“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, November 2, 2009

Evolution Is Not Inherently Atheistic

Most Christians (it seems to me) are not totally OK with evolution – they think that it contradicts the Bible or Christian theology, and/or they doubt that there is sufficient evidence for it. I’ve suggested elsewhere that evolution may not be as blatantly at odds with the book of Genesis as it seems to be, and I’ll defer to the biologists as far as the evidence goes. Here I want to argue that evolution is completely consistent with Christian theology.

Since Darwin, the idea of evolution has developed from a more strictly biological theory almost to a philosophical worldview. It is understood by many to imply naturalism, the philosophy that there is nothing beyond the physical world, and therefore to imply atheism. Indeed, some atheists point to evolution as if it were evidence against God – “science has explained yet another gap in our understanding; evolution demonstrates that science is on track to explain everything and thus entirely to eliminate the need for God.” Reactions to evolution like this, I suspect, cause equally ignorant Christians to take the atheist’s word as truth and therefore anathematize the demonic dogma of Darwinism.

But strictly speaking, evolution is a scientific theory and not a philosophy (the philosophical worldview into which many have stretched it may be termed “atheistic evolutionary naturalism” or something like that). It does not account for the Big Bang or explain the origin of the universe. In short, it does not explain existence, and that is a gap that science will never fill* (see “The Domain of Science”). Evolution accounts only for the development of molecules into cells and organisms – it must assume the existence of molecules as a starting point…

*While science filling one gap does suggest that other gaps will be filled (and by gaps I mean gaps in our knowledge of the physical world, that is, things that science could possibly explain), it does not follow that science will or can provide a full explanation or description of the world, and it certainly does not in the least suggest that science can explain all reality. Things such as beauty, moral values, good and evil, suffering, death, existence, meaning and purpose – these are realities that cannot be described in terms of particles and fields and dimensions. They lie outside the domain of science.

4 comments:

  1. "Evolution accounts only for the development of molecules into cells and organisms – it must assume the existence of molecules as a starting point…"

    True, but it also must assume that God had no role in that development. It also assumes uniformitarianism which contradicts Scripture. It assumes a naturalistic, anti-supernaturalistic explaination. It assumes that the process of evolution occurred naturally when Scripture assigns it as a miracle.

    Evolution is inherently atheistic because it does not allow God or his Word into the equation. Evolution rejects any supernatural explanation as if to say "if we can find an answer, then clearly God had no role in it" (again, with regard to the process, not the initiation). The study of macro-evolution rejects the truth of Genesis out of hand in favor of anti-supernatural explanations.

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  2. I think the problem here is that the word "evolution" is being understood in two very different ways. By evolution, I am simply talking about a physical process. How you can get atheism or naturalism out of that I don't know, so you must be thinking of "evolution" as something else - a philosophy and not a scientific theory.

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  3. Elliot, you are exemplifying the issue. You are excluding God (and naturally so because of the nature of science). You are intent on focusing on the physical process of evolution to the exclusion of supernatural explanation.

    You would agree, I'm sure, that modern science could not have verified the miracles of Jesus described in the Gospels because obviously Jesus defied natural law (creating fish and bread out of nothing to feed thousands, walking on water, raising the dead, healing the sick). But you want to accept the scienitific study of the miracle of creation.

    The field of science is inherently anti-supernatural, isn't it? It does not allow for the supernatural, right? Then how is that not atheistic philosophically (or presuppositionally)?

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  4. It seems the disagreement is over (a) what science is and (b) whether the events described in Genesis constitute a supernatural miracle. The latter is a complicated issue of interpretation, suffice it to say it is not as simple as saying "Genesis clearly declares that a supernatural miracle has occurred."

    Science is not at all inherently anti-supernatural. It could not have verified Jesus' miracles, nor could it have disproved them. Science cannot rule out the possibility of miracles - it can only observe the pattern to which miracles are seemingly exceptions - where did the notion of miracle come from except through the repeated physical (scientific) observation of a normal pattern? C. S. Lewis' "Miracles" is excellent on this.

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