The Philosophy of Evolutionists versus Creationists

“radar, I asked a question some time ago (don’t worry, this isn’t about horses!); perhaps I failed to recognize your reply as an answer.

Let’s say it was shown to you beyond reasonable doubt that not only was evolution correct, at least in its broad outlines (I don’t imagine anyone with any degree of science literacy imagines the current account to be complete and infailable), but so, similarly, were those parts of of modern archaelogy, geology, physics, astronomy, cosmology (even mainstream biblical scholarship) that the YEC position denies or contradicts.

How would this affect your faith in God?

-Dan S. “

The above was a question, and a good one, from a consistent (and sometimes humorous) commenter. It ties in with another commenter who expressed surprise when I mentioned that there was a philosophical side to the evolution versus creation dialogue. Thus, this posting.

I want to thank in advance Bill Cooper and also his book, After The Flood ISBN 1-874367-40-X, who has written a great deal about Genesis 10 and 11 in particular and will provide me with some material. The following includes some quotes from his book and also some sources that I used based on information found from his book.

The Philosophy of Evolution versus Creation

Some of my commenters have suggested that their stand on this particular issue is based on science rather than world view. I have tended to take such statements with a grain of salt. In fact, some of the early Darwin proponents were unapologetic in their admission that world view was integral to their scientific stand.

Allow me to mention some quotes from that post:

“[I suppose the reason] we all jumped at the Origin [of Species] was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.” – Julian Huxley, British biologist.

“Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually- fulfilled atheist.” – Richard Dawkins, Darwinian apologist.

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption … For myself, as no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneous liberation from a certain political and economic system, and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” – Aldous Huxley, philosopher, author, lecturer -(REPORT, June 1966. “Confession of Professed Atheist.”}

The above three men are not necessarily representative of Darwinists, who are not known to be wild and crazy (and amoral) guys, at least not all of ’em. But this quote below is quite representative:

“We [scientists] have … a prior commitment to materialism [and] we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations… Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” -Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review, January 9, 1997, p. 31.

Materialism

Lao-Tzu, 6th century taoist philosopher – “Before time, and throughout time, there has been a self-existing being, eternal, infinite, omnipresent…..Outside that being, before the beginning, there was nothing.”Tao-te-ching. (English version by Derek Bryce)

Kuo-Hsiang, contemporary (of Lao-Tzu)philosopher – “I venture to ask whether the creator is or is not. If he is not, how can he creat things?….The creating of things has no Lord; everything creates itself.” – Nature in Question by John Clarke

It seems that the knowledge of a creator god as described by Lao-Tzu had been known in ancient cultures but there were also the materialists who did not allow for such a god. Long before Jesus walked the earth and long before Darwin sailed on the Beagle the debate had begun on philosophical rather than scientific grounds. It was the commonly held view in ancient cultures like Egypt and Greece and China that there was, indeed, a creator god. This was true even in cultures that were otherwise polytheistic. Some works that have passed down to us include statements that sound remarkably like passages from the Bible.

Bill Clark translates this from a text in Heliopolis in Egypt: “I am the creator of all things that exist….that came forth from my mouth. Heaven and earth did not exist nor had been created the herbs of the ground nor the creeping things. I raised them out of the primeval abyss from a state of non-being…”

From 8th century BC, The Theogony of Hesiod: “First of all the Void came into being ….next Earth…Out of the Void came darkness…and out of the Night came Light and Day.” (as translated by Norman Brown)

Plato makes this statement in Timaeus and Criteas: “Let us therefore state the reason why the framer of this universe of change framed it at all. He was good, and what is good has no particle of envy in it; being therefore without envy, he wished all things to be as like himself as possible. This is as valid a principle for the origin of the world of change as we shall discover from the wisdom of men….”

In a later post I will address one reason why men of the ancient world understood the idea of a Creator God who was good, and all-powerful. It was because they were all descended from the same family! This basic knowledge had been taken with people wherever they had gone and was the accepted understanding of beginnings among great men of the day. But materialism appeared in 6 century BC in China, as previously mentioned and around that time there lived Thales of Miletus (625-545 BC) who is sometimes credited with being the author of materialism among the Greeks. But the first recorded challenge to standard Greek creationist wisdom came from one of Thale’s pupils, Anaximander. Plutarch quotes Anaximander as having said “…originally humans were born from animals of a different kind….” which sounds rather familiar to us today. No, Darwin was not unique nor were his views entirely based upon his observations of nature, His was a materialistic viewpoint and that viewpoint colored his observations of the world.

Plato spoke concerning materialists thusly: “Some people, I believe, account for all things which have come into existence now, and all things which will do so in the future, by attributing them either to nature, art, or chance.” Plato, The Laws. (Trevor Sanders translation) He went on in the same treatise to call such thoughts “pernicious doctrine” that must be “the ruin of the younger generation, both in the state at large and in private families.”

It fell to Epicurus of the 4th century BC to mount a challenge to Plato and creationist thought. He argued for random events and a universe that was neither designed nor well-ordered. But outright atheism was easily defeated in arguments with thinkers of the times, so he refused to deny the existence of god or gods while at the same time not allowing for an orderly and created universe. Epicurean materialism had it’s followers but the majority of the Greeks remained in the creationist camp. Zeno founded the Stoics in approximately 308 BC and one of their number, Chrysippus, is quoted by Cicero in On the Nature of the Gods:

“If there is anything in nature which the human mind, which human intelligence, energy and power could not create, then the creator of such things must be a being superior to man. But the heavenly bodies in their eternal orbits could not be created by man. They must therefore be created by a being greater than man…..Only an arrogant fool would imagine that there was nothing in the whole world greater than himself. Therefore there must be something greater than man. And that something must be God.” – translated by Horace Macgregor.

Whereas it may seem strange for Greeks to acknowledge a creator God when we generally think of their pantheon of gods, which were more like super-men and women who were neither morally nor intellectually superior to men, as being their gods. But they did acknowledge one superior creator god, although that knowledge began to fade over the centuries. Note that the Apostle Paul addressed the greek tradition of acknowledging this god in Acts 17:22-24:

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

It is Cicero who said this: “When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers? Our friend Posidonius as you know has made a globe which in its revolution shows the movements of the sun and stars and planets, by day and night, just as they appear in the sky. Now if someone were to take this globe and show it to the people of Britain or Scythia would a single one of those barbarians fail to see that it was the product of a conscious intelligence?”

Bill Clark sums up thus: “With these beautfully simple words, Cicero gives voice to an idea which even today is the most difficult for the materialist to refute, for it is nigh impossible to explain away convincingly, say, the indescribable complexity of living organisms, or even merely parts thereof, as the product of blind chance or accident.”

Cicero also spelled out, as it were, the puzzle later presented by Huxley as the odds against the evolution of the horse:

“Is it not a wonder that anyone can bring himself to believe that a number of solid and separate particles by their chance collisions and moved only by the force of their own weight could bring into being so marvellous and beautiful a world? If anybody thinks that this is possible, I do not see why he should not think that if an infinite number of examples fo the twenty-one letters of the alphabet made of gold or what you will, were shaken together and then poured out on the ground it would be possible for them to fall so as to spell out, say, the whole text of the Annals of Ennius. In fact I doubt whether chance would spell out a singe verse!”

But the epicurean, Lucretian, sought to bring in a relativistic view when he said, “It is a matter of observation that one thing is limited by another. The hills are demarcated by air, and air by the hills. Land sets bound to sea and sea to every land. But the universe has nothing outside to limit it.” Lucretius – On The Nature Of The Universe

Thus, the materialist’s call for longer time and more space in which evolution might take place also began before there was a Darwin. Yes, the creation versus evolution debate is framed differently post-Darwin but it is the same argument that inspired dialogues among great minds of the past. The materialist seeks to view a world where faith is not allowed and the supernatural cannot exist. This is the viewpoint of the majority of scientists today and therefore their belief system guides them.

It was Immanuel Kant who complained that there was no getting away from faith, for even if all outside influences were discarded and one’s own senses and reasoning to be relied upon, one had to have therefore faith in his own senses and his own ability to reason and as he stated, “…it remains a scandal to philosophy and to human reason in general that the existence of things outside us…must be accepted merely on faith and if anyone thinks good to doubt their existence we are unable to counter his doubts by any satisfactory proof.” The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism – Barry Stroud.

I posit therefore that we all come to the table with a faith, with presuppositions, with a world view. Since well before Christ there have been two dissenting opinions on the origin of things. Once creationists were in the majority, later evolutionists found themselves the more numerous and as I have predicted before that pendulum has swung and creationists are becoming more numerous. No matter which camp you are in, you hopefully are able to admit to yourself that your stated belief begins with your philosophical core and not the evidences you have observed and the doctrines you have been taught.

I was once an evolutionist, Dan S, and it was a combination of the change of world view and the investigation of the evidence that brought me around to the other side. I am at the place now that my faith is an integral part of me and I am certain that no one will be able to show me beyond a reasonable doubt that life evolved. So I don’t believe it is available, frankly, nor do I believe my faith is likely to be shaken. This is because I have seen so much evidence for both sides and have already made my choice. I do try to look at all evidences and consider them even as I realize that I have a world view that tends to filter or color that information in a certain way. But who among us can honestly say otherwise?

I shall repeat my previously stated conclusion: There is room for both believers and non-believers in the scientific community. Some, like Einstein, will come to science with a readiness to believe in God but will remain unconvinced. Others, like Tipler, find their predisposition to ignore God tossed aside in the face of the evidence they have found in their research. My personal belief is that the more we learn about life and the cosmos, the more compelling the evidence will be that God does exist and did, indeed create all things. I leave the last word to Sir Francis:

“A little science estranges a man from God; a lot of science brings him back.” Sir Francis Bacon

(original link)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s