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Why Evolution Doesn’t Eliminate God (Part 2)

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If evolutionary theory is correct, then chance plays an important role in the evolution of life. But how could God be the designer of life if things really do depend upon chance? Karlo Broussard continues is explanation of why Evolution does not eliminate God.


Cy Kellett: Does the possibility of chance in evolution disprove God’s participation? Coming up next on Catholic Answers Focus.

Cy Kellett: Hello and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett, your host and this week, we continue our conversations, our series of conversations with Karlo Broussard on evolution, why evolution doesn’t eliminate God. Karlo managed in episode one to get God into all kinds of trouble, arguments against God, six of them as a matter of fact that seem to emerge from an evolutionary understanding of reality. Well, we took care of one last week: “Chance in evolution proves there’s no intelligent designer.” That was in fact not necessary that we affirm that proposition, and so God survived that one. And we tackle two more arguments this week with Karlo. Well first of all, Karlo Broussard, welcome back.

Karlo Broussard: Hey, thanks, Cy. Thanks for having me back, and by the way, I didn’t put God in trouble. I made it appear.

Cy Kellett: I know. Well it’s like every magic trick. No one was in any real danger. Kids, don’t try this at home. Okay, so shall we move on with the arguments?

Karlo Broussard: Yeah, let’s do it.

Cy Kellett: All right. I didn’t give the name of your book though. Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel and the Church is Karlo’s latest book. He’s got another one coming out in the fall. You can look for that one. And that one is called?

Karlo Broussard: Meeting the Protestant Challenge.

Cy Kellett: Meeting the Protestant Challenge.

Karlo Broussard: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs.

Cy Kellett: All right, so as I said, I don’t know if you want to review at all the first kind of challenge to God, chance in evolution proves there’s no intelligent design. Are you?

Karlo Broussard: Yeah. Basically what we said there was that chance and design are not mutually exclusive, which is the operating assumption. That’s the assumption that’s made in the argument, that if I affirm chance, I must necessarily exclude design. But as we showed, that’s not the case because chance actually presupposes or assumes design or ordered directed activity, things acting in such a way to produce an effect or a range of effects rather than some other effect or range of effects. And that in and of itself is what is necessary to get us on our pathway to reasoning to God’s existence, as for example, in Aquinas’s Fifth Way. We call that final causality in philosophy, final causes, coming from the Latin “finis,” which means in, or it’s also called an argument from teleology coming from the Greek “telos,” goal or end. So it’s starting with things in their ends or the activity that’s ordered to certain ends or goals, and we’re saying chance presupposes that, and that’s the starting point for reasoning to God’s existence.

Karlo Broussard: Therefore, the appeal to chance and evolution in no way can eliminate the need for an intelligent designer.

Cy Kellett: Fair enough. All right. That was a pretty good recap very quickly.

Karlo Broussard: Not too bad.

Cy Kellett: All right, so the second argument also is about chance, however, and then we’ll move on to other forms of arguments. So this is an argument against God coming from, stemming from evolution, and it says chance in evolution proves that something escapes the reach of Divine Providence, and the argument goes basically like this. If new beings emerge by chance, then something has escaped the reach of Divine Providence. Chance occurrences do in fact happen.

Karlo Broussard: New beings emerge by chance.

Cy Kellett: Therefore, something escapes the reach of Divine Providence.

Karlo Broussard: That’s right.

Cy Kellett: If it’s a chance, God’s not in charge of that.

Karlo Broussard: So it would seem. It seems something is, for those watching on the video here, something is going outside of the reach of God and see-

Cy Kellett: That’s like God’s rolling dice or something.

Karlo Broussard: That’s right. And that’s problematic for traditional theists because we affirm as traditional theists, as Christians, that God is not only the first cause, but the universal cause, right? The cause of all that is, and that happens, so nothing can escape God’s Divine Providence, but evolution seems to show that something does, since these new things can emerge by chance. So how do we answer this? Well, once again, if we could appeal to what we said in our previous segment that chance presupposes causal activity, chance presupposes that things act in such a way to produce certain effects, their causes. Well from a traditional theistic perspective, there can be no causal activity of things in the physical cosmos whatsoever without, right here and right now, the first cause, God, willing that these things be real causes to produce certain effects. Radiation cant have an effect on a living organism without God’s divine causality.

Karlo Broussard: You can’t have the elements within the environment having an effect on living organisms without God sustaining those elements in existence and even willing that they operate in the way that they do to produce certain effects rather than other effects. You see?

Cy Kellett: Yeah, okay.

Karlo Broussard: So if chance presupposes the operation of things and the activity of things within the physical cosmos–which chance presupposes–requires God to even act and operate, well then surely chance can’t eliminate the need for God. Aquinas puts it like this, in his Summa Contra Gentiles in book three Chapter 67, he says: “All power of any agent whatsoever is from God as from the first principle of all perfection. Therefore, since all operation-” operation is the things acting, right- “all operation is consequent,” flows from some power, “it follows that God is the cause of every operation.”

Karlo Broussard: So everything operates, acts, in so far as God ultimately, as the first cause, is causing that thing to operate. So me talking to you right now, yes, sure, I’m the cause of the sounds coming out of my mouth and communicating ideas to you, but ultimately it’s because God is willing this power to exist and causing me to cause these real things happening in our conversation here. This is what we call in philosophy “secondary causality” or “instrumental causality.” God doesn’t will to do everything directly, but he “bestows upon his creatures,” as Aquinas says, “the great dignity of being real causes of real effects, to imitate his causality of being the first cause.” That’s a great nobility and dignity. Of course, we as human beings, we participate in that perfection in a way higher degree than non-rational animals and plants, and even inanimate things that act in such a way to be causes of certain effects.

Karlo Broussard: And now here’s the key. Here’s how it does not escape providence. Cy, as Aquinas points out, there are two aspects of God’s divine providence. First, there’s the idea in God’s mind. The archetype of the ordered plan of how this thing is going to act in a certain way to produce that effect, and that thing’s going to act in a certain way to produce a certain effect. That’s the ordered plan in the mind of God. But the execution of that plan is what Aquinas calls “governance,” and it’s in the execution of the plan where things are able to be real causes to bring about certain effects to achieve their ends. And so the governance, God exercises his divine causality in and through–he exercises, executes his divine plan of Providence in and through intermediary causes, instrumental causes, secondary causes, you and me and the plant outside that we need in order to have the oxygen on the planet earth, et cetera.

Karlo Broussard: God allows or wills that these certain created things will operate and act in such ways to bring about his ordered plan. So how is it that we could appeal to the natural activity of things in the physical cosmos as evidence against God when the activity of physical things in the physical cosmos is a part of God’s divine providential plan?

Cy Kellett: Right, okay, and his governance, his way of doing it, it’s up to him to figure out how he wants to accomplish whatever he wants to accomplish it, and if he wants to use secondary causes, that’s him.

Karlo Broussard: That’s right. And inasmuch as he wills to use secondary causes, one cause producing one effect, another cause ordered to another effect, there’s going to be a convergence of causes, which bring about random occurrences. And so it’s a part of God’s divine providential plan that some chance occurrences do come about relative to the secondary causes. And this leads us to our next way in which we can answer this argument, is that what might seem to be chance, what is chance relative to you and me going to the grocery store and meeting up, is not chance relative to the one who orders these things to act in such a way that they converge.

Cy Kellett: He didn’t take a chance. There is no chance from his perspective.

Karlo Broussard: There is no chance because inasmuch as God wills, he causes your causal activity or that thing’s causal activity and my causal activity and that thing’s activity and willing that they’re going to act in such a way as to converge, God wills the convergence and even knows and wills the “random” chance effect relative to you and me and that thing and that thing. And we see this, go back to the grave digger from our previous episode, right?

Karlo Broussard: So let’s suppose now on the scenario is that the wealthy land owner hires the grave digger, the wealthy land owner’s the one who stashed the loot and buried it and he wants to hire this poor grave digger. Out of the goodness of his heart, he wants the grave digger to find the loot and to find the treasure. So he doesn’t tell him and he says, “Hey, I’m going to hire you to dig this grave because I need a bury my grandma who just died and I want her in the backyard in our cemetery or whatever.” And so notice the wealthy landowner–relative to the wealthy landowner, it’s not a chance occurrence that the grave digger find the treasure, but relative to the grave digger, it is a chance occurrence.

Cy Kellett: Yes. He didn’t intend for that to happen.

Karlo Broussard: Similarly, from God’s perspective, there is no chance occurrences from God’s perspective because he wills that one thing act in such a way to produce a certain effect, another thing act in such a way to produce a certain effect and wills the convergence of those two coming into interaction with one another and actually knows and wills that there would be an occurrence coming about beyond the ordered activity of those things. So God wills that I would meet up with Tim at the grocery store so we could geek out into mystic philosophy and I discover some insight for my next book or something. You know? So what might seem to be chance to us is not chance to God given the classical theistic framework. Therefore, it is impossible, if our classical theistic framework is true, it is impossible that chance in the evolutionary process could in some way eliminate the need for God or show that something has escaped God’s divine providence, because the natural activity of physical things and the physical cosmos, which take place and are necessary for the evolutionary process, is a part of God’s divine providential plan.

Karlo Broussard: You can see that in things that have no intentional agency of their own, just a rock falling in water. Even for you and I, who have free will and intellect, God can see what’s going to happen when for example, you and I sit down for a conversation. He may say, well, Karlo has just what Cy needs and so it may seem random to me that I meet up with you, but it’s not random.

Cy Kellett: To God.

Karlo Broussard: To God.

Cy Kellett: That’s right. So it’s still free will on my part.

Karlo Broussard: This gets into God’s knowledge of future actions, our future free actions.

Cy Kellett: But I just wanted to make sure that all of it fits within God’s providential plan.

Karlo Broussard: Amen, and as Aquinas would affirm, and you know, he’s getting this from Aristotle, chance is a real thing, in our physical world and our interactions with things, relative to us; but relative to God, because it’s all within the divine ordered plan of willing things to act in certain ways and the convergence of those activities, it’s not chance relative to God. It’s not escaping his providential plan, because it’s a part of it.

Cy Kellett: Wow. Okay. So we move out of arguments from chance against God and we move into the naturalistic thing. And the argument is naturalistic explanations in evolution eliminate my need for God as a creator. Why do I need him? So whenever there’s a naturalistic explanation for things coming to be, there’s no need to appeal to God, a creator, to do it. Evolution is a naturalistic explanation for things coming to be. Therefore no need to appeal to God.

Karlo Broussard: That’s right. So notice the assumption here is that a naturalistic explanation of something in the physical world is incompatible with a divine explanation, as if they’re incompatible with each other. So if I affirm the naturalistic explanation of things, I automatically have to reject the divine explanation of things. Whereas from a classical theistic perspective, this is just elementary. It’s like wait a minute, you can’t have a natural explanation without the divine causality of God and this-

Cy Kellett: A lot of people don’t see it though, Karlo so you got to explain first.

Karlo Broussard: So here’s the thing. Here’s two ways in which we can answer this. Number one, any sort of naturalistic explanation, “this natural thing acted in such a way upon this natural thing to bring about this effect,” in order to make that intelligible, in order to have that explanation, you first have to have those things existing. Things must first exist before they can act.

Cy Kellett: In order to have a nature.

Karlo Broussard: In order to have a nature, in order to act, in order to even have a natural explanation. So any form of natural explanation, whether we’re looking at evolution biologically or within cosmic evolution, things are existing. So the whole scientific enterprise presupposes that things exist. Now from a classical theistic perspective, it’s the fact that things exist within the physical world that serves as a very starting point to reasoning to God’s existence because when I analyze things that come into existence, go out of existence, I don’t have time to get into all this, but the bottom line is that we realize these things don’t exist necessarily. They don’t have existence by virtue of their own essence. In other words, it doesn’t belong to what they are to exist.

Cy Kellett: When you say things don’t exist necessarily, in more modern language, that means they don’t have to exist.

Karlo Broussard: They don’t have to exist. And when you cache that out philosophically, what you realize is that the tree outside doesn’t have existence by virtue of what it is as a tree, like a triangle has three straight sides by virtue of what it is. The tree’s existence is unlike the three sides of the triangle, and when you analyze that, you realize, well, wait a minute, the tree and everything else in the physical world that came into existence and goes out of existence, doesn’t have existence by virtue of its own essence. Well then it’s going to have to receive that existence from something outside of itself. And then when you philosophically analyze that, you come to the conclusion that in order to account for that, the fact that the tree has an active existence rather than not, it’s not nothing. It is something, you have to posit a cause, some reality that does have existence, some cause that does have existence by virtue of what it is, by virtue of its own essence.

Karlo Broussard: And this is a cause that we call a “first cause,” properly speaking, or God. So notice the very existence of things that the evolutionary theory presupposes can only be accounted for, in the classical theistic framework, by a first cause who is existence itself, namely God. So this is the first way which we can respond. The naturalistic explanations presuppose the very existence of things, which are the very starting points for reasoning to God’s existence. So a naturalistic explanation can’t eliminate the need for God because in order to have things existing and to even have a naturalistic explanation, you need the divine cause in order to account for things existing and even having a natural explanation of something.

Cy Kellett: Okay, yes.

Karlo Broussard: Now, here’s the second reason, a thing can act only in so far as it exists. So if God is the cause of a thing’s existence, then God is going to be the cause of that thing operating and acting. So you can act, Cy. The tree outside can act only inasmuch as it first exists, right?

Cy Kellett: Right.

Karlo Broussard: And so there’s a principle in philosophy. We say “agere sequitur esse.”

Cy Kellett: I say that all the time.

Karlo Broussard: I think that’s a Latin phrase but my philosopher friends listening might critique me on that, but “agere sequitur esse.” I’m probably butchering the pronunciation, but action follows being. So if God is the ultimate cause of the very being of things, or the very existence of things-

Cy Kellett: And action follows from that.

Karlo Broussard: Follows from that, then God ultimately is the cause of the very operation and activity of things within the physical cosmos. Now remember, naturalistic explanations, what is a naturalistic explanation? It’s explaining how something acts in certain way to bring about a certain effect or a cause and effect relationship. Well, if a naturalistic explanation assumes the reality of things acting in certain ways, and things acting can only be explained in the classical theistic framework by the first cause, namely God, who is pure act itself, the ultimate explanation for why anything outside of itself acts, well then you can’t possibly appeal to the activity of something in a natural explanation to eliminate the need for God.

Cy Kellett: So a naturalistic explanation of where life comes from, if it’s to be found in evolution, is perfectly consistent with God and God’s existence, as a matter of fact, requires God’s existence because there’s no beings to act on and there’s no activity for them to have without God.

Karlo Broussard: That’s right. You need God to have something to exist and you need God for that existing thing to act in any way, and so no appeal to the very activity of something can be incompatible with God. You can’t appeal to the activity of something to eliminate God because God is necessary, on the classical theistic framework, for that very activity of anything, and even if, think about this, if you have the emergence of new life forms coming about, well those things from which new life forms come, and we’ll get to this in our next episode, you’re going to have certain potentials with anything that are being actualized under certain conditions. Well in the classical theistic framework, that the thing exists with the particular nature, to have certain potentials to be actualized under certain conditions requires God’s divine causal activity to even have the potential and even requires God for the very actualization of those potentials, even if there’s some natural, some other natural thing that’s acting on it in such a way to actualize its potential.

Karlo Broussard: So the stick is actualizing the potential of the stone to move from this place to that place. Right?

Cy Kellett: Yeah.

Karlo Broussard: Well that’s a naturalistic explanation. That’s a natural explanation. We’ll appeal to the stick to account for the motion of the stone, but guess what? Ultimately for that stick to even have the activity of being a mover, you ultimately have to come to some cause that is pure activity itself that has the act of being a mover of itself, rather than derived from something else like the stick derived the act of being a mover from the hand.

Cy Kellett: This whole thing now after two episodes of this seems very sneaky to me because you titled it “Why Evolution Doesn’t Eliminate God” and it seems, I’m starting to feel like evolution proves the existence of God.

Karlo Broussard: Well, from a classical theistic framework, this is why we would view the claim that evolution eliminates the need for God as unreasonable and just bottom line absurd because it’s the very existence of things in the evolutionary process, the very activity of things in the evolutionary process that, from a theistic perspective, we see as demanding God’s existence to account for. Otherwise, without God’s existence, you wouldn’t have things existing in the evolutionary process. You wouldn’t have things acting in the evolutionary process.

Cy Kellett: Right. Thank you, God. Karlo Broussard, our guest. We got one more of these. I was excited to start. As we go forward, I’m really, this is one of those times where I don’t feel disappointed to have had that excitement. Thanks everybody who joins us here on Catholic Answers Focus. Join us next week while we proceed with these arguments and see if we can firmly establish God’s existence despite and because of evolution. Don’t forget to like us, will you? I mean to do it right now before you forget. If you give us a like or a comment wherever you get your podcasts, that really does make this program grow. Also, share it with other people. Let them know that they can become a member of Radio Club just by going to CatholicAnswersLive.com, scrolling down and putting your email address in where it says Radio Club. I am Cy Kellett, your host. Our guest has been, as I said, Karlo Broussard, and we’ll see you next time on Catholic Answers Focus.

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