Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, On "Evil, Creation and Evolution"

Karl Giberson
As announced earlier I’m planning on reviewing every chapter in the new anthology on the problem of suffering titled, God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain,edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew. [To read other entries in this series just click on the "God and Evil" tag below this post].

This time up is the chapter by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, "Evil, Creation and Evolution" (pp. 270-289), which was originally a chapter in their book The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions.

The first thing to note is that they argue against William Dembski's attempt to make human beings retroactively responsible for all suffering before the Fall, calling it a "desperate move" (p. 276). Christians arguing against other Christians? We've never seen that before, right? The second thing to note is that Ken Ham's young earth creationism isn't given a voice in this book since Dembski, Collins and Giberson all argue against it. But why not? Why exclude Ken Ham from this book? Sure, he's ignorant, but so also are Dembski, Collins and Giberson, even though they are less ignorant. The ignorant thing they all share is the common belief that the Bible is in some way God's word, the divine truth.

Listen up, there is nothing we can learn about science from a supposed sacred ancient pre-scientific book, period. Anything the Bible might get right about science is not because we find it in the Bible, but because of science itself. Christian theology always changes in response to the advancement science and never the other way around. If it refuses to do so, as the authors in this book recognize so obviously in the case of Ken Ham, it becomes irrelevant to modern people. So why would any person in today's world even try to harmonize modern science with the Bible in the first place? There's nothing to harmonize. Just accept that the Bible cannot tell us anything about science. Quit hamstringing science through the pre-scientific constraints of the Bible. Quit gerrymandering the facts to fit the Bible. Quit arguing based on the informal fallacy of appealing to ignorance. Quit trying to make your faith intellectually respectful by appealing to science. Admit science cannot point you to the God of the Bible and just say you have faith, even though faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities, for that is the real reason you believe. Let science do its work unfettered by ancient superstitions.

Francis Collins
When it comes to the problem of suffering their claim is that the "evolutionary picture of the world...makes the problem of widespread evil in nature less threatening to faith than the alternatives" (p. 273).

After claiming humans cause a great deal of harm due to "genuine free will," without so much as even trying to understand the nature and value of free will, the authors argue nature has been given freedom too. They write, "many processes in nature exhibit a genuine unpredictability that looks, for all the world, like freedom" (p. 278). This sounds somewhat like the Free Process Defense of Garry DeWeece, except that they apply it to the evolutionary process itself. Suffering is the result of the freedom God gives to his creation, both human beings and the natural evolutionary processes. "Both humans and all creation have freedom" (p. 179), and with freedom comes the creativity to cause both good and harm. "Unless God micromanages nature so as to destroy its autonomy, such things [like the Black Plague, which I think refutes Christianity] are going to occur. Likewise, unless God coercively micromanages human decision making, we will often abuse our freedom" (p. 280). The reason God cannot micromanage the world, they assert, is because "God cannot constantly intervene" in human activity and the natural processes without disrupting them. Without such an orderly and consistent world "science would be impossible...and the world would not be as rich with meaning and opportunity" (p. 282). Because of this, "God is off the hook" (p. 280) for much of the suffering we experience in the world.

The last sentence is the key. It gives the game away. Giberson and Collins are engaged in puzzle solving. They are not interested in the truth. That's what faith does to otherwise intelligent people. It short-circuits their brains. The goal is clear. Try to find a way to exonerate God from causing suffering, no matter how much of a sacrifice it requires for their intellect. Do whatever it takes to maintain one's faith in the midst of the onslaught of science and so much intense ubiquitous suffering in the world.

Look, the unpredictability in nature we see in Chaos theory, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Quantum Mechanics and Brownian Motion is not freedom. The choice is between Chance and Necessityas Jacques Monod argued. Using the word "freedom" to describe the natural processes betrays a language game that no intelligent person should adopt.

When it comes to theistic evolution itself, professor John Shook argues in a post titled God and Evolution Don’t Mix that:
If God was trying to produce us through evolution, what does that tell us about a God that would use that method? Here’s some suggestions:

A. God prefers diversity, not heights of intelligence or self-awareness. God does not prioritize creatures that can know God and praise God.

B. God is quite comfortable with endless horrible struggle and suffering.

C. God is quite comfortable with death – lots of it.

D. God likely has plans for the future evolution of life that don’t involve humanity.

E. God probably is just using us to later get whatever kind of life He really wants.

What is God really up to? Maybe God is slow-breeding angels. Or cyborgs. Or the Singularity. Maybe God doesn’t want worshippers – maybe God is seeing if He/She/It can eventually create another fellow God.
In a post of my own I argued that while it's possible God exists it's such a slim possibility, given evolution, that the more reasonable position by far is that such an entity is an unnecessary hypothesis we can do without.

But let's grant theistic evolution and see what we get.

As Robert Price and Edwin Suominen argue in Evolving out of Eden, it has enormous implications for Christian theology.The Adam and Eve story is a myth. With no original sin there is no need for atonement either, and with it, no incarnation of a God-man. Human beings are not special nor even the highest creation. When we die we cease to exist just like every other species does. There are many others.

When it comes to their answer to the problem of suffering, William Dembski's criticism is on target:
We never accept such shifting of responsibility in any other important matter, so why here? What difference does it make if a mugger brutalizes someone with his own hands or employs a vicious dog on a leash to do the same? The mugger is equally responsible in both cases. The same holds for a creator God who creates directly by intervening or indirectly by evolution. Creation entails responsibility. The buck always stops with the Creator. The rage in theology these days is to diminish the power and ultimacy of God so that God is fundamentally constrained by the world and thus cannot be held responsible for the world's evil. (pp. 163-64, in the same book).
Again, the buck always stops with the Creator! When Christians legitimately criticize each other they are all correct, leaving no basis for believing at all. They do the work for me. All I have to do is report the results. Giberson and Collins merely respond to Dembski that he should be consistent. Since, when it comes to the Holocaust, Christian apologists "always do exactly what Dembski says we should never do" by shifting the responsibility of "that evil from God to the Nazis," then Dembski should "enlarge this general concept to include the sorts of things that nature is doing on its own" (pp. 280-81). Who knew? Again, this is mere puzzle solving. Do and say whatever it takes to exonerate their God from being blamed. They "always" do this.

Giberson and Collins face a serious theological problem. Their God cannot create the universe directly and he cannot intervene in the world to alleviate more suffering than exists in the world. What then becomes of God's supposed omnipotence? They have either abandoned it or seriously limited what their God can do. Once again, God's omnipotence ends where the apologist needs it to end to solve a problem for faith. Go figure. Typically Christian. Sure, maybe it's possible such a supernatural being (or force) exists, but it isn't anything like the perfect being theology of Anselm, nor is it like the tribal warlike micromanaging God of the Bible either. They're making stuff up as they go, period.

Take for instance their claim that God doesn't micromanage the world's affairs. This is clearly not what we read in the Bible, where we read, "In the LORD's hand the king's heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him." That's what it says. And yet God doesn't micromanage the world's affairs? Really? There are some pretty strong biblical statements to the contrary, like the many meticulous providence Bible verses, including (Gen 50:21; Isa 45:5-7; Acts 4:27-28 Rom 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11). Which is it? It doesn't matter, for with faith anything can be believed or denied.

There is one thing I agree with the authors of this chapter about. They said "God cannot constantly intervene" in human activity and the natural processes or else "science would be impossible" (p. 282). I've argued this myself right here, and defended it further here and here. The money quote:
Science assumes there is a natural explanation for everything it investigates precisely because this is the only way it can work. If natural explanations for events were not possible because God regularly intervened in the world, then science would not be possible at all. To be more precise, to the degree God intervenes in the universe then to that same degree science is not possible. But given the massive amount of knowledge acquired by science it's crystal clear God doesn't intervene at all. The very basis of science is predicated on a non-miraculous world order. So we must choose between God or science.
However, that agreement leaves Giberson and Collins with a non-miraculous world order, or if it exists, then there is no reason any person should believe the rules of nature were different than they are now, since God isn't intervening in our world today. Furthermore, and more specific to their over-all case, why should their God be concerned about science anyway when it comes to human suffering? I can hear God talking to himself now:
The Holy Spirit: "Looks like an underwater earthquake is going to destroy Indonesia with a tsunami."

The Father: "Yep, I sure hope a few more turn to me in repentance before it hits."

The Son: "Hey, how about we avert that earthquake so nothing happens?"

The Father: "That would require a perpetual miracle since, if we averted it and then let up, it will still take place later."

The Holy Spirit: "Oh, right. That would require too much work. We're omnipotent and everything, but this is asking too much."

The Father: "Not only that, but if we saved the lives of a quarter of a million people in this way then the science of plate tectonics would be impossible."

The Son: "Choices, choices. I love all people so much I died on the cross for them, but we must allow for science to proceed."

The Holy Spirit: "Yes, the progress of science is of the utmost importance."

Michael the Archangel: "But wait Your Excellencies, if I may approach your triple thrones. Aren't you omnipotent such that a perpetual miracle should not be a problem? And isn't your overwhelming love to alleviate suffering more important than the advancement of science, especially since science is presently undermining your religion and has done so ever since the times of that rascal Galileo? Besides, if you intervene, no human being will even know you did, since no one will be the wiser for your having done so?

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

In the end Giberson and Collins admit their theistic evolutionary position doesn't resolve the problem because "there is no resolution to the problem of evil" (p. 281) they said. Right that! So where in this edited book is there a resolution to the problem? I have read it thoroughly and all I have seen are a bunch of possibilities. Possibly this. Possibly that. The problem of suffering is lessened by this. It's lessened by that.

Listen, what difference does it make if someone is thrown off the 30th floor of a building to his death or the 25th floor? Not much as far as I can tell. He will die either way upon smacking into the concrete realities of life. So also does this book of maybe's.