There is much to be said about the issue of creation and evolution. However, here we only summarize the answers to five essential questions: (1) Is creation possible? (2) What difference does creation make? (3) Is evolution possible? (4) What difference does evolution make? (5) Does evolution contradict creation? (p. 103)
When Jewish and Christian theologians first talked to Greek philosophers, the Greeks thought the biblical notion that God created the world ex nihilo ("out of nothing") was absurd and irrational, because it violated a law of nature that ex nihilo nihil fit ("out of nothing nothing comes"). The reply was (and is) that
1. It is indeed a law of nature, but the laws of nature cannot be expected to bind the transcendent Creator of nature.
2. The reason for this is that all of nature and all powers in nature are finite, but God is infinite; no finite power can produce the infinite change from nonbeing to being, but infinite power can.
3. The idea of God creating out of nothing is not irrational because it does not claim that anything ever popped into existence without an adequate cause. God did not pop into existence, and nature did have an adequate cause: God. (Ibid.)
And yet it is context here which is so threadbare here, for they do not explain the content of the position in question, nor do they indicate the means by which independent parties can discover and validate what they claim. What exactly do Kreeft and Tacelli mean by ‘creation’? Presumably the entire universe which we observe and infer to exist beyond our observations, was “created” by this “transcendent Creator of nature.” Thus the universe is the product of some kind of action, specifically an action which is creative in nature. But what exactly is that action, what performed that action, and how can we discover and validate the claim that this alleged action ever occurred? Unfortunately, Kreeft and Tacelli do not explain any of this.
An enormous liability for this view is that whatever action is said to have produced the universe would have had to have happened well before any human beings would have been able to observe it firsthand. Even though anyone reading this was born, no one reading this was able to observe his own birth when it took place or anything that occurred before his birth (distant quasars and the like notwithstanding). Likewise, even according to the biblical account in the Book of Genesis, Adam, the first human being, was not around to witness this divine act of creation that is said to have produced the universe. So no account of this alleged event is based on eyewitness testimony. And of course, no one alive today would have been able to witness it. Far from witnessing it, we learn about this supposed divine act of creation only from other human beings, not from anything we actually uncover by examining nature itself – for when we examine nature itself, we are examining things that are naturally occurring or man-made, and yet the divine act of creation is supposed to be “supernatural.”
Theists are quite emphatic in their insistence that the god which they have in mind is not physical or material. Human beings and other living organisms, of course, are physical existents. And while theists use terms like “immaterial” and “non-physical” to describe their god, such descriptors are unhelpful in that they only tell us what their god is not, not what it supposedly is. This is critical in assessing whether or not “creation is possible” since the creating in question is supposed to have been accomplished by whatever it is that the theist calls “God,” and without understanding what exactly “God” is or is supposed to be, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make progress toward concluding that “creation is possible,” since this question all ultimately hinges on the nature of the thing which is said to have done the creating.
Elsewhere in their book, Kreeft and Tacelli claim that “God is spiritual.” But what does this mean? They elaborate as follows:
By saying God is spiritual, we mean that God is not a material being. To be a material being is to be a body of some kind. But a body is always limited and subject to change. To be subject to change in this way is not to be what one will become. And therefore to be subject to change involves nonbeing. And since to be a body is to be subject to change, therefore to be a body involves nonbeing. Now God is the limitless fullness of being, so God cannot be a body. In fact, God cannot be material at all-at least not as matter is normally understood. God must be immaterial, that is, spiritual. (Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p. 91)
This blurriness can trip up even the most ardent defenders of Christianity. For example, years ago I read a paper written by apologist Peter Pike in which he attempted to make the case for the existence of the Christian god by reference to the properties of logic (I can no longer access the original paper online; fortunately, I kept a copy and have uploaded it to my website – readers can read the entire paper here). In his original paper, Pike makes the following, very telling point (emphasis original):
When something “exists” it is. Note that this does not mean that we are dealing with physical or material existence. Indeed, immaterial existence also exists. (For evidence of this, imagine a red ball. The red ball you have imagined does not have any physical existence; it exists immaterially. Granted, one can argue that the immaterial existence is based on a material brain, but the ball that is imagined is not material. It does not exist physically anywhere.)
Whether belief in a god causes this confusion or such confusion inclines a thinker to adopting a theistic worldview, is not the topic I want to explore here. But admissions such as this should give us pause when observing the difficulty apologists have in explaining what they mean by descriptors such as “immaterial” and “spiritual.” And while Kreeft and Tacelli do state that their god is “intelligent, refer to it as having a “will” and claim that “the sufficient reason for our ordered world-system must ultimately be a creative ordering Mind” (Op cit., p. 58), they do not, from what I can find, come out and say that explicitly that their god is conscious. This appears to be taken for granted, for it would be the one thing that ties all these alleged attributes together. And being “immaterial,” this consciousness would have to be a disembodied, or at any rate bodiless consciousness (for, they say, “God cannot be a body”).
But where do Kreeft and Tacelli demonstrate that a consciousness can create any material things? This is essentially what they would be claiming if they affirm that “creation is possible” in a theistic context. They are essentially saying that the universe did “pop into existence” and that their god is an “adequate cause” for this (for it is only when this is affirmed “without an adequate cause” does this view, in their view, become irrational). But they provide no explanation for how this could have happened.
To accept rationally that some proposed outcome is possible requires evidence. Otherwise, we may merely be engaging in wishful thinking. We need evidence to inform our views and anchor them to reality. I cannot realistically suppose that I might win the lottery if I do not first get a lottery ticket just as I cannot realistically suppose that I can fly to Tokyo without boarding some kind of aircraft. All that Kreeft and Tacelli give us is what they call “God.” But demonstrating that matter can be produced by conscious activity is something they do not do, and yet the claim that “creation is possible,” which they surely endorse, would require such a demonstration in order to entertain their claim as rationally acceptable.
What does the evidence that we do have tell us about such matters? All examples of consciousness that we can observe and examine are in nature, specifically in biological organisms which possess sensory organs and nervous systems. Rocks, balls of lint and bus transfers are not conscious organisms. All evidence that we gather from nature confirms that consciousness is a biological phenomenon (see here). And all evidence that I am aware of confirms that conscious activity cannot cause material things to “pop into existence.” I cannot, for example, wish a million dollars into my bank account or into my mattress. I can wish for these things, but reality will not rearrange itself to conform to my wishing, for wishing does not make it so. And all evidence that I am aware of confirms that other conscious organisms have this same limitation: reality does not conform to my consciousness, to my wife’s consciousness, to my neighbor’s consciousness, to my town’s mayor’s consciousness, or to anyone else’s consciousness, even to my cat’s consciousness. Consciousness is simply not a metaphysically creative faculty in the sense that it can bring things into existence ex nihilo. And nothing I find in Kreeft and Tacelli’s book calls this observed state of affairs into question or proves my recognition of it wrong.
One thing I can do with my consciousness, however, is imagine a conscious being which can do whatever it wishes and a corresponding reality which conforms to those wishes. I can imagine, for example, that the universe was created by an act of will, that a conscious being essentially wished the universe into being, thus satisfying Kreeft and Tacelli’s low bar of acceptability, for I can say that this conscious being is “an adequate cause” and therefore point out that my position “does not claim that anything ever popped into existence without an adequate cause,” including the alleged conscious being itself. Indeed, if I imagined the conscious being, isn’t that “an adequate cause” for the conscious being’s existence? The Peter Pike quote above would suggest that at least some thinkers might suppose so.
What I’m afraid I cannot do, however, is reliably distinguish between what theists like Kreeft and Tacelli call “God” and what they might in fact merely be imagining. I acknowledge that Kreeft and Tacelli do have the ability to imagine – in fact, they urge their readers on several occasions in their book to imagine certain scenarios. It may be that they’re simply imagining the god whose existence they’re trying to prove. It would be intellectually irresponsible for me simply to ignore this possibility while accepting the alleged possibility they affirm uncritically. So long as we have no alternative but to imagine the god theists claim to worship, the burden of proof lies squarely on their shoulders. They should not get sore at anyone for asking for actual, relevant evidence.
If any theists who might happen to be reading this know of any evidence for the position that the universe was created by conscious activity, they are invited to use the comments section to introduce it. Simply asserting that it is possible does not serve as a demonstration. More instances of requiring me to engage my imagination will only reinforce the suspicion that there may in fact be no distinction between what the believer calls “God” and what he may merely be imagining.
by Dawson Bethrick