William Dembski, On "Evil, Creation and Intelligent Design"

As announced earlier I’m planning on reviewing every chapter in the new anthology on the problem of suffering titled, God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain,edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew. [To read other entries in this series just click on the "God and Evil" tag below this post].

This time up is William Dembski's chapter, "Evil, Creation and Intelligent Design" (pp. 259-269). This is basically taken from chapter 21 of his book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World,with one additional concluding sentence at the end: "Bottom Line: Evolution, with or without God, does nothing to mitigate the problem of evil" (p. 269).

The focus of his chapter however, is not on the cruelty involved in the evolutionary process, but rather on theistic evolution. His charge is that theistic evolution "renders the problem of evil insoluble" (p. 262). I agree. When theists legitimately criticize each other I think they are all correct. The money quote on this comes from Clive Harden who is a contributing writer on his blog, in response to theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson:
Why would God be off the hook for creating a mechanism (evolution) that kills and destroys the way it does? For in Giberson’s theodicy, not only did God make the process of evolution, He set it in place and started it. This would be like me letting a bunch of mice, some infected with a plague, loose into a town. The mice have their own freedom to do whatever they want and go wherever they want, and do it all without a “moral dimension.” This does nothing to get me “off the hook” for whoever as a result dies. LINK.
Agreed, yes!

What's interesting to me is that the editors of "God and Evil" didn't include the main thesis of Dembski's book, which seeks to offer a theodicy in the face of so much natural suffering. I've already written about it in my book, Why I Became an Atheist, where I discussed several failed attempts to reconcile the Genesis creation accounts with the age of the universe. Dembski's attempt makes the list. So let me quote from myself about it:
8. The Double Creation Theory of William Dembski.

Dembski argues in favor of J. Jay Dana’s 1853 argument that Genesis 1 describes God’s initial conceptual creation, which “was good,” as the Good Book says. But because God could anticipate the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden he retroactively made a second creation described in the story found in Genesis 2–3. Genesis 1 describes the first creation God had planned for the world, which is a real one, for it describes “the natural divisions” of his creative handiwork.” But “in Genesis 2–3, we find the ‘second creation,’ which starts off great but quickly ends in ruin. Thus once humanity falls in Genesis 3, God must act to undo the damage.”34 And he says, God “could make the Fall evident in creation so that these effects, though attributable to the Fall, come temporally prior to it. In other words the effects of the Fall can be retroactive.”35 “Thus God responds to the Fall by acting not simply after it, as held by young-earth creationism, but also by acting before it.”36 “Genesis 1 is therefore not to be interpreted as ordinary chronological time but rather as time from the vantage point of God’s purposes.37 Genesis 1 “summarizes the order of creation” by describing “God’s original plan for creation.”38 But, given that “God responds to human sin across time (both retroactively and proactively), there never was a chronological moment when the world we inhabit was without natural evil.”39 He claims God retroactively created the universe based on the so-called Fall with natural evils built into it, like the bubonic plague bacterium, the rabies virus, and the toothpick fish of the Amazon, which can swim up a penis and cannot be dislodged short of surgery or castration, to name a few. So he created a fallen world.40

If the reader is confused about what Dembski has proposed then join the crowd. My best understanding is that God initially created a perfect world but then recreated it with natural evils from the beginning because of human sin in the Garden of Eden. It doesn’t matter though, since there is absolutely no textual support for this conjecture of his at all. It’s just speculation in order to come to grips with what science has shown us about the age of the universe. That there are two creation stories in Genesis 1–2 is evident. That other creation stories, especially the ones in Job 38:38–41; 39:26–30; and 104:20–22, describe predation in the natural world is also evident. It’s just that it makes much more sense to interpret them according to the times they were written in, an ancient prescientific age. That’s doing exegesis. What Dembski is doing is eisegesis, or reading into the text his own biases. This is all special pleading, pure and simple. His motivation is clear. He’s attempting to provide a theodicy. I have argued against that in my other work.41 [Page 329]
See any reoccurring themes here, like eisegesis and special pleading? ;-) That's evangelical apologetics for you. What Dembski is doing with his book is puzzle solving. He's not interested in searching for the truth. How do we know this? Because no biblical scholar embraces such a bizarre solution (Dembski isn't one, and J. Jay Dana was a geologist). [For more on this read my chapter titled, “The Darwinian Problem of Evil,” in The Christian Delusion, pp. 237–70].

Since Dembski believes in a God who can retroactively change the past, his proposed theodicy presents another difficulty concerning prayer. If his God can change the past then why doesn't he do so in response to prayer? Read my post On God Answering Prayers Retroactively, where I introduce another test for petitionary prayer.

0 comments: