The Catholic Church, along with many other Christian denominations & various other theistic groups accept that Evolution is true. They, however, believe that their god guided evolution as part of his Grand Creation process. They see it as a testament to his all-powerful nature. I think they are seeing it ass-backward due to their confirmation bias goggles.
Let’s do a super quick & simplistic review of what evolution is. It is, at its heart, natural selection. Organisms develop new traits due to random genetic mutation & some of these mutations, such a simple change in the pattern on a butterfly, might allow that organism to survive better than its brothers & sisters & thus be more likely to pass on this mutation. Over time and many generations, a series of these small changes can lead to an organism that has only a modicum of resemblance to its ancestors.
As environmental pressures change, which mutations are beneficial change as well. What was once beneficial can suddenly become detrimental & that branch of the family tree could die out. Alternatively, an event, such as a natural disaster or even just migration of one part of a larger group, may separate a group of organisms into two or more groups. Each group may now find themselves facing completely different environmental pressures. Each group will find different mutations to be beneficial to their new environment & over time & many generations, you could have 2 or more groups of organism, each sharing a common ancestor group, but looking completely different from each other.
Let’s say the group split into 26 separate groups that we’ll simplistically name B, C, D, E, F, & so on. Notice I left out A, that is because A is the original group that the five new groups split from. Group A might still be thriving in its original habitat where there haven’t been any major changes to its environmental pressures. It may also have died out in whatever event caused the split into the separate groups. For the sake of this scenario, let’s say these are birds that got separated during one of their migrations by a major storm & ended spread across islands throughout the Pacific Ocean.
In the present day, we find we now have six groups all sharing a Great x 103-grandmother. Groups B & D might still be close enough genetically to reproduce with each other & the original group A even though they haven’t been in contact for thousands (millions?) of years. Meanwhile, groups C, E, & F have had such drastic genetic drift that they are now new species that can only breed among themselves. Group C is now a flightless bird, E is a burrowing bird & F is a deadly bird of prey.
You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned Groups G to Z yet. That’s because they all died out. They were unable to adapt to the new environmental pressure or their mutations didn’t allow for long-term survival for any number of possible reasons. The point is, 20 of 26 groups were unsuccessful. 20 groups of these birds died out. That’s a 77% failure rate.
This video is the best representation of evolution in action I have ever seen:
In this experiment, the researchers created regions with every increasingly deadly environmental pressures. This represents changes in the natural world that organisms face on a regular basis.
What is striking to me about this video & evolution in general, is the sheer number of failures. For every mutant that manages to survive in the “new world”, there are millions of dead bacteria. Each time a new region is encountered, there are millions of “failures” to each success.
Now let’s look at this through the lens of a god directing this evolution. For the sake of this argument, I’m going to use the God of Classical Theism. That is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, atemporal, omnipresent deity. Or as apologists like William Lane Craig like to say, “A Maximally Great Being”; I’m going to use MGB going forward to save my poor fingers.
If MGB guided the creation of the universe & eventually the evolution of life to become what we see today, that means he either A) planned for trillions of failed life forms or B) relied on trial & error to find the right combinations of traits to continue surviving.
What do these two options mean? Let’s examine them.
A) MGB planned for trillions of failed lifeforms
We need to ask why? We could go with the old “Mysterious Ways” clause theologists are famous for using, or William Lane Craig’s more eloquent way of putting it, “Morally sufficient reasons”. I can’t speak for you, but I find this to be decidedly unsatisfying & reek of an ad-hoc justification to explain away what appears to be immoral actions.
Why would an MGB plan for trillions of failed mutations if he could just skip over them and go straight to the finished product? If you want to build a house, no one in their right mind would purposely build a hundred houses that they know will fall apart at the first gust of wind, or leak like a sieve at the lightest of rain. You build the best house possible the first time & avoid things you know won’t work.
This explanation simply defies basic reasoning that even a small child would get. By definition, the MGB would also need to be “maximally reasonable”, so surely it would able to see the ridiculousness of this plan if a small child could see it? Or is the MGB not “maximally reasonable”, thereby destroying the entire premise behind MGB?
Clearly, this explanation cannot be true.
B) MGB relied on trial & error to find the right combinations of traits to continue surviving
This explanation seems to inherently destroy the whole premise of MGB. The MGB is by definition the “Greatest conceivable being”. If I can conceive of a being that doesn’t need to rely on trial & error to achieve its final design, then a being that does require trial & error cannot be the greatest conceivable being & therefore is not “Maximally Great”. I mean, there are humans that nail their new invention on the first go, ergo, an MGB must be able to nail every invention on the first go.
By saying MGB relied on trial & error where his success rate is in the single digits, & maybe even lower, you’re essentially reducing MGB to being an incompetent Tinker Gnome fiddling with his gadgets until he manages to come up with something useful. What kind of “Maximally Great Being” fails trillions of times for every success?
Once again, this explanation defies basic reasoning & so clearly it cannot be true.
I have only touched upon Evolution so far. If we expanded the view to the whole universe & considered the number of uninhabitable planets, moons, etc, plus the number of planets, stars, etc that have been destroyed or failed to fully form, the number of failures in the MGB’s tally sheet goes to incalculable levels.
I know, I know, who are we to say what’s a failure & what’s not. This is simply reverting back to the “Mysterious Ways” cop-out to avoid having to face the rational explanation.
On a side tangent, I find the whole idea of the MGB having “morally sufficient reasons” to be hilarious. It’s not saying his reasons are “perfect”, just that they are “sufficient” or “good enough”. That doesn’t seem “Maximally Great” to me.
Saying God “directed evolution” is saying that God works in ways that look exactly as if he doesn’t exist. Evolution is completely unsurprising in a naturalistic world & would be completely surprising in a world with an MGB.
To put it another way – Evolution is a fact & the Theory of Evolution explains this fact. The fact of evolution does not fit into a universe that includes an MGB. The fact of evolution does, however, fit perfectly into a world without an MGB.
Until next time, keep drinking the Kool-aid & be nice to one another.