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An Evolutionary Biologist Asks, "Really, Couldn't Have God Done Better?"

It's been said that much of evolutionary advocacy boils down to an assertion, "If I were God, I wouldn't have done things this way." That may not always be a fair critique of Darwinist thinking. But it sure is if you take a moment to read a post at Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True where the good doctor argues with a new video from BioLogos. Coyne, an evolutionary biologist, surveys the world and asks, "Really, couldn't have God done better than that?" Those are his words, not my interpretation.

The video, The Big Story, is unobjectionable. In simple, sweeping terms it tells the story of creation from a theistic evolutionary perspective, touching upon the evolution of man, and the Christian solution to the problem of sin. It's light on science and is presumably intended as a preaching tool. Coyne knocks it as "childish," but that's silly -- it's clear they were aiming at an audience of all ages, including children. The narration by Rev. Leonard J. Vander Zee is not my style exactly (or my religion), but on its own terms, it's very well done.

Coyne, as you can imagine, has problems with it. But while mocking theistic evolutionists as "Sophisticated TheologiansTM," he himself is a purveyor of the most naïve theology. Coyne:

  • "If the Bible is the 'inspired and authoritative word of God', why didn't God tell the authors of Scripture to mention evolution?"

  • "And why did God use evolution instead of creationism to bring humans into being?...[E]volution involves immense amounts of suffering via natural selection, as well as the extinction, without descendants, of more than 99% of the species that ever lived. Why all that waste?"

  • "The big problem of theistic evolution is its clear odor of special pleading, and its failure to convincingly explain why God would go through a 14-billion-year rigamarole just to create a single species on a single planet to worship Him. It's a lot of superfluous work."

  • "Note as well the teleology that pervades Vander Zee's Big Story. God is constantly intervening to make evolution work the right way."

  • "Why did God make Earth so inhospitable for humans?...Really, couldn't have God done better than that?"

He makes one scientific criticism:

  • "As Vander Zee continued, he astonished me by claiming that God decided to put humans on Earth, focusing on the solar system and on the 'one planet [that] orbited at right distance with light and heat optimal for life.' This, of course, means that the evolution of humans in God's image was planned to happen on our planet, and therefore the evolution of humans was inevitable on Earth rather than elsewhere. As I show in Faith Versus Fact, such a statement is scientifically dubious based on what we know about evolution. Given billions of planets or gazillions of multiverses, you could make a case that intelligent life would evolve somewhere in the Universe, but not necessarily on Earth."


  • "It's time to realize that theistic evolution, the teleological view of the process now touted by BioLogos, is both scientifically and theologically dubious."

So, theistic evolution is "dubious" and "childish" because if Jerry Coyne were God, he would have given Moses a copy of the Miller-Levine biology textbook along with with the Pentateuch. Or rather, scratch that about "evolution." He would have used "creationism" to make humans. Do it in an instant at the start, dispensing with the "14-billion-year rigamarole," the "superfluous work" of making a whole gorgeous universe, with no need for guidance or "intervention" in an evolutionary process. The world itself would be a thoroughly safe, comfortable place, like a turtle terrarium, where humans can live and travel anywhere without fear.

In this paradise, would Dr. Coyne, who denies the existence of free will, allow the possibility of sin? If not, then it sounds even more like a terrarium. Why bother with people at all? Make turtles and be done with it. If yes, then what do you? Overwhelm humanity with your presence, so that they, in effect, are denied the freedom to make their decisions?

Or perhaps give them space to work out what BioLogos rightly calls their "big story"? But Coyne's other objections amount to the argument that God -- or Coyne if he were God -- would not allow that space. He would inform people about "evolution" from the get go, leaving them little to discover on the own. Alternatively, there would be no "evolution" since he would eliminate "all that waste" entailed in cosmic and biological history, and cut right to chase with the turtle terrarium.

Really, this is hopeless. In fact, to call it "theology" is too much. It's just childish taunting.

As for Coyne's lone scientific point about "billions of planets or gazillions of multiverses," the most credible indication is that the earth is highly privileged and our species, no less so. Imaginary multiverses aside, this universe seems to have been made for creatures very much like us to wonder about and explore. That is a thesis argued for in detail in The Privileged Planet and it bears reflecting upon.

The imperative to work things out for ourselves, rather than have them spoon-fed to us, was built into the cosmic order. Whatever the source might be of the intelligent design to which science points, that designer evidently wanted a worthy partner, curious and searching, capable of creativity and discovery -- not just turtles.