Evolution and Christianity, Revisited

The Christian Century has this interesting article about the relationship between evolution and Christianity, written by Amy Frykholm. Interesting not because it actually resolves the question in any satisfactory way, but rather because it states the problem in a more forthright manner than is typical for writing in this genre:

But I suspect that the compatibility of evolutionary science with Christian theology is more often asserted than explored. I, for one, do most of my thinking about science out of one mental box and my thinking about religion out of another. On questions about evolution, the origin of life and the future of the planet, I look into the science box. On questions about God, salvation, theology and ethics, I turn to the religion box. While I think that the contents of the two boxes are compatible, I rarely try to work out the terms of their relationship.

Perhaps that’s because the contents of the two boxes are, when mixed, still combustible. When theology faces off against the account of the world set forth by evolutionary biology, God’s goodness and power and God’s plans for the future seem to be called into question with new force.

For instance, knowledge of evolutionary history raises questions of theodicy in an especially disconcerting way. Evolution reveals a vast history of unfathomable waste, loss, extinction, suffering and death in the natural world. What has God been up to all these millennia? And what is God up to now? If we believe that God oversees creation, then God’s way of doing it through evolution seems strange and even appalling.

Over the 4.5 billion years of our planet’s existence, 98 percent of species have become extinct. Extinction is written into the pattern of life. What does it mean, then, to talk about a God who cares for “each sparrow that falls”? How can we think of God’s care for the world in light of the millions of years of suffering and death that have been a feature of evolution in the natural world?

Well said! I especially like that third paragraph.

The article goes on to consider some possible answers to this objection:

But Robert Jenson, Lutheran theologian at the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton Seminary, suggests that such arguments are off target in that they operate with a view of God as external to the cosmos, acting on it from outside. This idea of God derives more from the Enlightenment than from Christianity. Christians, Jenson says, have traditionally conceived of the cosmos as contained in God. Holding to this conception of God, one can view natural selection not as a process separate from God but as a process that takes place in God.

Can someone tell me, please, what that means? Because right now I am picturing God as a jelly doughnut, with natural selection as the sticky, fruit-flavored filling.

The article continues in this vain, as Frykholm records the opinions of various theologians. Frykholm is impressively skeptical of all of the explanations offered, pointing out objections to each one. What becomes clear throughout the article is that reconciling evolution and Christianity requires at the very least abandoning the simple conception of God as an omnipotent and omnibenevolent designer. Here’s Frykholm:

Theologies that emphasize God as deeply involved in natural, open-ended processes seem better able to make sense of evolution than do the classical accounts of an omnipotent God. On the other hand, if Jenson is right, perhaps what is needed is a richer notion of the God in whom these processes occur. At the very least, substantial interaction between Christian theology and evolutionary biology is prompting new metaphors and new ways of thinking about God.

Personally, I fail to see how the high-minded theologies described in the article even come close to addressing the real problems (and that’s before moving on to the question of whether there is any reason to believe they are true.) But the article is worth reading for its forthright admission that the problem is thornier than many would like to admit.

Comments

  1. #1 iRobot
    February 24, 2008

    lets face it, evolution and religion are incompatible. The bible gives an account of that believers say is the exact true account of what happened. Evolution, and other sciences, show that it did not happen this way. Noah’s ark did not happen. How could 7 of each clean animal and 2 of each clean fit on the ark? a miracle the believers would say, but science shows there are no miracles. Let the holy war begin!

  2. #2 Toby
    February 24, 2008

    This article seems to be espousing Deism or “the God of Spinoza” that Einstein said he believed in. This identifies God with the Universe and his plan as the working out of the natural order.

    Don’t see Pope Benedict or Mike Huckabee agreeing with that one.

  3. #3 Steve
    February 24, 2008

    I think that the religion vs. evolution debate is contaminated by Fundamentalism; Almost every discussion of this type I see from this side characterizes science vs. fundamentalist worldview in the guise of opposing science and religion. There are MILLIONS upon MILLIONs of Christians who reject literalist interpretation of the biblical text, in favor of allegorical meanings.

    And there are many more religions than only christianity.

    Of course literalism and science must remain sworn enemies. But I’ve met Christians of all flavors who asserted that it’s the domain of science to ask “how”, and the domain of religion to ask “why”.

    Not that this is a conclusive resolution – but certainly it indicates that for many, many people, no conclusive resolution is necessary.

  4. #4 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 24, 2008

    Steve-

    I didn’t say anything about literalism in my post. The conflict is between evolution and any version of Christianity that holds that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and created the Earth with intelligent, self-aware organisms in mind. I think traditional theistic evolution does not adequately consider the difficulties in describing natural selection as the mechanism of creation of such a God. I think this article faced up to that difficulty more clearly than most, even though I don’t find the attempted resolutions very satsifactory.

  5. #5 Joe Shelby
    February 24, 2008

    Allegory or not, that still does not address the specific theological and philosophical concerns raised in that paragraph 3 in the excerpt above.

    No conclusive resolution is necessary only in those for whom the question there has either not been asked, or willfully has been ignored.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    February 24, 2008

    “But the article is worth reading for its forthright admission that the problem is thornier than many would like to admit.”

    The problem is insurmountable for just about any human centric cosmology. At any point in the earths history, which is itself just a tiny slice of cosmological history, life could have taken a course that didn’t involve us at all. I don’t see how one can extrapolate such a grand “plan” or “providance” from such an obviously ad hoc and highly contingent existence.

  7. #7 royniles
    February 24, 2008

    Maybe there’s just a “tinkering” god of some sort out there who found a way of introducing purpose to the universe, but had no idea how that would turn out.

  8. #8 brtkrbzhnv
    February 25, 2008

    The article continues in this vain

    moar liek vein amirite

  9. #9 Andrew
    February 25, 2008

    It looks a bit like they’re angling for a “the universe is God” point of view. Or possibly a B5 style “we are the universe trying to figure itself out” in addition.

    To be honest it makes more sense in terms of approach if you want to have God(s) and religion to take the science and structure your theology so it doesn’t contradict what is demonstratable. For example, take things like evolution and just put God(s) at the far back underlying reason – the universe was created by and everything scientifically demonstratable happens the way it does because thats how the universe was designed by . EG Isn’t Ymir great, if he hadn’t been jobbed at the start of time we’d have no rocks now. (Rocks which were formed exactly how science suggests to as far back as we can go, with them being Ymir’s teeth at just before that point.)

    It would stop the rabidly religious looking like twonks for insisting what is demonstratable is a LIE!!! and so hopefully not turning into rabid nutcases in the first place and lets the rest of us get on with it, as whether the underlying reason for X is ultimately “because the magic pixies do it at a level far smaller than can ever be verified” or not doesn’t really matter. :)

  10. #10 dk
    February 25, 2008

    Sounds like the author finds “process theology” attractive, which to me is more like pantheism and does not really resolve the problem.

  11. #11 Wes
    February 25, 2008

    Can someone tell me, please, what that means? Because right now I am picturing God as a jelly doughnut, with natural selection as the sticky, fruit-flavored filling.

    This made me laugh out loud.

    Anyways, I agree with you, and with Ms. Frykholm, that the No Conflict Thesis regarding Christianity and evolutionary biology is often merely declared by fiat and only peremptorily examined. Oftentimes people declare it to be true, go about “examining” the problem always presupposing the NCT to be true, and then hand wave any problems away. It’s more appeasement and apologetics than good philosophy. A big part of the problem is the centrality of human exceptionalism in Christian theology, and the fact that evolution by natural selection completely undermines the notion that we are an exception to the natural order of things. I’ve never really seen anyone tackle this issue head on.

  12. #12 CortxVortx
    February 25, 2008

    I can’t access the article from work, but I wonder if she touches on the real reason Christians reject evolution: No Adam and Eve. Therefore, no sin. Therefore, no reason for Jesus. Therefore, no need for Christianity.

  13. #13 Calli Arcale
    February 25, 2008

    Well, I’m a Christian, and I don’t reject evolution. I do not think the story of Adam and Eve occurred literally; I see it more as an allegorical refutation of predestination. However, I think you hit the nail on the head for a lot of Christians that I know, though I don’t think they reject evolution *specifically* because it screws up the whole concept of sin. Rather, they reject it because it screws up the first few books in Genesis. I myself have often been tempted to say that their faith must be weak if evolution threatens it, but that’s actually not true — they feel that faith in God’s Word is so important that it is a good idea to reject the evidence of one’s senses if it contradicts the Bible. Their faith blinds them.

    I find that very sad, because I don’t think that’s what’s meant by having faith in God or faith in Christ. The Bible has been turned into a golden calf, so to speak. Were it not so, I suspect evolution would not be such a problem for some folks.

    Interesting article, though, and food for thought.

  14. #14 QrazyQat
    February 25, 2008

    Because right now I am picturing God as a jelly doughnut

    Or perhaps a “stream of bat’s piss”? :)

  15. #15 Reginald Selkirk
    February 26, 2008

    Well, I’m a Christian, and I don’t reject evolution. I do not think the story of Adam and Eve occurred literally…

    Acknowledging that you and many Christians do not take the Genesis story literally, this still leaves thorny questions. I’m guessing that many “liberal” theists have not thought through the consequences. Did Jesus die for a metaphor or a fable? Or perhaps you are so literal that you don’t actually believe in the resurrection either. That would rather push the definition of “Christian.”

    The story of the “Tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the garden is the story of Prometheus. And as far as I’m concerned, God was on the wrong side.

  16. #16 heddle
    February 26, 2008

    While acknowledging that the theodicy problem is thorny, I don’t see how evolution makes it any worse. With or without evolution, there are are still uncountable numbers of deaths and sufferings. That in and of itself is germane to the theological problem in question. How does evolution make that problem any worse? Is the death and suffering that results, ultimately and incrementaly, in extinctions and new species, somehow more of a theological problem than death and suffering in a non-evolutionary scenario? If so, I don’t see how.

    I don’t think evolution has any bearing whatsoever on the theodicy problem.

  17. #17 Dave Briggs
    February 26, 2008

    perhaps what is needed is a richer notion of the God in whom these processes occur. At the very least, substantial interaction between Christian theology and evolutionary biology is prompting new metaphors and new ways of thinking about God.

    I think this is a very elegant and succinct way of putting it! It seems rare for people to get past the name calling and less than respectful rhetoric. But if one does then it takes a realization that this is a delve into deep waters. where everyone has the right to have an opinion and all ideas and concepts are open to be considered! I have missed getting to visit your blog! It is a quintessential example of how progress can be made and all minds stimulated when these topics are discussed in a civil, respectful atmosphere! Thanks very much!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 26, 2008

    heddle-

    Is the death and suffering that results, ultimately and incrementaly, in extinctions and new species, somehow more of a theological problem than death and suffering in a non-evolutionary scenario?

    The answer is yes, it is more of a theological problem.

    The problem comes in viewing natural selection as the mechanism through which God created human beings. We would then have a God who is assumed to be omnipotent and omnibenevolent using a mechanism of creation that all but ensures millions of years of suffering, pain, death and extinction, with no guarantee of anything intelligent and self-aware at the end of it. This is something well beyond the traditional problem of evil and suffering (which in my opinion is already devastating for Christianity). We are no longer asking, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Now we are asking, “Why does God personally, by His direct action, inflict pain and suffering on his creatures?” The former question might conceivably be answered by saying that God must allow evil and suffering in order to make possible a greater good (for example, evil actions among human beings might be explained as the necessary consequence of giving people free will). No such response is possible, as far as I can tell, for the latter question.

    I thought Frykholm expressed the problem very clearly in her essay, and I didn’t notice any of the theologians she consulted dismissing the question as just a new wrinkle on an old problem.

  19. #19 heddle
    February 26, 2008

    Jason,

    We would then have a God who is assumed to be omnipotent and omnibenevolent using a mechanism of creation that all but ensures millions of years of suffering, pain, death and extinction,

    But that is just it–the amount of death and suffering (and perhaps even extinctions) is the same regardless of whether or not there is evolution, so how does evolution make the problem worse? To first order, every creature that has suffered and died given the evolution scenario would have suffered and died given the non-evolution scenario.

    with no guarantee of anything intelligent and self-aware at the end of it.

    That, as far as I can tell, was not addressed in the article. That is, she could be talking about theistic evolution which presupposes that man would result–otherwise it is not very theistic.

    Now we are asking, “Why does God personally, by His direct action, inflict pain and suffering on his creatures?”

    Why would God’s “direct action” in inflicting pain and suffering be a problem, or exacerbated by evolution? That is not even part of the base-line theodicy problem. It was recognized long before the advent of evolution that God directly causes pain and suffering. Surely, for example, the Egyptians suffered beyond comprehension as a result of God’s immediate, not secondary action. God directly causing pain and suffering is recorded throughout the Old testament. The answer to that question, which you say doesn’t exist, is in fact age-old: The creator can do what he wants to the creation–especially a creation in rebellion. You probably hate that answer, but the point is that evolution changes nothing in that regard. God causing something to die is part of his job description.

    I thought Frykholm expressed the problem very clearly in her essay, and I didn’t notice any of the theologians she consulted dismissing the question as just a new wrinkle on an old problem.

    So–she only consulted a few.

    Maybe she is right, but I still see no reason why evolution worsens the theodicy problem. With or without evolution there is suffering and death, some caused by God directly, some by secondary means, all, at a minimum, “allowed” to happen by God.

  20. #20 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 27, 2008

    But that is just it–the amount of death and suffering (and perhaps even extinctions) is the same regardless of whether or not there is evolution, so how does evolution make the problem worse? To first order, every creature that has suffered and died given the evolution scenario would have suffered and died given the non-evolution scenario.

    I think we have a failure to communicate, because I don’t see how you can possibly make such a statement. If evolution is true then animals were suffering, dying and going extinct for tens of millions of years before human beings ever arrived on the scene. All of those animals represent creatures that would not have suffered and died had God chosen a more efficient way of creating human beings.

    Furthermore, it implies that suffering and death were a part of the natural order long before sin entered the world. This takes away one standard reply to the theodicy problem (that the world we see is often nasty and harsh because it is sin-corrupted, and is a mere shadow of God’s perfect creation). So evolution really does represent a major new wrinkle on the problem of evil.

    That, as far as I can tell, was not addressed in the article. That is, she could be talking about theistic evolution which presupposes that man would result–otherwise it is not very theistic.

    I had not intended to get the discussion sidetracked on this point, but for the record theistic evolutionists do not speak with one voice on this issue. Simon Conway-Morris, for example, believes that humans (or something close enough to them) were, indeed, inevitable. Others, like Ken Miller, do not believe that. We can certainly say that among evolutionary biologists generally the idea that humans were inevitable is the view of a small minority. On top of that, I think it is actually more theologically problematic to assume that humans were the inevitable result of the evolutionary process. If humans were inevitable then you have the picture of God setting in motion tens of millions of years of pain and suffering as a lead-in to an effectively predetermined endpoint, when he could simply have cut to the chase and poofed humanity into existence just like the Bible says he did. If humans were not inevitable then you gain some explanatory options, as Ken Miller explores in Finding Darwin’s God.

    Why would God’s “direct action” in inflicting pain and suffering be a problem, or exacerbated by evolution? That is not even part of the base-line theodicy problem. It was recognized long before the advent of evolution that God directly causes pain and suffering. Surely, for example, the Egyptians suffered beyond comprehension as a result of God’s immediate, not secondary action. God directly causing pain and suffering is recorded throughout the Old testament. The answer to that question, which you say doesn’t exist, is in fact age-old: The creator can do what he wants to the creation–especially a creation in rebellion. You probably hate that answer, but the point is that evolution changes nothing in that regard. God causing something to die is part of his job description.

    We are not talking about God punishing sin or dealing with a creation in rebellion. There was no rebellion before humans entered the scene. The issue here is God torturing animals for tens of millions of years as a prelude to the arrival of humanity.

    In her essay, Frykholm wrote:

    Over the 4.5 billion years of our planet’s existence, 98 percent of species have become extinct. Extinction is written into the pattern of life. What does it mean, then, to talk about a God who cares for “each sparrow that falls”? How can we think of God’s care for the world in light of the millions of years of suffering and death that have been a feature of evolution in the natural world?

    Do you really want your answer to her question to be

    The creator can do what he wants to the creation–especially a creation in rebellion.

    You wrote:

    So–she only consulted a few.

    Maybe she is right, but I still see no reason why evolution worsens the theodicy problem. With or without evolution there is suffering and death, some caused by God directly, some by secondary means, all, at a minimum, “allowed” to happen by God.

    Without evolution, suffering and death can be explained, at least in principle, by appeals to free will, or as the result of sin entering the world, or to God’s reaction to human sin, or by God’s need to make possible some greater, compensating good. With evolution none of those explanations apply. There was neither sin nor free will before humans entered the world. There were only animals suffering and dying because it amused God for some reason to torture animals. That’s what you need to explain.

    As for your “she only talked to a few,” remark, c’mon. Frykholm didn’t invent this problem, and neither did I. There’s no shortage of books and essays written by theologians and religious scientists trying to explain how to reconcile evolution with the picture of a just and loving God. Are they all confused?

    There’s a big difference between saying that God created a perfect world and then humans came and screwed it all up, and saying that God tortured helpless animals for tens of millions of years before humans ever arrived on the scene. It’s all well and good to dismissively assert that God can do whatever he wants; it’s quite another to reconcile his behavior with the attributes he is said to have.

  21. #21 windy
    February 27, 2008

    To first order, every creature that has suffered and died given the evolution scenario would have suffered and died given the non-evolution scenario.

    How do you figure that? Those creatures existed because of evolution, so in a world were evolution didn’t happen, or proceeded according to different principles, there would be different creatures.

    And there are factors increasing the likelihood of suffering in “our” evolutionary system. Selective deaths. Mutations not happening with respect to need. Excess reproduction. High likelihood of predation, parasitism, cheaters emerging. High likelihood of deleterious mutations. Etc.

    (One caveat: suffering is not an inevitable consequence of evolution unless creatures with sensations are inevitable. But that can probably be assumed under most TE schemes.)

  22. #22 heddle
    February 27, 2008

    Jason

    If evolution is true then animals were suffering, dying and going extinct for tens of millions of years before human beings ever arrived on the scene. All of those animals represent creatures that would not have suffered and died had God chosen a more efficient way of creating human beings.

    Are you arguing only with respect to YEC-ism? Because for OECs have forever acknowledged that there was death and dying and extinctions for millions of years prior to the arrival of man. Hugh Ross is an OEC who does not believe in evolution. I am an OEC who does believe in evolution (theistic.) So how is all that death before man’s arrival is more of a problem for me than it is for Hugh Ross?

    Furthermore, it implies that suffering and death were a part of the natural order long before sin entered the world.

    Yes of course, OECs readily acknowledge that as they must. The death that came at the fall was spiritual death. Clearly physical death was old news by then.

    The issue here is God torturing animals for tens of millions of years as a prelude to the arrival of humanity.

    But torture is not quite the right word to use here. Animals did what animals do-live, eat, kill, get killed. The theistic evolutionist would simply say that God had inserted a mechanism (natural selection) to leverage what would happen anyway. That is, without evolution, God “specially creates” lions, and they eat specially-created zebras. With theistic evolution, the same exact thing happens, but the zebras adapt and the lions adapt. But to any given animal, his life cycle is exactly the same whether or not it occurred in the midst of ongoing evolution. If God’s allowing animals to kill and eat each other is torture given evolution, then it is also torture if there is no evolution, so the problem is not worse.

    I think this has been useful to narrow the question–how is it that OECs who do not believe in evolution (e.g., Hugh Ross) have an “easier” theodicy problem that OECs who do believe in evolution?

    If it is death and suffering prior to the fall, then what you are really saying is that OECs have a more serious theodicy problem than YECs, which may be true–but it has nothing to do with evolution.

  23. #23 heddle
    February 27, 2008

    Windy,

    See my response to Jason. Non-evolutionary OECs believe all those horrible things happened, they simply do not believe in so-called macro evolution. Theistic-evolutionist OECs like myself do believe in macro-evolution. Why does that make the theodicy problem more severe for us?

  24. #24 windy
    February 27, 2008

    With theistic evolution, the same exact thing happens, but the zebras adapt and the lions adapt. But to any given animal, his life cycle is exactly the same whether or not it occurred in the midst of ongoing evolution.

    The life cycle of every animal that ever lived can’t be the same in the “specially created” version as in the evolutionary version, since all of the intermediates exist in the latter but not in the former.

    If God’s allowing animals to kill and eat each other is torture given evolution, then it is also torture if there is no evolution, so the problem is not worse.

    I think this has been useful to narrow the question–how is it that OECs who do not believe in evolution (e.g., Hugh Ross) have an “easier” theodicy problem that OECs who do believe in evolution?

    In the evolutionary scenario, it takes a huge number of agonizing deaths to make the lion and the zebra. In the OEC version, God can skip some of those deaths, even if he then allows the lions and zebras to cause each other suffering. But the point is, why should the only option be God staging a puppet show on animals with exactly the same amount of suffering as in the evolutionary scenario?

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 28, 2008

    Are you arguing only with respect to YEC-ism? Because for OECs have forever acknowledged that there was death and dying and extinctions for millions of years prior to the arrival of man. Hugh Ross is an OEC who does not believe in evolution. I am an OEC who does believe in evolution (theistic.) So how is all that death before man’s arrival is more of a problem for me than it is for Hugh Ross?

    I’m arguing that evolution worsens the problem of evil by implying that God chose a mechanism of creation that ensures massive waste, suffering and death when it would certainly appear he had other options. I don’t see how you can understand this choice as anything other than God being malicious towards his creatures. The usual solutions to the problem of evil involve arguing in some way that God has to allow bad things to happen to achieve some greater good (as when it is said that he allows, say, the holocaust because it is the necessary price for giving people free will). I don’t see any hope for such an answer here.

    Hugh Ross might argue that just as allowing human evil is a ncessary consequence of allowing human free will, so too is some amount of suffering in nature a necessary consequence of creating an ecosystem that can sustain itself. (See this article, from his website for example). Such an explanation is not available to the theistic evolutionist, unless you find some way of arguing that massive suffering and death is actually necessary for creating animals in the first place (as opposed to something that is necessary for sustaining their populations once they are already here).

    The problem is certainly acute for any form of OEC. In fact, I would say the problem of evil is devastating for any interpretation of Christianity, with or without evolution. But evolution dramatically increases the scale on which evil and suffering must be explained, and it dramatically limits your explanatory options (to zero, I would suggest).

    That is, without evolution, God “specially creates” lions, and they eat specially-created zebras. With theistic evolution, the same exact thing happens, but the zebras adapt and the lions adapt.

    This is not true. With theistic evolution there are tens of millions of years of suffering, death and extinction before lions and zebras ever arrive on the scene. That’s a pretty big difference between theistic evolution and any sort of special creation.

    Now, enough quibbling over whether your problem is even worse, or merely as bad, as what Hugh Ross faces. I’d still like to know why a God of love and justice creates his animals via tens of millions of years of evolution by bloodsport.

  26. #26 David Bates
    February 29, 2008

    Careful having blind faith in the supposived objective methods of science. Golem science show that pleny of siginficant historic inventions and discoveries were not based on facts. They were Golems – powerful clumbsy creatures that did not known their own strenght (Harry collins and trevor pench: Golem Science)

  27. #27 David Bates
    February 29, 2008

    who was first – the first atom of evolution – or the first spirtual essence of God – could they not be the same in one. The possiblity of an Initial Molecule of God should not be riduculed for the narrow-minded thoughts of “the Mod” ern man.

    Many indian groups believe that a divine prescensce lives in nature – the trees, the wind. The aborigines’ spirtual entity lives in nature also, formed the mountians and moved thorough the mountains shaping its formations.

    Black holes? The existinec of nothing, or the prescense of god?

    How can over half of hte population of the world be so wrong and hoodwinked about God. Its not logical to ignore “the accepted scientific circle of experts” – the experts on the human experience is the population of the earth – not astronmers. Cross culturally there is a consistent beleif in god – how can so many diverse cultures being tricked?
    Once I went unwantingly to a faith healer and she saw things in my past that she had no possible way on knowing. She also predicted that i would recieve three articles during my travel. I did. Does miricales and visions come in threes or was I hoodwinked?

    Si Dios quierre.

  28. #28 Tulse
    February 29, 2008

    Many indian groups believe that a divine prescensce lives in nature

    Many “Indian” groups engaged in cannibalism and human sacrifice — do you give those practices as much credence?

    Cross culturally there is a consistent beleif in god – how can so many diverse cultures being tricked?

    Cross culturally there used to be a consistent belief in the moral appropriateness of slavery — does its universality mean that belief is also valid?

  29. #29 Joe
    March 1, 2008

    heddle has an annoying habit of running away when he’s backed into a corner.

  30. #30 heddle
    March 2, 2008

    Joe,

    heddle has an annoying habit of running away when he’s backed into a corner

    Have any links to back that up? (No I didn’t think so.)

    Let’s see, if I continue the argument (which in my opinion had reached diminishing returns) I would be accused of hijacking the thread. If I simply stop arguing, feeling that I made my point while conceding that I have not persuaded Jason to change his position, I have “run away.”

    Are there other posts where you actually contribute something of substance, or are meaningless, puny jabs simply your raison d’etre?

  31. #31 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 2, 2008

    heddle-

    I would be curious to know how you respond to Hugh Ross’ point about some amount of carnivory being necessary to sustain an ecosystem. I don’t find that very convincing, but it is, at least, a sort of explanation he can use that a theistic evolutionist can not use.

    Incidentally, I brought up human sin earlier simply because that is an answer I often get when I raise these issues to various Christian acquaintances. This is a mode of explanation that no OEC can use, regardless of whether evolution is true. I meant to clarify that in my last comment, but I forgot to. Nonetheless, I still say that evolution takes an already bad problem faced by all Christians, and makes it even worse.

  32. #32 Joe
    March 2, 2008

    heddle,

    Have any links to back that up? (No I didn’t think so.)

    OK, I could link but it would seem silly … this blog … this thread … your ridiculous assertion that evolution has no bearing whatsoever on the theodicy problem.

    Let’s see, if I continue the argument (which in my opinion had reached diminishing returns) …

    Because your bs wasn’t being bought.

    … I would be accused of hijacking the thread.

    I for one don’t mind watching theists make themselves look as silly as possible.

    … How does evolution make that –death & suffering– problem any worse? Is the death and suffering that results, ultimately and incrementaly, in extinctions and new species, somehow more of a theological problem than death and suffering in a non-evolutionary scenario? If so, I don’t see how.

    Did it really have to be pointed out to you that more pain & suffering is worse than less? Further, did it really need to be pointed out to you that pain & suffering from a perspective viewing the designer –without any benefit for the intended audience (no lessons to be learned … no nothing)– would, under any other topic of discussion other than religion, be considered psychopathic behavior?
    Have you displayed an answer approaching adequacy? To put it in your preferred parlance … No I didn’t think so.

  33. #33 heddle
    March 3, 2008

    Joe,

    Did anyone answer (definitively) my question of that criticism? Namely that the pain and suffering was the same (at least in the OEC perspective) whether or not evolution was involved? Did the zebra eaten by the lion feel less pain depending on whether or not his death was part of evolution? I don’t think so, and so it is not manifestly obvious that the theistic evolutionist must deal with more pain and suffering than the non-evolutionist OEC. I don’t think Jason answered my question–maybe you do–but you didn’t even try to post anything of substance.

  34. #34 windy
    March 3, 2008

    Heddle, to repeat, the absence of intermediates means that the life cycle of *every* animal (possibly most animals) can’t be the same in the OEC and the TE versions.

    Did the zebra eaten by the lion feel less pain depending on whether or not his death was part of evolution?

    Zebras being eaten by lions can’t help but be evolution even in the OEC version. I guess they’d call it ‘microevolution’. But the OEC account skips some of the ‘macro’evolution – how do you get lions and zebras in the first place? From pre-lions eating pre-zebras.

    It would be possible to conceive of an OEC account with more total suffering than TE, for example by having lions and zebras go back to the Precambrian, but I’m not sure that any OEC suggests that.

    And is the assumption here is that the best possible world must contain lions killing zebras in painful ways?

  35. #35 heddle
    March 3, 2008

    Windy,

    Zebras being eaten by lions can’t help but be evolution even in the OEC version. I guess they’d call it ‘microevolution’. But the OEC account skips some of the ‘macro’evolution – how do you get lions and zebras in the first place? From pre-lions eating pre-zebras.

    There are plenty of OECs who are not evolutionists. They would say, typically, that extinctions are more or less natural, but new species are specially created. Thus they would say that zebras were created as zebras. The death and attendant suffering, before the fall, they would say, was to prepare the planet for human habitation.

    And is the assumption here is that the best possible world must contain lions killing zebras in painful ways?

    There is no assumption about anything. Jason argues all the time that the theodicy issue is a problem for Christianity. He’s right. It is the thorniest theological problem we deal with, and one that, for example, a theologian as brilliant as Jonathan Edwards simply gave up working on. So if Jason had stated that the red-in-tooth-and-claw problem was serious, I’d have agreed with him. What I disagree with is that the problem is worse for the theistic evolutionists than for, say non-evolutionary OECs. On the contrary, at least the theistic evolutionist can argue that the killing was used as a secondary means to accomplish God’s plan.
    So the bottom line is I agree that the theodicy problem is more serious for OECs than for YECs, but I still fail to appreciate any argument that it is more serious for theistic evolutionists than for Ross-school and similar non-evolutionary OECs.

  36. #36 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 3, 2008

    heddle-

    Did anyone answer (definitively) my question of that criticism? Namely that the pain and suffering was the same (at least in the OEC perspective) whether or not evolution was involved?

    Actually, I think I’ve answered that twice already. Non-evolutionist OEC’s can, and apparently do, argue that some amount of carnivory is necessary in nature if the ecosystem is to be self-sustaining. I don’t see how theistic evolutionists can argue that tens of millions of years of evolution by natural selection were necessary to create an ecosystem in the first place.

    OEC’s only have to explain why God permits suffering, pain and death to go on in nature. TE’s have to explain that, and further have to explain why God would choose to do his creating by an exceptionally cruel and amoral mechanism. A serious problem either way, but plainly more serious for the TE’s.

    And while it’s nice that you admit the problem, I still have not seen a ghost of a solution in anything you have written.

  37. #37 windy
    March 3, 2008

    There are plenty of OECs who are not evolutionists. They would say, typically, that extinctions are more or less natural, but new species are specially created. Thus they would say that zebras were created as zebras.

    Evolution within a species is still evolution, therefore it is not entirely correct to say that OECs are envisioning a world where evolution doesn’t happen.

    However, creating zebras as zebras would at least avoid the suffering up to that point in the evolution of the equid lineage.

    On the contrary, at least the theistic evolutionist can argue that the killing was used as a secondary means to accomplish God’s plan.

    Yes, a cruel and wasteful way; that was the point, I believe.

  38. #38 heddle
    March 3, 2008

    Jason,

    Look, the difference between the OEcs and the theistic evolutionists is this:

    * The OECs say that God, for whatever reason, perhaps just to prepare the biodeposits for man, allowed uncountable deaths and sufferings over the millennia. And at times, they would argue, God specially created new species.

    * The theistic evolutionists, at least of a certain flavor, would argue that God, for whatever reason, perhaps just to prepare the biodeposits for man, allowed uncountable deaths and sufferings over the millennia. And that this proccess also resulted in the biodiversity, through evolution.

    Both views face the difficult question as to why God chose death and decay of animals as the means by which the planet was prepared. I still fail to see why the question is more vexing for one group than the other.

    And while it’s nice that you admit the problem, I still have not seen a ghost of a solution in anything you have written.

    That’s because neither I (certainly not I) nor anyone else that I know of has a satisfying solution to the theodicy problem.

  39. #39 heddle
    March 3, 2008

    Windy,

    However, creating zebras as zebras would at least avoid the suffering up to that point in the evolution of the equid lineage.

    No it wouldn’t. The preceding species would suffer and die just the same. They would not, however, in that view, evolve into zebras. For evolution to be “more cruel” you would, it seems to me, have to argue that a dying animal would suffer more “knowing” that its death is part of the process of evolution as opposed to a purely “meaningless” event–which to me seems to be an admixture of absurd and counter-intuitive.

  40. #40 windy
    March 3, 2008

    No it wouldn’t. The preceding species would suffer and die just the same. They would not, however, in that view, evolve into zebras.

    Yes, and *that evolution from one species to another consists of deaths*. These deaths and suffering are in principle avoidable by direct creation.

    Also, presumably the OEC god would create animals directly in matching environments, whereas a lot more animals have to freeze to death etc. to achieve such a match through evolution.

    For evolution to be “more cruel” you would, it seems to me, have to argue that a dying animal would suffer more “knowing” that its death is part of the process of evolution as opposed to a purely “meaningless” event–which to me seems to be an admixture of absurd and counter-intuitive.

    No, of course I’m not arguing that. You, however, seem to be arguing that God in the OEC version constantly creates to ensure exactly the same amounts and types of suffering animals are present as in the TE version. OK, but why?

    And you are ignoring other possible mechanisms of organic evolution than the existing one (surely God would be capable of conceiving such). For example, if something like Lamarckism were true, animals would probably avoid some suffering by receiving the mutations that they “need”, instead of having to go through them by Darwinian trial and error. (think sailors with scurvy)

  41. #41 Dave L
    March 3, 2008

    No it wouldn’t. The preceding species would suffer and die just the same. They would not, however, in that view, evolve into zebras.

    I disagree that the quantity of suffering is the same. It seems that many non-TE OEC’s dispute the existence of transitional species, and it is precisely the suffering of these species that are spared when they are specially created. It seems a little silly otherwise; why would God create separate intermediate species that are more and more zebra-like but not fully a zebra, and then separately create the zebra?

    The non-TE OEC would not require any preceding species at all. If the equid ancestors flourished in the savannah until the arrival of big cats which then eventually drove them to extinction, I agree that would essentially happen under both scenarios. By using evolution as his method of creation however, some of these equid ancestors mutate and over generations develop stripes that help them remain camouflaged, for example, and result in the survival of intermediate or transitional species that culminate at some point in the zebra. The non-TE OEC would seem to say that the original equid ‘ancestor’ species was driven to extinction and then the zebra created separately; it seems the net suffering and death is less under this scenario.

  42. #42 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 3, 2008

    That’s because neither I (certainly not I) nor anyone else that I know of has a satisfying solution to the theodicy problem.

    Okay. That seems like a good place to leave this discussion. Thanks for the comments.

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