If Evolution is purposeless


(Emily) #1

Evolution supposedly has no end goal. Yet we were created with a purpose. So I don’t know how God fits into that.

I don’t believe that Evolution is purposeless. I heard an atheist say Evolution had no end goal for it, and it got me thinking if that was true or not.

I’ve nothing against atheists by the way.
I am doubting. Please help.

Thanks!


(Laura) #2

I’m sorry – doubting can leave a person feeling shaken and overwhelmed. I try to remind myself that if God is who he says he is, then he is bigger than my doubts and I don’t have to make immediate sense of everything else in order to believe in him – learning is a process, and he is there throughout it.

As for evolution, I think it helps to remember that it’s really a very small part of a much bigger picture. Sure, that one process may not appear to have much of an end goal, but neither does meteorology, or climate change, or plate tectonics, or star formation – but none of these things function independently. God is sovereign over all the processes of the universe. I’m wary of trying to pinpoint just how much he “intervenes” in these natural processes, but I still believe his ultimate purpose is being worked out – he is redeeming and reconciling the world to him through Christ.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #3

Hi Emily,

Glad to see you on here again. Your honest struggles are always welcome on the Forum.

All science can talk about is scientifically detectable purposes. This is the realm of so-called methodological naturalism. It cannot talk about or rule on purposes that lie outside the detection of the scientific method.

Your description of evolution crosses the line into metaphysical or ontological naturalism, i.e., saying that there is no purpose, not merely that it’s not scientifically detectable. Science does not and cannot affirm ontological naturalism.

Not sure if this will be helpful, but one thought experiment I like to give of this sort of undetectable purpose, a sort of natural miracle, is the pastor who has a particular financial need, and he prays about it, and the next day he finds an envelope under his door mat with exactly that much money in it. Now, clearly, a parishioner felt prompted to give this; God didn’t miraculously create authentic American dollars with E Pluribus Unum and all ex nihilo.

No scientist would ever be able to determine that this gift was an act of God. As far as she is concerned, it is a coincidence, or at least ascientific. But can we believe that God, through means that we don’t fully understand, gave inner promptings to the generous parishioner to give of his resources to the pastor? Absolutely. This is a purpose that we cannot detect scientifically; it is personal in nature and very real.

In sum, there are many different kinds of purposes: some detectable scientifically, some not. Does that help?


(Dominik Kowalski) #4

Hello Emily!
Every (well, let´s say most) believer knows, that we never decide to have faith once and for all, but that we make this decision over and over again. And I don´t think I can add too much to what Elle said, but I don´t see the statement that Evolution is a directionless process as convincing. I don´t think that we would have appeared if it were merely throwing dice and I don´t think that we would sit here and reflect on that event. And if convergence is correct, it has further metaphysical implications.
I have become very interested in the Aristotlelian-Thomistic philosophy in recent time and very much enjoy Ed Fesers books, particularly “The Last Superstition” and the “Five proofs for the existence of God”. This philosophy deals, among other issues, with teleology and am I right to assume, that this is what has been asked for? In this blogpost it is touched on, but of course worked out in a bigger way in his book “Aquinas”:


(Emily) #5

Yes it does. So, something that appears not to have a purpose may still have one, just one we might never be able to understand?


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #6

one we might never be able to understand scientifically.

In the case of the pastor in my thought experiment, we as Christians understand, nonscientifically, through the eyes of faith, that the Holy Spirit really does prompt people somehow, we may imagine perhaps it is through some kind of quantum indeterminacy but nobody really knows.

There are various ways of understanding things, some scientific and some not. :slight_smile:


(Randy) #7

I love this recent video from Randal Rauser on doubt. https://randalrauser.com/2019/01/can-you-be-a-christian-if-you-doubt/


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #8

@Celticroots

Did or did not God use evolution to create human beings? If God created human beings then evolution has a purpose. Scientists might not agree with this, but so what/

According to the anthropic principle the universe is structured in order to create intelligent life, so this is evidence that evolution has a purpose, which maybe some evolutionists have overlooked, or maybe they are stuck in the past.


(George Brooks) #9

@Celticroots

Emily, I am truly puzzled. You seem to be yearning for a nuanced answer that doesn’t rely on extreme assessments…

And surely you must have bumped into a posting or two on the idea that God could use Evolution to accomplish his goals.

So why do you not seem to embrace the combination idea of God giving Evolution a purpose?


(GJDS) #10

Scientifically we can pose this question, “Is there a direction to nature and by implication, the bio-world studied by biologists?”

Some biologists seem to answer no, the most famous quote (by Gould) in that if we re-run evolution (as he understood it), we would get a different outcome to what we have. From what I can understand from this (scientifically dubious quote), the basis is randomness in the theory of evolution.

As a scientist, if a theory is proposed that is non-reproducible (here in a very wide sense), than that theory is unacceptable. It becomes speculation.

On a larger question of purpose in Nature, my opinion is yes, there is direction (a type of purpose) due to the enormous interdependence of all natural events. However, science has a long way to go before we can speak in specifics on this matter.


(Mitchell W McKain) #11

It doesn’t. No more than the wind has an end goal blowing leaves. But that doesn’t mean that wind has no purpose any more than evolution has no purpose. The wind blows away smoke and used air to bring us fresh air. Evolution is the process by which species learn and adapt to changes in the environment; so it brings us endless diversity and new abilities.

Well it depends on what you mean by that. We are not tools created for an end, we are children created as an end in itself. The purpose is love and freedom rather than power and control. It is the only sensible purpose for self-organizing process of life in the first place – otherwise machines are far more sensible and efficient.

God fits in the same way all creators of life, as a participant rather than a designer. That is what farmers, shepherds, teachers and parents do. They do not design, they participate with a little help when it is needed.

Evolution has no end goal by itself any more than does the wind, but that does not mean it has no purpose. Nor does it mean that the wind cannot be channeled by someone clever to accomplish a more specific purpose. But if you think that purpose was to create a specific shape and color then I think you have a god in mind who is incredibly superficial. So I would think it is more like some creature capable of complex abstract communication like language so He could interact with us more directly and give us a gift/inheritance of ideas which would make us more His children in that way.


#12

I concur with those who say that evolution may appear random and purposeless from an atheistic point of view. But we don’t belive that it was just random. We also hold onto the revelation that wanted to create and wanted to have beings with whom God as Trinity of love-in-relation could be in comminion with.

Some have pointed to an almost inevitable possibility that conscious self aware beings can be the result of evolution somewhere in a vast cosmos, and that it just happened to occur here on earth. (We’ll leave aside the question of if we are unique in the universe). If it is the purpose of God to create beings in communion, then we are it despite any randomness that may have occured, and from that point of view evolution is purposeful.


(Bill Wald) #13

I have concluded that God created a universe that can evolve. Only this is logical. The other possibilities are an insult to God.


(Scott koshland) #14

I do think that there is a higher purpose to life. I subscribe to the Simon Conway Morris views on convergent evolution. There is something attracting the underlying evolutionary process that eventually leads to increasing consciousness. Not all life forms need to achieve consciousness but there is an underlying process selecting for something that eventually leads to conscious states. Conway Morris points out that many animals such as crows, octopus, elephant, dogs all have attributes of consciousness though not as advanced as humans. We have a greater consciousness and greater potential to achieve higher levels of consciousness than all life about us. There are higher levels of consciousness than what we have achieved. I think that our consciousness is linked to our spirit and God. Evolution of all life may not have a direction as it can be seen as a learning process that may appear random as life adapts to individual conditions.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15

How can something be random when we see that life adapts to changes of ecology, and life forms which do not adept become extinct. That is not random by any definition that I know of.


(Shawn T Murphy) #16

For me, there is a double meaning for evolution that comes out of the enlightened Greek philosophy as striving for beauty and goodness. This goes for both the physical creation and for the soul which are linked in this process of beautification.

Looking at the long term evolution, I see a general beautification of creation in the oceans, land and air. There is more cooperation/symbioses now and less cannibalism than there was in the past. There is a similar process going on with the souls, but both of these processes are imperceivably slow. They can only be viewed over the long run. It took humanity over 100,000 years to stop hunting each other and start practicing animal husbandry and farming.


(Randy) #17

Mr Murphy,

You mean “It took humanity,” not “I took humility”…right ? :smile:


#18

This is a good example of the two books.

Science can’t determine purpose. It can only observe what is. As soon as a scientist makes claims of purpose/no-purpose they’ve left science and gone into the metaphysical. Dawkins is a good example of this. Science ought not talk theology.

Theology can certainly suggest that evolution is teleological. However, it’s not a scientific claim…or it ought not be. Otherwise, we’re making theology talk science.


(Randy) #19

Yes, and once we say we know the mind of God, we get into all sorts of divisions!


(Mitchell W McKain) #20

That is incorrect. Science most certainly can determine purpose. It can and has determined that the purpose of the various bodily organs. The quibble that this is function rather than purpose does not work here because they are the product of the self-organization of a living organism, and thus the function is the purpose for which it exists. Not all purpose comes from God. In fact, most of the purpose we encounter in life does not come from God. When you look around you right now you it will find things with purpose which comes from the living organisms which made them rather than God.

Thus you have to find things like rocks and stars and then the question becomes whether purpose had anything to do with their creation at all. And then science certainly doesn’t speak of purpose in such cases, though they may have a function relative to our lives. And I guess you are right that evolution at least partially falls into that category, but not entirely. This is because one of the strategies of living thing is to develop methods which introduce variation into its genome and in that way evolution becomes something in which living species become participants rather than just subjects. In that case, to some degree you can say that science has discovered that the purpose of evolution is to enable species to adapt to a changing environment. But I agree this weak enough that you can say that evolution at most only has one foot in the category of purpose with bodily organs another another foot in the category of stars and mountains.

In any case, I quite agree that there is a divide between science and religion. But I don’t think you have managed nail it down. And most of the obvious divides are a bit one-way so that while the determinations of religion are irrelevant to science, the determinations of science can be highly relevant to religion.