No. Evolution is not an either/or

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 JudaismChristianity, 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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Atheism and the Case Against Christ: Chapter 13

How does McCormick conclude? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We have come to the end of our journey and what do we find? McCormick’s book is extremely lacking. In fact, I find it one of the most lacking books out there for someone of the education level of McCormick who should know better. Even when it comes to his subject of philosophy, McCormick still makes numerous blunders.

In this chapter, McCormick tells us that it should have been a trivial matter for God to make the resurrection believable for reasonable people. (Loc. 4220) Of course, note that McCormick never defines what a reasonable person is. Are people who believe in the resurrection unreasonable? It would seem so since we believe in the resurrection. If we believe in it, then it can be believed by reasonable people. If we are not, on what grounds? Is it that anyone who believes in it is unreasonable, but then McCormick’s criteria could never be met because any atheist who came to believe in it would become ipso facto unreasonable.

So what does he mean?

McCormick also has something on the kinds of atheism that are out there. Thankfully, he says an atheist is someone who affirms the non-existence of God. (None of this lack of belief nonsense) McCormick thinks in fact that ultimately, all religious systems collapse when his kind of analysis is used. I suppose that if you treat a religious question in a haphazard way and ignore the best positive evidence and build up straw men constantly against the belief then, yeah, it would collapse pretty easily. We could say the same way that macroevolutionary theory easily collapses. Just define it how you want, build up some straw men, ignore the positive evidence, and presto! You have outdone the scientific community.

What evidence then does he think is left for God? Well of course, you could deal with the Thomistic arguments, the ontological argument (Which I don’t accept but include in the interest of being thorough), the argument from beauty, the argument from conscience, Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Intelligent Design argument, the moral argument, the argument from religious experience, etc.

Or you could just ignore them and hope they go away.

McCormick wishes to do that by pointing to a survey that showed most philosophers find the arguments for God’s existence unconvincing. Do they? The survey certainly looks convincing. Unfortunately, closer analysis shows some problems, as William Lane Craig points out.

He doesn’t footnote his claim, but undoubtedly what he has to be referring to is the Chalmers and Bourget survey of philosophers that has gotten a lot of press. When this survey came out I was immediately puzzled because I thought, “I never received any such survey.” Neither did any of my colleagues at Talbot. There are seventeen professional philosophers on our campus. None of them were surveyed. I wondered exactly who received this survey. Well, when you look into it what you find is that this survey only was sent to 1,972 philosophers – less than 2,000 philosophers. It was sent to faculty only from 99 selected departments of philosophy. Just 99. Only 62 out of the 99 were in the United States. The rest are foreign – in Europe and Australia and so forth. Of the 1,972 that were surveyed, do you know how many actually responded? Less than half. Only 931 philosophers completed this survey. Yet this is supposed to be a comprehensive study of the belief of philosophers about God.

Rodney Stark, who is a sociologist at Baylor University, has pointed out that in his professional training for sociology he says that unless a survey has a response rate of 85% you are not to trust the results of that survey. This survey had a response rate of less than 48%. A mere 931 philosophers. If you look at the list of institutions to which this survey was sent, it was almost entirely secular universities. It wasn’t sent to places like Talbot, or Wheaton, or Westmont, or even many Catholic institutions. So far from exposing the intellectual deficiency of Christian philosophers, the appeal to this survey, I think, shows the intellectual deficiency of John Messerly’s argument. Here he just cites some survey without looking into it in any detail to see whom it was sent to, how many people it was sent to, how many responded to it. Instead he just cites something that confirms what he already wanted to believe. It really shows the intellectual deficiency of his own argument.

One could say that you don’t want to send this to evangelical and religious institutions because they’re biased, but then you’re just saying you’re going to include all professional philosophers who are not religiously inclined and then ask them if theistic arguments are convincing. How is this a fair examination? Is it that again, religious people don’t count?

Of course, McCormick thinks that even if you find a proof of God convincing, how do you close the circle to say which God is the real one? Christians and Jews and Muslims all have answers for this. McCormick doesn’t like the answers, but he needs to show that they are false.

McCormick thinks the teleological argument fails because of the problem of evil. Of course, this is not the classical teleological argument but the modern one. He tells us that in debates, theists have been at great pains to establish that the creator of the universe is possibly good willing or benevolent or morally perfect. (Loc. 4367.)

Really? It would be nice to see an example of this. Do I just need to take it on faith?

McCormick also tells us that centuries ago, God showed Himself regularly. Now, He hides Himself so we can believe by faith. Really? God showed Himself regularly.

God showed Himself to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph, after that, there was 400 years of silence. He was there during the Exodus and the conquest, but in the time of many of the kings of Israel and Judah, there was often silence. After the return from Babylon, there was another 400 years of silence and then Jesus came. Most of history after that has had some miracles taking place and such, but nothing like the time of the apostles.

McCormick’s claim is a misnomer. It seems to be happening everywhere in the Bible because those are the points worth talking about. Imagine reading a book about the history of war in America. You’ll find a historian writing about every time America went to war. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear America was perpetually at war and we never stopped fighting. That would be false. The historian is often just focusing on the times of war instead of the times of peace because those are the times worth writing about.

As we conclude, it has to be said that there is nothing in McCormick’s book that presents a real challenge. McCormick has ignored the best evidence against his position and built up straw men regularly. It’s amazing anyone takes this seriously.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

McCormick’s Gaffe


Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 13

What is one of the worst arguments you will ever read? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we continue our look at Richard Carrier’s book, we will come to what I think has to be one of the worst arguments out there for atheism. As one of my friends told me when I shared this argument “We have found the banana argument of atheism.”

On page 273, Carrier says “Since there is no observable divine hand in nature as a causal process, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no divine hand. After all, that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe there are no such creatures, and so it is with anything else.”

Yes. That is an actual quote.

Question. Does anyone want to live in a world where the only things that exist are things that are flying out of Richard Carrier’s butt?

I don’t think so.

It’s hard to believe that this is being used as an argument but alas, it is.

Carrier goes on on the next page to give more of his favorite argument style which is “I would not create a universe this way. Surely an all-knowing God would also not create the universe this way. Therefore, an all-knowing God did not create the universe.” This argument will work if you assume Carrier is a person of supreme intelligence who’s highly capable of creating universes on his own. Other than that, it’s not impressive at all.

Carrier also says he would make it a law of the universe that if you did good, you got rewarded and things went better and if you did evil, you suffered. This sounds good at the start, but now we have a problem. We are usually told that atheists condemn Christianity because you are rewarded for being good. Why would Carrier’s universe not be any different?

Let’s consider two situations. Person A is a Christian in this universe and person B is a person who is an atheist in Carrier’s universe.

A: Sure. I’ll help that little old lady across the street. I want to have a good reward in Heaven after all!

B: Sure. I’ll help that little old lady across the street. I want the universe to be good to me after all!

What we could start asking ourselves at this point is either person really doing good? Does either person really care about the little old lady, or is each one of them merely looking out for their own self-interests? If that is the case, then are they really doing a good activity?

Now to be sure, I think we should be doing good activities even if we don’t always have good motives. Many of the times we do the good even if we don’t want to or don’t feel like it because we know that that will eventually help us build up the good attitudes that we ought to have.

Carrier’s universe is one where anyone could see results in this life for doing good deeds. Thus, the majority of people would be doing good deeds simply for the benefit of getting ahead. Everyone would be acting out of self-interest instead of focus on others. In what way would we consider this a good universe? Do you want to live in a universe where people help you because they think it is just the right thing to do and that your cause is a good one, or do you want to live in one where your being helped is a means to someone else’s desires being fulfilled? In some ways, we could say that you are being treated as if you were being raped.

In fact, Lewis long ago in the Problem of Pain wrote about what kind of chaos we would live in in a world where people could not do evil. I suspect he would have something similar to say about the universe of Carrier.

Carrier also says God cannot blame him for being an unbeliever if millions of Jews got to see miracles all the time and Carrier never gets to. Yet I wonder where did millions of Jews get to see this all the time? We only know of three periods in Israel’s history according to Scripture where miracles were abundant.

The first was the Exodus.

The second was the time of Elijah and Elisha.

The third was the time of Christ and the apostolic age.

Want to guess what the mindset of most of the people was in these times?

If you guessed, unbelief, move to the head of the class.

And keep in mind, most atheists when given any evidence of a miracle will just dismiss it. Even Peter Boghossian in his book says that if all the stars in the sky spelled out a message from God and everyone else saw it in their own language, that MIGHT be suggestive. He could still be experiencing a delusion.

If Carrier does not want to believe in Christianity, he will more than readily find any excuse.

And as most of us know when confronted with excuses, they don’t convince.

Carrier also says a perfect being would not create an imperfect universe.


Seriously. Why?

To begin with, can a universe be perfect? Especially since in an Aristotlean sense, matter is always in a state of flux and thus, always has potential, and thus, can always change. That which is perfect cannot change can it?

Of course, this could be a problem for Carrier since he never defines perfect. As it stands, I have long argued that in fact God created the universe imperfect because He knew that man would fall so why create it perfect from the get-go?

On page 280, we start getting into one of the biggest problems I have with pop Christianity today. That is the idea that God is supposed to be your bud, your pal.

No. No He’s not.

He’s supposed to be your Lord and King. We have too often made a kind of “Buddy Jesus” which has not built us up any in discipleship, but rather lowered God down. It is this kind of belief system that makes so many of us treat God so lightly instead of with reverence and awe.

Carrier does say on 281 that if his children asked him to butt out, he would.

Well God is doing for Carrier exactly the same thing. If Carrier doesn’t want God to be a part of his life and will argue against him, he’ll get what he wants. I also suspect that’s why miracles don’t get as much attention here in America as they do elsewhere. We’ve asked God to butt out.

I also wish to point out that on page 282, we are told that if anything needs ridiculous contrivances to defend it, it is not likely to be true.

These are ridiculous contrivances like the argument from flying monkeys and the argument from big boobs. Carrier actually made an argument against God based on women having large breasts? Yes he did. If you need to see that, just look here.

I contend that because of this, atheism is not likely to be true.

So we end this chapter with Carrier asking that if his presentation has not been convincing, what would be?

Well for starters, a detailed refutation of all the theistic arguments and why they fail and then a better explanation for the existing of the universe.

As it stands, in all of this chapter, not once are theistic arguments argued with. Not once.

So when we continue this series again, we’ll be looking at morality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters