Sunday, March 3, 2013

Does God Intentionally Deceive Us?: Theistic Evolution And The Problems Of Faith

It has only really been since Darwin discovered the evolutionary process that the atheist or agnostic position has even been tenable. Before Darwin, you find very few atheists, and the default position for skeptics of supernatural claims was pretty much deism. Evolution changed all that by showing that an unguided natural process could bring about all the existent species of life. Physicists and astronomers like Newton, Laplace and Einstein, further demonstrated how natural processes were guiding the stars, planets and matter. The wondrous triumph of science over the centuries is that is has continually removed any need to invoke supernaturalism in order to explain phenomenon, for everything that we can explain today has a natural explanation.

Science has forced theists to take one of four positions on evolution: Evolution is either a natural process that was started by god in the beginning; evolution is partly natural process that god occasionally interacts with and guides; evolution is a process that is completely guided by god at every step; or, evolution is false and doesn't happen. The naturalist position of course is that evolution is a totally unguided process that never needs supernatural intervention. But since a growing number of theists accept evolution today, incorporating evolution into theology opens up copious amounts of new problems concerning faith and doubt. Consider this scenario:

Imagine that you must take a history exam that determines whether you go to heaven or hell. To prepare you for the exam, the exam administrators have given you no less than 10 different text books that each tell a slightly different version of history, and many of them contradict each other. You have been given a random and indeterminable amount of time in order to study the given material and without your knowledge the exam administrator will call you up in order to take the exam. Each question on the exam will be in a multiple choice format with each option being one of the versions of history in the exam books. You must choose the right answer every time or else you fail. You have only one chance to pass it; fail and it's an eternity of torture. 

How is this exam process really any different than what god supposedly does to all of us? In order for you to adequately have been given preparation to pass a test, you shouldn't be given contradictory, ambiguous and misleading information. The ability to know the correct answers should be apparent, clear and obvious, and shouldn't require chance or a leap of faith. If you're a progressive theist who accepts evolution and the naturalistic processes that guide matter and also believe god had morally sufficient reasons for doing it all that way, then you'd have to accept the possibility that god is purposely trying to deceive us. It's like god has laid down a breadcrumb trial leading to him, but he makes it diverge into two paths, and then three, and then four, and sometimes the breadcrumbs suddenly disappear and you have to find the next ones on your own on faith. That's like trying to use a text book for an exam, and finding missing pages all over and contradictory information. That's not fair, nor is it "holy" and "loving".

With all the work done by theists to try to use science and logic to prove god's existence, it still ultimately requires leap of faith in the end to believe. And if god wanted us to know he existed, why hide the evidence for it in such a way that it took us all the way until the twentieth century to find it? And why bring creation about using a long natural process, or a process that appeared natural, if it wasn't to intentionally deceive people in order to test their faith? These are the kinds of things you have to consider if you do not take the fundamentalist (i.e. creationist) position on religion and I find it deeply disturbing, because I'm told god is loving and good and doesn't deceive, and yet it's obvious to me under the progressive theist worldview that god would have to be purposely misleading us in order to require faith.

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