Evolution and Suffering

Over the past few years I have asked a fair number of creationists what it is they find so objectionable about evolution. They have a great many complaints, but the one I hear most often is some version on the problem of evil. Evolution by natural selection is a cruel and wasteful process. It is not at all the sort of thing a just and loving God would set in motion.

They are hardly alone in thinking that. In his book Living With Darwin philosopher Phillip Kitcher wrote, referring to the evolutionary process:

There is nothing kindly or providential in any of this, and it seems breathtakingly wasteful and inefficient. Indeed, if we imagine a human observer presiding over a miniaturized version of the whole show, peering down on his “creation,” it is extremely hard to equip the face with a kindly expression.

I agree that this is a major problem for supporters of theistic evolution. Whenever I read books claiming to reconcile evolution with Christianity I am always looking in particular for an effective answer to this problem. I have yet to find one, and it is not for lack of looking.

More recently some evolutionists have taken to employing the problem of evil against proponents of intelligent design (ID). This tack was taken in particular by Francisco Ayala in his book Darwin’s Gift. The gift was providing theists with a way of explaining the poor design of organisms. If God is intervening at a molecular level to cause good things like immune systems and eyes (as the ID folks suggest), then he is also responsible for the bad things like cancer and weak lower backs. But if God created through natural law then we must simply accept some bad consequences as the cost of doing business. We need gravity to keep us from floating into the air, but that means some people will die by falling off cliffs.

There is an obvious counter to this. If you set in motion a process that inevitably leads to bad ends then you are just as morally culpable as if you caused the end more directly. If I drop an anvil on a man’s head I do not absolve myself by saying, “It wasn’t my fault! Gravity did all the harm.” We can agree that ID has a problem with suffering, but so does theistic evolution.

This argument seems unanswerable to me. Many philosophers and theologians have tried to refute it, but I do not believe they have come up with anything compelling. A case in point is Michael Ruse, who takes a stab at it in this essay. After a long preamble he gets down to business with this:

Why did God create through law? First, let it be noted that the Genesis stories notwithstanding, there is nothing in Christian theology that prevents Him from doing so. Indeed, if with Augustine we think of God as outside time, then for Him the thought of creation, the act of creation, and the product of creation are as one. Using law rather than miracle does not slow the process down for God, and indeed Augustine himself inclines to think that God created seeds that then developed. (Augustine was no evolutionist, but his theology encourages such thinking.)

It is very misleading to say that God created through law. Whatever your model is for God’s creative activity, it has to involve both supernatural activity and natural laws. The issue is not creation by miracle versus creation through law. The question is only the relative contribution of each. YEC’s and ID’s attribute more to the supernatural than does Ruse, but their explanations are only different in degree, not in kind.

Also, while it is all well and good to say that God lies outside of time, the fact remains that traditional Chrsitian theology holds that humanity is the reason for creation. In light of that, one has to wonder about the purpose of all of that suffering, death and extinction prior to the appearance of humans.

Second, either God created through law or He did not. If He did not, then He has a lot of explaining to do. Why do organisms all carry the marks of a lawbound origin, evolution through natural selection? Just before Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859, the Plymouth Brethren naturalist Philip Gosse hypothesized that God created organisms miraculously with the marks of evolutionary origins. Rightfully, theologians laughed at him no less than scientists. Such a God is a deceiver, and not the God of Christianity — one who traditionally is thought of making one of our tasks that of discovering His glorious creation (however caused).

This simply compounds the error of the previous paragraph. It is a false dichotomy to say that God either created by law or that He did not. In reality he did some things supernaturally and other things by natural laws. The balance Ruse attributes to Him entails millions of years of suffering and bloodsport. By contrast, the balance YEC’s attributes to Him does not have these problems. (It has other problems, of course, like the fact that is in conflict with science at every turn.

Third, if God created through law, why did He use such a painful and at times dysfunctional mechanism as natural selection? Interestingly, no less than the High Priest of the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins, has answered this one. Running through the various evolutionary options — Lamarckism (the inheritance of acquired characteristics), saltationism (evolution by massive jumps), and others — Dawkins points out that either they are false (Lamarckism) or they fail to account for adaptive complexity (saltationism). In Dawkins’s own words:

My general point is that there is one limiting constraint upon all speculations about life in the universe. If a life-form displays adaptive complexity, it must possess an evolutionary mechanism capable of generating adaptive complexity. However diverse evolutionary mechanisms may be, if there is no other generalization that can be made about life all around the Universe, I am betting it will always be recognizable as Darwinian life. The Darwinian Law … may be as universal as the great laws of physics.

(This is from an essay that Dawkins wrote back in 1982, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Darwin.)

Dawkins was making an observation about life in this universe. He was not making an argument about such natural laws as could exist in any possible universe. It is not difficult to imagine systems of natural laws that could exist in some alternate universe which would lead to the creation of the natural world through means that are far less costly than evolution by natural selection. Embedded as we are in this universe those alternatives would seem very bizarre and hard to picture. But surely they are logically possible, which is all that we need.

Even taken at face value these first three points do not address the main theological difficulty at issue here. Why would God set in motion the awful process of evolution by natural selection? So far Ruse has only said that Christians can accept creation through law, that they had better since evolution sure seems like a correct theory of natural history, and that given such laws as exist in this universe it seems that evolution by natural selection is the only option. But why create through law in the first place (to borrow Ruse’s inadequate phrase)?

Fourth, why then didn’t God do things in a different way? Either find or make up other user-friendly laws or create miraculously without the deceit? But, note that it has never been the position of Christians (with some exceptions like Descartes) that God can do the impossible. Dawkins’s argument is that without selection, creation through law is impossible. But why not miracles and no deceit? Well, at the very least one can say that one is not going to get human beings and other organisms or anything remotely like them. For a start, I doubt there is going to be any sex, because reproduction is at the heart of natural selection — more organisms are born than can survive and reproduce, hence a struggle for existence, hence selection. For a second, I doubt there is going to be much eating, because if nothing is doing much reproducing, we are going to run out of food. And that means we are not going to excrete, which is tough news for the dung beetle as well as all of those plants that need fertilization. Frankly, I am not sure you are going to get physical beings at all, which rather does mess up the Christian story. (Emphasis added).

As we have just noted, that is not at all Dawkins’ argument. He was not talking about logical possibilities in any universe, but about empirical possibilities in this universe. It is a huge leap to go from “creation by law” to “everything had to be exactly as it is in our universe.”

But it is the rest of the paragraph that makes it hard to believe that Ruse is serious. That boldface statement is absurd. Why could not God have created physical beings but have done so through miraculous means? That, after all, is precisely what the Bible says He did. Why is it theologically superior to think God would create through evolution by natural selection, a cruel process that does not inevitably lead to the creation of intelligent life, when the Bible itself lays out an alternative that avoids these problems? Ruse does not even address the question.

As it is Christianity holds that we are not purely physical beings. We are the unity of a non-physical soul with a physical body. Our life as physical beings is just a brief preamble to our real lives as purely spiritual beings. If we are the results solely of natural laws, then what is left of the idea of an eternal soul?

You know what else messes up the Christian story? The view of humanity as an unintended consequence of purely physical laws unfolding over fifteen billion years. Millions of years of death and suffering prior to the appearance of human beings. Massive contradictions between science and the Bible. The lack of any trace of intelligent design in the natural world.

There is reason people have to write at book length to defend the compatibility of evolution and Christianity. There is also a reason the best arguments they can come up with are not very good.

Comments

  1. #1 NewEnglandBob
    June 10, 2010

    As you clearly point out, none of these arguments work, and are beacons that show that religion and evolution are, in no way, compatible. Religion can not even hide in the tiny gaps that are not yet filled by science.

  2. #2 Wowbagger
    June 10, 2010

    If the deity involved wasn’t purported to be omnipotent and onmniscient and so forth then theistic evolution would be fine – but Christians want to have their all-powerful, all-seeing god-cake and eat it too; the contortionist sophistry that the rationalising inspires provokes in the observer the same kind of reaction as looking at an MC Escher lithograph.

  3. #3 Joseph Hewitt
    June 10, 2010

    I’m not sure why this is so troubling for them. Christian theologians have spent a lot of time attempting to reconcile the existence of evil with a benevolent god. Why should the suffering inherent in the evolutionary process be any different from all the other suffering in the world?

  4. #4 Wowbagger
    June 10, 2010

    Joseph Hewitt wrote:

    Christian theologians have spent a lot of time attempting to reconcile the existence of evil with a benevolent god.

    Yeah, and what have they come up with? Zip. Really, the only way out of the issue is to claim that their god isn’t benevolent at all – and I’m aware of at least one Christian (David Heddle) who points out that since his god damns people who don’t deserve it to eternal suffering it’s the only way the issue can be reconciled.

    In short: they’ve got a choice between incompetent god and asshole god, and they’re choosing the latter.

  5. #5 smijer
    June 10, 2010

    The problem of evil is a problem for the theism part of theistic evolution in a way that completely overshadows any problem of evil one might run into with the evolution part. The problem of evil in theology isn’t solved by creationism and the artifice of “the fall” (which itself can be incorporated into a theistic account of evolution).

    My take is this. If a person can find a theodicy to explain the problem of evil at all, then there is no additional harm applying the same theodicy, or some variant, within the context of theistic evolution. And it’s up to the believer to decide how, when, or even if they should do this.

    I am always a tad shy about telling religious people how they should shape their theology. Though I am aware of a number of arguments that make creationism “bad theology”, I normally keep them in my pocket when arguing against creationism. Or, I might mention that “some Christians find creationism to be bad theology for this or that reason”. I argue against creationism on the grounds that it is bad science.

    And, yes, I do include in that argument the fact that good evolutionary science is not committed to atheism (or even non-Christianity) any more than good chemistry is committed to a legal use of lysergic acid diethylamide.

  6. #6 smijer
    June 10, 2010

    PS, when arguing against religion, I take theological arguments right back out of my pocket & put them right back on the table – since arguments about religious questions are the proper domain for them.

  7. #7 Pierce R. Butler
    June 10, 2010

    In reality he did some things supernaturally and other things by natural laws.

    For a remarkably ex/at-tenuated value of “reality”.

  8. #8 Dunc
    June 11, 2010

    Evolution by natural selection is a cruel and wasteful process. It is not at all the sort of thing a just and loving God would set in motion.

    Damning people to eternal torment, on the other hand…

  9. #9 Ender
    June 11, 2010

    I’m not a creationist, but the answer to this seems trivially true.

    If God designed the universe as is, with evolution etc, then there is some good reason that it is important it works like this, or it is impossible that it works any other way.

    If you can prove that there is no logically possible reason He would then you’re somewhere. But that is hard because it involves the concept ‘God’ which is not discretely defined, and requires moral judgement (to say that God cannot do evil as he is omnibenevolent requires an agreement of what ‘evil’ is), or knowledge of God’s actual power and limitations (obviously not known, whatever fundies say, and not known ‘by definition’ either, whatever tedious dictionary literalists might have you believe.)

    Now what the reason is, or what limitations on possibility* exist depend on which God you believe in, what you believe you know about that God etc etc. And will vary from believer to believer – and for the vast majority of them will be “I don’t know but if he exists he’s got one”

    However you can’t judge whether God creating this universe is ‘evil’ versus creating a different one without evolution without knowing the state of play – which no one, not even all those theists knows, obviously.
    To explain – if I tell you about the Massacre of the Ebolians on Atraxz VII, where ten thousand died – and ask you if it was a moral action – you can’t tell me because you do not know the reasons behind the massacre, or whether there were any other options. Ditto, if I say God created evolution, you do not know the reasons he did, or whether there were any other options. (See note below for ‘constraints’ on God)

    Essentially unless you’ve shown that all possible conceptions of God are completely logically incompatible with creating this universe, accounting for all possible constraints** then arguing that God wouldn’t or couldn’t create this universe is simply an argument from personal incredulity – i.e. “I can’t think of a possible reason a good God would do this, therefore He didn’t”

    I know that’s pedantic, but it’s also true. I think it’s a very alluring intellectual mistake to overstate your conclusions here. There are many conceptions of God that could not logically create this universe or use evolution – which most theists believe in, if there are conceptions of God that could create this, the reasons why He did are not known therefore He pretty much can’t exist.
    That ‘pretty much’ however is the difference between being able to say “Many conceptions of God could not create this universe/evolution” and “God could not”.

    * Omnipotent can be used to mean different things, but largely is not used to mean ‘can do anything including the logically impossible’, and is often used to mean ‘can do everything except the logically impossible and the simply impossible such as “changing moral law”‘
    Given the fact that many of these believers believe in a God that can be constrained, and they do not know exactly which constraints He is working under we’re working with an incomplete data set and it is nigh on impossible to draw any definitive conclusions.

    **(if you’re dealing with theists primarily rather than the concept of God itself you can limit yourself to ‘constraints any theist has ever believed in/considered/would be happy to believe in) If you think this is a small box, I’d have to disagree.

    p.s. I started this post replying to something… I think… I appear to have gone on about why my claim that it is ‘trivially true’ is correct. Also by ‘trivially’ I mean it’s true that God could have created this universe, but it tells us absolutely nothing about whether he did. He could have had a reason to do it this way, or been unable to do it differently… or he might not have, and therefore didn’t/doesn’t exist and this truth tells us nothing useful about that. Or about much at all.

  10. #10 Ender
    June 11, 2010

    WTF? TL;DR – Or rather, I only meant to make a passing comment, I may have been a little wordy to say not much at all. In my defense it was with regard to leaving no room for my argument to be misinterpreted by laying it out in detail – a habit that probably works against it’s own goal as that leaves more words and sentences to be potentially read differently from how I intended them.

  11. #11 Jud
    June 11, 2010

    Heh, Ender, that was very enjoyable, especially the more recursive overtly self-aware parts. Two thoughts:

    - Occam’s razor. When popping something out of nothing, it is easier if the something is rather small and simple (e.g., the initially very tiny and nearly undifferentiated substance of the Big Bang), rather than big, complex and frighteningly intelligent (e.g., any conception of some entity that intentionally brought about the Big Bang).

    Any explanation that suffices for the big, complex and frighteningly intelligent something (well, y’know It was eternal and just, like, always there, man) works in spades for the small and simple something, but the reverse (well, there are always, like, these virtual particles, man) ain’t necessarily so.

    - If there is a Creator, It seems to have gone to great lengths to cover up Its tracks, leaving, so far as we’ve been able to discern, only natural law-based forces, entities, and occurrences in the universe. This is so utterly at odds with the Great-and-Powerful-Oz conception of a Creator in any religion which has one, that aside from the question of a Creator’s existence, I think we can reasonably conclude all religions so far have just got it dead wrong.

  12. #12 John Kwok
    June 11, 2010

    Am surprised that no one has yet quoted from Darwin’s letter to his friend and colleague Harvard University botanist Asa Gray:

    “I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

  13. #13 John Kwok
    June 11, 2010

    My source for Darwin’s quote was on Stephen Jay Gould’s own essay, “Nonmoral Nature”, published originally in Natural History back in February 1982; I obtained the quote and what follows (see below) from here:

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_nonmoral.html

    At the conclusion of his essay, Gould observed (with a conclusion from Darwin’s letter to Gray):

    “Since ichneumons are a detail, and since natural selection is a law regulating details, the answer to the ancient dilemma of why such cruelty (in our terms) exists in nature can only be that there isn’t any answer — and that framing the question “in our terms” is thoroughly inappropriate in a natural world neither made for us nor ruled by us. It just plain happens. It is a strategy that works for ichneumons and that natural selection has programmed into their behavioral repertoire. Caterpillars are not suffering to teach us something; they have simply been outmaneuvered, for now, in the evolutionary game. Perhaps they will evolve a set of adequate defenses sometime in the future, thus sealing the fate of ichneumons. And perhaps, indeed probably, they will not.”

    “Another Huxley, Thomas’s grandson Julian, spoke for this position, using as an example — yes, you guessed it — the ubiquitous ichneumons:

    ‘Natural selection, in fact, though like the mills of God in grinding slowly and grinding small, has few other attributes that a civilized religion would call divine. . . . Its products are just as likely to be aesthetically, morally, or intellectually repulsive to us as they are to be attractive. We need only think of the ugliness of Sacculina or a bladder-worm, the stupidity of a rhinoceros or a stegosaur, the horror of a female mantis devouring its mate or a brood of ichneumon flies slowly eating out a caterpillar.’

    “[It is amusing in this context, or rather ironic since it is too serious to be amusing, that modern creationists accuse evolutionists of preaching a specific ethical doctrine called secular humanism and thereby demand equal time for their unscientific and discredited views.] If nature is nonmoral, then evolution cannot teach any ethical theory at all. The assumption that it can has abetted a panoply of social evils that ideologues falsely read into nature from their beliefs — eugenics and (misnamed) social Darwinism prominently among them. Not only did Darwin eschew any attempt to discover an antireligious ethic in nature, he also expressly stated his personal bewilderment about such deep issues as the problem of evil. Just a few sentences after invoking the ichneumons, and in words that express both the modesty of this splendid man and the compatibility, through lack of contact, between science and true religion, Darwin wrote to Asa Gray,

    ‘I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.’

  14. #14 Sigmund
    June 11, 2010

    I tend to avoid the problem of evil for the simple reason that it always ends up tangling scientific reasoning with theology. I understand the arguments made by the likes of Jerry Coyne but I think its not worth the effort since theology has shown itself so adept at coming up with ‘rational’ justifications for virtually anything one can think of.
    As an analogy I would suggest that debating the problem of evil in terms of the three monotheisms is like asking why did Gandalf not fly the ring to the volcano with the eagles in the first place. One can answer this two ways – first the theological way in which we speculate about numerous possible justifications why he might have wanted or required it to be carried in such a precarious fashion by the hobbits. Or second, we simply point out that its all a fictional story and Frodo and Sam took it through Mordor because that was the way the author wrote it. While it might have value as a work of literature and add to our thinking about courage, friendship, authority and adversity, it really has no greater authority than any other work of fiction.
    The problem of evil does cause some people to question their faith so I am not saying it is worthless, simply that it is not a ‘killer’ argument against monotheistic religion as is sometimes assumed.

  15. #15 John Kwok
    June 11, 2010

    I think it is rather presumptuous for some religious zealots to contend that evolution is part, as Gould himself noted, of some “religious” doctrine known as “secular humanism”, when they are making a demand with respect to morality upon evolution that they wouldn’t make upon say, for example, cosmology, chemistry, geology or physics. Evolution has nothing to say on the existence of a GOD(s) or on his(their) benevolence. In a somewhat roundabout way, this is what Darwin was implying in his letter to Gray.

  16. #16 Sigmund
    June 11, 2010

    John Kwok said “Evolution has nothing to say on the existence of a GOD(s)”
    Evolution says that certain types of Gods are not a necessity for the development of biology – namely the types of Gods that intervene to change the course of evolution, either by directly affecting particular gene mutations (to give rise to an eye or a wing) or by appearing in ‘person’ to affect the evolution of specific species by altering their history (as Jesus is supposed to have done).
    It is therefore incorrect to say that evolution and science has nothing to say about Gods – it says they are not necessary.

  17. #17 smijer
    June 11, 2010

    why did Gandalf not fly the ring to the volcano with the eagles in the first place

    You didn’t read the books did you? It was because he couldn’t trust himself with the ring. He needed a trusty and unassuming hobbit who would be less tempted by its power & evil.

    That said, I’m not sure why he didn’t set the hobbit down on the back of that Eagle.

  18. #18 Sigmund
    June 11, 2010

    “That said, I’m not sure why he didn’t set the hobbit down on the back of that Eagle. ”
    The problem of eagle?

  19. #19 smijer
    June 11, 2010

    I think of it more as the coming of the Raptor.

  20. #20 Richard Wein
    June 11, 2010

    Jason, I think you’ve misunderstood Ruse’s fourth argument. Ruse is considering how God could have made living beings miraculously but without “deceit”, i.e. without making it look like they are the products of natural selection. Since reproduction is central to natural selection, he thinks that means there would have to be no reproduction. But that’s a non sequitur. The fact that reproduction is central to natural selection doesn’t make it compelling evidence for natural selection. After all, humans have always known that we reproduce, but we’ve only recently suspected that we’re the products of natural selection. There are other reasons (apart from natural selection) why God might want his creations to reproduce.

  21. #21 Jason Rosenhouse
    June 11, 2010

    Richard -

    You’re probably right about Ruse’s intention, but I don’t see why creating physical beings by miraculous means would imply deceit. The creationsists argue that a proper understanding of science makes our miraculous origins perfectly clear to any open-minded person. Prior to the advent of modern science most people agreed with them. They are wrong on the facts, of corse but there is nothing fundamentally impossible abut what they are saying.

  22. #22 sinz54
    June 11, 2010

    Rabbi Harold Kushner attacked the problem of evil in his book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” He showed (as did other philosophers before him) that assuming that God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing inevitably leads to both logical contradictions and contradictions with what we have observed in the natural world and in human history. Thus one of those three propositions must be false.

    Rabbi Kushner concluded that God is not all-powerful. His conception of God is a humble, suffering, compassionate God, more like Jesus who suffered on the Cross rather than waving his hand and banishing the Cross and the Romans to oblivion.

    If God is not all-powerful, then He may not be powerful enough to create every organism and every life form (including Man) from scratch by a succession of miracles. Instead, God may be forced to work through law. And God may not be powerful enough to oppose all the evils that this evolutionary process may bring into being either.

    What good, then, is religion, Rabbi Kushner asks?

    For Rabbi Kushner, the value of believing in God is simply in the courage God gives you to face the future, and in knowing that you are not alone in your travails. Not that God will make a miracle and cure your disease or grant you a billion dollars.

    That answer I can live with.

  23. #23 Dan L.
    June 11, 2010

    *Note*: I will try to head off angry replies by stating up front that I do not mean this post to be a serious answer to the problem of evil.

    My unserious answer to the problem of evil:

    It is clear that evil people, at least most of the time, fail to recognize that they are evil. It seems more likely that evil people are deluded into think they’re good — they think that their inverted value system is the correct one, and that good people are therefore evil.

    Thus, if you were evil you would more than likely be unaware of that fact, and would probably even be convinced that you are good. You would probably even think of good people as being evil.

    Now, if we suppose that “good” means “in accordance with God’s will” and “evil” means “against God’s will,” then we can reconcile the problem of evil and evolution by saying that God LIKES suffering and death. Suffering and death are good. If atheist and humanists find suffering and death to be morally or aesthetically objectionable, it is simply a clear indication that these are evil people with inverted value systems.

    The pious and cruel, on the other hand, are clearly the good sorts of people. This is exactly what people like George Bush and the pope have been telling us all along.

    Problem solved.

  24. #24 Grant
    June 11, 2010

    We can agree that ID has a problem with suffering, but so does theistic evolution.

    I think this statement gets to the heart of the problem here. It is neither ID nor theistic evolution that have a problem with suffering. It is theology that attempts to reconcile the idea of a loving all powerful entity with observed reality that has a problem with suffering. It does not really matter if you want to impose that theology on evolution, or ID, or young earth creationism, or any other mechanism of how life got here. It isn’t the mechanisms of evolution or design that are incompatible with the suffering observed, it is the loving all powerful entity that is in conflict.

    Suffering is not a problem for theistic evolution. It is a problem for theistic anything when the theism in question insists such an entity is involved.

  25. #25 RBH
    June 11, 2010

    More recently some evolutionists have taken to employing the problem of evil against proponents of intelligent design (ID). This tack was taken in particular by Francisco Ayala in his book Darwin’s Gift. The gift was providing theists with a way of explaining the poor design of organisms. … But if God created through natural law then we must simply accept some bad consequences as the cost of doing business. We need gravity to keep us from floating into the air, but that means some people will die by falling off cliffs.

    I pressed Ayala on this in a conversation last year, saying that he was letting God off way too easy. He was vague and even mildly evasive in his response, and I never got a clear response from him.

  26. #26 red pepper
    June 11, 2010

    Rabbi Kushner concluded that God is not all-powerful. His conception of God is a humble, suffering, compassionate God, more like Jesus who suffered on the Cross rather than waving his hand and banishing the Cross and the Romans to oblivion.

  27. #27 John
    June 11, 2010

    That said, I’m not sure why he didn’t set the hobbit down on the back of that Eagle.

    Potentially because as intelligent beings they too would be tempted by the ring? Though that didn’t stop him from OKing the Fellowship… Then again that didn’t turn out right either. So that’s my explanation.

  28. #28 Deepak Shetty
    June 11, 2010

    Jason

    I have yet to find one, and it is not for lack of looking.

    Your argument holds if God is omnipotent. Some of the non – judeo-christian God’s make no claim to being omnipotent (atleast per my limited understanding)

  29. #29 John Kwok
    June 11, 2010

    @ Sigmund -

    Where does evolution say anything about GOD(s), period? It doesn’t. One can be a devout Christian like, for example, Simon Conway Morris, Ken Miller or Francis Collins, or a devoted Atheist like Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens and still recognize the scientific reality of biological evolution. That was something which Darwin himself recognized in his letter to Gray approximately one hundred and fifty years ago.

  30. #30 Lenoxus
    June 12, 2010

    #3 Joseph Hewitt: As Jason said in the OP, the Bible tells a story in which all life is created with comparatively much less suffering than the “real” story. Therefore, such a creation is a logical possibility, rendering any creation with any greater degree of suffering as excessive.

    Most theodices only cover certain categories of evil, and almost-always only with respect to the suffering of humans. Those theodicies which cover all categories of evil at once — God-can-do-what-he-wants, or mysterious-ways — have the major drawback of justifying all possible Gods in all possible universes, which renders our God’s “omnibenevolence” meaningless.

    One of the best known examples of the evidential argument from evil focuses on animal suffering: a deer slowly dying in a forest fire. There’s no answer to it.

  31. #31 SLC
    June 12, 2010

    I wish somebody would supply a definition of “theistic evolution.” For starters, Ken Miller has rejected the term theistic evolutionist as applied to him on a comment on Larry Morans’ blog. His position is that he accepts methodological naturalism without reservation but at the same time is a philosophical theist. Thus he agrees with Eugenie Scott and Barbara Forrest that the first is a scientific concept and the second is a philosophical concept and that the two are separate and distinct.

  32. #32 John Kwok
    June 12, 2010

    @ SLC -

    Agreed. Yours is an excellent observation BTW.

  33. #33 Zach Voch
    June 14, 2010

    As applied to evolution, the problem of evil is better called the `problem of suffering.’ Since if we throw out terms like “perfectly good God” and “creation containing evil,” we open ourselves to the `by what standard’ arguments. These can be circumvented by applying the standards of the theism in question, but a broader approach is to use `suffering’ instead of evil. Suffering is something stronger, a feature which itself can be called sense-data and is therefore not doubted by almost any philosopher, even a solipsistic one. It is the fundamental level of experience and the basic epistemological unit for empiricists.

    The logical problem is then applied to omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent hypothetical deities. Defense of these, in modal terms, requires the claim that our world contains less suffering than any other possible world. It can be circumvented by giving possible worlds essential conditions, like free will, which explain the existence of suffering as a necessary consequence of creation. But, these theodicies open the space of logical possibility to an omnipotent, omniscient deity of any measure of benevolence. Still, it is a fair concession that such a creator god is logically possible. However, the defense required of such gods is purely speculative, concerning imaginary `scales’ of benevolence/suffering and other items. Because these theodicies allow the defense of anything, they might still be attacked as vacuous.

    Still, the persuasive argument from evil/suffering is the evidential one, the overwhelming weight and obviousness of the problem which must be agonized over and cannot be ignored, and is as far as I can tell the argument most corrosive to religious belief. In this, the agonies of evolution are a hefty weight indeed. It is also particularly harsh to Christian theology, which has historically explained the existence of evil and suffering as a consequence of the Fall. Now, we know that the story of Adam and Eve is `metaphorical’ (the fashionable term for fiction), but in order to blame mankind for the thorns on a rose, one has to make the consequences of sin travel backward in time or exist independently of time. But then, the inhospitabilities of the world were present already by the time man descended, and Eden never could be. And in this case, God has therefore corrupted nature against us and preemptively assigned us the blame, `infusing with souls’ or whatever action the metaphorical creation of man took with our damnation already decided. In which case, it certainly could not be said that the actions of man introduced natural evil, as the most common theodicies still claim, and stronger still, the free will argument could not then stand as a defense of natural evil.

    But evolution, combined with modern neuroscience, has greater implications still for theodicy. The brain of mankind has been evolved, so too have our moral and rational senses. I will not state the obvious consequences of this, but I will state how they must be avoided: substance dualism/sudden implanting of moral consciousness/whatever. This was the claim of Collins on the slide that Harris criticized during the NIH appointment fracas.

    Now, we can easily apply modern neuroscience (or even just philosophical machinery) to render substance dualism in the sense these defenses render necessary untenable.

  34. #34 James Sweet
    June 14, 2010

    Third, if God created through law, why did He use such a painful and at times dysfunctional mechanism as natural selection? Interestingly, no less than the High Priest of the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins, has answered this one. Running through the various evolutionary options…Dawkins points out that either they are false…

    Wait wait wait wait…. If you boil this down, what Ruse is saying is that the reason God didn’t use (for example) Lamarckism is because He didn’t.

    I mean, if we assume a priori that God was responsible for evolution, the fact that a particular theory of evolution “is false” tells us absolutely nothing about this alleged God’s reasons for choosing which type of evolution to employ.

    To parody Ruse’s reasoning:

    If I was trying to eat a healthy lunch, why did I choose such a high-calorie and high-fat alternative as a cheeseburger? The answer to this question is quite clear. Running through the various possibilities for what I could have eaten for lunch, we find that they are either false (“I ate a salad”) or else they fail to account for the presence of cheese on my burger.

    ?!?!?!?

  35. #35 eric
    June 14, 2010

    Grant @24: It is neither ID nor theistic evolution that have a problem with suffering. It is theology…

    This is why I find this particular argument largely uninteresting. The TOE doesn’t “move the ball” in the theodicy argument. If the existence of evil was a problem for you (before you learned about TOE), then you’ll likely have the same problem with the mechanism that brings about the existence of evil. OTOH, if you weren’t particularly bothered by the existince of evil in the first place, then why would you be bothered by the physical mechanism that causes it?

    Whatever your opinion on the natural evil of asteroid impacts, its not likely to change just because you learn newtonian mechanics. Ditto the natural evil of competition and the TOE.

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    June 15, 2010

    Daniel said, “You’re grateful to exist, aren’t you? Notwithstanding the tribulations of your ancestors.”

    “I’m grateful to exist,” she agreed, “but in the human case the suffering wasn’t deliberately inflicted by anyone, and nor was there any alternative way we could have come into existence. If there really had been a just creator, I don’t doubt that he would have followed Genesis literally; he sure as hell would not have used evolution.”

    Greg Egan, Crystal Nights

  37. #37 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 16, 2010

    Jason,
    The Calvinist (ie Reformed) response to the problem of evil is that it resulted from the fall. So far, every evolutionist text that I read, and which addressed the subject, makes the false claim that the world as it is is what God created/intended. Far from it. And to represent the world’s current dilemma as such is a false dilemma — a fundamental logical fallacy.

    I take it you’re a traditional Darwinian adaptationist? Is a response to Fodor/Piatelli-Palmarini forthcoming?

    Massive contradictions between science and the Bible.
    A little over a century ago the existence of Nineveh was on the list and the “modernists” of the era scoffed. Until it was found. So please list a few. And be certain that they are not matters of lingustics, cultural influences on the language employed.

    Zach,
    The brain of mankind has been evolved, so too have our moral and rational senses.
    Really? How (functionally) can you apply evolution to morality? Even Jerry Coyne says that doing so is an inappropriate application of the principle? Evolution is about biology, nothing else.
    This represents the vagueness of much current evolutionary thought. The “black box” has some very flexible walls.

  38. #38 Zach Voch
    June 16, 2010

    Really? How (functionally) can you apply evolution to morality? Even Jerry Coyne says that doing so is an inappropriate application of the principle? Evolution is about biology, nothing else.
    This represents the vagueness of much current evolutionary thought. The “black box” has some very flexible walls.

    I agree with Coyne, actually. The area of evolutionary psychology/psychiatry is full of crackpottery or at something largely indistinguishable from it. So far, the best item I can think of is the explanation of certain parts of our moral sense through evolution. It explains kin selection and in-group preferences very well, but at the same time, the direct supportive evidence of evolutionary psychology is lacking, almost necessarily so, as psyches are not fossilized. We can do predictive work with some success, but I agree that the bulk of the field is speculative.

    That said, you’ve missed my point. Unless you claim that morality and rationality is independent of the physical structure of the brain, or afterward, that evolution somehow hasn’t acted on the central nervous system, or that natural selection does not act on behaviors, you agree with my statement. The question then is not “oh what new psychotherapy does this immediately give us?” at this undeveloped point, but rather, “what are the implications of this for ethics?”

    Note that “divinely-implanted moral sense” and “evolved moral sense” have different consequences before we even begin to approach the specifics. If you remember the context of my passage, it was in relation to theodicy and how theistic evolutionists (Collins specifically) defend against these implications: the largely incoherent but also increasingly falsifiable (and falsified) philosophy of substance dualism.

    But that last claim of mine is a strong one, so if you need it, I’ll be happy to provide the basics.

    Does that sound overly vague?

    I’ll respond to something you directed towards Jason:

    The Calvinist (ie Reformed) response to the problem of evil is that it resulted from the fall. So far, every evolutionist text that I read, and which addressed the subject, makes the false claim that the world as it is is what God created/intended. Far from it. And to represent the world’s current dilemma as such is a false dilemma — a fundamental logical fallacy.

    Right, and you’ll notice that he was addressing theistic evolutionists who reject a historical fall. Traditional Christianity has less of a problem with the argument from evil. And he didn’t present this as “the world’s current dilemma,” he presented it as a problem for theistic evolutionists. Notice this: “I agree that [evolutionary suffering] is a major problem for supporters of theistic evolution. Whenever I read books claiming to reconcile evolution with Christianity I am always looking in particular for an effective answer to this problem. I have yet to find one, and it is not for lack of looking.”

    By the way, without a historical Adam and Eve, how does your fall of man story go? And further, evolutionary suffering predates humanity. Did the consequences of the fall go back in time or was the Earth preemptively corrupted against us? I’ve already outlined this problem in my original comment. Among evolutionists, you might understand why the Fall doesn’t end up in the books.

    And for this:

    I take it you’re a traditional Darwinian adaptationist? Is a response to Fodor/Piatelli-Palmarini forthcoming?

    I believe that http://bostonreview.net/BR35.2/block_kitcher.php has this one fairly covered. Also, this post was rather irrelevant to the varying degrees of adaptationism in evolution, so I’m not sure why you felt the need to put this down. This next part is also interesting:

    A little over a century ago the existence of Nineveh was on the list and the “modernists” of the era scoffed. Until it was found. So please list a few. And be certain that they are not matters of lingustics, cultural influences on the language employed.

    Hi! Evolution here, what’s that about a global flood? I’m willing to let details about the sun standing still and such pass as in context with poetic verse. Old Testament cure for leprosy? Something about bird blood. If I wanted to be harsh, I could list all of the miracles in scripture, but we’ll stick to items directly contrary to evidence as opposed to directly contrary to the scientific mind.

    Seriously.

  39. #39 eric
    June 16, 2010

    The Calvinist (ie Reformed) response to the problem of evil is that it resulted from the fall.

    You’re putting the cart before the horse. In the traditional story, Adam and Eve’s bad actions caused the fall, not the other way around.

    Adam and Eve disobeyed God before the fall. So, either evil did not result from the fall or disobeying God isn’t evil.

  40. #40 Owlmirror
    June 16, 2010

    So far, every evolutionist text that I read, and which addressed the subject, makes the false claim that the world as it is is what God created/intended. Far from it.

    Sorry, we can’t help taking your own theology and treating it with more consistency than you do.

    How can God have not intended for evil to occur? Did he not know what would happen? Only complete ignorance would absolve him.

    So it cannot be false that God did not intend for evil to exist.

    Also, Isaiah 45:7.

    And to represent the world’s current dilemma as such is a false dilemma — a fundamental logical fallacy.

    Only if God does not have the attributes traditionally ascribed to him. Which one(s) do you jettison? Knowledge, power, or goodness?

    You cannot have them all and declare the dilemma false. At least, not without reversing the meaning of true and false.

    Massive contradictions between science and the Bible.

    A little over a century ago the existence of Nineveh was on the list and the “modernists” of the era scoffed. Until it was found. So please list a few.

    Bible: Earth created first, then plants, then the sun, moon and stars simultaneously.

    Science: The universe expanded during the Big Bang, matter condensed to eventually form first-generation stars, which went supernova, finally resulting in our sun, a third generation star, and the solar system, including our planet Earth. This took place over 9 billion years or so. Plants evolved long after the formation of the Earth.

    That’s chapter 1. You want more, or do you want to whine about interpretation?

    The brain of mankind has been evolved, so too have our moral and rational senses.

    Really? How (functionally) can you apply evolution to morality?

    Evolution is about the changes in a population over time. Morality is about how members of a population behave, and specifically how they behave towards each other.

    If some change occurs in a population that causes changes in behavior that lead to greater cooperation which leads to greater survival of the population(s) that have that behavior, and morality is what that behavior is called, then clearly, morality can and does result from evolution.

    This represents the vagueness of much current evolutionary thought.

    Your argument from ignorance is noted.

  41. #41 HornSpiel
    June 17, 2010

    Hi, Jason,

    I’m a Newbie on your blog having fond it here following a thread from Biologos. Seems like a nice place with lots of activity.

    You write:

    I am always looking in particular for an effective answer to [the problem of evil]. I have yet to find one, and it is not for lack of looking.

    Let me suggest this thought: God made the world of physical life dangerous because the world of spiritual life is dangerous.

    The Genesis account indicates that evil/death, or at least the potential, existed in the Garden before the fall. the Snake being the prime example, but also the Tree as a temptation, and Man as prone to temptation due to their desires.

    ‘Why evil?’ is still an open question. But ‘Why evil in creation?’ Because it is a reflection of realities in the spiritual realm.

    This is not a comprehensive answer, obviously, just a direction to ponder.

  42. #42 eric
    June 17, 2010

    Why would God make a spiritual world that is dangerous? Does he like his bloodsport with a side of ectosport?

    Same theodicy problem. The ball hasn’t moved.

  43. #43 Owlmirror
    June 17, 2010

    Why would God make a spiritual world that is dangerous?

    Perhaps the implication is that God is not the creator of the spiritual realm, and is thus neither omnipotent nor omniscient, nor eternal. And quite possibly not benevolent, either.

    Those with a tendency for Gnosticism can come up with all sorts of scenarios that might make for interesting stories.

    Does he like his bloodsport with a side of ectosport?

    Positing the book of Revelation to be a “true” depiction of what God wants to happen, the answer is absolutely yes.

  44. #44 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 17, 2010

    eric,
    You’re putting the cart before the horse
    What traditional Christianity are you talking about? The disobedience was the fall. Same thing.

    The ball hasn’t moved.
    Did you miss the entire point? This is not the same world (same conditions) that was created. The terms are different because of the fall. If you can’t make a coherent argument, don’t make one. Your point is laughable.

    owl,

    Sorry, we can’t help taking your own theology and treating it with more consistency than you do.
    Really? Which theological school are you referring to? Which theologians, modern and classic, and identify the points as mine. I’m sure you can provide names and substantive quotes to show both your point and to, somehow, show that I don’t know what I’m talking about. (IOW, you are here out of your element and ought to consider a hasty, strategic retreat.)

    Isaiah 45:7
    You must learn to read, really. Honestly. “Evil” is often used as a parallel to “pain” and is not the same as moral behavior and moral action. No whining about interpretation. Just a notation about woeful ignorance.

    Evolution is about the changes in a population over time. Morality is about how members of a population behave, and specifically how they behave towards each other.
    So you are an adaptationist. But again you failed to draw the connection. How is behavior automatically an adaptation? There is no necessary causality here.

    Your argument from ignorance is noted.
    Hmmm. Ok. So you think the ‘black box’ of adaptationism answers all questions? Does it work in all situations? Are the arguments not constructed in the broadest of terms to pretend to answer questions? If adaptationism were so universally accepted then there would be no PG or PE or ND. None. Check this out: http://www.landesbioscience.com/journals/cc/article/4557
    And, of course, give What Darwin Got Wrong a good read. You will be enlightened and might even cease to call people “ignorant” just because they disagree. (An education would do you good.)

    what God wants to happen
    What will and what one wished are quite difference. There is this thing called “free will” that is a part of most Christian theology, in one form or another.

    I won’t deal with the remainder of your nonsense because life is too short.

  45. #45 Dan L.
    June 17, 2010

    What traditional Christianity are you talking about? The disobedience was the fall. Same thing.

    Eric’s point stands. If disobedience WAS the fall, and if disobeying God is evil, then at least ONE incidence of evil — the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the fall itself — is not caused BY the fall. Pretty simple logic if you buy into that “nothing can cause itself” crap.

    Ultimately, if the world is NOT as God intended, then God is not omniscient, clearly, because he would have known about His failure beforehand and done things differently.

    Could someone explain to me how an omnipotent entity can have an identity in the first place? My self-hood is defined in contrast to all this “other stuff” that I can’t control through an exertion of my will. My desk is not me because I can’t control it with my mind. But if I was omnipotent, the desk would do whatever the heck I wanted it to and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between desk and self. The problem is much worse for anything worth calling “God.”

    Or you can fall back on the “we can’t know or understand the mind of God” thing and just admit that any assertions you make about the nature of God are completely ad hoc.

    So you are an adaptationist. But again you failed to draw the connection. How is behavior automatically an adaptation? There is no necessary causality here.

    Yes there is. Human behavior is the result of the operation of the human brain. The human brain is a product of evolution. Specific human behaviors are not necessarily the result of evolutionary adaptations, but the range of variation in human behavior IS determined by the structure of the brain, and thus its evolutionary history.

    Either that, or you’re a substance dualist. In which case, the burden of proof is on you to provide even one good reason why we should believe in “spirit matter.”

    And, of course, give What Darwin Got Wrong a good read. You will be enlightened and might even cease to call people “ignorant” just because they disagree. (An education would do you good.)

    You say this as if the book hadn’t already been demolished by competent reviewers. Almost every philosopher and evolutionary biologist who has read this has made very clear arguments to the effect that these guys DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY’RE CRITICIZING.

  46. #46 HornSpiel
    June 17, 2010

    IMHO

    God allowed suffering, pain, and evil.
    Man chose suffering, pain, and evil.
    God suffered pain and evil for Man’s sake.
    God will redeem suffering, pain, and evil for His sake.

    Biblical theodicy is not trite or easy. It is a true paradox: two (or more) seemingly contradictory ideas that must both (all) be true.

    God is good and beyond our finite understanding. That is why faith is necessary.

  47. #47 Wowbagger
    June 17, 2010

    HornSpiel wrote:

    Man chose suffering, pain, and evil.

    Really? I don’t remember making that choice. Do you?

    Punishing someone for the choices of others is unjust. I, personally, did not choose ‘suffering, pain and evil’; to claim the right to sentence me – or anyone else – to an eternity of suffering when I do not act in such a way to deserve it is the action of a true monster.

    But it matters little, since this being – and the paradox you claim it entails – exists only in the minds of the deluded.

  48. #48 Zach Voch
    June 17, 2010

    Colin seems to have forgotten my response. I’ll note that and move on. If anybody else notices that he uses the existence of What Darwin Got Wrong itself as proof that we’re somehow missing something, they’ll also note that reviews have been given to him.

    By the way, Colin, Eric quoted and responded to Hornspiel’s idea, not yours. Eric’s point, if I understand it correctly, is that the ball hasn’t moved in the sense that Eric’s scenario does nothing to counter the argument from evil. You also seem to have missed something Hornspiel included, namely that evil in some form (i.e. the Serpent) existed before the Fall.

    If you can’t understand context and give coherent responses yourself, you have no place mocking others as laughable and incoherent. You already did this to Jason’s argument in your first comment, citing the exclusion of the traditional explanation of evil as presentation of a false dilemma by evolutionists. You repeat this type of error in other places, but I think the point is made.

    You are also assuming that everybody here is an adaptationist and citing What Darwin got Wrong as some sort of revealed truth that renders the position untenable. You’ll notice that nobody claims that every behavior is adaptive. But that does not change whether or not evolution acts on behaviors. For example, claiming that a particular behavior is selected for as opposed to being a Gouldian `spandrel’ can be problematic, and that’s the main thrust of What Darwin got Wrong, but spandrel or not, that does not change whether or not morality evolved. If you actually read What Darwin got Wrong, you’ll notice that none of the points you made are actually relevant to what we’ve been discussing. Did you fail to notice that the work you cite so incessantly does NOTHING to support your position, even if it was relevant?

    Colin, while life is too short, try having a clue what you’re talking about to begin with. It saves that precious time you’re so concerned about. It’s hard to bear the irony of your condescension without applying it in turn, so seriously, take the issues seriously.

  49. #49 Zach Voch
    June 17, 2010

    Ok, now that that bit of unpleasant obviousness is out of the way, let’s move on. What HornSpiel has to say here is far more interesting.

    Biblical theodicy is not trite or easy. It is a true paradox: two (or more) seemingly contradictory ideas that must both (all) be true.

    God is good and beyond our finite understanding. That is why faith is necessary.

    First, I take your first sentence here as an honest and commendable admission. But the second is what is rather worrying.

    Here’s what you are in effect saying:

    (1) I accept that X is contradictory.
    (2) I believe X anyways because our reason doesn’t apply to X so long as it yields (1).

    This is part of what we might call a problematic difference between methodologies as used in secular philosophy/science and religion. In science and free inquiry, perhaps the most important goal is the elimination of bad answers in pursuit of good ones. In theology, particularly apologetics, there is a small set of “answers” that must be defended, regardless of the problems or unlikelihoods involved.

    So, while I appreciate HornSpiel’s honesty about his/her feelings on the matter, I’m having trouble with the intellectual integrity of the faith defense. If HornSpiel were to find a convincing theodicy, would our “finite understanding” then be adequate?

    I suspect it would be. Do we see the problem?

    To the theologian, reason and logic and science are contingent on agreement with theology. If the wrong results are produced, they must be “tempered” with some “other way of knowing,” faith in the contradictory seeming to be the most fashionable alternative.

    I’ve just finished rereading Candide today, and the remark of Martin(I think) to Candide remains in my mind, saying that it was a good thing that Pangloss was hanged after the earthquake in Lisbon, for it would have compounded the general suffering most cruelly for Pangloss to have run his mouth off to the mangled victims that the earthquake was of course a necessary event, and that all indeed was for the best.

    The question is this: What motivates your faith? What motivates you to believe in spite of apparent contradictions?

    From experience, I would guess that the commitment is an emotional one, but do you not see that what you believe might actually be a very terrible thing?

  50. #50 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 17, 2010

    Assorted responses

    Colin seems to have forgotten my response. I’ll note that and move on. If anybody else notices that he uses the existence of What Darwin Got Wrong itself as proof that we’re somehow missing something, they’ll also note that reviews have been given to him.
    The existence of it? Well, I read Coyne’s review. He refused to answer the hard questions and did exactly what F&P described — he chose an optimum example to support his premise. (I have a fuller review on Amazon and also First Things/Evangel.) He won’t deal with teleology and its problems. He won’t deal with examples that contradict his black box. And he was not civil enough to acknowledge MPP’s biology background. Such incivility was, let’s just say, less than generous. Have your read the book? Or do you still think all the questions have been answered just because you don’t want to listen to them?

    By the way, Colin, Eric quoted and responded to Hornspiel’s idea, not yours. Eric’s point, if I understand it correctly, is that the ball hasn’t moved in the sense that Eric’s scenario does nothing to counter the argument from evil. You also seem to have missed something Hornspiel included, namely that evil in some form (i.e. the Serpent) existed before the Fall.

    Am I not allowed to respond to other remarks? Really. The condition of the earth and the human condition was the result of the fall. (Not “Fall” — it’s not a season. You really must work on your spelling.)

    Jason opened the door to other relationships between Christianity and evolutionary theory structures with his closing remarks.

    You know what else messes up the Christian story? The view of humanity as an unintended consequence of purely physical laws unfolding over fifteen billion years. Millions of years of death and suffering prior to the appearance of human beings. Massive contradictions between science and the Bible. The lack of any trace of intelligent design in the natural world.

    There is reason people have to write at book length to defend the compatibility of evolution and Christianity.

    He opened the door beyond TE.

    Specific human behaviors are not necessarily the result of evolutionary adaptations, but the range of variation in human behavior IS determined by the structure of the brain, and thus its evolutionary history.
    That’s the same incoherence that WDGW notes. It amounts to nothing less than the intensional fallacy.

    You are also assuming that everybody here is an adaptationist
    No. I only responded to the hints of it. Please, get real.

    Biblical theodicy is not trite or easy. It is a true paradox
    That depends upon the specific theodicy. For instance, to insist that the deity in question has created a deterministic environment and then raise the question of pain & evil is to create a paradox. But the God of the Bible is not deterministic. That is a malformed question, a false dilemma. (It is, though, a problem for the determinist who thinks that such theology is Christian.)

    Here is a prime example of such a failed theodicy claim:
    Ultimately, if the world is NOT as God intended, then God is not omniscient, clearly, because he would have known about His failure beforehand and done things differently.
    It assumes something about intention, success, and failure. But it is very poorly stated. What does omniscience have to do with anything here? Knowledge is not causal. Maybe the author meant omnipotent or some other definition of absolute and deterministic sovereignty.
    Now a fun paradox is for the materialistic determinist in the naturalistic-evolution world to suggest that they have choices. And then ask that person to explain how anything is decided. Oh, illusion of the illusory.

    To the theologian, reason and logic and science are contingent on agreement with theology. If the wrong results are produced, they must be “tempered” with some “other way of knowing,” faith in the contradictory seeming to be the most fashionable alternative.
    Well, they’re certainly not abstract objects.
    Again, your knowledge of theology is quite limited.
    Knowledge is frequently reframed. You make it sound merely irrational, and that’s just ignorant. To declare science as “free inquiry” when it opposes faith is, again, ignorant of all of history, theology, and philosophy.

    From experience, I would guess that the commitment is an emotional one, but do you not see that what you believe might actually be a very terrible thing?
    Presumptive little bugger, aren’t you? Go enjoy VanTil’s Introduction to Systematic Theology for your answer.

  51. #51 Wowbagger
    June 17, 2010

    Collin Brendemuehl wrote:

    Now a fun paradox is for the materialistic determinist in the naturalistic-evolution world to suggest that they have choices. And then ask that person to explain how anything is decided.

    But if they answer ‘I don’t know’, you don’t get to assume the correct response is ‘well then, by default it must be because my god wants it that way’ – that’s just god-of-the-gaps logic and has no more validity in this context than it does when applied any of the other gaps people try to cram gods into.

  52. #52 Zach Voch
    June 17, 2010

    The existence of it? Well, I read Coyne’s review. He refused to answer the hard questions and did exactly what F&P described — he chose an optimum example to support his premise. (I have a fuller review on Amazon and also First Things/Evangel.) He won’t deal with teleology and its problems. He won’t deal with examples that contradict his black box. And he was not civil enough to acknowledge MPP’s biology background. Such incivility was, let’s just say, less than generous. Have your read the book? Or do you still think all the questions have been answered just because you don’t want to listen to them?

    What hard questions did he refuse to answer, might I be so bold to ask? If you read the review I linked, and Coyne’s, many of the examples dealt with are F&P’s. Is that dodging the tough cases? Is that ignoring items contrary to the black box? Also, before you answer all of this, did you notice the large part of my response concerning the relevance of What Darwin got Wrong to begin with?

    Am I not allowed to respond to other remarks? Really. The condition of the earth and the human condition was the result of the fall. (Not “Fall” — it’s not a season. You really must work on your spelling.)

    Yes, you are, of course. But you’re not entitled to respond to other remarks pretending that they were addressing your position when they weren’t. You’re not entitled to taking passages out of context.

    By the way, events of some importance are frequently capitalized in many English conventions, e.g. battles. I have some doubt about capitalizing “the fall” in reference, but you should take your heightened sense of grammar to the Wikipedia article and many other Christian sites and make sure that everybody knows that they were wrong in this use. Also, tell them to work on their “spelling,” it’s not entirely relevant, but it seems to be what you think the error is.

    That’s the same incoherence that WDGW notes. It amounts to nothing less than the intensional fallacy.

    Excuse me? You use the term “intensional fallacy,” but I’m not sure that it means what you think it means. (It’s also an `a,’ as there are many types of intensional fallacy.) You’ll notice that F&P do not deny evolution, by the way, only the coherence of natural selection. Again, if you read my passage about it, you’ll understand why your repetitive citing of this work is getting steadily more silly.

    No. I only responded to the hints of it. Please, get real.

    You brought it up rather out of thin air concerning Jason’s post originally, which I noted as rather odd in my original response. Ask me why you bringing the book up out of context might have `hinted’ things to me. Look at your post at 44. Notice your quote against eric and your conclusion that he’s an adaptationist. That did not follow. Note that you used it to sidestep the implication that morality is evolved. Key word – Evolved, not “selected for” or any other concept F&P criticize.

    Well, they’re certainly not abstract objects.
    Again, your knowledge of theology is quite limited.
    Knowledge is frequently reframed. You make it sound merely irrational, and that’s just ignorant. To declare science as “free inquiry” when it opposes faith is, again, ignorant of all of history, theology, and philosophy.

    …hey, you did notice all the rest of the crap I had just quoted above? Did you notice the specific example I just gave from the comments? Of course knowledge is reframed and adjusted and that in and of itself is perfectly rational. By the way, my definition of “free inquiry” is the pursuit of knowledge independently of appeals to authority in general, appeals to (non-personal, at least) revelation being a particular example. Opposition to many popular theologies doesn’t make inquiry free in and of itself, but it is a necessary condition under many circumstances. For example, if I were to attempt to pursue an open question as, say, a presuppositionalist, would my worldview place any constraints on what answers are acceptable?

    Presumptive little bugger, aren’t you? Go enjoy VanTil’s Introduction to Systematic Theology for your answer.

    Remember our earlier little theme, Collin? You know, the one where you quote passages specifically relevant to previous quotes, take them out of context, fire broadsides at nothing, etc…?

    Unless of course you claim to be able to answer for HornSpiel. Perhaps you know him/her better than I, and that’s where HornSpiel picked up his/her theology. By the way, as an avid reader of presuppositionalist literature, how do you feel about HornSpiel, being as you seem to imply a Van Tillian, taking the fideistic line?

    Presuppositionalists don’t like being called fideists, do they? See, I recognize the difference, inexperienced and ignorant fool I am. In my experience, there’s little difference in practice, perhaps, but they are technically distinct positions at least.

    Pay attention to what you’re reading, or buggering.

  53. #53 Owlmirror
    June 18, 2010

    This is not the same world (same conditions) that was created. The terms are different because of the fall.

    And you know this because you, of course, are omniscient, right?

    If you can’t make a coherent argument, don’t make one. Your point is laughable.

    Ha! Oh, the irony.

    Really? Which theological school are you referring to?

    Any and all schools that posit that God exists, created all things, and is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent.

    Which of those does your school deny is the case?

    (IOW, you are here out of your element and ought to consider a hasty, strategic retreat.)

    Nuts. You first.

    You must learn to read, really. Honestly.

    More irony.

    “Evil” is often used as a parallel to “pain” and is not the same as moral behavior and moral action.

    Because pain is not an evil thing to deliberately and willfully create?

    —-

    So you are an adaptationist.

    And you’re a creationist.

    But again you failed to draw the connection. How is behavior automatically an adaptation? There is no necessary causality here.

    How is it not an adaption? Are you suggesting that a behavior, such as parental care, cannot possibly lead to greater survival of the offspring of those parents?

    If adaptationism were so universally accepted then there would be no PG or PE or ND.

    I don’t know what you’re trying to say here, and I bet that you don’t either.

    Check this out: [Universal Genome in the Origin of Metazoa: Thoughts About Evolution, by Michael Y. Sherman]

    A brief review of evolution in light of biological developmental and development signaling mechanism… but so what?

    The above not only does not support your argument, it is completely irrelevant to anything you seemed to have been trying to say. Did you mean to post some other link?

    And, of course, give What Darwin Got Wrong a good read.

    Why?

    You will be enlightened

    How?

    and might even cease to call people “ignorant” just because they disagree.

    Are you whining about that “argument from ignorance” line?

    Are you really unaware that that’s what the logical fallacy you were making is called?

    —-

    The condition of the earth and the human condition was the result of the fall.

    And god created those conditions, and therefore is responsible for them.

    (Not “Fall” — it’s not a season. You really must work on your spelling.)

    Sure, colin. Whatever pedantic little hair-splitting nitpick you make must be right.

    Be sure to inform the guys who wrote: “Thus, though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall, good works are a result of God’s saving grace.” They don’t have your omniscience to guide them.

    That’s the same incoherence that WDGW notes. It amounts to nothing less than the intensional fallacy.

    Unless somebody can provide evidence for substance dualism, it most certainly is not.

    But please feel free to perform an autocephaloectomy, and then exhibit behaviors.

    No. I only responded to the hints of it.

    Committing the intensional fallacy yourself while you were at it. Oh, the irony.

    Please, get real.

    You first.

    —-

    Now a fun paradox is for the materialistic determinist in the naturalistic-evolution world to suggest that they have choices.

    Oh, the irony, coming from a Calvinist.

    You make it sound merely irrational,

    Because it is.

    and that’s just ignorant.

    You don’t hesitate to hypocritically sling the accusation around yourself, I note.

    To declare science as “free inquiry” when it opposes faith is, again, ignorant of all of history, theology, and philosophy.

    Of course, of course. Because science is limited by empirical evidence and logical noncontradiction.

    Theology is truly “free” to claim anything and its opposite as being “true”.

    Presumptive little bugger, aren’t you? Go enjoy VanTil’s Introduction to Systematic Theology for your answer.

    That’s the presumptive little bugger who unleashed presuppositional apologetics upon the world. Obviously, he only did that because he knew that Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, is the one true God, but Van Til hated him.

    Feh.

    For his sins, Van Til was reincarnated as a router under constant DDOS attack.

  54. #54 eric
    June 18, 2010

    Zach @48: By the way, Colin, Eric quoted and responded to Hornspiel’s idea, not yours. Eric’s point, if I understand it correctly, is that the ball hasn’t moved in the sense that Eric’s scenario does nothing to counter the argument from evil. You also seem to have missed something Hornspiel included, namely that evil in some form (i.e. the Serpent) existed before the Fall.

    To be more specific, hypothesizing that natural evil is here because we’ll have to deal with spiritual evil in the next world (@41) does not change the theodicy problem at all. Without a spiritual world, the question is why does God permit evil to exist. If we add in a hypthesis of a spiritual world, the question is…well, the same. The presence of a spiritual world doesn’t explain evil any better or worse than its absence. The ball hasn’t moved.

    Nor does “the fall” change the theodicy problem. If you assume natural evil was not caused by the fall, you have to ask why God permits it. If you then add in a fall, you have to ask why God permitted the fall.

    These are both ‘add a turtle’ explanations. If the question is what does the turtle rest on, ‘another turtle’ isn’t good enough. If the question is why does God permit evil, ‘its a result of some other evil he permitted’ isn’t good enough.

    The same goes for the TOE, which is why I disagree with Jason about its relevant to theodicy. If the problem is the existence of suffering, saying its a result of evolution doesn’t change the problem of suffering. It doesn’t matter where suffering comes from; its existence is the problem.

  55. #55 Owlmirror
    June 18, 2010

    I was reading the original post again, and noted that no-one addressed this:

    The balance Ruse attributes to Him entails millions of years of suffering and bloodsport. By contrast, the balance YEC’s attributes to Him does not have these problems.

    Er, for YECs, there’s the “suffering and bloodsport” of the near-omnicide of the flood, as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the massacre of the Egyptian firstborn, and the massacres commanded by God throughout the OT.

    Maybe not millions of years, but definitely thousands, by their own count. Is the quantity of time relevant, compared to the deliberateness of the actions?

  56. #56 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 18, 2010

    What hard questions did he refuse to answer, might I be so bold to ask?
    You didn’t read the book, just some reviews. Right? So here is one that I noted that came right out of the book: The link I provided earlier made one of those very important points. Read the geneticists discussion about vision-development genes. It is nothing to triffle with.

    And he didn’t even touch the subject of teleology. He seemed to find more satisfaction in diminishing the credentials of the authors.

    (It’s also an `a,’ as there are many types of intensional fallacy.)
    Unless, of course, the statement is one of class, not one of specificity.

    VanTil was no fideist. A common error by many. Certainly nothing like Barth or the rest of the 20th c. dialetical theologians.

    Which of those does your school deny is the case?
    Well, if you don’t understand the difference between determinism, classic Calvinism, Pelagianism, Orthodox, and all the others, with their perspectives on this issue, the it is proper for me to deny the vague nature of your response. but perhaps others here see through your trollness.

    Oh, the irony, coming from a Calvinist.
    Sounds like, well actually it is, you’ve never read Calvin. He was plain that denying free will was heresy. Calvinism is not determinism. Do your homework.

    If adaptationism were so universally accepted then there would be no PG or PE or ND.

    I don’t know what you’re trying to say here, and I bet that you don’t either.

    This is simple evolutionary theory and history. Darwin held to adaptationism. But in the early 20th c. came the new geneticists (classic Neo-Darwinists, ND) who said that biology is the driving force, not (exclusive of) behavior (adapting to surroundings). Later came Mayr’s synthesis (of both) Gould-Eldridge’s newer genetics (punctuated equilibrium, PE), and Dawkins’ Phyletic Gradualism (PG) based on the fossil record. These positions are all held exclusively. Gould argued specifically that PG was wrong and PE was right. He (and most others, including Fordor & MPP) accepted adaptation as a subordinate principle, but not as the primary engine of evolution.
    There are multiple evolutionary models and none of them, according to all these venerated scientists, have the final answer.

    Nor does “the fall” change the theodicy problem.
    Yes it does. I changes the terms of a discussion as the terms of normally discussion, normally, are agreed upon in order to proceed. If you wish to prove me wrong, doing so is not done by arguing against *someone else’s* position.

    *******

    More another day.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  57. #57 386sx
    June 19, 2010

    Yes it does. I changes the terms of a discussion as the terms of normally discussion, normally, are agreed upon in order to proceed. If you wish to prove me wrong, doing so is not done by arguing against *someone else’s* position.

    When eric said it doesn’t change the theodicy problem, he meant that it doesn’t solve the thoeodicy problem. I.e., yep still a theodicy problem. (I know that because I read the rest of eric’s paragraph.) Glad I could help!! No need for thanks!

    All in a day’s work…

    Just doin my job…

  58. #58 386sx
    June 19, 2010

    Never mind Collin, I see you indeed solve the thoeodicy problem by making a god that doesn’t really have all the godly powers and whatnot. The classic solution. Something’s gotta give somewhere. It’s nice to see when theists recognize that.

    Gods are a dime a dozen though. Anybody can have one however they want, like they do at Burger King. Yes, you can “have it your way”, however you want, logcical, or not logical, both on the same Whopper with Cheese® even! You can even have the same omnipotent god on the same sandwich as a not omnipotent god if you want to “have it your way” at Burger King™.

  59. #59 Owlmirror
    June 19, 2010

    Well, if you don’t understand the difference between determinism, classic Calvinism, Pelagianism, Orthodox, and all the others, with their perspectives on this issue, the it is proper for me to deny the vague nature of your response.

    Your Courtier’s Reply is noted.

    I see that you’ve given up on arguing against biblical contradiction. I’m glad to see that you implicitly concede that you are wrong.

    PS: Troll yourself.

    He was plain that denying free will was heresy. Calvinism is not determinism.

    Given that the doctrine of total depravity denies that I am capable of choosing either good or God, and the doctrine of unconditional election denies that I am capable of choosing to receive God’s salvific grace, and the doctrines of irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints denies that those chosen by God can choose to not be saved, it’s pretty obvious that Calvinism is determinism in denial.

    This is simple evolutionary theory and history. Darwin held to adaptationism. But in the early 20th c. came the new geneticists (classic Neo-Darwinists, ND) who said that biology is the driving force, not (exclusive of) behavior (adapting to surroundings). Later came Mayr’s synthesis (of both) Gould-Eldridge’s newer genetics (punctuated equilibrium, PE), and Dawkins’ Phyletic Gradualism (PG) based on the fossil record. These positions are all held exclusively. Gould argued specifically that PG was wrong and PE was right. He (and most others, including Fordor & MPP) accepted adaptation as a subordinate principle, but not as the primary engine of evolution.
    There are multiple evolutionary models and none of them, according to all these venerated scientists, have the final answer.

    So?

    What on Earth does that have to do with the evolution of morality?

    Do any of those models argue that morality is not a set of behaviors?

    Do any of them argue that behaviors cannot possibly evolve or provide benefit to a population?

    Really, what is your point?

  60. #60 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 19, 2010

    Ok, owltroll,

    #1 Calvin taught plainly (that’s what makes it ‘Calvinsim’) that free choice exists, but is limited. It is free, but libertarian free. Again, not determinism. And again, you perform a shallow misrepresentation for the readers. But no surprise. At least get a clue regarding what you are talking about.

    #2 Disagreeing interpretations of the Bible do not make the Bible wrong (“biblical contradiction” as you claim) but only the interpretations are in conflict. No different than the explicit contradictions between UG, PE, PG, and ND. What happened, happened. It is the interpretations which fall into error.

    #3 So?
    What on Earth does that have to do with the evolution of morality?

    Did you miss your own point (apparently you did) — when you said I had no idea what I was talking about on these subjects — “I bet that you don’t either.”

  61. #61 JimC
    June 20, 2010

    Arguing about morality is absurd as it is simply a word we use for behaviour in our species. There is no tacit ‘right or wrong’ per se just opinions on whether a behaviour is perceived as positive or negative in a certain group. These vary from place to place and culture to culture. Debating an ultimate morality is rather absurd as the species is not static and what benefits a group today may not do so tomorrow.

    Disagreeing interpretations of the Bible do not make the Bible wrong (“biblical contradiction” as you claim) but only the interpretations are in conflict.

    If one cannot ever discern which interpretation is correct it renders it no different than a contradiction in real terms. Its another rabbit hole.

  62. #62 386sx
    June 20, 2010

    What happened, happened. It is the interpretations which fall into error.

    Collin makes statements as though they are facts, when he has no way of knowing for sure. Especially he has no way of knowing a bunch of unknowable invisible “poof” stuff. Welcome to the land of fundie delusional feigned “pretend knowledge”.

  63. #63 eric
    June 21, 2010

    386sx @57:When eric said it doesn’t change the theodicy problem, he meant that it doesn’t solve the thoeodicy problem. I.e., yep still a theodicy problem. (I know that because I read the rest of eric’s paragraph.)

    Yep, that’s what I meant: you have the same theodicy problem with or without a fall.

    A limitation on God’s power (mentioned in @58) is certainly one possible solution, but I have no idea how you derived it from Collin’s posts. I sure couldn’t have :)

  64. #64 386sx
    June 21, 2010

    A limitation on God’s power (mentioned in @58) is certainly one possible solution, but I have no idea how you derived it from Collin’s posts. I sure couldn’t have :)

    I think Collin’s god has limitations, and also does not have limitations, from what I can gather. (Because you can have the same god with limitations, plus the same god without (i.e. hold the limitations, hold the ketchup, extra limitations and ketchup please) at your neighborhood Burger King TM ®, where anyone can “have it your way”.)

  65. #65 Human Ape
    June 21, 2010

    Evolution by natural selection is a cruel and wasteful process. It is not at all the sort of thing a just and loving God would set in motion.

    So fine. Just tell the truth and say their magic god fairy had nothing to do with evolution. If they don’t get that then they’re retarded and a waste of time.

    It’s a bit strange to write so many words about a mental illness. Isn’t it enough to just say these Christians are insane?

  66. #66 Marshall
    June 22, 2010

    It is very misleading to say that God created through law. Whatever your model is for God’s creative activity, it has to involve both supernatural activity and natural laws.

    I’ve noticed that Atheists often like to speak freely about what Christianity requires. Let’s say: God, being ‘eternal’ or ‘outside of time’, “Sees all Ends from the Beginning”. Think of Creation as an industrial project with raw materials, a process and a product. God creates a set of Initial Conditions (at Big Bang time): the raw materials. The Law – physical law, governing the interactions of quantum objects – defines invariant process procedures, which are ‘causality’ itself. Once started, the process operates on the initial conditions to generate the product, which is spacetime w/contents. Humans observe it from inside, but Eternal God can observe it as a finished whole. This would be a sort of  Spinozan God, which many call ‘pantheistic’. Spinoza spoke of ‘God’ with no necessity for “supernatural activity”. 

    But the point is often overlooked that such a God is in position to see from the end back to the beginning, implying that he can tune for an acceptable result (managing a continouous-flow process: one observes product quality while adjusting the inputs and procedures). He can be ‘in control’ in a very large sense; he doesn’t need to have his hand on every quark.
     
    More after the jump

  67. #67 Wowbagger
    June 22, 2010

    Marshall wrote:

    I’ve noticed that Atheists often like to speak freely about what Christianity requires.

    When Christians can demonstrate using evidence (i.e. something other than an interpretation of the bible) that an atheist is wrong about a particular aspect of Christianity that’s obtained by an interpretation of the bible – including what its alleged god can or can’t do – then you can make this complaint. Until then you’re stuck with it, just like you’re stuck with all the other denominations’ interpretations: Mormons, Seventh-Day-Adventists, Jehova’s Witnesses and so forth are all just as right as you are.

    Sorry, but you can’t have your open-to-interpretation cake and eat it too.

  68. #68 386sx
    June 22, 2010

    I like Marshall’s god because it can have the Whopper with Cheese before they even hold the pickles or hold the lettuce. And it can have the same Whopper with extra pickles and lettuce. And then, depending on which one tastes the best, have them hold the pickles or not hold the pickles. And then it can go back and have the best of all possible Whoppers with Cheese®.

  69. #69 eric
    June 22, 2010

    Marshall @67: such a God is in position to see from the end back to the beginning, implying that he can tune for an acceptable result

    What you’re saying is, God thinks the misery caused by evolution is acceptable. Some folks would call that ‘evil.’

    Alternately, you could be saying: God tuned the universe to the best possible result, and this is it. Such a God is not evil like the first one, he’s just not omnipotent because he couldn’t design a universe with the same end goal but less misery.

    But (sigh), thats the same theodicy problem yet again. Evil, impotent, or incompetent are the standard three answers, and its hard to come up with any “additional explanation” of misery which doesn’t just lead back to evil, impotent, or incompetent.

  70. #70 Owlmirror
    June 22, 2010

    Calvin taught plainly (that’s what makes it ‘Calvinsim’) that free choice exists, but is limited.

    And therefore is not free.

    (Heh: Is “Calvinsim” a theology for virtual worlds, Mr. You-really-must-work-on-your-spelling?)

    Disagreeing interpretations of the Bible do not make the Bible wrong (“biblical contradiction” as you claim) but only the interpretations are in conflict. No different than the explicit contradictions between UG, PE, PG, and ND.

    Your false equivalence is noted. Evolutionary theories do not contradict empirical reality, or themselves, but try to account for different aspects of it. It’s possible that one theory will prevail — or a more complete theory, which incorporates all of them in specific situations, will do so. But if one or more theories are specifically rejected, it will be because an actual contradiction with empirical reality is found, and a replacement theory that does not contradict reality will be accepted instead.

    The bible does indeed contradict empirical reality as discovered by science, as I pointed out @#40. I could point out the places where it genuinely contradicts itself, but I suspect that you will simply use the opportunity to commit special pleading.

    So, why do you not reject the bible when this contradiction with empirical reality is discovered? Oh, right. Religion means that you simply refuse to acknowledge contradictions, period.

    What happened, happened. It is the interpretations which fall into error.

    Yup, that’s special pleading all right.

    Did you miss your own point (apparently you did) — when you said I had no idea what I was talking about on these subjects — “I bet that you don’t either.”

    I concede that you did know what you thought you were talking about, but I note that it was a non-sequitur, and that you enlarge your fallacy by continuing it.

  71. #71 Wowbagger
    June 22, 2010

    Owlmirror wrote:

    Yup, that’s special pleading all right.

    And that’s all any defence of religion – whether it be between competing religions or between religion and rationality – ever comes down to.

    For some reason the religious believe the same rules that apply to everything else (including other, competing, religious beliefs with identical amounts of evidence and compelling argument) don’t apply to them and their beliefs.

  72. #72 pough
    June 22, 2010

    Jason, FYI #26 is SPAM that copied and pasted a paragraph from #22 and included a link.

  73. #73 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 23, 2010

    Yes, I shall give more attention my spelling.
    Evolutionary theories do not contradict empirical reality, or themselves, but try to account for different aspects of it.
    Then you do not understand evolution as a “model” which is the very term used to describe it. It is not lab science. It is not paleontology. It is not genetics. Evolution is a wrapper that is intended to allow it to make sense. But there are several, as noted, and they disagree vehemently.
    Not acknowledge this seems to make you quite religious. Much more than I.

  74. #74 Wowbagger
    June 23, 2010

    But there are several, as noted, and they disagree vehemently.

    Yes, referring to the ‘vehement’ differences within the science commnunity is so equivalent to those between the different forms of religion – or even the within the different sects of the (ostensibly) same religion…

    Not acknowledge this seems to make you quite religious.

    No, because the scientists are saying ‘I propose this, but if more evidence appears that renders my position invalid I’ll change my mind because that’s how science works‘; religionists are saying ‘I’m right because I feel I’m right, which means my god is telling me I’m right, and nothing’s going to change my mind, ever. End of discussion.’

    Not just apples and organges – apples and late 15th century Spanish dance techniques.

  75. #75 Owlmirror
    June 23, 2010

    Then you do not understand evolution as a “model” which is the very term used to describe it.

    Yet another non-sequitur. This makes no sense as a rebuttal to what I wrote.

    Evolution is a wrapper that is intended to allow it to make sense.

    A scientific theory is an overarching explanation based on sound reasoning from the empirical evidence; yes. So?

    But there are several, as noted, and they disagree vehemently.

    You’re not providing any example of them contradicting empirical reality, or themselves, so I infer that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

    We know that current theories are incomplete, and look for additional data that corroborates and/or falsifies them.

    You haven’t provided anything one way or another.

    Not acknowledge this seems to make you quite religious.

    Your continued false equivalence is noted. Really, repeating various fallacies seems to be all that you have.

    Much more than I.

    I would be convinced that I was wrong by sound reasoning and evidence, none of which you have provided.

    Would you agree that Christianity was falsified if a time-viewer showed you that the miracles claimed to have happened in the Bible had not occurred?

  76. #76 Marshall
    June 24, 2010

    386sx: I like Marshall’s god because it can have the Whopper with Cheese before they even hold the pickles or hold the lettuce. And it can have the same Whopper with extra pickles and lettuce. And then, depending on which one tastes the best, have them hold the pickles or not hold the pickles. And then it can go back and have the best of all possible Whoppers with Cheese®.

    Very nicely put, you’ve got it exactly. Notice that this is just how Prof. Feynman thought photons work: the wave function explores all alternatives and collapses to a determinate path only when forced to.

    eric: What you’re saying is, God thinks the misery caused by evolution is acceptable.

    Exactly. I can’t think why an empiricist would have any problem with this; it would be “self-evident” if anything is.

    Good old Theodicity, it’s a problem if you think it is. To unravel a syllogism, find which premise is faulty.

    Wowbagger: When Christians can demonstrate using evidence (i.e. something other than an interpretation of the bible) that an atheist is wrong about a particular aspect of Christianity that’s obtained by an interpretation of the bible – including what its alleged god can or can’t do – then you can make this complaint. Until then you’re stuck with it, just like you’re stuck with all the other denominations’ interpretations: Mormons, Seventh-Day-Adventists, Jehova’s Witnesses and so forth are all just as right as you are.
    Sorry, but you can’t have your open-to-interpretation cake and eat it too.

    Was I complaining? Not sure what you’re asking me to do, or why. Would you like to try to defend every verbally literal word Gallileo spoke? Neither would I, but I would acknowledge him as a man who made a great stride forward, can be read today for edification, properly interpreted.

    Any book with no interpretation is just bits in a bucket, no use to anybody. Historically situated interpretative schools or linages arise through a process of Darwinian evolution: descent with modification and selective culling. Lots (most) of anything winds up on the ash heap. I don’t see why an empiricist would have any trouble with that, either.

  77. #77 Owlmirror
    June 24, 2010

    Very nicely put, you’ve got it exactly.

    386sx was making a joke. I guess you agree that God is a joke?

    What you’re saying is, God thinks the misery caused by evolution is acceptable.

    Exactly.

    And you know this because you can read God’s mind?

    To unravel a syllogism, find which premise is faulty.

    Yes, that’s why atheists become atheists; the “God exists” premise is faulty.

    Lots (most) of anything winds up on the ash heap.

    So why not throw God on there as well? Unnecessary and unevidenced idea, and all that.

  78. #78 Wowbagger
    June 24, 2010

    Marshall wrote:

    Was I complaining? Not sure what you’re asking me to do, or why.

    You were implying that atheists shouldn’t be allowed to comment on how Christians interpret the bible – which would be fine if there was only one interpretation of it that all Christians agreed to. But because there isn’t, atheists should be free to point things out as they see fit.

    Any book with no interpretation is just bits in a bucket, no use to anybody.

    But the bible isn’t a book – it’s the Living Word of God™, to use an expression I’ve heard Christians use.

    And the interpretation would be important if there wasn’t any doubt about the premise upon which its relevance rests, i.e. the existence of the god described in it. But because there is no reason to believe the god of the bible does exist, there’s no more need to place any more importance on the bible than on any other work of loosely-based-on-reality-fiction.

  79. #79 Marshall
    June 25, 2010

    386sx was making a joke. I guess you agree that God is a joke?

    It was a good joke, too. On point and very intuitive. When we can’t make and appreciate jokes in the midst of our serious discussions, I think something has gone amiss. The sheer intransigence of this debate and seemingly all debate these days seems to me a huge problem, perhaps The Problem. If you can show how Atheism provides motivation to “love your neighbor as yourself”, to include listening carefully to what that particular neighbor is actually saying, I would be more inclined to take your point.

    What you’re saying is, God thinks the misery caused by evolution is acceptable.
    - Exactly.
    And you know this because you can read God’s mind?

    No, I thought I was clear, this is a purely empirical result. Major premise: God can cause things to be different than they are if he is dissatisfied. Minor premise: things are not different than they are. Therefore, God is satisfied with things as they are. QED. Corollary, there is no such “omnipotent, omnibenevolent” god as theodicy supposes. The observation that some people get stuck here, that they feel a need to contradict the evidence of their own experience, shows that they haven’t arrived at a sufficient concept of god’s nature. You claim there is no sufficient concept, I disagree, and I give examples.

    So why not throw God on there as well? Unnecessary and unevidenced idea, and all that.

    I disagree that God is “unnecessary”, or at least without utility. As to “unevidenced”, it depends on what you are looking for evidence of. For example, miraculous intervention mediated by prayer: “no evidence” in the sense that there are easier explanations for claimed examples; but also no necessity for all theists or for all Christians or for me to defend such examples. Despite what Wowbagger wants to lay on me.

    The world as I observe it is, to me, evidence of something.

    shouldn’t be allowed to comment

    Who’s talking “shouldn’t be allowed”? Not me.

  80. #80 Owlmirror
    June 25, 2010

    If you can show how Atheism provides motivation to “love your neighbor as yourself”, to include listening carefully to what that particular neighbor is actually saying, I would be more inclined to take your point.

    This is a non-sequitur, and a straw-man.

    Theism, I note, provides no such motivation in and of itself.

    Now that you mention it though, I do recall seeing this:

    “In this great and creatorless universe, where so much beautiful has come to be out of the chance interactions of the basic properties of matter, it seems so important that we love one another.”
    – Lucy Kemnitzer

    Of course, she was aware when she wrote that that it was a non-sequitur itself.

    No, I thought I was clear, this is a purely empirical result.

    Not at all. Empirical results require empirical evidence, which you don’t have.

    Major premise: God can cause things to be different than they are if he is dissatisfied.

    Which assumes the conclusion of God’s existence and abilities.

    Minor premise: things are not different than they are. Therefore, God is satisfied with things as they are.

    Or more parsimoniously, God does not exist to change things to be different.

    Corollary, there is no such “omnipotent, omnibenevolent” god as theodicy supposes.

    Then whence the alleged motivation to “love your neighbor as yourself” from theism? It’s as much a non-sequitur as the atheist quote above.

    The observation that some people get stuck here, that they feel a need to contradict the evidence of their own experience, shows that they haven’t arrived at a sufficient concept of god’s nature. You claim there is no sufficient concept, I disagree, and I give examples.

    So just to be clear — your “sufficient concept” of God is one that is neither particularly powerful nor particularly good?

    I disagree that God is “unnecessary”, or at least without utility.

    I mean epistemically necessary; necessary as an explanation for anything currently empirically observable.

    The world as I observe it is, to me, evidence of something.

    Sure; of itself.

    It might also well be evidence of a larger cosmological system in which it came to be and currently exists, but I see no reason to call that “God”.

    It occurs to me to wonder — perhaps you are trying to articulate Pantheism?

  81. #81 Marshall
    June 27, 2010

    I mean epistemically necessary; necessary as an explanation for anything currently empirically observable.

    I agree that naturalism is a sufficient explanation for anything empirically observable. In fact the theology I articulated as much as requires it.

    It occurs to me to wonder — perhaps you are trying to articulate Pantheism?

    I’ve read Spinoza, yes. Recommend him highly.

  82. #82 hoary puccoon
    June 28, 2010

    I don’t know where Collin @56 got his information.

    Steven J. Gould wrote a huge book on theory, in which, along with many other things, he pointed out re punctuated equilibrium that 1.) Some fossil species do show gradual directional change over time, so Dawkins and others who argued for gradualism were partly right; and 2.) Some fossil species show variation around a mean over time, without a progressive trend in any direction. After Gould and Niles Eldredge postulated punctuated equilibrium, scientific journals became more willing to publish these flat trend lines, so punctuated equilibrium had a positive effect in encouraging editors to publish whatever the data showed. As far as I can tell, that pretty much settled the fight. It certainly doesn’t seem to be a hot topic now.

    As far as Neo Darwinism is concerned, that was a hot topic around 1940, when theorists like Ernst Mayr put natural selection and genetics– Darwin and Mendel– together in one package. That was a great step forward at the time, and brilliant, considering they didn’t even know what genes were made of. But 57 years after the double helix and twenty seven after hox genes, it’s hardly a subject that’s raising furious debate. The only person who really seems to have gone after Neo Darwinism is Lynn Margulis. But her theory that chloroplasts and mitochondria are symbiotic single-celled creatures really isn’t part of Neo Darwinism. It’s something radically new. And although people fought her at first, her ideas seem to be taking hold.

    The take-home message is that, although scienctists can have fierce disagreements, they get resolved. Eventually facts come out that everyone accepts and the field moves on. Collin is simply wrong that evolutionary theory has no consensus. There will be debates in the field for a long time to come, but they are based on new data presenting new questions; not on whether genes are made of DNA or species are shaped by natural selection.

    John Calvin, on the other hand, wrote the first edition of his great work in 1536 and the arguments about it haven’t really changed much since. That is the difference between science and religion.

  83. #83 Craig Andrew
    June 28, 2010

    I am of the opinion that you are over-thinking it. God, (or Plato’s Good) whether real or not, plays the same role in our social and moral lives as infinity plays in mathematics; a point on the horizon that gives us orientation and alignment. It is a question of reaction vs. response. Generally, evil is when we react to our environment, good is when we respond to our environment. In evolutionary terms, God is what we aspire towards, our future, and the Devil is our animal past. And, as we understand from our ever increasing knowledge of behavioral psychology, if we only react to our environment evolution occurs very slowly by random mutations. However, if we elevate ourselves, setting our eyes on the horizon to who we wish to become, and responding to our environment by rules and standards designed to get us there (something like the process of decisions a person makes in order to end up with a Ph.d.), we find that we evolve faster and more directly.

    To us, rules like the Ten Commandments are common sense, but they weren’t always common sense. The evolution of human consciousness has occurred far too rapidly for it to be random mutations in behavior. Something had to have scared the crap out of those early humans to get them to override their conditioned behaviors and choose towards a better future.

    But, that’s just my two cents… Have fun.
    Craig

  84. #84 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 30, 2010

    hoary puccoon,
    First, I’ll suggest that if you wonder where I get my ideas on evolution, it’s from reading them. Gould, Prothero, Yockey, Coyne, and many, many more.
    Now, if you want to reframe and only argue about the similarities or commonalities, then perhaps you can say that there is a consensus. But again, they all differ in the engine that drives the change, and that is a real divergence. Period. That is why Gould argued against Dawkins’ position. So the simple question remains: Is it genes that change features that change behavior? Or is it behavior that changes strengths that develops genes? Two very different schools. This is the core of the questions posed by JF/MPP.
    I also found your closing syllogism to be quite humorous. Do you think it possible that evolutionary theory is changing because nobody *really* knows how it works? Who was right — Darwin or Dawkins or Gould or Fodor or Mayr? This is your position — you should be able to answer it very simply.

  85. #85 Patrick
    June 30, 2010

    Why is there an evolution-creation debate? In spite of the fact that the evolution hypothesis is stuck in step 3 of the 7- scientific method and there are 4 gaps in the hypothesis that evolutionary scientists admit cannot yet be explained, Evolutionists have already won. Evolution is taught in public schools, creationism is prohibited. Evolutionists have won in the courts. The media unanimously supports evolution. Why don’t Evolutionists simply ignore the Creationists’ objections? Or, why not point out that Creationism is not within the purview of science because God is not a falsifiable hypothesis nor can he be proved by science?
    Consider the fact that of the 6 major theological positions on creation, 3 allow for evolution, albeit with a divine influence of some sort, such as to fill those 4 gaps that scientist are struggling with. There are 2 reactions when a Creationist proposed theistic evolution as an answer to the incomplete hypothesis testing and the 4 gaps. An evolutionary scientist would respond by admitting there is no scientific explanation for the gaps, as yet, and dismiss the influence of God as something outside the purview of science. The Evolutionist philosopher, however, becomes extremely agitated at the mention of God because Evolutionism is about atheism, not science.
    As a philosophy, Evolutionism is not held to the rigor of hard science – the scientific method can be ignored. As a philosophy, Evolutionism can object to theism whenre hard science cannot comment. Evolutionism is a major cornerstone of Marxism and Human Secularism because is supports those philosophies built on atheism. Twenty-five percent of the Humanist Manifesto is devoted to opposition to religion and theism, and the establishment of evolution and atheism. As long as there is a God, those philosophies fail. But Darwin supplied the “missing link” to their philosophies,; a way to explain how we got here – without a God.
    Science and faith are not mutually exclusive, but theism and atheism are. So when a supporter of evolution attacks creation (and usually the Creationist), he does so as a philosopher, not as a scientist. And, when a Creationist opposed evolution, he must do so as a philosopher/theologian – not as a scientist. An recommended resource regarding the creation-evolution debate can be found at http://sechumanism.blogspot.com/p/secular-humanism.html

  86. #86 Owlmirror
    July 1, 2010

    Why don’t Evolutionists simply ignore the Creationists’ objections?

    I’m glad you agree that your utter incomprehension of the scientific method, your false equivalence, and your arguments from ignorance ought to be ignored.

    The Evolutionist philosopher, however, becomes extremely agitated at the mention of God

    I’ve noticed that theists become extremely agitated at the mention of God being responsible for all of the suffering in the world.

    And, when a Creationist opposed evolution, he must do so as a philosopher/theologian – not as a scientist.

    Indeed.

    So what’s your explanation for suffering? Is God indifferent, stupid, cruel, or weak?

  87. #87 Owlmirror
    July 1, 2010

    But again, they all differ in the engine that drives the change, and that is a real divergence.

    They certainly all agree that there is an engine. They differ on the details of its configuration, and which components are most significant/important.

    So the simple question remains: Is it genes that change features that change behavior? Or is it behavior that changes strengths that develops genes?

    Obviously, the question is not simple.

    And the answer is presumably not simple either.

    Do you think it possible that evolutionary theory is changing because nobody *really* knows how it works?

    I think it’s changing because all scientific theories change with new evidence, and new perspectives on the evidence.

  88. #88 Wowbagger
    July 2, 2010

    Owlmirror, this assclown has been posting this tripe all over the place; elsewhere it was surmised he’s studying a ‘degrees’ at a ‘college’ that includes credit for asking inane questions of scientists.

    Don’t let that stop you pointing out the inadequacies, though…

  89. #89 hoary puccoon
    July 11, 2010

    Collin Brendemeuhl @84–

    You do not seem to have a basic grasp of how science works. Of the people you mentioned, who was right? Why, all of them, of course, about some things. I haven’t bothered to read Jerry Fodor, but I’m certain even he didn’t screw up absolutely everything. Darwin and Mayr were great in their day, but their ideas have been built on since, to the point that some are no longer recognizable. Gould is gone– too soon– and a lot of what he wrote has been disproven by further research. Dawkins has focused more and more on writing popular science, so he’s pretty accurate about what he says, but it’s not cutting-edge.

    As far as “is it genes that change features that change behavior? Or is it behavior that changes strengths that develops genes?” The way you wrote this, your second alternative describes Lamarckism. That was a hot topic in the 19th century, but, trust me, kiddo, it’s not what biologists are debating now.

    As for your last question, “Do you think it possible that evolutionary theory is changing because nobody *really* knows how it works?” No, I think evolutionary theory is being increasingly refined as new data are collected. Genes are not going to disappear. Natural selection is not going to disappear. But when there are genomes of more and more species are available, when the proteome is worked out, our understanding of life on earth will be far deeper than Charles Darwin ever dreamed it could be. It is the great intellectual adventure of our age. And you are missing out because it contradicts Calvin. That is sad, Collin. That is just so sad.

  90. #90 madellen
    September 17, 2011

    The popular acceptance of any religion or of any replacement ideology, rests on the plausability and utility of its treatment of human suffering. Theodicies of suffering offer comfort and a promise of emancipation from suffering. The central tenents of religion embrace suffering in multi-dimentional terms. A non-theist philosophy, like Buddhism, must address human suffering in similar terms, and in accessable language (which is the function of myth and narrative) for it to be well received.