Thursday, 18 September 2014

I Believe In Evolution, So I Don't Believe In God

"I Believe In Evolution, So I Don't Believe In God"

This (or a paraphrase of this) is heard really really often when asking atheists why they don't believe.

It seems simple, but there's so so soooo much wrong with it, that it gets embarrassing for the person who said it when the mistakes are explained to them.
There's so much wrong with it, that it's difficult to know where to start.

So ok. First let's ask 'what do you mean by evolution?'
That word could refer to a few things, or all of those things as a bundle. It could mean stuff like how birds wings might get a little bigger, or their beaks might change shape a bit, or they might get a little faster. It could include natural selection or 'survival of the fittest', where the creatures best suited to environments will survive while the rest die out. It could (and I think most often does) refer to Darwinian evolution i.e. the theory that all life today gradually grew and mutated from a single celled organism over several million/billion years.

If we're talking small changes and natural selection (which is sometimes referred to as micro-evolution) then we're all good. That stuff has been observed, proven, and has to be accepted as factual.
If we're talking Darwinian evolution, then the evidence for that is on pretty shaky ground. Essentially what's been done by scientists who hold to it is they have seen the small changes and from that concluded it must go all the way back to the big changes that have to happen to make something like a lizard mutate into a dog. Unfortunately, the fossil record doesn't back them up. The oldest known relative of modern dogs is an ancient dog. The oldest known relative of modern horses is an ancient horse. It's the same for everything we have today. There aren't any cat/wolf hybrids or anything else that's split into two different things.
Trouble is, atheists have to believe in evolution, because they have nothing else. If Darwinian evolution was disproved, then it would be the final nail in the coffin for atheism.

I'm gonna jump right in here and say that Darwinian evolution has not been disproved. It's still an option. Evidence doesn't really support it at the moment, but that could change. Science tends to rely on testing things that can be observed. Small changes and natural selection (micro-evolution) have been observed - that's what makes them facts. Darwinian evolution has not been observed. It's fairly difficult to observe something that takes millions of years to happen to be fair, but we should at least have some clues in fossils. On the other hand intelligent design has been observed. Humans guided the progress of the evolution of wolves into the various types of dogs like dalmatians, poodles, and chihuahuas.

It's irrelevant anyway. Going back to the original line that this article is dealing with, the main thing to realise is that if evolution is true, it doesn't have any relation to the existence of God.
Evolution (Darwinian or otherwise) is completely compatible with God. It could be his method of building things. It could be a natural process he designed and left to play out without him needing to tinker with everything all the time.

A different thing called abiogenesis (the creation of life from non-life by natural methods) would be better evidence against God's existence, but there's no evidence that this happened. They haven't really got the first clue about how it could have happened. If someone said "I Believe In Abiogeneis, So I Don't Believe In God", that would make more sense, but there's no reason whatsoever to believe in abiogenesis unless you've already decided you don't believe in an intelligent higher power. If you've already decided that, then you are forced to believe in some as yet unknown, undiscovered, mystery natural process that explains it. That's called 'naturalism of the gaps' and is the opposite of the scientific method.

Abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution are separate theories. If you want to stick to atheism, you have to believe in both. If either can be shown to be impossible, then you have to give up atheism.

Abiogenesis seems to be obviously false. It's the idea that life can come from non-life. This has never been observed. All scientific evidence we have says that this is impossible. If it was possible I don't see any reason why all those pet rocks from the 80s couldn't have spontaneously sprung into life at any time.
Biologists have been doing tests in labs to see what things they can mix to make life. They aren't anywhere near yet, but if they do manage it somehow, again that's intelligent design, not natural process!

The final biggest problem for evolution is that it doesn't give any explanation of consciousness - self awareness. If evolution is true, it only shows how our physical bodies took shape. It doesn't give any explanation for our minds.
Descartes said 'I think therefore I am'. What he was kind of saying is that, you are you. You know that you are you. If you lose an arm, you are still you, but the arm isn't. If you lose both arms, you are still you. If you lose your arms and legs, you are still you. If you were just a living head in a jar you would still be you. If you were a living brain in a jar you would still be you. If the brain died, it wouldn't be a part of you any more. Your brain is just another lump of body matter. It's no different to an arm in that sense, so it doesn't get special treatment. It's where your mind and consciousness seem to be, but once that stuff is gone from it, then it is no longer what you are.
For the atheist who only trusts natural explanations, we don't have a mind that is separate from the brain. The brain does what it does, and we are somehow living an illusion that we are in control. Our control doesn't make sense unless we have a separate mind/consciousness/soul and that is something we all intuitively know. We all recognise our control over our body and to some extent how we are separate but connected to it. That simple understanding alone disproves naturalistic atheism. The choice open to us is that atheism is false and we have souls, or atheism is true, abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution is true, and we are all robots deluded into thinking we have souls.

So to sum up here's the possibilities for reality:
1. God is real. He created and designed us. Darwinian evolution may or may not have been a part of that. Who cares? We'll figure it out at some point.
2. Atheism is true. Abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution is true. Everything we believe is an illusion.

Considering which of those has the evidence has behind it, and doesn't require us to believe an absurdity, I know which I'm going to believe.