Does Evolution Need God?

This is a question I posed to the TE’s on the Peaceful Science forum a while ago. I think it would be interesting to hear the insights of this forum as well.

If I am not mistaken, many (most? all?) TE’s and EC’s say that God guided evolution. If that is your position, do you think God’s intervention was necessary for evolution to successfully produce the outcomes we see today?

Of course, I am happy to hear anyone’s thoughts on this question regardless of his or her position. Thanks!

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Scientific theories need God like children need cancer.

One might see someone in a casino pray to God that the roulette wheel will give him a 23. If God grants him his prayer and the roulette wheel stops at 23, then was God’s intervention necessary?

If you say no because it is possible that the wheel might stop on 23 anyway then we might give the same answer for evolution. But maybe the more important question is what are the probabilities involved. After all 1 out of 37,38, or 39 on the roulette wheel isn’t so unlikely but 1 out of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is quite a different matter don’t you think?

But you know… I don’t believe that everything is a result of God’s intervention. Did God intervene to give us all these diseases? I don’t think so. I don’t even believe God intervened to give us a particular shape and color. Perhaps God intervened to encourage the development of a species capable of a language and art. And maybe that isn’t so very likely either – difficult to know.

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Evolution is a scientific theory and scientific theories do not include God or “need” God.

Since I have a theological commitment to the truth that God is the Creator of everything, I believe God willed, initiated, and is active in evolutionary processes, just as he willed, initiated, and is active in other natural processes that science describes without reference to God.

I don’t have any need to put my finger on how exactly God acts in the evolutionary process, or commit to a specific degree of divine planning or design, or to decide whether or not the evolutionary process could hypothetically “work” without God. I believe God is immanently present in nature and our natural/supernatural categories are constructs we have imposed on a single unified reality.

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Yeah, what Christy said. :slight_smile: Evolution doesn’t “need” God any less than any other process of nature. Even if he doesn’t “intervene” on a regular basis, no biological process would exist without God as the creator.

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Not to disagree with what’s been expressed already, but another way to spin this answer is that yes, evolution did and does need God the same as everything else does for its very existence. What it doesn’t need is a god as a bit player among all the other physical mechanisms to get it past the difficult, or hard-to-explain bits.

[And the above is not to insist that God didn’t do something special. It’s just to say that if God did, any such special involvement couldn’t at all be a part of the theory of evolution because such theories are about physical explanations, not about theological ones.]

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Does evolution need God? The question is What do you mean by “need?”

The question that first must be answered is, Does evolution and science need order in order to exist? The answer is yes.

Darwin said that the source of order or direction for evolution is Natural Selection, and he thought that Natural Selection was based on disorder or non-rational chance. He believed that God played no role in the governance of the universe.

Those, like Lynne Margulis and myself, who observe that symbiosis or ecology is the basis of Natural Selection or the order of evolution. Symbiosis does not work by chance, but by symmetry, which is rational order.

If Darwin was mistaken and evolution is not based on non-rational chance, nut on rational ecological order, then he was also wrong in saying that evolution denies the existence of God. Evolution and science needs a rational God as the Source of Order in the universe and the Source of the Big Bang,

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Very succinctly put, Roger. In expanding upon it to see just how it impacts Christian theology, I find it helpful to focus: 1) on evolution as survival of the individual vs. survival of the group; and 2) evolution in the biosphere (Darwinian) and evolution in the Noosphere–in ideas, memes, or noogenes.

Millions of years ago in the biosphere, group survival for some insect species was greatly enhanced with a change in reproductive mechanisms that promoted eusocial colonies–e.g. ants, termites, bees. Of course there was no freedom of choice involved and so no morality. Much later as the line of primates evolved, group selection depended upon kinship and became more and more effective as the group was enlarged into clans through use of crude language (memes, noogenes). Both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens reached this stage some 150,000 yrs. ago–survival of the individual through mutation of genome (by chance) but showing the beginnings of the advantages to group selection offered by eusocial living.

While we may never know many of the details of how our ancestors, the Homo sapiens, made such rapid strides in building more effective societies that led to their domination of the planet, there is growing evidence that the awareness that they were creatures that owed their existence to a Creator, played an important role.

All of this may be part of a Drama that God set in motion in a Big Bang–a Drama that would eventually involve creatures that would freely choose to rise above the limitations of one type of evolution (Darwinian/biospheric) to become (thru Noospheric evolution) an Image (even if less than perfect) of their Creator.
Al Leo

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True

just one thing 2 different distinct scenarios would give rise to 2 different distinct outcomes.

God involved and intervening versus otherwise would have to have some different predictions about our reality. It must be possible in principle to distinguish between the 2 hypothesis.

The most obvious comparison is between natural evolution and. Breeding. Not sure I know how to state. This tactfully, but it’s the difference between a Wolf and a dog.

The latter are cultivated for characteristics. Which would not naturally arise?

I think TE boils down in principle to God in Heaven has cultivated humanity on Earth, producing a species chosen for some elect purpose.

If, so humanity would have something separating them from NoN affected species which evolved purely naturally, something which separates man from beast.

Many people like to say that already. If that is actually true that could certainly be construed as evidence for theistic evolution.

I believe (not without any evidence) that evolution needed God in order to operate. The reasons for this belief are fairly technical and are related to the often overlooked biochemical mechanisms required for evolution to work. Many think of evolution as flowing naturally from inheritance and natural selection. But that’s only the surface requirements. Evolution requires not only replication of the phenotype from one generation to the next (which is managed by the ultra complex protein synthesis translation system using a genetic code to convert nucleic acid chemistry to protein chemistry) but in addition, such replication must be exceedingly accurate. There is no current answer as to how these evolutionary process mechanisms could have evolved in the absence of the evolutionary process mechanism.

I am aware that this is a very controversial idea, and not generally accepted by other than ID folks, and I am interested in feedback from this forum. I am not proposing a God of the gaps here, (its quite likely we will eventually discover alternative evolutionary processes that will explain the origin of evolution as we know it) but I do think that its a reasonable proposal that some divine intervention was involved, even if it just means the occurrence of an extremely unlikely event. This, of course, like all divine interventions, can never be proven, but for believers in the resurrection of Jesus and other miracles, such scientific proof is not required.

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I tend to avoid arguing for God from scientific evidence alone (which is not to say I completely disregard such evidence for God’s existence), largely for three reasons:

  1. At best one can only be agnostic about this evidence.
  2. At worst, it makes belief in God contingent upon these scientific truths, so one could lose faith much more easily.
  3. God (as I have discussed before) doesn’t want us to base our faith on a heavy burden of proof. He wants to make it as simple to accept as is possible.

My own apologetic approach is to argue from metaphysics, and hierarchical series’, which are not contingent on whatever scientific paradigms are currently followed, are focused on the here and now, rather than what may have happened in the past, and have to terminate in a first member (whom I argue must have the characteristics of the Biblical God) even if the linear history of the universe does not.

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Hi All, my first post on BioLogos.
I’m right along with Mervin, Roger, and Albert on God as the source of order. I’m wondering if or how much you have based this on a strong Logos theology:
“Bavinck and Kuyper on Creation and Miracle” by Chris Gousmett

and/or presuppositional apologetics after Van Til:
Presuppositional Apologetics - https://sites.google.com/site/redeemingasimov

Hi, Lee, and welcome to the forum!

I can’t speak for Roger or Albert of course, but the short answer for myself is that I would consider myself (or hope that I am) steeped in a theology of “the Word” strongly enough that it should drive not just my words but my life. I may be missing exactly what you’re asking in all that, of course.

Your first link goes to quite a collection of linked resources, and your second to a paper. As much as I would enjoy avoiding my own lesson plans today, I probably won’t take the time to wade through much of that. Are there specific thoughts of interest to you from any of those sources that you could summarize shortly here - you would probably get more of an interactive audience that way.

We’re glad you’re here - and one of the little tricks to making forum use easier is that you can react directly to one specific thing in somebody’s post just by highlighting it, and then clicking the grey ‘quote’ box that pops up. That puts their quote in your own response (and even opens up a new reply for you if you hadn’t started one already). Then people know exactly what you are answering or reacting to. Again: welcome!

-Merv
p.s. Oh - and you can edit your already-posted posts to correct or add things, like I did just now to add this sentence. Just click the grey pencil toward the bottom of any of your own posts.

[Added … ] And continuing on some more here (again, just speaking [in part] for myself, and after reminding myself in wikipedia what might be getting packed into ‘presuppositionalism’), that sounds like something which probably won’t get a lot of support around here. As I recall, some are trying to use that here to deny scientifically-well-established realities. E.g. “you only see all this evidence for an ancient earth because your own un-examined presuppositions lead you to interpret the evidence that way.” I don’t buy into that use of it at all, which is not to say that I deny having presuppositions. We certainly do all have them - many even. But there is a limit to how far I can stretch my take on reality in order to accommodate my presuppositions [and still be holding to a sound or warranted view]. Nor do I think that only those from a Christian worldview can have an intelligent or coherent view of reality - at least not in the sense that some apologists seem to hope for. I do believe that all truth is God’s truth, but I do not agree that truth and intelligibility are only to be found in the lips and works of overt theists.

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Thanks for your welcome and tips.

Fair enough. Honestly, I often don’t trust my own words to get the idea out, so I try to rely on some better wordsmiths. But here it goes…

A strong Logos theology recognizes the Logos (ie. the Word, Memra, Wisdom of God etc.) in part as the order of the universe. Since the Logos is the underlying order that natural law is trying to describe and predict, and the second person of the Trinity, miracles cannot be outside of that order, and therefore, are potentially explainable. The unusual and providential character of an event makes it a miracle. To God, there is no real distinction between nature and a miracle. (I proffer an exception for Jesus since he is the Logos incarnate)

This as opposed to a “weak Logos” view: (from “Bavinck and Kuyper on Creation and Miracle” by Chris Gousmett

If God is to work miracles in a creation which has an independent character, self-sufficient over against God and functioning according to natural law (i.e. a law intrinsic to nature and not established, or at least not sustained continually by God) then God must break into this independent nature. A miracle can then take place only by abolishing or suspending a natural law so that a miracle, assumed on this basis to be contrary to natural law, can occur.
Thus instead of the biblical view of God’s intimate and constant relationship with the world, God is exiled from his own creation. This is the fruit of autonomous thought which sets itself over against God and conceives itself and all of reality to be independent of God.

It seems to me, agreeing on a Strong Logos world-view is a theological requirement before having a discussion about evolution or any other relationship of the Christian faith with the sciences. Otherwise, the discussion can’t be any more than a retreating God-of-the-Gaps variety.

Probably most Presuppositionalists in the Van Til way are YECs, but that is not a requirement of their method. I would even argue that Presuppositionalism pushes you away from YEC. The value in it is that it brings people to a Strong Logos theology without getting bogged down in scripture verses.
See for example The Great Debate: Does God Exist? - bellevuechristian.org (audio) where Bahnsen gets there without even making a clear reference to the Logos.

All the best, Lee

In my opinion , evolution is a mechanism created to insure the continuation of life .
From my perspective , God is the creator .
The question is like asking " does the painting need the artist ?"

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As a matter of opinion, I agree with this completely. I think that God is the author of life and that evolution is a process that He has used to speciate the planet over time.

Would you mind developing this a bit more? Are you saying that you believe evolution to be utterly and completely sufficient on its own as a creative process that results in all of the species of flora and fauna that we see (and have seen) on earth over time, without God’s intervention, ever? If this is what you mean, I’m curious how you have come to that conclusion. I would agree that the theory of evolution, being natural, should not invoke the supernatural. That said, it is one thing to have a theory that does not rely upon God to explain what it can account for, and another thing to say that the process of evolution is all-sufficient to the degree that it can account for everything, even the “difficult, or hard-to-explain bits.”

( So you understand where I’m coming from, I believe that God was involved, possibly in a cosmic pool shot scenario, and that he may very possibly have intervened along the way, but that his intervention may be completely undetectable.)

So I’m really focusing upon your assertion that evolution does not need God in any way along the process. I’m particularly confused because in your parenthetical, you say:

In the first sentence, you allow that God may engage in the process of evolution and you don’t preclude it. (He thanks you for that, no doubt… :rofl:) In the second sentence, you clarify that any such involvement couldn’t at all be a part of the theory of evolution… I agree with both sentences separately. But being a process that has run for several billion years and has resulted in hundreds of thousands(?) of species, I don’t see how one can definitively say that the process of evolution is sufficient to account for all, including the difficult bits. Only that one may not ever be able to see how God was engaged if he was.

Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood what you intended to articulate.

I’d forgive you if you had anything to be sorry for on my account. Needing to clarify my explanations helps me clarify my own thoughts too as I organize my thoughts here … so thanks for asking.

I’m not expressing (and do not have) any strong confidence either way in the question of God “doing something special along the way” so-to-speak. What I have is, perhaps moderate confidence that God has created a world of such seamlessly interacting regularities that represent his faithful governance - the “daily operating procedures” so-to-speak that God has put in place to make His world run. To think that at one or several special points God’s procedures needed tweaking, and that God had to step into such a role as a “bit-player” among all the other physical “actors” just violates my scriptural sensibilities. It would be as if special attention were needed for one particular process and as a result God’s attention is required to cover that deficiency and that God is then somehow comparatively “absent” for all the other stuff that allegedly proceeds just fine apart from God.

For me, God is either 100% present everywhere and in everything (“where could I go to hide from you?”) or else in 0% at least in the sense of shoving atoms around to “get it right”. When God does show up in creation in a special way, I think it’s to interact with his living creatures (especially the aware ones!) and we call that “incarnation”: that is God’s acting with us and for us in Christ.

My “moderate” confidence of all this comes from both scriptures and from what I understand and see of the world (strongly aided by scientific inquiry too, but not exclusively so). Of course one cannot say that God doesn’t or didn’t add some “special ingredient” to the stew at some point, or like a loving gardener tended to the garden in special ways. Perhaps those things happen. But I prefer to think of God as always involved everywhere and in everything - very much including the regularities we’ve come to call laws. That’s just my intuition and hopefully it’s scripturally shaped and experience-guided. It is not a proof or apologetic to persuade skeptics. It’s one of my presuppositions.

Not because I have evidence of absence of all divine activity anywhere (far from it), but because I don’t think our knowledge-gathering observations that we now call “science” and have actively developed and pursued for ourselves includes in its accepted “rule-set” any way to identify any such “special ingredient” if indeed God did do something special. Science (by the current rules we have all tacitly now accepted for that activity) can note regularity and repeatability (giving it the universal and more objective value that it has). What it can’t do is make use of “one-off” or “special” activities that, by definition, are not the regularities that it can work with; other than to note that “it happened” if an observer was lucky enough to observe such an instance. But even in that case, what could the observer even do with such testimony since it couldn’t be repeatably demonstrated? It is in the wider world of religion, and not the more limited scientific world (and that is not the insult to either one of those things that some would have it be.) So that’s what I meant when I commented that God’s “special involvement couldn’t be a part of any scientific theory…” It isn’t because God is limited, but because science is.

Is it any clearer? Or have I stirred up bucket loads of mud?

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I’ve never been sure who more greatly underestimates the Biblical God - those who think evolution could have played out without any tweaks from God, or those think He was not up to the task of setting up the conditions for evolution competently enough not to require later fiddling.

As your friendly neighborhood atheist lite, I tend to think of God as something that has evolved right along side our conscious minds. So I don’t think God is at all needed for the creation of the cosmos or for the evolution of life on earth. But perhaps He is part of a package deal that makes what we are possible. I’m pretty sure that which gives rise to God belief is first and foremost about people.

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Thanks very much for your generous and thorough response! I greatly appreciate you doing so. I don’t ask this question on a whim, but rather, having been fairly well entrenched in an OEC position and then recently shifting more toward TE/EC, I have questions about some of the nuances of this position. There is, as I’m certain you are aware, a criticism of sorts that is aimed at TE/EC that says that it is nothing more than evolution in a wrapper. How substantial is the wrapper, if this is so?

This is interesting. So, your opinion as to the sufficiency of evolution as a process adequate to speciate the planet on its own stems from your theological position, not your scientific one?

Thanks, Mark, for your comment also. I’ve highlighted some words within each of your quotes. For Mervin, he sees it as problematic that God’s process needed tweaking along the way. Similarly, for Mark, he questions the viability of a God who was not up to the task of setting up the system correctly in the first place. But, surely, that’s not the entire spectrum of possibility. What about a God who wanted to be engaged, creative, or responsive? What, scripturally or scientifically would preclude this? Note that this is very different from a God whose process was not up to the task or required tweaking to work.

Could it be that your view of God is too restrictive?

And this is for Mervin… To me, the story of life is completely analogous to the story of mankind. We believe that God created man (somehow), had a plan of redemption, and knows exactly when, where and how the story will end. We know that God knew us before we were knitted in our mothers’ wombs. But do we believe that God does not intervene in our lives along the way? Of course we do and you said so above, also. I guess that I’m saying that I see it as perfectly aligned with scripture that a caring, creative God would set a plan into motion, and that he might interject himself along the way, simply because He cares to do so. I see no reason why His role or standing should be diminished because of this. I see the incarnation as one example of God’s intervention, but also many more and he continues to do so today, even by answering prayer.

Hahahaha… Are you 50% fewer calories than the regular atheist? What does this mean? This maybe should have a thread of its own. I always thought of atheism like pregnancy… It’s an all-in proposition. :slight_smile:

Well, yeah, I agree with you regarding your view of god in terms of an inability to be involved. If god evolved along with man, god is no creator. To have an effect upon the creation, this god would need to transcend it. The one that you describe cannot, logically, have been responsible for anything creative.

I understand and agree. I tend to believe that this may be moot anyhow, because it does not seem that God has made his interventions (either at the beginning or along the way) detectable. We may intuit them, but we cannot prove them.

Very much so (clearer, that is…) Thanks very much!

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Well that depends on whether there is any value in our mode of experiencing the world. If God were a form of consciousness which mostly stayed in the background - doing little things like retrieving memories, preselecting what in the world we should find noteworthy and occasionally providing a bit of intuition or insight where needed (provided we are open to it, of course) all so that we can exercise reason with our hypothetical considering, conscious minds - some might judge that to be pretty creative. Then I wonder why would evolution ever result in such a complex form of consciousness? Presumably it had a value that something simpler did not.

Good one, but … it kind of comes down to what one thinks counts as a god. I take the phenomenon of God belief seriously. I don’t think it is simply a mistake or superstition. I think there is something which makes it almost unavoidable from our perspective - in order to make sense of our perspective. But it is something pretty indescribable, so much so that many insist it needs an entirely separate realm in the supernatural. I prefer to find a place for it in the natural world, and consciousness seems the most likely to me.

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Sorry, when I said “creative” I was referring to the “creation”… If god were a form of consciousness, that also evolved along with the other physical beings, I don’t see how this god would, in turn, have any effect upon the cosmos nor evolution of life on earth. As you have said:

If evolution gives rise to god, how can god affect evolution? If evolution gives rise to humans, how do humans affect evolution? Are you suggesting that evolution is somehow a dynamic process that is ever changed by the products that result from it? If so, would this not make it very challenging to detect and comprehend the process of evolution itself (because it is not static)? It seems as though the process of evolution is identifiable because it has been static over billions of years. Possibly I’m misunderstanding what you are suggesting.