The Theological Dilemma of Evolution, Part 2

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March 5, 2010 Tags: Creation & Origins

Today's entry was written by Gordon J. Glover. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

The Theological Dilemma of Evolution, Part 2

In part 1 of this post, we looked at the theological consequences that would arise from evolution being true. But now we must look at the other side of the dilemma: what are the theological consequences that would arise from evolution being false or physically impossible?

Consider this argument: If God created all living things as separate and distinct species by supernatural acts, then His creativity would not have been subject to any physical constraints. That’s the very definition of a miracle. You see, ordinary physical processes governed by the laws of nature impose limitations and restrictions on what can and can’t be created. And when things are created naturally, specific patterns emerge based on the physical properties of the raw materials. For instance, you can’t turn ordinary water into wine without the right kind of grapes, some yeast, and plenty of time to let it all ferment. And if you want a specific wine, you have to use a specific grape from a specific region. You can’t start with a Merlot grape and end up with a Cabernet, or vice versa.

These are the types of patterns that emerge when creating things using ordinary cause-and-effect. But God, on the other hand, can create wine directly from water without the limitations or restrictions inherent with the use of pre-existing material. And since God is a completely unconstrained creator, His supernaturally-created wine can be a Merlot, a Cabernet, a Shiraz, or something altogether new – it doesn’t depend on anything pre-existing.

Now let’s bring this back around to biology. As Christians, we believe that God created each and every one of us. Yet, because he used a natural process called sexual reproduction to accomplish it, there are certain patterns inherent to every person. For instance, a person is male only if they have a Y chromosome. So all males should have the same Y-chromosome as their fathers – where else would they get it? And children should have the same mitochondrial DNA as their mothers because sperm cells pass on no mitochondria from the father. However, if God were to create people from scratch using a supernatural process, He would not be obligated to follow these or any other rules.

In other words, if God created the first living things simply by speaking them into existence, He would not have been bound by any physical constraints. Being completely unconstrained, God would have presumably been free to design and create species without following any discernible patterns. Or He could have chosen to mix and match different patterns according to His pleasure. Either of these scenarios would have been unmistakable evidence of special creation. So the fact that we do find very specific patterns in nature should interest us greatly. What is God telling us?

Well when it comes to things like the distribution of anatomical features between the species, the distribution of species around the globe, the distribution of fossils throughout the geologic column, and the distribution of genetic information between the species – God seems to be telling us that the creation of living species was dominated by ordinary processes. Not only do we find very clear and specific patterns in each of these independent sets of data, but amazingly, they seem to all converge onto the exact same scenario of natural history – a scenario that has come to be known in the scientific community as evolution, or common descent.

Now remember, when God creates by supernatural means, He is under no obligation whatsoever to design creatures according to specific patterns normally associated with natural cause-and-effect. And given the inherent theological challenges we face if evolution is true; combined with the infinite number of non-evolutionary patterns God could have just as easily used, we have absolutely no reason to expect that God would carefully design each creature such that it fits the precise patterns required by common descent. But that is exactly what a survey of the created world reveals! So if the opening chapters of Genesis are presenting a scientific and historical account of origins, why would God intentionally infuse the cosmos with coherent data suggesting that an entirely different creation scenario is true?

This is a huge theological problem for those of us who take both science and the Bible seriously. And it’s a fairly new problem in the history of our Christian faith – one that is only getting worse as we learn more about the world we inhabit. Take for example the apparent fusion of human Chromosome #2 from two non-human primate chromosomes discovered in 2005 (see video below for more). Things like this just don’t add up unless common descent really took place.

The theological dilemma of evolution is not something that can be solved by scientists working alone in their laboratories, or by theologians pouring over ancient texts and medieval commentaries. We need pastors and theologians looking into this together – which is why I am so encouraged by the BioLogos workshops that seek to bring leading scientists together with leading pastors and biblical scholars.


Gordon J. Glover holds degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Ocean Engineering and is the author of Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and Creation. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he now resides in the Washington, D.C. area where he works and runs the popular blog, "Beyond the Firmament".

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Glen Davidson - #5948

March 5th 2010

Teleology entails some element of foresight, ... which means design would play out over time.  Design does not entail that evolution cannot be used.

Then why have you never addressed what I brought up in my first post (if not in those exact terms, yet by implication)  the lack of observable foresight in life?  I dealt immediately with meaningful differences, and you dealt with anything but.

I don’t understand why you think that design cannot employ the processes of reproduction, mutation, natural selection, and recombination.

And of course I don’t think that design can’t employ those.  But design is not those processes themselves, and you fail to demonstrate any sort of design, fail to differentiate between the effects of teleological and non-teleological evolution, and most importantly, fail to demonstrate that a particular design process would utilize those processes. 

I keep pointing out the fact that you bring in nothing explanatory with your “design” (which a legitimate hypothesis would do) and you keep on baselessly asserting that I am denying the possibility of this or that when I am doing nothing of the sort. 

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Gregory Arago - #5949

March 5th 2010

Now you’re saying, Glen, that Mike is not a ‘scientist’ and that he doesn’t ‘do what science does’?! This is going too far.

Again, what do you call your position, if you reject TE, EC and BioLogos? Do you have a name for it or not?

I’m 100% certain that Mike Gene could answer this question if it was posed to him.

Also, how does what you’re saying relate to the topic of this thread: “The Theological Dilemma of Evolution”?

It seems to me that theology is not related at all to evolution, according to what you’ve thus far said.


Glen Davidson - #5951

March 5th 2010

This sounds better, yet up this point, the evidence “showing design” was supposed to be a gap.

Not from my writing, although you continued to assert that claim sans evidence.

Can we thus agree that something showing design doesn’t have to be a gap?

I have always demanded evidence for design, and you baselessly insisted that I was demanding god of the gaps.  I mentioned human design constraints (the only ones we know of) in my first post, constrasting them with evolutionary constraints.  Your lack of regard for what I wrote owes nothing to me.

“...you’d actually need some evidence of a teleological cause,...”

But here’s the nub - what would you count as evidence for this teleological cause?  It seems to me we back to time travel option I mentioned above.

Actually, your lack of plausible evidence for your claims is not a problem for science nor for myself.  It is only a problem for you, because you make claims sans evidence.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Gregory Arago - #5953

March 5th 2010

Mike,

I do tend to agree with Glen on the ‘design process’ issue in the sense that ‘designing’ is difficult to pin down. TEs and ECs have largely failed (or rather rarely tried) to translate into ‘natural scientific language’ the actual teleological *evidence* of ‘guidance’ or ‘design’. The term ‘kenotic’ has been used to mean that God’s guidance and teleology in the ‘evolutionary process’ is ‘hidden.’

IDists have leaned on a formal and final cause pushback against predominantly efficient and material causes (speaking in Aristotelian terms) in ‘modern natural (western) science.’ What you are advocating with ‘front-loading’ seems to be a kind of ‘first cause,’ which denotes an ‘origin’ and *not* a ‘process’ of change. It seems to me that Glen is asking for evidence that the ‘process’ is influenced by the ‘origin’ in much the way that ‘effects’ are atributable to ‘causes.’ Perhaps you’ve addressed this in your book, which I’ve not yet read?

Respectfully,
Gregory


Glen Davidson - #5954

March 5th 2010

“...I never wrote anything like your projection that evolution and design are mutually exclusive.”

Yet you expect design to be completely different from evolution in that design,
according to you, must be rooted in non-inherited copying of forms.

Again, your lack of regard for what I wrote is stunning.  In #5889 I wrote:

[Evolution] is falsified?  One certainly thinks not, because evolutionary theory allows for that [intrusion of a designer.]

The trouble is not that design and evolution could not occur simultaneously, but that you want evolution and design to have the same effects.

Thus, the way to detect this design is to go looking for gaps.

Only because you insist that evolution with design has no discernable difference from evolution without design.  I don’t accept that at all, which was clear from my first post.  Nor have you given me any reason to accept it.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5955

March 5th 2010

“I think the “evidence” issue addresses that.”

No, that would be a separate issue.  The first issue is whether or not design must be built around non-inherited copying of the forms.

Certainly not.  You provide no evidence that there was a designer, you try to shield design from normal tests for design, and then you come up with an “issue” that could never be addressed when you have no evidence for your prior claims.

“No, I only wrote that I see no reason why it should.”

Because teleological evolution is one form of biological evolution and all forms of biological evolution would entail homology.

And why is that?  We have the causes that predict homology.  You have no investigable causes whatsoever.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5956

March 5th 2010

If we are trying to determine whether a man is angry or not, we don’t argue he is angry (or not) because he is a man. That would be like arguing evolution is non-teleological because it is evolution.

So you’re falling back on the definition of the word?  Sorry, we’ve argued the word again and again, and it so happens that “evolution” can include revolutionary design changes where it’s considered to be “technological evolution.”  Since yours is a sort of “design evolution,” I have no reason to believe that it has to fall under the same definition as “biological evolution,” and know of no reason why any homologies are entailed from your standpoint whatsoever (god might change things on the basis of first principles alone).

You’re relying upon a definition that is based upon causal knowledge in part, while you’re rejecting (at least some of) the causes that actually constrain biological evolution.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5957

March 5th 2010

“That is why I addressed the specifics, and wrote of design.  It is the lack evidence of foresight in homology that is most telling…”

Yet I don’t known what you would count as evidence of “foresight in homology.”

Never mind my examples, which were in my first post, eh?

I’m simply pointing out that homology is not evidence of non-teleology.

Then address the lack of evidence for design, or give up claiming “design.”  I am not arguing that evolution means that there is no teleology, I am noting that undesignlike homology indicates a lack of design.

“He explained how known processes predict it….”

No, I was trying to determine where non-teleology led Darwin to predict homology.

If so, that’s too bad, because he was using science to make predictions, not arguing your evidence-free claims.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Gregory Arago - #5958

March 5th 2010

Now you’re jumping out of context, Glen: ‘technological evolution’ is a misnomer. Technological changes involve conscious human decision makers. These changes are not parallel with biological change.

‘Evolution’ and ‘revolution’ carry different meanings. One aught not to trust Thomas Kuhn on this either because his view of ‘scientific revolution’ can still happen in an ‘evolutionary’ (gradualist) way.

There are better ways to understand, conceptualize and communicate ‘changes’ in human-made things (e.g. like scientific theories or practices) than to trust to an analogy with a biological theory such as ‘evolution.’

Human-social thought is sovereign from natural-physical sciences and has alternative tools than ‘evolutionary gradualism’ to speak about reality as people see and experience it.


Glen Davidson - #5959

March 5th 2010

“He was making a case against design, and if you don’t know it, you should.”

It’s more complex than this.  Darwin never really made a case *against* design.

Other than the fact that he did.  He quite specifically addressed the eye and its purported “design,” which was a favorite of design proponents, including Paley and many others.  He also noted the cruelty of nature, arguing against a beneficent “designer” on that basis.  Plus, the matter of vestigial organs (which do exist) were part of his argument both for evolution and against design, as no designer capable of life’s complexity would be stymied in getting rid of the coccyx, or goose flesh.

He came up with an alternative to design that, in turn, made a case against special creation.

Then why did he address “design” not infrequently, and rarely, if ever, bothered with “special creation”?

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5960

March 5th 2010

Now you’re jumping out of context, Glen: ‘technological evolution’ is a misnomer. Technological changes involve conscious human decision makers. These changes are not parallel with biological change.

Of course I’m not jumping out of context.  I don’t know about Mike specifically, but the DI and works like Darwin’s Dilemma specifically analogize between technological “evolution” and various forms of “design evolution” in biology (actually, DD doesn’t acknowledge evolution, but still make the analogy with auto evolution).  You know that’s true of the DI. 

I know that you don’t like how “evolution” is used in the English language.  My point was that Mike’s “evolution” is not obviously any more biological evolution than is auto “evolution.”  Throw out the latter as “legitimate evolution,” and fine, we’ll throw out Mike’s “evolution” as well.  I don’t see any basis for the latter anyhow.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5961

March 5th 2010

“...One may call artificially selected organisms “designed” in one sense, but not in all senses, indeed, not in the most usual senses of that word.”

If we define design as something that is constructed or arranged so as to accomplish some function, artificial selection can reasonably be viewed as one example of designed evolution.

But nothing on domesticated dogs and cats is “constructed or arranged so as to accomplish some function” in the most normal senses of those words.  Traits are selected, but nothing is radically altered in “construction” or “arrangment.”  As I implied, it’s a rather ambiguous designation in such a case.

“...the purposes and rationality behind artificial selection,... is quite in evidence, and potentially able to differentiate between “normal evolution” and that cause by ourselves.”

Sure – it happened very recently and is sustained by constant intervention by the designers. Neither of these facts is necessarily entailed by design.

No, but you’re moving yet again to the comfort and safety of unfalsifiability there.  Few deny that design might have occurred without detection.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Mike Gene - #5962

March 5th 2010

Hi Gregory,

What you are advocating with ‘front-loading’ seems to be a kind of ‘first cause,’ which denotes an ‘origin’ and *not* a ‘process’ of change.

Look at it this way.  The genetic code has been around as long as the last common universal ancestor.  During the subsequent billions of years of evolution, don’t you think evolution has been, in some part, shaped by the code itself? 

Perhaps you’ve addressed this in your book, which I’ve not yet read?

Yes.  But this doesn’t strike me as the place or thread to hash that out, now does it?

Anyway, up above I noted that Darwin argues against special creation more so than teleological evolution.  FYI, on my blog, I have an entry that contains several excerpts from philosopher Chris Cosans article, Was Darwin a Creationist? (Perspect Biol Med. 48(3):362-71).  Here’s a tiny sampling:

“Throughout the Origin, he usually contrasts his account not with that of other evolutionists such as Lamarck or Chambers, but with that of someone we would now call a “special creationist.””


Gregory Arago - #5963

March 5th 2010

Nobody here is talking about the DI except for you, Glen.

It is not that I “don’t like how ‘evolution’ is used in the English language,” but rather that people continue to use it improperly. You are demonstrating this in recent comments wrt ‘revolution’.

Automobiles are ‘designed’ or ‘made,’ they are not ‘evolved’ artefacts of ‘random’ manufacture, a result merely of fitness pressures and pressure from the environment. This is simply a fact.

Again, for the third time, what is *your* position, Glen, what name do you call it? You’ve rejected TE, EC, and BioLogos and opted for the lower-case ‘g’ in #5956. What are we to make of this?

And is there a theological dilemma with evolution, or not?


Glen Davidson - #5964

March 5th 2010

“What’s clear is that we lack such evidence.”

First, what is, or is not, clear is a subjective call.


Not in science (not in the vernacular meaning of “subjective”).

It’s clear to me (in all sincerity) that you conflate design with special creation and it’s clear to me I have supported this point with your own words.

It’s clear that you cannot back up your baseless accusation.  If it’s so clear to you, I would expect you to make an intelligent case for it, rather than to repeat it endlessly.

The only thing that is clear is that we see the world differently.

That you have blinders on with respect to biology I do not doubt.

Second, you claim “we” lack such evidence.  But you cannot speak for me and all of humanity; you can only speak for yourself.

No, I speak for the endless times when we’ve asked for evidence for yours and others “design,” and you all have failed to supply any that is legit.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5965

March 5th 2010

“... ‘evidence’ is something the individual mind sees and thus has a distinct subjective element to it.”

Everything has a subjective element to it, and I’m of the philosophical school(s) that deny that “objective” is fundamentally different from “subjective.”  Which changes nothing of the fact that we can come to “intersubjective” agreement about many things, if only people will treat empirical data consistently.  I do not find you doing so.

“...more accurate for you to note that it is clear to you personally that there is no evidence.

More accurate, but far less informative.  Were I to speak only of my own perceptions, what good would that be?  I speak rather in the tradition of science, its standards, and its methods.

“...given that you believe this evidence for design must come in the form of something that cannot possibly be explained by evolution.

I demand evidence for intervention, aside from that for predictions from non-teleological evolutionary theory?  What science-minded person would not?

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5966

March 6th 2010

Now you’re saying, Glen, that Mike is not a ‘scientist’ and that he doesn’t ‘do what science does’?! This is going too far.

I never wrote that Mike is not a scientist.  That he fails to follow scientific methods in these discussions is more than a little bit obvious.

Again, what do you call your position, if you reject TE, EC and BioLogos? Do you have a name for it or not?

Science.  Why must you turn the question to religion when I do not?

Also, how does what you’re saying relate to the topic of this thread: “The Theological Dilemma of Evolution”?

Read the article, and you should see that matters of evidence were prominent within it.

It seems to me that theology is not related at all to evolution, according to what you’ve thus far said.

I have not bothered to discuss any purported relationship between the two.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Gregory Arago - #5967

March 6th 2010

“I demand evidence for intervention, aside from that for predictions from non-teleological evolutionary theory?” - Glen Davidson

Do you demand evidence for miracles too, Glen?

This reminds me of something that Arthur Peacocke said when asked about miracles; he said he wanted more evidence for them!

“What science-minded person would not?” - Glen

The kind that accepts science’s limitations & seeks knowledge cooperation with religion & theology. TEs & ECs are two examples of people who do *not* demand evidence of ‘intervention,’ though in most or all cases they believe in it, i.e. they accept miracles.

Since you do not accept TE or EC & merely claim to represent ‘Science’ (which I read as a position called ‘scientism’), Glen, should it be presumed that you don’t think science & religion can or should be in dialogue with each other?

“Why must you turn the question to religion when I do not?” - Glen

Because that’s what BioLogos is all about - the interaction of science & faith/religion!


Glen Davidson - #5968

March 6th 2010

“Throughout the Origin, he usually contrasts his account not with that of other evolutionists such as Lamarck or Chambers, but with that of someone we would now call a “special creationist.””

You mean Paley, the godfather claimed by IDists?

Darwin:

The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection had been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws. (Darwin 1887, 279)

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/

Are you all special creationists in the end?

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


Glen Davidson - #5969

March 6th 2010

Nobody here is talking about the DI except for you, Glen.

We’re all talking about design and evolution, and the DI clearly is important in determining how these discussions proceed. 

It is not that I “don’t like how ‘evolution’ is used in the English language,” but rather that people continue to use it improperly.

Except that language is not decided by you, but by usage.

And, as I noted, I have nothing to gain by referring to “technological evolution,” rather I’d be quite willing to refuse to consider Mike’s “evolution” as anything but special creation.  I do not think that I can call on language to deny that Mike’s “evolution” is such, though.

Automobiles are ‘designed’ or ‘made,’ they are not ‘evolved’ artefacts of ‘random’ manufacture, a result merely of fitness pressures and pressure from the environment. This is simply a fact.

I respond to creationists, I do not demand that they use terms differently from how other people use them.  Indeed, I’m more likely to insist that they either use terms as they are meant, or that they be considered to be equivocating.

Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p


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