Michael Ruse on evolution and creation

Michael Ruse

I have commented before on philosopher and atheist Michael Ruse (Michael Ruse on why is there something rather than nothing?).

Ruse specialises in the philosophy of science and religion, and a recent interview in Science on Religion is worth a read.

Creation vs evolution

He believes that creationism and Intelligent Design are mistaken, and even dangerous. But he sees no great conflict between science and christianity, provided christianity is willing to see the early chapters of Genesis as myth (something Augustine suggested as long ago the 4th century).

In fact, Ruse suggests, christians should see Darwinism as a sign of a great God:

I would argue that this is a wonderful world brought about by natural law. It is a world of mystery and excitement. This, it seems to me, fits far more with a creator God of Christianity than the god who simply did it all by fiat in an instantaneous miracle. In many respects, therefore, I want to argue that, far from being a difficulty, Christianity finds Darwinism to be a challenge and a triumph.

This reminds me of a comment by particle physicist and christian John Polkinghorne, that a God who created the universe so it would evolve human beings (and much more besides) was greater than one who needed to keep interfering to get to that point.

Ruse against christianity

Ruse is not as anti-religion as some atheists. He believes christianity struggles to explain the problem of evil, and the fact that evolutionary scientists are adamant that that evolution is a random process given order via natural selection and therefore doesn’t allow God to be certain that it would lead to human beings and Jesus, etc. But he also recognises that christianity supplies some answers to questions that science and non-belief cannot answer:

the Christian argues that there is something rather than nothing because God created the world, that God stands behind morality, that consciousness is in some sense being made in the image of God, and that the purpose of the world is for us to find ultimate happiness with God our creator. I don’t say that these answers are beyond criticism.

I accept the difficulty posed by the problem of evil (see How can God allow evil?), but I can’t see any problem with a timeless all-knowing God creating a world via natural and random process which he nevertheless knows how they will end up, and I welcome his understanding about the force of arguments from morality, reason, purpose and consciousness.

Ruse vs the atheists

Because he sees the strengths of christianity even while disbelieving it, Ruse is very critical of more militant atheists who claim that science and religion are incompatible. He sees some of them as being philosophically naive:

In the God Delusion Dawkins shows appalling ignorance of both philosophy and theology. He seems to think that he is the first person ever to ask the question “who caused God?” And with this, he seems to think he has an irrefutable objection to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. He is fully unaware of the fact that people like Thomas Aquinas have wrestled with this and proposed the notion of a necessary being ….

Ruse has taken a few personal hits from other atheists, and has defended himself many times. Here is his recent criticism of “the new atheists’ on Beliefnet.