William Lane Craig answers a question about Evolution

William Lane Craig answers a question about Evolution


This caught my eye yesterday. It is a well presented answer. Your thoughts on this will be appreciated.

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Questions to Dr. Craig

Dear Dr. Craig,

I love your work and your tireless efforts to spread the message of Christ in a intelligent, articulate manner! You have personally brought me to faith in Christ and delivered me, through your various articles and debates, from an atheistic-induced existential depression ( I really contemplated suicide for I thought: Since there is no afterlife… might as well go into oblivion sooner….. ); and for that I cannot thank you enough!

Questions:
1) Regarding the theory of evolution, why is it so widely accepted in mainstream science? While I am steadfast in the fact that evolution cannot disprove the existence of God; I cannot seem to find any evidence clearly showing the general process of simple organisms evolving into more complex ones. Furthermore, there seems to be a consensus among geologists that the Earth is roughly 6 billion years old, whereas I hear Young Earth Creationists stating that the Earth is only 6 thousand years old. Who is right?

2) If evolution is true, then why didn’t God write Genesis differently? Just a simple ” and little organisms changed over time ” would certainly clear up all the conflict between Creationists and Evolutionists and prevent people from thinking that the Bible is against science or something. In line with this thinking, why didn’t God put the Big Bang Cosmology theory in Genesis? ” In the beginning, the universe was a hot dense state. Then, it expanded! ”

Please give me links or additional information regarding these topics

Once again, I really thank you for your work and pray that God blesses and keeps you, and everything you hold dear, well.

Warm Regards,

Timothy

Dr. Craig’s response

I’m thrilled to hear that your life is now on a good track, Tim! I’ll respond to your questions in order.

(1) Why is the theory of evolution so widely accepted in mainstream science? I think the short answer is that it’s the best naturalistic theory we’ve got. If, as a result of methodological naturalism, the pool of live explanatory options is limited to naturalistic hypotheses, then, at least until recently, the neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution driven by the mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection was, as Alvin Plantinga puts it, the only game in town. Rival naturalistic hypotheses could not equal its explanatory power, scope, and plausibility. No matter how improbable it seems, no matter how enormously far the explanatory power of its mechanisms must be extrapolated beyond the testable evidence, no matter the lack of evidence for many of its tenets, it has to be true because there isn’t any other naturalistic theory that comes close.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that the word “evolution” is an accordion-word that can be expanded or contracted to suit the occasion. The evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala points out that the word “evolution” can be used to mean at least three different things:

1. The process of change and diversification of living things over time. It is in this sense that biologists say that evolution is a fact. But obviously this fact, so stated, is innocuous and would not be disputed even by the most fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist.

2. Reconstruction of evolutionary history, showing how various lineages branched off from one another on the universal tree of life.

3. The mechanisms which account for evolutionary change. Darwin appealed to natural selection operating on random variations in living things in order to explain the adaptedness of organisms to their environment. With the development of modern genetics, genetic mutations came to supplement the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection by supplying an explanation for the variations on which natural selection works. Accordingly, we can call this hypothesis “neo-Darwinism.”

Now evolution in the senses of (2) and (3) is not an established fact, despite what is said and believed in popular culture. According to Ayala, “The second and third issues—seeking to ascertain evolutionary history as well as to explain how and why evolution takes place—are matters of active scientific investigation. Some conclusions are well-established. Many matters are less certain, others are conjectural, and still others. . . remain largely unknown” (Darwin and Intelligent Design). With respect to (2) Ayala emphasizes, “Unfortunately, there is a lot, lot, lot to be discovered still. To reconstruct evolutionary history, we have to know how the mechanisms operate in detail, and we have only the vaguest idea of how they operate at the genetic level, how genetic change relates to development and to function. . . . I am implying that what would be discovered would be not only details, but some major principles” (Where Darwin Meets the Bible). As for (3), he cautions, “The mechanisms accounting for these changes are still undergoing investigation. . . . The evolution of organisms is universally accepted by biological scientists, while the mechanisms of evolution are still actively investigated and are the subject of debate among scientists”(“The Evolution of Life: An Overview”).

Once you realize that the word “evolution” can be used to refer to any of these three aspects, you begin to understand how misleading it can be when it is asserted that evolution is an established, universally recognized fact.

Indeed, there are very good grounds for scepticism about the neo-Darwinian mechanisms behind evolutionary change. The adequacy of these mechanisms is today being sharply challenged by some of the top evolutionary biologists. In fact, I was intrigued recently to learn that Ayala has apparently since given up on the adequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanisms. Lyn Margulis, one of the so-called Altenburg 16, a group of evolutionary biologists who met in 2008 at a conference in Altenburg, Austria, to explore the mechanisms behind evolutionary change, reported, “At that meeting [Francisco] Ayala agreed with me when I stated that this doctrinaire neo-Darwinism is dead. He was a practitioner of neo-Darwinism, but advances in molecular genetics, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and other news had led him to agree that neo-Darwinism’s now dead” (Suzan Mazur, The Altenberg 16 [Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2010], p. 285).

Now it needs to be clearly understood that Ayala is not about to embrace some sort of creationism. Rather additional natural mechanisms will be sought to supplement genetic mutation and natural selection. These are already being suggested in the scientific literature. I have every expectation that during the course of this century the neo-Darwinian mechanisms, which have been long challenged by creationists of various stripes, will come to be recognized as inadequate, and new mechanisms will be recognized. The irony will then be that the community of evolutionary biologists, rather than admitting that the criticisms of the creationists were justified, will say, “Oh, well, we knew all along that the neo-Darwinian mechanisms were inadequate!”–this, despite the public posturing that goes on now in the name of neo-Darwinism!

So while evolution in an innocuous sense is well-established, belief in evolution in senses (2) and (3) is not universal among scientists, and the dominance of neo-Darwinism heretofore is due to the constraints of methodological naturalism and the want of a better naturalistic alternative.

2. If evolution is true, then why didn’t God write Genesis differently? It seems to me that the answer to this question must be that the purpose of Genesis is not to teach science. Rather its purpose is theological; it demythologizes the pagan creation myths of Israel’s neighbors, so that the sun, moon, and stars are no longer deities but just things God made, like the plants and animals. It is the demythologization of nature and an assertion of God’s sovereignty.

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What are your thoughts?

Original article here

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12 thoughts on “William Lane Craig answers a question about Evolution

  1. If William Lane Craig said it, ignore it. He makes his living by lying to people. He first redefines evolution in a way that suits his answer instead of as science defines it. This is misleading and allows him to sound plausible while lying to you. He is not a biologist and people should not be asking him to explain biology. He is a liar for his imaginary friend, that is how he makes his money. I encourage you to look at http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2012/10/what-is-evolution.html for a start on understanding evolution as it is meant and used.

    His answer about Genesis does not answer any of the other myriad problems with the stories in Genesis. It merely deflects the question, while avoiding other questions about Genesis and its value to the reader. He even says ‘it seems to me’ so the entirety of it is opinion and not some special theological understanding of the book of Genesis. The history of religion shows that Christianity is a copy of other myths but restated, and this is all that Craig is saying. He in fact is not supporting faith at all nor some special understanding of his god, just avoiding the question.

    1. That Christianity is a “copy of other myths” is a popular theory, but is not, in fact, based on actual historical or textual study. It takes vague similarities and makes them the crux of the argument, while ignoring the underlying statements, assertions and truths behind the various stories. For example, the fact that there is a “Noah” story in almost every ancient culture can just as likely point to the fact that there actually was a flood as to the fact that each culture copied the other. It would be wiser to look at the various accounts and notice the differences in each that demonstrate the mythological aspects of some, and the historical aspects of the other.

      As for the first paragraph, skeptics are typically more than happy to listen to biologists and physicists about philosophy and religion and repeat their conclusions as if they are based on established techniques of logic and reason. Claiming that Craig is a liar is not the same as demonstrating where he is wrong, even as regards the quoted article itself. As Ravi Zacharias said, “Many skeptics are much better at breaking eggs than knowing how to make anything with them.”

      1. “For example, the fact that there is a “Noah” story in almost every ancient culture can just as likely point to the fact that there actually was a flood as to the fact that each culture copied the other.”
        Only the regional cultures of the near east to my knowledge. Certainly not any North American or South American. I haven’t read of Australian aboriginals recording a great flood.

        1. Actually you are mistaken here. Sadly many of our Aboriginal stories were stamped out along with the attempt to wipe out our people upon invasion of the country 200 odd years ago. However, luckily some of my people were an touched and retain the original and true dreaming stories as well as our own genesis account. Contrary to your suggestion, indeed there IS a “noah-esque” flood story in almost the same way it is told biblically. Sadly even most Aboriginal australians don’t even know their own history now days so it can easily be glossed over. 🙂

          1. Actually, when it comes to South America, there is also a mistake there. Here in Brazil, specially São Paulo, where the Ancient Tupi was the official language of the province until half of the 18th century, everybody knows the stories from the indigenous people.

            The “Tupi” people have always worshiped Nhanderu (“Our Father” in a free translation). There’s “Tamandaré”, the man who’d have survived “the flood”. Curiously there’s also thei very old tale about a man called Sumé (called Nhanderequeí by the Guaranis and Karú-Sakaibê by the Munducurus), who was said to be a “white man (notice that these indians in South America first saw a white man in late 15th century only) with a thick beard (as you know, indians don’t have thick beards neither… so they probably didn’t even know that such a thing could exist), WHO WALKED OVER WATER, leaving traces/messages on the rocks and teaching them a lot of things”.

            What a coincidence.

  2. The other myriad of problems, occur only if you go with a strict literal reading. I actually hold the same opinion, the point of the book of Genesis is theology not science. The problem is young earth creationists tend to assert a literal reading of scriptures and therefore alienate themselves from modern science.

    I looked at the link, thanks for sharing it. I actually lean towards the evolutionary theory so you don’t have to convince me on this.

    1. The problem, John, is that *most* Christians are not as level-headed as you are. Not even 50% of people polled in the US believe that evolution is a scientific fact. They belief in Creation myths instead. So, while it may be true that certain churches are warming to the idea of evolution, the fact remains that a vast majority do not accept it.

      My family for example, are literalists when it comes to the Bible. They reject evolution as an attack on God. They’re normal people otherwise!

      We even have Congressmen who refer to evolution as “lies from the pits of hell” or something to that effect. Congressman Broun sits on the House Science Committee! Todd Akin, our “legitimate rape” friend sits on that committee too. This is a big problem.

      Why, in your opinions, is literalism so prevalent, as is hostility to sound science?

        1. They probably don’t have to be but the problem is that a majority of theists (even casual ones) have adopted a mindset of exclusivity against science.

          Again, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000,000 people currently reject sound science. That is 50%! Whereas greater than 99% of the scientific community agrees.

          That’s a problem. Religion is breeding willful ignorance.

  3. So, Craig falls afoul of the part of the Naturalistic Fallacy which most people can agree on: Don’t confuse the descriptive with the prescriptive. He quickly comes to the point that most religious objections to evolutionary theory leave as subtext – it is methodological naturalism that he dislikes, not evolution itself. He ultimately wants to insist on moral content for any final description of the physical world. This way madness lies. Such thinking is the foundation for people acting as if the exposure of women’s hair, a priest’s blessing, or a sip of alcohol has inherent moral content. Isn’t this essentially the problem in the Old testament covenant which the New testament covenant sought to correct?

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