Theistic Evolution and the Creator
I should probably state upfront that this is not an attack piece.
Despite Alden’s protestations otherwise, Intelligent Design is clearly a form of creationism. The concept, as drawn, tries to impose limits on the natural processes of evolution where they have not been demonstrated through the process of science. If he wants to conflate the issues of science and theology in this issue, then he is doing so in opposition to the philosophy of science and how science is done. Intelligent Design pretends to impose limits in order to demonstrate a designer by default.
Before I get into the main piece, I would like to make an observation about my co-bloggers here at Clashing Culture. Stephen Matheson is an accomplished researcher and teacher in the naturalistic processes of evolutionary development at Calvin College. He is a committed Christian who believes that a Creator is the author of the Universe. Thomas Robey is a biologist who is working very hard to complete his MD, and is a committed Christian, who also believes that a Creator is the author of the Universe. He sees the effects of the evolution of microbes in response to medicine, and also sees the limits of the design of the human body. Anastasia Bodnar is a researcher, and here is a small twist of irony. Anastasia is a strong agnostic, yet she is studying a form of design through genetic modification.
I am bringing it this all up because of another form of evolutionary philosophical thought (which some call a form of creationism) and that is Theistic Evolution. I don’t think it is creationism because it doesn’t mess with the actual science of evolution, but it does create some problems for me in trying to place the God of Theistic Evolution (TE) with the state of nature as it is observed.
In a sense, and correct me if I am wrong, the nature of TE is that evolution unquestioningly leads to “endless forms most beautiful” and leads from a common ancestor as yet unidentified. The process works with the mysterious guidance of the Creator, leading us through to the ascent of man. Ken Miller is an advocate of TE, and yet echoed Gould’s statement that if we were to rewind the tape of evolution it is unlikely to have resulted in mankind as we know ourselves.
TE still proposes that mankind is a teleological development of evolution, and that God is the guide that led evolution to us animals with souls. It holds that even if the creation stories of the Genesis accounts are not literally necessary in order to be a religious Muslim, Jew or Christian, at least there is a reason to trust that God has an active role in our lives, deaths and afterlives. But here is where my problem lies.
Malthus’ essays on population and overpopulation from an economics standpoint inspired, at least in part, Charles Darwin’s understanding of natural selection as a creative force in combination with variation and heredity. Populations are overly fecund, and so through processes of reproduction each species will fill its niche being stopped only by death, destruction, starvation and then evolution comes in. The species whose variations give them even the slightest advantage over their sister variations will have a greater chance at survival should the environment force adaptation. It is a lesson in fluid dynamics, in that while seeking equilibrium things remain unequal in nature. (Fluids seek equilibrium in temperature and volume.)
In responding to the urge to reproduce and eat, nature is red in tooth and claw. It’s a metaphor for the violence in nature, and even plants participate in the violence, seeking ascendancy over competing plants through spreading deeper roots, growing bigger leafs or growing taller in seeking the materials they need to create their food. Plants and animals defend themselves against being eaten through developing defenses that increase their survivability against their predators, and equilibrium forces natural selection not to overreach (costs and benefits, while not drawn on charts by plants trying to figure out the best survival strategy with the least energy cost, are important. Too much defense takes away energy used for other needs for survival.)
If we consider Theistic Evolution, then we need to figure out what kind of God is proposed and maintained. A Creator who has created such a world in which death drives natural selection in order to achieve humanity could hardly be considered to be a benevolent creator. Theistic evolution would seem more likely to accept the God of the Old Testament who gave favor in war to Joshua, enabling the slaughter of the Canaanites and those others who stood in his way.
The Creator of Theistic Evolution seems to me more the one who favors certain froms of life over others, considering the estimate that 99% of all life forms (I am tentative about using the word species, see Wilkins,) are now extinct.
So, I ask, who would be the loving God of Theistic Evolution. Conceptually, any God involved in evolution wouldn’t be a loving God who gave his only son for our salvation, but a God who either is distant as in the deist conception, or actively cruel and capricious. Considering the damage that Man, presumed to be the highest achievement of Theistic Evolution has wreaked on our environment, I would think that the near God of the Abrahamic religions could have found a better way.
Can anyone fill me in on how Theistic Evolutionists reconcile nature with Nature’s God?
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