Time to retire the term "Theistic Evolution"?

In Forbes, Roman Catholic writer John Farrell finds the term “Theistic Evolution” of questionable value. BioLogos is mentioned in the article. Read the article here: It’s Time To Retire ‘Theistic Evolution’

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Says Ken Miller:

And there is the issue, I think. Plenty of self-described theistic evolutionists don’t quite see eye to eye with Miller here, Or at least aren’t comfortable taking quite such a firm stance.


I certainly take issue with Miller as quoted above. To positively assert that God is not involved in … x y or z scientifically described processes is just as unsupported by any science as it is to assert that God is involved. I can’t imagine what Miller feels that he gains by inserting a philosophical ateleological overlay onto his otherwise presumably good science. And thinking theists aren’t pretending that their theism is necessary for operational science (at least on the surface) either, but at least (unlike Miller) they have a reason --a profound one at that, for their philosophical assent to ultimate teleology.

If people want to bury the phrase, TEs will probably grab a shovel to help. They never liked the label in the first place, but had to live with it. Evolutionary creationist is a better description (and will be next to be complained about once detractors realize that renaming things doesn’t make the reality go away.)


I never thought of “evolutionary creationism” or “theistic evolution” as a scientific proposal, I thought of it as a theological position informed by scientific realities. So the idea that “theistic evolution” is a bad term because it doesn’t describe a scientific view is kind of confusing. Of course it doesn’t describe a scientific view, who ever said it did? By labeling yourself an evolutionary creationist (or theistic evolutionist) you are indicating how you incorporate the evolutionary model (science) into your philosophical/metaphysical/theological worldview, not proposing a new scientific model.

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True, and there is probably no term that describes Christians who accept evolution perfectly, if no other reason than that there is a broad range of beliefs. It does seem that creationist would better define most, with evolution then being the adjective rather than vice versa. However that too is imprecise as it would include those who are not Christian. I suppose there are Islamic YEC proponents as well as Islamic evolutionists.

In any case, I would describe myself as an evolutionist Christian, as a subset of what I would call an integrated theist. I would use the last term to broaden the base, as limiting the description of the science involved to evolution only tends to leave outsiders unaware on how the other sciences form an integrated system of thought, of which evolution is just one piece. It also makes it difficult to approach some in the church as evolution has become such an emotional issue, wrong as that should be. I think the broader term of integrated theist describes how we integrate the findings of science be it astronomy, geology, paleontology, physics, genetic etc. into our overall worldview. It also serves as a springboard to describe the consistency and agreement of all the sciences.

We did have that post about atheistic rain.

Rain is divine. It’s meteorology that is atheistic or probably invented by the Devil.


There is an awful lot of baggage with the phrase “Theistic Evolution”.

We’ve discussed the merits of: “God-Guided Evolution”

I mostly just call myself “Steve”.

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Atheistic gravity or intelligent falling?

When I fall, I try to do it intelligently, but it’s usually is not a product of design.

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Exactly. And it is just as confusing and incoherent to declare that anything is devoid of divine purpose or teleology. It adds nothing to the science whatsoever except confusion about what exactly science can address. I am curious how Miller would defend this move, because my own imagination fails me on what he gained by it other than the manufacture of offense.

You all shouldn’t be dabbling in gravity. That’s dangerous stuff. You’re either for gravity or you’re antigravitational. I never could abide the agnostics on that. After we make it illegal to evolve, I would also legislate against falling. Especially in publicly funded schools.

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[quote=“Eddie, post:14, topic:4663”]
Doesn’t he see God’s hand in the laws of gravity etc. which make solar systems and planets with life on them possible?
[/quote] [Emphasis added by Merv]

He doesn’t “see” it scientifically, anyway. And I agree --the “God talk” is not necessary to do the science. Just as it is also not necessary to layer on the “no-God-allowed talk” which he apparently saw fit to do. That is equally 100% non-scientific, and the science can be [is] done without that. So why does Miller, a devout Catholic, acquiesce to the most religiously egregious atheistic add-ons to evolution (indeed turning credible scientific evolution into a religious Evolutionism which so many of us rightly reject)? I guess I’m still having trouble seeing what you are trying to point out as the reason Miller has in mind. If I do understand his reason correctly, then it is one I soundly reject, as he should have too as a Catholic. But perhaps I am blinded to something by my perception of my own “clear sight” on this. I’m all ears if you can clarify on something I’m missing. I’ve only read one of Miller’s books (Finding Darwin’s God) and that was over a decade ago. Maybe I need a refresher.

This seems to me to be much ado about very little. I mean the term.

Isn’t there a difference between the perceptions of the observed data from the natural world and the perceptions of the manifested spirit of God? I mean never the twain shall touch right? (I enjoy butchering Shakespeare). In my mind the natural and the spiritual are different substances which is why I don’t agree with Spinoza and his acolyte’s position which draws no distinction between the two.

God (one entity) created (another sort of entity). It’s good enough for me right now.

Now I don’t mean God and creation are separated by any impassable chasm, but that rather God is co-mingled throughout all creation, but I certainly don’t believe that this a scientific proposition that can be proved. When I read Millers Finding Darwins God it seemed as though his position is something akin to this and the founder of Biologos seems to also believe it too. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see the big deal.

Nobody seems to have mentioned a significant strand in Miller and those like him: it’s not just that God is unnecessary for evolution in his eyes, but that in many ways evolution is, or becomes, a force opposed to how God “would do things”, entirely parallel to the gnostic Demiurge.

Thus much that has evolved is supposed to be wasteful, faulty, morally suspect, cruel, selfish etc, etc, and (in Franscisco Ayala speak) would be attributed to God only blasphemously.

It is hard to see how theism without any real doctrine of providence is theism, so “theistic evolution” is largely, in that case, a combination of unconnected ideas: “There is a God somewhere” and “There is an autonomous chance-and-necessity-driven process somewhere”.

But “evolutionary creation” is even less applicable, for it makes no sense at all to say that God creates what would be blasphemous to attribute to him. In the end , one can’t have ateleological creation, since creation has to do with ordering disorder, not allowing diosrder to run its course.

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If Miller is simply keen to reinforce the (already much trafficked) concept that God-talk is not necesary to explicate these things as far as we have, and in his haste to do this he declares that God’s hand is not in this, … then I can at least understand his motivation, even while I object to his sloppy/wrong way to enforce this. I.e. stating that the invocation of God is not necessary for my gravitational calculations is not the same thing as stating that God has no hand in gravity. Those two assertions are worlds apart despite the atheistic inability to distinguish between them.

I would be tempted to say that science strives for “naturalistic” explication except we know how loaded that word is with the baggage of equating it to “= no God allowed”, and it only exists as a categorical distinction from “supernatural” which is ill-defined, and thus renders both categories to be of dubious use.

Perhaps the phrase: “mathematically consistent” or “mathematically intelligible” captures better how we think of gravity or evolution (with its stochastic mathematics and logic) and without thinking that this declares God as excluded any more than we think the mathematical regularity of the sunrise means God is excluded from that. I am making much of something that Miller probably wrote a long time ago and may have nuanced appropriately since. Just call me mole-hill-to-mountain Merv.

But my thoughts and prayers turn from what must seem to many to be such trivial matters, to the people of Brussels right now. May God grant some peace, comfort, and healing to all involved with such tragic ongoing violence.