Emancipating Evolution (1): Key Issues, Key Problems

Whatever God implied by the evolutionary theory and the data of natural history may be like, he is not the Protestant God of waste not - want not. He is also not a loving God who cares about his productions. He is not even the awful God portrayed in the book of Job. The God of Galapagos is wasteful, careless, and almost diabolical, He is not the sort of God that anyone would be inclined to pray.
- Philosopher David Hull

It isn't hard to tell that there is some type of tension, some type of conflict between what most people believe about God and what most people believe about Darwinian evolution. However, the open dialogue between these two issues is often poorly defined. More often than not, the time and effort is spent focusing on detailed exegetical and philosophical questions from Genesis.

And don't get me wrong, exegesis and philosophy have a very important place in this discussion. And likewise, there is some merit to the fact that the Bible states that man brought death into the world and neo-Darwinian evolution states that death brought man into the world. However, it is important to keep in mind that before building a 40 story building, you need to build a firm foundation.

The question then is, what is the foundation? First, it is important to ask what are the what exactly it means to be a theist. What do we mean when we use the term "theism"? What does it entail to claim to be a theist or a believer in creationism? What does it entail to be an atheist or a believer in evolution? How does the mainstream theory and belief in evolution effect the worldview that you or I claim to hold and be part of?
The problem lies I believe, in the idea that everyone is allowed to create private definitions of words in our heads, when this happens we create more problems than answers. When one person says evolution means a purposeful teleological process that works itself out over time and existed in the beginning, they mean something completely different from defining it through the lens of  natural selection and a process of elimination through trial and error of survival of the fittest.

There is a starting point where one needs to ask what the theorists themselves believe when they use the word evolution. The definition has many layers and many altering definitions. It does not simply mean change over time, it does not just mean common decent, and it certainly does not simply mean a progressive or teleological process or idea.
However, when the word evolution is used in English what people are most likely talking about is neo-Darwinian evolution. Meaning, that all the adaptive complexity we see around us is the direct result of random genetic mutations acted on by natural selection, outlining and defining a meaningful and purposeless process. So when the word random is used in that instance, it is not referring to a mathematical term that is perfectly compatible with God's providence or plan, it means exactly what the word has always mean - purposeless.

This may be one of the major cracks in the foundation. In other words, we are left with a logical problem, in that, God cannot direct an undirected process. He cannot have purposes in the workings of purposelessness in the internal workings of a purposeless process. Leaving us with a problem.

I would argue that if you want to integrate your understanding of God and your understanding of evolution, what first needs to be accomplished is getting meanings of the terms being used strait in everyone's heads. We cannot start with private definitions of these words within the open discussion of dialogue when trying to understand each others positions on the subject.

Only after this stage can you really do some real thinking and exploring on the subject. It is not that every aspect of scripture and the ideals of evolution are incomparable. It is more that the general understandings behind theism and neo-Darwinian evolution and the foundations to each are incompatible.

This reality of rocky foundational problems between the two lies in the issue that I personally think theistic-evolutionists don't want to look into more deeply.

There are many books on trying to marry evolution with the concept of creationism, theism, and Christianity(1). If you read a lot of these books what you discover is that way too many people are trying to defend some version of theistic evolution and it ends up becoming an exercise of ambiguity. Almost as if the purpose of these books are to confuse you so that there is a fog around the details of what actually is going on. I think frankly this is because they don't want to face the key source of conflict that exists within the foundational understandings of the two ideologies. 

It would be very nice if the views of mainstream evolution and theism were perfectly compatible, science and religion are not intrinsically at war no matter what you're lead to believe. But it is possible that certain ideas within scientific theory can conflict with certain ideas within religious understandings. And this is what we need to understand a little more when it comes to the open dialogue between the issue of theism (specifically the Christian understanding of creation and creationism) and neo-Darwinian evolution .

We need a clarification of the understandings not something that will step in to muddy the waters even more so.

Emancipating Evolution, Part 2: Creation vs. Creationism
Emancipating Evolution, Part 3: Sanctuaries and Science Labs

Related Links:

God vs. Science, Part 1: The Irrelevance of the Debate

God vs. Science, Part 2: Flow of Faith, Flow of Facts 

A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian, Part 1
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian, Part 2

God: Using the Force, Part 1
God: Using the Force, Part 2

(1) A few books in defense of theistic evolution that come to mind are:
Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution
The Language of God: A Scientists Present Evidence For Belief
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground and Evolution
Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say about Human Origins 
Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions  

A few books in defense of creationism that come to mind are:
Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Darwin on Trial
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis
Of Moths and Men:The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth
Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils 
The Lie: Evolution 


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