Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory and the orthodox doctrine of Creation

(Richard Wright) #1


A few notes from your response to me an other posts.

I’m not sure I understand your basic premise. You seem to be stating that NDE is the biologic paradigm for now because it is what what the data suggests, but it can’t be for believers since the bible says that God created the heavens and the earth. Is that because we don’t see any, “magical” laws guiding it or, like Joe, do you believe that Genesis 1 and 2 committ believers to holding to instantaneous creations?

I’ll give you my fancy definition of science - “the study of God’s creation.” That allows me to see, like many others have seen, the wonder in the process He used. God isn’t a deceiving god so I accept consensus science and fit it into my theistic worldview. If there are no, “magical laws” discovered then I infer that God has decided to use laws to create a naturalistic process that can create and diversify life and make it more complex over time until we are here to worship Him.

@GJDS The Christian faith insists that we do not take God’s name in vain, and in my book, appropriating an inadequately formulated theory and then changing Christian doctrine to accommodate such a theory by saying that is how God did it, is using His name for a vain enterprise.

What Christian doctrine is changed or compromised? I call myself a follower of Christ and consider that to be my central identity and I can testify to you that since I decided to take God at his word (science) my convictions have not been altered a bit. If anything my faith is stronger since I no longer feel the need to get queezy when someone brings up, “contradictions” b/t science and certain interpretations of Genesis.

@GJDS I do not dispute the concept of laws and find the evolutionist’s notion of random unacceptable. However, I am pointing out the basic definition of evolution as proposed by the majority of biologists, and this is obviously non-predictable/accidental processes as the basis of their theory.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). Atheists reject what has been, “clearly seen” in God’s creation. So it should be of no surprise that they view evolution as a godless process, since they’ve not seen God in anything.

I don’t see mutations as a random process. I see an amazing world that produced DNA which, through mutations, can produce almost unlimited variation which allows life forms to fit perfectly into the present earth. Each isolated mutation may be considered random but it’s part of a process that given its proper context cannot be considered random. As well, God obviously wants us to live in a world run by naturalistic processes. It just make sense that we are of product of such processes.

What are the arguments against Theistic Evolution? What specific scriptures do you think contradict Theistic Evolution?
(GJDS) #2


The discussion has occurred over a prolonged period and I hope you understand that I cannot give a detailed response on every point, in one post. Briefly:

My basic premise is to emphasise the basis for a faith-science discussion - in this, I am do not begin by seeking a conflict between faith-science, but rather begin by examining the bible and orthodox Christian theology that has been discussed over many centuries, to get an idea of how the Church has discussed this matter. On this, we find many outlooks that have originated from pagan thinkers and philosophers, and note Christians have expended a great deal of effort to analyse the aspects that can be shown to be reasonable (even if these are primitive by our standards) and have given a reasoned opinion on the relevance to the faith. From this I have concluded that Christians can and have examined critically science and philosophy, and have not concluded conflict, but instead a harmony in the thinking (not the same - science is not faith based). I have taken a similar approach to modern thinking, and take seriously matters such as, for example, the intelligibility of nature, the capacity for human intellect to mathematically understand the creation, the diversity and coherence of scientific notions, and how we reason to arrive at “laws in science”.

When I apply this criteria to NDE, I find that it falls short and cannot be taken in the same way as the great scientific insights. I look at the history of science and note that all of the disciplines in science have gone through periods in which paradigms were eventually abandoned, and I have concluded NDE will suffer the same fate. I have discussed random and selection at times to show how these are debatable aspects of NDE and how doctrine can be (and from my reading) has been modified and changed to accommodate such notions.

I am not suggesting Christians should modify doctrine - I am showing why they should not.

Our outlooks are not dissimilar - I commence with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” - however, everything pertaining to our knowledge and understanding of God and His works, this is provided to us through grace and revelation. Thus, yes, we study God’s handiwork, because the faith teaches us to do this. But our studies have always included error as well as tested and verified insights - thus the need to be careful and skeptical. I reject nonsensical phrases such as God and deceit, and I think such language is ill considered. God is the source of all truth and it is we who err and deceive ourselves. A law of arbitrary selection from random processes can be described as a magical law, and not a law of science. I also think that in time, the bio scientists will move past the primitive notions in NDE and arrive at a theory that is rigorous and can be examined from first principles, as all other branches of the physical sciences. When that has occurred, I would read it with great interest.

As to doctrinal matters - look through the posts on this site for many examples; nature is autonomous, Adam and Eve are figments of someone’s imagination, human beings evolved a moral consciousness - the list goes on. It is unfortunate that many disguise this trend with “we seek a diversity of views” - instead they should understand the great diversity and debate that has raged over Darwinian evolution and NDE, and understand this as typical of a theory that has not been proven, in spite of the endless protestations from atheists and TE alike.


I think common descent via modification is a pretty stable conclusion at this time, for animals at least (Horizontal transfer is more common among the bacteria but also occurs in metazoans). Likewise stable is the great age of the Earth and universe. I think there are no good indications that non-natural mechanisms need be invoked. Evolutionary theory is certainly incomplete and NDE / the Modern Synthesis of the 1920s-1950’s has been superseded or perhaps extended with additional mechanisms. While some try to argue for additional genetic, teleological, evolutionary mechanisms (i.e. active rearrangements to search for ‘solutions’ in changed conditions), those proposals remain highly controversial. Don’t get me started on the overselling of ‘epigenetics’. I’m on board with perhaps a weak version of the ‘evolution of evolvabilty’ but “intelligence” in the genome operating in evolution is woo I can’t accept at this time. I trend to side with Larry Moran on that score.

(GJDS) #4

I would understand why those who practice the bio-sciences within the NDE paradigm would be confident in various aspects of the theory - it is difficult for me to imagine how scientists can practice outside their current paradigm without having a measure of belief in it - thus I have been careful in reading work from well respected scientists in highly regarded journals, and in this way I avoid a rampant one-sided outlook.

In that sense, I suppose I may indulge in the luxury of “looking from the outside” so to speak; in my defence, I have taken an interest mainly within the faith-science debate, and have tried to avoid making comments on specific work in the bio-sciences (my field is outside of these). Thus fossil records, and various interpretations of bones and skulls, would only interest me if they provided insights into human attributes - thus areas such common descent is no different to me as a theory, to that of the tree of life, and from this, a belief that NDE has provided a scientific explanation of the origin of life. I am adamant in this matter, because I do not find anything but speculation and attempts to sustain a materialistic philosophy, and not a rigorous science. You may assign degrees of confidence to selected areas, and I do not deny your preference - but I do no share it.

It is obvious that the faith vs evolution debate has raged over an enormous area and over a long period - within my context, I see this more as an unfortunate outcome, and view errors from both sides - from those who try to turn the bible into a scientific textbook, and from those who regard science as revealing a second book for theology.

I am perfectly contented with my approach, which I believe is steeped in Orthodox teachings and writings on Christianity.


I can see where a ‘hard science’ background can color one’s views of other sciences. I started off with physical chemistry degree as undergrad. I grew up surrounded by chemists, physicists and chemical engineers. My father’s career was mathematics and physical chemistry. My uncle was an organic chemist. I would look at some of my friends in biology and wonder how it was they could dissect mechanisms and reach good conclusions in what are often complex systems with far more inherent variability than I ever dealt with in chemistry. Then I found I liked biochemistry and got a PhD in enzymology studying metabolic regulation. Over time, I picked up molecular biology, followed the work on comparative genetics, and spoke with people like Carl Woese, Norm Pace and several others who’ve been in the field of trying to deduce phylogenetic trees and make sense of them. I work within oncology now and there is actually a fair degree for overlap with population genetics and cell line evolution in that field. These days I save my disdain for sociology.:slight_smile:

Over time I’ve come to appreciate that despite dealing with complex systems, many very clever people have designed methods to tease out very specific answers. Taken in toto, I think these point to conclusions that are reasonably solid and certainly a working basis for further investigations.

With regard to attempts at using evolutionary science to sustain a materialistic philosophy, I can see that certainly occurs as well. However, I don’t think that fairly characterizes the work and the intent of most engaged in the field. Many are simply curious and have taken to spend their time as scientists to investigate the questions. Many are religious themselves. I don’t consider that it ‘poisons the well’ or casts the conclusions into doubt as a result.

It’s simply the nature of science. I ran Grignard reactions using mostly materialistic suppositions in my past. I examine targets for oncology treatments similarly. Could one rule out non-material causes as the ultimate basis for these phenomena? No, absolutely not. However, that doesn’t preclude studying proximate causes like chemical mutations altering a gene for a growth factor receptor.

Here are one and another light articles about different approaches between physics and biology.

(GJDS) #6

I agree with you - the biosciences deal with very complex systems and I too think that some very clever people have made significant contributions towards understanding such systems of nature. I (almost) did something resembling bio-chemistry, in that I spend a couple of years studying iron-porphyrin compounds as models for iron based enzymes. And I also agree that the work done by capable scientists is not coloured by religious or non-religious outlooks.

So, if I show disdain for any (not intentional:relaxed:) it is those who would appropriate any branch of the physical sciences for ideological and/or religious and anti-religious activities. A religious person would begin with the premise of a study of God’s creation and a commitment to understanding the truth of this creation, motivated by the normal (:open_mouth:) curiosity all scientists show, while a non-religious person is motivated by curiosity and dedication to his/her field of research.

So while I believe considerable progress has occurred in this area, especially genetics, I am also confident a great deal of additional insights will be provided on the theoretical understanding underpinning the bio-sciences. I do not see any “poising of wells”, but I do see from some quarters, an unhealthy need to turn evolution into a belief system, be it theistic or anti-theistic. How would a physicist or chemist respond if some twit decided molecules reveal the nature of the Trinity, or quantum mechanics finally shows us the essence of God? I think most of us would reject this outright, whatever arguments they present.

I guess Grignard reagents, and using Na/K in synthesis, has resulted on my part, in a healthy fear of the creation, and overall my research has produced an equally healthy respect for the wonders of God’s handiwork that we as scientists are privileged to study.


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(Richard Wright) #8

This response covers your responses to myself and others in this thread.

TE/ECs don’t, “believe” in NDE but accept it, as Argon said, as a, “pretty stable conclusion” at this time. I would add further that the theory of biological evolution has been a spectacular success in it’s 159 years of existence and data from any number of fields have strengthened its validity.

@GJDS “but I do see from some quarters, an unhealthy need to turn evolution into a belief system, be it theistic or anti-theistic.”

I’m not sure how TE/ECs turn evolution into a belief system. That is what atheists do. We simply accept it as the way God, “created” man (bara and asah can both refer to this). It has nothing to do with my essential doctrinal beliefs. Again, evolution happens in a context, that is in a universe and earth suitable for life. Atheistic evolutionists use NDE as their, “theory for everything” having already rejected what God has made obvious.

@GJDS “Thus fossil records, and various interpretations of bones and skulls, would only interest me if they provided insights into human attributes - thus areas such common descent is no different to me as a theory, to that of the tree of life, and from this, a belief that NDE has provided a scientific explanation of the origin of life. I am adamant in this matter, because I do not find anything but speculation and attempts to sustain a materialistic philosophy, and not a rigorous science.”

I don’t think anyone can honestly say that common descent is speculation, there’s too much evidence from cell biology, genetics and paleontology. However, nobody, including myself, is claiming that NDE has provided a, “scientific explanation” of the origin of life, nor will we ever, IMO, at least not anything close to definitive. That to me doesn’t preclude that life didn’t evolve - I think that viruses are a possible example of primitive life.

@GJDS “and from those who regard science as revealing a second book for theology.” + “nature is autonomous, Adam and Eve are figments of someone’s imagination, human beings evolved a moral consciousness”.

You have a misunderstanding of why some TE/ECs hold to a literary, and not literal Adam and Eve. It’s not because of evolution, in fact I believed in an historical Adam and Eve for most of the 21 years that I’ve accepted evolution. It’s paleontology, anthropology and population genetics that make it practically impossible to believe in Adam and Eve they way they are presented in Genesis.

TE/CEs don’t all believe in the same things and don’t regard science as revealing a second book for theology. I still hold to my essential beliefs that Jesus Christ died for my sins and gave me an opportunity for a new life. I hold to them whether nature is autonomous, Adam and Eve are literary and our moral consciousness evolved or not. We’ve been sinners from the start and need a redeemer, that is still true whether Adam and Eve existed or we evolved.

Yes, in some quarters the faith vs. evolution debate has, “raged” on yet this is hardly the first time that scientific theories caused a change in “traditional” understandings of scripture. Geocentrism and a flat earth are both, “traditional” beliefs from scripture that are no longer widely held.

I emphasize with your wishing to hold to a, “traditional” understanding of Genesis. I was in your boat at one time - special creations, historical Adam and Eve, etc. It’s when I studied graduate level evolutionary biology (as a believer) that I one, saw how much evidence supported NDE and how clear it was, and two, I started to embark on a different understanding of early Genesis. I still got hot under the collar when someone would claim that life may have evolved (of course Genesis doesn’t discuss the creation of life). But over time I eventually scuttled trying to find, “science” in the early chapters of Genesis and now look at them as theology and not history/science lessons . They actually make much more sense to me that way. Evolution does cause anxiety in some believers, I understand that - so did heliocentrism. On the flip side of the coin resisting evolution has become a stumbling block to some young people as biblical, “discrepancies” with science is one of the most common reasons that millennials give for rejecting Christianity.

(GJDS) #9

I am somewhat amused by the implication/inference that evolution (NDE) may cause me anxiety - I have stated on so many occasions that I understand it is the current paradigm in biology, and obviously bio-scientists must have accepted it. It is equally true that it has no relevance to my research work, so I do not get hot under the collar as a scientist regarding NDE - I just cannot generate sufficient interest in the theory/framework.

My interest is to see why there has been such a lengthy debate, both within the bio-sciences and in a larger community that I summarise as theists vs atheists. I have discussed ways that Genesis has been read, and my orthodox outlook has not been placed under stress - but we are getting of the topic. If you wish to discuss specific doctrine I will be happy to participate. For example, Adam and Eve are the couple that God chose and implanted His image, and breathed into them the breath of godly life. I am not inclined to re-interpret this, but I do understand the narrative is not one that would be found in a science text book. By this, I mean evolutionary or other text books that deal with any aspects of science.

I am amongst those Christians that prefer to view all of the scientific enterprise and am not obsessed with NDE. It may be that this leads some to make comments that are incorrect regarding my outlook.

(system) #10

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