Evolution as Evidence for God?

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Frank Tippler, mathematical physicist and cosmologist.

In their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle two prominent scientists Barrow and Tippler lay out ten steps that non-theistic evolutionary process would need to have gone through in order to bring about modern man. However, their calculations suggested that each of these steps were so improbable that even before it could ever possibly occur our sun would have ceased to exist and in the process obliterate Earth. The number that Barrow and Tippler calculated for atheistic evolution to have produced mankind purely by chance fell between the values of: 4^-180^110 000 and 4^-380^110 000 (1).

This is an extraordinarily large number. Consider it in hindsight of the number of electron particles in the known universe, 10^87, or the number of observable stars, 10^24. Or the gigantic number of connections between neurons in our brains, 10^15 (1 quadrillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000). These are very large numbers but they nowhere come close to Barrow and Tippler’s calculation.

When I claim to doubt belief in non-theistic evolution’s ability to produce mankind one could accuse me of the fallacy of personal incredulity. Namely, that because I doubt something it doesn’t mean that it is false. But that is the point I actually wish to make. Given that Barrow and Tippler’s calculations follow, it would like winning the lottery 5000 times in a row. After a few times at winning I’d suspect that something was up. Sure, one could accuse me of being incredulous that I could win 1000 times in a row, but I’d maintain that I have good grounds for that conclusion. It is just too improbable to happen by chance alone. In this way the Christian may view these calculations.

However, the Christian can argue that this puts the atheist on the back foot, as philosopher Alvin Plantinga argues: “For the naturalist evolution is the only game in town. No matter how fantastic the odds, no matter how improbable, it’s got to be true” (2). William Lane Craig, upon reviewing Barrow and Tippler’s calculations, explains that evolution is not “a good argument for atheism, quite the contrary, I think it provides grounds for thinking that God superintended the process of biological development” (3).

References. 

1. Barrow, J. & Tippler, F. 1988. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. p. 566.

2. The Craig-Pigliucci Debate: Does God Exist? Available.

3. Craig, W. 2009. Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens. Available

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23 responses to “Evolution as Evidence for God?

  1. there are no facts in this post, its just quoting opinions of people who clearly have never been educated properly on the matter. If youd like to inform yourself better on the topic of evolution i urge you to look into the evolution of mosquitos in the subway tunnels of europe … in the last 50 years – bombing in ww2 drove large groups of people into the subway tunnels for protection, this area was a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos (typically fed on birds rodents etc above ground) in just 1 lifetime we are able to observe a new speces of mosquito emerge, one that shares DNA with its ancestors who first went underground but changed enough over generations of feeding soley on humans that they are now unable to interbreed with their top dwelling relatives & feed exclusively on human blood.

    that is just 1 example, do you get a flu shot? It changes every year because of how it evolves … I mean i could go on about finches & countless other examples of it.

    Yes evolution is a theory. so is gravity.

    you cant pick & choose which aspects of science youre willing to accept (assuming you benefit from technology, medicine, etc) and which parts to deny …. bottom line is that scientists everywhere are doing their own thing, it is not the burden of the scientist to disproove god, it is the burden of the creationist to find 1 bit of actual evidence.

    evolution is the result of billions (yes billions) of years of the “good enough” genes being passed forward to new generations. Evolution in no way (if youre properly educated on the matter) proves that there is a god. I urge you to better educate yourself on the topic if youre truly interested.

    • So I take it that you deny intelligence behind evolution, and attribute it to unguided processes. Is that true?
      I would also like to ask you how you reject intelligence behind evolution?
      Thirdly, I would like to ask you how we as humans are able to describe laws of nature, or even understand them, in other words how can we intelligently and intellectually come up with a theory that says man evolved from apes?

      • yes, based on the overwhelming scientific evidence in support of evolution i can say that the earth & all of its current inhabitants were not simply poofed into existance 6-10k years ago. Based on your questions i can tell you have never done any un bias research on evolution … and to answer your last question as simply as i can … science! Because of our ability to hypothesize, question, and test theories (gravity is but a theory after all) because of the compiled proof in support of these theories … and because there is (to this day) absolutely zero PROOF of anything in a book that was written, re written & re written again by people in support of their being a god. At any rate it is not the burden of science to disprove god, its the burden of those who believe it to prove it.

        If youre truly into educating yourself more i sugguest reading “undeniable” by bill nye … i have read the bible in full (because i like to know all sides of the story) I urge people who have these kind of questions to step away from what they believe and explore other possibilities.

    • In your second response you really jumped all over the place, and made multiple obviously unwarranted assumptions.
      Firstly, you never answered any of my questions, but rather chose to ad hominem attack me by calling me biased, so I don’t have much to say there.
      You never answered my question when I asked “So I take it that you deny intelligence behind evolution, and attribute it to unguided processes. Is that true?”
      You also didn’t seem to answer my question: “I would also like to ask you how you reject intelligence behind evolution?”

      The only question you seemed to try to answer was my third question when I asked: “how we as humans are able to describe laws of nature, or even understand them, in other words how can we intelligently and intellectually come up with a theory that says man evolved from apes?”

      You response was: “Science” yet that is an irrelevant answer. It is kind of like someone asking how many cheetahs there are in a zoo’s cage, and then is answered: “Hippos!”

      In your conclusion you recommend me a book by Bill Nye, who what I know of is anti-religion, and obviously adheres to philosophical naturalism, would you like me to recommend you a book on some religious fundamentalist trying to argue how the world is 6000 years old? Obviously not.

      And lastly, you write “I urge people who have these kind of questions to step away from what they believe and explore other possibilities.”
      You initially claimed that there is no evidence of agency in evolution, so I will refer you to Tippler and Barrow’s calculation above (which in itself shows how irrational atheistic evolution is), then I’d ask you to take a step back from atheistic evolution “and explore other possibilities”

      So, all-in-all, you never made any argument, you one answer was irrelevant, you accused me of bias (then show your own), and level ad hominem attacks against me.
      Is that the real substance of your arguments? I hope not.

      • I answered your questions, im sorry i didnt realize i had to go into the level of detail as i would with a small child, im not writing you a novel as to why your religious beliefs make absolutely zero sense and are based on ZERO proof. Scientists are backing up theories left & right, meanwhile show me ONE bit of proof that “god” is real .. (Trick question, there is none) you seem very confused, as most of you do & i understand …. you believe a magic man poof the world in a week, that people can live in a whales tummy, that there is a bad man who takes your soul in the middle of the earth & were all the imbred offspring of a few people who built a boat which couldnt hold a small fraction of the creatures alive …. go agead while you benefit from science every day shun the parts that scare you & believe that sillyness. It wont matter anyway, we all die, and that is it. The earth carries on as it has for billions of years. Its not my goal to turn creationists, just trying to educate the uneducated a little bit. You guys love to fight though (explains why you can justify killing people who dont believe what you do, you wont see a scientist who thinks that)

        answer 1 question for me – what PROOF do you have your god is real. I mean physical tangible proof. There is a vast amount of PROOF in support of evolution … can you??

    • As much as I would like to get into discussion with you, as I do with many others, on why I believe what I do, or why I believe God exists and the many arguments I believe justify that position, it just will not be feasible with the attitude that you bring to the table. In fact, I would ask you to reread your latest reply over and see if someone from my position would feel obliged to engage with somebody with such a mindset. I certainly wont, but thank you for your time.

      • I bet you only discuss evolution w people who believe what you believe, your confusing your right to have a religion w the right to have it respected … So what your saying is im supposed to answer your questions in great specific detail or be mocked, but you cannot answer the 1 simple one i had of you? seems legit … typical of the god fearing. lets blame it on the devils work & call it a day & tuck tail & run away. If you wont educate yourself, if you cant even debate it online, if you cant back up your faith with anything other than “i have faith its true” than dont get into debates on topics you know nothing about. creationists have no say over science anyway, its not a religion … Its facts, proof, proven thories & you benefit from the mental evolution of mankind & those who dont accept whatever lies are told to them every day … when your sick do you pray it away or take antibiotics??? just sayin’ sorry you got so butthurt i enjoy a good debate.

    • Im not an athiest, FYI and you are making creationists look weak in their arguements. Ban what you cant control, what disagrees with God right?? “Take your hate elsewhere” too bad nobody said that to the countless christians who have killed beaten & destroyed in the name of your god (hitler to name one)

  2. This post has a lot of really good stuff in it. I highly recommend the book “Belief in God in an Age of Science” by John Polkonghorne of you have not read it. He talks a lot about the anthropic principle as it relates to evolution.

  3. Good post.

    I highly recommend the book “Belief in God in an Age of Science” by John Polkinghorne, if you haven’t read it yet. He goes into more detail on the anthropic principle as it relates to evolutionary theory.

  4. There are two main problems with this argument

    1.) Numbers: Calculating the probability of life arising is something that is incredibly difficult and complex. Throwing these numbers around without explaining the methodology behind them thoroughly weakens this argument.

    It’s interesting to note that the numbers creationists and apologists come up with in this regard vary greatly, making this even more of a moot point

    2,) Conclusion: You can’t just say, it’s improbable therefore Christian God. There are so many leaps of logic there to list them all would be pointless. The same argument could be used for any number of Gods both in religious practice today and not.

    As a side note, no, Atheists are not “stuck” with evolution. If a better model of the arise of diversity comes along tomorrow, we’d use that. If evidence came along tomorrow making evolution impossible, the theory would be thrown away, we’re not stuck with anything, but for now, that’s the best conclusion we can come up with.

    • Thanks for commenting F.N.A!

      I understand what you are saying, but the issue I would take with it is to conclusion regarding your 1st point when you write that it is “making this even more of a moot point” regarding apologists coming up with different probabilities.
      Firstly, I would not limit this argument to apologists only, I am sure many are rational enough to see it.

      Secondly, I don’t think that conclusion follows. Even though I am sure that calculating probabilities of things happening by fluke chance will never be accurate, just as calculations of the age of the universe “changes” often (or there are diverse opinions of how many billions of years the universe is). But what it does gives us is a picture, it may not be accurate 100%, but that doesn’t mean they are not 73% correct or 27% right – whatever the case it would either swing the chances of atheistic evolution even greater or lesser – but regarding the number Barrow and Tippler calculated it would hardly make a difference if say they were only 30% right. The number would be enormous, even larger than the amount of electron particles in the universe (10^87), or the amount of seconds that have elapsed in 4.5 billion years (which stands at 10^18 if I can recall correctly).

      Either way it remains that more faith is needed to believe in atheistic evolution than God. That is the way I see it at least, and to be honest I think it is really obvious, just as obvious as 2+2=4.

      And just on the other point, you write “You can’t just say, it’s improbable therefore Christian God.”
      That would be correct, but remember I wrote this line:

      “So when an atheist accuses a Christian, or “any” believer in God, of blind faith (as if there is not already ample reason to believe in God), then I am quick to point this out to them.”

      I am trying to emphasize “any” in the above line, so in other words I am not necessitating the Christian God, but what I am necessitating is intelligence that would come from an outside source.
      One could call this intelligence the tooth fairy, or the spaghetti monster, either way intelligence is needed (call it what you want), and it is in my opinion more rational to believe intelligence was involved than to believe the process just happened to occur by chance.
      If I wanted to know “what” God is the best explanation I would weigh other evidences with the circumstantial evidence for God. But that is another subject.

      Please feel free to respond if you think I made an error, or if you have something to add.

      • Thank you for responding. I understand a little more why you’re willing to work with these numbers, and you’re right in that this kind of estimation is not limited to theists. But there is a very significant difference in the magnitude of the figures used, talk origins actually has a page devoted to this, and the number they reference is 10^-40 and a more common figure used by creationists is 10^-390.

        Of course this is still a very, very small chance, but now we need to put into perspective the scale of this scenario. There would have been many, many trials of this assembly occurring at once. Furthermore, if we consider our planet as one of many, many planets within appropriate regions to sustain life, it becomes very apparent that the statistics wouldn’t exclude the possibility of life, rather they necessitate it.

        Again I find the discrepancy within the figures quite significant, considering the order of magnitudes we’re considering.

        As for requiring more faith to believe in evolution than a deity, I would agree with you, if we could verify the numbers.

        I would ask you to consider one additional point though, if we did the verify the numbers, and it was proven thoroughly that abiogenesis and darwinian evolution was that improbable, it would stand to reason that there is another model by which we can explain the origin and diversity of life without needing to invoke the supernatural. That’s not to say I believe that this will occur, but if it did, at what point does a supernatural solution become more probable than ANY potential naturalistic model?

  5. I’m from Ghana.This makes more sense to me.To be honest creationism looks like “magic” to me.So many unexplained stuff relating to the creation of sun,moon and stars in a week?? …when it took billions of years for the stars to form.
    Also Genesis was written in a generation where mysteries were attributed to the unexplainable so they saw things differently from us. However i think it is possible that evolution may have been influenced by an intelligent design.

    • Hi there Steve.

      I agree with you on the most part. Creationism, especially Young Earth Creationism seems obviously false.
      Genesis was not written to give modern man (whether today, or in 1000 years time) a concise description of creation.
      That is why God gave us brains, history, and science to figure that out.

  6. Barrow and Tippler are considered crackpots and their theories have been shot down. IMO, I can see that if someone believes in a divine being, they might accept that the world around us and its principles are a result of that being, but to try to ‘prove the existence’ of that being using these pseudoscientist’s ramblings isn’t doing your argument any favors. It might be better to step back and punt the old ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ meme.

    • Barrow and Tipler ARE NOT considered “crackpots” in their relevant fields. John Barrow is a Fellow of the Royal Society, which is the UK equivalent to the NAS. He also is a professor at Cambridge. And no, the theories he has proposed have not been “shot down,” if you’re talking about his cosmological work. He’s pretty well-respected in the field of cosmology, his weird idea about the Omega Point notwithstanding.

      Frank Tipler has gotten a bit odder as time has gone on, especially with regard to his “Omega Point” eschatology. The theory that you’re insulting them over is the FAP, or Final Anthropic Principle, where the universe evolves to such a state that it basically makes physical immortality real.

      Regardless, calling either one of them “crackpots” is an insult. With the exception of the Omega Point, nothing they proposed in their 1986 Cosmological Anthropic Principle has been disproved.

  7. Pingback: Evolution: The self-defeater of atheism. | Historical Jesus studies.·

  8. Think of this logically for a second; imagine God trying to explain to Moses, of which tradition holds authored the book of Genesis, how evolutionary theory works, or how chemical and planetary evolution was his method of creating the cosmos. Such a thing would be incomprehensible for any man 3000 odd years ago, in fact the whole message and true purpose of God trying to communicate something to finite man would be lost, and therefore pointless.

    Children today are educated in these subjects by around the age of 21 by mere human teachers. How long would it take God to educate someone on these subjects? Moses lived to 120 years, was that not enough time for God to explain it? Couldn’t God miraculously reveal knowledge to a person if he chose to do so?

  9. The problem any atheist evolutionist have is simple. None of you can explain the thought process, explain feelings, explain emotions. Where did they come from? If we all evolved as you say, why have animals of all types not evolved the same way as humans? What makes us evolve faster? To say that we evolved based on what we needed, then why have we not reached a maximum level of existence, I mean literally the same problems we face today have existed since history has first been recorded. You will say it takes time I’m sure, but proving a million years is impossible, and proving God is simple. Explain to me why every single civilization in history has looked for some type of higher power?? Why does every major culture in history have a flood story? Are we so much smarter now that we think they are stupid or didn’t understand life as much as we do? Arrogance is what we have, not brilliance, let all the technology go down, and we will see just how “advanced” we are, most wouldn’t make it. So to say there is no God leaves room for you to prove the unseen, which you can’t. Say I can’t, that’s fine, Faith is the substance of things hoped for.

    • I would like to respond to this, but to do so I’m going to need to disect this a bit.

      “None of you can explain the thought process,”

      for the sake of this discussion I will define thought process as the mental processes we use to model and understand the world. If you are using a different definition I invite you to describe it so I may analyze it. This is actually very easy to explain, a creature with a better mental model of how the world works is much more likely to survive than one with no or a bad model. Knowing generally what direction food should be in or how to throw a hunting spear or where to attack to kill prey are useful bits of information for survival, and that is not possible without a thought process.

      ” explain feelings, explain emotions. Where did they come from?”

      This is much more complicated, as you are touching on the entire field of evolutionary psychology, on which you can find volumes and volumes of explanations on these feelings. For the most basic emotions, like happiness, sadness, envy etc. their need can be tied into feedback mechanisms, where individuals with a positive feedback mechanism when getting food or other resources, or negative feedback on seeing death or disease are more likely to survive than those that are not. Again this is an entire field of study but it’s really interesting and I encourage you to look into it if you want to know more.

      ” If we all evolved as you say, why have animals of all types not evolved the same way as humans? What makes us evolve faster?”

      Evolution does not have an end goal in mind. We are not the pinnacle of evolution and all species are not trying to reach the same state we have gotten to. We are one set of solutions to the set of problems we face. Other species have found other, successful solutions to these problems, and have thrived in the same way.

      “To say that we evolved based on what we needed, then why have we not reached a maximum level of existence, I mean literally the same problems we face today have existed since history has first been recorded.”

      You will need to list these problems to get an adequate response. If these involve resources and disease the explanation is simply overpopulation and diseases evolve as other species do.

      ” You will say it takes time I’m sure, but proving a million years is impossible, and proving God is simple.”

      Citation needed. There are a myriad of ways to “prove” millions of years, but you can throw those and literally every other assumption about time if you posit an all powerful God. There is actually a quite amusing faux theory called the “Last Tuesday Theory” which posits that because an all powerful God exists, the universe was actually created last Tuesday, and all memories and information of time before that was simply put there by God. This theory is impossible to disprove if you concede it’s primary assumption.

      “Explain to me why every single civilization in history has looked for some type of higher power??”

      Again this is getting into evolutionary psychology and the answers are quite interesting to be honest. There are those that theorize belief without evidence is an evolutionary mechanism that let young humans obey older humans without question, making it easier for children to survive. There is another theory that religions stem from projection of humanity onto explanations of nature, which become more vague and grand as time goes on and our knowledge becomes greater. There are many potential reasons, but even if everyone believed or looked to the same higher power, that would not make that higher power true. God exists or does not exist, regardless of how many people do or do not believe in Him.

      “Why does every major culture in history have a flood story?”

      Early humans all settled by bodies of water, bodies of water flood occasionally. Stories are exaggerated over time.

      “Are we so much smarter now that we think they are stupid or didn’t understand life as much as we do?”

      They didn’t understand as much as we do, demonstrably so. They had to create a deity to adequately explain lightning, tides, and fire. They had no concept of pathogens or how they function, and they had minimal understanding of the rock they lived on. Now this does not make them stupid, they just simply did not have access to the information and technology we have today, if they did, they would have likely reached the same conclusions

      “Arrogance is what we have, not brilliance, let all the technology go down, and we will see just how “advanced” we are, most wouldn’t make it.”

      Yep, we will almost all die, we have become codependent with our technology, which is actually an evolutionary process ironically.

      “So to say there is no God leaves room for you to prove the unseen, which you can’t.”

      Such as?

      “Say I can’t, that’s fine, Faith is the substance of things hoped for.”

      But is not the substance of things that are, which is what I concern myself with.

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