Random and failed

This forum is extremely helpful. Most of the time it is clear enough for even laymen like me to understand, but I appreciate even when the depth of the discussion goes beyond me because I value the serious discussion on these topics.

My current question is this: how does a Christian respond to the “poor choices” or “bad design” that appear scattered throughout evolutionary history. NDGT mocks this in his video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4238NN8HMgQ

And others on this forum have stated it more clearly as something like wondering why God would institute/oversee such an inefficient, almost sadistic process.

Responses?

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I love Dr. Tyson - he’s got passion and a whole lot of good stuff! And regarding all the deadly universe and all the places we can’t live and things we can wish were better … he does join in with that particular chorus and sings it all with such passion.

So we can’t live in most places in the universe other than here. I guess it’s a good thing we … ummm … don’t live in all those other places then. It would be like me getting tied up in knots over the fact that if I happened to be at a hundred feet above ground, or five hundred feet, or any of a nearly infinite number of altitudes above the ground I would suffer a terrifying, almost certain fatal plummet to the ground. And if I was below the surface, I would be buried alive and immediately die there too! So of all these fatal locations I might have been, what a wonderful thing that I just happen to be right here at the one exact altitude where I can carry on and live! Whew! Of course that’s all silly … where else should I have been?

And it is hubris in the extreme to think the entire cosmos is here for only for us. I guess some Christians do think that way.

As regards inefficiencies - that too is a dig at a very Zeus-like god that we expect should behave and have the same sorts of motivations as a human engineer. Before one can even start to speak of ‘inefficiency’, one would first have to have an understanding what the end-goal was that God has in mind. That too is hubris, though the secular mockers of religious sentimentality can’t seem to recognize their own hubris in imagining that the only gods that ought to exist (if any such Zeus-like gods did) ought to be ones made in man’s image. It is indeed a straw god - and one that is fun to play with.

All this is not to say that there aren’t very real theodicy challenges that do rightly humble us. All I’m suggesting is that Tyson and others haven’t managed to find any of them (though they skirt around the edges of some) in these fun little rants.

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NDGT is rightfully mocking any claim of design. If eternal nature is designed, constrained, minimally it is in the anthropic constants. But it may well not have to be. Nature may well self tune. There is certainly no design whatsoever above the dimensionless constants in the rest of physics on up into chemistry, biology, psychology. God, if He’s real, has no choice, from eternity, but to ground the natural, pre-transcendent realm as it is wont to be. He might have to om in the key of c and a few more notes. He’s humble like that.

But that’s hubris too. You can’t know that. Your necessary uncertainty being rational certainty on my part.

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You mean He could do better? I’m supremely confident in God’s humility. Is that hubris? So what can’t I know? All of what I said? It’s nowt ter do wi’ me. It’s rationality. If God is real, He’s real, know what I mean? There are no necessary gaps He has to fill in from physics to psychology. Again, where’s the hubris?

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Ah yes… parents are so sadistic teaching their children to ride a bike… what is wrong with them?!? They should cover their children in bubble wrap and lock them in a closet! Otherwise their children might stumble on the strange and atrocious notion of living their own life and making their own mistakes!

If you see that all things are interdependent, then all things are dependent on us and we are dependent on all things, however I would say that the real hubris is those who think that there can be the Creation without the Creator. All is dependent on God, Creator, Logos, and Spirit.

@Klax, It appears that those who think that the multiverse disagree with you.

I see no reason to think that God is dependent upon Nature. God IS WHO GOD IS. God created Nature ,not visa versa. When you make God and Nature one, you have pantheism, which is a dead end.

If God is not free to choose then no one is free, which is not true. God is able to create a beautiful universe. I do not understand why people want to deny God’s power, wisdom, and love…

Good question – though like many hard questions it probably comes back to “the problem of evil,” which is something everyone has to wrestle with no matter what you believe about design. But as for design, I think there is more than one way to look at it – the Christian point of view acknowledges the “groaning” of creation, hence why we need redemption, and the work of God redeeming his creation. I’d almost rather ask, “Why are we even here at all?” In that sense, I don’t really see myself in a position to pronounce judgments on the efficiency of creation.

Yep! I think that way.

Well… not just for me personally… OF COURSE! There are other people. Oh… you mean not just for us homo sapiens??? No… I have every expectation that there are more people than that. I have no reason to think this vast universe is empty of people except for just one planet in the whole universe. I don’t think THAT!

But yes, the universe wasn’t created for stars and like OOPS now there are the crummy biological organisms infecting the universe messing everything up. NOOOO! Life was the whole point of creating the universe… PEOPLE JUST LIKE US. That is why God created the universe! I certainly think THAT!

Hebrews 2: 5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him?
7 Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. 16 For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Inefficient according to whom?

According to humans? Maybe. According to God? Not necessarily. And even if it were inefficient, what bearing would that truly have on God’s purposes? The scale of our universe and of history should lead us to humility. But as mentioned by Mervin, humans unfortunately suffer from something called hubris. The truth is, we’re not in any place to stake a claim on knowledge of God’s purposes outside of what He has revealed to us. And what He has revealed to us is that He loves us and intends to save us.

How He accomplishes His unspoken purposes–well, that’s His business. It’s not mine, unless He decides that it is. And I’m glad about that, because I’m not God and I do not wish to be. Thank you, Lord, that I am not you.

Take care, friend. :slight_smile:

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The problem of evil is hard to parse from evolution. I don’t see how the ichneumon parasitic wasp is a delightful way of perfecting my view of how creation should be. And CSLewis’ quote about how he always feared God could be the cosmic vivisectionist comes to me in his lightning wit in “A Grief Observed,”

“I am more afraid that we are really rats in a trap. Or worse still, rats in a laboratory. Someone said, I believe ‘God always geometrises’. Supposing the truth were ‘God always vivisects"

I remember a portion, but can’t find the location, “…all for our own good, no doubt.”

Rauser writes of the problem of evil,

If you want a simple and effective way to identify a Christian apologist worth listening to, ask them to share their thoughts on the problem of evil. If they keep their discussion of the problem in the abstract and if they suggest that it is a problem easily solved, you should keep looking. But if they instead take the time to describe the agonizing depth and breadth of the problem, and if they recognize that the problem is such that some people reasonably find their way to non-belief, then that is likely an apologist worth heeding in other matters.

https://randalrauser.com/2019/05/coming-to-terms-with-the-problem-of-evil/

The best one gets, by looking at the evil and suffering that seems wanton–multiple species that are born and die, and suffer in the doing so–is a deist God. It’s hard to find a loving, personal one. I would agree with @Klax re the person of Christ being an anomaly there.

IV. Sabbath: Worship: Creed
“O yet we trust that somehow good”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

From “In Memoriam,” LIII.

O YET we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet; 5
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire 10
Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all, 15
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry. 20

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God has instantiated nature for eternity. He can’t create the laws of quantum mechanics on up to psychology any more than the cat can. He realises, concretizes them. Now that’s panENtheistic natural theology. He might have to om in the key of c and a few more notes, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if He didn’t. He just oms. And we make up nasty stories about Him. He’s humble upon humble and doesn’t mind, apart from the avoidable unavoidable damage it does to us.

The specific question of “bad design” in evolution begs the question of “for what purpose?” This is actually an ID argument, but claiming to detect absence rather than presence of a designer. In reality, detecting design requires some idea as to the intent of the designer. The panda’s thumb is not the SuperAmazingWonderThumb™. But it gets enough bamboo into the panda’s mouth for it to survive. Biology is almost always a complex balancing of multiple different pressures. The panda’s strong jaws go along genetically with back problems, for example.
Also, design by evolution tends to lead to Rube Goldberg-like results.
But evolution is a great way to make quite spectacular diversity. Given that God has designed the Church to consist of all sorts of people with varying gifts, it is plausible that diversity is a goal of creation, which is achieved both by biological evolution and by the variety of types of places in the universe.
Likewise, we should be very cautious about claiming that animal death is inherently ethically bad. Of course, we should not be cruel to animals. But Ps. 104:21, 26 speak of God feeding the carnivores, and Jesus ate fish and the occasional lamb or kid. The four year old who thinks Tyrannosaurus is really cool may have more theological insight than generally realized.
None of this solves the problem of theodicy. The Bible’s approach is to assure us that God is good, that He shares our sufferings, and that we can therefore trust Him when things don’t look good, not to explain why everything happens.

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Hello Jessica,

This objection to God’s sovereignty over the design of the universe (or, in some cases, to His very existence) makes several assumptions which I think are unfounded, including things like:

  • God would ensure that the natural processes of His world arrive at the highest forms of life in the shortest time with little or no “failures.” God would be “efficient.”
  • If God wants any life in the universe, then He would make most or all of the universe suitable for life as we know it.
  • Species (or planets or galaxies or…) that die out are failures.
  • More broadly, humanity knows all by itself what constitutes notions like “success” or “failure” or “inefficiency” or “sadism.” And thus, humanity is in a position to evaluate God’s choices.

Basically, the objection assumes that God would do everything the way I would do it if I had His power. It would be like saying, “If God doesn’t do things the way I would expect, then He is the one who is wrong, or He isn’t there at all.” Echoing the discussion above, the hubris there is palpable! We should go the other way: we would do everything God’s way if we had His knowledge, wisdom, and moral perfection .

For those who know God, they recognize that God is rarely after “efficiency” (in our view of efficient, anyway). If He were, He wouldn’t use natural processes at all – He would just speak everything into existence without any time elapsed! But of course He doesn’t do that, and we sometimes can see reasons why (though sometimes the reasons aren’t revealed to us). In other facets of life, His supposed “inefficiencies” actually lead to higher goods in the end, so there’s nothing inefficient about them after all. For example, we would not be able to fully grasp the depths of His grace and forgiveness if He didn’t allow sin. Perhaps, if God did not allow the “bad design” elements, we would never understand His power, provision, or protection of us. Maybe our seeing them increases our appreciation of the beauty of His creation. Sanctification is a long and complex process! Should we be surprised if He includes elements that confound human wisdom? See 1 Corinthians 3:18—20. “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” For humanity, He is interested in our restoration of relationship with Him, and all that that implies (acknowledging His power, marveling at His wonder, beholding His beauty, recognizing His knowledge and wisdom exceeds ours without measure, etc.). And of course, He likely has purposes in creation that have nothing to do with humanity at all. And what are they? They evidently don’t directly concern us as they aren’t entirely revealed, so speculation about them is only of limited value, but I think they come down to His pleasure. In any event, He has purposes beyond what we can fathom; His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

This objection is aptly termed a “dysteleological argument,” one that argues that the “inefficiencies” or “failures” serve essentially no purpose. I hope that those who hold to this objection can be convinced, through discussions like the ones that I and others on this forum have presented, of the greater purposes that God has in allowing things that we might not understand.

John Frame in his book, “Apologetics” briefly discusses dysteleological arguments (pp. 113ff.). He notes that, if God exists, we ought to expect some observations to be in analogy with our experience, and some observations not to be in analogy. In short, if we understood everything perfectly, we would be God!

He continues with a deeper point on page 115, which gets to my final assumption listed above: “Our ability to distinguish between apparent teleology and apparent dysteleology, and our ability to speak intelligibly about the limits of our knowledge and about alternative explanations for data, implies that we have (or think we have) access to certain criteria by which to resolve questions of this sort. Ultimately, then, we have access to the values of rationality and truth.” How do we have access to such lofty ideals as rationality and truth? He argues previously in the book (with arguments too lengthy to reproduce here) that rationality and truth must come from an authority higher than humanity (to him, they are essentially moral values). His argument shows that that authority can be none other than, in his terms, “the absolute personality, the biblical God.” (I highly recommend his book for the full discussion.)

In other words, even our ability to raise the apparent objection in the first place, to think we recognize the difference between “better” and “worse” creation, is itself evidence for the God of the Bible. How do we know the values of success and failure? How do we know how an omnipotent Creator ought to create? If we think we know the answers and can evaluate God, we have put ourselves in the place of God. Do we think we can judge Him and His choices? Again, palpable hubris.

To summarize, this is my primary critique of this objection: it assumes that we know the best way for creation to have occurred. But our “best” might not be what God is after; His purposes are different (and yes, better) than ours.

From nonbelievers, this objection is sometimes accompanied by some form of a statement like, “the ‘bad design’ elements are consistent with what we would see in a universe where the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. Therefore, they provide evidence that the God of the Bible does not, in fact, exist.” However, this line of logic is fallacious, for it makes the same assumption critiqued above (namely that we know what we would see in a universe with God, and we know that this isn’t it). Christians ought to reject the premise. Besides, we have only ever observed the universe that we are currently in, so how would we know what a different universe would be like?

Uses of this objection for atheistic conclusions is a strawman argument. It assumes a distorted view of God, and then shows that that God doesn’t exist. Well, that view of God isn’t the one of the Bible anyway, so the argument falls flat, at least in regards to the only God I claim to exist, the God of the Bible.

I think this objection is actually a useful opportunity to share with the objector. If someone holds to this objection, then they have a distorted view of God. What an opportunity to introduce them to the real God! How disarming to realize that the “debates” were about different notions of God the entire time! This might just allow the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to the Living God for the first time. I pray that many of us can have such opportunities, and that God would use them to bring new believers to Himself.

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Well put. ←(understatement :slightly_smiling_face:)

panentheism . : the doctrine that God includes the world as a part though not the whole of his being.

Is this what you mean? If so it appears that God is greater than the universe, while you seem to say that God is less than the universe.

How can He be? He is greater than the eternal multiverse. But like Scotty, He humbles Himself before the laws of physics. He doesn’t futilely try and do better.

Panentheist thought is found in most religions including Christianity. I am opponent of this thinking, however, for I believe it to be contrary to God as an authentic creator. This includes those who think God has to hold His creation together. To really create something means to create something which stands on its own. Only the most inept and poor carpenter has to hold his tables and chairs together after he is finished making them. Anybody can dream up something. But it is not an act of creation until the dream is given a reality apart from yourself. For a writer this means putting the book you have in mind into words on paper or computer. For God’s creation of the universe it is the laws of nature which do this… giving it substance, existence, and reality apart from God.

What are these laws, and how would these form a reality apart from God?

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In him we live and move and have our being

I like the idea that quantum mechanics hints that information is is the fundamental reality of the universe. That suggests that the infinite source of all information, God, is fundamental to the sustained existence of the universe.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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