The Reconquista Initiative
Atheism’s Other Evolutionary Dilemma
Although atheistic-naturalism—the most popular and arguably the only coherent and consistent form of atheism—is not necessarily wed to affirming and accepting the grand narrative of blind and unguided evolution, the fact of the matter is that in practice, for the atheistic-naturalist, the grand theory of naturalistic (meaning blind and unguided) evolution is the only game in town. Consequently, the atheist has little choice but to affirm something like naturalistic evolution and naturalistic abiogenesis as not only the explanation for the beginning of life and its future development, but also as the explanation for such things as human rationality and consciousness. But the fact that the atheistic-naturalist is essentially bound to such a theory presents the atheistic-naturalist with a dilemma which is highly detrimental to the rationality of his worldview as well as to his own intellectual consistency. And so, to understand the problems that arise for the atheistic-naturalist due to connection to naturalistic evolution, consider the two horns of the dilemma that the atheistic-naturalist must face.
Initially, consider that if the atheistic-naturalist decides not to affirm the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the atheistic-naturalist runs into two problems. First, because the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative is the atheistic-naturalist’s only live option to explain the existence and development of life, and yet given that, as even many atheistic-naturalists themselves admit, life readily looks designed, then if the atheistic-naturalist does not appeal to something like the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as his explanation for the fact that life clearly appears designed, then the option of design suddenly looms large for both the atheistic-naturalist and everyone else. Indeed, if the atheistic-naturalist cannot even appeal to something like the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative as his way of trying to account for not only the existence of life but also the way in which life appears designed, then it is not surprising that people would thus readily start to affirm the fact that life looks designed because it is designed, and that some type of designer must thus exist. So denying naturalistic evolution and abiogenesis causes the design option to become the only live and reasonable option available to explain the existence of life and its apparent design.
But now, the second problem is that if the atheistic-naturalist does not affirm his only live option of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, and yet if he also does not affirm design as the explanation of life, then the atheistic-naturalist thus has such a large and gaping hole in his worldview that it could easily be objected that his worldview is irrational, or, at the very least, it would be a worldview based on blind faith. After all, if the atheistic-naturalist cannot explain something as fundamental as the existence and development of life on his worldview, but nevertheless still believes that it “somehow” occurred naturally and without design, then this is quite clearly a fideistic position. Indeed, for while an atheistic-naturalist could deny the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative without offering anything in its place and yet still technically remain an atheistic-naturalist, holding to such an overall position, especially in the face of the challenge of design and the appearance of design in life, would thus be a position which was one not based on evidence or argument, but rather on mere blind faith. After all, as even atheist and evolution-proponent Richard Dawkins says on page 6 of the 2006 Penguin edition of his book The Blind Watchmaker “…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” So without Darwin, there is no intellectually fulfilled atheism, and that, quite frankly, would be a serious blow to atheistic-naturalism as a coherent and rational worldview.
But the problem stretches even further, for most atheistic-naturalists pride themselves on not holding anything on “faith”, and especially not on blind faith; and so to an atheistic-naturalist who holds to such an anti-faith perspective, then, in order to be consistent, the atheist-naturalist should not hold to a worldview that has a ‘blind faith’ component to it, and thus the atheistic-naturalist should not be an atheistic-naturalist at all. And so this overall problem is the first horn of the dilemma that evolution presents to atheistic-naturalism.
Now, the second horn of this problematic dilemma arises if the atheistic-naturalist does indeed affirm the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, as he essentially must do and as he almost always does. And what this second problem is, is that it once again makes atheistic-naturalism into a worldview that is based, in substantial part, on blind faith. After all, no matter what sort of just-so stories are offered, and no matter how many appeals to “possibility” are made, the fact remains that numerous major portions of the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative have not been demonstrated at all and are believed to have occurred on the basis of nothing more than faith alone. Consider, for example, the utter absence of any evidence, let alone comprehensive evidence, for a naturalistic explanation for the origin-of-life, the Cambrian Explosion, the development of other body plans, the emergence of language, consciousness, rationality, and so on; and this is not even to mention the more mundane concerns about atheistic-naturalism having little more than just-so stories as the explanation for the development of such minor things as eyes, wings, and so on. And so accepting the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative means accepting large aspects of it on faith; it is, once again, a fideistic position.
Now, it needs to be understood that the problem here is not that the atheistic-naturalist lacks any explanation or evidence for how things like life, consciousness, rationality, and so on, came to be naturally—although this problem is bad enough even on its own—but rather, the problem is that the atheistic-naturalist does not even know whether it is possible at all that these things could come about naturally. Sure, it is ‘logically possible’ in the broad sense that these things could come about naturalistically—after all, there is no logical contradiction in them—but this does not mean that these things are physically possible in the real world given the conditions that operate in this world. And by way of analogy, consider that it is ‘logically possible’ in the broad sense that an unassisted human being, today, could run ten thousand miles per hour, but this does not mean that it is physically possible given what human beings are today, and given the conditions of this earthly environment, etc.; and indeed, no human being could actually run that speed today even though it is logically possible that one could. And, as stated, the atheistic-naturalist has the same problem: he can claim that it is possible that life can come from non-life naturalistically or that consciousness can do the same, but making such an appeal to mere possibility in the broad sense is ultimately vacuous, for it does nothing to show that such a thing is possible in this universe. And sadly for the atheistic-naturalist, the only way to show that such a thing is physically possible, is to actually show it come about. And yet doing so in a clear evidentiary way would be very difficult, if not impossible; however, until and unless the atheistic-naturalist does so, then a major component of his worldview is, as stated, based on nothing but blind faith. Furthermore, and as with the first horn of the dilemma, for any atheistic-naturalist who normally refuses to believe anything on blind faith, then the fact that a major and critical component of his worldview is held to be true based on nothing but blind faith means that such an atheistic-naturalist, if he is to remain consistent, should cease being an atheistic-naturalist at all.
And so, the long and short of it is this: for all practical purposes, atheistic-naturalism is wed to the grand naturalistic version of the evolutionary narrative, which is the only live option that the atheistic-naturalist can appeal to in order to explain the existence and development of all life. Yet if the atheistic-naturalist denies this connection, then he suddenly has a worldview that has absolutely no explanation for the existence and apparent design of living things, as well as having a worldview that has a critical dollop of blind faith attached to it. On the other hand, if the atheistic-naturalist ties himself to the grand naturalistic evolutionary narrative, then the fact that that narrative has no evidence for many of its major claims also means that the atheistic-naturalist holds to a worldview based on blind faith. And so either way that he turns, the atheistic-naturalist does not hold a worldview based on evidence, but rather he holds to a worldview where some of its most critical components have no supporting evidence at all. And since holding to certain beliefs on the basis of blind faith is allegedly anathema to many atheistic-naturalists, then this dilemma means that they should cease being atheistic-naturalists, or at least they should stop pretending to be consistent ones. Now, there are indeed objections that can be mounted against this dilemma, but those objections will be addressed in a separate essay.
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Anno Domini 2016 12 29
Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam