Responding to A YouTube Comment On Evolutionary Creationism
I was watching some videos on BioLogos' YouTube channel, and in the comment section of one video discussing evidence for Macro Evolution, I came across this comment from an atheist; "This seems like it's using empiricism and rational thought but then there is this weird Nonsequitur tacked on the end. Why would a God need to "sustain" evolution? Eliminate the extra variable that violates Occam's Razor and anthropomorphizes a process that you've shown is unconscious and unbiased towards life."
Occam's Razor is a scientific principle that says when you have two competing hypotheses that can both have equal explanatory power and scope, the way you decide which hypothesis to go with is to judge which hypothesis is simpler, and by "simpler", I mean the hypothesis that postulates the minimum number of explanatory agents. If you have hypothesis A and hypothesis B, and Hypothesis A only has 2 explanatory mechanisms while agent B had 3, then Occam's Razor would say you go with Hypothesis A. Hypothesis B postulates more explanations than what is required to explain the data in question.
From the wording of this atheist's comment it would seem to me that this atheist is arguing that because natural processes can explain how all of life arose, tacking "God did this" on top of such a process is superfluous. A simpler theory is that no God at all was involved in the process. No Creator. Atheistic evolution is a simpler hypothesis than theistic evolution, and therefore atheistic evolution is to be preferred.
Is this atheist correct? I don't think so.
Evolutionary Creationism Takes Into Account Evidence For Christianity and Evidence For Evolution
Occam's Razor is not the only principle one needs to take into account when examining various explanations for scientific evidence. You also have to take into account a theory's explanatory power, explanatory scope, and plausibility. Now, if one is only considering biological evidence alone, one might come to the conclusion that this is either a purposeful process or a purposeless process. As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, the idea that evolution is a purposeless process of chance is a philosophical assumption that is not inherent to the theory itself. The theory of Darwinian macroevolution itself makes no claims about whether or not a God endowed with middle knowledge could be guiding the evolutionary processes towards His intended goals. To prove that evolution is a purposeless process, one first must prove that atheism is true. Looking at the theory wholly apart from any philosophical assumptions, all that can be concluded from Darwin's theory is that natural selection acting on random mutations over billions of years can produce a variety of life across the globe, that one specie can branch off into multiple species through this process of natural selection and random mutations over long time periods. Keep in mind that by "random", scientists mean "unpredictable" and not as a synonym for purposeless, as I pointed out in an earlier blog post.
Now, how one would conclude that evolution IS guided or not would depend on establishing the truth of either the Christian or atheist worldview. One reason I haven't stressed much over the issue of biological evolution over the 5 years I've been writing for this blog is that there are a plethora of good arguments for the truth of the Christian worldview that do not depend on evolution being true or false. I won't rehash any of these arguments here since I have neither the time nor the space to go into any of them. Rather, I'll simply list the arguments and link to where I have dealt with them.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument establishes that the universe was brought into being by a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, supernatural, uncaused Creator a finite time ago. The evidence for The Big Bang Theory is strong, the second law of thermodynamics, and the impossibility of traversing an infinite number of events all point to the conclusion that the universe had a beginning of its existence. In my writings on this argument, I've given several arguments that anything that comes into being had something to cause it to come into being. Given that the universe began to exist, and anything that comes into being had something to come into being, it follows logically that the universe had something that caused it to come into being. How we conclude that God brought the universe into being involves arguments for the properties I've listed above (i.e non-spaciality, non-temporality, immateriality, being powerful, being a personal being), and unfortunately space doesn't permit me to rehash the arguments for why the universe's cause must have just those properties. The interested reader is recommended to read my blog post "The Kalam Cosmological Argument" or the first chapter of my book Inference To The One True God.
The Fine Tuning Argument argues that the best explanation for why the laws of physics are so precisely fine tuned is because an intelligent designer purposefully caused the laws of physics to take on those extremely narrow values. Physical Necessity and chance are not reasonable explanations for why the laws of physics take on the extremely narrow values, and leaves design as the best explanation. Had a designer not finely tuned our universe, it is overwhelmingly probable that we would not be here, because the universe would have expanded too quickly or too slowly resulting in a universe without any galaxies, stars, or planets, and ergo no possible places for life to evolve, or the strong nuclear force would have been too weak resulting in the universe consisting of soley hydrogen, or too strong resulting in heavy elements but no hydrogen, and either case would mean no life chemistry. Or gravity would have been too strong meaning that stars would burn too rapidly and too unevenly for life, or too cool meaning that stars would never become hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion to produce all of the elements needed for a planet to develop life. The details of this argument are hashed out in my blog post "The Fine Tuning Argument For God's Existence (Updated Version)" and in even more detail in chapter 2 of my book Inference To The One True God.
The Local Fine Tuning Argument deals with things in a local region which need to be precisely calibrated in order for that local region to be compatible with advanced life. Hundreds of things have to be just right in a local region in order for life to exist in that particular region, and just like with the universal fine tuning, the local fine tuning cannot be reasonably explained by physical necessity or chance. The most rational explanation in intelligent design. I deal with this in chapter 3 of my book, Inference To The One True God.
Other arguments for the existence of God include The Moral Argument, The Ontological Argument, The Argument From Desire, The Transcendental Argument a.k.a The Argument From Reason, The Argument From Contingency, and the argument from the applicability of mathematics. Moreover, these arguments demonstrate the existence not simply of some generic deity, but specifically the God of The Bible. Why? Because only The God of The Bible has exactly the same attributes as the deity that each of these arguments show exists. No other religion has a god or gods that match the description of the God of The Kalam Cosmological Argument, The Moral Argument, or The Ontological Argument, and so on, but again, it is not the purpose of this post to hash this out. I deal with why these arguments prove only Christianity's God in my book Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods.
On top of natural theology arguments, a good case can be made for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. Historical evidence strongly indicates that a man named Jesus had a ministry in ancient palestine, claimed to be God, was killed by the Roman method of crucifxion, was buried, and His tomb was found empty 3 days later by a group of His women followers. Subsequently, His disciples, and two skeptics named Paul and James believed they saw and talked with Jesus. They had post-mortem sightings of Jesus. Over the past 2,000 years, skeptics have presented a plethora of naturalistic explanations to account for these established historical facts, and all of them fail miserably. Only the hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead can explain all of the above historical facts adequately. Again, I have not given the argument for the resurrection of Jesus. I have only outlined it. For the actual defense of this argument, check out my blog posts "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 1" and "The Minimal Facts Case For Jesus' Resurrection PART 2"
Arguments from fulfilled prophesy and arguments from religious experience could also be added to this list.
What's the point? The point is that people who embrace evolutionary creationism do so because they believe this view can account for all the evidence one needs to take into account. The arguments I've just outlined are very strong and are independent of Darwinian theory. Whether Darwinian macroevolution occurred or not has no baring on whether these arguments are logically valid and have true premises. I am convinced that all of these are logically valid and have true premises, so if I were to be convinced of the biological evidence that Darwinian evolution is true, what would be the most logical conclusion? The most logical conclusion is that God used evolution to bring about life.
To establish Atheistic evolution, one would have to refute all of these arguments for Christianity and then give a positive argument for atheism.
Here's another way to think of this: If you believed The Bible was divinely inspired based on good evidence, and you also believed the evidence strongly suggested universal common descent, what would you conclude? Well, The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things, including events that seem like chance results from a human perspective (Proverbs 16:33, Acts 1:12-26), so if evolution occurred, this would mean that God is sovereign over that process as well. It would mean that He oversaw the process. It would mean that it wasn't a purposeless history, but a goal directed history. This would be a reasonable conclusion because this would be the result of integrating your belief in The Bible's inspiration with the theory of Darwinian evolution. If both are true, they've got to be integrated somehow. The integration would be invalid if either evolution were false or if The Bible were false, or both.
Evolution May Only Be Reasonable On A Theistic-Molinist View
In a couple of earlier blog posts, I referenced a paper I had read from Kirk MacGregor titled "The Impossibility Of Evolution Apart From A God With Middle Knowledge". In that paper, MacGregor makes an argument for both God's existence and Molinism using evolution. He argues that evolution of intelligent life is so immensley improbable, that it could never occur by chance alone. If evolution did occur (and MacGregor maintains that it did), then it had to have been guided by a God with middle knowledge. That is to say, a God that has middle knowledge must have used that middle knowledge to guide the natural processes not unlike how He uses it, according to Molinism, to guide human historical events (e.g the crucifixion of Jesus). God worked through natural processes via His middle knowledge just like He works through human free will decisions via that same middle knowledge.
MacGregor's argument basically goes like this:
1: If a God endowed with middle knowledge does not exist, evolution could not have occurred.
2: Evolution has occurred.
3: Therefore a God endowed with middle knowledge exists.
It was a fascinating paper, and I hope his argument becomes well known, for it would show that evolution is actually evidence for God's existence, not against. In this case, God may not be a superfluous entity tacked onto evolution at the end, but instead a crucial element to make the theory even rationally tenable. Not that God supernatually intervenes throughout the process to do what nature cannot (as progressive creationists asssert), but He simply knows what nature would do under any given circumstance, and sets up the world to unfold accordingly.
Given the evidence for Christianity on one hand and evolution on the other, the assertion that God guided and sustained evolutionary processes is a non-sequitur is fallacious, as is the claim that it violates occam's razor. TE may not be as simple as AE, but in light of all the evidence, I believe it has better explanatory power and scope.
To claim that God either is or not involved in evolution requires to look beyond the theory itself. It requires that you establish independently whether theism or atheism is true. To justify looking at the theory of evolution through either worldviews, the worldview itself must be justified. I think the arguments and evidence outlined above do justify belief in the Christian worldview.
Therefore, if I become convinced some day that Darwin got it right, I would feel justified in adopting an evolutionary creationist position, rather than atheism.