The renowned philosopher of science Elliott Sober has, in recent weeks, given a talk and written a paper that both make the same points: Evolution is totally silent on the idea and actions of God and, further, that evolutionists have neglected the logical possibility that God could have been involved in creating some of the mutations involved in evolution. (These mutations are presumably adaptive—God wouldn’t make all those nasty mutations that cause muscular dystrophy and cancer!)
I see this exercise—of demonstrating the logical compatibility of a rarely-acting God with evolution, and, by extension, with all of science—as a trivial exercise and a waste of time. No evolutionary biologist argues that evolution logically entails the non-existence of a God who can tweak the process. Or, if there are a few misguided individuals who do, they’re not important enough to contest in this way.
In his paper, Sober asserted that the philosophers Dan Dennett and Will Provine make the claim that evolution logically implies no theistic God, but Jason Rosenhouse showed that they didn’t, and Dennett vigorously denies it. Sober’s responses on both my and Jason’s websites haven’t seemed convincing, to me at least.
So I’ll issue this challenge to Elliott, and have already sent it to him by email so he knows of its existence. I am not expecting or demanding him to respond, but it would be lovely if he did. The challenge consists of three groups of questions:
1. Can you demonstrate that the logical compatibility of a rarely-acting God with evolutionary biology is a serious and important philosophical question?
2. Your argument about that logical compatibility would seem to extend not just to mutation and evolution, but to all of science. Is that correct? If so, why did you concentrate on mutation?
3. If the answer to the first part of (2) is “yes,” then would it be equally important for philosophers to write papers and give talks about how we can’t rule out the logical possibility that God influences coin tosses to favor outcomes He wants (like a favorite football team winning)? If not, why not? After all, isn’t the coin-tossing argument basically identical to the one you were making for mutations?