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Ramadan Mubarak: Welcome to the 2nd Annual Locke and Lewis Lecture Series

Featuring: The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, by Steve Schlichter

Prior to the 1600s, many believed the earth to be the center of the solar system. The sun, moon and other planets move across the sky and geocentrism (as it was called) was how the world was experienced. Even today, we still say the sun sets and rises. In Christian theology, man is considered very important as he carries the image of God. The earth being central in God’s universe fit well and those ideas merged. Man, being God’s delegate; carrying his image is, of course, settled physically in the middle of the universe while the heavenly bodies were subjugated to periphery roles crossing or circling the earth.

So, when the Copernican model placing the sun at the center challenged geocentrism, it was feared as a challenge to the nature and role of man. If man was not physically centered in the universe then how did that effect his role as the image of God. But in time, these ideas separated and geocentrism is no longer considered an implication of the primacy of man.

Evolution is a claim that people assume has a similar implication. Many feel that, if evolution is true that man’s position as the image of God, again, is at risk.  A naturalist is one who believes the cosmos does not include anything that is immaterial or intentional (like God) and we often think that evolution leads to naturalism. i.e. that God is un-necessary as evolution explains everything.

However, I wonder if that is true. I wonder if evolution has those implications. What if we give the naturalist all the pieces he asks for and see if he can put them together in a coherent way. 

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga argues that holding to both evolution and naturalism is self-defeating. You can have one or the other but not both. If evolution is the only input then we have no reason to trust in our ability to reason and no way to account for any interest in the truth content of any claim. Reason is only a side effect of evolution and evolution selects for survival, not for truth. Why would we care or know about what is true beyond what helps us survive? For example, does a porcupine shoot it’s quills? This belief could aid in survival and evolution could have rewarded those who avoid them in the past. However, there is a secondary question – is it true? Reason, logic, and the desire for truth can only exist as side effects of what helps us survive and could not be trusted to be reliable or relevant.

Second, we have the problem of volition and morality. If evolution is the only piece of the puzzle then we are only the result of chemical reactions and processes. There are no choices and no moral value to choices. When a crime is committed, we punish the guilty. This is a judgment on the choices made by others. What are we measuring those choices against?

When things occur in nature, we consider them natural. A male shark forcibly copulates with a female shark but we do not say that a shark rapes. Primates kill competing males and their offspring but they do not murder. Humans, on the other hand can rape and can murder. These actions may be natural in the sense that they occur in nature but they are also considered immoral. That means that what is moral is not just a reflection of what occurs in nature. If evolution were the only input then what we would have no reason to evaluate actions for their moral content.

So, things cannot really be explained without God. Reason and morality are just a couple of examples. How would evolution select for truth content instead of survival? How would naturalism explain our that our free will is not simply the sum of chemical processes that are leading to nowhere. How do we account for the idea of objective morality when God is the only sufficient grounding for objective morals.

You might disagree with me. You might think that natural selection can account for our ability to reason and evaluate both truth content and moral value. I am not sure how but if you do, I have a reminder for you this Easter. I would remind you that, in that view (where evolution selects for truth), evolution brought the majority of humanity to theism, then monotheism, and finally Christian theism. To the naturalist, it is evolution that brought us to the truth that there is no greater love than one who sacrifices himself for others and that the God of self-sacrifice gave himself for the sins of the men.

In conclusion, as a naturalist, you would have to argue that the mind that conceives of Christian theism is an adaptation that aids in survival and you have no other tools to dispute it’s claims leaving you in conflict with naturalism. It is sometimes necessary to hold things in tension but unwise to hold them in conflict. This is one reason that you can have evolution OR naturalism but you can’t have both.

*This is just one of 36 micro-videos in the series. Click here for more:
  • 16 May 2019
  • Author: Scott Cherry
  • Number of views: 1018
  • Comments: 1

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