Friday, June 19, 2009

Theism and Theistic Evolution

The Washington Post hosts a column by John West of the Discovery Institute in which he explains the fundamental disagreement between Darwinists (both theistic and atheistic) and Intelligent Design. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Is evolution compatible with faith in God? It's a question that is receiving lots of attention of late. [A new] Discovery Institute website seeks to clear-up confusion about why Darwin's theory poses such a challenge to faith in the first place. Contrary to what many people suppose, it's not because evolution proposes that living things change over millions of years, or even because it suggests that animals are descended from a common ancestor.

The real sticking point is Darwin's claim that all of life--human beings included--developed through a blind and undirected process of natural selection acting on random variations. In the words of late Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind."

Thus Darwinism is incompatible with most versions of theism which see man's creation, and the creative process, as intended by the Creator, but there are some theists, called theistic evolutionists, who seek an accommodation with Darwin:

There are ways to try to reconcile Darwinism's undirected process with theism, but they involve throwing overboard some long-cherished beliefs about God.

The first idea to go is the belief that God directed the development of life toward specific ends. According to biologist Kenneth Miller, one of the most prominent proponents of "theistic" evolution, God did not plan the specific outcomes of evolution--including the development of human beings. Miller describes humans as "an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out."

While God knew that undirected evolution was so wonderful it would create some kind of creature capable of praising Him, that creature could have been "a big-brained dinosaur" or "a mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities" rather than us.

But if evolution really is undirected how did God know what would come of it? What makes Miller think that God would have any knowledge at all of how the process would turn out when He set it all in motion? And if He did know how it would turn out is it not reasonable to believe that he knew this because He established the conditions both necessary and sufficient to achieve the expected outcome.

Seeking to lessen the discomfort such arguments pose for most religious believers, Francis Collins suggests that God "could" have known the specific outcomes of evolution beforehand even though He made evolution appear "a random and undirected process." In other words, God is a cosmic trickster who misleads people into thinking that nature is blind and purposeless, even though it isn't.

Isn't it easier to suppose, if one is both an evolutionist and a theist, that God is the actual channel that guides moment by moment the flow of evolutionary history, like the bed of a river guides the flow of the stream? In this view, God doesn't actually intervene in that history rather he is the matrix in which it occurs, leading it ultimately through the twists and turns of a phylogenetic maze to his intended outcome.

The theistic evolutionist is a Darwinian in that he believes that evolution is an undirected process, but he could still be a theist and an evolutionist if he held that the process is directed. The direction could come not from miraculous interjections of biological novelty here and there throughout time by a Creator ontologically detached or separate from the evolutionary river, but one whose mind or being forms the very conduit through which the river flows and by which it is guided.


More U.N. Ineptitude

No sooner did we cite four good reasons for putting the U.N. in our rearview mirror the other day than we come across yet another example of U.N. corruption. Does it make you feel good to know that your tax dollars are being spent to send food to starving children in Somalia? If so, you might not want to read this:

One of the UN's largest international relief efforts is under investigation after it emerged that thousands of sacks of food aid were being diverted from starving refugees and openly sold for profit.

The head of the UN's $955 million aid operation in Somalia has launched an inquiry after being shown footage showing tonnes of food bearing the World Food Programme (WFP) logo widely on sale in Mogadishu, the capital.

Stacks of bags of maize and wheat and tins of cooking oil - marked "not for re-sale" and bearing the UN stamp - are on sale from ten warehouses and 15 shops in the city's main market.

About 45,000 tons of WFP food are shipped to Somalia from Kenya every month. Mogadishu traders told Channel 4 News that they bought their supplies straight from UN staff. "We buy [food] aid from WFP staff directly or from people they employ," one market trader said.

"They take us to the warehouses used by the WFP and let us load our lorries. The goods are freely available and you can buy as much as you like, but we usually buy no more than 500 to 1,000 sacks at a time. Just a tonne or half a tonne a day can be shifted more discreetly."

The food could hardly be more needed. More than a million people have been driven from their homes by fighting in the area, including 117,000 thought to have fled from Mogadishu in the past month.

Children starve while warlords and others line their pockets with the connivance of U.N. employees. The U.N. does not keep the peace anywhere in the world (Watch, for example, movies like No Man's Land, or Beyond the Gates, or Hotel Rwanda) and its humanitarian functions are in serious need of oversight.

Wouldn't it be safer, cheaper, and more efficient to just cut out the middle man, take the money we give to the U.N., and use it to deliver the food ourselves?



Yuval Levin and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard urge the defeat of the President's plan for health care. Central to Mr. Obama's plan is the option of allowing people to buy government health insurance, but, since this would be cheaper than private insurance, it would inevitably drive private insurance companies out of business, leaving the government as the sole source of health insurance in the country. Levin and Kristol, along with many other observers, think this would be a disaster:

The government insurance "option" is clearly shaping up to be the first key vulnerability of ObamaCare. It is crucial to the logic of the Democrats' approach, as it would offer convenient cover both for the move toward government financing of coverage and for the rationing of care such a move would require. The president, congressional leaders, and key liberal interest groups have insisted it be part of any reform effort. But as outside opposition grows, it is far from clear that the government option will have the votes to pass. If it were voted down or pulled out of the Democrats' bills, the logic and the inevitability of the remainder of their reform effort would be called into question, and Republicans would face a real opportunity to make the case for their own brand of reform, and to stop the ObamaCare train in its tracks.

It is crucial that they seize the opportunity. The public plan is not the only important question in the health care debate. There are many other strong reasons for stopping a plan that would cost at least $1.5 trillion, create a huge and growing new entitlement without paying for it, impose great financial burdens on employers and individuals, displace millions of families who are happy with their existing health care arrangements, lead to increasing rationing of care, and do very little else to control health care costs.

If they lose the government plan the Democrats will still pursue its ends by other means--including onerous new mandates and the federalization of insurance regulation envisioned in their bills. So conservatives need to defeat the government insurance "option"--and then move on to finish the job by exposing the other massive problems with ObamaCare, so as to bring the whole edifice of bad and dangerous "reform" crashing down.

There's much more to the argument against "ObamaCare" at the link, and everyone should familiarize themselves with it to be informed about what's in store if the president's plan should pass.

I certainly hope that congress comes up with a way to make health care more affordable, but I wonder why, if the administration is really serious about lowering the cost of insurance, they don't simply reform the laws allowing lawyers to extract exorbitant judgments from doctors and drug companies in lawsuits.

One reason why insurance and care are so expensive is that it costs doctors and pharmaceutical companies a fortune to protect themselves against lawyers and their clients who are always on the lookout to sue somebody with deep pockets, and the cost of that protection simply gets passed along to their customers.