How does morality fit in the Evolutionist Theism view?

(David William) #1

I’m kinda new to the evolutionist theism point of view, but it seems the most logical explanation to everything.
I still have some doubts about it. One of them is: How and when, in this interpretation of Genesis, did morality come from?
We know that, for example, the “homo neanderthalensis” species already burried the dead, so morality also came with evolution? (And wouldn’t this cause some problems, like saying that there’s no objective/final morality but rather just individual interpretations)?
Or it only starts when God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” from Gen 2:7 (I have the view that this versicle means giving to a historical Adam our soul/spirit) ???

(Randy) #2

Welcome, @Zzdavid1! (I’m intrigued by your tag; we would like to hear more about your background.)

@MarkD is working on a note, and from what he’s said, he has good insights.

From a Christian perspective, I’m not sure that the development of moral consciousness from an evolutionary perspective would make morality relative. For example, my children are constantly evolving and learning more about goodness and morality. Come to think of it, I am, too!

I would be interested to hear what others have to think, too.

(Mark D.) #3

If slow creation can allow that the human species shared common ancestors with apes, mammals and fish, it wouldn’t seem to matter that neanderthals already exhibited what at least seems to indicate a concern for the dead. If the passage you cite indeed represents as you say the gift of a soul/spirit to mankind, might that not have happened at any point in our evolution? Would we have to be recognizably a modern human? I’ll be interested to see what others think.

(Christy Hemphill) #4

Some kind of generic moral awareness may have come with evolution, but the Bible speaks of the first sin in Genesis as rebellion against God’s specific command. I don’t see how the neanderthals pose any more difficulty for Christians than say, remote Amazonian tribes living today with no exposure to Christian revelation. The crux of the problem is and when and how and why God’s creatures are held accountable for immorality? I wonder myself if generic immorality is the same thing as sin. I think the heart of sin is refusing to worship the true God as the Lord of the universe, which is not how I would define immorality, which I think of more as a violation of community standards of how people should ethically treat one another. Most Christians would agree that one could live a moral life by the standards of one’s community, but still be counted a sinner in need of redemption before God.

The way I look at it, no matter what capacities for moral reasoning or complex social contracts for moral behavior humans arrived at via evolution, at some point in human history God initiated a relationship with them and called them to bear his image. I’m not all that interested in speculating about exactly when in human history this happened or whether it was a singular event or something repeated many times with many different human communities, because I don’t think we can know. The theological truths that we learn from Genesis tell us what we need to know about our current human condition and need for reconciliation with God.


You should check out this article by Bethany Sollereder. She concedes that it’s partly speculative but I think she’s on the right track.

(George Brooks) #6


Do you think your fellow moderator, @pevaquark, would have a problem with the title of this thread?

Obviously he would understand what the title was trying to say … but do you think it would be fair to say that the use of the term “Evolutionist Theism” is incoherent or nonsense?

What about @pevaquark’s response to @Marty ? Could we agree that Peva’s response was incoherent?

(Christy Hemphill) #7

Why am I being dragged into this?

All you guys need to lighten up. The “atheist evolution/gravity/meterology/fill-in-the-blank” is a trope some people find entertaining. Evidently, other people not so much. Is humor supposed to be “coherent”? Or is that kind of similar to criticizing the Bible for not being “accurate”? (See, that was me trying to include something in this post that was at all worth the time it took to type it.)

It looks like people need to try some of my patented BioLogos Forum Stress “Tranquility Now” essential oil blend roll-on, guaranteed to make you love everyone and find even the most oft-repeated refrains at least mildly amusing. And it cures athlete’s foot and and premature eyebrow hair loss.

(Albert Leo) #8

Hi David
We should at first admit that it is difficult to confidently deduce behavior from archeological evidence. The fact that there is evidence for an occasional Neanderthal burial does not tell us whether it was for ‘sanitary’ reasons or from a belief in an afterlife. Ian Tattersall [American Museum of Natural History] cites a Homo sapiens burial with hundreds of carefully crafted ivory beads, a task that must have taken thousands of hours of work to produce. IMHO (and Tattersall’s) this is convincing evidence that they believed in an afterlife. This evidence coincides with the “sudden appearance” of sophisticated cave art, music, and symbolic language.

Following the proposals of Teilhard de Chardin, this was the beginning of the Noosphere, the sphere of communicable ideas, including the idea that Homo sapiens had the freedom to rise above their animal natures to become, in spirit, an image of their Creator. This is when Morality appeared on earth.

This view is not currently shared by most evangelicals nor by the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, it suits me fine, and I still consider myself Christian.
God Bless.
Al Leo

(Matthew Pevarnik) #9

Did you know that the scientific theory of evolution doesn’t address moral issues? Perhaps it can be applied to such but it is just describing how life on earth came to be the way that it is. It is not theistic or atheistic. When discussing the fossil record there is no difference between atheistic or theistic evolution. When discussing what implications does the theory of evolution have on morality, such a distinction could be a bit more meaningful.

However, I think this publication by the Evolution Institute is fairly interesting when discussing such topics:

It describes itself as:

This special edition presents the complicated story about the application of Darwinian thinking to public policy over a number of articles and interviews which discusses the misuse of evolutionary theory as well as acknowledging false accusations and the omission of benign uses of evolutionary theory.

Such questions are great, though all in all most theists would simply get morality from God himself, not any scientific theory that is morally neutral.

(Mark D.) #10

Deleted when I realized my post didn’t address the morality emphasis of the thread.

(Randy) #11

darn, I didn’t see it but I’m sure it was good. No problem

(Mark D.) #12

I hope to finish this article. I think this quote is especially relevant going in. Surely evolutionary theory has done no more harm through misapplication than Mao or Marx did in seeking to apply socialism or than the crusaders (and some popes) did in the name of Christianity. So the first task is to separate the theory from whatever misuse it may have been put to by those in the grip of scientism eager to whisk away far too much of our humanity in the quest of some logical ideal.

These uses and misuses of evolutionary theory need to be weighted against the uses and misuses of other worldviews, such as religious, tribal and national identities, … Is evolutionary theory especially prone to misuse, or do we need to be vigilant about the justification of inequality in a more general sense?

(Mark D.) #13

Had to content myself with a skim as the topic turns out to be only marginally interesting to me. On p35 in the article asking if Hitler was a darwinist I found this intriguing.


The rst factual issue to tackle is: Did Hitler embrace Darwinian theory? The question, however, needs to be made more exact: What features of Darwin’s theory did he embrace, if any? Concerning the theory, especially as applied to human beings, we can discriminate three central components: 1) that human groups can be arranged in a racial hierarchy from less advanced to more advanced; 2) that species have undergone descent with modification over vast stretches of time and that human beings, in particular, descended from ape-like ancestors; and 3) that natural selection is the principal device to explain species transitions.

It occurred to me that Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel” would have much to say on this. Now that book was a real page turner and convincingly made the case that europeans didn’t rise to dominance by way of superior intellect or talent but because of some fortuitous geographical circumstances.

That is as far as I got or care to go.

(Madd Scientist) #14

Unfortunately there is no morality in evolution.Naturalism has no room for morality. John Dewey in 1935 wrote a thesis tht we can have morality without religion.look at the mess we have in the world today. Everyone does his own thing. the former director of FBI made his own decision on some crimes committed. He decided that no crime ws committed even before he investigated this. All the bosses running the wall street were educated on moral relativism. They strongly believed that there is no moral absolutes. what is moral absolute? There is aline of demarkation between good and bad as well as right and wrong. I we cross that line, thee is no diference between right and wrong. everything is allowed which means moral confusion.

(Mark D.) #15

But surely you don’t mean to say that all those corrupt people you allude to are non-Christians, do you? Most Christians I meet are quick to acknowledge their sinfulness. So I don’t think moral status is linked to religious status, let alone what one believes about evolution.

(George Brooks) #16


Of course I did.

Did you know that the category “Evolution-without-God” is a Science statement, but that “Evolution-WITH-God” is not? It is ALWAYS a Theological statement.

And if you arrive here on these boards not prepared to make this distinction, then why are you here?

The problem with Intelligent Design is they THINK “Evolution-WITH-God” can or should be a science statement. It isn’t. And it never will be.

So… when anyone tries to turn Theology into Science… they are usually I.D. folks!

The irony is… the day they think they’ve discovered a Grand Designer, by definition, that Grand Designer will have to be non-divine alien beings! Because as soon as you think you’ve found God in science… you know you have to be wrong!

(George Brooks) #17


You can’t make any headway talking about the issues in this way.

When you are debating with a Creationist… you just CANT limit yourself to Science.

You have to “GO THEOLOGICAL”…or you are wasting everyone’s time.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #18

Not really. No more than meteorology without God or quantum physics without God are science statements.

I’m getting inspired to create a thread just for your corrections of me- we can stick all of these there if that’s okay. Need a few more of these to make it worth it though.

Ah here’s another post. Need one more now. Do you think the title ‘All the posts where GBrooks corrects Pevaquark’ is sufficient?

In all seriousness though, I think you bring up a very interesting point. One where there can be a completely adequate model yet someone rejects it entirely because of how they are interpreting the Bible. It doesn’t matter how much evidence one has. A good example is AiG who writes:

From the Bible we can already know the big bang idea is wrong: the Word of God in Genesis 1 says the earth was created before the stars.

Or the famous Todd Wood example:

It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution.

And recently Fuz Rana with Readons to Believe writing about Neanderthals doing art::

In fact, as a Christian, I see symbolism as a manifestation of the image of God. If Neanderthals possessed symbolic capabilities, such a quality would undermine human exceptionalism (and with it the biblical view of human nature), rendering human beings nothing more than another hominin.

And since the Bible is true, or at least ones interpretation of it in all of these things must be wrong. It seems at least in the last case perhaps Fuz Rana might be open to evidence I’d like to imagine, but with such strong language it seems unlikely where one pits the Bible being completely mistaken about a fundamental concept like the image of God against Neanderthal Art.

Or lets go back to the 1630s with Alexander Ross writing against heliocentrism. He:

  • Brought heaviweight theologians to his cause (that were Aristotelians)
  • He was a firm defender that scriptures reveals natural philosophical truth (i.e. truth about science)
  • One of his claims was that Pythagoras was a dangerous charlatan and necromancer and because Copernicus had presented his own view as ‘Pythagorean’ Ross tied the two together
  • He rejected accomodationism and the belief that Scripture speaks only ‘ad vulgi captum’ (i.e. adapted to the common understanding) and called it a dangerous conceit
  • He claimed Moses taught the Egyptians how to do astronomy and if it wasn’t him, Abraham, Jacob or Joseph taught astronomy to pharaoh just like Daniel did to the chaldeans

His arguments are fairly similar to many made today and well, he was completely wrong.

(George Brooks) #19

But @pevaquark, they still are statements of science. But
we dont usually hear such statements because meteorology, for example, is not so contentious.

Evolution, as you know, IS extremely contentious!

By refusing to use this expression you make it impossible to differentiate between what BioLogos promotes in its Mission Statements and what YECs want to criticize.

Why is this so hard for you to realize on your own?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #20

Why not? Meteorology should be equally as contentious as there are far more Scriptures on weather than spontaneous creation:

For multiple reasons, but one of them is that those that deny tend to ignore lots of evidence and repeat myths that aren’t true (like ‘no transitional fossils’ or ‘just a theory’). There is an odd obsession with Charles Darwin and another obsession to link him and his idea to everything evil and opposed to the Bible. I.e. it is either the Bible is true or evilution is true (and all of its immoral teachings–which is a lie and a good question behind the title of this thread). So to many, the idea is patently absurd and scientists are fools for thinking such a thing is true.