How does evolution rule out progressive creation?

Continuing the discussion from Is progressive creation possible?:

I’m curious as to how the fact of evolution would rule out progressive creation. If God set one wheel into motion, why could he not have set several different wheels into motion at different points in time… (sea creatures, birds, land animals, humans)
Is there scientific evidence that can rule out this scenario, or is it a valid option?

staceyinaus. like i said before- they are still a stickleback. so no- its not evolution. evolution is actually a change in the family level (usually).

intersting question. the answer is yes we have. for example: we know that there is no step wise from one system to another: for example a cell-phone into a gps. so there is no possible way from one animal to another. we also dont have the missing molecular links between them. so we have evidence that this change never happaned.

I do not agree. Progressive Creation and Theistic Evolution have a long trip to go. Could either one be right? Yes. :sweat_smile:


There is some philosophical logic in your statement.

God could have done things any way He wanted. To answer your question directly: Scientific evidence can never “rule out” completely any theological claim. It can make it appear highly unlikely, but not rule it out.

For instance, I can make a (silly, pointless) theological claim that God created the entire universe last Thursday.

“Oh, but that’s not possible,” you’ll say, “since I was born in 19-such-and-such.”

“Sure it is,” I’ll say. “When God created you last Thursday, He placed those memories in your mind.”

So you see, I can’t prove anything by science. You can assert and explain anything by divine special action.

That said, there is a lot of evidence that makes progressive creation (as you’re calling it) unlikely. A couple of things come to mind.

Biogeography. Not only does the fossil record show a certain progression over time, but this lines up nicely with plate tectonics and biogeography, that is to say, what has lived where? For instance, in the fossil record, human-like apes have been shown to have evolved in Africa and spread outward from there. Marsupials (kangaroos, Tasmanian tigers, marsupial moles, marsupial mice, etc.) diversified in Australia, where there were no placental mammals competing with them in those niches. Extra large and extra small versions of mainland animals have developed and thrived for millions of years in stranded populations on islands. Enormous hippo-sized rodents and terror birds once thrived in South America. Etc. etc. This beautifully cohesive story is told with data from paleontology as well as plate tectonics.

The question one would have to ask on the theological side is, “Why would God spontaneously create all the marsupials except opossums in Australia?” The evolutionary account makes perfect sense.

Genetics. There are dozens of articles explaining this on the BioLogos site, and I risk really not doing it any justice. But the basic idea is that the genetic code develops little tiny changes over millions of years. Some of them help creatures, some of them hurt creatures, and some of them just change but don’t seem to affect anything. When you see very specific changes in the genetic code – which we can now see in high definition now that we’re sequencing genomes of thousands of creatures at unprecedented rates – that don’t do anything in particular, and those changes are shared by a group of creatures, it suggests that that little genetic change happened once, in the common ancestor to all these creatures, and then just spread by normal dynamics of genetic inheritance.

For instance, all higher primates starting with tarsiers (tarsiers, apes, humans, monkeys) can get scurvy because of a particular alteration of the gene that enables a creature to generate its own Vitamin C. We have to eat Vitamin C. Most other animals, including non-tarsier prosimians (monkey-like creatures) such as lemurs, lorises, pottos, and galagos, can make their own Vitamin C. We still have that gene… but it’s nonfunctional. Enough has been changed over time that it doesn’t work anymore.

Here the theological question would be, “Why would God create only this particular specific group of higher primates (a group which also, by the way, shares certain physical characteristics) with the need to eat Vitamin C instead of being able to create it on their own like His other creatures?” Evolution has an elegant explanation for it: a common ancestor of the whole group had a deleterious mutation that targeted that gene, and the rest is history.

Does this help answer your question?


how is this evidence for evolution? there are marsupials also in america and we even found fossils in antarctica. more than that- one species in america is closer to the australia species. so genetics “solve” this by the raft theory.

its easy one: its the result of convnergent mutaions. did you know that cavia, some bats and some fish also share this pseudogene? actually- according to this gene phylogeny we need to conclude that cavia is closer to human then monkeys!

The whole story here is that marsupials in S. America traveled along a land route via Antarctica to Australia before Australia broke away. Once Australia was set adrift, isolated from other land masses dominated by placental mammals, marsupials diversified unhindered by other mammalian species, radiating into almost every ecological niche.

Outside Australia, only opossums and their close relatives survived the onslaught of placental mammals.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my position more thoroughly.

I’m not a geneticist. I strongly suspect the mutations you cite are actually different from the simian mutation (though with similar results) and quite easily distinguishable chemically, but hey – that’s a testable result of evolutionary theory! Anybody want to weigh in and show what the evidence shows? :slight_smile:

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Let’s be clear on this. YOUR definition of evolution is not the definition used by SCIENTISTS.

Evolution is ANY change in the gene pool of a species, or perhaps in some cases, a “population of mating pairs”. Taxonomically, when a population develops enough new features in their phenotype, they might be labeled a new Species - - even if, technically speaking, a fertile mating pair could theoretically form between a current member of the population and an ancient member of the population.

When two populations diverge into SEPARATE mating populations … they are not considered two DIFFERENT species until fertile mating is no longer practical/possible between members of the two groups - - due to incompatibilities in their genetic configuration, not simply because they are separated by:

a) a river, mountain or other geographic feature;
b) different coloration, mating songs or other features involved in making individuals attractive for mating to the opposite gender.

Returning to the definition of evolution - - it is ANY change in the gene pool, significant or otherwise… and regardless of whether it is survival-neutral or not.

George Brooks


Hi @AMWolfe,

Thanks so much for your reply.

I apologise for the rudimentary way in which my question was structured. I realise I am in the presence of greatness on Biologos - I sincerely appreciate that intelligent, well-educated people are willing to share their knowledge and their years of learning in this forum.

Definitely the evolutionary account makes perfect sense in these lineages - maybe I should have asked, ‘Is there evidence of life in the sea transitioning to avian life, or to land animals? Or does it look like these three evolved from separate origins?’ (Again, my lack of education is evident - I hope you can appreciate what I’m trying to say despite my ignorance).

You’re right, this does make progressive evolution seem unlikely.

Yes, very much so - thankyou :blush:

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sorry, progressive creation!

It appears to me that Progressive Creation is based on a theological point of view called Occasionalism, which is generally the Muslim monistic view of nature.

Occaionalism says that God does not work indirectly through intermediate processes as we find in science, but directly creates every event and thing.

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Roger, for those who think that God does ALL things by natural processes … there would be no difference. But I will admit, the great majority of Westerners see a difference between God working through natural law, and God every once in a while “doing the miracle thing” !


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again- how is that evidence for evolution? and b)we need to believe that some species get by a raft into another continent. this is because we found close species in different continents that split off a long time ago. so evolution doesnt predict this situation.

guess what? this is actually what we found:

"A comparison of the remaining human exon sequences with the corresponding sequences of the guinea pig nonfunctional GULO gene revealed that the same substitutions from rats to both species occurred at a large number of nucleotide positions.

The Genetics of Vitamin C Loss in Vertebrates - PMC (look at fig 4).

so…your prediction actually failed. how many failed predictions we need to disprove a theory?

george. so any change is evolution? according to this even if all species designed in the last 6000 years the evolution is still true.

No… Nor did I say ALL EVOLUTION was virtually instantaneous.

ANY change in the gene pool is Evolution.

But virtually any Evolutionist will admit that it takes millions of years for a fish to develop into a tetrapod.

Virtually NO significant evolution occurs in 5,000 years.

Fortunately, the difference in these positions is like night and day; a toggle switch … or a radio dial that takes millions of years to turn a notch.


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The story of life is amazing.

These transitions from sea to land to air and back again have happened many times, not just once, in the history of life. I am not a trained specialist in biology or geology so this survey is selective, and hopefully not too erroneous. I’ll use S for sea, L for land, and A for air.

S-to-L #1. The first colonization of land by any kind of life was cyanobacteria, believe it or not.
S-to-L #2. Plants come next! Moss-like plants started plant life on land, and things grew upward from there.
S-to-L #3. The first colonization of land by animals came with invertebrates! Insects, arachnids, centipedes and millipedes had the run of the place for many millions of years before anything with four feet and lungs joined them. Amazing, isn’t it? We think lungs are so indispensable for land life because all birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals have them, but multiple large families of animal life survived on land long before lungs and are still with us here today.
S-to-L #4. Finally, later: vertebrates! Specifically, early pre-amphibians. It wouldn’t be until reptiles that we vertebrates could actually have eggs hatching outside of water. But when vertebrates came on land, their legs were homologous with fins – in the same places with similar shapes and bones – and their lungs were specialized versions of organs that some fish (lungfish) already had.

L-to-S #1. Many millions of years later, in various waves, land creatures returned to the sea. This kind of movement isn’t suggested at all by a progressive creation model, yet it’s quite common in life’s history! There were at least three different major events like this among prehistoric reptiles alone. The first were ichthyosaurs, large dolphin-shaped reptiles.
L-to-S #2. The second were mosasaurs. This was the attraction in Jurassic World’s “SeaWorld-esque” scene.
L-to-S #3. The third were plesiosaurs. Think Nessie. All three of these migrations were independent of one another, and all three lineages are now extinct.
L-to-S #4. Also among reptiles, we have more recent seaward migrations with living examples: sea turtles,
L-to-S #5. and sea snakes. Both of these live almost their entire lives in the water, despite looking a lot like their land-dwelling counterparts.
L-to-S #6. Several mammalian branches have returned to the water as well. There is abundant evidence including several transitional fossils (plus genetics) that whales and dolphins (collectively, cetaceans) are closely related to ungulates like hippos, cows, deer, giraffes, camels, pigs, and camels.
L-to-S #7. In Afrotheria, the ancient mammalian group that includes elephants and hyraxes, we have the manatees and dugongs (sirenia). Again, all these groupings are confirmed by BOTH bones AND genes.
L-to-S #8. Among the carnivores on the dog side of the family, we have on the one hand seals and sea lions (pinnipeds) and,
L-to-S #9. more recently, among the weasels, we also see sea otters.
These are all marine creatures to varying degrees, of course, but I have left off semi-aquatic species like platypus (a monotreme) and beavers, to say nothing of penguins from the bird side.

L-to-A #1. The first jump to powered flight was not a vertebrate, of course, but insects!
L-to-A #2. Even among vertebrates, before birds we had pterosaurs like pterodactyl. This development of flight happened independently of the emergence of birds.
L-to-A #3. Eventually, one small line of dinosaurs radiated into all the birds we see today. There is an extensive literature on the development of the modern feather from its early beginnings as an insulation material in earlier dinosaurs to the highly specialized tool of powered flight we see in the bird family today. All of this is clearly observable in the fossil record.
L-to-A #4. Ah, but that’s not all! Among mammals we have chiropterans, the bats. Admittedly this is one transition that has little in the way of transitional fossils – which is remarkable because it’s the exception rather than the rule – but molecular studies put bats as an early branch-off from a superorder family alongside perissodactyls (horses, rhinos, tapirs), even-toed ungulates (all those cow relatives from before, including whales), carnivores, and others.
Again, this only counts powered flight, not the many gliding species.

So you see… there is not a single origin for land-dwelling animals or flying animals. God, working through evolution, has seen fit to provide for this sort of change many times. Every time He does, these transitions bear the hallmarks of evolution: both genetic similarities and structural similarities.

Is this along the lines of what you were looking for?


P.S. No greatness on my side, but let me say I am just really happy to talk with someone who seems genuinely interested to learn and not just score debate points! :slight_smile: Believe it or not, that’s pretty rare on these interwebz…


It’s a story that evolution tells beautifully because of the way that data from plate tectonics, genetics, and the fossil record cohere.

I don’t have the specific example in front of me to examine here, so it’s hard to reply. Also I don’t see how evolution fails to predict this situation.

You’re misquoting the article to make it say more than it’s saying.

We already talked about this, and you refused to engage with the literature I shared with you. Let’s talk again after you read Kuhn.

Overall, DCS, I’ll be honest, and please hear this in the humblest tone possible… I need to be spending my Christmastime with my family. As interesting as it is for me (it really is!) to comb through Google Scholar search results looking for open-access articles that spell out human and guinea pig GULO pseudo-genes, I won’t be engaging in this debate further. You may have the last word and others may rebut you, but I don’t find our conversations very fruitful based on past interactions, so I won’t be continuing to debate you past this comment. Peace to you and merry Christmas.

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@dcscccc The topic of this thread is evolution vs progressive creation. Either help the poster out by directly addressing her question, or post your “evolution is a bad theory” musings and tangents in your own thread.

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Hi Stacey, good to see you again on the forum, I hope you find it helpful. (By the way, it is intended to be a tool for normal people too, not just science uber-nerds, so please don’t feel intimidated. You are quite welcome to ask basic questions. I do all the time.)

As I understand it, progressive creation is a term that is used by some creationists to explain how the earth could be old, but yet still allow them to stick to a concordist interpretation of Genesis. Some people incorporate evolution into their concept of progressive creation and others don’t.

Among Christians who accept evolution and don’t work from a concordist approach to Genesis, there are different views on how “hands on” God is in the evolutionary process. We don’t know how much God guides the process or evolution, or whether God intervenes supernaturally or not, and there is debate about whether such questions can even be addressed by science. Some Christians prefer to look for explanations for everything within natural law and see the whole of evolutionary creation front-loaded by God from the beginning. Others see evolution as more directed.

This blog series by Ted Davis helps clarify some of the positions taken by progressive creationists. Here is part two of that article. Then here is the first post in a four part series on theistic evolution, so you can see how they are different in both their approach to Scripture and science.

If you searched for terms like “guided,” “randomness” “front-loading” “intervention” and “sovereignty” here on this forum, you might find some past threads that interest you. You will probably have to skim through quite a bit of fah-fah-fah, but sometimes you find some gems of insight in there.

Oh, and if you ever want to edit a post, or add something you forgot, you can hit the pencil button at the bottom fix whatever you missed the first time around.

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