Is evolution continuing? Is God still creating?

(Scott koshland) #1

Given that we as Christians believe that God has created man from evolutionary process is God still evolving the world since creation? Is life and humanity still continuing to be evolved?

(Albert Leo) #2

Scott, a good argument can be made that the ‘old fashioned Darwinian evolution’ that produced Homo sapiens is no longer relevant in how Humankind’s genome is passed on to future generations. Even before the human genome was mapped, medical science was hard at work extending the lives of the carriers of genetic defects (i.e. diabetics) so that the faulty gene could pass to the next generation. Genome editing using new techniques such as CRISPR, has scientists as well as theologians worried about humankind’s newfound ability to “play God” in the future, and thus become the chief architect of not only our biological future but all other life on this planet as well.

In the past couple of centuries, western science has looked to Christianity to provide the values that served to guide it through some ethical thickets. This guidance appears to be weakening. What will take its place??
Al Leo

(Stephen Matheson) #3

As long as there is genetic variation and differential survival (and/or reproductive success) there will be evolution. The answer is yes, necessarily.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

Maybe about as much as a small child playing with matches in the corner of a room in a large mansion could be thought, in said activity, to be approaching being the chief architect of the place.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #5

As long as climate and other aspects of the environment are changing, all life forms will change.

(Steve Schaffner) #6

As long as there is genetic variation and a finite population size, there will also be evolution.

(Stephen Matheson) #7

Ha, yes! Here are some sky islands in salute. :sunrise_over_mountains:

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #8

I agree with previous responses.

Just to add: This was for me one of the thorniest questions of an Evangelical evolutionary creationist viewpoint, actually, because at face value, Scripture seems to show God completing the creative process and then not creating any further.

It helped when I came across the reading of Genesis 1 as using temple imagery, where God is setting up creation as His temple and then in the end coming to dwell in it, where the verb “rest” is understood in the framework of a king coming to “rest” on his throne and being honored in that capacity. Thus the focal point of the doctrine of the Sabbath is the reality of God’s rule over all creation, as well as our recognition of that through our own rhythms of work and not-work. In this view, the connection between the heavenly reality and our earthly rhythms is more metaphorical.

I believe Meredith Kline laid the groundwork for a lot of this line of thought. Take, or instance, this passage from his Kingdom Prologue (emphasis mine):

God’s entrance upon his Sabbath rest was an enthronement of the Creator, an assumption by him of his rightful position as Lord of the world, of all lands and peoples. The Sabbath ordinance thus called upon all earthly kingship to acknowledge itself to be a vassal kingship under the heavenly Suzerain. Now such a relationship is the kind of covenantal relationship that was defined by the ancient suzerain-vassal treaties. Agreeably, when God later made covenant with Israel, adopting or this purpose the form of these ancient political covenants, he appointed the Sabbath ordinance as a seal of this covenant (Exod 20:8-11, 31:16-17), signifying thereby that the people and the land belonged to him (cf., e.g., Lev 25:2-4). The Sabbath declared that Yahweh was covenant Lord of the kingdom of Israel. And if the Sabbath ordinance serves as a symbolic sign of God’s covenantal lordship in the holy kingdom of Israel, it is surely because the original divine Sabbath represented the Creator’s covenantal lordship over the world. Indeed, this connection is conspicuous in the appointing of the Sabbath to Israel. For this later Sabbath observance is explained as a remembering of God’s creation acts, a celebrating of the glory of his covenantal kingship first established by his work of creation and now being reestablished through the redemptive sanctifying of a covenantal people renewed in God’s image under God’s lordship (Exod 20:8-11). In short then, the Sabbath ordinance in Eden was a sign of the covenant of God with man already in effect there. The very fact that the Genesis creation prologue is cast in sabbatical form tells us that the creation of the world was a covenant-making process” (p. 19-20).

So yes: God is still creating. And this is not necessarily in conflict with the notion of a divine Sabbath.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9


I respectfully disagree.

Evolution is change. If there is no need to change, that is no ecological change to adapt to, there will be no evolutionary change. Some life forms, like lichens, have not evolved for a long, long time because there is no environmental change that requires it.


Note: A lichen is not a single organism!

(Steve Schaffner) #11

That’s incorrect. Whatever your view of natural selection, you should realize that not all traits are subject to natural selection: some variation just doesn’t matter to the organism’s survival, or interaction with its ecosystem. Those traits change because of neutral genetic drift.

(Scott koshland) #12

Thank you for your good posts. It is a broad question and it is more complicated than I initially was thinking. I guess I should ask to define at square one what is considered an evolutionary trait? What constitutes trait evolution? Is it just a change in the genome change in phenotype/genotype? Is it just a physical change? Can it be behavioral or brain based change? Is not neurobiological changes that create behavioral change considered to be an adaptation that one may consider evolutionary adaptation?

(Stephen Matheson) #13

Hi Scott,

I’m not sure there’s any such thing as an “evolutionary trait” – a trait is any characteristic one chooses to examine or analyze genetically. Some are qualitative (most coloration, tongue rolling), most are quantitative (height, etc) and essentially all are subject to variation.

Evolution at its most basic is just change, and so again the question has to be defined by the person asking. Biological evolution involves heritable change, so that does mean something “physical,” but that includes any manifestation of biological/genetic change, which most certainly includes the nervous system. So yes, neurobiological changes leading to behavioral changes are adaptations, and whole library shelves are devoted to that topic.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #14


Thank you for your response.

When the idea of neutral genetic drift first was developed I examined the literature to try to understand what it was all about. First of all I found the statement that neutral genetic drift is not subject to natural selection is not accurate. The literature said as you said, these changes did not significantly change the viability of a viable organism. That being the case, they were selected in.

One does not say that drivers traveling the speed limit is not subject to that speed limit. They most certainly are. They are not liable for a speeding ticket (except for unusual,) but they are still subject to the law. The fact that these changes are called neutral indicates that all traits are subject to natural selection. If a trait makes no difference in the viability of an allele, then there is no reason for it to spread and gain a footing in the species.

However It was explained that genetic drift could take place for technical reasons. After a trait was selected in, there could be technical reasons why this genetic grouping or trait grouping is unstable, so changes continued to be made until the allele found a stable situation. In this case the changes in the genes would internal, more than external, but still a part of the adaptive process.

It must be noted that ecological Natural Selection does not dictate specific changes to a species. Instead it presents a need to change and allows the species to find a suitable adaption based on trial and error, that is Variation.

@Skoshland, Scott, I think that this is the key to the answer to the questions you raised.

(Stephen Matheson) #15

This is inaccurate. Neutral drift is a straightforward fact, apparent based on simple math and demonstrated clearly. There is no need to discuss whether it is true.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #16


Please give me an example of neutral genetic drift or better a study where this is an important fact.

(Stephen Matheson) #17

The basic concept of drift is explained here in a classic textbook, and I think you will find it nicely explained at sites such as the AMNH and the Cal Berkeley site that cover basic evolutionary principles. Genetic drift is simple and unarguable: anytime a population is subjected to non-selective reduction in population size (typical illustrations are things like culling after a natural disaster or isolation of a subpopulation), it follows that allele frequencies can and often will differ from the original population. That’s all drift is. It is as straightforward a fact as any in genetics.

There are many hundreds of papers you can find yourself to read about drift. I recommend the work of Michael Lynch, Fyodor Kondrashov, Dan Tawfik, and Shamil Sunyaev. You can simply search for the phrase at PLoS or Cell Press or Nature. You will find papers like the few I’ve linked below.

Neutral drift is a simple fact of genetics. No one should ever doubt that it influences evolution. It has to.

Genetic drift, selection and the evolution of the mutation rate
Genetic drift at expanding frontiers promotes gene segregation
Genetic Drift, Purifying Selection and Vector Genotype Shape Dengue Virus Intra-host Genetic Diversity in Mosquitoes

(Stephen Matheson) #18

I should add that this is the most obvious type of example explaining drift. In fact, there is no need for population bottlenecking or other extraordinary stuff for drift to occur. But when populations get small, drift becomes more powerful in the sense that allele frequencies can change independent of any selection.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19


According to the Wikipedia, there is great disagreement about genetic drift. At best it seems to me a negative and an unusual situation.

Your textbook says it is like inbreeding and gives only one example, the lack of blood group B in the Inuit.

The cause of genetic drift is the fact that there is a random factor in the way genes are sampled. When you have a random factor in variation and a small population with little diversity, it is only natural that strange things can happen.

Then there is that word “neutral.” When there is little benefit from variations, they are basically neutral in benefits, then it is clear that this possible, but again genetic drift is still subject to Natural Selection, although there are always exceptions to any rule.

> Wright’s views on the role of genetic drift in the evolutionary scheme were controversial almost from the very beginning. One of the most vociferous and influential critics was colleague Ronald Fisher. Fisher conceded genetic drift played some role in evolution, but an insignificant one. Fisher has been accused of misunderstanding Wright’s views because in his criticisms Fisher seemed to argue Wright had rejected selection almost entirely. To Fisher, viewing the process of evolution as a long, steady, adaptive progression was the only way to explain the ever-increasing complexity from simpler forms. But the debates have continued between the “gradualists” and those who lean more toward the Wright model of evolution where selection and drift together play an important role.[53]
> In 1968, Motoo Kimura rekindled the debate with his neutral theory of molecular evolution, which claims that most of the genetic changes are caused by genetic drift acting on neutral mutations.[5][6]
> The role of genetic drift by means of sampling error in evolution has been criticized by John H. Gillespie[54] and William B. Provine, who argue that selection on linked sites is a more important stochastic force.

I stands by my previous statement. Evolution is based on ecological change, not by genetic drift.

(Stephen Matheson) #20

You have misunderstood Wikipedia, and have apparently not read the articles you asked me to provide.

You are missing out, Roger. The world of evolution and genetics is wonderfully interesting. Someday I hope you try to explore it.