Why evolution is not ‘anti-God’

The magnifying glass: A completely useless tool, if one uses the same logic that YEC proponents apply to evolution. Photo by shakko, via Wikimedia Commons. The magnifying glass: A completely useless tool, if one uses the same logic that YEC proponents apply to evolution. Photo by shakko, via Wikimedia Commons.

A frustratingly common YEC tactic to criticize Christians’ acceptance of evolution is to say, “Darwin was an atheist, or [insert prominent biologist’s name here] is an atheist, therefore evolution is inherently an atheistic enterprise.”

They claim that evolution is an attempt to explain life “without God,” which makes it — at its very foundation — “anti-God,” evil, probably Satanic and just something that good, Bible-believing Christian folk should stay away from at all costs.

Allow me to explain why this is stupid.

Like all misleading rhetoric, the argument has a thread of truth to it. Evolution is agnostic about the question of God, and it does seek to explain the origin of species without invoking supernatural intervention.

But, wait for it: All science does that.

I know... Mind blown, right?

I know… Mind blown, right?

All science is agnostic on the question of God. All science seeks to explain whatever it is seeking to explain without invoking supernatural intervention. It is not atheistic, it is not Christian, it is simply silent on the subject, because science is the study of the material world, and God is an immaterial Being.

As I’ve pointed out here on more than one occasion, the theory of the water cycle is every bit as atheistic as Darwin’s most demonically animated fever dreams.

Like evolution, the water cycle tries to explain some aspect of the natural world (in this case, precipitation) “without God” (DUN DUN DUN!!!). And yet, you don’t often see churches and Christian protesting outside meteorologists’ offices or trying to have information on the water cycle censored from science textbooks.

Evolution cannot be described as atheistic, because that implies that it speaks to something that, by definition, it cannot speak to. It’s a category error.

It would be like saying magnifying glasses are useless because they don’t show the microwave spectrum. A magnifying glass is an extremely useful tool, when it’s used in the way it was intended.

Its intended uses, of course, include ant immolation and the torture of sentient cowboy dolls.

Its intended uses, of course, include ant immolation and the torture of sentient cowboy dolls.

It was never meant to measure microwaves. That doesn’t make it a bad tool. It’s not the magnifying glass’s fault when you use it incorrectly, or expect it to do something it was never designed to be capable of doing.

Evolution is not “anti-God,” any more than the magnifying glass is “anti-microwaves.” “Anti-” means “against” or “in opposition to,” and you can’t oppose something you have no means of interacting with in the first place.

So, it doesn’t matter if Darwin was an atheist or a fundamentalist Christian or worshiped an invisible blue fairy who lived in his big toe.

The beliefs of the person who happens to be engaging in scientific inquiry are irrelevant; they do not change what science inherently is, nor do they change its inherent limitations (that it cannot speak to questions of the supernatural or transcendent).

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • Seth

    Very apropos. I recently schooled a creationist on the fact that, no, Darwin did not convert to Christianity in his later years, and even if he had, it would have no bearing on evolutionary theory.

    • Nice!

    • Mahatma Randy

      Darwin didn’t need to “Convert” to Christianity, as he was already a Christian. He was obviously a very liberal one, and he doesn’t seem to have been much interested in the afterlife or personal salvation, insofar as I know, but he never refuted his faith (Even if it was largely pro-forma, which it may have been), and he was obsessed with “Natural Theology,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin%27s_education#Natural_theology_and_geology

      • He was a liberal Christian for much of his life, and later, a deist. He described himself as “an agnostic” in a letter to John Fordyce near the end of his life: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-12041.xml. At the same time, he always maintained that he saw no conflict between evolution and “ardent theism,” even if it was not the position he personally held.

        • Mahatma Randy

          I’m under the impression that “Agnostic” had a somewhat broader meaning back then: It could mean I dunno if God exists, or I dunno if *our* God exists, or I dunno if God exists in the way we generally assume, or I don’t know anything about God but assume he exists (The latter being, essentially, Christian Existentialism)

          It’s kind of like an Atheist now means a person who doesn’t believe in God, but it used to mean a person who denied the existence of a particular god, not all of them. For instance, “Atheism” was a common charge brought against early Christians because they denied the existence of Zeus, Apollo, etc. The fact that they believed in a God was irrelevant. Denying the existence of any of them was considered Atheism back then.

          I’ve gotten off track, sorry.

          Anyway, I figured Darwin for a Deist, or (more likely) a Deist with culturally Christian leanings, but wasn’t sure. Thanks!

      • Seth

        I tried to point that out as well. His tack was that since (in his view) Christianity is in conflict with evolution, and Darwin stopped being a Christian when he came up with natural selection, and since he became a Christian again later in life, that makes Creationism as valid as Evolution. He was actually a pretty reasonable guy overall. Here is one of his statements: “Personally I am Christian but I think evolution and creationism might be the same thing written in a way so people at the time could understand it(considering Moses wrote in in 1440BC)”

        • Mahatma Randy

          I haven’t heard the “He stopped being a Christian” thing before, but I’ve heard the idea that his conversion and/or deathbed refutation of Evolution somehow makes the theory invalid.

          I don’t think I understand: Your friend thinks evolution and creation might be the same thing, written for an audience without much scientific knowledge, and yet he denies evolution? That kind of lost me.

          • Seth

            Not so much as a friend as someone I ran across on a political discussion board. His position was actually a bit hard to completely suss out. The best I can come up with is that he felt that a scientist’s religious beliefs needed to be taken into consideration. If an evolutionary scientist regarded themselves as a Christian, then both Creationism and Evolution should be taught in the schools.

          • Mahatma Randy

            That’s refreshingly moderate

        • summers-lad

          Although, like Mahatma, I’m confused by your friend’s overall view, “written in a way so that people at the time could understand it” is a pretty good point. The Biblical creation stories don’t depend on scientific knowledge in order to be understood, and it’s only a too-literal mindset that blinds us to their meaning. (And as I often point out, “literal” just doesn’t work with them.)

  • Mahatma Randy

    Agree entirely. Individual scientists may not believe in God, other scientists may believe there is one, but science itself is agnostic. Saying it’s anti-God is like saying my Hyundai Tuscon is anti-God. It’s a thing. It has no opinions of its own.

    • Very good point. (Although sometimes I do think that my pickup truck hates me.)

      • Mahatma Randy

        Oh, sure, your truck can hate you, but it has to remain agnostic on the God issue.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I know… Mind blown, right?

    No, that’d be a doodle from a brilliant-but-unstable artist I ran across in the Eighties:
    A grinning Frankenstein monster holding a huge pistol to a jar with a brain in it with the caption “BLOW YOUR MIND”.