A common criticism of evolution is the idea that it relegates the emergence of intelligent life to mere chance. Taken to its extremes, evolution is the story of random changes and mutations without a guiding influence. Yet in their book Questions of Truth, John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale point out that chance is only a part of the evolutionary equation:
At the heart of evolution is the interplay between “chance” (the contingent detail of what actually happens) and “necessity” (the lawfully regular environment in which events occur). It takes place “at the edge of chaos,” where order and openness interlace. If things are too orderly, they are too rigid for anything really new to emerge. If they are too haphazard, nothing that emerged could persist.
What are the theological implications of this interplay between chance and necessity?
From a theological point of view, we can see necessity as the gift of that reliability to creation that reflects the Creator’s steadfast faithfulness, and chance as the loving gift of a free openness within which creatures can explore God-given potentiality in a process by which they are allowed to “make themselves.” Such a world is surely a greater good than a ready-made world would have been.
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