Is there really a problem of evolution? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Yesterday, I got into a debate on Facebook with someone who was saying that you can’t have evolution and theism both. They contradict one another. Now many of you know that I don’t take a side on evolution. I don’t argue it’s true. I don’t argue it’s false.
So let’s look at the idea of contradiction first. Here is a source with a definition of evolution as follows:
“Evolution consists of changes in the heritable traits of a population of organisms as successive generations replace one another. It is populations of organisms that evolve, not individual organisms.”
Now I realize that doesn’t get into the inner technicalities as evolution is much broader than that and deeper, but this is a fine definition for now. Now how about theism? Here’s a definition from Britannica.
“the view that all limited or finite things are dependent in some way on one supreme or ultimate reality of which one may also speak in personal terms. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, this ultimate reality is often called God.”
Sorry, but I’m not seeing the contradiction. There is no on the surface at least reason why one can’t believe in some form of God existing and at the same time believe that populations change and generations replace one another. What is more at odds is really not the science, but actually the idea of theism.
“Ah! So you’re admitting the problem is the existence of God!”
No. Actually, what I’m saying is that an idea of what God must be like is conflicting with an idea of what evolution is. Atheists believe it or not have a theology. They have an idea in mind of the kind of God that doesn’t exist and think “If God did exist, this is what He/She/It would be like and what He/She/It would do.”
I can say that I do think if evolution on the macro scale is true, as even the most rabid YEC will admit that species do change over time, then that does indeed contradict some forms of theism. This would mainly be Young-Earth Creationism as the Earth hasn’t been around long enough for that evolution to take place. This doesn’t mean that hypothetically the Earth couldn’t go on for billions of years and somehow avoid the heat death when the sun grows intensely and then evolution takes place. I’m not a scientist to tell if that could be possible in future generations or not.
However, if your idea of theism is God exists and must create every being by fiat and without any natural processes whatsoever, then yes, evolution does contradict that idea of theism. Note that this is saying that evolution is contradicting an idea of theism. That says nothing about theism as a whole but rather an interpretation of theism.
In reality, even your most rabid YEC will accept that some things are made through natural processes over time and this includes things that the Bible says are made by God. Consider how in Psalm 139 we are told that God knits us together in our mother’s womb. That doesn’t mean that God is directly involved in every single step purposefully as if He is causing everything. Everyone accepts that there is a process that God has set up of gestation whereby a new human life comes into being.
I also stressed in this discussion that evolution is inherently teleological. Now some people really balk at that idea. Doesn’t teleology mean that there is a mind behind the process guiding it? At the start from an empirical sense, that is not what is being said. All that is being said is that A causes B.
Edward Feser uses the example of an iceberg floating in the water. As it moves, the water within its range gets colder. It does not turn into cotton candy. This is essential for science. Imagine doing experiments and every time you got wildly different results. There has to be order in the universe to do science. This is also why miracles are not disproven by science but actually depend on the world being scientific to be possible. If the world was not orderly, you could not recognize exceptions.
So how does this tie in with evolution? Evolution leads to the survival of the fittest as the most fit survive. That is teleology. It is not saying evolution is a mind that intends this. It is just saying that this is what happens if evolution takes place.
Of course, I was also told that all of this comes from DNA and we all come from our parents and no maker is needed. This would have mattered had this been the question I had wondered. I instead asked about the ground of existing. Note the difference. Existing and not existence. It is not just how things came to be, but it is also what keeps them in being.
Consider that you wake up in the morning and you hear a strange sound. It keeps going on and on and you ask “What is causing that sound?” You don’t ask “What caused that sound?” until you hear the sound stop.
Now you wake up the next morning and open the door and there is a giant orb blocking your way. It is valid to ask “What caused this orb to be here?” However, it is also valid to ask “What is causing it to be here?” It is not as if these things, including you and I, have the basing of their existing in themselves. If that were true, a suicide could just will himself out of existing by pure thought alone.
Evolution doesn’t talk about how things are existing. It just talks about existing things and how they become other existing things over time. That’s not a problem to me.
If you want to know who has the problem here, as Plantinga would say, it’s not the theist, but the atheist. For the theist, evolution could be true or false and it wouldn’t matter. For the atheist, at least at the moment, evolution is the only game in town. Who has the most to lose here?
So go ahead and argue evolution all you want. I really don’t care. It doesn’t change my theism or my interpretation of Genesis or the data for the resurrection of Jesus. You can win a battle, but you’re still losing the major war.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)