"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Monday, 4 April 2011

What's their problem with evolution?

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
-- Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (1986)
Why do fundamental Christians dislike the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection so much? It might be tempting to think that it is because as Dawkins says it is the killer argument against the necessity of God in the creation of life and man in particular.
But as proponents of theistic evolution point out, there is nothing inherent in TOE that negates a role for a god of sorts, albeit an un-falsifiable one. Even belief in Intelligent Design is possible in a ‘god of the gaps’ sort of way, at least until actual real science plugs the gaps.
Of course fundamental, biblical literalists would argue that God already explained how creation happened, so TOE must by definition be wrong (this is why Muslims have a problem with it). But I think there is another reason why they dislike the idea that man in particular evolved and was not a special creation. It is also a reasoning that spills over into less literal Christian’s problem with evolution. Original sin.
For a Christian the only point of Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection is to show the way to salvation from Adam’s heinous crime of disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden. If there was no garden, no Adam and Eve and no act of disobedience, a simplistic understanding of Original Sin is not possible. You can invent theodicies to cover of course, ascribing God’s intentions to the outcome of evolution as a fallen and imperfect mankind. But this is not the sort of narrative that sits well with the bloody and tortuous scapegoating of a god-man on a cross. Cleansing the world in such a sadistic way of the sins of billions of years of evolution set in train by a deity who planned in advance that man would evolve to be imperfect has theological problems of its own. But Adam created whole with free will and the chutzpah to rebel (with a little goading by the missus) can be squeezed much more neatly into the idea.
Evolution gnaws at the very heart of Christian dogma in a way that almost nothing else does. Except to a literalist a 14 Billion year old universe with a Big Bang at the front end doesn’t present big problems for Christians theologically speaking, but evolution definitely does.

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