Quote of the day: Charles Darwin

Posted on December 26, 2018 By

Evidence for God

“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”

Charles Darwin, the founder of evolutionary biology, as cited in his autobiography.

It is noteworthy, to say the least, that the founder of the scientific theory most often cited as evidence for atheism self-described as “theist,” and did not accept the stance that his theory implied atheism. As I describe in There’s Nothing Random About Evolution, the conflict is not between theism and evolution. The term evolution only means change over time, when stripped of the atheistic philosophical add-on that this change is the result of unintelligent processes.

Virtually nobody of any belief system denies that living things have changed over time. Therefore virtually nobody of any belief system denies evolution in the correct sense of the term. Further, advances in science which have occurred since Darwin’s time make it nearly impossible to argue that evolution is an unintelligent process, as I detail in the above mentioned essay.

The real conflict, then, is between theism and atheistic philosophical add-ons to science…and not between theism and science. Please read the philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies to gain a deeper understanding of this point. 

 


  1. Bob Coleman says:

    The only point necessary to support Christianity is resurrection, and until resurrection can be substantiated I will remain an atheist. All other arguments offered as reinforcement of God’s existence are merely the result of our perception of things as to us they appear. Please, do not presuppose the existence of God in order to establish the possibility of resurrection. The Indians of Canada once said to the Jesuit priests, during an inappropriate invasion of their land, to the effect of: Why would God wait 1800 years to share with us something of such great importance, and to share it with us through you during an invasion? If it were that important, would he not have directly told us long ago? Furthermore, try explaining the illogical concept of a triune God. If he is neither a God expressing himself in three different ways, nor three different gods, then what exactly is he? Is not the existence of a triune God an insult to Judaism? The concept of a triune God is to say that the Jewish people had over 1000 years to figure it out, but they failed. I could go on for quite some time, but without proof of resurrection there is no point.

    • God Evidence says:

      Bob,

      The resurrection and God’s existence are intertwined questions. If there exists no God, then there exists no reason to believe in the resurrection. Conversely, if there is a God, there is no reason not to accept the plausibility of a resurrection.

      In his book Miracles, Craig Keener notes that, “None of the ancient sources respond to Jesus’ miracles by trying to deny them.” Even ancient sources hostile towards Christianity, such as the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus and the ancient Roman historian Celsus, do not attempt to deny Jesus’ miracles. Celsus, for example, rather than denying Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection, accused him of sorcery. Celsus wrote:

      “It was by means of sorcery that He [Jesus] was able to accomplish the wonders which He performed… Let us believe that these cures, or the resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves… These are nothing more than the tricks of jugglers… It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of power…”

      Below is a relevant excerpt from my essay titled The Ancient Fable Behind Disbelief in Jesus’ Resurrection:

      “With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.”
      .
      German scientist and satirist George Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
      ————————–

      Atheist and agnostic skeptics of Jesus Christ’s resurrection suggest that there would be no resurrection controversy if certain people would just quit tenaciously clinging to belief in ancient fables. And perhaps the most appropriate Christian response to this suggestion is: They have no idea just how right they are! The materialist/naturalist belief system which underlies disbelief in God is the ancient fable which renders the historical facts surrounding Christ’s resurrection (and the world as a whole, in fact) nearly impossible to make sense of.

      Most disbelievers in Christ’s resurrection are likely blissfully unaware of just how far New Testament scholarship has swayed in favor of Jesus’ resurrection in the last 40 years. Readers are strongly encouraged to view a You Tube video titled The Historical Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection That Even Skeptics Believe:

      In this video, New Testament scholar Gary Habermas explains that, among New Testament scholars, if you talked about the empty tomb in the 1970’s, “There would be a lot of snickering, and nobody but evangelicals who published in that area would accept it.”

      If you mentioned post-resurrection appearances in the 1970’s “everybody would have laughed.” However, Habermas reveals that, “Today, the majority of New Testament scholars, theologians, historians, and philosophers who publish in the area [including atheist and agnostic academics…not just Christians] believe in the empty tomb.”

      “In the 70’s, if you talked about bodily [post-resurrection] appearances of Jesus, they’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s nice. Go back to your church and talk about it, but don’t do it on a university campus.’”

      Today, however, belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the predominant view within New Testament scholarship.

      As Habermas puts it, “Today, bodily resurrection is the predominant view in the academy.” Habermas also notes that, “Raymond Brown (probably the most prominent New Testament scholar in America), shortly before his death, said that the majority of contemporary theologians are conservative today.”

      Habermas titles his argument for the resurrection of Jesus the “minimal facts argument” since it is based only upon the data that is granted, in his words, “by virtually all scholars on the subject, even the skeptical ones” (such as atheist and agnostic scholars). These five “minimal facts” are as follows (as detailed in his book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus):

      1) Jesus died by crucifixion
      2) Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
      3) The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
      4) The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed.
      5) The tomb was empty.

      Habermas explains that the following phrase will receive virtually no dispute among contemporary New Testament scholars (whether Christian, agnostic, or atheist):

      “Jesus earliest followers had experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus.” (Scroll forward to 52 minutes into the video to view Habermas make this statement).

      So how do atheist and agnostic scholars who accept the truth of the above statement make sense of it in light of their disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection? This article provides a good example of an atheist New Testament scholar who struggles to explain the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection through the lens of his belief system:

      “…Atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann maintains a priori rejection of the supernatural and yet he says, ‘It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.’ Although he accepts the historical evidence he concludes that the best explanation for it is that everybody who thought they saw the resurrected Jesus actually hallucinated. Peter hallucinated because he was overcome by grief for denying Jesus, Paul hallucinated on the road to Damascus, James the skeptical brother of Jesus hallucinated, and all the five hundred who saw Jesus at one time hallucinated.”

      It does not take a mathematician to conclude that the probability of several individuals having the SAME hallucination is infinitesimally small. Habermas comments on the absurdity of this proposition in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus:

      “Although the hallucination theory enjoyed some popularity over a hundred years ago and still has a few adherents, it suffers from a number of problems.”

      “First, today we know that hallucinations are private occurrences, which occur in the mind of the individual. They are not collective experiences.”

      “…Imagine that it is the middle of the night. You wake up your wife and say, ‘Honey, I just had a dream that we were in Hawaii. Come back to sleep and join me in the dream and we’ll enjoy a free vacation together.’ It would be impossible for her to do so, since a dream exists only in the mind of the individual. It cannot be shared with another person. Likewise, a hallucination cannot be shared.”

      Similarly, Michael Lacona notes in his essay Were the Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Hallucinations?:

      “Gary A. Sibcy is a licensed clinical psychologist, with a PhD in clinical psychology, who has an interest in the possibility of group hallucinations. He comments:

      ‘I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.’”

      If it is not the historical facts which cause skeptical New Testament scholars such as Lüdemann to reject the possibility of Jesus resurrection (if favor of absurdly improbable explanations, such as group hallucinations) what is the source of their skepticism?

      Their skepticism is anchored in their materialist/naturalist worldview, which says that only the material/natural world (and not immaterial entities such as God) are real. So when a skeptical New Testament scholar accepts the historical truth of post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus, but denies the possibility of resurrection, he is reasoning as follows: “Since there is no God, and only the natural/material world is real, there can be no such thing as a resurrection…since people do not rise from the dead as a result of natural causes.”

      Notably, likely nobody has ever argued that Jesus rose from the dead as a result of natural causes. Rather, believers in the resurrection believe that Jesus rose from the dead as a result of supernatural causes….divine action. Likely nobody, then, would disagree with the statement, “Assuming that there is only a physical/natural world, and no God, there is no reason to believe that a person would raise from the dead.” Therefore, the resurrection controversy is really just a controversy of worldviews: materialism/naturalism vs. Christian theism.

  2. Paul LaClair says:

    This brief essay reflects either ignorance of Darwin’s views, or is dishonest. The quoted statement is taken from Darwin’s autobiography, which anyone can read online at http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F1497&pageseq=1&fbclid=IwAR35fblpX1Kd0gf1lJqnhJJT8_9zUsJaPJwVepQthKzuNsXZqBKkIQwUqyM.

    Scroll down to page 86, and you will find this statement: “But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine. Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.”

    Then, on page 93, Darwin makes this comparison: “Nor must we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps an inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.”

    Immediately following is this: “I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”

    Arguing that Darwin remained a theist means either that you have not read Darwin’s writings, or that you have deliberately misrepresented them. If you’re going to make your best case, that is not a good or honorable way to do it.

    • God Evidence says:

      Paul,

      You misrepresent my comments. I did not at any point argue that Darwin remained a self-described theist, or that he was a Christian. Tortured, fluid, and unstable are perhaps the best terms to describe Darwin’s religious views. Even when writing On the Origin of Species in the 1850s he was still inclined to theism. Further, Darwin did not perceive his theory as evidence for atheism. Darwin also wrote:

      “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”

      As his above comments reveal, Darwin was well aware that, even if successful, his theory could, at best, explain the diversification of life, and not the origin of life from non-living matter. The mechanism of the random mutation of genes and the natural selection of reproductive offspring, quite obviously, only applies to that which has genes to mutate and reproductive offspring to naturally select…namely, things which are already alive, and not mud. Many atheists of more recent times seem to have forgotten this, and partake in a patently absurd extrapolation from Darwin’s theory (which pertains only to the diversification of already-existing life) to the origin of life from non-living matter.

      The Wikipedia post about Darwin’s religious views notes:

      Until 1844 he followed Paley in viewing organisms as perfectly adapted with only a few imperfections, and only partly modified that view by 1859. On the Origin of Species reflects theological views. Though he thought of religion as a tribal survival strategy, Darwin still believed that God was the ultimate lawgiver, and later recollected that at the time he was convinced of the existence of God as a First Cause and deserved to be called a theist. This view subsequently fluctuated, and he continued to explore conscientious doubts, without forming fixed opinions on certain religious matters.

      Darwin states “everything in nature is the result of fixed laws” in your citation. But Darwin expressed belief that God was the ultimate lawgiver, as the above excerpt notes. Citing laws as the source for natural phenomena just leaves us with the question of who or what is the source and enforcer of these laws.

  3. Joan C Southard says:

    I have one basic, perhaps so very simple question which is if evolution is an on-going process, we humans have not evolved very much in over 5000 years? at least according to written history.
    We have advanced technologically, but truly can we rightfully say we have “created” anything new, when the basic elements required for such advancements were already created, we just found a new way to use them?
    There has and perhaps always been a great divide between the scientific world and the religious world. I have found that science does indeed provide tangible evidence that indeed, there is a God. I am fascinated by the scientific world, the other day on YouTube via Ted.com viewed a remarkable video about, stress and aging affecting the human body on a deeper level, our building blocks of life, DNA. It was a fascinating video, to say the least. Then I asked myself one question, A Creator would know every aspect of His Creations, and if in The Bible we are warned about worrying, being anxious or fretting approximately 365 times, there is indeed a remarkable reason, it affects the telomeres within our own DNA. Don’t get me wrong, my attempt is not to change anyone’s thinking as to whether or not there’s a God or not, I have my beliefs, everyone is entitled to theirs. However, if you want to view this video I viewed yesterday you can find it at Ted.com via YouTube – Elizabeth Blackburn on Aging
    The science of cells that never get old
    Posted Nov 2017

    Wishing all a Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *