Is there direction to evolution?

William Barclay. The Gospel of Luke (The New Daily Study Bible) (p. 163). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition. Luke 10: Verses 23 and 24 tell us that Jesus is the consummation of all history. In these verses Jesus said, ‘I am the one to whom all the prophets and the saints and the kings looked forward to and for whom they longed.’ This is what Matthew means when over and over again in his gospel he wrote, ‘This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying …’ (cf. Matthew 2:15, 17, 23). Jesus was the peak to which history had been climbing, the goal to which it had been advancing, the dream which had always haunted men and women of God. To express this another way: we believe in evolution, the slow climb upwards of human beings from the level of the beasts. Jesus is the end and climax of the evolutionary process because in him men and women meet God; and he is at once the perfection of humanity and the fullness of godhead


Hi, John. That is an interesting conflation of narratives, and I can see how it might be appealing to think of it in those terms. There is a broad use of the word ‘evolution’ or ‘evolutionary’ which does include any sort of slow change. So in that sense I resonate too with the notion that human understanding of God ‘evolved’ and indeed was brought to us as a penultimate conclusion or fulfillment in the person of Christ; as you so beautifully articulate.

All that said, I tend to hold at critical arm’s length the notion that the Christ narrative needs to be cast as an ‘evolutionary process’, making it sound like a bit of an inevitability … as if humans were incrementally moving in that direction anyway and Christ was merely the final crowning on the already-mostly-happened transformation of culture. That is what ‘evolution’, even broadly construed, would seem to indicate. I think the case can be made that Christ was more of a radical turning point - a sudden revolution. Yes - there were all the prophets, especially John the Baptist, that did prepare the way, and break some ground so-to-speak. But none of that lessens the sudden impact of the incarnation when it broke in on the earth in a fresh and new way in the person of Jesus. I think that story is its own narrative that stands apart from and does not need any help from scientific narratives such as evolution - as valid as those other narratives are in their own contexts. The creation narrative relayed in Genesis - that is the one that might be most helpfully elaborated on by evolutionary thinking to help us have more insight toward the questions that now obsess us regarding how God operates. So it certainly does have its place in our pursuit of certain kinds of truth that interest us today. Though even there, care is needed to not let our modern questions hijack the text away from the important Truth it has to teach us.


Thank you Mervin for articulating so well some of the implications from William Barclays interpretation of Luke 10 verses 23 and 24. You helped clarify in my mind what I found appealing.

It raises the question of where evolution is going. The only reason I see for the study of history is to give us insights into the future. Science says evolution is totally random. As a follower of Jesus I believe that while it appears totally random to us, it is accomplishing God’s purpose.

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John you bring up an important issue that needs to be cleared up.

First of all, what doe “random” mean? When I want to school, a long time ago, I learned that only a series of numbers which was totally without order should be called random and these were hard to come by because nature prefers order to disorder. This is not the type of randomicity that we find in evolution. Change takes place but generally only slowly. There is more continuity than change in revolution. Also when we look at how a species changes over time, we see a definite pattern, not a random series of steps. Further one aspect of evolution is in some sense random, while another part, natural selection, is definitely not.

So the problem is "Science claims that evolution is random, when that is only part of the picture, which causes much confusion among those who do not know how it works and probably some among who are supposed to know how it works.

A serious problem is posed by philosophy what says that a thing must X or Y, not X and Y, random or non-random, not both random and non-random, so evoluti0on becomes random, not random and non-random.

Also traditional religion tends to be prejudiced against newness and change. Modern times and science tends to be prejudiced in favor of newness and change. That is why it prefers random and non-believers pick up on this to say that randomness disproves God, which It would if it were complete and total or absolute, which it is not.

Science understands the primarily random part of evolution, Variation, but do not understand the primarily non-random part, natural selection. This is because the science of ecology is relatively new and it explains the way species interact and adapt with their changing environment to evolves and create change.

Evolution is not random in character, although it has a random aspect, because species do not change randomly, but they change to adapt to a changing planet, which was created by God.

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With you all the way to the final clause Roger! :smile:

I’m intrigued why you flip?

Randomness is a difficult thing to define. First of all, randomness can often be identified by looking for patterns, such as a Gaussian curve. In my experience, the easiest way to discuss randomness is by comparing two things. In the case of evolution, we can relate results to fitness. Mutations are considered random because the needs of the organism don’t appear to guide which mutations the organism gets. However, selection is non-random with respect to fitness because the population tends to keep the variation it needs. In both cases, randomness is defined by a statistical model, and it doesn’t make any ontological or theological claims. X is what a random distribution should look like, and Y are the observations. If they match, then X is considered random. That’s all there is to it.


Yo9u make my point, Mutation, meaning genetic change, is random, while fitness is not random. Bath are essential factors in evolution, but evolution as a process is determined by fitness so it is definitely not random.

The Pedantic Demon has taken over, so I can’t help replying . . . :wink:

Evolution is both random and non-random, as you state. Relative to the topic of evolution being guided , evolution isn’t guided towards a specific species. As Gould often said, if we rewound the tape of life and started it again we wouldn’t expect to get anything close to what we see now. It is analogous to rewinding history back to 50,000 BC, restart it, and then expecting to get the very same English language thousands of years later. In other words, it is a trial and error process. The results in the end have as much to do with the random part as the selection part.

Again, I am only talking about the science, not theology. Even as an atheist, I have no problem with the concept of God acting in such a way that it appears to be random in a scientific sense. Could God have guided evolution with humans in mind? Science can’t answer that question.


Ohhhhhh yes it can :smile: It’s not a level playing field, a binary 50:50 choice is it? It’s not an appropriate question for science. It’s meaningless. There is no need to ask it. No warrant for asking it. There is nothing lacking, no gap. There is no way of knowing, of telling the difference. If He is, then He is in a way that looks like He isn’t, apart from existence itself and a two thousand year old story shrouded in mystery.

On second thoughts you’re right @T_aquaticus, science can’t answer it as it is a non-question. That is not science’s failure or limitation. Science being a subset of rational inquiry.

Science is focused on a specific method for answering questions, and that method can’t be applied to questions of how God acts. As has been stated here and elsewhere, science is methodological naturalism, not ontological naturalism. While I am an atheist, I don’t rely on a narrow scientific view to investigate the question of God’s existence. I also don’t agree with other atheists when they use science as a reason for rejecting theism in general.

Looping back to the topic, if God is directing evolution then God is doing so in a way that is identical to how God guides other natural processes. To steal from the Biologos article on atheist meteorology or divine rain, if you have no problem with accepting the naturalistic explanation for rain while believing God acts through weather events, then evolution shouldn’t be much of a problem, including the scientific description of randomness found in some of the mechanisms that drive evolution.

The assumption of science’s method is ontological. There is nothing missing. There is nothing narrow about that. It’s just a rational fact. If God is directing anything there is no way of knowing. Nothing looks directed. I don’t believe - worse, I know! - that God acts through any events apart from in and around incarnation and ineffably by the Spirit. At most. Oooh, and grounding being of course.

Science doesn’t claim this. It provides us with a few trustworthy methods for “looking for stuff”. It says nothing about how much or how little stuff there is still to find, or that may never be detectable. So nobody can ever say (on the basis of science or anything else) … that there is nothing missing.

Rationally one can easily and science is a subset of rational inquiry. There are infinities between any two points on the number line, but there is nothing surprising there. It is perfectly rational to assume ontological naturalism.

…meaning that you need to get outside of science to come to any such conclusion.

And even then, I doubt rational inquiry allows for any such conclusion either. Rational inquiry needs premises to work with, and short of being God one can never know that they are in possession of everything there is to know.

Aye, reason can suffice alone without having to prove stuff empirically. I know that I’m not, because I don’t know if God exists and because there is no end of knowing.

I agree of course but it occurs to me to wonder if it is possible to be sure that God knows everything. If one answers yes by definition then of course there is at least the possibility of circular justification going on. The bottom line is the incompleteness of our own knowledge base. Past a certain point everyone is operating on a hunch or on faith, atheist and believer alike.

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What is that assumption?

Physicalism. The infinities of gaps from eternity, the fractal signal-noise, is physical. No magic is required. Except in my heart.

Reason cannot suffice to help you know everything. Though to be fair, I often don’t understand your words, since many of your thoughts are incompletely expressed … such as “suffice toward what end?” So it may be that this is a communication failure here, especially as your very next thoughts seem (to me) to contradict what you just claimed in the prior sentence. It all seems a stream of incoherence to me; but this much I know for sure whether you agree or not: We cannot know how much there is that we have yet to learn. And no science, no rationality beyond that, nor anything else you may yet try to heap on can change that conclusion.

Science makes no claims about the existence or non-existence of magic. What science does is try to find explanations based on natural mechanisms, but it doesn’t make any truth statements about supernatural processes.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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