I think I agree with creationists. No not about the existence of The Real Housewives of Bedrock but about the implications of evolution should have for theism in general and the Biblical religions in particular. Creationist outfits have been telling anyone who would listen that accepting evolution is incompatible with belief in god generally and the Bible in particular and for once I think they are right but naturally for reasons very different from what they’ve been suggesting. Unlike them I readily acknowledge there are lots of Christians and theists in general who accept evolution but the relevant question is are the beliefs really compatible?
The common claim of those who accept theistic evolution that evolution could have been a guided process just isn’t good inference. Modern evolutionary theory places enormous limitations on the history of life on this planet essentially all of which didn’t have to be true. The most common example is the claim that all life has common descent as all life didn’t have to be related but observation and experiment have overwhelmingly confirmed this. Even descent itself didn’t have to be true as a designer isn’t limited to breeding to produce new organisms. A designer just isn’t bound to a “branching tree a life” and could create organisms which have nothing or very little to do with previous organisms which means there were infinite paths to the current set of species.
However we don’t observe any of these other logically possible paths to “design” we observe evolution and only evolution which means we should rule out the designer hypothesis. Surely a designer could have decided to use evolution and only evolution but given that was the only path for an unguided process to take, but there are limitless possibilities for a designed process to take, the odds are overwhelmingly against it being true.
To further illustrate this let’s take a variation on a classic thought experiment and say we are picking strips of paper at random out of two hats. One hat contains only English words and the other hat has strips containing all possible configurations of letters in English including English words (yes that’s one large hat!). Without knowing which of the two hats we are drawing from we have chosen 10 straight English words. Which hat should we believe we are drawing from? Obviously while it’s theoretically possible we have drawn from the hat with random combinations of letters it is extremely unlikely, in fact every time we pulled out an English word it became less likely.
The translation to the unguided evolution versus designer issue is that literally every piece of evidence we have uncovered which demonstrates, say, common descent is not only evidence for evolution it’s evidence against a designer in general. Given the massive number of individual pieces of evidence which support evolutionary theory this has to put our confidence in evolution billions, if not trillions, of times higher than the designer hypothesis so long as equal probability is given to each of the designer’s possible decisions. This undercuts the idea that one can accept evolution and believe in a designer because in order to do so we have to say the designer chose the one design path, evolution and only evolution, from the infinite possible number of design paths. Only deism and the most limited forms of theism which restrict god to having played no part in the development of life can withstand this assault. Most people, including myself, have not fully acknowledged this implication of evolution in the past but I should have known that it would only be a matter of time before I came around to see the creationists were right… Wait what?