Friday, October 23, 2009

Evolution Versus Miracles

An Enlightenment tradition that paralleled deism was the growing sentiment against supernatural miracles. In the early eighteenth century the debate raged in England and, once again, theological concerns were at the center of the move toward naturalism. Thomas Wollaston and Peter Annet, for instance, put forth a series of arguments against miracles and their tracts numbered in the tens of thousands. Wollaston ridiculed the idea of Jesus casting devils out of a madman and into a herd of pigs: "I could even now laugh at the thoughts of the Hoggs running and tumbling down-hill as if the Devil drove them."

As with the deists, Wollaston and Annet found divine intervention, this time in the form of miracles, to be theologically awkward. God has infinite knowledge, including foreknowledge, and power and wisdom. Hence God must be capable of so arranging and designing the natural order from eternity so as to accomplish his aims without violating the natural order.

Furthermore, as Annet argued, God's immutability mandates naturalism. God was the cause, and the laws of nature were the effect. A change in the effect—the natural order—means a change in the cause. But God does not change. And if such a change were required it would reveal a blundering creator, or worse:

If God ever determined for moral ends and reasons to interpose, if needful, by a different method, than that of his standard laws; it must be either because he could not foresee the consequences, which is like blundering in the dark; or he foresaw it would be needful; and then it would be like a blunder in the design and contrivance; or he foreknew and determined his own works should not answer His own ends, without His mending work, which is worst of all.

David Hume later refined and expanded these arguments, and by the time Darwin boarded the HMS Beagle miracles were increasingly viewed as passe. Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), the Lord Chancellor of England and advocate of natural theology, argued that miracles proved nothing but the exercise of miraculous power and they left the Creator's trustworthiness in question.

With that as background, it is hardly surprising that Darwin's theory of evolution was warmly received by cultural elites and many religious leaders. They may not have understood all of the underlying biology, but they understood the underlying metaphysics.

And it is hardly surprising that this opposition to miracles remains today as a core fundamental of evolution. This was made clear, yet again, this week by evolutionists Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers. Dawkins revealed this underlying metaphysic in an interview, as Myers recounts:

RD: Okay, do you believe Jesus turned water into wine?

HH: Yes.

RD: You seriously do?

HH: Yes.

RD: You actually think that Jesus got water, and made all those molecules turn into wine?

HH: Yes.

RD: My God. (spoken with astonishment)

HH: Yes. My God, actually, not yours. But let me…

RD: I've realized the kind of person I'm dealing with now.

Myers mercilously berates the interviewer for such irrationalism. This isn't about science--it never was.


  1. I try to only visit Myers site once per year. Unbelievable. Hundreds of comments that basically says, "Christians are idiots!" Virtually nothing but ad homs and other fallacies.

  2. But evolutionists believe that every thing that exists- man, his mind, his art, his science, all his dreams and aspirations, all his hopes and fears are all just the outcome of the condensation of a cloud of hydrogen gas.Irrational you say? They should put down the bong.

  3. You already mentioned this, Dr. Hunter... why the repeat post?

    So, just to be clear: making fun of a an interviewer holding silly thoughts = evolution is metaphysical. Got it, makes perfect sense.

  4. Cornelius,
    I'm trying to understand your post. do you think miracles are valid scientific explanations? because as far as I can tell, miracles are rejected in every branch of science, not just evolutionary biology.

  5. Khan, you are making a common error, either deliberately or accidentally. You can decide that.

    You can't use science to prove that you can only use science to prove things (circular reference). Science measures material things. By definition, it is not measure immaterial things.

    You rely on historical and eye witness testimony all day, every day -- even your scientific testimony is based on your trust of eyewitnesses. That is, unless you create all your own test equipment from scratch and repeat every single experiement yourself.

  6. I didn't say that only science can prove things. i just asked whether Cornelius thinks that miracles are acceptable within the context of science. there may be other ways of proving things, but that's beside the point of my question.

  7. 4simpsons, don't take this as an insult, but you need to review the fallacies you're citing, as you aren't identifying them properly...

  8. Shirakawasuna, I'm not insulted. It is all there in Myers' site. I analyzed it more here if you are interested -- .

    It is ironic that the "brights" use such spectacularly bad arguments. They beg the question and assume that if you claim to believe in miracles then you are too irrational to debate the existence of God. But of course, miracles go hand in hand with the existence of God. It is a petty rhetorical trick that Dawkins, Hitchens, Myers et al like to use. They think they've baited you by asking if you believe in, say, the virgin birth, then act shocked and dismissive. How pathetic.

  9. Okay, I've looked at your post, 4simpsons. I'll explain the problems with the "fallacies" you identify there rather than cluttering up this blog.

  10. I think the problem the Darwinsts here are having is that to them, science is to them like Wal-Mart, you go there to get everything. They don't seem to understand that 1) something can be true even though science can't get at it (such as the law of non-contradiction), and 2) science isn't the only way to discover truth. That's why if Hunter mentions miracles, Khan askes if he thinks miracles are scientific.