    January 18, 2007

    J.J.Ramsey,

    But not all theodicies depend on free will, and it’s not as if there haven’t been theodicies that do address natural evil. For those theodicies, the cruelty of evolution is nothing special.

    It may not be a “special” form of natural evil, but it is an additional form of evil that has been revealed by science. Presumably, a little evil would be easier to reconcile with a benevolent God than a lot of evil. And evolution adds a whole lot of evil, hundreds of millions of years’ worth of suffering and carnage among millions of species. Not that any “theodicy” has ever persuasively addressed any form of natural evil, anyway.

    Either the problem of evil–and this includes all evils, moral and natural–is solved or it isn’t. If it is solved, the cruelty of evolution is just another natural evil. If it isn’t solved, then the cruelty of evolution is just one among many evils.

    This claim assumes that any successful solution would be independent of the amount and varieties of natural evil, which isn’t necessarily true, and is rather counterintuitive. If you think you have a solution for the problem of natural evil, I’d love to see it.

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 18, 2007

    J.J. Ramsey-

    There may be theodicies such as you describe, but they are wrong to say that the cruelty of evolution is nothing special. The theistic evolution position is that evolution is God’s means of creation. Evolution is also based largely on cruelty, suffering and pain. Trying to explain evil among agents in the natural world is not the same problem as trying to explain why God would personally choose so horrible a mechanism of creation, when he had other, non cruel mechanisms at his disposal.

    It is one thing to try to explain why God allows humans to do rotten things to each other. It is more difficult still to explain the suffering caused by earthquakes and tsunamis. But it is most difficult of all to try to explain why a God of love and justice personally chooses a mechanism of creation remarkable primarily for its inefficiency and violence.

    So Vuletic, and you, are wrong. Evolution does provide a unique, and uniquely serious, gloss on the problem of evil. The cruelty of evolution can not be dismissed as just another natural evil. It is unique in being God’s chosen mechanism of creation, and therefore not something that can be explained as necessary in some way to make a proper world for humanity to inhabit.

  19. #19 J. J. Ramsey
    January 18, 2007

    “Trying to explain evil among agents in the natural world is not the same problem as trying to explain why God would personally choose so horrible a mechanism of creation, when he had other, non cruel mechanisms at his disposal.”

    First, why presume that animal-on-animal cruelty matters that much to God? Second, if God were intending to create a world that functioned independently, he wouldn’t have that many options, so it is not necessarily true that “he had other, non cruel mechanisms at his disposal.”

  20. #20 Jason
    January 18, 2007

    J.J.Ramsey,

    First, why presume that animal-on-animal cruelty matters that much to God?

    Because animals suffer and the premise is that God is benevolent. If he’s evil or indifferent, fine. The problem of evil goes away.

    Second, if God were intending to create a world that functioned independently, he wouldn’t have that many options, so it is not necessarily true that “he had other, non cruel mechanisms at his disposal

    If he’s omnipotent, or even just very, very powerful, why couldn’t he have created a world that functioned independently without suffering, or with much less suffering? And why does it need to function independently anyway?

  21. #21 Geocreationist
    January 18, 2007

    Let me see if I got this right.

    Evil is a contradiction to God’s existence.

    Therefore, we shouldn’t hunger. Of course, then we wouldn’t eat, and we’d die.

    Okay wait a minute, that’s evil. So then, okay, we wouldn’t need to eat. There you go. But then, where would we get fuel? Fuel requires destruction of one thing in favor another… < >… no good, that’s evil, too.

    Okay then, we don’t need fuel, because our bodies wouldn’t break down. We wouldn’t be expending energy at all.

    Okay, then where would we come from? I guess God would have to create us all in our permenant form from the get-go, and nothing about us would ever change.

    And no one would impose on anybody else. There’d be no games, lest someone lose. I guess we just wouldn’t do anything.

    And it wouldn’t be boring, and we’d all be blissful all the time… but how would we even know? There’s nothing to feel relief from, nothing to rest from, nothing to ingest, nothing. Well, I guess He could just create us in a state of “knowing” that all is right.

    But, I guess that because we’re not all changeless judgeless emotionless automotons, God must not exist. Instead, God chose to let mankind know love, relief, pleasure, and justice. Sounds pretty evil to me.

  22. #22 Jason
    January 18, 2007

    Geocreationist,

    If the absence of evil in the world would require us to be “changeless judgeless emotionless automatons,” is there also evil in Heaven, or do we just become “changeless judgeless emotionless automatons” if and when we go there?

  23. #23 J. J. Ramsey
    January 18, 2007

    Me: “First, why presume that animal-on-animal cruelty matters that much to God?”

    Jason: “Because animals suffer and the premise is that God is benevolent.”

    But not necessarily evenly benevolent to all species. Certainly the biblical God ranked humans above other animals.

    Me: “Second, if God were intending to create a world that functioned independently, he wouldn’t have that many options, so it is not necessarily true that “he had other, non cruel mechanisms at his disposal”

    Jason: “If he’s omnipotent, or even just very, very powerful, why couldn’t he have created a world that functioned independently without suffering, or with much less suffering?”

    Because even an omnipotent being is restricted to doing the logically possible and there are only so many ways to make an independent world.

    Jason: “And why does it need to function independently anyway?”

    Depends on who you ask. If one didn’t want to depend on a free will theodicy, one could argue that perhaps God saw all the possible available alternatives and decided that an independent world was the the alternative that somehow maximized the good, whatever “good” is supposed to mean. How God supposedly decides this could be beyond us to fathom.

  24. #24 Geocreationist
    January 18, 2007

    >If the absence of evil in the world would require us to be “changeless judgeless emotionless automatons,” is there also evil in Heaven, or do we just become “changeless judgeless emotionless automatons” if and when we go there?

    My answer won’t satisfy you, but it’s an excellent question. The answer is neither.

    Evil will exist in Hell, but not in Heaven.

    Though our works won’t get us to Heaven, we will nonetheless be rewarded in heaven for our works down here. Therefore, there will be differences between us.

    All people will be judged in Heaven. Some will stay and some will go to Hell. Therefore, there is judgement in Heaven, and we will be aware of it.

    We will be praising God. Therefore, there is emotion in Heaven.

    Our worship will be genuine reflections of what our spirits want to do here even now, but cannot (due to felshly limitations). Therefore, we will not be automotons.

  25. #25 Jason
    January 18, 2007

    J.J.Ramsey,

    But not necessarily evenly benevolent to all species. Certainly the biblical God ranked humans above other animals.

    God wouldn’t need to be “evenly benevolent to all species” for the suffering of animals to be evil. He would just need to be something other than wholly indifferent to that suffering. It is hard to see how a God who is completely indifferent to all suffering of all beings except human beings could reasonably be described as benevolent.

    Because even an omnipotent being is restricted to doing the logically possible and there are only so many ways to make an independent world.

    What reason is there to believe that a world that functioned independently without suffering, or with much less suffering than the world we find ourselves in, would not be logically possible? Why would a world without earthquakes and tornados and floods, or merely with fewer of those things, not be logically possible?

    Depends on who you ask.

    I’m asking you, since you are the one who included the property of functional independence in your response to Jason.

    If one didn’t want to depend on a free will theodicy, one could argue that perhaps God saw all the possible available alternatives and decided that an independent world was the the alternative that somehow maximized the good, whatever “good” is supposed to mean. How God supposedly decides this could be beyond us to fathom.

    Ah yes, the “it’s a fathomless mystery” handwave. I was wondering how long it would take for that to show up. Attempts to justify theism with rational argument always seem to end up at Mysteryville, don’t they?

  26. #26 Jason
    January 18, 2007

    Geocreationist,

    Evil will exist in Hell, but not in Heaven. Though our works won’t get us to Heaven, we will nonetheless be rewarded in heaven for our works down here. Therefore, there will be differences between us. All people will be judged in Heaven. Some will stay and some will go to Hell. Therefore, there is judgement in Heaven, and we will be aware of it. We will be praising God. Therefore, there is emotion in Heaven. Our worship will be genuine reflections of what our spirits want to do here even now, but cannot (due to felshly limitations). Therefore, we will not be automotons.

    But this contradicts what you said in your previous post, at least if I am understanding your rather convoluted articulation of your argument correctly. You said that the inhabitants of a world without evil would necessarily be changeless judgeless emotionless automatons. Now you’re saying that’s not the case. Which is it?

  27. #27 Geocreationist
    January 18, 2007

    >But this contradicts what you said in your previous post, at least if I am understanding your rather convoluted articulation of your argument correctly. You said that the inhabitants of a world without evil would necessarily be changeless judgeless emotionless automatons. Now you’re saying that’s not the case. Which is it?

    I apologize if I didn’t articulate my assumptions better. I was describing a situation where evil doesn’t exist, based on the argument that a just God would never let it exist… anywhere.

    Heaven however is a whole other matter, because evil does in fact exist… it simply won’t be in Heaven when all is aid and done. But, there is evil on earth (and will be in Hell), there will be rewards in Heaven, resulting in differences. There will be redemption for our sins on Earth, resulting in worship.

    So the key isn’t whether a given world has evil, but rather, whether evil even exists at all.

  28. #28 Jason
    January 19, 2007

    Geocreationist,

    The problem you are trying to solve is why God would create a world with evil if he is benevolent. Your first response was to assert that if the world were without evil, its inhabitants would necessarily be automatons. And presumably, you’re also tacitly asserting that such an evil-free world of automatons would itself be more evil than the world we actually live in. (You don’t say that explicitly. I’m just trying to piece together a complete argument from your cryptic response). Given that claim, how can Heaven be both without evil and inhabited by non-automatons? In your latest post, you simply assert “Heaven however is a whole other matter…” but that doesn’t explain how your claims about Heaven are consistent with your solution to the problem of evil in this world.

  29. #29 geocreationism.com
    January 19, 2007

    Jason,

    My assertion is that a God who does not allow evil would only be able to create a world of automatans (and that’s assuming witholding individuality is not evil).

    What makes Heaven different is that it’s created by a God who does allow evil.

    Now, I do in fact think that creating a world with no individuality results in no less evil than creating the world we have.

    Therefore, instead of asking whether God really exists given the existance of evil, my question is this: since any world God creates allows for evil of some sort somewhere, then why create anything at all? And if He does create something, then why would this be the world He created?

    And my answer to that question is that in this world is the potential for good because there is potential for evil. And because there is potential for evil here now, there can be a Heaven with only good later.

    And given the potential for good that has resulted from allowing evil, I think God weighed that against the evil of having never created good… and so He did it, despite the bad press He gets for it now.

  30. #30 Jason
    January 19, 2007

    Geocreationist,

    You’re still not addressing the contradiction in what you said. You claimed that if there were no evil in the world we would necessarily be “automatons” because “nothing about us would ever change” and because there would be “nothing to feel relief from, nothing to rest from, nothing to ingest, nothing.” You said there would be no “love, relief, pleasure, and justice” in the world because in order for us to have those things, there must also be evil.

    But you then claimed that in Heaven, none of this applies. It is without evil, but its inhabitants are not automatons. Which means that a world without evil is NOT necessarily a world of automatons. So make up your mind. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

  31. #31 Greta Christina
    January 19, 2007

    “Hey, lighten up on the hostility, folks. Theistic evolution is a slippery slope away from illogical blind faith, not towards it.”

    There may be some truth to that, divalent. But for that very reason, arguing with a theistic evolutionist is more likely to be fruitful than arguing with a creationist or any other blind faith adherent. (As much as I respect the people here who are willing to argue with Geocreationist, etc., I don’t have the energy or the stomach for what will almost certainly be an exercise in futility.)

  32. #32 Geocreationist
    January 19, 2007

    This will be my last post on this.

    It’s a simple if A then B else not(B).

    If God was a God who would never create something that had the potential for evil (A), then the only kind of world He’d create would be one of automatons (B). However A is false. One argument that A is false is that the Earth has the potential for evil. Another argument that A is false is that B would be arguably evil by itself, hence a contradiction. Therefore, since A is false, B is false.

    Since B is false, no world God creates must necessarily be a world of automatons.

    Now, this does allow for the possibility for God to create such a world on purpose, but that would be His choice. And since our spirits are different (i.e., we aren’t spiritual automatons), I conclude that Heaven will not be a world of automatons.

  33. #33 J. J. Ramsey
    January 19, 2007

    Jason: “Ah yes, the ‘it’s a fathomless mystery’ handwave. I was wondering how long it would take for that to show up.”

    It is an occupational hazard when musing about what an omniscient and omnipotent deity would do.

  34. #34 GH
    January 19, 2007

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA damn that was an instant classic.

    By that I mean Geocreationist’s ‘logic above. WOW!

  35. #35 Geocreationist
    January 20, 2007

    > HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA damn that was an instant classic.

    I note this wasn’t Jason’s response. I appreciate that Jason saw my original post, ignored the sarcasm, and asked me a serious question about it. My intent was to clarify, not debate. Perhaps I didn’t do it well. I can accept that. The reason I even tried is because I actually **think** a lot like you all. Problem is, I have this… “faith”… that I cannot explain even to myself at times. But don’t dismiss it, because God’s justified my faith too many times to dismiss Him. So, I use my “reason” to put my “faith” into words. Unfortunately, that’s not easy to do, though I try.

    No hard feelings.

    Nice chattin’

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.