Rosenberg on Why God Couldn’t Create via Natural Selection

I came across an odd claim in Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Darwinian evolution and belief in God are logically incompatible by virtue of God’s omniscience. He writes, “The property that makes it impossible to reconcile theism and Darwinian natural selection is omniscience—God’s complete knowledge of everything” (p. 87).

How could this be? Well any minimal theism requires that God intended our existence. That is, creatures like us had to be in mind when God brought about the physical universe. But, so says Rosenberg, “Darwin’s theory tells us that we, along with every other creature that roams Earth, are at best improbable outcomes of natural selection” (p. 88). Why this matters, he tells us, is because “It is a highly unreliable means of making us or anything that looks like us,” and that “Any omnipotent deity (or other powerful agency) who decided to employ natural selection to produce us would almost certainly be disappointed many more times than 99 times out of 100 attempts.” From this, it follows that “An omnipotent agency that employed natural selection to make Homo sapiens would certainly not be an omniscient one (p. 89). (Read the full section here)

Needless to say this is baffling (to say the least). It not clear how we go from:

[1] God intended to bring creatures like us into existence.

[2] Natural selection is an unreliable means to bring creatures like us into existence.


[3] If God were to bring creatures like us into existence through the means of natural selection, then God would not be omniscient.

Suppose Rosenberg’s right: it is very improbable that creatures like us would come about by natural selection. That does not mean that is impossible. If it is not impossible, then there is a possible world where we come about by natural selection (call it kronos). If kronos is possible and God is omnipotent, then God is able to actualize kronos (from the definition of omnipotence). All God needs to know is that kronos exists as a possible world and what it would take to actualize it, but that, of course, is compatible with his omniscience. To be omniscient just means that one has knowledge of all truths and believes no falsehoods. If it is true that kronos is a possible world and God is powerful enough bring about any possible world, then God is able to bring about creatures like us via natural selection.

It seems Rosenberg is working with a definition of omniscience that assumes that it is impossible to know future contingent truths. Buy why should anyone, much less a theist, assume that? (It isn’t even clear that this is a coherent definition of omniscience, but I won’t get into that). He gives no reason and those who think that Darwinian evolution and theism are incompatible should be unperturbed by this argument.