Professional philosophy news

Mathematician follows up on criticism of Sober

ProPhilosophy linked to a mathematician (Jason Rosenhouse) who, in the course of giving his thoughts on the recent science-philosophy controversy prompted by Lawrence Krauss, criticized an argument by Elliot Sober (Wisconsin) that evolution is silent on whether God exists. Sober showed up to defend himself in the comments of the first article, so Rosenhouse is back to defend his take on Sober’s argument. The article can be found here. It’s mostly just quoting Sober and then commenting on each quotation, but it concludes:

Let us first conceive of God merely as some sort of superintelligence responsible for creating the world. Prior to Darwin’s work we had what most people regarded as a slam-dunk argument for God’s existence: Paley’s version of the design argument. After Darwin, that argument is completely dead. Does that not imply that evolution has something to say on the question of God’s existence? Evolution does not resolve the question of whether God exists, but it certainly must be included in any discussion of the question.

If we add to our thinking the usual assumptions that are made about God, the he is all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing, then the situation becomes more stark. Evolution poses grave challenges to common beliefs about God. As an analogy, we might say that no amount of evidence presented at a courtroom trial could ever establish to a certainty that the defendant is guilty, but it would be strange to say that the evidence is silent on the question of the defendant’s guilt. That’s how I would describe the relationship between evolution and religion. Evolution cannot prove that traditional religion is false, but it certainly has some very loud and important things to say on the subject.

Perhaps Sober has in mind some very precise notion of what it means to say evolution is “silent” on the question of God’s existence. For now, though, I’m inclined to say that evolution is definitely not silent on these questions, even though it ultimately does not resolve anything.



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