Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil: A Problem

A while back I mentioned that I no longer support the intelligent design theory (ID). Most of my reasons are simply philosophical (though there are scientific errors within the theory, scientific errors can always be fixed whereas philosophical errors can sometimes require the ejection of an entire system of thinking). One of the biggest ones, however, is that ID is unwittingly problematic when it comes to the problem of evil.

Contrary to most straw-men arguments, ID theorists accept many premises within evolution, but simply deny that natural selection works as an explanation for everything. They believe that across time God has intervened in order to direct evolution or to create irreducibly complex organisms. But by stating that God has directly interjected within creation along the process of evolution means that God has done some pretty nasty things. It would mean that God, not natural selection (which can be attributed to the Fall, even prior to humans) caused multiple natural evils. Even once humans were sentient and in His image, it would mean that He, not natural selection, caused death and suffering in order to help the species evolve as a whole.

Overall, if God interjected along the evolutionary track then He necessarily had to cause evil and take part in evil. Furthermore, it would mean that God’s creation wasn’t up to His standards when it was originally created. Now, one who believes that God sustains creation could easily argue that God allowed creation to exist in a fallen state in preparation of the Fall, but that His standard remained perfect. In fact, this is what William Dembski essentially argues in the previously linked book. But a problem exists when God acts in order to cause an evil rather than simply allowing the evil to occur. Hence, ID poses a serious problem when it comes to the problem of evil. Along with many other reasons, I can no longer consider it a tenable theory for Christians (or theists) to rely upon.


A Few Things on my P.Z. “Meyer” Post

  1. I apologize for the misspelling. My mistake.
  2. Some complain about not linking the original blog post. The reason is I was going after the overall approach that Myers takes when writing about people. But I wasn’t attacking a specific blog post, rather what Rabbi Averick faced. For those interested, here is the link. More importantly, I was writing based upon Rabbi Averick’s post and from what I’ve seen; the post Myers links everyone to isn’t what I was responding to.
  3. Myers wrote a “response” that only proves my point: Labeling me an “IDiot” is an ad hominem attack. Giving it tags of “kooks” and “stupid” only furthers my point; Myers is apparently incapable of holding a civil conversation. How much I would have loved if he responded civilly, to the point that I would have been shown to truly be a kook and be stupid. But he didn’t. He merely proved my point.
  4. Myers’ attempt, and his brute squad’s attempt, to say that the entire post was one big ad hominem is both true and false. On one hand it’s true because I did look to how he handles himself (and how the overall community of atheists have handled themselves). On the other, I never attacked them for this or interjected it with argumentation; rather I was making an observation that isn’t insulting, but accurate. It’s true that Myer (and many of his followers) is extremely uncivil. In my opinion this is because he’s afraid of the growing strength of theism at the academic level (and it’s not just him, but many people – we see the same thing among some evangelical Christians when confronted with foreign beliefs). If nothing else, it was an attempt to show that Myers and others are displaying a distinct fear – whether they’ll admit it or not – in the face of the rise of theism in academia.
  5. Even if Myers claims to have dealt with the arguments – and he does make attempts at times – it’s wrapped around so much hate and vitriol that it’s difficult to see the point. It’s like a rain-wrapped tornado: You may not see it coming, but it’ll cause just as much damage.
  6. Mocking people who study theology or those who believe in God only furthers my point that Myers isn’t dealing with the issue of theism appropriately. No one is asking him to embrace theism, nor to avoid some heated conversations or ideas about theism. But at least be respectful about it and realize that one can rationally embrace both theism and Christianity (or Islam, or Judaism, and so on). To act as though it’s an act of pure irrationality is, quite honestly, to be behind the times philosophically and shows that he possibly embraces an epistemological method that has been proven defunct since the 1960s.
  7. Before I make this next point, I should be fair and note that there’s no way Myers could have known about it: Don’t consider me a proponent of Intelligent Design. In recent years I’ve noticed some philosophical problems with it (as well as scientific problems). While I’m certainly sympathetic towards ID – far more sympathetic towards it than I am towards naturalism interjected into evolutionary theory – I would not consider myself an ID proponent.
  8. Honestly, that Myers would even choose to go after me makes me laugh a bit. Generally Josh and I are happy if we can get 50 views in one day. We’re some of the most irrelevant bloggers out there. A good day for us is that some of our friends happened to read what we had to say and passed it onto others. As of this time, we have over 500 views. So maybe P.Z. Myers has finally done something good. Thanks Myers!

As an aside, some of you will notice that the comments may not initially appear. That is because I have a filter on and will keep it on. Rest assured though most comments will get through once I’ve had a chance to moderate them. I know, I know, “censorship!” But it is what it is.

Why P.Z. Meyer is Afraid

"Atheist Gothic"

Over at The Algemeiner, Rabbi Moshe Averick posted about the times he’s felt the wrath of P.Z. Meyer (which isn’t much of a wrath so much as it is a kid throwing a temper-tantrum in the middle of Toys R Us). The bigger issue that Rabbi Averick brings up is that atheists should really be embarrassed by the antics of P.Z. Meyer. After all, he openly calls people stupid, cusses out those who disagree with him, attacks the person rather than the argument (calling an argument “dumb” or “stupid” doesn’t really deal with the argument). One would think that atheists, who supposedly pride themselves on having a superior intellectual prowess compared to theists, would snub their noses at Meyer’s anti-intellectual approach to everything (including ID, where the argument Averick writes about, comparing ID to driftwood, is a weak argument).

Pictured: PZ Meyer Brute Squad

Yet, if you look to the comment section you’ll see that atheists not only aren’t ashamed of P.Z. Meyer, they’re in love with him and his tactics. Perhaps this is because Meyer released his brute squad on the website, but this begs the question of how his brute squad could be so big if atheists truly valued reason.

In fact, many of the comments go on to insult either the intellectual ability of Averick or just insult him as a person. But such tactics are becoming more and more common among atheists, to the point that one fears that if they were in the government they would be totalitarian oppressors, eradicating and removing the freedoms of anyone who is religious. After all, it’s not like fanatical secularism has cost the world millions of lives or anything. Of course, the greatest oppressor of the 20th century has been fanatics for secularism, which is what Meyer is, but we just haven’t learned our lesson.

At the core, however, what causes this blatant disregard for civility, understanding, and intellectual conversation? Certainly conversations can get heated or we can point to the ignorance of someone when speaking about an issue, but to start name-calling or using brute tactics in order to silent an opponent? Is that really intellectual? Other, more academic atheists, don’t seem to suffer from the same social disorder as Meyer does.

It’s not like disagreement should automatically cause people to be uncivil. For those who have kept up with my website, it’s no secret that I’m a conservative, orthodox Christian. Rabbi Averick and I would probably disagree on a few issues, namely the deity of Christ. Though I do not know Averick, I’d venture a guess and say that he and I could probably have a good discussion on the Deity of Christ (or lack of deity) without calling each other names or mocking the other’s belief. I could do this with a lot of Jews. I do have a few atheist friends where I could sit and talk to them about the existence of God without it ever turning into a series of ad hominem attacks. So it’s not as though disagreement itself requires us to insult those who disagree with us.

While I could point to certain philosophical underpinnings, I don’t think it would ultimately be helpful, for there are others who have the same underpinnings, but still act in a civil and respectable manner. So what is it that causes Meyer, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and their followers to be just downright nasty towards those who disagree with them? It’s not just one thing, but a multiplicity of things; they have no reason to be civil, they don’t really know what they’re talking about (on a philosophical level), they live in a world that lacks proper mystery, but most of all, they’re afraid.

Now not all outbursts are due to fear. Sometimes they come from being frustrated (this is often the case for me) because the other side just isn’t getting it. Other times it may just be because it’s been a bad day. But when your entire career and style is based upon insulting others, it’s generally out of fear. So what do Meyer and the new atheists fear? Quite simply, they fear the rise of Christianity in academia.

Prior to the 1960s it wasn’t thought that one could be a committed theist, much less a Christian, and hold a spot in a philosophy department. While such people did exist, they generally held their beliefs as a matter of private views, something that couldn’t be proven or shown to be reasonable. But we now live in a post-Plantinga world; it is through the works of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and other early theists that in the modern age theism – in philosophy departments – is once again viewed as a reasonable position. Even Christianity, via our Roman Catholic brothers and their Thomistic traditions, is starting to make a comeback among the academic elite.

And this has the new atheists scared. They don’t understand how someone could believe in a “magic sky fairy” or a “flying spaghetti monster” and then declare such a belief reasonable. It’s because they don’t really understand theism, nor do they understand the arguments behind theism. And as is common among humans, when you encounter something you don’t understand, but are also afraid of it, you lash out at it. Look at how many evangelicals deal with Roman Catholicism (or alternatively how many cradle Catholics deal with evangelicals). Look at how many people deal with Muslims, thinking every single one is a terrorist, but also look at how Muslims from foreign lands deal with those different from them. When we don’t understand something, yet are afraid of it, we lash out against it.

The new atheists are no different. Sadly, though they pass themselves off as intellectuals, they really aren’t. They don’t understand the arguments behind Christianity or Theism even if they feign that they do. Rabbi Alverick is merely a proponent of a theistic system (Judaism) that ultimately isn’t understood by the new atheists, but in their minds theism has caused the Crusades, the witch hunts, Hitler’s Germany (yeah, they actually make that argument…tie that one to RABBI Alverick), and a whole host of other ills. In his BBC “documentary” Root of All Evil?, Richard Dawkins implies that religion and theism, specifically Christianity, is the root of all evil in the world. So when Meyer goes after Alverick, it’s no surprise that he attacks Alverick as a person and calls him stupid and cusses at him rather than dealing with the actual intellectual arguments that Alverick offers.

Keep in mind that these new atheists, most of whom lack training in philosophy (even Harris’ undergraduate degree in philosophy is laughable when comparing it to the multiple degrees from those he attacks), are calling “stupid” men and women who are some of the most respected names in the field of philosophy. Meyer has even gone after Francis Collins, who is one of the foremost experts on genetics and one of the most respected scientists of our time. Why? Because Collins believes in God, which is something that Meyer just cannot understand and doesn’t seek to understand. It’s far more comfortable to sit in a room full of one’s own ideas, lashing out at any different ideas, than to encounter and be challenged by opposing ideas. And that’s fine, no one is saying that Meyer and the new atheists have to leave their comfort zone, but stop passing it off as intellectual. They should at least be honest and admit that they’re an emotional overreaction to the inevitable; the belief in God will continue to exist and will never die out, because as a species we simply know better.

Thank God for Michael Dowd: How the Capitulation of Religion to Science Will Transform Your Life and Our World

Michael Dowd is a self-described “evolutionary evangelist” who lies at the forefront of a growing movement known as “Christian Naturalism” or “Christian Darwinism”–a movement largely influenced by his popular book Thank God for Evolution.  There are a variety of things I could say about Mr. Dowd’s book, but, for now, I would like to focus your attention on its misleading subtitle.  It reads as follows:  How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform Your Life and Our World.

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this subtitle–in fact, I think it’s rather catchy.  My only real objection is that it’s printed on the cover of Mr. Dowd’s book.  Perhaps you disagree, but I subscribe to the school of thought which advocates that a book’s subtitle actually convey information about its content.  I carefully read and reread this manuscript in an attempt to find a “marriage” between science and religion but was left empty handed.  What I found, instead, was analogous to the fatal actions that a female praying mantis takes against her male partner after copulating–science biting religions head off!  A more accurate subtitle would read:  How the Capitulation of Religion to Science will Transform Your Life and Our World.   

The last time I checked, a good marriage was characterized by mutual love and respect.  Having been married for over five years I can attest to this.  The reason my wife and I are still madly in love is because we both value each other–we don’t demean each other, we take each other seriously, and, although we both play different roles in the marriage, we consider each other equal in value, dignity, and worth.  If either one of us were to change our attitude, to look down upon the other or treat the other pejoratively, our marriage would quickly deteriorate.

Rather than a marriage between religion and science, Mr. Dowd advocates something more akin to the relationship that a king has with his concubine.  In such a relationship, the concubines sole purpose is to pleasure the king and keep him company–she is not an equal partner sharing the same dignity, value, and worth as the king.  She is merely an object to be used and, if necessary, discarded.  In Mr. Dowd’s vision, science is the king and religion is his concubine.

Consider this statement in the introduction:  “Here is my vision:  Within the first half of this century, virtually all of us–believers and nonbelievers alike–will come to appreciate that evolution is a gift to religion and that meaning-making is a gift to science” (13).  Notice that he equivocates religion with “meaning-making.”  This is far different from saying that religion gives  meaning.  To say that religion gives meaning is to say that religion makes objective claims about that nature of reality.  To equate religion with “meaning-making” is to suggest that religious claims are merely subjective interpretations of reality.

I wonder how Mr. Dowd, and others, would react if I equated science with “fact-making?  I suspect they would not be happy with this label.  For, it would suggest that science does not discover facts about reality but, rather, makes them up as it goes along.  And they would be right to be upset–such a view is utterly preposterous.  Consequentially, he should not be surprised to discover that people serious about their religious faith are not appreciative when their views are reduced to that of “meaning-making.”

Mr. Dowd’s statements reveal the true object of his faith–naturalistic science.   For Mr. Dowd, science is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (in fact our only reliable source of truth); science alone provides us with objective answers about reality which are true for all men.  Religion, on the other hand, is merely a conglomeration of colorful fairytales which act as a sort of “opiate” for the masses:

What I and others mean by the Great Story is humanity’s common creation story.  It is the 14-billion-year science-based tale of cosmic genesis–from the formation of galaxies and the origin of life, to the development of consciousness and culture, and onward to the emergence of ever-widening circles of care and concern.  Science unquestionably provides the foundation.  For this tale to be experienced as holy, however, it must don the accouterments of myth.  Barebones science must be embellished with metaphor and enriched by poetry, painting, song, and ceremony (25, emphasis mine).

After reading this quote, taken from the first chapter, there is little to nothing worth discussing about the rest of the book.  If you have read Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, you will find nothing new here.  He simply presents atheistic scientific naturalism donned with, “the accouterments of myth,” and “embellished with metaphor.”  Mr. Dowd truly seems to believe that simply attaching adjectives like “holy” or “sacred” to evolution actually make it holy and sacred.  In the same way that McDonald’s believes calling their burgers “deluxe” actually makes them deluxe.

I’m truly baffled that Mr. Dowd believes his portrayal of religion, as a placebo, will resonate with millions of devout religious people who actually take their faith seriously.  Does he honestly believe he has bridged the gap between science and faith by encouraging everyone to accept Richard Dawkins’ naturalistic worldview embellished with religious lingo?  This is tantamount to serving dog droppings smothered in whip-cream with the expectation that your cultured guests will find it palatable.   I see no reason why religious people should capitulate to the nefarious doctrines of scientism and naturalism–especially considering the devastating critiques of such views recently offered by such noted philosophers are Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, John Lennox, William Lane Craig, Angus Menuge, William Dembski, and J. P. Moreland (to name but a few).

In the final analysis, I believe I was wrong to suggest that Mr. Dowd’s subtitle failed to relate any information about the book.  If his thesis turns out to be correct, if naturalism is true and science is our only reliable source of knowledge, then he is right–our lives truly will be transformed.  We must now come to terms with the unavoidable conclusion that we have no free will; that we are locked in an endless mechanical cycle of material causes and effects completely out of our control.  We must learn to cope with the startling truth that there is no objective meaning or purpose for our existence; and affirm that there is no such thing as good or evil.  If this is the universe we live in, perhaps Mr. Dowd is right–pretending life has meaning may be our best option.

[Dowd, Michael. Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform Your Life and Our World.  New York: Viking, 2007.  USA $24.95]