Evolutionary biologist David P. Barash brags that he works to destroy faith in his classes, insisting to his students that science and religion are incompatible. How does he defend this “incompatibility?” Evolution News and Views quotes Barash’s justification:
- But just a smidgen of biological insight makes it clear that, although the natural world can be marvelous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death -- and that suffering (like joy) is built into the nature of things. The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.
Are “human beings… produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator?” Barash offers “pain, old age and death” as evidence against a “controlling creator.”
Of course, pain and death are troubling, even to the believer. However, do these discount God’s guiding hand? To simplify Barash’s argument, let’s restate it:
- “Pain, old age and death” exist.
- God would never create such.
- Therefore, God doesn’t exist or was absent from the creative process.
While premise #1 is incontestable, #2 is not a scientific statement, as Barash might propose, but a religious one. Barash insists that a God could not have created such a world, because such a world doesn’t fit into his religious conception of what a God-created world would look like.
However, this is a very arrogant position to take. In effect, Barash is saying:
- I understand enough about what God should be like to conclude that He couldn’t have created this world.
Meanwhile, science cannot precisely define the simple elements of this world, such as matter, time, and space. I would suspect that Barash is well aware of these scientific limitations. However, this does not prevent Him from dogmatically asserting what God should do if He exists.
In fact, Barash leaves out some important considerations. For instance:
- Perhaps there might be a need to pain and death. As we need pain receptors to inform us that we have placed our hand on a hot stove, perhaps we also need other forms of pain.
- Perhaps human freewill has corrupted the original creation.
- Perhaps there is an eternal purpose that can explicate present pain and death.
Perhaps Barash is also a man of faith – a naturalistic faith.