Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 15

Has evolution dumbed us down? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been awhile since we’ve looked at the work of Glenton Jelbert and his book Evidence Considered. We’re going to return today with looking at his chapter in reply to Nancy Pearcey. The theme is that evolution dumbs us down. Pearcey argues that Darwinism eventually leads to pragmatism and postmodernism since all our ideas are products of evolution. This is reminiscent of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. I have no wish to defend or critique the argument here.

Let’s get to what I do disagree with. Jelbert says that Pearcey gets wrong what atheism is. Atheism is not saying that there is no God. It is saying that a person does not believe there is a god. He goes on to say that this is important because it determines the burden of proof. One supposedly can’t prove that there is no God, just like you can’t prove there is no tooth fairy.

Well, these people disagree:

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Ultimately, I find this a dodge. The atheist is just saying that he doesn’t believe and the burden is automatically on the theist and if the theist doesn’t prove his claim sufficiently, the atheist is justified. Would the same be said to a person who is leaning towards a flat Earth and says “I’m not saying the world is flat. I’m just saying I don’t find sufficient reason to believe that it’s round.”? Would the same be said to the person who is arguing against evolution? Jelbert’s position should be considered more agnosticism, but then the burden needs to be placed on the atheist and the theist both. Whoever makes a claim has a burden.

It’s also a problem because let’s suppose that the claim “God exists” is true. In this case, theism is true, being the proposition that “God exists” is an accurate description of reality. On the other hand, let’s suppose that there are still atheists who say they lack God belief. In this universe, Theism could be true, in that God exists, and atheism could be true, in that people still lack God belief. This is something nonsensical though since atheism and theism are contradictories and contradictories cannot be be true. Theism is not making a statement about a subjective belief but about reality. If that is so, the denial of that statement is not making a statement about subjective belief, but reality.

And also, yes, God can hypothetically be disproven. One could show a necessary contradiction in the nature of God. That’s the way we disprove the idea of a square circle. That’s why there are such things also as the problem of evil that if they don’t disprove God, they at least try to show that God is highly unlikely.

Jelbert goes on to say that the big revolution of science was the freedom to say you don’t know something. Thus, you can try to find it out empirically. At this, one has to wonder if Jelbert has done any real looking into the medieval period. Empirical investigation was nothing new. It was being done. Scientists were trying to find natural explanations for most everything.

Jelbert then says that until God presents Himself for experimentation, we have no other recourse than naturalism, but why should I think that? This isn’t a scientific explanation but a theological one. If there is a God, then He would present Himself for scientific experimentation to us. Why should anyone think that?

“Doesn’t God want us to know He exists?” Why? What if God’s stance is sufficient evidence has already been given? What if He wants people to come to Him who want to know Him and not just treat Him like an object of trivia? What if He’s looking for people who are disciples?

But Jelbert has an example of this! Prayer experiments! Prayer experiments have not found prayer to be effective. Somehow, theists always have an excuse for God’s indolence!

Indolence?

That’s an odd way of putting it. The word refers to laziness or sloth. I’m sorry. We performed an experiment and God was obligated to play along? God is not like a machine where if you push A, B happens. There are no guarantees. Any married man should understand this. What your wife will like one time, she could find just annoying the next time.

Besides that, there are always too many variables. How do you know no one else is praying for a person in an experiment? How is the faith of each person involved in praying for a sick person? There is too much we don’t know, and from what we don’t know, we’re able to somehow make great leaps in logic. I’ve never been impressed by the idea of prayer experiments and having those tested. (Not to mention, there’s this little thing in the Bible about not putting God to the test.)

Pearcey goes on to say that each worldview gives an account of origins. Jelbert says that this is not correct. Scientists are fine with saying they don’t know and do not have undue concern for the origins of the universe. This must be news to Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking. He also says theists had ages to preach their truth with fervor only to adjust their position because of science. With this, Jelbert is perpetuating the myth of the warfare between science and religion. Yes. The conflict hypothesis is a great myth. It is recommended that Jelbert look at resources like Newton’s Apple And Other Myths About Science.

Pearcey also says that morality is always derivative from one’s worldview. Jelbert says this seems to contradict chapter 2 where absolute morality could demonstrate that there is a God. Pearcey is, however, right. What one believes about morality involves their whole worldview. Also, I don’t think Copan is saying morality proves that there is a God, but rather it gives strong evidence and he thinks God is the best explanation.

In closing, I have to say that yes, this isn’t meant as a proof of God, but a part of a cumulative case. I do agree that if the science is that evolution is true, we have to accept that and not just look to the consequences, but i think many times in his response Jelbert has made a number of philosophical and historical errors. Largely, having so many chapters endorsing the conflict hypothesis doesn’t really help. (And in all fairness, scientific apologetics doesn’t really impress me anyway.)

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Controversy of the Ages

What do I think about Theodore Cabal and Peter Rasor II’s book published by Weaver Book Company? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When it comes to the views on the age of the Earth, by and large, you have three views. You have the YEC (Young-earth creationism) view which places Earth to be at about 6-10,000 years old. You have the OEC (Old-earth creationism) view which says Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but that macroevolution didn’t take place. Then you have the TE (Theistic evolution) view that agrees that the Earth is old but says that God used evolution to bring about His purposes.

The authors start off this book with a look at another case that supposedly presented an opposition between science and Christianity, which was the debate about heliocentrism and geocentrism. They argue that Galileo did have the right idea with the approach to the problem in that he was fine with upholding inerrancy, but said we must not hold to the inerrancy of interpretation. Meanwhile, his opponents while skeptical of the new science were also justified in their hesitancy. Why should they suddenly abandon a position they had held for well over a thousand years in a position that had not been verified yet?

From here, we get to the conservatism principle. If you hold to inerrancy, hold to it, but be open to the possibility that you could be wrong and when sufficient evidence is presented, then be willing to change your mind. This is a principle that it would be great if we followed instead of assuming that inerrancy means you must hold certain interpretations to be true.

From there, the writers go on to look at the history of the controversy over Darwinism and how evangelicals responded. This led to a rather staunch position in some circles for young-earth creationism. Most notably was the publication of The Genesis Flood and how holding a young-earth and a global flood became essential staples of the young-earth position.

All of this was done to protect a high view of Scripture and avoid compromise with science. However, as the writers point out, at certain points, even the YECs were agreeing with the science and not going with the “literal” interpretation that they praised. The example is brought forward again of geocentrism. Many times a “literal” reading of the text would lead to geocentrism, but few hold to that today, although there are a small number who do.

The writers then look at what they recommend to each of the groups. For YECs, the main issue is that they have often put too narrow a boundary on inerrancy and Christianity and looked at others as compromisers and claimed to know the intentions of their heart. Someone can believe the Earth is old and/or in evolution without being a God-hater or a compromiser or something of that sort. I have seen the YEC community often times hold to a dogmatism that practically includes YEC in the Gospel which is a problem.

OECs meanwhile are encouraged to not be too targeting of YECs and to be careful about the models they put forward. TEs can often say about OECs what OECs say about YECs. TEs easily claim that OECs accept science to a point and then deny what disagrees with them. OECs need to be working to make sure their models do hold fast to the evidence.

TEs meanwhile often have the problem of being seen as more theologically liberal. It can often be seen as evolution being what must be accepted, but we can get a bit iffy on Scripture. Not all TEs are like this, but there are a number who are which will only make evangelicals skeptical of the movement.

What needs to be remembered by all is that the Gospel does not include the age of the Earth. It shows up in none of the creeds and does not need to be an issue. We can talk about it and debate it, but by all means let’s remember we are in Christian fellowship with one another on the essentials of the Gospel.

In Christ,
Nick Peters