Why do atheists continue to subscribe to evolution?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

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Question: If abiogenesis has no scientific support, why do so many atheists believe in evolution?

Answer: Let me begin by saying that we are on the same page concerning abiogenesis. Abiogenesis, the theory that life on earth began when inorganic materials organized themselves into higher — that is, more complex and/or more energetic structures — without purpose or outside agency (like that of God) is on the ropes in the scientific community. Here are the three main reasons.

First, most scientists concede that there was no “prebiotic soup” purported to provide the optimum conditions to jump-start life. Second, even if such a soup existed, the earth has not been around long enough for Darwinian processes to advance life from its simplest forms to today’s complex forms. Third, all animal phyla showed up at the same time only 541 million years ago at the Cambrian Explosion. In evolutionary terms, the Cambrian was yesterday. But not only does the sudden appearance of all animal phyla at virtually the same time militate against evolutionary theory, it feels like a creation event.

So, if the data is in and the implications strongly support creation, why do atheists still believe in evolution? They have an atheistic worldview... and it will take more than a few inconvenient facts to undo it. You see, it is the nature of a worldview to be a composite, so if it is built right and well, it will be hardy. As such, one or two sound objections are not necessarily enough to change it. What good objections will always do, however, is add to the cumulative case supporting the opposing worldview. This is analogous to building an arsenal.

A carefully developed Christian worldview will withstand many storms, but so won’t a carefully constructed atheistic worldview. Now, atheists throw things at us all the time that they feel should “defeat” the faith. But since there are many logical reasons to believe in God, a single challenge — even if “successful” — does not have the weight to change our worldview... nor should it. But that dynamic is true for every worldview, no matter what beliefs it supports. So, unless each side agrees to an open and honest investigation of the opposing side’s claims, we remain behind castle walls, and thus ensconced, both armies appear to be equal at strength.

We are not at equal strength, though. The cumulative case for the existence of God is overwhelming! But who in the opposition is willing to take the time to explore our claims fully and objectively? Few. Nevertheless, we should be prepared for the few who do. (When these come over, they come with both feet!)

“… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).

I don’t want you to walk away with the impression that people on either side are always (or particularly) well-informed, however. I find that the opposite is true. Just as there are nominal Christians — people who have taken on the name of Christ but who do not trouble themselves to stay informed about the many important issues of the faith — so there are nominal atheists who are equally ill-informed about the tenets of atheism. One of the reasons I stick with Christianity is that I am lazy. This, of course, requires some explanation.

Part of my job as a Christian apologist and commentator is to contemplate switching sides. To be fair to the other side, I must walk a mile in their philosophical shoes. But here’s the thing: I have to compare like things. So, I can’t simply imagine what my life would be like if I threw in the towel and lived like an uninformed pagan. I have to contemplate what it would cost to be the same kind of atheist that I am a Christian; this requires some self-examination.

I see myself as a congruent Christian — one who is biblically literate, well-informed about Christianity and other religions, and well-informed about the world that opposes theism — which is often the scientific community. It never takes me long to abandon the notion that I could be a congruent atheist on those terms… well-informed about religion, science, philosophy, etc. It would be too much work propping up a physicalist philosophy in the light of all the evidence against it. So, let me qualify my original statement: I’m too lazy to be an atheist… but an informed atheist — one worthy of the name.

Here’s my challenge to the nontheists among us: if you are comfortable in your atheism, you haven’t thought it through. So, let me offer you an alternative. Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). I find this to be eminently true. Everyone wears a yoke whether they know it or not. Why not choose Jesus?

Atheists are not where they are because of an intelligence defect; it’s a methodological defect that has as its basis a heart defect. They purport to limit their field of investigation to the physical world. But God is — by definition — a spirit being. There is plenty in the physical and philosophical world that testify to his existence, but they choose ignorance — and the operative word here is choose.

Let me close with the Bible’s commentary on their choices. God calls people everywhere to repent, and no one has a valid excuse for rejecting him.

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30, NIV)

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:44, NIV)

“When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:8, NIV)

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19, ESV, emphasis mine).

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:18–25, NIV)

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)” (Romans 2:14–15, NIV)

“For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, NIV)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV)

Thanks again for submitting this question. God bless you.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20201123 Why do atheists still believe in evolution?).

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