Evolution and Intelligent Design with Ard Louis

Evolution and Intelligent Design
Conversation with: Ard Louis

Oxford physicist Ard Louis explains the varying meanings of evolution – from “change over time” to a philosophical worldview – and voices his concerns with the theory of “intelligent design”.

To join the conversation about this video, see our blog post "What Do You Mean When You Say Evolution?".

Video Transcription

One of the questions about evolution is, "What do you mean by the word evolution?" The problem is that the word means many different things to different people.

Evolution can mean we see that over time, a long time ago objects were more simple biological things, and then over time more complicated things, like ourselves, emerged. That's kind of natural history. With evolution as a mechanism, it says you have mutations, you have selection, and these mechanisms together generate that complexity.

Then you have evolution as a kind of a world view. From George Gaylord Simpson, "Man is a product of a process which did not have him in mind. He was not planned." Those are theological statements that are put on top of evolution.

The problem for the average Christian is that they want to attack, and I think rightly so, evolution number three, the world view. But instead of saying that the science, the natural history, and even the mechanism of evolution doesn't actually imply that philosophy, they try to attack all three at once.

What's the problem I have with the intelligent design arguments? A lot of the arguments appear, at least to the layman, to be attacking evolution number two. They're saying mutations and natural selections are insufficient to describe the complexity that we see around us. The problem with that is twofold. One is that it's kind of an argument that looks a little bit like an argument for a God of the gaps. It's something we don't understand, so therefore God must have done it. That's always dangerous because what if at some day and age we do understand? It will be a bad apologetic argument.

It's also problematic, I think, because it's not based enough on Scripture. The difficulties for Christians in interpreting the evolutionary story in Scripture have to do with natural history. It has to do with the idea that the world is old. Is the world old or is the world young? That's where some people feel the Bible and science have some friction. I think that's not necessary. That's where important interpretative work has to happen. I worry that this intelligent design argument pulls us away from the Bible in a way that isn't helpful.

I also think, and this is a little bit that Francis Collins and others have written about more eloquently than me, if you look at the genes in your own body you see remnants of that natural history. You see remnants of that common ancestry we have with the chimpanzee. Those are there. They look like they came about by some kind of stochastic process, some process they use in evolutionary mechanism.

Maybe we haven't listed all of the evolutionary mechanisms yet? Maybe there are more beautiful ones that are coming. But the fact that this happened seems very, very strong. Therefore, the argument to say this particular object could not have possibly evolved, I don't really see what the apologetic attraction is or what the Biblical mandate for that is. I think I would like to look back a bit more closely at what the Bible says.