Reviews - What do customers think about Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil?
Thoroughly off base Jan 14, 2007
There have been indeed been some scientists who have thought of evolution as a means to demean religion, but they are in the vast minority. Darwin himself struggled with the implications of evolutionary thought, especially with respect to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God of Genesis. Darwin had been a Christian -- at one time considering the ministry -- and only started to waiver with the overwhelming evidence of nature itself. Darwin sought out any possible objection to his theory, and noted that it had many points that need clearing up. Evolutionary biologists have been filling in the blanks for the past century and a half.
A great many practicing professional biologists, who nearly all consider evolution to be a fact, are Christian. They are not fundamentalists who accept the literal truth of scripture, but St. Augustine and other church fathers warned against literalism as well. I would imagine that 99.99% of the professional biologists never have thought of justifying evolution on the basis of religion. Evolution is no more a religion than is astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, and so forth. Of course, Hunter and many of the reviewers here would likely argue that these sciences too are expressions of an underlying religious belief. But if they consider every science as a religion, the notion of religion, as well as science, looses its meaning.
Read the new Evo Devo material [Sean Carroll's "Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2005)" and the new "The Making of the Fittest" (2006)] and learn what evolution really is, and how it is currently being understood. Carroll's second book is thoroughly convincing on strictly scientific grounds, and not one mention of God or religion is to be found. Kirschner and Gerhart's "The Plausibility of Life: resolving Darwin's Dilemma" is another Evolutionary Development (Evo Devo) book that is based completely on nature itself - no word of God or Jesus. Or read Jennifer Clack's "The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods", or Ward's "Out of Thin Air", or Hallam and Wignall's "Mass Extinctions and their Aftermath" or Knoll's "Life on a Young Planet" for a varied look at how life has evolved on Earth - all without mention of God, design, or religion of any sort. It's just pure empirical investigative science.
I'd like to suggest other reviewers -- and Hunter himself (but this is unlikely) -- read Ruse's "Darwinism and Its Discontents" and Shermer's "Why Darwin Matters". Yes, God and religion is discussed in these, but to show how utterly mistaken ID adherents and others who make stupid statements are about what evolution maintains. One reviewer here states that evolution asserts that humans are basically good. Where does this come from? Other statements about supposed gaps in the fossil record show an utter misunderstanding of geology and science. There is such overwhelming evidence for evolution that over 99% of the professional biologists in the US (with a near 100% in Europe) consider it a fact. What is theory is determining exactly how it occurs -- and that is the science of it.
To think that evolution is currently accepted in the scientific community as a fact is due to anti-religious sentiments is thoroughly ridiculous. Again, many of these same scientists are themselves practicing Christians. Kenneth Miller is a case in point. Some of course are not. Certainly evolution seems to undermine the traditional design argument for God's existence; but many folks, including scientists, base their belief in a God, or in Christianity, on other grounds. It's another matter that there are a host of conflicting religions and religious beliefs. Many adherents of one religious persuasion consider those believing differently to be atheists, or at best heretics. Science remains aloof from the fray; believers in most any of the conflicting religions, as well as atheists, can be good scientists.
It's really quite a shame that there are those who want to undermine science and what it has found by careful dispassionate investigation because it conflicts with certain religious beliefs. They will go to most any length, no matter out outlandish, to twist and misrepresent facts in order to undermine what has been discovered, and what is the most likely explanation of what has been discovered, by careful empirical investigation for the purpose of advancing their particular religious belief. The same reasoning was advanced against those who sought to show that the Earth circles the Sun rather than the reverse, that germs are a cause of disease rather than the devil or God punishing the afflicted, or that lightening had a natural explanation, etc., etc., etc. Hunter should be regarded as belonging to this anti-science tradition, and his book should be read with the understanding that it purposefully misrepresents the facts in order to support a fundamentalist-oriented Christian belief.
A Presuppositional Look at the Origins Debate Dec 23, 2006
Cornelius Hunter does a job virtually no one else in the Origins debate has done: reveal the theological influence that led to naturalistic evolution.
After the Puritans took over England, so did their theology. They taught the Biblical doctrines of Original Sin and the subjection of the natural world to futility (Romans 3:9-18, 8:20). As a result of their belief in man's fallen state (which included his belief-forming faculties), they emphasized the Reformed belief that Scripture alone was the guide to theology, anthropology, morals, philosophy, and a general worldview.
When the Puritans were thrown out of England, there was a strong reaction to their Biblical theology. The Anglicans rejected the belief that man was so fallen that he could not acquire Divine Truth apart from Scripture. Thus, they replaced the doctrine of "Scripture alone" with a mixture of Scripture and "Enlightenment" philosophy. This form of "Enlightenment" philosophy, which sought to give credence to Christianity, was called "Natural Theology". It sought to determine Divine Truth using unaided, autonomous human Reason independent of Scripture. [Notice that I used the capital "R" which refers to the Enlightenment philosophy rather than the lower case "r" which refers to logical reasoning in general.] However, just like the Continental form of Rationalism, "Natural Theology" was shown to be personal, subjective, and emotive rather than logically necessary. The resulting theology was: a.) the belief in a God that created everything to maximal perfection *and remains so in its current state* [remember: the post-Puritan Anglicans rejected the full effects of the Fall] and b.) the belief that God wants the absolute best for his creatures including man. So, instead of the Puritan belief in the subjection of nature to futility, Natural Theology stated that God sustained nature in beauty and perfection and "wishes the happiness of His creatures" (Paley). In place of the Westminster Catechism's statement that "man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever" (but fails to live up to it), Natural Theology gave David Hume and other enemies of the Faith ammunition when it stated that "God exists for the felicity of man". After Newton, it added the belief that God's creation would be more glorious if God set it in motion and never had to tinker with it afterward. Thus, instead of the Reformed belief that God primarily created the world with His eternal decree and story of Redemption in mind (along with aesthetics), Natural Theology truncated God's purpose in creation solely to aesthetic reasons. Lastly, it also entailed non-Biblical, philosophical speculations like the "fixity of species".
These are the beliefs in which Charles Darwin grew-up and was taught to believe were THE doctrines of Creation. However, when his experiences out in the wild easily dispelled the notions of his post-Puritan, Victorian era, idealistic Natural Theology, he rejected the Christian doctrine of Creation altogether. He saw that there was much suffering in nature such as parasitism, disease, and, especially, death. He saw that contrary to Linnaeus' belief in the "fixity of species", organisms changed with their environment. So idealistic were his views of nature that he even came to doubt creation because of all the wasted reproductive seed such as pollen! With all this combined, Darwin argued that God had nothing to do with the universe after He created it. This was because (according to Darwin's teddy-bear conception of God) God would not allow his created organisms to suffer if He indeed had created them. So, instead of ditching Natural Theology for the Reformed Theology of Original Sin and the subjection of nature to futility, Darwin opted for Deism.
As Hunter ably points out, modern defenders of Darwinism still operate under the assumption that the doctrines of Natural Theology are THE Christian doctrines of Creation. Many of them accept evolution simply because they believe that the doctrine of Creation (as made up by Natural Theology) is contrary to what nature is actually like. Thus, no matter how much evidence is piled up against neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory and common descent, the problem of natural evil and other "[my made up, Natural Theology version of] God wouldn't have done it that way" style arguments are always the weights that tip the scales back in favor of naturalism.
For example, take homology and the common genetic code. The naturalistic solution is to say that creatures had a common ancestor. The creationist solution is to say that they had a common designer. Now, on the face of it, one cannot argue for either solution without begging the question (i.e. circular reasoning). However, in order to tip the scales, the Darwinists would argue that the common designer hypothesis can't be true since (according to their idealistic Natural Theology view of God) God would never repeat a pattern but rather make everything different and beautiful. Of course, the argument: a.) is personal, subjective, and emotive, b.) is an argument against a rival theory rather than for the proposed theory [making it a "god-of-the-gaps" (or shall I say "chance-of-the-gaps") argument], and c.) assumes that God's sole purpose in Creation was aesthetic.
I would now like to respond to a few negative reviews below. One (i.e. Mark E. Miller) stated that Hunter's thesis was all wrong: "The numerous quotes he gives in the book of metaphysical musings by evolutionists, are, in the main, reflective of attempts to reconcile their own metaphysical views with the facts their investigations have uncovered, and are *not* the motivating principle behind their conclusions - which are based solidly on those facts."
However, it is indeed the other way around: major evolutionists (including Darwin himself) eliminated Creationism altogether because of the problem of evil and other "[my made up, Natural Theology version of] God wouldn't have done it that way" style arguments. For instance, during the Peter Ward (Darwinist) vs. Stephen Meyer (I.D.) debate, one of Ward's major arguments against I.D. was that there were millions and millions of extinct species, and of course, he asked: if there was a God who created these creatures, why didn't he take care of them? [The answer, of course, is that God subjected nature to futility because of man's sin, but you'd never know that with a Natural Theology mindset.] In my personal experience with Darwinists, I have found that they will often use theodicy and other old, Natural Theology arguments against Creation as their reason for believing in Darwinian evolution. One example was when an atheist argued that, if God really had created us, then he would have given us better defense mechanisms such as wings to quickly fly away. This, he argued, is proof that man was not created, but rather, he evolved through a blind, natural process of random mutation and natural selection. [Of course, the atheist was assuming that God originally intended man to be out in the wild amongst predators instead of in a secure enclosed garden (which he was then expelled from when he fell into sin).]
Whenever you back a Darwinist into a corner by refuting his mainstay arguments for NDET or common descent, he will always resort to the problem of evil and other "[my made up, Natural Theology version of] God wouldn't have done it that way" style arguments. At bottom, after you remove the thin scientific wrapping, the main reason for believing in evolution (whether consciously or unconsciously) is theodicy with an old, Victorian era, un-Biblical view of God.
Another criticism of this book (found below) is that it fails to provide an answer to the "Why would God create 15 different species of elephant? He sure must have been busy!" style argument by Kenneth Miller. Of course, if the reviewer had read the book more closely or actually read *modern* Creationist literature, he would know that NO MODERN CREATIONIST BELIEVES IN THE FIXITY OF SPECIES!!! In fact, the newest Creationist movement, called Baraminology, states that many species have evolved from an ancestor within their "kind". So, a modern Creationist would say that those 15 species of elephant micro-evolved as they migrated to different climates of the earth (through a process that was pre-programmed into their genes) from a common elephant ancestor that God had created.
The last criticism that I would like to deal with comes from the review by Ken W. Daniels below: "Whatever else might be supposed about God's nature, it is generally agreed that, if He exists, He is not deceptive. This is why many creationists are now abandoning the young-earth creationists' "appearance of age" theory. Yet Hunter is disturbed when evolutionists provide evidence for evolution and assert that "God would not have done it that way." Perhaps He did do it that way, but at the risk of introducing the strong appearance of evolution."
First of all, this is a common straw-man version of the "appearance of age" argument. No Creationist that I know of believes that God created the world with an appearance of age *for the purpose of* making it look old. Rather, God created it that way for utilitarian purposes. For example, He intended a fully-formed tree to be used as a dwelling place for animals or firewood for humans rather than to be used as a clock by scientists many years later. Second, Ken's argument for common ancestry from pseudogenes is constantly being debunked with new research. Scientists are finding out that pseudogenes do, in fact, have a function, and they also have an insertion bias (which dispels the need for a common ancestry conclusion). Like the list of vestigial organs, the arguments for NDET and common descent grow smaller with each new scientific discovery.
I highly recommend Cornelius Hunter's book, Darwin's God. It is a great look at the metaphysical presuppositions of common Darwinian arguments.
An enjoyable read Aug 21, 2006
Darwinian evolution teaches that all humans are inherently good. The problem, as stated clearly in the book's subtitle, is that evil exists in this world and many humans bear responsibility for causing and condoning the suffering of others. When evolutionary evidence is examined with an open mind, the metaphysical and philosophical aspects of the theory really come into the open. Unfortunately, the evidence is rarely examined in this matter in our nation's primary schools or universities.
Was Evolution Founded Upon Evidence or Mere Anti-Religious Arguments? Jun 21, 2006
Biophysicist and Discovery fellow Cornelius Hunter scrutinizes the evidence used to support Darwinian theory. Not only does Hunter find that the scientific evidence for Neo-Darwinism is weak, but he exposes that much of evolutionary theory has historically been built upon dysteleological arguments against design. In other words, evolution grew in popularity because it argued against a particular theological position, not because of its overwhelmingly powerful evidence.
Darwin argued that the best way he could explain suffering in the natural world was through natural selection. Darwin's theological motivations behind evolution are revealed when he asks "what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time?" This theological objection is the "problem of evil," which theologians have been addressing for millennia.
Modern biologists have repeated dysteleological arguments, writing that a creator would not re-use the same genetic codes in different organisms. Questioning this assumption, Hunter also finds that the very existence of a genetic code "implies that two distinct entities--the sender and receiver--must know the code before the message is sent." This in itself strongly challenges an evolutionary explanation.
A similar pattern is seen in the arguments for evolution from the fossil record. Darwinists have claimed that the fossil record shows a progression of complexity which "cannot be reconciled with creationism." Yet Hunter recounts that progression or not, the fossil record contains many transitionless jumps in biological form which challenge Darwin's theory. Darwinist speculations are "religious, not scientific" and they "hinge on one person's concept of God." (pg. 84)
Hunter also tackles tough objections to design. Pseudogenes have been called by Darwinists the "proof" that humans share a common ancestor with apes. But here again, dysteleology fills the mind of the Darwinist. Darwinists assume that these pseudogenes are nonfunctional, and that their nonfunctionality arose in a common ancestor. Most importantly, they say a designer "Wouldn't do it that way."
Right or wrong, Hunter reveals the large number of theological arguments that Darwinists make to bolster their theory. This intriguing book shows that Darwinism really does have a large interest in theology and that even Darwinists don't always treat Darwinism as a science.
Darwinian metaphysics. Jan 22, 2004
Charles Darwin's storied "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (1859) featured an appropriately long name. Darwin characterized it as "one long argument," and his recurring metaphysical assertions continue to be argued today, whether by Ken Miller, Mark Ridley, or the producers of PBS videos. The "long argument" has continued for a century and a half. In this volume, biophysicist Cornelius Hunter examines these persistent metaphysical assertions. While metaphysical presuppositions are woven into Darwinism / neo-Darwinism, it remains that metaphysical assertions are not themselves within the logical domain of any physical science. "God wouldn't have done it that way" is not a scientific argument, it is a metaphysical -- more precisely, theological -- argument. This is the whole of Hunter's thesis here, and while some reviewers may be disappointed that the discourse is so narrowly defined, it is a philosophically important treatment. If Darwinian theory is scientifically sound, why the persistent usage of such an obviously questionable, perhaps even naïve, theological justification? Readers familiar with Darwin's writings will find that his arguments are reflected quite accurately in Hunter's examination. The author isn't wrestling with straw men here, but the reader will find many reasons to wonder what Hunter's theological ideas may be. Ultimately, this question isn't important, Hunter isn't the one whose metaphysics are under consideration, nor, unlike Darwin and his apologists, does the author misrepresent his own metaphysical views as being science. Mark Ridley, in his textbook (Evolution, 1993) says, "Positing a God merely invites the question of how such a highly adaptive and well-designed thing could in its turn have come into existence." Hunter reflects on the metaphysical presuppositions and logical poverty concomitant to such (often repeated) arguments, suggesting: "It is little wonder that many people do not believe in evolution. Whether coming from Le Conte in 1888 or Ridley in 1993, these sorts of metaphysical meanderings say more about evolutionists than they do about evolution. . . But Le Conte's and Ridley's premises, that only natural explanations are rational and that God was designed, respectively, are nonscientific. They are statements of personal belief." (p90). This criticism is rather kind. Ridley effectively demands an infinite regress of causes, in which case all explanation, including his own Darwinian one, is epistemologically meaningless.
This volume doesn't assume a judgment on Darwin's conclusions so much as it questions Darwin's logic. Judgments on whether Darwin's conclusions are right or wrong will today need to be oriented toward mathematical arguments. Darwin said that natural selection must act upon variations (mutation is our only candidate here) which he recognized must occur in "inconceivably great number". If 50-100 billion species ('conservative' numbers often cited) are to have been mechanistically generated in less than 4 billion years, then Darwin understated his "inconceivably great" problem. These mathematical concerns are not treated here.