Does God Guide Evolution?


There does seem to be two main views of God guiding evolution. One has nature being the expression of God wherein all things work according to God’s will. It’s kind of a pantheistic view in a non-blasphemous sense. The other view is that God has to interfere with the normal operation of nature in some way in order to exert his will. Behe seems to favor the latter over the former, as shown by his argument that ID is best evidence by the inability of random mutations to produce the adaptations we see (i.e. “The Edge of Evolution”).

What I would ask is if God is guiding evolution in the same way that God is guiding the planets about the Sun, or guiding the formation of clouds. It would be interesting to here Behe’s view on this.

(George Brooks) #103

@TedDavis has quoted Behe very specifically on the matter. I’ll look for that discussion… but I won’t feel bad if you find it before I do, @T_aquaticus.

I touch on this general theme with my “Behind 3 Doors” discussion.

Door #1 is the rather dubious: “God allows for the dino-killing asteroid to hit the Earth”.

Door #2 is God has arranged for the dino-killing asteroid from the very moment of creation… with interlocking laws of nature playing out until the asteroid finally collides with the Earth.

Door #3 is God has arranged, in real time, to “bridge between long chains of natural causation” … using miraculous causation (aka, a miracle that defies natural laws), or in the view of some, using a temporary imposition of another set of natural laws that would never happen in that way without God’s specific intention.
In the example of the dino-killer astroid, God, in an act of special creation, might “poof” the asteroid in existence, and then shoot it in a specific trajectory. Is the “poof” an abrogation of natural law? For the purpose of this discussion I would say “yes”, it has to be. But perhaps someone else can offer another alternative that fits the description of Door #3?

Naturally, the difference between doors #2 and #3 depends on how you think miracles or “super-natural events” need to be defined!

But I don’t think there is much room for a door #4, do you? How many ways can that asteroid appear and hit the Earth?


Door #4 could be God snapping his fingers and having all dinosaurs instantly die, and then create a bunch of evidence to make it look like a meteor hit the Earth. This would be kind of similar to the argument ID/creationists use to explain things like the nested hierarchy.

Doors 2 and 3 are probably the most interesting, and they get into the big metaphysical questions that often pop up in discussions of science and theology. It seems that evolutionary creationism leans towards Door #2 because that is what the scientific evidence is consistent with. Theological beliefs seem to take on more importance within evolutionary creationism when it comes to metaphysical questions which science is silent on.

(George Brooks) #105


I can’t tell if you were just joshing me or not.

But there is something satisfying about offering Door #4 as an option for the real die-hard! And so I’ll keep it! Thanks for the contribution!

(Richard Wright) #106

Hello Jon,

Thanks for your usual gracious response. And you can critique my views all you like, I’m here to learn above all else.

As an aside, I tried recently to post on your blog but it didn’t accept my password and never sent me the email to change it. I’ve had that issue before, for what it’s worth.

Firstly, let me say that I find your view of nature acceptable. Now to the details.

As an amateur screenwriter, I understand the importance of word choices, and have noticed that you carefully (and responsibly) and intelligently choose your words for maximum affect. For instance, the, “straight jacket of determinism” - I don’t even like the sound of that. I prefer, “a creation that has been endowed by its Creator to have the ability to accomplish His will”. :slight_smile:

There seems to have been some confusion with the terms, “open theism” and, “Open Theism”. Open Theism is a reasonable theology where, “God’s knowledge is dynamic and His providence flexible” (Wikipedia). There’s nothing heretical or un-Christian in Open Theism as far as I can see. I understood, “open theism” as a common description of the theosophy that holds that anything is possible and we got here by happy accident (and I couldn’t find anything on, “open process” theology, even as a branch of Process Theology). The people you mentioned with connections to Biologos hold to Open Theism, not, “open theism”.

I actually agree with that. We will never come close to understanding everything of the physical universe - I suppose that’s a philosophical stance but I think it logically flows from the fact that God created it. For instance, do we really need an algorithm for the Big Bang to prove that, “nature can get it done”? Isn’t that a little above our collective pay scales? So there will always be an opportunity to state that nature, “couldn’t have gotten it done”. Whether one believes it could have or not usually comes from how they interpret early Genesis and theological considerations. I don’t see the bible as teaching, “material determinism”, but neutral on the methods of how God created.

Yes, I agree that my view of nature is philosophically (maybe theologically) preferred despite the lack of current evidence. The preference comes from evidence (not conclusive) from nature and the fact that God is omnipotent, so for me holding that God, “couldn’t have gotten it done” is problematic.

I’m open to God intervening for consciousness, so maybe I’m not as deterministic as you think. However, there are increasingly reasonable theories on how it could have evolved, including the newish Attention Schema Theory, so I think I need to be open to the fact that mind and consciousness could have their basis in the powerful brain. Again, I’m open to God intervening for mind and/or conscious, which in that case nature couldn’t on its own have evolved, “humans”, as compared to homo sapiens. But it appears animals have some kind of consciousness so for now I’m angling toward an AST approach. If there is an evolutionary basis to the mind, then, of course, we’d never be able to produce a mind in lab, because we’d have to able to make a brain.

Again, that makes us equal with God if we think we can understand everything. And maybe I’m oversimplifying things, but can we really compare a dude in San Francisco banging in his inputs on a keyboard with God creating a universe?

Agreed. While at the same time I think that you, if you hold that God continually works through creation in ways we can’t detect, would have to be open to the possibility nature having the power to evolve us on it’s own, theological exceptions aside.

Finally, I don’t think that my view is an apologetic compromise, because I believe by faith that my view is correct. Maybe there should be a theological dictate that, all things equal, the most apologetically powerful view is the best.

(GJDS) #107

I am intrigued by some of the arguments put for “Does God Guide Evolution”, but I am puzzled by the way the paradigm may be “modified” (for want of a better term) from what it seems to be amongst biologists. Surely @Richard_Wright1 and @Jon_Garvey, if the biologists insist that it is unguided and the product of chance, than that is the theory that is examined?

(George Brooks) #108


In this video

Kenneth Miller points out that the great thing about the Non-I.D. position is that whether a scientist is an ardent Christian or not, the scientific methods employed are not changed one iota.

The problem only arises if someone proposes, via I.D., that God’s involvement is detectable.

(GJDS) #109

If the paradigm remains unchanged and your notion of guidance is non-detectable, the entire argument that you and others promote crumbles into farce.

(Jon Garvey) #110


First, apologies for lack of cooperation from the blog software - it’s not a general problem, so if you PM me here, I can check whether the site has an old e-mail address or something.

My word choice is, at least in part, a deliberate response to common and highly misleading polemical vocabulary from the other end: the “open process” guys regularly refer to a God who, unless he allows chance, is a “puppetmaster”, and to chance itself as “freedom” or “spontaneity” - both sides of which personalise Nature as an agent with free-will, and free-will as the ability to be independent of God’s will.

Yet objections to strict physical determinism by laws of nature (as distinct from God’s overarching sovereign will) are broader than that - few scientists now seem to believe that the universe is sufficiently precise to produce, as in our “index case”, Homo sapiens from the Big Bang.

And philosophers would say that if the natural universe was so precise, then so must human outcomes be - free will would be impossible.

In the BioLogos context, the desire to give room for some kind of creaturely “flexibility” is, I would judge, near universal. And if I’m not mistaken, you affirm it too:

I actually agree with that. We will never come close to understanding everything of the physical universe - I suppose that’s a philosophical stance but I think it logically flows from the fact that God created it. For instance, do we really need an algorithm for the Big Bang to prove that, “nature can get it done”? Isn’t that a little above our collective pay scales?

But that is almost my whole point: to acknowledge our general ignorance of most things, and then to assert firmly that science can potentially explain the material aspect of creation without remainder is, surely, sheer hubris? And, further, to attribute the contingent aspects of nature that we can’t attribute to the regularities of laws we know to some entity called “chance,” when Scripture quite clearly states that all things come from God’s determining will, is to elevate scientific ignorance over theological assurance (this is a general point, not directed at you).

Loren Haarsma did just that in his recent series, by comparing randomness in nature with pseudo-randomness in chess algorithms. But what we are doing with the latter is to simulate statistical patterns of causes we don’t understand individually. To even posit chance as a real cause within nature is, by very definition, to make God as ignorant of the causes of those individual events as we are - which is to say that he did not willingly cause them.

But it’s only a matter of logic that “a few simple fixed laws” cannot generate indeterminate outcomes - one would have to suggest that the totality of the laws are actually much more occult and complex than we know - which is as much as to cut away the initial premise that God works by regular, comprehensible laws.

I’d have to disagree on that - unless one wants ones theology to follow fashion rather than God’s eternal truth.

(Edward Miller) #111


I believe I would go with number three. I hope you do not mind adding a few words. You are thinking deeply. God bless.

(George Brooks) #112


How so? We believe in God’s role in creation as part of faith … not because we see his fingerprints on any specific creation, yes?

If God dramatically influences the course of evolution by sending an asteroid to wipe out our potential rivals (the dinosaurs)… how would you ever be able to detect God’s role in sending the asteroid?

(GJDS) #113


My point is easy to understand - no one, from Darwin to Dawkins has proposed a ToE that calls for guidance of any type - this is the current paradigm of biology. To argue otherwise is to indulge in farcical and fanciful speculation. So as to help you in this discussion, perhaps you can propose a version of ToE that includes guidance and predictability and would be backed by biologists - you are welcome to make it sound theistic or atheistic, and anything in-between.

(George Brooks) #114


I believe you are mistaken. In your exhaustive list “from Darwin to Dawkins”, perhaps you mean merely famous people.

There are many participants on these boards, including myself, who do rely on the idea that God guides evolution.

You say that to “argue [for the position of God-guided evolution…] is to indulge in farcical and fanciful speculation.”

Why would this be so? Again, I return us to the well known Dino-killing asteroid. Are the molecules of the asteroid so different from the molecules of DNA?

If God wanted to wipe out the dinosaurs, he could either use special creation/miraculous activity to make and send the asteroid - - just as he can use evaporation to make and send a rain cloud.

If he wanted to make for a distinctive branch of Primates, he could just as easily arrange a few key mutations (perhaps with an asteroid to clear the planet of carnivores that would eliminate any mammal bigger than a badger) - - and there would be humanity.

There’s nothing farcical about such speculation… if one is a Christian and if, like many Roman Catholics, you find enough evidence to confirm that evolution was part of this creation.

(GJDS) #115

I have made my point and you simply avoid giving an answer - no biologist has formulated a ToE that includes guidance or any given end result. Why obfuscate in this manner?

(George Brooks) #116


And I thought I was being clear.

A biologist doesn’t have to make any special statement about God’s involvement if he agrees with me and other BioLogos supporters that there is nothing to detect of God’s involvement, because God doesn’t leave evidence that can be detected by science and/or that science is not designed to discover God’s involvement.

And that is why the video I was watching said (to paraphrase): “this is the beauty of science… it doesn’t expect to find God… that’s not what it does. So, a Christian scientist and a non-Christian one can use the exact same methodologies when investigating some process or event mediated by natural laws.”

(Edward Miller) #117

If there is any such thing as evolution, it is not non-theistic. It is guided by God. He even created the Laws governing this process. Theistic Evolution is a form of creationism and not atheistic.

Nothing + Nothing = Nothing
God + Nothing= The Big Bang and Creation

Does anyone see the logic here? If there is nothing ( i.e., the original mover), then there is nothing.
If there is an eternal original mover, then there is life wherever He wants it.
@BradKramer, @beaglelady

(Edward Miller) #118

@jpm ,@gbrooks9

I wish to thank you gentlemen for your kind support. God bless both of you.

(Robin) #119

Great article and lots of good comments/questions. Keep 'em coming!!

(GJDS) #120

This site never fails to astonish and/or amuse -for TE, we have a beauty of science termed non-detectable god-guidance, yet for other speculation such as ID, science cannot detect such, so it is rejected.

Is this the clarity you propose? You and perhaps others indulge in contradictions,

(George Brooks) #121

Why is this so strange?: Your first phrase talks about non-detectable God-guidance, and your second phrase refers to the same idea.

So, where is the difference? Christian Scientists get to focus on the science for the same reasons that I.D. proponents are not able to disprove science because of “design requires a designer”. Both groups, BioLogos and I.D. say there is a designer. But I.D. proponents try to use this as a club to dismantle evolution … while Christian scientists are able to continue to use science to assert Evolution.

There is your distinction. If I.D. proponents weren’t so dang fixated on trying to make Evolution go away (because of design), they would have the same credibility as any other researchers trying to advance Science.

But that is not the I.D. camp’s aim… and that’s why they invalidate their own efforts.

Look again at how the same “undetectable nature” works in favor of science… but not in favor of those who want to discredit science…that is the mystery that eludes you, my dear @GJDS !