A Critique of Atheistic and Theistic Views of Evolution

Theistic evolution
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And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. It is argued, based on this verse, that the Bible could be reinterpreted to mean that God used the agency of the earth natural law to "bring forth" living creatures rather than directly "creating" them.

On the other hand he explicitly creates whales and other sea creatures a little earlier which sort of weakens the argument. Similarly, the Arabic word khalaq , commonly translated as create , can also mean create by small alterations to successive versions of a thing. In the context of the Qu'ran , this can mean that God created humans by guided evolution, and indeed this idea was well recognized in the Middle East in the ninth century. As a via media position, theistic evolution is criticized from both religious and non-religious perspectives. Creationists are very critical of theistic evolution, which they say is a non-Christian doctrine and gives support to naturalism.

Atheist accommodationists argue that spending time attacking theistic evolutionists is badly spent; firstly, because they are not actively trying to stifle science education, and secondly, because they do not necessarily deny all scientific facts, as young earth creationists must. This, say the accommodationists, means that they can be powerful allies in the fight against creationists, and that encouraging theistic evolution in religious circles, possibly along with the controversial NOMA principle that religion and science can meaningfully coexist, would be better in the long run than discounting theistic evolution altogether.

New Atheists , who are much less persuaded by NOMA arguments , maintain that supernatural explanations are simply wrong in principle and that trying to find common ground with holders of magical beliefs is a compromise which helps nobody. The theistic parts of theistic evolution are often taken on faith alone. This kind of belief in theistic evolution can only be refuted by appeals to world-views such as philosophical naturalism that reject any other ways of knowing.

Of course, theists arguing from faith, will not likely be swayed by any argument that demands proof of their god. One general counter-argument is that if one accepts that natural selection can explain everything that is observed on its own, without God violating natural law, and if divine intervention is indistinguishable from naturalistic causes, then God becomes an unnecessary hypothesis that should be dispensed with, per Occam's Razor.

One variant of theistic evolution, guided evolution , makes stronger claims that prompt a wider variety of counter-arguments. For example, guided evolution posits that God's guidance was required for currently existing species to evolve. This implies the existence of gaps where a natural methodology would be unable to explain observations — in other words, this is a classic appeal to the God of the gaps.

An adherent of guided evolution would need to give evidence of cases where God's intervention is necessary to explain any "gaps" in evolutionary theory. Scientists do not believe that there are any such gaps; but even if there were, trying to explain those gaps by proposing that God intervened raises a challenge to parsimony , not to mention the wrangling over questions such as which god intervened, and how the interventions were carried out. Many theistic evolutionists believe in an omnibenevolent God.

For those who believe that the problem of evil is an insurmountable problem for theism and that theodicies are a load of dingoes' kidneys, evolution provides a wealth of examples of seemingly unnecessary suffering as species evolved through "Nature red in tooth and claw. Another counter-argument for some versions of theistic evolution, involves the scale of the universe. Previously, the earth was thought to be the center of the universe, and the idea that the universe came about with humans as a specific purpose or goal did not seem so far-fetched. These days, thanks to heliocentrism and later developments, our view of the earth is more of — as Douglas Adams put it — a utterly insignificant little blue-green planet orbiting a small unregarded yellow sun lying far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy.

Evolution and the sheer size of the universe strike further blows at the idea of humanity as the ultimate purpose, seeing as how humans have existed for only a tiny fraction of the lifespan of a 4. There really is no "final product" to the process of evolution itself, which is atelic goalless. Thus, the counter-argument goes, the more we contemplate the immense span of the cosmos, from the sub-atomic level up through the enormous, mostly empty expanse of space-time, the less significant any event e.

This, though persuasive, is one of the weaker arguments against theistic evolution, being an argument from incredulity. Given that religious types argue this way constantly, though, it may actually sway them if you're lucky. Jump to: navigation , search. One is in violation of no epistemic duty by believing, even if one lacks conclusive evidence in favor or even if one has evidence that is on the whole against. This sort of epistemic policy about God or any other matter has been controversial, and a major point of contention between atheists and theists.

Atheists have argued that we typically do not take it to be epistemically inculpable or reasonable for a person to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or some other supernatural being merely because they do not possess evidence to the contrary. Nor would we consider it reasonable for a person to begin believing that they have cancer because they do not have proof to the contrary. The atheist by default argues that it would be appropriate to not believe in such circumstances.

The epistemic policy here takes its inspiration from an influential piece by W. Clifford in which he argues that it is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything for which there is insufficient reason. There are several other approaches to the justification of atheism that we will consider below.


There is a family of arguments, sometimes known as exercises in deductive atheology, for the conclusion that the existence of God is impossible. Another large group of important and influential arguments can be gathered under the heading inductive atheology. These probabilistic arguments invoke considerations about the natural world such as widespread suffering, nonbelief, or findings from biology or cosmology. Another approach, atheistic noncognitivism, denies that God talk is even meaningful or has any propositional content that can be evaluated in terms of truth or falsity.

Rather, religious speech acts are better viewed as a complicated sort of emoting or expression of spiritual passion. Inductive and deductive approaches are cognitivistic in that they accept that claims about God have meaningful content and can be determined to be true or false.

Many discussions about the nature and existence of God have either implicitly or explicitly accepted that the concept of God is logically coherent. That is, for many believers and non-believers the assumption has been that such a being as God could possibly exist but they have disagreed about whether there actually is one. Atheists within the deductive atheology tradition, however, have not even granted that God, as he is typically described, is possible.

The first question we should ask, argues the deductive atheist, is whether the description or the concept is logically consistent. If it is not, then no such being could possibly exist. Since logical impossibilities are not and cannot be real, God does not and cannot exist.

Consider a putative description of an object as a four-sided triangle, a married bachelor, or prime number with more than 2 factors. We can be certain that no such thing fitting that description exists because what they describe is demonstrably impossible. If deductive atheological proofs are successful, the results will be epistemically significant.

Many people have doubts that the view that there is no God can be rationally justified. But if deductive disproofs show that there can exist no being with a certain property or properties and those properties figure essentially in the characterization of God, then we will have the strongest possible justification for concluding that there is no being fitting any of those characterizations.

If God is impossible, then God does not exist. It may be possible at this point to re-engineer the description of God so that it avoids the difficulties, but now the theist faces several challenges according to the deductive atheologist. Is that the God that she believed in all along? Before the account of God was improved by consideration of the atheological arguments, what were the reasons that led her to believe in that conception of God?

Secondly, if the classical characterizations of God are shown to be logically impossible, then there is a legitimate question as whether any new description that avoids those problems describes a being that is worthy of the label. It will not do, in the eyes of many theists and atheists, to retreat to the view that God is merely a somewhat powerful, partially-knowing, and partly-good being, for example. Thirdly, the atheist will still want to know on the basis of what evidence or arguments should we conclude that a being as described by this modified account exists?

Fourthly, there is no question that there exist less than omni-beings in the world. We possess less than infinite power, knowledge and goodness, as do many other creatures and objects in our experience. What is the philosophical importance or metaphysical significance of arguing for the existence of those sorts of beings and advocating belief in them?

Another possible response that the theist may take in response to deductive atheological arguments is to assert that God is something beyond proper description with any of the concepts or properties that we can or do employ as suggested in Kierkegaard or Tillich. So complications from incompatibilities among properties of God indicate problems for our descriptions, not the impossibility of a divine being worthy of the label.

Many atheists have not been satisfied with this response. It is not clear how we could have reasons or justifications for believing in the existence of such a thing. It is not clear how it could be an existing thing in any familiar sense of the term in that it lacks comprehensible properties. It is not clear how it could be reasonable to believe in such a thing, and it is even more doubtful that it is epistemically unjustified or irresponsible to deny that such a thing is exists.

It is clear, however, that the deductive atheologist must acknowledge the growth and development of our concepts and descriptions of reality over time, and she must take a reasonable view about the relationship of those attempts and revisions in our ideas about what may turns out to be real. Deductive disproofs have typically focused on logical inconsistencies to be found either within a single property or between multiple properties.

Philosophers have struggled to work out the details of what it would be to be omnipotent , for instance. It has come to be widely accepted that a being cannot be omnipotent where omnipotence simply means to power to do anything including the logically impossible. This definition of the term suffers from the stone paradox. An omnipotent being would either be capable of creating a rock that he cannot lift, or he is incapable.

If he is incapable, then there is something he cannot do, and therefore he does not have the power to do anything. If he can create such a rock, then again there is something that he cannot do, namely lift the rock he just created. So paradoxically, having the ability to do anything would appear to entail being unable to do some things. As a result, many theists and atheists have agreed that a being could not have that property.

A number of attempts to work out an account of omnipotence have ensued. It has also been argued that omniscience is impossible, and that the most knowledge that can possibly be had is not enough to be fitting of God. Everitt , Grim , , , Pucetti , and Sobel See the article on Omniscience and Divine Foreknowledge for more details. The logical coherence of eternality, personhood, moral perfection, causal agency, and many others have been challenged in the deductive atheology literature.

Another form of deductive atheological argument attempts to show the logical incompatibility of two or more properties that God is thought to possess. A long list of properties have been the subject of multiple property disproofs, transcendence and personhood, justice and mercy, immutability and omniscience, immutability and omnibenevolence, omnipresence and agency, perfection and love, eternality and omniscience, eternality and creator of the universe, omnipresence and consciousness.

The combination of omnipotence and omniscience have received a great deal of attention. But knowing any of those entails that the known proposition is true. So does God have the power to act in some fashion that he has not foreseen, or differently than he already has without compromising his omniscience? It has also been argued that God cannot be both unsurpassably good and free. Rowe When attempts to provide evidence or arguments in favor of the existence of something fail, a legitimate and important question is whether anything except the failure of those arguments can be inferred.

That is, does positive atheism follow from the failure of arguments for theism? A number of authors have concluded that it does. They taken the view that unless some case for the existence of God succeeds, we should believe that there is no God. Many have taken an argument J. Findlay to be pivotal. Martin , Sobel If a being like God were to exist, his existence would be necessary. And his existence would be manifest as an a priori , conceptual truth. The view that there is no God or gods has been criticized on the grounds that it is not possible to prove a negative. No matter how exhaustive and careful our analysis, there could always be some proof, some piece of evidence, or some consideration that we have not considered.

God could be something that we have not conceived, or God exists in some form or fashion that has escaped our investigation. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The general principle seems to be that one is not epistemically entitled to believe a proposition unless you have exhausted all of the possibilities and proven beyond any doubt that a claim is true.

Or put negatively, one is not justified in disbelieving unless you have proven with absolute certainty that the thing in question does not exist.

There are a wide range of other circumstances under which we take it that believing that X does not exist is reasonable even though no logical impossibility is manifest. None of these achieve the level of deductive, a priori or conceptual proof. The objection to inductive atheism undermines itself in that it generates a broad, pernicious skepticism against far more than religious or irreligious beliefs.

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That follows at once from the admission that the argument is non-deductive, and it is absurd to try to confine our knowledge and belief to matters which are conclusively established by sound deductive arguments. The demand for certainty will inevitably be disappointed, leaving skepticism in command of almost every issue. The atheist can also wonder what the point of the objection is.

When we lack deductive disproof that X exists, should we be agnostic about it? Is it permissible to believe that it does exist? Clearly, that would not be appropriate. Gravity may be the work of invisible, undetectable elves with sticky shoes. But surely someone who accepts the sticky-shoed elves view until they have deductive disproof is being unreasonable.

It is also clear that if you are a positive atheist about the gravity elves, you would not be unreasonable. You would not be overstepping your epistemic entitlement by believing that no such things exist. On the contrary, believing that they exist or even being agnostic about their existence on the basis of their mere possibility would not be justified. So there appear to be a number of precedents and epistemic principles at work in our belief structures that provide room for inductive atheism.

A substantial body of articles with narrower scope see References and Further Reading can also be understood to play this role in justifying atheism. One of the interesting and important questions in the epistemology of philosophy of religion has been whether the second and third conditions are satisfied concerning God.

Oxford atheist and Christian students debate God • Cosmic Skeptic vs Josh Parikh

If there were a God, how and in what ways would we expect him to show in the world? Would he be hidden? Martin argues, and many others have accepted implicitly or explicitly, that God is the sort of thing that would manifest in some discernible fashion to our inquiries. Martin concludes, therefore, that God satisfied all of the conditions, so, positive narrow atheism is justified.

The existence of widespread human and non-human animal suffering has been seen by many to be compelling evidence that a being with all power, all knowledge, and all goodness does not exist. More recently, several inductive arguments from evil for the non-existence of God have received a great deal of attention. See The Evidential Problem of Evil. Questions about the origins of the universe and cosmology have been the focus for many inductive atheism arguments.

We can distinguish four recent views about God and the cosmos:. Naturalism: On naturalistic view, the Big Bang occurred approximately Various physical non-God hypotheses are currently being explored about the cause or explanation of the Big Bang such as the Hartle-Hawking no-boundary condition model, brane cosmology models, string theoretic models, ekpyrotic models, cyclic models, chaotic inflation, and so on.

Intelligent Design Theism: There are many variations, but most often the view is that God created the universe, perhaps with the Big Bang God supernaturally guided the formation and development of life into the forms we see today. Creationism: Finally, there is a group of people who for the most part denies the occurrence of the Big Bang and of evolution altogether; God created the universe, the Earth, and all of the life on Earth in its more or less present form 6,, years ago. Taking a broad view, many atheists have concluded that neither Big Bang Theism, Intelligent Design Theism, nor Creationism is the most reasonable description of the history of the universe.

Before the theory of evolution and recent developments in modern astronomy, a view wherein God did not play a large role in the creation and unfolding of the cosmos would have been hard to justify. Now, internal problems with those views and the evidence from cosmology and biology indicate that naturalism is the best explanation. Justifications for Big Bang Theism have focused on modern versions of the Cosmological and Kalam arguments. Since everything that comes into being must have a cause, including the universe, then God was the cause of the Big Bang. Craig The objections to these arguments have been numerous and vigorously argued.

Critics have challenged the inference to a supernatural cause to fill gaps in the natural account, as well as the inferences that the first cause must be a single, personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being. It is not clear that any of the properties of God as classically conceived in orthodox monotheism can be inferred from what we know about the Big Bang without first accepting a number of theistic assumptions.

Infinite power and knowledge do not appear to be required to bring about a Big Bang—what if our Big Bang was the only act that a being could perform? There appears to be consensus that infinite goodness or moral perfection cannot be inferred as a necessary part of the cause of the Big Bang—theists have focused their efforts in the problem of evil, discussions just attempting to prove that it is possible that God is infinitely good given the state of the world. Big Bang Theism would need to show that no other sort of cause besides a morally perfect one could explain the universe we find ourselves in.

Critics have also doubted whether we can know that some supernatural force that caused the Big Bang is still in existence now or is the same entity as identified and worshipped in any particular religious tradition. Even if major concessions are granted in the cosmological argument, all that it would seem to suggest is that there was a first cause or causes, but widely accepted arguments from that first cause or causes to the fully articulated God of Christianity or Islam, for instance, have not been forthcoming.

In some cases, atheists have taken the argument a step further. They have offered cosmological arguments for the nonexistence of God on the basis of considerations from physics, astronomy, and subatomic theory. These arguments are quite technical, so these remarks will be cursory. God, if he exists, knowing all and having all power, would only employ those means to his ends that are rational, effective, efficient, and optimal. If God were the creator, then he was the cause of the Big Bang, but cosmological atheists have argued that the singularity that produced the Big Bang and events that unfold thereafter preclude a rational divine agent from achieving particular ends with the Big Bang as the means.

The Big Bang would not have been the route God would have chosen to this world as a result. Stenger , Smith , Everitt Many authors— David Hume , Wesley Salmon , Michael Martin —have argued that a better case can be made for the nonexistence of God from the evidence. Salmon, giving a modern Bayesian version of an argument that begins with Hume, argues that the likelihood that the ordered universe was created by intelligence is very low.

In general, instances of biologically or mechanically caused generation without intelligence are far more common than instances of creation from intelligence. Furthermore, the probability that something that is generated by a biological or mechanical cause will exhibit order is quite high. Among those things that are designed, the probability that they exhibit order may be quite high, but that is not the same as asserting that among the things that exhibit order the probability that they were designed is high.

Among dogs, the incidence of fur may be high, but it is not true that among furred things the incidence of dogs is high. Furthermore, intelligent design and careful planning very frequently produces disorder—war, industrial pollution, insecticides, and so on. So we can conclude that the probability that an unspecified entity like the universe , which came into being and exhibits order, was produced by intelligent design is very low and that the empirical evidence indicates that there was no designer. See the article on Design Arguments for the Existence of God for more details about the history of the argument and standard objections that have motivated atheism.

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Another recent group of inductive atheistic arguments has focused on widespread nonbelief itself as evidence that atheism is justified. The common thread in these arguments is that something as significant in the universe as God could hardly be overlooked. The ultimate creator of the universe and a being with infinite knowledge, power, and love would not escape our attention, particularly since humans have devoted such staggering amounts of energy to the question for so many centuries.

Perhaps more importantly, a being such as God, if he chose, could certainly make his existence manifest to us. Creating a state of affairs where his existence would be obvious, justified, or reasonable to us, or at least more obvious to more of us than it is currently, would be a trivial matter for an all-powerful being. So since our efforts have not yielded what we would expect to find if there were a God, then the most plausible explanation is that there is no God. There may be reasons, some of which we can describe, others that we do not understand, that God could have for remaining out of sight.

Revealing himself is not something he desires, remaining hidden enables people to freely love, trust and obey him, remaining hidden prevents humans from reacting from improper motives, like fear of punishment, remaining hidden preserves human freewill. The non-belief atheist has not found these speculations convincing for several reasons.

Furthermore, attempts to explain why a universe where God exists would look just as we would expect a universe with no God have seemed ad hoc.

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Alternately, how can it be unreasonable to not believe in the existence of something that defies all of our attempts to corroborate or discover? God would be able, he would want humans to believe, there is nothing that he would want more, and God would not be irrational. So God would bring it about that people would believe. In general, he could have brought it about that the evidence that people have is far more convincing than what they have.

He could have miraculously appeared to everyone in a fashion that was far more compelling than the miracles stories that we have. It is not the case that all, nearly all, or even a majority of people believe, so there must not be a God of that sort. Schellenberg has developed an argument based upon a number of considerations that lead us to think that if there were a loving God, then we would expect to find some manifestations of him in the world. If God is all powerful, then there would be nothing restraining him from making his presence known. And if he is omniscient, then surely he would know how to reveal himself.

He would wish to spare those that he loves needless trauma. He would not want to give those that he loves false or misleading thoughts about his relationship to them. He would want as much personal interaction with them as possible, but of course, these conditions are not satisfied. So it is strongly indicated that there is no such God.

For days and days … the last time when a jaguar comes at you out of nowhere … but with no response. What should you think in this situation? In your dying moments, what should cross your mind? Other education officials have tried to require schools to teach critiques of evolution or to mandate that students listen to or read evolution disclaimers, such as one proposed a number of years ago in Cobb County, Ga. These debates are just as prevalent in the court of public opinion as they are in the courtroom.

Moreover, they say, a scientific theory is not a hunch or a guess but is instead an established explanation for a natural phenomenon, like gravity, that has repeatedly been tested through observation and experimentation. Indeed, most scientists argue that, for all practical purposes, evolution through natural selection is a fact.

See Darwin and His Theory of Evolution. These scientists and others dismiss creation science as religion, not science, and describe intelligent design as little more than creationism dressed up in scientific jargon. So if evolution is as established as the theory of gravity, why are people still arguing about it a century and a half after it was first proposed? See Evolution: A Timeline. The answer lies, in part, in the possible theological implications of evolutionary thinking.

For many, the Darwinian view of life — a panorama of brutal struggle and constant change — goes beyond contradicting the biblical creation story and conflicts with the Judeo-Christian concept of an active and loving God who cares for his creation. For example, the Texas Board of Education recently debated what kinds of biology textbooks students should and should not read. And while evolution may not attain the same importance as such culture war issues as abortion or same-sex marriage, the topic is likely to have a place in national debates on values for many years to come.

Creationism — The belief that the creation story in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible book of Genesis is literally true and is akin to a scientific explanation for the creation of the Earth and the development of life.