ID, Atheism, and Theistic Evolution
|February 24, 2010||Posted by William Dembski under Atheism, Darwinism, Evolution, Intelligent Design, theistic evolution|
A famous theism-vs.-atheism debate between William Lane Craig and Frank Zindler took place in 1993 at Willow Creek Church and was published as a video by Zondervan in 1996 (under the title Atheism vs. Christianity). The debate is available on YouTube here (in 15 parts). It is available in full here. In that debate, Zindler, taking the atheist side, made the following remark:
The most devastating thing, though, that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people, the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve, there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin, there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation, there is no need of a savior. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.
I’ve addressed Zindler’s objection to Original Sin and the Fall in my book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (check out the book as well as a $5,000 video contest promoting the book at www.godornot.com). What interests me here, though, is the logic that’s suppoed to take one from evolution to the death of Christianity — and presumably also to the death of any other brand of theism. Accordingly, evolution — a Darwinian, materialistic form of it — is supposed to imply no God and thus atheism. Simply put, (DARWINIAN) EVOLUTION implies ATHEISM. This implication seems widely touted by atheists. Will Provine, for instance, will call evolution an “engine for atheism,” suggesting that the path from evolution to atheism is inescapable.
Now this implication, though perhaps underscoring a sociological phenomenon (people exposed to Darwinism frequently become atheistic or agnostic), is logically unsound. Theistic evolutionists like Francis Collins, Denis Alexander, and Kenneth Miller provide a clear counterexample, showing that some bright biologists think it’s possible for the two to be compatible. Moreover, there’s no evident contradiction between a Darwinian evolutionary process that brings about the complexity and diversity of life and a god of some sort (deistic, Stoic, etc.?) setting up the physical conditions by which evolution operates.
The reverse implication, however, does hold: ATHEISM implies EVOLUTION (a gradualist, materialist form of evolution, the prime example of which is Darwinian evolution). Indeed, the atheist has no other options in explaining the diversity and complexity of life. This reverse implication explains why ID is so vehemently opposed by atheists. By challenging evolution, ID challenges atheism. The logic here is a simple application of the rules modus ponens (If A, then B; A; therefore B) and modus tollens (If A, then B; not B; therefore not A). Thus,
Premise 1: If atheism is true, then so is Darwinian evolution.
Premise 2: But if ID is true, then Darwinian evolution is false.
Premise 3: ID is true (the controversial premise).
Conclus 1: Therefore Darwinian evolution is false (modus ponents applied to Premises 2 and 3)
Conclus 2: Therefore atheism is false (modus tollens applied to Premise 1 and Conclus 1)
Evolution is the mainstay of an atheistic worldview — is it a coincidence that the day-job of the world’s most prominent atheist (Richard Dawkins) is evolutionary biology? ID, by challenging this mainstay, fundamentally undermines an atheistic worldview. It’s therefore ironic that theistic evolutionists fall all over themselves to support evolution, even arguing that it is more compatible with Christian theism than ID.
When I got into this business 20 years ago, I thought that any Christian (and indeed theist), given good evidence against evolution (again, a materialistic understanding of it) would be happy to trash it and move to some form of intelligent design (whether special creation or intelligent evolution). But that’s not happened. Theistic evolutionists now make common cause with atheistic evolutionists — specifically against ID. ID has become public enemy number one for both atheistic and theistic evolutionists (the recent spate of books by both sides confirms this point).
The practical effect of this is that not just the mainstream academy but the mainstream Christian academy (Wheaton College, Calvin College, Seattle Pacific University, etc. — most of the schools in the CCCU) have now closed their doors to ID and to hiring faculty that explicitly support it. We’re therefore on our own. This may seem like a bad thing (it sure would be nice to be invited to those wine-and-cheese parties at the Templeton Foundation), but I submit it is a good thing. It keeps us honest. We don’t have to play nice with Darwin because our livelihoods are at stake. Moreover, it will make the ultimate victory of ID all that much sweeter.