The topic of evolution has had considerable play in our culture. The debate has essentially remained the same for a century and a half – is evolution compatible or incompatible with Christianity? Challenges to Christianity have been leveled by a group called the New Atheists, who understand the world through evolutionary lenses.
Though the New Atheists’ popularity among academics has waned somewhat, they still have quite a bit of traction among the general public. For the most part, their works are accessible (easy to read) and are readily available. Further, their ability to communicate difficult matters in an approachable manner allow the New Atheists’ ideas to reach a wider audience. Thus, they remain today a formidable challenge for Christians to answer.
Interestingly, there is one point on which Christians and New Atheists can agree – the reality of evil. If you were to read the works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, you’d find that one of their biggest objections to Christianity is the problem of evil. Sam Harris has spent considerable time on the reality of evil (The End of Faith) and on a related issue – the grounding of morality (The Moral Landscape). But, while we can agree with the New Atheists regarding the reality of evil, there is much they leave to be desired, particularly how one can know that evil exists.
Today (8/8/17), I had an article published in Themelios titled “Natural Selection and an Epistemology of Evil: An Incompatible Pair.” In summary, I argue that one cannot hold to a belief in natural selection (a key aspect of Darwinian evolution which the New Atheists hold to) and in the reality of evil. In short, I argue that if natural selection were true, then what we perceive as evil is really just the natural working out of the blind, impersonal process of natural selection. Any act of evil from one human to another is really just the struggle of a species to survive and advance. If natural selection were true, then one cannot know what evil is and that something is evil – evil isn’t real. Thus, the New Atheists’ appeal to the problem of evil begs the question – they assume what evil is and then point to evidence of evil to support their arguments against Christianity.
The New Atheists’ appeal to evil as an argument against Christianity just simply does not work.