Occam's Razor as an objection to EC


(Juan Romero) #1

While browsing the IC wiki to know what sorts of things atheists can come up with, I found out that they use Occam’s Razor to argue not only against God, but against EC too!

"Occam’s Razor does apply in cases where God is needlessly invoked, such as with theistic evolution."
Source: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Occam’s_Razor

“While claiming compatibility with science, theistic evolution is not required for the evolutionary process to occur and does not provide any additional explanatory power. Therefore the theistic evolution hypothesis can be discarded by Occam’s razor.”

"Evolution is full of failed attempts, suffering of living things and the extinction of most historic species. An omnipotent designer would not use such cruel means to create humans."
Source: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Evolution#Theistic_Evolution

I had never thought about this, but, fortunately, there are cases in which anti-razors are needed. I’ll leave you with some: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_razor#Anti-razors

What do you think about Occam’s Razor being used to argue against EC? Is it really valid?


(GJDS) #2

I would not turn to Occam’s razor to criticise EC, because the premise is that Darwinian evolution (in whatever form) fully explains what we observe. This premise is faulty, and adding God to a faulty and/or inadequate theory adds to the fault.

EC must somehow show how (quantitatively) it differs from atheistic evolution (AE) before Christians can take it seriously. AE promotes a purely naturalistic outlook, that is underpinned by an “absolute” belief in a random, purposeless process presented as AE. If EC cannot divorce itself from this, it remains AE dressed up in theistic clothing.


(Juan Romero) #3

I always wondered this: “Do we, as Christians, argue for or against determinism? Does God really play dice or not?”


(Matthew Pevarnik) #4

Perhaps you may enjoy this read:

Or perhaps this:


(Juan Romero) #5

Thanks for those books!


(GJDS) #6

One constant: Christians will argue and discuss freedom, determinism, sin, good and evil … and so on. All Christian arguments are grounded in the revelation of God, which is Christ. One of the many aspects of the Christian faith that I enjoy, is that we can question and examine (scrutinise) all things because of Christ.

And I agree with another scientist, that God does not play dice with the Creation.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #7

Just what is the “theistic evolution hypothesis”? I wasn’t aware TEs had one apart from the mere evolution as hypothesized and evidenced by science. I think we can assume the author did not mean to state that evolution should be discarded because of Occam’s razor. So the entire statement is incoherent. It sounds like the author doesn’t even understand what theistic evolution is, much less have any compelling argument against it. TEs (most of them we hear from around here) don’t invoke God as some sort of additional explanation to “help evolution” over the rough spots. They don’t invoke God at all in any sort of scientific sense. God is worshiped as the Creator source of all reality in the first place, not as some sort of causal explanation among the regularities seen within it. There is no scientific hypothesis to fail. The author makes the all-too-common category error of inventing a god with creature status, and then wants to pretend that all TEs have committed the same error. Maybe some have in the ID enthusiast camp … if so, then defending against this charge is their problem.


(GJDS) #8

While I agree with the thrust of your comment, the fact as I understand it is that TE is a process ordained by God - thus evolution imo is now a theological statement. This renders TE incoherent as that which is ordained by God is revealed by Him, and I take scripture to be the means for such revelation, guided by the Holy Spirit.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

I probably don’t yet fully understand what you are saying here. So you say that God reveals (in Scripture) all that which he ordains. Okay … universal gravitation is not revealed in Scripture. So do you see that as not ordained by God? Because it certainly isn’t in the Bible. Yet I would argue that it most certainly is “ordained” by God completely as one of his many works. Maybe the problem is that I/we may not have a fully known or agreed upon definition of “ordained”?


(GJDS) #10

Ordained is a term used to denote confirming holy orders, or for-ordained as a particular event that has required God specifically acting to bring about that particular event or fact.

The creation points to its creator and this as a general tenant of the faith is revealed in the bible - in the beginning God created the heavens and earth. If the biblical teaching was removed from human conscious I do not think that science would “discover” God or determine using the scientific method, that He is Creator.

So Merv, I do not think that God sat down and decided to ordain a particular thing called universal gravity, or evolution, or electrons. I think He created all there is, and we try and understand each and every particular of the creation as well (and as imperfectly) as we are able. This approach will prevent us from conflating holy scripture with mundane material matters.


(Larry Bunce) #11

If science could explain everything about the world that we need to know, adding God to a scientific explanation would be an unnecessary extra step. Therefore EC could be eliminated by Occam’s razor. However, a complete scientific understanding of everything does not include how and why it all started. That is where the human mind starts to run into theology.

Science can be an absorbing study, with enough work to keep millions of scientists busy for entire lifetimes. Since science doesn’t deal with the concept of God, many scientists do not stop to ponder the origins question. They are sort of like the average commuter, who does not spend time on the way to work thinking about how his or her car was designed and manufactured. Many people love the definite answers science can provide, and would rather not deal with the imponderable questions that theology brings up, or possibly worse, they adopt a theology that has definite answers that can’t be questioned.

EC can be attacked by YECs on one side, and by atheists the other, so it will always be a position that is harder to hold, but I have always found that the more I have learned how complicated the world really is, the more I have to believe in a divine Creator who started it all, and continues to make it run.


(GJDS) #12

Orthodox Christian theology has discussed a divine Creator who started it and sustains it for about 2000 years, long before some decided to invent YEC, EC or TE (and some say ID also).


(Christy Hemphill) #13

They are right that it provides no additional scientific explanatory power. People’s reasons for affirming the truth claims of the Bible, that God created the heavens and the earth and sustains the universe by his power and will, are outside the realm of science. Just because God as the creator and sustainer is not necessary as a scientific explanation doesn’t mean it doesn’t address other non-scientific questions humans have.

That’s why we like “evolutionary creationist” here better than “theistic evolutionist” Theistic evolution makes it sound like you are adding something to the science, which is not really the case. The science is the same, because science, by definition, speaks to the material, natural world. Evolutionary creationism is a theological position that acknowledges supernatural realities and the truth of divine revelation in the Bible. It isn’t science + God as a scientific theory. It’s God as the source and ongoing creator of the natural world (that science describes) as a theological position.


(Juan Romero) #14

That is totally correct.


(GJDS) #15

While I personally feel that “creationist” is sufficient as a term, I can appreciate that within the US context, your phrase would show a difference from others who are overly concerned with some areas of science and biology, such as YEC and OEC.


#16

As a scientific explanation, Occam’s Razor would shave off the added mechanism of a supernatural deity that acts through nature in a way that is indistinguishable from that natural process acting on its own. However, I see EC as a theological position and not a scientific explanation so Occam’s Razor really doesn’t apply.

Also, Occam’s Razor (i.e. parsimony) is a rule of thumb or informal rule and not an absolute rule. It could very well be that the explanation including unevidenced mechanisms is the correct explanation. To use a less controversial example, when geneticists are comparing DNA sequences between species they assume that a sequence difference at a specific base is due to a single mutation. However, it is possible for two consecutive mutations to occur at the same base which results in a single base difference.


#17

Ditto for atheistic chemistry and physics. Myself, I’m hesitant to believe that some reactions proceed via an SN2 (nucleophilic, bimolecular substitution) mechanism without a clear means of reconciling it with a fully grounded, Christian understanding of the Bible.


#18

atheistic gravity vs intelligent falling


#19

The germ theory of disease continues to have its detractors in some Christian communities…


#20

It is interesting to see how evolution is treated different by some in the Christian community as compared to other scientific theories. Evolution is inherently no more atheistic than the theory of relativity, the germ theory of disease, or the atomic theory of matter. The scientific method used to construct the theory of evolution is the same scientific method used in the rest of science: observe, hypothesize, test, report, repeat. Christians don’t seem to have a problem with God enacting his plan for the world through natural processes like gravity and chemistry, so why would the natural process of evolution be any different?

Much, or maybe even all, of the conflict boils down to human tradition. At one point in history people latched on to the tradition that Genesis had to be interpreted literally in much the same way that human tradition saw the Bible as supporting Geocentrism. Through time, human tradition morphed into the “Word of God”. Human interpretations were conflated with the actual book being interpreted.

The vast majority of atheists I talk to and know don’t see evolution, geology, and astronomy as a problem for Christianity, and that includes myself. While scientists who are atheists might wonder why their Christian peers believe as they do, they have no problem respecting each other as peers and no problems understanding why evolution isn’t a stumbling block for their fellow Christian scientists. If anything, atheists have a hard time wondering why some Christians would choose an interpretation of the Bible that is shown so clearly false by the world around us in the same way that Geocentrism was shown to be wrong more than 300 years ago.