Why I Believe God Exists – Part 3: My Trouble With Evolutionary Naturalism

My intent here is not to open up the Creation/Evolution debate. That would be a topic for a completely different post than this one. And I would say that my personal beliefs about that debate, the side on which I fall, isn’t really all that much of a factor in the evidence that I see for God’s existence. Let me say that I fall most firmly on the Theistic Evolution side of things. Far from having it all thought out and in a nice little package, I still have holes that need to filled in over time. But I will say that I think a God of the Gaps approach is dangerous, Intelligent Design has been rather soundly knocked down, Irreducible Complexity is very shaky, and I think that Natural Selection is powerfully active in the world. I know that some of you could probably rip me to shreds and get my head spinning with a bunch of contradictory arguments, but that is not what I am interested in here. Those are my current positions. I am always willing to consider other arguments and evidence. I remain open to changing my opinion based on good evidence and have done so in other areas including my spiritual, political, and scientific thinking. If you care to enter into a discussion in this arena I will do my best to engage each one of you in the comments section. But do not expect a discussion of it within the post.

Instead, I want to point out what I feel to be the most glaring hurdle for me in accepting a position of pure Evolutionary Naturalism. Probably one of the most easily understood and concise explanations of this hurdle that I have read recently is found in Tim Keller’, The Reason For God. I know I have referenced this book in my other posts on the evidence for God, but please don’t make the mistake of assuming that I am just using his book for blog posts. I am not. Each of these ideas have been held by me and considered prior to this reading of his book. However, he does do a good job of succinctly laying out much of what I have come believe. I think his chapter on “The Clues of God” follows along very nicely with what I have come to believe independently. So now on to the point……

For those who don’t know, Evolutionary Naturalism is the belief that everything about us as humans, and all of nature for that matter, including emotions, morals, religious beliefs, bodies, etc, is the result of Natural Selection. Some may have heard this described as “Survival of the Fittest.” Basically, those qualities that give an organism a survival advantage will be selected for while other less advantageous traits will die out with the organisms that possess them. Over time, as the strongest and most advantaged repeatedly survive, organisms evolve, the evolutionary tree branches, and we have the diversity of life. I have no problem accepting that this is a force that is very active in nature. In some cases it can even observed before our very eyes. The problem that I have is in believing that it explains everything about us.

Strict Evolutionary Naturalists such as Richard Dawkins propose that a belief in God is just a by-product of adaptive behaviors that were selected for because they offered a survival advantage. An example of this could be given as our early ancestors being more keenly aware of things that might jump out of the bush and devour them than others who were present at that time, maybe even so keenly aware that they sensed danger in the brush when it wasn’t there. Over time and cultural changes, this belief could then make us more likely to believe in something that wasn’t there. That thing could be God. I realize that this is an over-simplistic description of the actual arguments that have been presented by Dawkins and Dennet and Harris, but I think it describes the point.

So if Natural Selection is all about survival advantage and not necessarily about what is reality, how can I completely trust the intellect and reasoning skills that it has handed down to me through the ages? If a belief such as that outlined above is accurate as it has been suggested to us, then we should have reason to question much of what we are because Natural Selection is not concerned about giving us beliefs and values and skills that are true but only that what offers a survival advantage.

I recognize that this does not prove God’s existence. In fact, it is far from it. In fact, if I can’t trust what Natural Selection gives me in the way of intellect and skills of reasoning, then I shouldn’t be able to trust what it tells me about my belief in God either. But the point is that I don’t see either side being able to take the clear advantage. And when I consider the other evidence that I have given such as the anthropic principle and a common morality (which I now think is better described as a common human dignity), a belief in God, at least at this point in time, seems to explain it all better than just blind chance. So in the end it supports the evidence that shows me God as real in the world. I realize that many atheists will argue that I am adding a faith element that doesn’t have to be there and therefore violating Occam’s Razor. As a brief rebuttal to that argument, it seems to me that faith in a God or faith that there is not a God are one and the same, faith.

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6 responses to “Why I Believe God Exists – Part 3: My Trouble With Evolutionary Naturalism

  1. Im curious, why does it have to be an either/or argument. I like to think I can have both natural selection and a Creator. I think the argument of Dawkins and the boys is more about religion and people stating that they know what that creator actually is. Afterall dont most of them believe in a Big Bang idea. Hmm a creative force that starts it all off.

  2. I have no problem believing in both natural selection and a creator. In fact, I do. But many try and use natural selection/evolution as a way to say that God doesn’t exist. I am trying to say why I don’t think that works. I agree with you, it doesn’t have to be either/or at all. If I am not making that clear in my post, then I haven’t said something properly and maybe need to re-address this.

  3. hey dude.. i get ya and where you’re coming from. The thing with natural selection is that the fittest doesn’t always survive! there’s some luck to it. the Neanderthals seem to have been superior in everyway (stronger, taller, more complex as they buried their dead and hunted with more complex tools), but we have no idea what happened to them. there’s a non-measurable known as luck that science just can’t factor in.

    not all things can be rationalized away.

    plus there’s the idea of “why can we do science?” that no one thinks to ask. John Polkinghorne brings this up and his conclusion about why we can do math and why all these complex equations work is due to an organizing force behind the chaos of life. there is an order, but not an order easily understood as it doesn’t function like a machine (quantum physics prohibits that model) yet is predictable and stable in some other aspects (gravity, algebra, trajectories, etc.).

    contradiction to say the least! i would posit that that organizing force is called God. This force creates, re-creates, and influences & permeates all things. that’s my basic definition.

    i’m with you on this one dude. rawk out!

  4. Luke. Thanks for checking in. I like what you have said about the organization behind the chaos of life. I think that this is what TFT was referencing when he was describing “format” to life. I agree with you and have considered a post on it. Thanks.

  5. contradiction to say the least! i would posit that that organizing force is called God. This force creates, re-creates, and influences & permeates all things. that’s my basic definition.(Luke)

    Im curious Luke. Why do you make the decision to believe God is Jesus though? Isnt that saying you know the originator of the chaos you describe, and how is that possible? Ultimately when one calls themself Christian or Jew or Buddhist or Muslim, dont they automatically make a divide between themselves and the rest of the world? I love the idea of Faith in creator and how that can bring peace and direction into our lives. I now, more than ever struggle with absolutism of religion as it seems to bring the opposite of a questioning belief. No matter how loving you are within the confines of your religion, you still end up bringing discord to the unity of the earth because of its seperateness.

  6. excellent thoughts JT! this is something i’ve considered heavily before going into the ministry because the church has done more to harm the interconnectedness of the world than help it. but my basic belief is that one can do more damage from the inside than from without ;-)

    before Jesus there were two models, a classic theist view where God is in heaven and only heaven and is largely unconcerned or a pantheism where God is on the earth and only on the earth… Jesus i see as bring a panentheist view of God everywhere including in yourself and your enemy! this revelation cinches for me the fact that Jesus was divine! But also that Jesus thought that we had just as much potential for the same divinity, if not greater! (John 14:12 & 20).

    The church has largely missed this highly important point after the 3rd century where they wanted to adopt methods of empirical power from Constantine than the type of power that Jesus lays out.

    I’m taking Jesus back! Hopefully the church will follow and we will all see Christ in one another and marvel at the sheer wonder of it all. but that’s my liberal idealist leanings coming out ;-)

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