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A website for the book by Ian J Thompson:

"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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2.5 Creation and evolution

With the progress of the scientific revolution, the need for any influence of God on daily events became less and less obvious, culminating in Laplace’s claim that “I had no need for that hypothesis” to describe the evolution of the physical universe. Others, however, still saw evidence for God in the detailed nature of that universe, especially in the existence of living creatures that appear to be wonderfully made, as if designed. William Paley (1743-1805) published Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity in 1802. He argued from the perfection of living creatures to the existence of a good Deity who made them. Arguments in this manner of ‘natural theology’ were then very popular. Hume had in fact already presented counter-arguments to many of Paley’s claims, demonstrating the weakness of arguing from nature to God. Paley’s argument presupposes a general belief in the ‘goodness of nature’, or else, as Hume says, God becomes responsible for the unpleasant natural phenomena as well.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was predisposed at an early age towards naturalistic explanations but still took seriously Paley’s arguments from design. Then Darwin conceived that gradualist processes of natural selection were responsible for producing the great variety of biological species and also the appearance of design within them. In this way, he was able to counter Paley’s argument. Even the possibility of natural processes was presumably sufficient to rebut his inference about God. Darwin was effectively advocating a deism, because, he said, he did not want any God to exist that would be responsible for the suffering, predation and parasitism, etc., which he saw everywhere in nature. Others point out that if God was not involved, there could be no reason given for retaining a divinity at all. Darwin was claiming that God does not influence the world after creating it, and such claims reduced public support for theism.

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