Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is God an Evolutionist?


Gene Veith has an interesting post on the idea of theistic evolution - the idea that God used the means of evolution to bring about the world that is. I have expressed the opinion that the theory of man having descended from lower life forms is not consistent with the biblical record. I still hold to that. I don't care about the age of the earth so let's not get off on that tangent. I am unconvinced by much that has come out of the "creation science" groups such as "Answers in Genesis". I have however found much of the work from the Intelligent Design folks like Dembski to be helpful.


As stated, I do not find the evolution of mankind from bacteria and lemurs to be consistent with the biblical record. But I do not break fellowship with those who believe that it is in harmony with the biblical witness. I would like them to change their minds but I by no means despise them. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who differ with me on this issue.


That said, Dr. Veith quotes from an article in the Washington Post by John G. West:

The real sticking point is Darwin’s claim that all of life–human beings included–developed through a blind and undirected process of natural selection acting on random variations. In the words of late Harvard paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”

There are ways to try to reconcile Darwinism’s undirected process with theism, but they involve throwing overboard some long-cherished beliefs about God.

The first idea to go is the belief that God directed the development of life toward specific ends. According to biologist Kenneth Miller, one of the most prominent proponents of “theistic” evolution, God did not plan the specific outcomes of evolution–including the development of human beings. Miller describes humans as “an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.” While God knew that undirected evolution was so wonderful it would create some kind of creature capable of praising Him, that creature could have been “a big-brained dinosaur” or “a mollusk with exceptional mental capabilities” rather than us.

Seeking to lessen the discomfort such arguments pose for most religious believers, Francis Collins suggests that God “could” have known the specific outcomes of evolution beforehand even though He made evolution appear “a random and undirected process.” In other words, God is a cosmic trickster who misleads people into thinking that nature is blind and purposeless, even though it isn’t.

One need not be a religious fundamentalist to find such arguments less than satisfying. Indeed, one need not be religious at all. Media coverage notwithstanding, theistic evolution has been shunned by leading evolutionary biologists, 87 percent of whom deny the existence of God and 90 percent of whom reject the idea that evolution is directed toward an “ultimate purpose” according to a 2003 survey.

While theistic evolutionists are mired in the past trying to defend Darwin’s nineteenth-century mechanistic process, other scientists and scholars are suggesting that twenty-first century science is fast making Darwin obsolete. Experiments with bacteria, where evolution can be tested in real time, are showing just how little undirected processes like natural selection can actually accomplish. Experiments with protein sequences are revealing how astonishingly fine-tuned protein sequences must be to work at all. And the DNA inside each of us is disclosing massive amounts of genetic information that points to mind, not chance and necessity, as the ultimate source of biological innovations.

Such discoveries do not “prove” God’s existence, but they do provide tantalizing evidence that life was produced by an intelligent process rather than a mindless one, a finding that certainly has positive implications for faith.

Read the entire post HERE.

16 comments:

Christian Citizen said...

So...it's just words then? Is it OK if we "ascended" from lower forms? Why are ancient primates (*not monkeys*) worse than dust?

It also seems to me that you are analyzing the data with a foregone conclusion, rather than allowing a broader understanding of God's Creation to enhance your interpretation of scripture. Christians have done that repeatedly, throughout history, only to be embarrassed again, and again.

Harley A. said...

Embarrassed again and again??? When ?

And don't roll out Copernicus and Galileo.

Todd Pruitt said...

Christian Citizen

If you are going to post here then I would prefer you not remain anonymous.

I do have a "foregone conclusion" if that's what you want to call it. My interpretation of Scripture is not subject to the whims of various scientific theories. Please feel free to have a different understanding if you would like.

Christian Citizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christian Citizen said...

So you are claiming your understanding of scripture is totally free from any preconceptions or assumptions?

Regarding anonymity: I am sorry not to comply with your preference. I would prefer that you blog anonymously--as Dissidens does on the Remonstrans blog you link to. Is this a two-way street?

Christian Citizen said...

Regarding your quote from Veith, he's right. Science moves on; his assessment is already out of date.

Here is one example.

FWIW, I do commend you on not wanting your interpretation of scripture subject to whims. That's not what I'm suggesting, however. I don't think anyone favoring theistic evolution would suggest anything different.

Todd Pruitt said...

Oh...I know who you are! Welcome!

Christian Citizen said...

Hmmm...if you say so!

Harley A. said...

RE: the pre-RNA article…

These men are taking God’s design and attempting a reverse-engineering under the premise of a re-created “primordial condition” with primordially present amino acids. First, they are quite generous to themselves in allowing a primordial soup teaming with the necessary amino acids, considering the amino acids used in all life forms are synthesized by existing life forms, which, in turn are themselves built with the help of amino acids (gets circular). They don’t randomly form. Also, these intermediate states have no existence/purpose/use on their own. There is NO logical pathway for this graduated increasing of complexity. But, what's worse is that they simply presuppose this was, indeed, the precursor to RNA becasue they can make it.

The Darwinian community cedes the point that this is all very unlikely – the formation of, say, a DNA strand. But, they say, what about the billions of years – it’s bound to happen. Okay, let’s give them that - a full, intact DNA strand (and that’s giving a lot). What are the chances that a randomly formed strand of DNA will survive in absence of RNA to decipher/encode it or any other of the multitude of complex systems necessary to sustain life in even the simplest of life forms ? What even the simplest life form requires is that countless independent systems as or more complex than the DNA strand must, at the same time, in the same place, appear by mechanisms we’ve never observed and organize themselves (thus the term “organism”) into a working complex – else you have no life function - no replication – you have a brilliant moment in the eons only to see it flash away and be gone. The probability is inconceivably small, as mathematicians have demonstrated.

But here's one way co-author Luke Leman explains the pre-RNA concept when he says, “So you need some more primitive genetic system that nature fiddled around with and finally decided to evolve into RNA”. Well, I didn’t realize that primordial nature fiddled around with things and made decisions. That’s what I was missing. There’s your science.

Christian Citizen said...

I found this video interesting -- with this a statement [regarding evolution]: "after 150 years of rigorous scientific testing every day, not a single observation or experiment has been made which has falsified the unifying principle of biology."

Is that true? Surely not, if ID or plain-old Creationism has scientific merit. So can anyone identify an experiment or observation [meaning laboratory observation, not a quip] in the past 150 years that has falsified evolution? Surely there must be something...

Christian Citizen said...

@Harley

I don't disagree with what you've said per se, but I do think it's important to separate origins from evolution, and to recognize what the experiment does affirm.

Harley A. said...

What the article affirms is that, after decades of genetic study, these men were able to, by reverse engineering, design a molecule that looks sort of like RNA - no actual function. Good chemistry work.

If it affirms anything beyond that, I'm afraid you'll have to enlighten me.

Regarding the quip on the "unifying principle of biology", that's a dogmatic assertion if I've ever heard one. Don't ask me for evidence to negate your belief, when you've none in your own bank to support your belief.

A statement from a scientist doesn't qualify as science by the way.

Harley A. said...

Correction - I don't expect you to have evidence to 'prove' it, but at least some that would stand up to cursory scrutiny. I've never found that.

Christian Citizen said...

It wasn't my own belief, thus the quotation marks. ;)

But regardless of whether it's an inflated term or not, are there any contraindications arising from experiments or observed phenomena?

Harley A. said...

CC,

There are no observed phenomena – that's what I'm saying - that in and of itself is an enormous contraindication. It is ALL conjecture. Not saying it can't be right, just no evidence at all.

Harley

Christian Citizen said...

"...no evidence at all"? Wow--that's quite an absolute statement.

I don't know where to start. This is interesting. What about this study? Or this? Or this? (Maybe I don't know where to stop...)