Something that you've probably heard a religious person argue before is that the evidence for evolution is a test of faith. In this post, I'm going to outline some of the many problems with this claim.
I'll begin by simply asking, what kind of a god would do such a thing? Imagine, by analogy, that I'm happily married, and my wife decides to test my faith in her love for me and her commitment to our relationship by fabricating multiple lines of evidence supporting the belief that she has been cheating on me. She has sexual text message, e-mail, and Facebook conversations with a person who appears to be her lover, and she draws these to my attention by leaving them open on her phone and computer in plain sight; she collects semen samples to place inside of condoms which she carelessly discards around the house; she convinces her friends to tell me that she's cheating on me; she even records of a video of what appears to be, but actually isn't, her having sex with somebody else.
What kind of a mentally deranged person would you have to be to do such a thing? There is just no sane explanation for a person doing something like this without being coerced into it.
If this claim was true, it would demonstrate that this god is incredibly deceptive and untrustworthy. And if he could so powerfully deceive us about one thing, how are we to know that he hasn't deceived us on other issues? What if the story of the Virgin Birth was actually fabricated by God to test our faith in the actually true claim that organisms work according to and never deviate from natural laws set up by God at the origin of the universe? What if the entire Biblical account was fabricated by God to test our faith in the idea that a super intelligent deity wouldn't be so foolish as to expect us to believe on the basis of ancient scripture?
If you're willing to grant that there's a Grand Deceiver out there, this ultimately reduces your worldview to inescapable absurdity, because you've granted that things that you believe, no matter how well supported by evidence they appear to be, actually might not be true at all, because this evidence could have simply been fabricated to test our faith in a different belief which happens to be true.
So believing that the evidence for evolution is actually a test of our faith basically puts you in a position where you can't be sure that anything you believe is actually true—including the original belief about the evidence for evolution itself. If you believe that the evidence for evolution is a test of our faith, then you grant that a Grand Deceiver exists, so perhaps the very belief that the evidence for evolution is a test of faith is itself a test of faith in the belief that God is innately truthful and would never lie in such a consequential way. This argument has built into it an assumption that chips away at its very own foundation, and there's no escaping this.
I have a better idea than deceiving people in this way: if you want them to believe that something is true, supply evidence for that thing; don't bend over backwards to try to convince them of a different belief that actually is false.
Doesn't God want people to believe in his existence and believe in the claims made in the Bible? Doesn't he want us to go to heaven and not get sent to hell for believing the wrong things? If this was the case, fabricating the evidence for evolution would be counterproductive; it would make no sense. It seems that if a god did such a thing, he would actually want people to burn in hell for all eternity.
Why go out of your way to try to convince somebody to believe something unless you wanted them to believe it? And it's not like this is a silly practical joke; this is a hugely consequential belief that very well may jeopardize our eternal existence. Thus, the fabrication of evidence in this way would be incompatible with a just God, and at the very least, regardless of the consequences, it would be incompatible with an honest God.
This argument seems to implicitly concede that there is, in fact, convincing evidence for evolution. What kind of a test of faith would it be if the evidence was incredibly thin and laughably unconvincing? It seems that the more convincing and unequivocal the evidence is, the more rigorous the test of faith is, and the more ennobling is the rejection of it in favor of religious beliefs.
Notice how paradoxical and nonsensical this logic is; it would be like saying, the less weight I can lift, the more dignifying it is for me to describe myself as incredibly strong. This sort of backwards, undeserved self-congratulation makes absolutely no sense. Rejecting reality is not commendable.
It just so happens that the evidence for evolution is, in fact, overwhelming. There are multiple lines of independent evidence that all support the conclusion that the diversity of life on our planet has come about as a result of evolution. The evidence includes comparisons of DNA sequences, comparisons of molecules and proteins, comparative anatomy, the fossil record, direct observation both in the field and in the laboratory, selective breeding, vestigial structures, and the geographical distribution of organisms.
Let's imagine that the evidence for evolution hasn't been fabricated and, in fact, supports the actual explanation. Let's modify the earlier analogy and imagine that my wife actually is cheating on me, and I'm bombarded with overwhelming evidence that this is the case. I reach the conclusion that my wife actually didn't cheat on me; she's just testing my faith in her commitment to our relationship. The used condoms, the security camera footage of her having sex with somebody, the neighbor pulling me aside in the grocery store to tell me that he saw them having sex in the backyard by the pool—this has all been cleverly fabricated by my wonderful wife just to test my faith in her love for me and her commitment to our relationship.
It's clear that such a response would be incredibly delusional; obviously anybody who responded in this way to abundant evidence would be in sheer denial.
I think this is precisely the case for the religious believer who makes this argument about evolution. This is just one of many defense mechanisms used by religious people to maintain their unjustified beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence. They've illogically accounted for what is a knock-down refutation of the belief in creationism by actually making room for this refutation within their belief system.
Another problem with this argument is that it's unfalsifiable. Unfalsifiability is the trademark of a bad idea. When there are conditions under which a claim could be falsified, if this claim withstands every attempt to falsify it, this increases our confidence that the claim is true. But if there's nothing we could observe, if there's no experiment we could run that could produce a result that would refute a hypothesis, we're never provided with confirmation that the hypothesis has withstood efforts to refute it.
Think of unfalsifiable hypotheses as analogous to the interior of black holes: although we might know that a specific black hole exists based upon how it affects surrounding matter, we have no way of observing its interior to see what, exactly, is inside of it. We can't shine a light inside of there and have the beam bounced back to us so that we can photograph its inside, because the very name black hole comes from the fact that the gravitational force is so strong that not even light can escape the pull.
Analogously, there's ultimately no way to observe or test whether or not the content of an unfalsifiable claim is true or not; we can give good reasons why the claim seems ridiculous and why we shouldn't believe it, but the defining characteristic of an unfalsifiable claim is that we ultimately can't disprove it. There's no way we could position ourselves, there's no light we could shine, that would give us a glimpse of the ultimate truth or falsity of the claim; claims like this exist as a sort of philosophical black hole. So perhaps another way to describe an unfalsifiable claim is to call it a Black Hole Hypothesis.
You could make claims like this on any topic. You could say "all of the evidence that the planets orbit the sun has been fabricated by an evil, deceptive devil; in reality, they all orbit the earth", "all of the evidence that I'm a human has been fabricated by an all powerful, supernatural creature; in reality, I'm a giant Pacific octopus." These are the sort of wild, unsupported and irrefutable assertions that you'd expect to hear coming from a delusional mental patient tucked into the corner of a padded room wearing a straight jacket, incoherently babbling to himself with a crazed look in his eyes. To hear a claim like this made by Christians says a lot about the religious mindset.
For all of the above reasons, I think it's clear that the evidence supporting evolution is simply evidence supporting evolution. Let's not go out our way to overcomplicate things by concocting a massive supernatural conspiracy to explain away this evidence.
I'm going to close by reading a YouTube comment posted on this subject by user Robert Griffin on one of my videos:
"If a person believes that god is willing to make up a lie to test their faith[,] they have totally drank the koolaid. here [are] the problems with that concept.
1. a god who does so, violates his own morals by intentionally deceiving his creations, and with full knowledge that it will cause many to not accept his existence, condemning them to whatever punishment that believer accepts is the punishment for not believing. In other words it makes the god not benevolent.
2. if they are willing to go that far, then they can't trust anything in this reality to be real, they could just be in the truman show or the matrix... and the rules they have been following are completely arbitrary
3. Why would a god even need to test someones faith? does he not know everything? Can he not already know who would fail the test and who would pass the test? so why even have the test? Who is it testing? which brings me to point 4.
4. If a god is willing to test peoples faith in this way, who are the test results for?
4a. Its not for him as he knows the results before he conducted the experiment. He knows who passes and fails.
4b. so it has to be for the tested, since this is the person who doesn't know the results. Its to show the person what this god can and will do. So what does this show the person? That god can and will lie and deceive you whenever and however he chooses to do so, and he expects you to continue your belief in him even when he gives evidence to the contrary. How can one trust such a god? how can one trust any promise or claim made by people about such a god?
The worst believe that the devil did it... which means god let him do it."
Good points, Robert Griffin. If you guys have anything else to add on this subject, fire away in the comments section below.