Does evolution exclude God?

This section begins with “The idea that God and biological evolution are mutually exclusive alternatives implies first of all that God and evolution belong to the same category of explanation” P89. While there’s a difference in categories in that God is probably not real and evolution most certainly is, Lennox is instead speaking of one being a mechanism and the other being a being. He says that god isn’t a mechanism, and so Dawkins is making a category mistake. Unless Lennox got some memo on the downgrading of God’s powers that none of the rest of us received, as far as I know God has the power to do anything he wants, so if he wanted to be a mechanism he could. Or he could both be a mechanism and simultaneously (I seem to be using that word a bit lately) not be a mechanism. As that’s the case Lennox is equally both wrong and right. I’m not sure if it’s also a win-win for him and me. OK, this is semantics bullshit, but it’s the kind of bullshit that Lennox leaves himself open for when he starts to say what god can and cannot do.

But on the power of god Lennox is just getting going, or rather just finishing, for his appeals to science having any kind of power to bury theism are going to overstep their mark:

“In other words, the evolutionary viewpoint, far from invalidating the inference to intelligent origin, arguably does nothing more than moving it back up one level, from the organism to the process by which those organism come to exist – or if you like, from primary to secondary causation.” P91

In other words, whatever level of explanation we achieve through science, God is always one level above. Some science, like evolution and the fine tuned universe, do give our meager mammalian brains a peep into that level.

Not only has Lennox moved beyond the power of science to give evidence for his god, but he’s also moved beyond rationality. Why stop at God’s power over evolution? God exerts the same power over every facet of life, unless there’s some sort of demarcation on micromanagement. God is behind the theft of your car, your spouse’s infidelity and the brain cancer your favorite uncle died of. He exerted similar influence over the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the AIDS crisis in Africa and the last piece of cheesecake being taken by the customer in front of you in the line at that product name hipster coffee house you had lunch in today.

I’m sure that Lennox would bleat about free will and humans having the power to usurp god’s plan, but then he’s just erecting a different kind of boundary to his god’s abilities, while also saying that his god isn’t all-powerful. And our actions don’t occur in a vacuum – my exercise of free will against his power impacts others in (positive and) negative ways. Unless he immmediately wrests control of the action once it’s left the deity-deflector shield that it’s created in by me, then I and not god are now steering the boats of others over the waterfall. I’m sure it can all be explained away by god moving in mysterious ways. You just have to say that god can do anything, so he can paradoxically control us and give us free will simultanesouly (there’s that word again) but for Lennox the above quote moves his thesis in metaphysics, magic… I don’t know… but whatever it is he’s not using science to exhume god. He can’t. God is inexplicable by science and he said so himself.

3 thoughts on “Does evolution exclude God?

  1. Nathanael

    “Not only has Lennox moved beyond the power of science to give evidence for his god, but he’s also moved beyond rationality.”
    Has Lennox actually claimed that science can give any other evidence than abduction?
    I don’t think Lennox has moved from abduction as his foundation for developing his case and has been very consistent about that.
    In trying to refute his points I feel like it’s your semantics that are taking over and over-reaching on the claims that Lennox is making.
    Teasing out your perception of the implications of claims rather than the claims themselves is doing exactly what you previously have stated you’re not interested in doing.

    Reply
  2. winstoninabox Post author

    Teasing out your perception of the implications of claims rather than the claims themselves is doing exactly what you previously have stated you’re not interested in doing.

    Yes. But the readers got bored with me just pointing out why the book is not a good book. The 3 main repliers are in agreement about that (albeit for different reasons). People want to go beyond that, so I’m happy to do so. See, you’re doing it too. You haven’t replied with why Lennox is right, but instead focused on my extension of his mistake.

    Has Lennox actually claimed that science can give any other evidence than abduction?
    I don’t think Lennox has moved from abduction as his foundation for developing his case and has been very consistent about that.

    Who cares? He’s dragged out the ol’ chestnut of level of causation. Science could uncover all there is to know about the natural world, and Lennox would claim that god is yet another level above that. By his own definition it’s fair enough for Lennox to subscribe evolution to god’s guiding hand. God is after all by definition all-powerful. But with that all-power comes all-responsibility. Unless the theist plays the fiat of god is mysterious, we can’t know god’s plan, our knowledge of god is incomplete, etc. then my extension of guiding evolution is also fair enough. God controls the good and the bad in our lives (as we perceive them, at least). Take your pick of the above outs, but his reasoning elevates his thesis beyond science to metaphysics, magic, or just plain old storytelling.

    Reply
  3. Marco

    I liked this post. It gets to the root of the philosophical difficulties posed by contemporary Christianity. The conflict between the concept of a deity which is omni-everything and the observation of having ceded free will to humans is a difficulty outside of the scope of science, or even logic to resolve.

    And yes, whatever explanation we get from science, God is always a level above. Thus, when we do discover comet spaghetti monsters have designed the biology we see on Earth, explaining why it looks designed, it would not have explained the origin of the comet spaghetti monster – it will just make everybody’s current theories about the origin of life look a little silly and dated.

    Reply

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