The fires of debate among Christians concerning evolution have been getting a lot of fuel lately. In one corner is Biologos which has been seeking to convince evangelicals to embrace evolution and deny the Scripture's inerrancy. In the other corner are Al Mohler, the Discovery Institute, and many others who uphold the special creation of man and the Scripture's full trustworthiness.
Kevin Deyoung has posted a helpful interview with Jay Richards of the Discovery Institute and editor of a new book critiquing "theistic evolution."
Hi Jay, thanks for doing another interview for us. Maybe you can start by telling us what you’re up to these days. You’ve left Grand Rapids and are back in Seattle, correct?Read the entire interview HERE.
Yes, I left Acton full time in November 2008. In 2009, I was a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and worked on a couple of projects related to economics. In September 2009, I also started writing as a Contributing Editor at the The American and the Enterprise blog at American Enterprise Institute, and returned to Discovery Institute full time in February 2010. We’re living in Seattle now, just a few miles from the Discovery Institute offices.
You edited this new book “God and Evolution.” Who are a few of the others contributors and why did you feel compelled to do this book?
Other than me, the book contributors are John West, Stephen Meyer, Casey Luskin, William Dembski, Jonathan Witt, Jonathan Wells, Logan Gage, David Klinghoffer, and Denyse O’Leary. All of these folks are associated with the intelligent design movement, so you might wonder why a bunch of ID folks would get together to write about God and evolution. We did so for several reasons. First, in recent years, there’s been a resurgence of attempts to reconcile theism with Darwinian evolution. Many of these “theistic evolutionists” have claimed that ID is bad theology. Some have even called it blasphemous! These accusations needed a response. Second, while intelligent design arguments are based on public evidence and standard forms of reasoning, the debate over design obviously has theological implications. Finally, speaking for myself, I’ve grown increasingly concerned that many well-meaning Christians are confused about the question of “evolution.” Too many people seem satisfied to say that evolution is just God’s way of creating without being clear on what that means.
We’ve all heard the phrase, but what exactly is “theistic evolution?”
The problem with the word “evolution” is that it means many different things some trivial, some significant and controversial. We use the term “theistic evolution” in the book to refer to those who seek to reconcile more or less traditional theism with Darwinian evolution. Darwinism has always been defined as a purposeless process, so reconciling it with theism is a grade A dilemma. If, in contrast, a person believes that God guided an evolutionary process in creating the various forms of life, they might believe in “evolution” in the sense of common ancestry, but their view would be very un-Darwinian. They would be a design proponent rather than a “theistic evolutionist” in the sense that we use the term.
I know you’ve got a whole book on this topic, so I don’t expect you to rehearse all the arguments, but perhaps you could briefly highlight one or two scientific problems with theisitc evolution?
The key scientific problems with theistic evolution are identical with the key scientific problems with Darwin’s theory. Though we know that Darwin’s mechanism can explain some trivial things, such as antibiotic resistance in bacteria and variations in finch beaks, there’s no evidence that random genetic mutations and natural selection can create major new systems in biology. On the contrary. Much of what we know suggests that Darwin’s “mechanism” is quite limited in scope. One of the popular arguments theistic evolutionists use against ID proponents is the idea that most of our DNA is “junk.” Francis Collins (head of the NIH) is quite fond of this argument. You would expect flotsam and jetsam left over from the Darwinian process, according to Collins, if the system were cobbled together by a mindless process, but not if the system had been designed.
A decade and a half ago, some ID proponents predicted that many of these so-called non-coding regions (regions that don’t code for proteins) would eventually be found to have important functions. Well, evidence for important functions has been reported for years in the scientific literature. It’s becoming clear that some religious scholars were so quick to accommodate Darwinism that they didn’t check the evidence carefully.
You also talk about philosophical and theological problems. Do you think theisitc evolution presents dangers to orthodox Christianity?