What Do You Mean When You Say “Evolution”?
In this video clip, Oxford University biophysicist, Ard Louis posits that one of the reasons Christians are hostile to evolution is that they latch onto a particular definition, which puts it in conflict with their theological convictions.
Louis begins by explaining the three primary ways in which evolution is generally defined:
First, evolution may be defined as a process that takes things from a level of simplicity to a level of complexity—e.g. from a basic cell level to the level of complexity apparent in the human existence. It is a process that we could simply define as “natural history” (0:27).
Second, Louis notes that evolution can also be described as a mechanism within the evolutionary process, there are mutations and selections that together generate complexity (0:41).
Finally, he points to evolution as a worldview (0:41) perhaps best epitomized by paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson’s suggestion that “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”
Louis goes on to say that for many Christians, the nuanced definition of evolution becomes subsumed under the “evolution as worldview” ideology, which is nothing more than a set of theological statements put on top of evolution (that Christians are right to reject).
He continues with a critique of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, which appears to be attacking the second definition of evolution—i.e. “evolution as a mechanism”. Louis describes ID as a movement without apologetic traction as it lacks a valid scientific counterargument (1:37) and as something that pulls us away from the Bible as it lacks a scriptural basis (1:44).
Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.
Ard Louis is a Reader in Theoretical Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he leads a research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology. He is also the International Secretary for Christians in Science, an associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and served on the board of advisors for the John Templeton Foundation.