Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

Mark Vuletic

Assertion

Evolution entails atheism.

Analysis

I. Even a fully naturalistic understanding of evolution does not entail atheism

Even if one takes evolution to be an entirely naturalistic process, evolution still does not preclude the existence of a god: although consistent with atheism, it does not entail atheism.

Since evolution cannot take place until a certain kind of replicator exists (one that can vary in a manner that affects its success at self-replication), even a strictly naturalistic history of life cannot rule out the direct creative action of a deity at any point in time from the origin of the universe to the origin of life.

Creationists commonly respond that this makes evolution compatible at best with deism (the view that god creates the universe but never intervenes thereafter). But, in the first place, one should not need to be reminded that deism is not atheism. Second, nothing in evolution rules out the possibility that the first replicator was created. Third, not even naturalistic evolution and a naturalistic origin of life together rule out the possibility of a deity who intervenes miraculously in human affairs (say, by parting a sea for his chosen people, raising from the dead a crucified Mediterranean Jew, or revealing counsels and maxims to a camel trader in the Hijaz).

II. Evolution with occasional exceptions

Many people who believe in God follow the late Pope John Paul II in accepting that evolution accounts for the physical forms of all organisms, including humans, but denying that it can account for the existence of souls, which would need to be created by the direct activity of a god. Such believers introduce exceptions into the evolutionary process without doing to it the violence that creationists do when they refuse to admit the common ancestry of humans and other animals.

Last updated: 16 Feb 2016

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