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Reply to Christopher Southgate

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Christopher Southgate, whose help and collaboration I have appreciated in recent years, has queried my view that theism and Darwinism can be reconciled without resort to revelation and eschatology, suggesting that a compound theodicy (with more than one strand of defence) is needed. He also criticises what I have written about stewardship. Those who have not been able to read Creation, Evolution and Meaning may find these ideas puzzling, and so perhaps I should explain what is argued in the relevant part of that book.

In chapter Six and Seven I argue for the compatibility of Darwinism and belief in creation, but not from scratch. For the case for belief in creation has already been made out in Chapter Five, and the case for preferring Darwinism both to creationism and to variants such as Intelligent Design is now advanced. (To avoid confusion, I should explain that creationism alleges the special creation of species through supernatural interventions, while belief in creation holds that the material world is dependent on God, however the species may have originated; nor need belief in creation commit its adherents to the belief that certain biological phenomena are too irreducibly complex to be explainable by natural selection, as adherents of Intelligent Design maintain. Believers in creation believe in God as author of creation, but need not subscribe to the kinds of interventionism that both creationists and adherents of Intelligent Design tacitly invoke. All this is explained in Chapter Four and recapitulated in Chapter Six.)

The rest of Chapter Six addresses the problems of reconciling phenomena such as predation and parasitism with belief in creation, and argues that they can be reconciled, despite the apparent problems. Chapter Seven addresses various further aspects of the problem of evil, and argues that a law-governed system like the actual system of nature is consistent with what a creator intent on generating a world of value would create. It does not claim (like Voltaire's character Pangloss) that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds, if only because there is no intrinsic maximum for the goodness of worlds. But it does claim that the world's evils are either due to the choices of agents such as human beings or to the operation of systems indispensable for the generation of valuable creatures, non-sentient and sentient, non-human and human.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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