Chapter Two - Continued
Draper's Evidential Argument
Dawkins and Dennett are meant to represent the position that evolutionary theory has ruled out theism, or at least traditional Abrahamic theism, or at least Plantinga's interpretation of God creating humankind in his image. Paul Draper will now represent the position that evolution at least constitutes significant evidence against theism.
Without getting into Draper's supporting arguments,1 the basic idea is that we would be relatively less likely to discover that our origins are evolutionary in a world created by God than we would in a fully natural world. The discovery that our origins actually are evolutionary, therefore, constitutes some evidence that we live in a fully natural world. You may recognize this as a form of inference to the best explanation.
Suppose Draper is correct and the fact of evolution counts in favor of naturalism. Plantinga counters by saying that other facts weigh in favor of theism, e.g. that there are intelligent beings on Earth with a moral sense who worship God. Such beings would be relatively more likely to exist if there is a God who wanted them to exist, than in any scenario without a similar guarantee. At this point, I would argue that the facts of moral and religious diversity would be odd in a world with one God who wants a unity of morals and religion...to which Plantinga might play the Calvinism card. And so it goes.
Remember Plantinga's theology about theism being necessarily true? He also complains about Draper assuming theism is a contingent matter. (I really need to write a post on this topic sometime.)
"A solid majority of Americans are Christians, and many more (some 88 or 90 percent, depending on the poll you favor) believe in God. But when that choir of experts repeatedly tell us that evolution is incompatible with belief in God, it’s not surprising that many people come to believe that evolution is incompatible with belief in God, and is therefore an enemy of religion. After all, those experts are, well, experts. But then it is also not surprising that many Americans are reluctant to have evolution taught to their children in the public schools, the schools they themselves pay taxes to support. [...] The association of evolution with naturalism is the obvious root of the widespread antipathy to evolution in the United States, and to the teaching of evolution in the public schools."2I pretty much agree with Plantinga's point that equating evolution and naturalism is a foolish move if you want evolution taught in public schools. To use the weather analogy, meteorology might be controversial in middle school classrooms if Richard Dawkins were out there claiming the hydrological cycle reveals the truth of atheism.
At the same time, Plantinga is badly mistaken about the primary source of "the association of evolution with naturalism." He acts like American Christians are being duped into thinking there's a conflict between evolution and their religious beliefs. Nope. They came up with that idea on their own. Naturalists like Dawkins are reacting, not instigating. For many American Christians, taking Genesis as history is an essential doctrine, despite Plantinga's quick dismissal earlier in the book.
Come to think of it, this book bothers me the same way Intelligent Design books and articles usually do. There's no outright affirmation of the basic scientific discoveries that divide Old Earth Creationists from Young Earth Creationists. It's all about leaving things open for Christians, even when it's the equivalent of leaving open geocentrism. Plantinga is like a politician trying to please a broad base while hoping his scientifically literate constituency and his anti-science constituency don't notice he's refusing to stand with either of them.
Setting the Genesis issue aside, what about the argument that evolution doesn't fit the picture of a good God who cares for the well-being of his creatures? As Darwin wrote:
"I had no intention to write atheistically, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice."3Plantinga gives a possible reason why God may allow so much suffering that can't be blamed on humankind.
"God wanted to create a really good world; among all the possible worlds, he wanted to choose one of very great goodness. [...] Among good-making properties for worlds, however, there is one of special, transcendent importance, and it is a property that according to Christians characterizes our world. For according to the Christian story, God, the almighty first being of the universe and the creator of everything else, was willing to undergo enormous suffering in order to redeem creatures who had turned their backs on him. [...] The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was subjected to ridicule, rejection, and finally the cruel and humiliating death of the cross. [...] All this to enable human beings to be reconciled to God, and to achieve eternal life. This overwhelming display of love and mercy is not merely the greatest story ever told; it is the greatest story that could be told. No other great-making property of a world can match this one.What I'm hearing is that huge numbers of sentient beings suffered over millions of years to provide a fitting background for God to suffer briefly. Answers like this are why I recommend people read apologetics books rather than Dawkins, Dennett, et al. if they want to risk their faith.
If so, however, perhaps all the best possible worlds contain incarnation and atonement, or at any rate atonement. But any world that contains atonement will contain sin and evil and consequent suffering and pain. Furthermore, if the remedy is to be proportionate to the sickness, such a world will contain a great deal of sin and a great deal of suffering and pain. Still further, it may very well contain sin and suffering, not just on the part of human beings but perhaps also on the part of other creatures as well. Indeed, some of these other creatures might be vastly more powerful than human beings, and some of them—Satan and his minions, for example—may have been permitted to play a role in the evolution of life on earth, steering it in the direction of predation, waste and pain."4
1. See http://naturalisticatheism.blogspot.com/2006/01/biological-evolution-as-evidence.html for a more detailed analysis.
2. Plantinga, A. (2011). Where the conflict really lies: Science, religion, and naturalism [Kindle Edition]. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 53
3. Darwin, C. (1860/1911). Charles Darwin to Asa Gray. In F. Darwin (Ed.), The life and letters of Charles Darwin (vol 2). New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company. p. 105
4. Plantinga (2011). p. 58