November 23, 2010

On the Origin of the Argument

November 24th 1859, changed the world. Charles Darwin finished his trip, collected his thoughts and published his findings in a book called "On the Origin of Species" Some 151 years later we are still grappling with the idea of evolution.
On Thursday I will try to catalog and comment on the Christian views of Creation and Evolution. Today I want to frame the argument in a more general sense.

Now I should confess I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology and  M.Div so I am neither a theologian, philosopher or biologist. Which means I am hardly the most qualified to talk about this. That isn't going to stop me mind you, I just thought I should be upfront about it.

With that out of the way let's move on.

This is, to the best of my understanding, the argument that Richard Dawkins, along with countless other people prior to him puts forward;

1. The existence of God and the existence of Evolution are mutually exclusive
2. If God exists there is no evolution.
3. If evolution exists there is no God
4. Evolution exists
5. There is no God

This is the argument that we must tackle. But the question is; how?

Every Time I See This Picture I Laugh
Creation Science, the loudest, best known, and best organized group of responders takes this argument to be completely true. Points 1-3 are agreed upon by both New Atheists and the Creation Science crowd and since point 5 simply follows from point 4; point 4 becomes the battle ground.

And what a battle it is shaping up to be. The internet is quite literally littered with attempts to show that evolution is one big satanic lie. To bolster their arsenal creation museums have popped up in Kentucky, Texas and Alberta among other places over the last number of years. In many ways the New Atheists, and much of their writings are in response to this rather vocal group.

On Thursday I'll talk about the pro's and con's of this approach today I just want to ask the question; why do we make point 4 the battle ground? Why make point 4 the battle ground; when all the way back in point 1 there is a highly contestable statement?

Is the existence of God and the existence of evolution mutually exclusive?

Why have we allowed a biological mechanism for adapting to new environments, or changes in current environments to become a defeater for God's existence?

There have been any number of theories for understanding how God does things that have been altered in the past without requiring us to give up faith in God's existence. So why make this the line in the sand? Why not a geocentric earth or a flat earth? Others have.

I understand the problem. If evolution is true it requires us to rethink our understanding of original sin, death, humanities specialness, the soul, biblical interpretation and a host of other things. And in a lot of ways I rather not have to do that either, yet I would rather do that than concede that a biological mechanism disproves God.

When it comes to these type of debates the goal is to defeat the argument as early in the numbered points as possible. Because once one is shown to be untrue everything below it becomes invalid. That, if for no other reason gives us cause to examine if God and evolution can disprove each other.

While we can argue until we are blue in the face point 4, the real challenge and the true battle is found in point 1. Many modern skeptics will be forced into silence if their entire argument fails before they even get started.