Multiple Theories of Evolution

I wanted to make a suggestion to BioLogos.

As a conservative Christian growing up, evolutionary theory was mainly a stumbling block for me because of people’s emphasis on “randomness” and “blind chance” — and I don’t think I’m alone here. God is about order and cosmos — not disorder and chaos. And even scientific endeavor (to me) has primarily been about gaining understanding, making predictions, etc., and while the majority of the scientific world seems to accept Evolution (that is change over time), the discussion of mechanisms and how it works seems to be immensely complicated. The average conservative, when they hear about Evolutionary Theory, I think the first thing that pops into their head are concepts such as “directionless” and “purposelessness” … but there are many proposed theories of evolution that entail different mechanisms to account for the varying degrees of changes in the overall shape of life over time.

— Lamarkian Evolution
— Darwinian Natural Selection
— Neo-Darwinian Evolution
— Niche Construction (directed evolution)
— Evolution through Symbiogenesis
— Self-Organization
— Evolutionary Developmental Biology (Evo-Devo for short)
— Process Structuralism

All of these have different levels of scientific validity … and I would argue that really only one theory (that is Neo-Darwinian) demands things such as blind chance. The discussion, I think, gets so complicated that even all (or most) of these theories could play a role in how Evolution goes down.

In my opinion, were the discussions of mechanisms more broadly discussed, it would go miles in becoming a bridge between conservative Christianity and science — rather than simply just demonstrating that Evolution (that is change over time) happens.


Evolution through natural selection is not random. Read “the Selfish Gene” by Dawkins. It is one of the most influential biology books of all time.

Do you know why Stephen Jay Gould made the point that if you rewound the tape of life, then you’d get a completely different result? What did he mean by that?


Yes, I will try to explain. Because of randomness in all natural processes, every time you start with a given set of initial conditions, randomness in both mutations and environment, you will get a different result as time goes forward.

Pick a starting point in the past, say a million years ago, exactly as it was a million years ago and start moving forward from that point forward. Because of random mutations and random environment (weather) or random events or conditions, different species would arise, some will survive, others will go extinct. Life on the planet would enfold differently each time you rewind the tape and start it over again.

The same is true today in everyone lives. Imagine if you could go back say one year and relive in the world that was exactly like it was one year ago. One little deviation from what was done in the past would set up completely different trajectories through time. Think about the “back to the Future” movies.

I’m also reminded of the Butterfly Effect movie … Back to the Future movies are also a good analogy.

So you seem to be saying that Natural Selection isn’t random, but mutations are. Free will of course will change many things as well…

What is your opinion on “inevitable outcomes” and evolutionary pathways that are very narrow?

The above is a video I find very interesting. It’s an hour long lecture given by a man who is both a Christian theologian and a scientist. You might enjoy it. At first he talks about how Hebrew words used in the Bible correlate with “creation through a process” rather than “creation-instantaneous” … Then into different views such as progressive creation (Hugh Ross and others) than into Intelligent Design (Michael Behe an others) … And then into the various proposed mechanisms for evolutionary theory as the ones in which I’ve discussed.

If you have time and end up watching the video, tell me what you think of it …



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I liked the video. He explained the science well and didn’t say anything contrary to the available evidence. He seems theologically to be pretty mainstream where Catholics, and TE/EC are. I think that with TE/EC you can be completely harmonized with science now and in the future in that there is no controversy and TE/EC doesn’t necessarily mean atheism. OEC is fine with the physics (big Bang) with at odds with genetics (Neanderthals). But OEC will come around eventually to a TE/EC perspective. That leaves YEC which is just pseudo-science and hopefully just be laughed out of existence by third graders.

Not sure how you watched an hour long clip in just under 15 minutes … I am impressed :smile:

In any case I’m glad you liked what you saw of it.


I jumped around as I find the non-science discussions boring and repetitive. I am most interested in new scientific results. Here is one you might like. Hard to explain with YEC or Global Flood.

That is a very interesting discovery! I find bees a rather fascinating creature in the way they systematically create hexagonal-shaped homes for themselves — it reminds me of other creatures such as the ant with their hills, and the beavers with their dams.

I figured you’d be less interested in the religious aspect of Moritz’s lecture — to each their own.


Tim, please try to grasp this extremely important fact: mutations are ONLY random with respect to fitness.

I don’t really wish to get into the discussion of mutations again as it seems I made too much of them in the past.

What do you mean by, “with respect to fitness”…?


Ooops? Is this a semantic hurdle?

God could allow all sorts of random genetic changes.

But if God participated in SOME part of human evolution - - the parts he “managed” (even the parts that
deal with fitness) can’t be random.

Some Christian evolutionists see God’s non-random work at every step in the speciation of virtually all life.
Other Christian evolutions see God’s non-random work only in the step of the emergence of primates.
And finally Other Christian evolutionists see God’s non-random work only in the emergence of Moral Humans.

George Brooks

Mutations are not random with respect to location in the genome or direction (A->G happens far more often than A->T or A->C, for example). It’s mainly to point out the insanity of the creationist canard that because mutations are random in only a single parameter, therefore, somehow all of evolution becomes random.

Since dealing cards is random, does everyone entering a poker tournament have an equal chance of winning? Those tournaments should be full of evolution denialists if they believed what they are saying.

[quote=“gbrooks9, post:12, topic:3324”]
God could allow all sorts of random genetic changes.[/quote]

[quote]But if God participated in SOME part of human evolution - - the parts he “managed” (even the parts that deal with fitness) can’t be random.
[/quote]George, random is a negative. It merely means that we cannot discern any pattern, nothing more.

That reasoning makes sense to me. In your reply to George it sounds to me like what Warfield (or perhaps Asa Gray) said in regards to evolution: “It may seem random to us, but it is not random from God’s perspective.”

— just to add an extra level of depth here. We say coin flips are random, but according to Newton, if we are to know all the parameters and variables: inertia, momentum, weight distribution, etc., then you should be able to know ahead of time whether it will land on heads or tails.


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Exactly. As a negative, randomness can never be proven.

The problem with the use of the term “random” is it can mean “only looks random to humans” … or sometimes people use it to mean “not even God knows the pattern”.

It would be helpful if people added a few more adjectives when they use the term “random”.


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