Six Things Evolution Doesn’t Explain
Saints and Sceptics
At a popular level, many people seem to think that evolution effectively disproves God’s existence. Certainly, it could be argued that evolution undermines design arguments based on the existence of intelligent life, although we have disputed that idea in a previous article. But the idea that evolution could achieve more than that and become an all-encompassing argument for atheism just doesn’t get off the ground at all.
Here we want to highlight some things that evolution doesn’t explain. The list could certainly be extended, but all six of the points listed are relevant to the existence of intelligent life. Of course, it will be obvious that evolution doesn’t explain most of these points (the first four) since it is not intended to, but it is still important to mention them because they highlight how incomplete evolution is on its own as an explanation for intelligent life. This is not a criticism of evolution, but is simply a matter of recognizing its limits. For those interested in how we think Christians should approach evolution see our article Debating Darwin.
With that in mind, here are six things evolution doesn’t explain:
1. An orderly universe with suitable physical laws.
Evolution couldn’t operate without appropriate physical laws in place, yet clearly evolution cannot explain why such laws apply to our universe. As we discuss here, this feature of the universe provides one reason for belief in God.
2. A fine-tuned universe, including initial conditions and physical parameters necessary for carbon-based life.
Our existence is widely recognized by scientists, whether they believe in God or not, as depending on the fine-tuning of the universe and needless to say, this cannot be explained by evolution either. This feature of the universe provides a further reason for belief in God as we discuss here.
3. A suitable planet, such as Earth, orbiting a suitable star and capable of supporting life.
The ‘Rare Earth’ hypothesis claims that our planet has a range of remarkable properties that make it suitable for life and that planets with such properties are very rare indeed in the universe. These properties include its distance from its parent star (its so-called habitable zone), its location within the right kind of galaxy, a suitable arrangement of other planets, plate tectonics, etc. Some dispute the claim that planets like ours are so rare. Research on exoplanets could in principle help to address this point, but claims that Earth-like planets have been found are typically based on one or two features such as being in the habitable zone and fall a long way short of showing that they could support life. Furthermore, if it turns out that they don’t have life, that could strengthen the claim that conditions on Earth are very rare. Whatever turns out to be the case, it is clear that evolution requires, but cannot explain, the suitable environment on Earth…
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