Theistic Evolution

Obviously, god did it.

Suppose you’re speaking with a believer who says, “Well I think evolution is true, I just believe that God designed the world through evolution.”

I think it’s great that the believer is so accepting of scientific research. It’s very, very important to learn about ourselves and our world! But let me spell out the differences between the neutral view and the theistic view.

Neutral

A scientist might observe the physical changes in species using fossils, DNA, and adaptation to build a theory of evolution and ask, “How did this happen, and where did the first life come from?”. Perhaps they’ve reached the limit of their expertise at this point. They will simply say, “I don’t know. This would be a great area of future study.” Nowhere in this theory is the idea of god introduced because it is based on observational data only.

Theistic

Let’s say, to keep things as equal as possible: a religious scientist observes the physical changes in species using fossils, DNA, and adaptation and builds a whole theory of evolution and asks, “How did this happen, and where did the first life come from?” A religious scientist, at the limit of his expertise and overcome with awe, says “God can do anything, he created life and guided evolution! God is amazing!”

My Response

First of all, it’s okay to be overcome with awe, but it shouldn’t get in the way of asking further questions. If you find yourself pointing to a gap in scientific research and saying, “See? This proves god exists”, you’ve actually found an area that you need to start learning more about. Chances are good that someone else has already started working on it.

Second, I need to interject and explain something about this position philosophically. As soon as you present the conclusion “God did it” you must first prove that with true premises. Since almost everyone knows that you can’t prove or disprove the existence of god, saying that “God did it” is folly. Besides, even if one were to say such a thing, a battery of unprovable questions follow, “What kind of god us he? Is he evil or good? Is he mature or immature? How are we to know the nature of god? ” and so on. …And if you say “because of my holy book”, well then you’re going to spend a lot of fruitless time trying to prove that your text of choice was indeed inspired by god.

Heck you can even state “there needs to be a first cause of some kind.” which is perfectly reasonable and doesn’t introduce god.  I agree with you, but I don’t know what that first cause is yet, do you? Why should we make positive claims about the first cause before we know anything for certain? It’s okay to posit ideas but be careful of the “god did it” idea… it has historically found itself to be limiting, unimaginative and ultimately useless in answering the big questions about our existence.

Embrace “I don’t know”, and think creatively and critically to discover the answer for yourself.

Image source: Wikimedia

3 thoughts on “Theistic Evolution

  1. I feel you misunderstood our conversation. I merely stated to you that the fact of evolution does not in anyway disprove God exists. Evolution has been with us for centuries. Ibn Khaldun’s articulation of evolution had lead Darwin’s critics to accuse him of “adopting ideas from the Muhammadan religion”. In any case, the muslims had adopted the idea of evolution as it didn’t contradict the Quran.

    I don’t feel neither the theist nor the atheist can give any rational proof for the existence of God that is thoroughly convincing [meaning there’s no formula out there that’s going to show you God exists]. Again, belief in God remains a faculty of the heart.

    I hope you keep searching, as will I. Forgive me for any inconvenience I’ve caused you.

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    1. It’s a fair point, I don’t think that evolution (or any other piece of “evidence”) can prove or disprove god either. You are also right that a belief in god is a matter of the heart.

      Our conversation was a while ago now so I don’t remember all the details, but with this post I am just responding to the very specific point that believers make sometimes (not necessarily you), that “god used evolution as a tool to build/design the world”. This position is problematic when you think about it logically, and could potentially limit our quest to understand the natural world.

      No inconvenience, buddy. Hope you are well. 🙂 I continue my search!

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