July 13, 2014

Theistic evolutionist Ruse shoots himself in the foot

And I'm not talking about any theistic evolutionist. I'm talking about prominent biologist Michael Ruse, who testified against creationists and Intelligent Designers in the McLean case in Arkansas, etc.

But, in an interview with philosopher Gary Gutting, host of the new York Times philosophy blog/column The Stone, Ruse stumbles over Ye Olde Problem of Evil, just as do those creationists and IDers he shoots down on their own scientific, and philosophical, illiteracy.

Let's start here, with GG being Gutting and MR being Ruse, in this interview format:
G.G.: Do you think that evolution lends support to the atheistic argument from evil: that it makes no sense to think that an all-good, all-powerful God would have used so wasteful and brutal a process as evolution to create living things?

M.R.: Although in some philosophy of religion circles it is now thought that we can counter the argument from evil, I don’t think this is so. More than that, I don’t want it to be so. I don’t want an argument that convinces me that the death under the guillotine of Sophie Scholl (one of the leaders of the White Rose group opposed to the Nazis) or of Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen ultimately contributes to the greater good. If my eternal salvation depends on the deaths of these two young women, then forget it.
So far, all fair and good, and I totally agree with Ruse that the attempts of the likes of Alvin Plantinga to counter the problem of evil have been massive flops.

But, next, Ruse immediately goes on:
This said, I have never really thought that the pains brought on by the evolutionary process, in particular the struggle for survival and reproduction, much affect the Christian conception of God. For all of Voltaire’s devastating wit in “Candide,” I am a bit of a Leibnizian on these matters. If God is to do everything through unbroken law, and I can think of good theological reasons why this should be so, then pain and suffering are part of it all. 
Sorry, Michael, but that IS a non sequitur from what you said just above, and higher above.

First, unless you ARE rejecting either the "omnipotent" or "omnibenevolent" forks of traditional Western monotheism and the problem of evil, you're simply wrong.

Second, if you do reject one or the other of those forks, then it's incumbent on you to expressly  declare such things.

Third, if you're citing Leibniz, I'm pretty sure you're not rejecting either fork.

That said, Ruse is himself a secularist, even though he thinks it's possible for religious belief and evolution to co-exist. Because of that, and other things, I'll stand behind calling him a theistic evolutionist. He reminds me of the atheists who work with liberal Christians to try to show that the Bible isn't anti-gay even though it clearly is.

Ruse has other interesting things to say in the interview, too. Like this:
I won’t say I accept the ontological argument for the existence of God — the argument that derives God’s existence from his essence — but I do like it (it is so clever).
Well, with that comment, I think I can really say that I think Ruse is overrated as a philosopher. The ontological argument is simplistic semantics and nothing more.

He strikes me as being a bit like Rodney Stark, the sociologist of religion. Despite saying he's some sort of agnostic, Stark went from Eastern Washington University to Baylor, has adopted with both fists Samuel Huntington's Christianist "clash of cultures" idea, and tells all sorts of lies about historical development to try to support himself.

While I agree with P.Z. Myers very little, Michael Ruse just showed why secularists always need to have a bit of care in working with theistic evolutionists. And the likes of Eugenie Scott should take note in the future. I still reject the label of accommodationist, but won't claim that PZ is all wet. And, given that this part of Gnu Atheism isn't all wet, I can see why Ruse doesn't call himself an atheist.

And while I agree with his anti-scientism stance, given all of the above, I think I'll pass on his new book, “Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

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