In discussion with other Christians there is an issue that keeps coming up - did God direct evolution in order to produce human beings, or did evolution operate independently of God?
I’m firmly in the “directed” camp.
This is partly because of my experience as a software developer. My understanding of evolution comes largely through what I know about evolutionary algorithms in computer science, rather than from biology. People such as NASA and Google use algorithms that are inspired by evolution to design all sorts of all things. It plays a large part in machine learning, for example.
Personally, I’m sceptical that undirected evolution would get very far.
Directed goes hand in hand with theism. It is a matter of consistency…
- Does a creator of the universe exist? There is no objective evidence either way so you just have choose yes or no for whatever subjective reasons.
- If yes, then why did this being create the universe? Was it an experiment and He is just watching to see what happens? Or did He create the universe for the purpose of a relationship? The first possibility is Deism and is not an idea of God to inspire much admiration, let alone give us any reason to even care that the thing exists at all. The second possibility is theism, but if God was not even interested enough to participate in the process by which we came into being, then why would God have so much more interest in rescuing us from our depravity? I don’t see this makes much sense.
- It is one thing to go with the abundant evidence for evolution (and read the Bible accordingly), which works better with Christianity anyway, but quite another thing to dismiss the Bible to the degree that you don’t even attribute to God any creative involvement in the development of life on Earth, for then it is hard to see that anything is left of Christianity.
- It is one thing to observe that life is self-organization and it is its very nature to evolve, learn and grow, but living things do not evolve, learn and grow in a vacuum and there is plenty of room for farmers, shepherds, teachers and parents to contribute to this. So it is quite another thing to exclude God from this very natural role in the development of living things on the earth.
That question keeps coming up here from time to time , Mike. Welcome to the forum by the way. It is good to have you here and we look forward to learning more about you.
In answer to your questions, I would say yes to the first part, though personally I feel there was some freedom in the process. That is I think God directed but allowed the process to progress according to the laws of the universe he set up. To the second part of the question, I would say nothing is independent of God, though the way he acts to sustain creation is a mystery.
So, if the volcanos/meterorite had not wiped out the Dino’s, what would have happened? God only knows, but I think eventually we, as humans, would have eventually evolved to where we could come into relationship with God. That of course is pure imagination.
Perhaps this is the distinction between understanding teleological or dysteleological universe.
Dawkins, et al, view things as dysteleological. No purpose.
Those who believe in God generally believe in a teleological universe. That there is purpose and meaning. That God used evolution to achieve His purposes certainly fits within that understanding.
I believe both. Because that fits God’s character. I’m sure he guided it in the necessary spots to make sure his desired outcome (us) was achieved. But I also believe he let creation take part in creating too. That’s a very loving thing to do. Think of a father working on a project and allowing his son to help and how happy that makes the child. Or a father teaching his child how to ride a bike. Freedom but he is always there to give a little nudge in the right direction and never lets the kid get too crazy. So I believe both. Directs it but also allows freedom to participate with certain constraints to make sure it doesn’t go off course (think convergence and developmental constraints). That’s the way I look at God’s action in the evolutionary process
If God is not directing or guiding or shaping, then there is no intentionality to creation and how can we claim God is the creator? But I don’t think science can pinpoint how God accomplishes his purposes through natural processes. We have to be content with just affirming the faith claim that he does. There is no “scientific proof” that God must be directing the whole thing. It’s a belief based on special revelation in the Bible.
You are quite the optimist! Tree-shrew like humans coming into relationship with God?
Doesn’t seem likely.
But intelligent raptors coming into atonement and relationship with God? Now THAT is quite possible…
If a man has two arms and two hands … and sits down to breakfast…
… does it ever make sense for someone to say that the man let’s his right hand feed him?
If you´re interested and haven´t already read it, the book SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed by Harvard biologist Martin Nowak argues for evolution being describable by mathematics. I have ordered it recently, because it was endorsed by Michael Blume, whom I greatly admire, though I haven´t got the time to read it yet. Nowak, as a catholic, is known to at least a certain audience here in Germany for being an important voice in the science and religion discussion, since he wrote articles also in popular newspapers on this topic.
Thanks Dominik, I checked out the book and it looks interesting.
Hi Christy, my understanding of evolution is that it involves no intention, no forward planning, no intelligent input - it is the result of natural selection acting on random chance genetic mutations. If we are going to say that there is an intention, a plan, a guiding hand, then should we use different language to describe it? Should it be called, for example, graduated creation? What do you think?
That is my understanding as well. It is my understanding of meteorology that it involves no intelligent input or forward planning. But I still affirm that God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous.
Science addresses how not why. Teleology is in the “why” department.
As I understand it, randomness in nature just means that from our perspective outcomes are indeterminate and not predictable. The existence of randomness does not prove purposelessness, it just says purpose is not scientifically detectable.
There is a similar discussion you might find interesting here: American Majority Accepts Evolution as God-Guided! Is BioLogos part of this?
Yes. I think as Jim describes in a post I linked above, that talking about purpose in nature is a different discourse than talking about randomness. It moves the discussion from science to metaphysics, and those two domains use different “language.”
I am an unbeliever, so that is what I believe about evolution. But I disagree that there is anything inherent in evolution that requires “no intention” etc. It is certainly accurate to say that evolutionary thought does not require guidance or intervention or whatever. But neither does it rule such things out. In fact, IMO, it couldn’t if it tried.
I would agree that at one time there was little evidence that God directed evolution, but this has changed. Dawkins claims that Darwinian evolution is the “only game in town” when it comes to how life forms change, but now ecology is a better alternative. We know how the dinosaurs went extinct, which is because of ecological climate change, rather than Darwinian competition.
Therefore the scientific evidence indicates that ecology directs evolutionary change. The evidence also indicates that God directs ecology by making the laws of ecology and also determining how the physical development of the earth/universe takes place.
One thinker made a outline of the physical development of the earth based on colors.
Stage 1: Black Basalt
Stage 2: Gray Granite
Stage 3: Red Iron Oxide
Stage 4: Blue Water
Stage 5: White Ice
Stage 6: Green Carbon based life
All of these transformations were required. They really cannot have been self generated. Only God has the power to do this, the opportunity to do this, the knowledge to do this, and the motivation to do this. Thus we have every reason to say that God must have done this.
Hi Roger, we don’t know how the dinosaurs went extinct - we can speculate but that’s about all. Ecology, the environment, may affect who survives and who doesn’t - those best suited to their environment usually have more chance of surviving than those that don’t. With regard to your use of the word ‘evolution’ are you referring to change in an organism to survive in a particular environment, or are you also saying that ecology drives evolution from a single cell all the way up to humans like us?
Would you think therefore that the ice ages were part of God’s plan for human evolution? Were they necessary to human evolution? It seems that human brains grew in response to the ice ages.
You have to take many steps back to look at the wisdom of God’s creation and its evolution over the past 13.7 billion years. As I have said before, the restoration of the Fallen have been part of the evolution. Over the few billion years that the Earth has been evolving, souls have been incarnated in every kingdom - mineral, plant and animal - slowly letting go of all the non-virtuous behaviors and slowly coming into harmony.
A high level overview of the paleontological record, shows this slow beautification of God’s creation over the long run. It takes more that science to recognize this.