Can the word "accident" be used in referring to a product of evolution?

(Robert Fields) #1

Please comment on this thought.

It is my understanding that “accidents” can only occur when there is a deviation from intent. Like an automobile accident or a little boy “accidentally” throwing a baseball through the window of his house. He did not intend to do so, it was an “accident”. Intent is a matter of the will. Will can only be exercised by a person. Therefore, an accident cannot occur without also inferring that intent, will and ultimately a person is involved.

So to answer my own question; Can the word “accident” be used in referring to a product of time + chance + matter the answer is “NO.” Even the word “accident” implies intent, Even if it is unintended.

Does this make sense? Am I missing something? I appreciate feedback.


(SeanO) #2

@rob1770 Thank you for the question. Could you provide more context? What event or thought caused you to ask this question? How come you think it is significant whether or not the word ‘accident’ can be applied to evolution?

(Robert Fields) #3


The context is in a few of Ravi’s podcasts where he says we cannot be here by accident or that we are not a product of accident. In most conversations that I’ve had or listened to regarding evolution, I’ve heard the word accident thrown around to convey the idea that purpose was not the cause but merely a product of chance. An accident, if you will.

Does that help?

Thanks and God Bless!


(Melvin Greene) #4

Hi, @rob1770. What an interesting thought! I’ve never considered that angle when thinking about the word accident. I think we commonly associate accidents with randomness. If something is left unguided, then eventually something happens not outside of intent, but because of the lack there of. In light of your thought, I guess the better term would be random, or chance.

(SeanO) #5

@rob1770 Yes, that is helpful. I think after understanding better I would agree with @Melvin_Greene that nontheistic evolution relies on random chance and therefore is not an ‘accident’ in the sense that you have defined it.

(Jennifer Judson) #6

I’m not sure your definition of accident is complete. This is the 2nd definition of accident in the Oxford Dictionary.
An event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.

Given that definition, Ravi’s use of the word in the context of creation may be used more to actually point to a “deliberate cause” rather than intent. Although any intelligent design argument can/will use both.

(Robert Fields) #7


Your reference to the second definition is good and I don’t dispute it. What I’m trying to ask is this: Do accidents occur without the cause of a person or an entity with a will? We can say that natural phenomenon can happen by “chance” but can we accurately use the word “accident” and still refer to inanimate forces and objects? I do wonder if even the second definition you referenced still implies the actions of a person/ entity even if the outcome is unintended? Again, my premise is that “accidents” can only be caused by an entity with a will while outcomes of nature and inanimate object is relegated to “chance” since no intent or will is involved.

I realize this looks like I’m splitting hairs but think about it. Ravi was able to demonstrate that evil is either committed by a person or brought up by a person. Implied in this statement is the existence of persons and the essential worth of a person (personhood). Therefore, naturalists cannot talk of evil without ultimately acknowledging the person of God. In the same way, accidents are either caused by a person or occurs to a person. Accidents are a product of the will, even if the outcome is unintended or not apparent.

Thank you for your response. I appreciate it.

God Bless!

(Jennifer Judson) #8

Let’s talk about inanimate forces and objects. These objects are still subject to gravity, wind, vibrations in the earth, electro-magnetic fields, etc. Things do fall down. Seemingly without a will behind it. Whereas these things I listed may ultimately be the cause, in the moment the cause is not apparent or deliberate.

Seems like you are looking for a proof or gotcha within the definition of a word. To me the challenge with that is that our language is pretty fluid and we all have slightly different perspectives on word meanings. So we are left with the circumstance of describing sound concepts/arguments (such as creation, evil, etc) with imperfect language.

Sometimes in an argument, such as in a discussion about us not “being here by accident” you have to stay with the term the audience is hearing and build on their understanding of what is being said. All these discussions are extremely nuanced, heavens, philosophers have been splitting these hairs forever. So if I’m going to hang my hat on the word “accident” implying a will, then I need to be sure to define that for the audience so everyone’s on the same page. (I do potentially see a challenge for that implication.)

(Robert Fields) #9

I agree regarding physical forces of nature. In those instances, when unpredictable things occur and we don’t immediately see the apparent cause, that’s chance not accident.

As for looking for a proof or gotch’ya statement, that’s not really my goal. My goal is to make sure that the terms used are clearly understood in the context we are talking about. That may be challenging in a culture that feels that each individual infuses their own meaning into words but it’s not impossible and is with the effort.

I appreciate your questions and offering other points if consideration. I value them because they force me to truly test my premise.

God Bless!

(Tim Ramey) #10

@rob1770 I tend to agree with you if, with my slow mind, I understand you correctly.

Here’s one that’ll make things pop but I am a paraplegic. Almost 19 years ago, as a firefighter, a chimney collapsed near me, paralyzing me from T4 down. No one, not even my wife agrees with me, nor will probably anyone in this group when I say that, not only did the Lord allow it to happen, He intended it to. But He only gives good gifts? This is His best for me. He could have had it collapse 2 seconds later as we were heading out. Then everyone would have said that the Lord saved me from what could have been an accident. But I believe it was His intent to do a work that He could not have done if I had been my old, hyperactive, running, Mr Independent self. No accidents just happen. In my case, most everyone believes it was the enemy and the Lord “allowed it.” But as in Job’s case, if He dictated the parameters in Job 's life, He caused the other to happen because He gave the enemy license to act and He knew that the enemy wouldn’t miss a beat. The Lord could have stopped Job’s suffering and mine, but He did it so that we’d learn from Him things we wouldn’t have without it. It’s not an either or situation, but I would rather be loving the Lord fervently in a wheelchair rather than be walking with Jesus just being OK.

So Rob, I believe that “accidents” don’t just happen. It was intended - meant to be from before the beginning of time.

(Robert Fields) #11

WOW! Tim, that’s powerful!

We tend to define our circumstances based on what we can see or perceive from it. If we are stumped as to why or how something has occurred, we try our best to fill in the gaps of explanation. It’s natural to do so. However, we are working on limited information and perspective, especially while in the midst of the circumstance. Your faithfulness in looking to the God who can purpose anything to His will and to our benefit is a most powerful testimony that can be difficult to appreciate in the middle of pain ( emotional or physical).

Here is my premise:

Accidents imply intent or purpose (unintended or intended)

Nature does not exercise intent or purpose

Therefore , there are no accidents in nature.

Humans exercise intent and purpose

Humans are flawed

Therefore, there are accidents when humans are involved.

God exercises intent and purpose

God is perfect

Therefore, there are no accidents when God is involved.

Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Thank you Tim for sharing your story and for your input.

God Bless!