Randomness in evolution

Hello. scientists say that evolution is a random process, mutations are random. if these processes are random, is there room for God?

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Good question! You could probably say something similar about many of the other processes on earth, aside from just evolution, and it would raise the same question. Have you seen this BioLogos article? The author gives a couple different ways to look at randomness theologically:


Random is exactly how something is going to look if it is not determined by natural law. The mathematical equations of nature do not determine events precisely but only as far as a probability distribution. So what determines the actual course of events? Theists believe God is involved and atheists think it is just random and coincidental. So of course the atheists are going to say it is just random, that is what they always say about events where theists see the involvement of God.


No scientist I’ve known for 55 years ever said or wrote that. Starting with Darwin. As Jacques Monod said it’s chance AND necessity. Mutation is the random element played on by natural selection. There’s no room for God in evolution, except by stepping in to it by incarnation, yes. Otherwise below it, yes, as the ground of all infinite being from eternity, yes. God ‘governs’ from the bottom up, not the top down.

“Is there room for God?”

  • What is “a process”?
    • [Source: Process] a systematic series of actions directed to some end: e.g. to devise a process for homogenizing milk.
    • a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner: e.g. the process of decay.
  • What is “a random process”?
    • [Source: Random Process] A random process is the combination of time functions, the value of which at any given time cannot be pre-determined. So it is known as non-deterministic process.
  • If evolution is a random process, seems to me that evolution would be a series of changes, i.e. combination of time functions, the value of which at any given time cannot be pre-determined.
  • My limited understanding of “evolution” is that it is a theory which assumes that what exists now has some reasonable and rational connection to what existed previously. If, however, mutations are truly random, how can we have any confidence in a theory which says that what exists now may, at times and in places, have absolutely no reasonable and rational connection to what existed previously?
  • IMO, any scientist who says evolution is a random process and that mutations are random is a person who believes that flying pigs are within in the domain of evolutionary possibility,
  • Methinks I hear the sound of divine laughter wafting in the breeze around me.

Just look at it through the lens of weather. If I say it’s hot because the sun is out does that mean I am shutting the door on god. Cloud development is random. It’s not based on design. We know how clouds are formed and why it rains. None of it requires the supernatural. Yet none of it cuts God out of being out god.

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Some of us who cop to “atheist” in terms of the mega-omni-creator from nothing is concerned, none the less think there is something more on-board which can help guide our important choices if we’re open to that. For all I know other creatures may have guidance too. Consciousness in some form or other may have been around since before the inorganic/organic divide was crossed on our planet for all I know. But so long as “God” is conceived of as an ancient being possessed of subjective states much like our own, I can’t join the theist camp. I prefer to think of the something more which we can sometimes access as arising in a distributive manner in all beings in some form. I personally doubt that there is any God-central directing all those interactions, though I wouldn’t say it isn’t possible. Whatever it is, I’m a fan.

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14 posts were split to a new topic: Spinoff: Discerning God

It is doubtful that a being with subjective states too limited like our own would capable of all that theists attribute to God. However, an infinite God with an infinity of subjective states might do it.

The more substantial difference in your case would be the idea of God-consciousness or God-belief arising from some primal consciousness of life, rather than life and conscious coming about by the intention of some God.

Exactly. Is God a ‘collective’ or a ‘singularity’? I’m seeing God as “distributive”. Not sure why God should require a prior unified state rather than being instantiated all along the way. I question whether there is any ‘back stage’ to creation or “central planning” department. If evolution can get by so beautifully why not the something greater we suspect is here too?

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That resonates with me. Creation is infinite+ from eternity, God or no. So if God, then He is sufficient with creation across infinity. Not infinite at every point. Pretty deep mind.

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I wouldn’t have thought that was such an issue with you, and your description of God as distributive confirms this. Isn’t that a prior unified state which becomes divided?

I am ixnay on the design idea (at least as far as living organisms are concerned), so “planning department” would be too much. The word I used was “intention.”

We can demonstrate that a similar process (in AI and evolutionary algorithms) can do as much. But that just shows that a God doing this intentionally has good reason to do things in that way. So… no… there is nothing in evolution to prefer atheism over theism… no matter how much many atheists would prefer it to be so.

And… bringing this back to the topic of the thread. Randomness or divine participation remains the chosen viewpoints of atheist and theist for the same circumstances. Your attempt to soften the line between them has only underlined the difference rather than blur it. At most, you can really only call upon us to recognize that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the atheist has no possible use for the word “God.”

After all we wouldn’t want to cater to the intolerant theist rhetoric which claims that atheists really do believe in God but simply rebels against Him. We look more compatible because we can agree that such obedience rhetoric should be discarded regardless.

Nature demonstrates no theism at all. It has no requirement for it. If God grounds it, He does as if He doesn’t. There is nothing in evolution, i.e. nature, to be atheistic about. Atheism does not arise because theism doesn’t. Let me count the ways. Nature is inexplicably grounded whether deliberately or not. The latter is infinitely simpler than the former, by Kolmogorov complexity, therefore is to be preferred. The former explains nothing that the latter doesn’t with infinitely more complexity. That is not to be preferred. Only desired.

@ARus, Than you for another good question. This question is the twin of the other one about Natural Selection. As I said before evolution is based on the twin independent processes of Variation and Natural Selection. As Darwin himself said, Variation, which includes mutation, is random, but Natural Selection is not random, and in that situation evolution is not random. just as other natural processes are not random. .

Since I would say that God does not predetermine anything, then of course evolution is not predetermined and actually the term meaningless because it does not apply to anything. Are there any scientific processes that are predetermined?

I think that we have confused predetermination with predictability. We can predict many things within limits, but they are not predetermined even by God. Many, if not most, Christians do not believe in predetermination, so why should we make it a make or break question for God?

Mutation is the random element created by God to make evolutionary change possible. Natural Selection is the determinative process created by God to make change real. This is the role of God in guiding evolution in the creation of God’s world.

Is it reasonable to think that tons of water can rise miles into the sky to deliver rain to a thirsty earth? No! It requires a super-intelligent Creator to design such as system from nothing.

Mutations are unpredictable, because they are generated randomly, but the vast majority of genetic mutations are negative and extremely few create new alleles. However, based on studies and using 20/20 hindsight we can see how new alleles are successful because they meet an ecological need. Thus evolution is not random it is guided.

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Neither mutation nor natural selection require divine intervention in any way whatsoever, not even intentional grounding.

Perhaps yes. Just from the beginning of the expansion of this universe we know, there seems to be a movement from something undifferentiated to a multiplicity of forms.

I just don’t see the need for that kind of separation between a maker and the made. Instead of God filling a void, perhaps it is more a matter of God making way for what is other and particular to emerge? Pure speculation? Absolutely.

I have no interest in sides. I prefer underlining to blurring but not just for the sake of making everything fit a preconceived conclusion in a tidy way.

I think a difference in viewpoints may be the question of teleology; does Nature progress to a particular outcome, or is it truly random and thus any outcome may be possible and we cannot know this until it occurs?

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Yes. There are a lot of circumstantial trivialities which I don’t need God to be aiming for, but aiming for a minimum of something which He can have a most meaningful relationship with – someone to give of His abundance to, that is another matter.

Whereas, I (and most theists) see it as being crucial. For the sake of theodicy to be sure. But I think it is deeper than just the contradiction posed by Epicurus, between evil and a good omnipotent creator. We think we must accept that evil is more profound than error but still ultimately impotent because of a greater good. As you may remember, my understanding of God is tied to a faith that life is worth living, and where shall we find an object of such faith potent enough to surpass the evils we have seen? To be sure it is worthwhile opposing evil for its own sake, but it is preferable for life to believe it can be defeated. Our divide between maker and made is part of the division between good and evil.

The Discovery Institute has decided that randomness can never be a scientific explanation, since we can never know that something is random. At best, saying something is random is shorthand for “we don’t know”. So, when scientists state the origin of something in our universe is random, they do not know the origin. But there are many models used in science that involve random events. Are they all invalid?
Read the article on the Panda’s Thumb here


Of course random processes allow for God.

As I understand it, random processes make our fingerprints the patterns they are. Even identical twins have different fingerprints.

Apparently, God decided to use random processes as part of his not-random plan.

I spent many years doing analysis with random processes (Google Monte Carlo simulation) to find answers that were anything but random.

“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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