Michael Ruse has spent a lot of time trying to explain to Christians how they can reconcile their faith with the advances of science. This effort has sometimes reached risible lengths. In his book Can a Darwinian be a Christian?, for example, Ruse tries to reconcile Christianity with the possibility of extraterrestrial life. He winds up telling the concerned faithful that there might have been an “intergalactic Jesus” who, like a travelling doctor, moved from planet to planet dispensing salvation. What’s curious about all this is that Ruse claims not to believe any of the Christian myths—he’s an atheist.
But he’s finally run into a tenet of Christianity that can’t be reconciled with science: the inevitability of humans. Ruse describes the problem in a piece at HuffPo, “A Darwinian can be a Christian, too”:
To my great surprise, however, I found what I thought then and still think now a major problem with reconciling Darwinism with Christianity. It is an absolute bottom-line claim of the Christian that the existence of humans is not contingent — if we did not exist then the Christian story could not be. It might be that we are blue and that we have twelve fingers. Possibly, although I am not sure, it might be that we don’t have sex. But intelligent beings, with moral awareness, able to act in this world, have to exist if Christianity is true. Otherwise, what is the point of all of that stuff about being made in “His Image”? However, Darwinism stresses that change is random and non-directed. For Darwin and his followers this has always been an absolute. Obviously humans are pretty complex animals, but our arrival has always been in some sense a matter of chance.
And Ruse gives a pretty good explanation for why scientists see the evolution of humans as contingent rather than inevitable:
Today’s Darwinians would make the case for non-directionality on two grounds. First, natural selection is always opportunistic, relative. What works in one case might not work in another. There are no absolutes, no fixed goals. Humans are pretty good organisms, but they have their drawbacks. For a start, their brains need massive amounts of protein, usually dead animals. There was no guarantee in the wild that such protein was always available or that we might not have been better eating grass albeit a bit dumb. Buffalo were doing pretty well until humans turned up. For a second, the building blocks of evolution, the mutations, are random, not in the sense of being without cause, but without regard for what their possessors need. Things can go any which way.
Indeed, this is a major roadblock in the accommodationist program, one that I’ve emphasized for a long time. Claiming that the evolution of humans was inevitable violates every tenet of not only modern evolutionary biology, but of naturalism as the methodology of science.
One solution, as Ruse recognizes, is to claim that, well, maybe evolution occurred, but that God somehow either directed it or set it all up to culiminate in the appearance of humans. This is the foundational claim of theistic evolution. And many real scientists who claim to accept evolution, like Kenneth Miller, Simon Conway Morris, and Francis Collins, buy this view. They don’t seem to realize, as Ruse does, that
. . . this seems to me to be at total variance with the spirit of modern Darwinism.
True, but you won’t hear Miller, Conway Morris, or Collins pointing this out. At least Ruse has the intellectual decency to admit that this is a problem.
Indeed, more Americans accept theistic evolution than they do real (i.e., purely naturalistic) evolution: recent polls show that when Americans are asked how they account for the existence of humans, around 50% say that God created us directly, 30% say that we evolved but that God guided this process, and only 15% say that we appeared via unguided evolution.
So if we tell Christians that this is a way to reconcile science with their faith, we have to admit that we’re offering a bogus, nonscientific solution. Theistic evolutionists don’t really accept evolution, at least not the way scientists see it. They’re buying a bastardized hybrid theory that is rejected by virtually all working biologists. Can we really count those 30% of theistic-evolutionist Americans as being on our side?
What does Ruse offer as a solution? He doesn’t have one, although he suggests that some version of the “multiverse” hypothesis may obtain: if evolution occurred enough times on enough planets, or in enough universes, eventually one of them would cough up a smart, God-fearing creature. In the end, though, he admits:
My suspicion is that if the problem is to be solved, then it has to be done with a theological solution rather than a scientific one.
And that’s the real job of theology: it’s a philosophical sausage mill for converting intellectual necessities into spiritual virtues.
h/t: (and goodbye for the nonce): Jason Rosenhouse