Evolution is the biological model for the history of life on Earth. While some consider evolution to be equivalent to atheism, BioLogos sees evolution as a description of how God created all life. Evolution refers to descent with modification. Small modifications occur at the genetic level (in DNA) with each generation, and these genetic changes can affect how the creature interacts with its environment. Over time, accumulation of these genetic changes can alter the characteristics of the whole population, and a new species appears. Major changes in life forms take place by the same mechanism but over even longer periods of time. All life today can be traced back to a common ancestor some 3.85 billion years ago.
BioLogos promotes “evolutionary creation,” the view that all the lifeforms on earth came about by the God-ordained process of evolution with common descent. The word evolution can be used in many ways, but in biology, it means descent with modification. In other words, small modifications occur at the genetic level (i.e. in DNA) when a new generation descends from its parents. Over many generations these modifications can result in significant differences from the ancestral population. When those differences are beneficial for survival, they can work their way through a whole population of organisms, and if the differences are substantial enough, scientists may recognize those organisms as a different species from their ancestors.
The theory of evolution makes no attempt to explain the origin of the first life which appeared on earth about 3.85 billion years ago. It explains the development and diversification of all life—including humans—after that in a “family tree” of species through common descent. Common descent is supported by multiple independent lines of evidence, most notably the fossil record, the geographical distribution of species, and the comparison of the genomes of many species.
A number of common misconceptions have led to confusion or suspicion about evolution over the years. Some people object that no one has observed one species suddenly becoming another, such as a cat giving birth to a dog. The truth is that such a sudden transition is not predicted by the theory of evolution. Evolution of new forms—what some people call “macroevolution”—takes a very, very long time, as small variations add up over millions of years. Humans have only been studying these changes for several hundred years, and so could not witness such major transitions. But we have seen smaller transitions in this timeframe, including the formation of new species, and the evidence left from the past shows clearly that major transitions have occurred.
Next, the claim that humans share common ancestry with other species does not mean that humans have evolved from any other presently existing species. Humans do share many genes with other living primates, but we are not their descendants. Humans and chimpanzees both descended from a common ancestor who lived about 6 million years ago, and the other primates have been changing over this time. Our ancestry does not determine who we are (as image-bearers of God), but simply speaks of the genetic “dust” from which we were formed.
A third misconception is that evolution is a random, purposeless process. It is true that individual mutations of the genetic code appear random from the perspective of science, in the sense that they are unpredictable. But “unpredictable” does not mean “purposeless,” and elements of randomness might have important purposes. Consider a video game, where the game designer intentionally includes random elements to create a richer experience. A Christian can view God’s governance of the evolutionary process as a similar use of “intentional randomness.” And then there are other elements of the evolutionary process that are not at all random, like the selection of positive variations that increase fitness. Whether the process as a whole is purposeless is not a scientific question. At BioLogos we believe that God intentionally created human beings, and did so through evolution.
There are many debates among evolutionary scholars about the details of the process, but common ancestry through evolution is firmly established as the general framework. At BioLogos, we believe that the theory of evolution is the best scientific description of the means by which God has accomplished his praiseworthy purposes of bringing forth life, with humanity as the pinnacle and focus of his creative work.