Why evolution by natural selection and belief in god are incompatible

There were several commenters who disagreed with my assertion in an earlier post that belief in both god and evolution by natural selection are incompatible and forces one to choose one or the other. They pointed out that there were large numbers of people who believed in both god and evolution or that the tremendous suffering that occurs in nature was incompatible with only a loving omnipotent god or that I was being parochial and equating all religious people with the young Earth Christians in the US.

I stand by my earlier statement and want to reiterate why I think it is true. The word evolution, by itself, is vague enough to encompass religious beliefs. All it signifies is that species have changed over time and this can be made compatible with belief in a god. Theistic evolutionists are very common (even Pat Robertson seems to be one) and these are people who subscribe to evolution (in the sense that species are not immutable) but think that their god had some kind of role in the process, though what exactly that role is is never specified.

But evolution by natural selection is a much more precise theory. It says that the evolution of species was shaped by purely natural forces with no supernatural intervention at all. There is no room for god to act at all in any way, large or small, in this process so the nature of god is immaterial. The only god that can be postulated that is compatible is a deist god who creates the universe and its laws and then does absolutely nothing afterwards. I would suggest that the number of deists among religious people is vanishingly small. It is just a convenient debating point for them, put forward to combat the idea of absolutely no god, after which they go back to the comforting idea of an interventionist god.

It is true that Charles Darwin’s disbelief in a god was triggered by the apparent cruelty he saw in nature that made him realize that it was incompatible with a loving god, but he later solidified his position and strenuously opposed efforts by Alfred Russell Wallace to introduce any supernatural elements into the process of evolution, although he called himself an agnostic

So the word evolution is so vague that is can be made compatible with a god but evolution by natural selection rules out a god as almost all religious people anywhere in the world conceive of it.