Sunday, 24 June 2007

Theism and Darwinian Evolution

Are theism and Darwinian evolution(hence ToE) compatible? This is a discussion of the problems involved in accepting a "theistic evolutionist" worldview(where God is defined typically as he is by most theists.)Personally, I believe that God's omnipotence suggests better methods could have been used than the theory of evolution.

First of all, religious people believe that there is some sort of "higher purpose" for man; the ToE suggests just the opposite--man is just another creature among many and is in no way "better" than any other. If man was so important to a god as end product, why did he not create man outright? Of course, in evolution there is no final goal, no "aim" to be consiously worked towards.(1) It is likely that man(or even intelligent beings) may not have existed at all had a slightly different evolutionary pathway been taken.(2)
As Sam Harris writes, "Over 99 percent of the species that ever walked, flew, or slithered upon this earth are now extinct. This fact alone appears to rule out intelligent design."(3) This seems incredibly wasteful for a so called omnipotent deity.
Also, the time period taken for evolution to evolve anything interesting on this planet was very long, are we expected to believe God sat there twiddling his thumbs(watching the brutality of the natural world) waiting for something halfway interesting to evolve?

Evolution is also a far from perfect process, in terms of a "good of the individual" view(which one presumes God would be interested in, he is interested in our eternal fate after all). Yet the human body is riddled with imperfections and useless bits, puzzling if God so badly wanted to create us in his image. This raises the question of why God would implement evolution to make these supposedly special beings.

The idea of a soul is also one that, to me, does not make any sense in terms of evolutionary theory. It is difficult to see how such a notion evolved, and being as evolution is a continuous process it raises the question of when God would have drawn the line between human and non-human, and given us souls. The only idea of consiousness that makes sense when we look at evolutionary theory is a naturalistic one.

(1) "Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan conseqences, has no purpose in view." --Dawkins, Richard The Blind Watchmaker (Penguin 1986 (Appendix 1991)) p. 21
(2) Chris Hitchens argues this in his recently published book God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. He cites Stephen Jay Gould as saying that without an ancestor of ours known as Pikaia gracilens all of the modern vertebrates would not exist. (pg.92-93)
(3) Harris, Sam Letter To A Christian Nation, (Bantam Press 2006, this version 2007) pg. 75.


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