Evolution and God

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Devans99's picture
Evolution and God

The rough and tumble of survival of the fittest is sometimes used as evidence against the existence of a benevolent god - why would a kind god subject his beloved children to the cruelty of evolution so the argument goes.

I used to believe this but I’ve changed my opinion. At the rate human progress is going we should evolve into some sort of near perfect utopian society is short order (on evolutionary timescales).

So borrowing a maths term, evolution, in the limit, on this or any other planet, tends to utopia and universal happiness - in no way incompatible with a benevolent god.

Personally I think god is a pragmatist with limited powers; creation using pure random brute force of evolution is achievable and was always his plan. Creation using design is much more difficult and probably requires some sort of omnipotent god of the style of the major religions.

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Jscott2709's picture
How’s it going dan! First

How’s it going dan! First thing to note is that evolution is not a guided process. It has no specific goal in mind or any form of an end. It will always go on until life ceases to exist. Biological evolution has nothing to do with society or anything like that. It purely addresses the changes in frequency of alleles and genes that leads to the diversification of life over vast amounts of time. Now of course things evolve all the time. Even automobiles evolve but it’s got nothing to do with the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. All natural selection says is that organisms with traits that are better suited to their environments are more likely reproduce and pass on their genes. When combined with speciation life will begin to diversify throughout different environments. A benevolent god is not required for this process to occur because we see it in nature 24/7. I personally do not believe in a god or gods but plenty of people I know believe that god guides evolution. However that also raises the question, why would god use billions and billions of years just to develop us. You know what I mean? And my next question is why do you say that evolution is cruel? It has no personality. It is merely a process that has only very recently been discovered and examined to be true. Whether it is a “cruel” process or not has no weight to the validity of its predictive cababilities and power to explain. You see where I’m coming from?

Sheldon's picture
You do know evolution has

You do know evolution has been falsified by John Breezy, don't you?

For some reason only he seems aware of this paradigm shift he's caused though, which makes me dubious.

Cognostic's picture
@ DAN: At the rate human

@ DAN: At the rate human progress is going we should evolve into some sort of near perfect utopian society is short order.

You obviously do not understand evolution. THINK! The chimpanzee, the earth worm and the cockroach have evolved for the same period of time as the human being. Most biologists agree that if the evolutionary process were to begin all over again, there is no guarantee human beings would be the result. Evolution is not a unidirectional phenomena from less intelligent to more intelligent.

Survival of the fittest is not survival of the strongest. It can be completely random. Like a disease that picks and chooses its way among a population. "Fittest" can be equated with 'luckiest" in many situations as entire populations have been eliminated by natural disasters. Being in the right place at the right time is a big deal in the process of evolution.

Dave Matson's picture


Nice post! A lot of people have this mistaken notion that evolution is a path to better, smarter animals (of which the pinnacle, of course, is us). But, as you know, evolution is all about adaptation to current environments--not future ideas of utopia. Intelligence, which requires a big, energy guzzling brain, is not necessarily the trump card. The magic of technology only comes after that big brain has evolved. And, as you pointed out, sheer chance plays a huge role. Dinosaurs would rule today, probably not much smarter than usual, if it were not for the catastrophic asteroid impact in the late Cretaceous Period that reset the evolutionary "agenda." Our own rise is thought to hinge mightily on changing environments in Africa. Everything from the configuration of the continents, the weather, whether you are dealing with an all-ocean world, to who-knows-what figures into the lottery of evolution. Maybe the big break for us involved a series of freak accidents and that the usual, hairy apes should be here instead of us! I see no compelling reason to think that evolution always produces a technological civilization sooner or later.

No one knows if our great cities are stable in the long run. Technology may just be a brilliant flash in the evolutionary frying pan, here today and gone within a few hundred years (a blink in geologic time) after the resources are exhausted or nuclear war does it in.

Cooperation is also another key in survival. Homo sapiens would have never made it if the stronger preyed on the weaker, if each individual grabbed everything that he could.

Devans99's picture
You are rather flying in the

You are rather flying in the face of statistics we have a sample size one planet earth saying evolution produces intelligence.

You are also ignoring the fact that given enough time, evolution will try all possible mutations. Inteligence (and hence tool usage and technology) is clearly the winning mutation. It was just a matter of time before the dinosaurs became intelligent:


arakish's picture
Actually, I think it will the

Actually, I think it will the cockroach that inherits this Earth in the end. They have a much greater survivability rating than we do.



LogicFTW's picture
"given enough time, evolution

"given enough time, evolution will try all possible mutations"

Yes given infinite time, all possible mutations will be tried. But we do not have infinite time. Yes Billions of years on this planet since life first arose, but at the rate of evolution that is nowhere near long enough to try all possible mutations.

Humans could turn earth into a radioactive ball of rock that can not support organic life even deep underground. Perhaps even crack the earth in half if our fusion bombs and drilling techniques grow great enough. In such a scenario evolution on this planet would most certainly stop, well short of all possible mutations. And that is just one scenario of many that could prevent all possible mutations from being tried.

Sheldon's picture
"You are rather flying in the

"You are rather flying in the face of statistics we have a sample size one planet earth saying evolution produces intelligence."

So again we have one test sample, and of all hundreds of millions of species it has produced you make up a generic rule on the spot based on a tiny number of positive results. I'm surprised you haven't tacked another made up percentage probability onto your claim. The vast majority of life is not intelligent by any objective standard. Also evolutionary mechanisms can be effected by random events, like an asteroid striking the earth for example.

"You are also ignoring the fact that given enough time, evolution will try all possible mutations. "

Citation please - in the meantime Hitchens's razor applied.

"Inteligence (and hence tool usage and technology) is clearly the winning mutation."

Rubbish, that's asinine nonsense, you know less about evolution than you do about stats. I am really starting to find your constant wild assertions irksome.

"It was just a matter of time before the dinosaurs became intelligent:"

Nonsense again, though I'd be prepared to make up a claim that the odds are better than you posting something intelligent any time soon. Do even read the fucking things you link?

" Some have speculated that if the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event had not occurred, the more intelligent forms of small theropods might have eventually evolved human-like levels of intelligence."

Note the words speculated and might have, and the edit button at the top R/H of that screen. Now please find three corroborating citations for your claim from peer reviewed sources.

Kataclismic's picture
...given enough time,

...given enough time, evolution will try all possible mutations.

Evolution tries? You'd think it would get a lot more done if it was actually trying. Why aren't we twenty feet tall with huge teeth and claws? Because that was done already and evolution wants to try something new?

Personification is a literary term, learn it.

Cognostic's picture
@DAN: "Personally I think god

@DAN: "Personally I think god is a pragmatist with limited powers; creation using pure random brute force of evolution is achievable and was always his plan. Creation using design is much more difficult and probably requires some sort of omnipotent god of the style of the major religions."

Frankly this is an atheist site and we just don't believe in gods. Not even magical creator gods who are pragmatists.

To assert a creator God you must prove the world is created. How do you distinguish between naturally occurring and created?

We know when something is created because we create things out of other naturally occurring things. How do you know that the naturally occurring things were created. On top of that, (assuming for a moment things were actually created) how do you know this creative thing, whatever it may be, is a God and not just something natural?

Sheldon's picture
We generally infer design

We generally infer design when no examples can be found in nature. That's worth remembering next time someone is asking how you'd know a watch was designed if you found it on a beach but you'd never seen one before.

David Killens's picture
Evolution has no goal, no

Evolution has no goal, no "purpose". Of all the species that have ever existed on this planet, over 99% are extinct.

Devans99's picture
Hi Thanks for the replies! A

Hi Thanks for the replies! A few clarifications:

As far as the actual existence of a creator god, the fine tuning argument plus the prime mover argument are sufficient to make me believe there is almost certainly a god that created the universe.

I believe that god had a specific purpose - the creation of intelligent life - and he chose evolution as the mechanism to achieve that. I do not assert that god is guiding the process of evolution only that he initiated it.

I believe that god designed everything: the standard model, the Big Bang, evolution, all with the noble purpose of creating intelligent life.

As far as the question of whether evolution always ends up in intelligent life we have a sample size of 1 saying that it does - the planet earth - so I’m surprised biologists are in disagreement. It seems natural to me that intelligence and thus technology is always the winning hand in the evolution game.

I think biological evolution has a lot to do with society - biological evolution develops (eventually) intelligent life which leads to the development of society and eventual evolution of society towards perfection - this was all part of God’s plan IE he knew evolution would evolve intelligent beings that eventually would transcend to a higher level.

Sky Pilot's picture


"As far as the actual existence of a creator god, the fine tuning argument plus the prime mover argument are sufficient to make me believe there is almost certainly a god that created the universe."

OK, so a creator god created the universe. Which one? There are thousands to choose from. Is your's on the list or is he some unknown wizard who's hiding in a distant galaxy? http://www.graveyardofthegods.org/deadgods/listofgods.html

Cognostic's picture
Yes, we know you think that.

Yes, we know you think that. And since you have said it twice now while ignoring all the FACTS that were posted prior to you saying it a second time, we now think that you are just being mindlessly repetitive.

Sheldon's picture
The prime mover argument by

The prime mover argument by definition is not a theistic argument. It's also deeply flawed relying heavily on logical fallacies like special pleading and argumentum ad ignorantiam.

The universe is not fine tuned for life, life is fine tuned by evolution for an infinitesimally small part of the universe.

Neither of these are arguments for deities. That's just an assumption theists tack on at the end of those flawed arguments.

Also you've made a claim, thanked people for responding but ignored the responses to move onto another claim .

This is fairly typical of a great deal of religious apologists who use this scatter gun approach. It's more than a little disingenuous.

Dave Matson's picture


That makes you a theistic evolutionist, a religious position that appears to be non-falsifiable. However, in the spirit of Occam's Razor, it does seem unnecessary to add the god assumption since evolution proceeds according to the known principles of nature. The Fine Tuning argument is not all that it is cracked up to be, and your many assumptions on this matter are assumptions atheists have found to be unnecessary. (See my earlier post on this thread about the direction of evolution.)

David Killens's picture


God has limited powers? Are you stating that the god you bend your knee to is not omnipotent? I hope you understand that all of a sudden your god is not a god.

Jscott2709's picture
Your fine tuning argument is

Your fine tuning argument is applied the same way as your argument for evolution. We only have one observable universe. This means that the chances of the universe forming the way it did was exactly 1/1. The fine tuning argument is convincing on the surface but you cannot go simply off that. It runs into problems when you ask the question “fine tuned for what?” Cuz it most definitely is not us. 99.99999999999% of this universe would kill us instantly and most of the earth would top. We require very specific necessities to survive. The only viable explanation for why we require those things is evolution. For you to prove the universe is fine tuned you must first demonstrate a universe without the fine tuning

algebe's picture
@Dan: At the rate human

@Dan: At the rate human progress is going we should evolve into some sort of near perfect utopian society is short order

A key step on that evolutionary path will be the elimination of all religion and god delusions.

Peurii's picture
Hi Dan!

Hi Dan!
Why do you assume this god you mention created the universe with the goal of creating intelligent life in mind? If you look at the universe, I'd say that more than that, it was created in order to turn lighter elements such as hydrogen into heavier elements, such as iron. Isn't that what's going on here on in a grand scale? Our supposedly intelligent life on this miniscule piece of star refuse is a tiny sliver indeed, and as such is just an unintended consequence. Or maybe this god created this universe with the goal of creating epic claws. There certainly are more species with fancy claws than lots of brain power. Why should we think that intelligence, that allowed our species to thrive, is the thing god values too?

Devans99's picture
What purpose would someone

What purpose would someone have in generating heavy elements? Why would they choose to do so in such an inefficient manner as the universe? How on earth will they collect them?

Also, elements are a feature of our universe; they may not have meaning outside our universe.

I think in due course we will find the universe is brimming with intelligent life - the news from astronomers looks right - 1000s of exoplanet discoveries.

Dave Matson's picture


What purpose would a god have in evolving humans? Is your god so limited that he might have interesting interactions with humans? If the universe has a purpose, shouldn't it be something that it does exceedingly well? Unless, of course, God is incompetent! Making humans is not something the universe does exceedingly well, to say the least, nor is it very good at sustaining life. Turning hydrogen into heavier elements is something it does exceedingly well. Such elements are collected naturally in trillions of planets throughout the universe.

Devans99's picture
On fine tuning, I would argue

On fine tuning, I would argue that the universe is fine tuned for live - it’s very easy to imagine universes without life - the vast majority of universes would merely be particles randomly bouncing off each other - they would not even have stars never-mind life.

We could have such a lifeless universe very easily: Mess with gravity or any of the other 3 forces - no life. Mess with the standard model - no life. Mess with Big Bang cosmology - no life.

In our universe we have gravity and the nuclear fusion of the stars to power life. We have rocky planets with atmospheres and water. It’s a perfect life generation machine and unlikely to have come about by chance.

On the nature of god, some religions define an omnipotent god and some do not. I personally don’t believe in an omnipotent god as that’s frankly an unrealistic expectation. I think an ‘all mighty’ god (stronger than everyone else put together) is more likely. You might say then he is not god; in which case we are only disagreeing semantically.

Dave Matson's picture


All those other universes would not have intelligent life talking about fine tuning arguments. There might be a zillion other universes out there, and if just one of them is "finely tuned" then we are living in it! Talk about how lucky we were (requiring a creator) would be plainly silly if that were the case. In the end, the Fine Tuning Argument hangs on too many things that we don't know enough about. I don't see it as a compelling argument.

Jscott2709's picture

You make the distinct and false assumption that life is not possible without these things. That’s completely inaccurate. Life AS WE KNOW IT would not be possible. Not life in general. Just the type of life we know. Also again you cannot say with certainty that the way our universe formed and it’s constants aren’t the only way a universe can form. You must learn to limit your assumptions to what is testable and proven already. The only way progress is made is by doing so. You create assumptions and then test them in reality. If they don’t hold up, you throw them out. If they are untestable, you throw them out. They must be observable and demonstrated to be true constantly for them to be reasonable assumptions.

Dave Matson's picture
Justin Scott,

Justin Scott,

And, there is the possibility that a fatal change of a variable might be undone by another change of variable, that some combination of changes might support life even as we know it. How many permutations of the variable would work? Who knows? Each would appear fatal if we only looked at one variable change.
Thus, an early exploration of this topic, dealing with single variables, would lead to a heavy bias in favor of our particular arrangement.

Peurii's picture
So you are saying that you

So you are saying that you are a kind of deist? That a "god" (an immensely loaded word that I don't think is very useful here, because it muddies the water with all sorts of implications), created the universe, because it wanted to create life, and then that's it? Even if that were true, why should I care about it in my day to day life?

Peurii's picture
Also assuming that human

Also assuming that human happiness is universal happiness is a bit short sighted. Pigs are happy when they roll around in the mud, sniff the earth in search of food and when they feed their piglets. Humans are happy when they cage said piglets and strip them of their happiness, and eventually eat said piglets. Lions are also happy when they chase gnus on the savannah, and gnus suffer when they are hunted. So how is universal happiness increasing even if humans create an utopia for themselves? Will we exterminate other species so that they will no longer suffer, or shall they be jacked into the matrix too? How does humans conquering the planet increase universal happiness, and not just human happiness? Your argument is a bit anthropocentric.

Devans99's picture
Justin: all of life needs a

Justin: all of life needs a power source - the stars - and the stars existing is extremely unlikely in a ‘randomly configured’ universe - they just consist of particles bouncing endlessly off each other - no power so no life.

Peurii: guess a am a deist. As to why you should care I don’t know; the meaning of life and our eventual fate have always fascinated me.

You make a good point about the dreadful way we treat the animals - a properly evolved society would be completely vegan and would care for the animals - we are still savages - a few 1000 more years of evolution should sort things out though - and yes I would strap the animals in the matrix too!


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