Does God Guide Evolution?

(GJDS) #122

Have a good day George. I guess everyone may express an opinion or two.

(David Randall) #123

I think there are a few problems here. First is the presumption that the “universes of discourse” of science and theology are totally separate. Theology is not restricted to the field of teleology, but also involves epistemology and ontology. That is, it does not only deal with the question of final cause, it deals with questions relating to all levels of causes. To totally separate the two universes take us into a realm where no logical applies. Scientists can say anything they want, and theologians can say anything they want and there can never be a contradiction, since their universes never overlap. I don’t think that you intend to say that, but it comes down to that.

A second problem lies in your airplane example; it flies because it belongs to a physical world with laws that govern such things, and also because of the human intentions related to flying and the destination. But this presumes two autonomous entities are cooperating, the airplane governed by physical laws, and the pilot (and all the other humans that were involved in putting him in the cockpit). The pilot has no control of the physical world that allows flight, and the physical world does not control human intentions. This is dualism, not Christian theism.

I would propose a different analogy that would allow you to refine what you mean by God “guiding” evolution. In this analogy I am wandering around a city trying to get to the home of a friend. In one possible scenario my friend meets me and then guides me to his home. I could have gotten anywhere completely on my own, but my friend steps in to make sure I get to the intended destination. I sense (though I could be wrong) that this is the sense in which theistic evolution holds that God guides evolution.

Another possible scenario is that the friend’s home I am trying to locate is actually on another planet. I can never get there on my own. I only get there because my friend comes to me and, using means that are completely beyond my own, takes me to his home. This is the scenario that roughly corresponds to ID. There are natural processes in play, but they are totally inadequate for the purpose. It goes beyond the guidance involved in the first scenario and involves actual supernatural intervention.
The third problem is that ID’s differences with TE are not at all on theological grounds, but on scientific grounds. ID asserts that no evolutionary process alone can explain the existence of any life, far less human life. There are barriers it simply cannot cross without purposeful intelligent intervention. If this purposeful intervention is what TE means by the term guidance, then TE is ID. If it is less than that, the scientific evidence is inadequate to establish evolution as either a cause or a means.

ID has not challenged the theology of TE. TE could perhaps be framed in such a way as satisfy a broad view of Christian theism. The challenge has been in the scientific universe of discourse. Evolution lacks explanatory power as a theory, and so far the data do not support it.

(David Randall) #124

Actually the requirement for a designer, though important, is secondary. The more important word is “intelligent”. Evolution alone without intelligent intervention (or guidance?) is inadequate to get the job done. Mutation and natural selection alone do not have the explanatory power as a theory, and neither does the data support it.

(George Brooks) #125


I find your conclusion amusing, dear sir.

Tell me why large mammals suddenly appear in the fossil stack, always above the dinosaur extinction levels? Are you saying cattle and sloths are going to survive a flood better than giant Bronto’s?

Why do whales appear only after cattle and other large mammals appear? And why do they not drown in the fossil stacks at the same rate as the large marine reptiles that lived with the Dinosaurs?

In fact, what we see, is the Evolutionary-centered progression of animal groups appearing as they evolve:

Dinosaurs live and died out. There are no large mammals found amongst their bones at all… and certainly not the millions of humans that should have drowned along with them.

Large mammals seem to appear out of nowhere in the fossil stacks… because they didn’t exist with the Dinos. And they appear exactly when they are supposed to appear, when there were earlier versions of the large mammals that evolved prior to them.

You may think that the data doesn’t support Evolution, but this is quite certainly because you are either fixating on the wrong categories of data… or you are analyzing the data with the YEC glasses too firmly placed in front of your eyes.

(David Randall) #126

I would not go so far as to call TE a farce. It is legitimate as a point of view. But it cannot qualify as a theory in the scientific sense. “Guidance” is too vague. To actually add anything to our understanding, it needs to be more specific. The comet collision you mention does explain some pieces of data that could not be accounted for otherwise. To be viable, TE must be able to account for otherwise unexplainable data such as the Cambrian explosion. If TE only proposes a purely natural explanation (as with the comet) then it is indistinguishable from naturalism. If it is conceded that the data admits to no natural explanation, and God must be directly involved, then TE is scarcely distinguishable from ID.

If there is truly no way to detect God’s involvement scientifically (and I agree this is hard to do expect by process of elimination) then TE must find support from revelation, specifically the Scripture. But the supporters of TE insist the answers lie in the scientific evidence. This seems to me to be self defeating.

Both science and revelation are informative, but you can’t make sense out of them together as long as you insist that they exist in two entirely different “universes of discourse”. You have to permit them to talk to each other.

(George Brooks) #127

These are two different topics. For Evolutionary Theory to work, all we need are two principles:

  1. That populations are in constant genetic change.
  2. Natural selection refers to how the ecological niche of a population frequently favors some genetic factors more than others, at the population level, and sometimes at the individual level.

You will have to disprove these two premises in order to dismantle the “theory” of Evolution. I don’t believe you or any YEC can.

The reference to “Guidance” only makes sense if you think that’s the only word that can be used. The way I use it, means: From time to time, God specifically creates a mutation, that will shape the next generations of the population.

I can’t imagine a more specific application of God’s involvement.

Tell me what more you would want included in “guidance”?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #128


Does God guide evolution? This question cannot be answered in a vacuum, which is the reason these discussions never go anywhere.

The question should be, How does God guide evolution?, and the answer is clearly “through Natural Selection.” Now ID says that God cannot use Natural Selection because it is “natural” and God is not natural.

TE’s should say that God as the Creator can and does work through nature and therefore can work through Natural Selection. Now the Bible is clear that God plays an active role in creation, and evolution is part of creation and John 1 points to the Logos, God’s Rational Word, Jesus Christ as the way God structures and guides Creation including evolution.

The only problem here is that Darwinian survival of the fittest natural selection does not look like the Logos, so they both cannot be true. However Symbiosis brings the Logos and biology together for the real answer of “How does God guide evolution?”

(George Brooks) #129


Roger, could you re-state, for the record, and for the newcomers, why you don’t think God also arranges for key positive/beneficial mutations to occur from time to time?

I really don’t remember your answer the last time I asked a question like this?

(David Randall) #130

There is a problem here with defining free will as independent of God’s will. This poses a false dilemma. Creaturely free will is the power to choose otherwise, not necessarily to choose independently. In other words freedom doesn’t necessarily require that it be without bounds. I don’t think anyone truly supposes human free will is totally unrestricted, but that does mean that freedom does not exist.

(George Brooks) #131

@davidrandall and @Jon_Garvey

Oh no… are you two actually going to debate Free Will now?

Someone get a bucket of cold water! Usually, Dennett’s notorious video on Free Will should prevent hysteria. He is one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism… and I actually disagree with his final conclusion. But he does such a marvelous job of parsing out what Freedom might mean, and what Freedom actually means!

(David Randall) #132

“Through natural selection” does not answer the question of how. If natural selection is a tool (and I’m not arguing that it isn’t) how is that tool used? Perhaps another question is in order. How would the outcome be different if natural selection operated with or without God? And if the outcome would be different you can see how “natural selection” is not an answer to the how question. You could say that a hammer is the answer to how a carpenter drives a nail. But it should be obvious that does not tell us how the nail is driven, it simply says that a hammer is in some way used in the process. The “how” in this case has much more to do with the carpenter than the hammer. Back to my alternative question, how would the outcome be different with or without the carpenter? If it is the skill and purpose of the carpenter that controls the outcome, how is that different from ID? It sounds like the role of God in TE is the same as a carpenter who gives the hammer some suggestions along the way. As soon as the carpenter actually touches the hammer and causes it to do something other than it would or could do on its own, we leave the domain of TE and enter the world of ID.

(David Randall) #133

Just to clarify I am not a YEC. And no one I know of argues that the two principles of evolution do not operate. But Darwinian evolution says more than that a population is subject to genetic change, it insists that the source of that change must be random. Thus the question is a matter of whether random changes are adequate to the purpose without intervention. It seems that you also agree that God must intervene by creating mutations. This alone “dismantles” Darwinian evolution. Now we are only possibly in disagreement as to the extent of that intervention. Does God only give a helpful nudge, or do the genetic changes sometimes need to be more radical? You can bridge a chasm with toothpicks, but you can’t do it one toothpick at a time. The fossil data seems to indicate that at times some pretty radical changes have occurred. To get non-living matter to come alive is one such radical change, but other radical changes such as seem to have taken place during the Cambrian explosion also are evident.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #134

God creates order. That is what God does in Genesis 1 and everywhere else. There fore if there were no God, there would be no order and no creation, and no science. That is the claim of Richard Dawkins, that evolution is the product of pure chance and it contains no order. Of course that is what he4 says, but not the basis of how he acts.

Dawkins claims that a carpenter or Creator is not needed, because his version of natural selection of the hammer works on its own by chance. A scientific look at how real natural selection demonstrates that this is not true. Means and ends are closely related and the ends and means of Survival of the fittest do not add up. The tools of Symbiosis form evolution, not the struggle for survival.

(David Randall) #135

I guess I thought debate was the purpose of this forum, but maybe not. Oh well, sorry to step on your toes. And I hadn’t noticed any hysteria here, and I hope I haven’t caused any, But I guess it may occur somewhere.

Seriously, Dennett may have parsed the question into various things that freedom might mean, but what it actually means?? That remains to be seen. Whatever his contribution may be, Dennett doesn’t seem to have had that great an impact on the debate, though he preaches loudly to a particular choir.

(David Randall) #136

No argument from me, Roger. That is my point exactly.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #137

So I think that God would “cheat” just to get His way? No. God does not need to “cheat,” even though God could without anyone knowing, except God.

(David Randall) #138

You truly puzzle me. Have you been following all my comments here? I don’t see anything I have said indicates support for YEC. And what does the flood have to do with it? The sudden appearance of mammals is exactly why I believe the data do not support evolution. If Darwinian evolution were true, then they wouldn’t appear suddenly. A great many transitions over a very long time is what we should see in the fossil record. Let me say again EVOLUTION TAKES PLACE. But by itself, the Darwinian theory of tiny random changes adding up to life as we know it is not an adequate explanation for the data. Nor does it work if God tweaks the process by introducing the odd tiny change of his own, or otherwise guides it only in some vague way. It only works if God intervenes in radical ways.

Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason (scientific evidence), I cannot recant, for my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

(David Randall) #139


With regard to the influence of apologetics on theology, I tend to agree with Richard. But only when all things are indeed equal, and if we don’t equate “apologetically powerful” with “fashionable”. In theology, if two positions are equally supportable by Scripture, then the one that best explains reality should be favored.

(George Brooks) #140

A. God that you are not a YEC.
B. Surprising that you know no one who rejects the 2 principles. We receive flood tides of such individuals.
C. What Darwin says about evolution is not particularly relevant to the discussions here on these BioLogos boards. I am a volunteer participant. I am not a BioLogos official in anyway. But I can assure you that many of the participants here specifically argue and advance a non-Darwinian form of Evolution: Evolution Guided by God. Some use “guided” in a vague way… some use it in a very specific way - such as myself.

These points should help you understand the full scope of the discussions going on here.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #141

You do realize that the line that gave rise to mammals split off from the line that gave rise to reptiles and birds about 300 million years ago, right?

Take a look at this blog post, for instance:

Not sure how 300 MY qualifies as “sudden,” unless you’re looking at a timeline of the history of the universe…