Ayala Plays Both Sides

Many readers of Scientific American Magazine have recently written me about the new article, “The Christian Man’s Evolution: How Darwinism and Faith Can Coexist.” Most have pointed out how fatuous Ayala’s view of God comes across. As author Sally Lehrman writes, seeming to think this very clever, Ayala (and “science-savvy Christian theologians”) “present a God that is continuously engaged in the creative process through undirected natural selection.” (bolding added)
This line, of course, prompted much talk of square circles and Christian atheists, as well it should. Writes one reader, “You mean: ‘a God who is continuously engaged’ by being completely unengaged?”
But apart from the clear contradiction in this thinking, Ayala demonstrates an inconsistency we find repeatedly from Darwinists who are Christians or who are in with the Christian Darwinist crowd. Ayala actually makes two diametrically opposed arguments in this Sci Am article.

Early on he (1) asked Christians (rather smugly) whether, since many natural births end in miscarriage, God is responsible for all of these “abortions.” He says God definitely is responsible if he “designed” the human reproductive system. The implication is that God is NOT responsible if unguided natural selection created the human reproductive system.
Then later on he (2) refers to supposedly science-savvy theologians who solve this dilemma by believing that God is “continuously engaged” in the creative process through undirected natural selection.
But Ayala cannot hold both of these two claims. To the extent that God is said to be involved or engaged in the creative process, he is back ‘on the hook’ for natural evil. For if he is the Creator, according to Ayala’s own argument, he is responsible for this natural evil.
To me it seems rather clear, then, that when Ayala is being candid he suggests that God is not involved in the natural world. But when he is questioned about it, or perhaps when he wants to go to certain cocktail parties, he adds on the bit about God being “continuously engaged” as window dressing. (Tangent: Ayala is always mentioned as a “former” Dominican priest or as someone who studied to become a Dominican priest. When will a reporter finally ask him what his religious views really are? His religious views should not be taken to undermine any scientific argument he makes, but clearly they are relevant if he is going to be portrayed as the Catholic Darwinist.)
But Ayala is not alone in this error. This incident reminds me of Francis Collins in The Language of God. He says God is “intimately involved” in creation but then proceeds to treat everything in the genome as though it were haphazardly accumulated junk. And so for Collins too, to the extent that God really is involved in creation, he cannot be responsible for the junk…or else it is not really junk at all (and Darwinism is false).
Or notice that Collins derisively describes ID as “When Science Needs Divine Help.” But if God is “intimately involved,” as Collins says he believes, then science always needs God’s help; and so this would be no reason to reject ID (assuming ID claimed this proposition, which it does not). The same goes for his dysteleological argument regarding the eye. If Collins really believes God is intimately involved in the natural world, how can Collins make dysteleological arguments?
In sum, one could be forgiven for the suspicion that what this shows is that these scientists do not really believe God is “intimately involved” or “continuously engaged” in the natural world. At the very least, their view of the natural world is inconsistent with their claims about divine action.

Logan Paul Gage

Logan Paul Gage is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Dr. Gage received his B.A. in history, philosophy, and American studies from Whitworth College (2004) and his M.A. (2011) and Ph.D. (2014) in philosophy from Baylor University. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Trent Dougherty, was a defense of the phenomenal conception of evidence and conservative principles in epistemology.