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May 01, 2012

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I think the desire to try to assimilate evolution into theology is merely a symptom of the continued influence from the enlightenment. We simply never got over the idea that God...if there is one, has to think a lot like us.

Problem is...God doesn't seem to be comfortable with contradiction, the way we are. Neither does He appear to endorse events in reality that He has no control over.....

Evolution for all of its attraction, by its very defintion excludes ANY causal force whatsoever. There IS no goal or purpose to evolution...even though evolutionists often speak of both when trying to explain evolutionary processes. They simply can't avoid it.


There is no such thing as theistic evolution. There are only people who hate giving ALL the glory to the Creator. They are willing to enbrace pure contradition rather than do that. So be it.

>> The data of human origins, archaeology and molecular chemistry all harmonizes with the literal Biblical account

what is the current christian response to the Out of Africa Theory? I havent been following the debate lately. But its the most widely accepted origins theory among biologists.

then again, so is evolution so...

However, if evolution is fully adequate to explain the origins of life, then God does not insert Himself into the process of evolution.

If by “insert” you mean “miraculously intervene,” then you are right that in the presence of (correct) natural explanations for the origin of life, there is no need to appeal to a miracle when explaining the origin of life. That borders on a triviality. Similarly, if there are natural explanations for the origin of islands, canyons, stars, and planets, then there is no need to suppose that God miraculously inserts himself in the formation of these things either. There is hardly a difficulty here.

I’m mystified at what Koukl is mystified about concerning theistic evolution. Sometimes he acts like he doesn’t even understand the position they are articulating. Why doesn’t he just invite William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga or Elliott Sober (who I don’t know to be a theist, by the way) on the radio show to explain what they have in mind when discussing theistic evolution? After all, they’ve all been pretty clear about it, and the former two have been exceedingly clear about it fairly recently.

As far as I can tell, affirming all of the following is a sufficient condition (though perhaps not a necessary condition) for being a theistic evolutionist:

(a) God created nature and continually conserves nature and its processes in existence. God’s activity is present even in wholly non-miraculous processes in virtue of his conserving activity. If it is asked, “What need is there for this activity? Isn’t this activity just as unnecessary as a leprechaun is for boiling water?”, then the answer is ready at hand: if God didn’t conserve natural processes in existence, those processes wouldn’t exist! (Don’t, however, be so tiresome as to confusedly think that you’ll be able to empirically detect God’s conserving activity in these (or any!) natural processes, as though divine conservation were just another link in the chain of secondary causes that a scientist might point to and say, “Here, I found it!”; that sort of divine activity just is not the sort of thing that will make an empirical difference in that sense).

(b) The origin and the subsequent development of all terrestrial life happened through wholly non-miraculous processes, processes which the theory of evolution by natural selection more accurately describes than any serious competitor.

(c) The “random” genetic mutations that produce the genetic variety in populations are random only in the sense that the proximate physical causes of the mutations do not bring about the mutations in order to benefit or harm the host. Whether or not the members of a population will be (biologically) benefited by the mutation does not influence the frequency with which the mutation occurs in the population.

(d) The “random” genetic mutations are not random in the sense of not being permitted for a divine purpose. God may have foreknown that these mutations would occur and permitted them for reasons eternally inscrutable to us. That is entirely consistent with it being the case that whether or not a population would biologically benefit by the mutation does not influence the frequency with which the mutation appears in the population.

If (a) through (d) together constitute a form of theistic evolution, then what is Melinda’s objection to it? It is just that (b) is false. According to Melinda, in order to explain the origin and subsequent development of life, you need to appeal at some point to miraculous intervention. But notice that, although this would undermine the conjunction of (a) through (d) if it were true, this is just another way of saying “The theory of evolution is false.” It therefore hardly raises any new problem for theistic evolution. It’s just the same old objection evolutionists of all kinds have heard conservative evangelicals raise for decades.

Perhaps the place to look for a problem that is unique to theistic evolution is the Bible. What about Adam and Eve and the talking snake and the garden paradise? Can we still have that if we admit that the theory of evolution has a lot going for it? But notice that not all theists believe the Bible is inspired. So who is this question really addressing? Christians, perhaps. But is it targeting all Christians? Absolutely not. After all, many Christians aren’t inerrantists and many don’t think that the Garden of Eden myth ought to be taken as literal history. If you ask these Christians, “Well then what’s the point of redemption if our sin isn’t due to the fall of Adam and Eve?”, I suspect they would reply, “Whether or not our wickedness and mortality is inherited ultimately from an affair involving two humans chatting with a snake in a garden paradise or via evolutionary mechanisms, it is clear that we are wicked and we are mortal, it is clear that these are bad things, and that is reason enough for redemption regardless of where it came from.” It is hardly obvious, therefore, that rejecting the literal historicity of Adam and Eve somehow entails that we humans, miserable as we are, aren’t in need of redemption.

So which Christians really ought to be worried about the so-called problems that the Bible poses for evolution? I would think mostly they are the conservative, evangelical, inerrantist Christians (Francis Collins? not sure). So perhaps instead of acting like problems have been posed for something as broad as “theistic evolution,” maybe we should be clear that what is being challenged is “Conservative-Inerrantist-Christian-Theistic Evolution.” Well, if that is the view that Melinda wishes to pose problems for, then I welcome her to it, since quite apart from the evolution aspect, that view is full of difficulties and merits no one’s assent.

Take a deep breath Malebranche...You are saying waaaaaaay too much. If God is God ..He never has need to "insert" Himself at any point in the reality He has caused to be.

Evolution, on the other hand, is a contradiction, pure and simple. It has no basis in reality because it ultimately depends upon events occuring by chance...and we all know chance cannot cause anything...because it ISN'T anything. See how simple that is?

I think theistic evolutionists are missing the point. They are defending their science and we are defending the Bible. I would say that there was one man and one woman and they were named Adam and Eve. Evolutionists would say that there was some prebiotic goo (or whatever they call it) that eventually replicated itself into something resembling humans.
Jesus, who claimed to be the son of God, said there was one man and one woman. Was he talking metaphorically about the goo? Jesus already blew peoples minds talking about what was to happen. He gave them miracles and signs to show that the father was working through him. Why would he then lie about the creation of mankind? It's not about the science at this point. It's about whether you believe that Jesus could lie. Let's not mince words here a lie is a lie even it is a lie to protect the feeble minds of humans. I might consider a white lie to keep my girlfriend from getting upset about me saying those jeans don't flatter her. That is still a lie. Jesus telling us that there was one man and one woman knowing full well that he had created from a few protiens that finally made their way together would be a lie. If Jesus was the example for us to follow here on earth he would tell the truth no matter how difficult it was for us to hear. I am sure Peter probably would have been more appreciative if Jesus had thrown a little white lie his way instead of being honest.
I am sorry but I think Theistic Evolutionists put man's word over the word of God. They are afraid to get ridiculed in the world of science for defending the Word of God. So they try to make them fit. I have to say they are doing a very poor job of it.

A recent Pew Research Center Pole claims that 41% of evangelical Christians believe in theistic evolution.

http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Evangelical-Protestant-Churches/Global-Survey-of-Evangelical-Protestant-Leaders.aspx

In the article Melinda states "The data of human origins, archaeology and molecular chemistry all harmonizes with the literal Biblical account of God's special creation and intervention. That's where the evidence leads, not to evolution.

My question is; how does the data or evidence lead to a litteral interpretaion of the Biblical account?

Melinda also states "Therefore, there's no reason to attempt to harmonize theism and evolution."

The conclusion doesn't logically follow the statement.

1. The evidence and data points towards a literal interpretation of the Biblical account.

2. Therefor there is no need to harmonize the Biblical account with the natural methodology.

Statement 1. seems untrue to me, thus making statement 2. untrue.

Melbranch is correct in his statements that Alvin Palinga and W.L. Craig have really "plumbed the depths" of this topic.

Malebranche

"The origin and the subsequent development of all terrestrial life happened through wholly non-miraculous processes, processes which the theory of evolution by natural selection more accurately describes than any serious competitor."

OH, it seems to me that design by an all powerful creator, when taken seriously, has a pretty good chance at accurately describing what took place and may be a game winner, not just a competitor.

How did you come into being? Your biological parents had sex, a sperm united with an ovum, an embryo developed, 9 months later you were born. How did you come into being? "You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13) Is there seriously a conflict between these explanations? The first speaks by methodological naturalism, it can say nothing about teleology or purpose. The second speaks to the reason we are here, the purpose for why we are created. It really doesn't say anthing about the "how". Knitting needles? Is that the literal interpretation that the "data" leads us to?

While this article seems to focus on biological evolution, it fails to deal with the cosmological and geological evolution which still require a universe that is multi-billions of years old.

It is a bit disingenuous for the writer to refer to literal biblical account when Fuz Rana, Steven Meyer, and others believe that the big bang is the best explanation for the evolution of the universe. Using the argument from the article: If God wasn't involved, was it really the big bang?

It is appropriate to think of evolution as a three-stranded cord of naturalistic thinking: biological, cosmological, and geological. All three are evolutionary views and denying one doesn't remove you from the camp of evolutionary thinking. Even if you say God guided the process of forming life on the earth, you can still embrace the naturalistic views of the age of the universe and its formation. Naturalism can't be left to biological categories.

I think that Malebranche put a finger on the main question when he said that God "continually conserves nature". What does that mean? What does God actually do specifically when he "continually conserves nature"? What exactly is this "conserving activity"? It sounds almost like a God that is actually using nature to hide from humanity. Does that sound like the God of the bible that went out of his way to reveal himself and unroll his plan before us?

What Louis said. And that TE "God" does not sound like the God who owns a universe in which, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge."(Psalm 19:1-2 NAS)

The contrast between the Alpha and Omega who intervenes in the world, both in nature and in individual lives unto a particular sovereign outcome of history, and the hands-off, hidden deity of TE who creates by not creating could not be more stark.

On what hermeneutical basis, other than freighting the text with naturalistic presupposition, does one separate out those verses and portions of verses that apparently show God creating from those that show him sustaining and interfering?

Of course, if one is willing to just come up with a "God" that has not revealed himself in the text (inspired and inerrant and all that other inconvenient rubbish) then one is not burdened with such problems.

Malebranche wrote "I’m mystified at what Koukl is mystified about concerning theistic evolution. Sometimes he acts like he doesn’t even understand the position they are articulating. Why doesn’t he just invite William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga or Elliott Sober (who I don’t know to be a theist, by the way) on the radio show to explain what they have in mind when discussing theistic evolution?"

The philosophers you continue to list in these discussions, while fine men, are peripheral players in the discussion. It is the biologists themselves that are most responsible for the entrenchment of biological evolution. Why don't we ask TE biologists what they have in mind? Well, we just had a whole group of them on the Wheaton College campus a few weeks ago. As a biologist and attendee at this symposium I can confirm that Greg and Melinda's broad characterization of what TE biologists advocate is accurate.

I'm going to quote Mike at HOPE here again because I think he makes a great point, yet everyone is ignoring it:

How did you come into being? Your biological parents had sex, a sperm united with an ovum, an embryo developed, 9 months later you were born. How did you come into being? "You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13) Is there seriously a conflict between these explanations? The first speaks by methodological naturalism, it can say nothing about teleology or purpose. The second speaks to the reason we are here, the purpose for why we are created. It really doesn't say anthing about the "how". Knitting needles? Is that the literal interpretation that the "data" leads us to?

Austin,
Biological evolution requires that the mutations or insertion of information are directionless, without purpose or intent. Thus, Psalm 139:13 is mere poetry without truth, for there is no purpose in the progress of evolution. No evolutionary biologist promotes the idea that this mutation or that insertion of microbial DNA occurred "in order to" accomplish a specific end.

While the church may promote a Purpose Driven Life, those holding to an evolutionary mechanism cannot promote a Purpose Driven Evolution.

Biological evolution requires that the mutations or insertion of information are directionless, without purpose or intent.

That's not true.

Malebranche wrote in his initial post: "c) The “random” genetic mutations that produce the genetic variety in populations are random only in the sense that the proximate physical causes of the mutations do not bring about the mutations in order to benefit or harm the host. Whether or not the members of a population will be (biologically) benefited by the mutation does not influence the frequency with which the mutation occurs in the population." (emphasis mine)

How is this different from what I wrote when I said "No evolutionary biologist promotes the idea that this mutation or that insertion of microbial DNA occurred "in order to" accomplish a specific end."(emphasis mine)?

So the way I read your thesis above is that the "random" changes in information that drives evolution does not happen "in order to" do anything in particular (point c), except that it occurs in order to do something particular (point d).

Can you help me out here?

The following propositions are in no way equivalent:

(a) The mutations that occur in the world are without purpose.

(b) The physical causes of the mutation do not themselves bring about the mutation in order to achieve a purpose.

Proposition (a) can be false while (b) remains true. It may be the case that the physical causes of the mutations do not themselves bring about the mutations in order to accomplish anything. It is not as though those physical causes themselves are agents that are aiming to achieve some end. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the physical causes of the mutations are not themselves acting for the sake of an end, it could be the case that God has foresaw and permitted these mutations in order to accomplish some end. In this case, (a) would be false (the mutations would occur for a divine purpose), though (b) would be true (the physical causes of the mutation would not bring about the mutation in order to achieve a purpose). While (b) is probably an important part of evolutionary theory, (a) is not. The biologist qua biologist is hardly in the position to know whether or not an omniscient God exists who permits whatever obtains for some reason or other. That is entirely beyond their competency to speak on, and the fact that many eagerly pronounce on it anyway tells us more about the arrogance and overweening confidence of certain scientists than it tells us about what the theory of evolution as a mere empirical hypothesis is committed to.

So who (what group) developed, refines, teaches, and promotes biological evolutionary theory? I personally have never seen a course in evolutionary biology taught by the philosophy department. So why your philosophical arguments are something to consider, they lie at the periphery of the discussion as the primary development and promotion takes place among biologists.

The fact of the matter is that often (not always, of course) philosophers, and especially philosophers of science, are far better at conceptually clarifying basic conceptual elements constitutive of scientific theories than are some scientists themselves. For example, Lawrence Krauss is clearly unbelievably confused about what philosophers like Leibniz were asking when they asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Lawrence Krauss thinks that in his most recent book he has actually addressed that question. But that is just because Krauss is conceptually incompetent with respect to that matter, despite the fact that he speaks as though he is speaking within the area of his competence. For examples of deserved paddlings from philosophers that he’s received for his recent buffoonery, check out the following:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/lawrence-krauss-another-physicist-with.html

(Craig also got out his paddle recently on his reasonable faith podcast, for those interested)

Another example where philosophers have helped conceptually clarify basic concepts in science concerns special relativity. Due to the work of historians of science and some philosophers, we know that early formulations of the theory of special relativity rested on a verificationist philosophy of meaning that is now almost universally rejected. See work done by Quentin Smith and William Lane Craig (especially his “Time and Eternity”) for a discussion of that issue. Smith and Craig have both contributed quite a bit to conceptually clarifying that theory, and showing what the data does and does not commit you to. As it turns out, the data does not commit one to denying absolute simultaneity, according to Smith and Craig. The idea that it does is inherited from this discredited verificationism. Once that is corrected, it becomes possible to affirm the possibility that there is absolute simultaneity even if it cannot be empirically detected.

Finally, Elliott Sober is one of the foremost philosophers of biology in the world today. In fact, he was one of the founders of the entire discipline. His area of expertise, therefore, just is conceptually clarifying concepts in biology, as well as modeling scientific reasoning via probabilistic models (Sober is no Bayesian, but clearly he’s familiar with Bayesian probability and has used his knowledge of that field to help clarify good scientific reasoning from bad scientific reasoning). His books on the philosophy of biology are widely recognized as among the best that have been written. He, moreover, has been very clear in explaining that the notion of randomness that evolutionary theory is committed to is something like what I articulated above, and is perfectly compatible with divine providence.

So, this idea that the contributions of philosophers in this area don’t count or are at best peripheral because they are philosophers is just silly. One reason it is silly is because some of these philosophers have developed expertise precisely with respect to clarifying basic concepts involved in scientific theories. Carefully articulating the thesis of theistic evolution requires conceptual dexterity and skill. That, furthermore, is a skill that philosophers certainly have.

Here is a helpful passage from Plantinga, in a recent exchange with Jay Richards. Plantinga writes,

My thought was that the way to proceed is to see what official or semi-official definitions of the term "random" are offered by leaders in the field when they are trying to give a strict definition of the term, not when they are speaking more generally about evolution. The ones I settled on were by Ernst Mayr, perhaps the most distinguished evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, and Elliott Sober, perhaps the most distinguished contemporary philosopher of biology. According to Mayr, "When it is said that mutation or variation is random, the statement simply means that there is no correlation between the production of new genotypes and the adaptational needs of an organism in a given environment."1 And according to Sober, ". . . there is no physical mechanism(either inside organisms or outside of them) that detects which mutations would be beneficial and causes those mutations to occur." Mayr was not a theist, and neither is Sober; furthermore neither has any particular interest in arguing that theistic belief is compatible with Darwinism… Michael Ruse, also no theist, defines "random" as follows: "The 'raw stuff' of biological evolution (i.e. mutations) is random, in the sense that it does not occur according to need.” Ruse lists a number of other authors who, he suggests, say the same: L.J. Cohen, P. Thagard, R. Amundson, C. Kary, and C. Hookway. Jerry Coyne, hardly a theist or someone with an interest in arguing for consistency between evolution and theism, says the very same thing. As I say, I haven't been able to find any official or semi-official definitions of "random" that point in a different direction.

From: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/04/seeking_an_offi058161.html

Austin

". Knitting needles? Is that the literal interpretation that the "data" leads us to?"

When I create a computer program and I tell you that I slapped some code together, do you really think that my hands are involved in literally slapping code together? Is that the direction that your examination of the "data" of my act of programming would lead you to?

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