(It’s like saying “You can have a life-saving treatment anda 100 kg pile of hardened cement chained to your neck too!”
Way back when, Nancy, you wrote a piece for Christianity Today on design, one of several that set me thinking about all these issues.
But I got the feeling that Christianity Today has now backed off somewhat in favour of “Jesus n’ Darwin n’ us more evolved ones.” Is this fair on my part? If so, what happened?)
Theistic evolution has been around long before Darwin. Once again, the key thinker was Hegel. He taught a kind of progressive pantheism, in which God was the soul of the world, evolving along with it. As a result, many Romantics embraced a spiritualized form of evolution.
This explains, says historian John Herman Randall, why Darwin’s biological evolution was welcomed so quickly when it first appeared in 1859—not so much by scientists but by thinkers in fields like history, philosophy, theology, and the social sciences.
It also explains, Randall adds, “why they pretty uniformly misunderstood him . . . and why they failed to see the real significance of his thought.” That is, they thought they could use Darwin to support their own spiritualized version of evolution, failing to see that what he was proposing was a completely materialist version.
Perhaps they did not want to see it. As Randall writes, “The idea of ‘Evolution’ proved a Godsend to the religious seekers” because it injected “God and Providence in the evolutionary process itself.” In other words, it provided a version of evolution that was teleological (directed by a goal or purpose). Thus it assured people that “there is a Purpose in the world, man’s ideals do matter to Nature, Heaven will be reached, in substantial form, on earth.” Evolution became the process by which the Divine Life unfolds through history.
Theological liberals embraced this concept of God evolving and through the world. It seemed more scientific than a transcendent God who stands “outside” nature and performs miracles and other acts that are difficult to detect by modern science—and therefore difficult to defend in an age that treats science as the ultimate touchstone for truth (scientism).
Of course, the same scientism is even more pervasive today. So it is not surprising that those who struggle to relate their theological convictions to science may lean the same direction as liberalism. Saving Leonardo helps people to recognize that evolution is not only a scientific theory but has always been intertwined with broader theological and worldview questions.
Over to comments.
Next: (Exchange # 6: Did your mentor, Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer, say anything about how he would approach the intelligent design issue?)
(Exchange #1, “Why bother saving Leonardo?” is here.)
(Exchange #2, “What to do with materialism’s pile of culture?” is here.)
(Exchange #3, In your view, has deconstruction affected the sciences, and if so how?)
(Exchange #4, You’ve long been sympathetic to the design theorists. How does this fact/value split affect the intelligent design controversy?
Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.