In my earlier post titled Gen fight at the Baptist corral, I discussed the hoo-ha that is currently going on in some religious circles because of William Dembski’s attempt at reconciling the doctrine of original sin with evolution and an old Earth.
The reason that this is a problem for Christians is that they believe that all suffering is due to the fall from grace caused by the original sin of Adam and Eve. If you believe in an old Earth and evolution, then how do you explain the natural disasters and suffering that occurred during the time of our pre-human ancestors? Dembski’s book presumably answered this question but since there was no chance in hell that I would buy that book and read it, I thought his solution would be forever lost to me.
But fortunately there is a blogger (who claims to be also an orthodox Baptist) who has written a detailed review of Dembski’s book with lots of direct quotes and I am now privy to Dembski’s solution which I will share with you, because I am sure that you have been losing sleep worrying over this very question.
Brace yourself for an earthshaking revelation: in Dembski’s world, effects can precede causes!
Here’s how Dembski’s plan works. You start with the big bang and evolution working their way through, all leading up to the time when non-human hominids appeared. All this happened just the way we godless heathens say it happened based on silly old evidence and the laws of science. But “these hominids initially lacked the cognitive and moral capacities required to bear the image of God.” Then at some point, these hominids entered the Garden of Eden, “received God’s image and became fully human” (whatever that means). They then experienced the famous fall from grace and the consequent punishment of suffering that is inflicted on us all.
But here’s the kicker: All the suffering that occurred before that time was due to god applying the punishment retroactively because he knew the fall was going to happen later. So, for example, god punished the poor dinosaurs by sending an asteroid to collide with the Earth and cause all of them to go extinct because sixty five million years later a couple of hominids would wander into a garden and eat some fruit. Doesn’t seem quite fair to the dinosaurs but who are we to questions god’s sense of justice?
At this point, I am sure that some of you are saying, “Hold it right there, Bill. Isn’t that going a bit too far? Surely you realize that abandoning the principle of causality is to deal science a mortal blow? If effects can precede causes, then is anything in science safe? Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?“
One of Dembski’s critics, fellow Baptist theologian Tom Nettles who thinks a young Earth is the way to go, seems to think this is absurd and compares it to a stern father who spanks his child soundly every Sunday evening because he knows that the child will do something wrong during the coming week and so he might as well get the punishment over with.
The problem with you cynics is that you are not looking at things with the eye of faith. After all, once you have given god the power of omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence so that he can overrule all the laws of science, why hold back? Why not go the whole hog and give him the power to reverse cause and effect as well? As Dembski’s says, “Why, in the economy of a world whose Creator is omnipotent, omniscient, and transtemporal, should causes always precede effects?” True, that. Once you have demonstrated a willingness to abandon almost all of science, why cling to some trivial remnant of it merely because it poses an obstacle to your theological argument? As the comic strip Jesus and Mo astutely points out, what gives religion its edge is that it is allowed to make stuff up.
The United Negro College Fund has for decades had as its slogan “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” When I think of all the undoubtedly very clever people over the centuries, even millennia, spending enormous amounts of time tying themselves up in intellectual knots to reconcile their allegedly holy books with rapidly advancing science, it truly does seem like a colossal waste. What make it worse is that the people seeking to solve such problems do not seem to realize that the problems they are grappling with are artificial ones of their own creation and are not able to see a simple solution that stares them in the face,
The only upside is that these contortions provide a source of endless entertainment for people like me.